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Wednesday, 18 July 1906

Senator BEST (Victoria) . - I must confess, in the first place, that I am at a loss to understand why there has been so much heat in connexion with this matter ; and, secondly, that I am' at a loss to understand its urgency. To my mind, at the very root of it there is implied a want of confidence in the Government. The motion can be construed in no other way. Some of my honorable friends who have spoken have indicated very clearly that they think, that the Senate must have a word in the making of the appointment under review. But, so far as my experience of parliamentary affairs goes, this is an appointment which is essentially one for which the Government must take the responsibility. It. is essentially an Executive act, and I, for one, disclaim the idea that we should relieve the Government from its most important responsibility in this regard. We have in office a Government which has declared that one of the leading planks in its policy is the principle of "Australia for the Australians." Under these circumstances, I inquire why, if there is any reasonable confidence in the Government, this motion is necessary at all ? Do my honorable friends who support it suggest for a moment that, given equal capacity , on the part of an Australian, as compared with any person from any other part of the 'British Empire, preference would not be given to the Australian? I am absolutely certain that preference would be given to him, and there is not a member of this Senate who would deny that assertion. But are my honorable friends going to say that experience is to be placed at a discount, and is not to be taken into consideration in an appointment of this character? Do they say that experience is to be a disqualification ?

Senator McGregor - How is an Australian to get the necessary experience?

Senator BEST - The business of this Parliament, it seems to me, is to ascertain who is the most capable man for the position. To do that we have to ascertain who is the man who has had the finest and best experience. That should always be our first consideration.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Does not the honorable and learned senator regard old age as a disqualification?

Senator BEST - I do not consider that a man is too old at fifty-nine.

Senator Trenwith - Why, I am fiftynine.

Senator BEST - Would any one refer to my honorable friend Senator Trenwith, as being an example of decrepitude, or as incapable of filling intelligently any position for which his experience qualifies him? So that the point comes to this: that my honorable friends who are supporting this motion must say that experience is not to count, but that the first consideration must be to give the appointment to an Australian citizen.

Senator McGregor - What does the honorable senator call "experience"?

Senator BEST

Old experience doth attain

To something like prophetic strain.

If Sir William McGregor has qualified himself by reason of residence, and by his very intimate knowledge of the affairs of this particular Territory, and if the Government, in their anxious desire to promote an Australian if they can, take the responsibility of selecting some one else, they must satisfy themselves that he has special qualifications which entitle him to the position. To my mind, it will be rather a serious reflection on Australians if we support what the motion seems to affirm, namely, that an Australian must have preference, simply because he is an Australian, and without any regard whatever to his qualifications.

Senator O'Keefe - It is the honorable senator who is reflecting on Australians.

Senator BEST - No; I trust the Government, because I know they will give preference to an Australian, all other things being equal.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Then why does the honorable senator sit in Opposition?

Senator BEST - Because I do not want to do Australians an injustice. Honorable senators may cry " oh " !

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - The honorable senator trusts the Government, and votes against the Government.

Senator BEST - I am voting, with the Government. It is Senator Dawson, and others, who sit with, and vote against, the Government.

Senator Guthrie - The Government have opened negotiations with a man outside Australia.

Senator BEST - Then the Government must take the responsibility of their action.

Senator Lt Col Gould - The man outside may be the best available.

Senator BEST - If he is the best man available, he is entitled to the position. We are, in this connexion, doing ourselves an injustice. If we want the very best administration of this new Territory, we must take care to get a Lieutenant-Governor who will fulfil our expectations, and not give the position to, perhaps, a tyro without experience, who may or may not be a failure. I think my honorable friends opposite are making a great mistake in pressing this motion - in regarding it as a matter of urgency - and I ask time for consideration in order to prevent the reflection on Australians which is embodied in it.

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