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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Senator STAN I FORTH SMITH (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The tobacco trust has a number of apologists, who do not like the question to foe ventilated, but I , am going to say what I think on the matter. It is a gross breach of the powers, privileges, and rights of Parliament for a witness to be dismissed for such a reason as that he had given evidence before a Royal Commission.

Senator Gray - What would the honorable senator have done had he been the employer ?

Senator STAN I FORTH SMITH - I should' have put forward witnesses to disprove the statement. If the statement was wrong, the foreman could have been called upon to give evidence in disproof. That was the proper course for the firm to adopt ; but instead of taking that course, they called upon the man to apologize for stating what he believed to be the truth.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - No ; they had previously asked the man to disclose the statements which had 'been made to him, in order that they mightbe substantiated or otherwise by inquiry if necessary.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - The statement made to the Royal Commission by Stone was worded respectfully enough, and was to the effect merely that he had been told so-and-so. The fact cannot be contradicted that, because he made that statement, he was dismissed.

Senator Col Neild - That is not so.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - If he had not made the statement he would not have been dismissed'.

Senator Lt Col Gould - He refused to verify the statement, orgive any opportunity for inquiry.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - That may be so, but, at the same time, he was dismissed because he had made the statement. In any inquiry that is made both sides must be heard, the firm as well as the employe ; but as a matter of principle, if we allow firms to dismiss employes who dare to give evidence before Royal Commissions, which are de facto appointed by the Parliament, though nominally by the

Crown, we shall bring about an extraordinary condition of affairs. We shall institute a reign of terror amongst employes. If it were necessary to inquire as to a monopoly or anything else thought to be injurious to the public interest, firms could declare that if their employes gave evidence the latter would be dismissed.

Senator Gray - The honorable senator is trying to raise a reign of terror amongst employers.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - In this case, a man was dismissed because he told what he 'believed to be the truth.

Senator Col Neild - That is not a fact.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I say it is a fact.

Senator Millen - Senator Pearce does not affirm that.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - The firm dismissed the man because he told what he believed' to be the truth.

Senator Col Neild - Senator Smith would know differently if he had listened to Senator Pearce.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - If this sort of thing is permitted without any inquiry or protest from Parliament, any employe will be liable to dismissal if he dares to give evidence against the interests of his employer, and the result will be a reign of terror. What did the House of Commons do in a very analogous case ? When some men were dismissed for giving evidence before a Royal Commission, the directors of the company concerned were brought to the Bar of the Houseand made to apologise for their action, severe strictures being passed on them for daring to discharge a man under the circumstances. Have we no right to make inquiry when we find the House of Commons adopting such an attitude ? To hear some honorable senators talk it might be thought that to dismiss an employe in such a way, without inquiry, is perfectly right. I repeat that this man was dismissed because he said what he believed to foe perfectly true. I hope that the Government will institute a very searching inquiry.

Senator Col Neild - Does not the honorable senator know that the English case was not the case of a Royal Commission, but of a Select Committee?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.That only makes my case all the stronger. If, in the case of a Select Committee, the House of Commons takes such drastic action, we are more entitled to take drastic action in the case of a Royal Commission, which is clothed with greater powers.

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