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Wednesday, 31 July 1912

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I remind the Senate that the speaker has only fifteen minutes.

Senator O'KEEFE - That will be plenty of time for me. I know absolutely nothihg about Mr. Chinn. I believe that I met him once, but I should not know him again if I saw him here or elsewhere. I know absolutely nothing personally either of his professional ability or his private character.

Senator McGregor - Does the honon able senator know Judge Moule?

Senator O'KEEFE - No I do not know, that gentleman either. Senator de Largie in the course of his remarks stated - and I put upon him the onus for the correctness or otherwiseof the statementthat Mr., Chinn, in addition to his other quaiifications, drew up the plans for the railway in Tasmania which connects the Great Silver-Copper field of Mount Lyell with Kelly Basin on the West Coast. Assuming that statement to be correct-

Senator de Largie - It is correct.

Senator O'KEEFE - If it be correct, it is quite sufficient evidence for me. If I were asked to give a vote as to whether this gentleman possessed the engineering capacity and ability necessary for the position in which he has been placed, I should have no doubt whatever, after being assured of the fact mentioned by Senator de Largie. I noticeSenator Cameron sitting opposite tome with his usual bright smile on his face. I am going to call him as a witness also, because I think he has been over the line to which I refer. I ask him whether a man who could draw the plans for that line, and couldsuccessfully superintend its construction, does not, in that very fact, possess a high recommendation for his ability in railway construction? Although I have not been over the route, of the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, I have carefully read all the papers that have been presented to Parliament in connexion with it, and am quite certain that no portion of the route presents engineering difficulties in any respect approaching those which had to be overcome on the line from Kelly Basin to Mount Lyell. On the evidence of Mr. Chinn 's work in connexion with that line alone, I should have no doubt of his professional capacity and engineering ability justifying his appointment to hispresent position.

Senator Lt Colonel Cameron .-Isthat railway running now?

Senator O'KEEFE - The railway is riot running now. But I am surprised that a gentleman like Sehatdr Cameron, whom I always took to be a fair-mindedman, should make such an interjection. He has made it with one object only. He wishes' to make the Senate and the country beiieve that the railway is hot running now because of imperfections ih its construction.

Senator Lt Colonel Cameron - Is it running now, or is it not ?

Senator O'KEEFE - I have already said that it is not now in use. But the closing of the railway had nothing whatever to do with the engineering skill displayed in its construction, and does not affect the question of whether it is a good line or not. As a matter of fact - and Senator Cameron knows this perfectly well- the railwaj was abandoned because the Mount Lyell Company became amalgamated with the North Lyell Company, and the whole of the amalgamated company's work was done in the other direction, over the old Mount Lyell Company's line. Consequently, there is no use for the line between Mount Lyell and Kelly Basin now. But that is not the fault of Mr. Chinn. It is due to want of foresight on the part of the directors of the North Mount Lyell Company, who did not foresee that they were likely to amalgamate with the Mount Lyell Company. The professional ability of this gentleman has 'been questioned, not only by public men, but by the powerful newspaper press of Australia. He is stated to be absolutely unfit for the position in which he has been placed. But the fact that he was sufficient of ah engineer to be employed by so eminent a firm of railway contractors as Messrs. Garnworthy and Smith- in the construction of this line, is quite enough to prove that Mr. Chinn then had sufficient engineering ability, despite the smiles of my honorable friend opposite, who tries to question his ability, and fails miserably.

Senator Lt Colonel Cameron - I forgive the honorable senator.

Senator O'KEEFE - I forgive Senator Cameron; I do not ask his forgiveness. I know nothing whatever as to the correctness of the statement that Mr. Chinn was given his position because he was a supporter of the Labour party at the recent elections in Western Australia, and has been known for years to possess Labour views. I do not know whether he possesses Labour views or not, but I am satisfied that the reason urged had nothing to do with the appointment. The fact that that aspect of the matter has been made so much of in another place, and by a section of the press in Australia, justified Senator de Largie in the stand he took today in making his vigorous defence of Mr. Chinn. However, I shall, in common with Senator Henderson, express my view of this matter. If the political sympathies of persons ought to be taken into account in making appointments, it is clear that the present Government have not given many of these important positions to men of their own political colour during the last two and a half years. I believe that on the contrary they have in many instances turned down applicants for positions possessing Labour views, because of a little timidity that if a person appointed to a Government position were well-known to to a supporter of the Labour party his appointment might be questioned. Appointments should in every case be made on the merits of the applicants, and if that principle had been followed by other Governments in the past there would be many more men possessing Labour views holding important positions in the Public Service to-day than there are. In all the circumstances this charge comes with a very bad grace from the quarter from which it has been made. It is a fact which cannot be disputed that for years political appointments were made from one side in Federal and State politics, and it was not from the side of the Labour party.

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