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Wednesday, 31 July 1912

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - The discussion arising out of the motion of adjournment submitted by Senator de Largie has had something to do with an engineer, and indirectly with engineering. Apart from that, we have had another manifestation of the attitude of an engineer in engineering other things than railway works. I am reminded of a remark attributed to Daniel O'Connell, who said on one occasion that he never saw an Act of Parliament through which he could not drive a coach-and-four. It is somewhat extraordinary that this discussion should have arisen under our Standing Orders. It may be a matter for compliment or perhaps regret that Senator de Largie has found a way through the Standing Orders which we thought was absolutely closed, and has driven, not only a coach-and-four, but a whole locomotive through them. It is possible that honorable senators on this side, or, for that matter, any member of the Senate, may better the construction Senator de Largie has been able to place upon the' Standing Orders, or it may be necessary that they should be reféred to the Standing Orders Committee for further consideration.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator is reflecting upon the conduct of the Chair.

The PRESIDENT - The Chair should be in a position to protect itself when any honorable senator reflects upon its conduct.

Senator O'Keefe - On a point of order, I shall take your opinion, sir, as to whether the language just now used by Senator St. Ledger was not a distinct and direct reflection upon the conduct of the Chair. The honorable senator stated clearly that Senator de Largie had been allowed to drive a coach-and-four through the Standing Orders. You, sir, are the custodian of the: rights of honorable senators under theStanding Orders, and I shall take your ruling as to whether Senator St. Ledger did not reflect upon your conduct of the business of the Senate.

The PRESIDENT - Senator St.Ledger said that Senator de Largie had discovered a method whereby he could get round theStanding Orders. Beyond that. I do not. think the honorable senator reflected upon the Chair. If he does so, I shall be prepared to take the necessary action.

Senator ST LEDGER - Honorablesenators on this side have been charged with/ referring to this matter.

Senator Rae - The honorable senator's party.

Senator ST LEDGER - No; it hasbeen stated over and over again that honorable senators on this side raised the question. The President has himself directed attention to the fact that it was not we whoraised it at all. I do not make these remarks for the purpose of either attacking, or defending Mr. Chinn. Whatever may be said or done in this matter, honorablesenators opposite and the Government areentirely responsible for. But I may be allowed to say that, if there is a man who> has reason to ask that he may for Heaven'ssake be spared from, his friends, it is Mr. Chinn on this occasion. On the papers in the possession of the Government, it would appear that Mr. Chinn is described as st. civil engineer.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould... - He never so described himself, I think.

Senator ST LEDGER - I do not know whether he has done so, but he is certainly described on the papers as a civil engineer. I have not looked through the papers soclosely as fo be able to say that he is or is not a civil engineer in the sense in which theterm is understood in the engineering world. When a person is described in official papers as a civil engineer, or when he so describes himself, it is understood by engineers the world over that he has a diploma from some engineering institute or some university. It would appear that the Ministerof Home Affairs, in permitting Mr. Chinn' to be styled on official papers as a civil engineer, is responsible for giving currency towhat I believe is an absolute falsehood. If the officials of the Home Affairs Department have permitted Mr. Chinn to be described" as a civil engineer upon official papers, they have given currency to what, speaking from an engineering point of view, is an absolute falsehood. If by any paper or letter written by himself Mr. Chinn has led the officials of the Department or the Minister of Home Affairs to regard him as a civil engineer, he is guilty of issuing false currency so far as regards the ordinary meaning conveyed by the term civil engineer, as understood by universities and engineering institutes. If a person describes himself as a civil engineer, or writes the letters "C.E." after his name, it is generally understood that he is a graduate of some university, or is in possession of a diploma from some engineering institute.

Senator Needham - Why is Mr. Chinn challenged now with using the letters C.E. after his name?

Senator ST LEDGER - I have not challenged him. I repeat that this question has been raised by honorable senators opposite. It is only, from the papers which have been submitted in connexion with the case, that, in my capacity as a member of the Senate, I know that, by himself or by the Department of Home Affairs, Mr. Chinn is referred to as a civil engineer. It appears to be unchallengeable that, in the ordinary sense in which the term is used, Mr. Chinn is not a civil engineer. If he has not so described himself, he is not to blame, but the Minister of Home Affairs is to blame for permitting him to be so described in official papers without any explanation. I take now the extraordinary statement made by Senator Lynch that Mr. Chinn " stands alone." From one point of view he certainly does stand alone, but it is an absolute absurdity to say of Mr. Chinn that, amongst engineers, he stands alone. That is the greatest humbug that could be uttered. If Senator Lynch wishes us to understand that in the Commonwealth, or out of it, there is not a better engineer, and that, in that sense, Mr. Chinn stands alone, the statement has only to be made to disclose its absurdity. But if it is intended to suggest that, in the particular circumstances of this case, the relation of the present Government to the construction of the Kalgoorlie- Port Augusta railway, and the manner in which Mr. Chinn secured his appointment he stands alone, the remark is amply justified. The professional officer responsible for the construction of the railway is Mr. Deane. His views upon the railway were discussed at length upon a previous occasion in the Senate. This Parliament approved of his report, and of his appointment as the re sponsible engineer in charge of the work. He should be saddled with the responsibility of saying who should be appointed to assist him in the work. Did Mr. Deane appoint Mr. Chinn? Even the Minister of Defence, with all his dexterity, is unable to dispute the statement that there is a memorandum from Mr. Deane, dated 6th February, in which he says that the Minister had already decided to appoint Mr. Chinn, and that he recommended certain other officers to work at the other end of the railway. Why did Mr. Deane make this distinction between the appointments he recommended and the appointment of Mr. Chinn by the Minister? We have so far had no explanation of that, and I do not believe that any explanation of it is possible. I do not think that Ministers will attempt to explain this most damning ambiguous statement by Mr. Deane. It would not have been unreasonable if Mr. Deane had said that he appointed Mr. So-and-so to take charge of the work at one end of the railway, and some other person to take charge of the work at the other end, as his subordinate constructing engineers. But, in his memorandum of the 6th February, he refers to the appointment of Mr. Chinn as one which the Minister of Home Affairs had determined to make. There is a further significance in this memorandum. It must be remembered that the Minister of Home Affairs, and Mr. Deane also, knew that he was not controlled by the Public Service Act in making these appointmentsHe had an absolutely free hand, and, at the time Mr. Deane's memorandum waswritten, he had already approved of the appointment of Mr. Chinn. Mr. Deane directs marked attention to that fact.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator's time has expired. At this stage it seems opportune to remind honorable senators that when an honorable senator has only fifteen minutes in which to make his speech it is not fair to him that his time should be wasted by interjections.

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