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Monday, 18 December 1905

The PRESIDENT - Does the honorable senator think that that has anything to do with the question? Senator Smith merely called attention to the travelling allowance of. honorable senators on steamboats. I do not happen to have interrupted honorable senators when they referred to matters of a cognate nature, but I do not think that Senator Stewart ought to raise a general discussion on the emolument of Members of Parliament.

Senator STEWART - Very well; if you, Mr. President, rule that I cannot refer to that aspect of the question, I shall desist.

Senator Playford - Do not take up too much time.

Senator STEWART - I shall not take up too much time, but I remind the Minister that this is an important matter. We are charged with the business of the Commonwealth, and if anything goes wrong, we shall be blamed. How is it possible for us to legislate intelligently on questions connected with the outlying portions of the Commonwealth, or, indeed, with any part of the Commonwealth, unless we have an opportunity to travel and ascertain the facts on the spot? For myself, at any rate, I feel that it is not possible to sit in an office in Melbourne, take a pen in my fist, dip it into an- ink-bottle, and write on any subject under heaven, without

Senator de Largie - Knowing anything.

Senator STEWART - As my friend interjects, without knowing anything about the matter. Such happy facility is reserved for newspaper editors and leader writers. Commonwealth senators are on quite an inferior plane. If we want information, we have to go where information can be obtained; and if we would act intelligently, we must observe 'for ourselves. Every senator ought to be afforded the freest opportunity to visit the various parts of the Commonwealth, in order to inform himself on matters which may become the subject of legislation. I have' been to North Queensland and to Western Australia, and I should like to go to the latter State again. I have also a very strong desire to see the northern portions of Australia. There has been some talk of the Commonwealth taking over the Northern Territory : and how. I ask. are senators to form> an opinion if they have not seen that part of the country.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I went once to the North, and Burns, Philp, and Co. refused to honour a Commonwealth cheque for a passage from Townsville to Rockhampton..

Senator STEWART - I suppose that, the cheque was ultimately paid?

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Yes, but in Melbourne, a long time afterwards.

Senator STEWART - I do not wish to occupy the time of the Senate, but our position certainly wants defining. We; ought to know whether we occupy the position of legislators of the Commonwealth. - directors, so to speak, of the Commonwealth Company Limited - or whether we are mere paupers, " accepting or begging doles from the Commonwealth.

Senator Trenwith - Orfilching perquisites ?

Senator STEWART - That is a much better phrase - orfilching perquisites, when we are on Commonwealth business.

The PRESIDENT - Perhaps the honorable senator will allow me to give some information which has been asked for. Since I came into the Senate, I have received the Auditor-General's report, which is a very voluminous document. I find that paragraph 37 on page 41 of the report^ refers to this matter, but give no particular instances or names.

Senator Givens - -Where did the Melbourne Argus get the information?

The PRESIDENT - I do not know. There may, of course, be some reference to instances and names in some other part of the report, which, as I say, is exceedingly voluminous. Paragraph 37 is as follows : -

In four instances it has been necessary to question the payment of passage money for conveyance by sea of members of Parliament, and it was sought to be ascertained whether the expense in each of the cases referred to Ead been sanctioned by the Right Honorable the Treasurer as expenditure incurred for travelling on Commonwealth business. Correspondence submitted disclosed that fhe Minister, directly controlling the vote, had sanctioned these payments under the Cabinet rules, framed for governing the expenditure under the vote, but the particular rule relied upon provides for the conveyance of Members " travelling on Commonwealth business." The Right Honorable fhe Treasurer had written a minute "that in similar matters he was not satisfied with "the explanations, but as the expenditure had been incurred he had no option but to allow the accounts to be certified. I Have, therefore,to report that the question raised by me with respect to the payments above mentioned has not been answered to my satisfaction.

It must be distinctly understood that I do not say there is no reference to names in some other part of the document.

Senator Higgs - We may safely assume that names are not mentioned in any other part.

Seinator Dobson. - I should say that names are mentioned in the minute or the co rrespondence .

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