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Thursday, 10 October 1912

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) .. -I do not intend to discuss the Bill itself on the motion for the first reading. I shall reserve my remarks upon it until a later stage. But, as honorable senators are aware, the first reading of a Bill of this nature affords an opportunity to refer to matters not contained within the measure itself. I propose to take advantage of that opportunity. The subject which I propose to discuss is a difference which arose last, week between Senator St. Ledger and myself. In the course of a speech which I made, I good-humouredly twitted Senator St. Ledger with having been at one time rather a. promising member of the Labour party; and I expressed my regret that he stopped short at promising, and did not attain fulfilment. Senator St. Ledger, being very much aggrieved, took exception to my remarks, and used some rather strong language. Of course, he was entitled to do so if he wished. I believe that yesterday afternoon, while I was temporarily absent from the chamber, he made a personal explanation, in which he denied intoto the whole of my remarks, and stated emphatically that he never had coquetted with the Labour party, and, in fact, would never have had anything to do with them - would not even have been found dead in a 40-acre paddock with them, or words to that effect. I do not desire the Senate to accept my " say so " on the matter at all. For anything that I say which I cannot support with evidence, I have no right to claim the credence of honorable senators. I want to call Senator St. Ledger himself into the witness box.

Senator St Ledger - He is the best man to put in the box.

Senator GIVENS - Of course. As a friend of his own once said of him, " his wobbling propensities are so highly developed that he would be likely to wobble out of anything." The man who said that is Mr. Duffy, then mayor of Bundaberg - not a Labour man. Senator St. Ledger was once a candidate for the State Parliament of Queensland.

Senator St Ledger - Twice.

Senator GIVENS - In an address to the electors published on that occasion in the Brisbane Courier, on 28th February, 1899, he said -

I am in favour of the repeal of the Polynesian Act. I would regard the existing engagements of the sugar planters. Subject to these I am in favour of the gradual deportation of the Kanakas to their native islands. The introduction of Chinese and Japanese is too important a question to be left to the chances of protocols and diplomacy. I am in favour of a rigid exclusion Bill against all Asiatic races. In a word, I am in favour of a white Queensland.

That was the most burningquestion with the Labour party in Queensland at the time. He indorsed their policyin his candidature, although he subsequently came into this Senate as the nominee andprotege of the black-labour party in Queensland.

Senator Chataway - Rubbish !

Senator GIVENS - It is not rubbish; the statement is absolutely true. However, within the last few days Senator St. Ledger has been denouncing the injustice of excluding Asiatics from privileges which the people of Australia are extending to our own citizens.

Senator St Ledger - Nothing of the kind.

Senator GIVENS - On the same occasion, also, Senator St. Ledger delivered a speech in the Centennial Hall, Brisbane. He was reported in the Brisbane daily newspapers at the time to have said- -

He was entirely in accord with the Labour party in Parliament-

Senator St Ledger - In so much-

Senator GIVENS -I have the report here - in so much that he considered great social questions should be tentatively dealt with by legislation.

The governing words are that he was " entirely in accord with the Labour party." Yet Senator St. Ledger has said here that he had never anything to do with the Labour party !

Senator St Ledger - I did not say that I did not have anything to do with them. I said that I did not coquette with them. That is a different thing altogether.

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator cited as a proof of his anticoquetting propensities that Mr. Anderson Dawson, at one time Premier of Queensland, had offered him a portfolio in his Ministry. If Senator St. Ledger had any logical faculty at all, he would recognise that the fact that a (Labour Premier had offered him a portfolio was proof positive that he had been coquetting with the Labour party. A man does not ask a woman to marry him unless he gets an encouraging glint out of the corner of her "ee." A close connexion was contemplated in this case, at any rate. Senator St. Ledger was under the tutelage of a very able and distinguished gentleman at that time. I think that, if the prospects had been better, he would have jumped at the chance. But the probabilities of the continuance of the Labour Ministry seemed to be so slight that Senator St. Ledger, whilst willing to eat the apple, was afraid that it would turn to ashes in his mouth; and that was the reason why, the offer was refused.

Senator St Ledger - The honorable senator forgets that the portfolio was to be accompanied with a seat in the Queensland Legislative Council.

Senator GIVENS - But that would not have carried any political preferment beyond the temporary occupancy of Ministerial office for a day or two, as the honorable senator well knew at the time.

Senator St Ledger - It was not well known at the time.

Senator GIVENS - It was, and no one knew it better than the honorable senator. Senator St. Ledger takes exception to the fact that reference is made to these circumstances here, and says that it is a matter of political spite, or something of that kind. He alleges that we are making serious reflections upon him in bringing up these facts.

Senator St Ledger - I do not take exception to a single word the honorable senator is now saying.

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator took exception to what I said in quite a good-humoured way a day or two ago. When he was standing as a candidate for the Senate, in company with Senator Chataway and Senator Sayers, he visited various Queensland towns. He went to Bundaberg, amongst other places, and the then Mayor took the chair at a meeting which the three candidates addressed. Mr. Duffy was the Mayor - a man who was always an honest straight-out opponent of the Labour party. His sympathies were decidedly on the side- that Senator St. Ledger ' was advocating.

Senator Chataway - He was an opponent of Senator St. Ledger wherever he found him.

Senator GIVENS - I have stated the fact that Mr. Duffy was not a Labour man. He was on the same political side as Senator St. Ledger. He occupied a responsible position in Bundaberg at the time, and was called upon by these gentlemen to act as their chairman. He did so. Mr. Duffy in introducing the candidates, referred to

Senator Chatawayand Senator Sayers in the most kindly and most eulogistic fashion, but when he came to Senator St. Ledger, he referred to him as being a man of remarkable political versatility.

Senator St Ledger - He said stronger things than that if my memory serves me rightly.

Senator GIVENS - He referred to the honorable senator as having belonged to all parties; as having tried to get into Parliament as a candidate for all parties. He said that no doubt Senator St. Ledger, being a very versatile gentleman, would be able to explain his peculiar position to the people to their utmost satisfaction.

Senator St Ledger - I got a heavy vote there, too.

Senator GIVENS - Unfortunately, only brief reference is made to the Mayor's remarks in the daily newspaper of Bundaberg, because, as honorable senators will understand, most of the space which they could spare was devoted to the speeches of the candidates - they being such important and brilliant candidates as Senator Chataway, Senator Sayers, and Senator St. Ledger. But the Bundaberg Star of 2nd November, 1906, thus reports the Mayor's remarks about Senator St. Ledger -

The Mayor then dealt with the qualifications of the candidates. Referring to Mr. St. Ledger, he described him as a hard political nut to crack, one who had tried hard to get into Parliament for years, and fought under every political banner possible to imagine, so that he ought to be acceptable to all parties.

Sitting suspended from 3 to 3.15 p.m.

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