Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 13 August 1913

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I think that the thanks of the Senate are due to Senator Russell for the action he has taken in moving the adjournment, in order to direct attention to the statements made by a member of the Australian Parliament. There is one advantage which we on this side can secure to-day which we could not secure under other conditions. I refer to the fact that any remarks we may make will be truthfully recorded in Hansard. It has been our experience from the inception of our party until to-day that, no matter what statements we may make from the public platform, they are not truthfully recorded. As a matter of fact, they are misconstrued. The honorable senator who to-day has been placed in the pillory by the motion moved by Senator Russell, and the party with which he is associated, have always had behind them the powerful capitalistic press of Australia. Almost every breath they draw is recorded in that press. It has been amusing, if not interesting, to me this afternoon to contrast the attitude of Senator McColl when trying to defend himself from the charges launched against him today with the attitude he no doubt assumed in the Fitzroy Town Hall when he made the statements complained of in the congenial company he found there. It strikes me that when a man occupying the honorable senator's responsible position has a chance to "sling off" at his opponents where he is not immediately responsible, and may not be faced with the consequences of his remarks, he can be very brave. But the honorable senator comes here to-day, and, honestly, I was sorry for him when he stood up at the Minister's table as Vice-President of the Executive Council, to endeavour to reply to the charges made in connexion with his statements about double voting. I think the time has arrived when public men should at least be fair, and should at least be truthful.

Senator McColl - Hear, hear!

Senator NEEDHAM - I am very glad that at last the honorable senator has discovered the necessity of speaking the truth. I hope that when he next stands upon a public platform, whether as a private senator or as a member of the Ministry, he will speak the truth and stick to it.

Senator Long - The Minister's interjection indicates that there is hope even for the greatest sinner.

Senator NEEDHAM - Yes, and there is an old saying that there is greater joy in Heaven upon one sinner doing penance than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance. If my scriptural quotation is not altogether correct, it at least fits itself to the senator opposite. There is a phase of the question he might seriously consider. Senator McColl, who momentarily occupies a Ministerial position, and a very precarious one at that, is not the only gentleman who has made these statements at public meetings about double voting, and that the Labour party were responsible for it. I remember a statement made by Mr. Hedges, the exmember for Fremantle in the House of Representatives. He had the audacity to state, in the public press that in the South Fremantle division of the electoral division of Fremantle every person in one street, where there were 312 voters, voted twice. What is the result of the inquiry instituted by the present Government? Out of all the votes recorded in Western Australia, totalling over 135,000, there were only 556 irregularities; and in the particular division of Fremantle, where there were over 28,000 votes cast, there were only 156 irregularities discovered.

Senator McGregor - Assumed irregularities.

Senator NEEDHAM - Yea, assumed, not proved; and yet we have gentlemen like Senator McColl making these statements. I have not seen any of Senator Millen's speeches, but I dare say he also has taken every opportunity of maligning this party.

Senator Millen - That is impossible.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator is so used to maligning his opponents that it is second nature to him. I maintain that the elections were conducted cleanly. There may have been some irregularities.

Senator Bakhap - There was no allegation against the officers who conducted the elections.

Senator NEEDHAM - Allegations were made not only against the officers responsible for the administration of the electoral law, but against the late Government.

Senator Bakhap - Against the late Minister of Home Affairs.

Senator NEEDHAM - Do not buck up the way you are doing. Allegations were made not only against officers responsible for the administration of the electoral law, but also against the exMinister of Home Affairs, and every member of the Labour Administration. They were practically charged with endeavouring to pack the rolls to secure continuity of office. The statements have been made broadcast. We humbly, from the public platform, haveendeavoured

Senator Bakhap - Did you say "humbly"?

Senator NEEDHAM - We are not alt so big as my friend, nor have we so vast an opinion of ourselves. But our statements have not been recorded in the public press, and this is the only chance we have. I am glad Senator Russell has put forward his motion, so that we can place in the pages of Ilansard what our opinions are of the cowards who have made these false charges against the Ministry that has just gone out of power, which charges the inquiry that has been held has proved were untrue and false.

Senator Lt.-ColonelO'LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.30]. - We are indebted to Senator Russell for bringing this matter before the Senate. I can assure honorable senators that the scandalous statements about the conduct of the recent elections were not confined to Victoria, but were general throughout all the States. We had in South Australia a most extraordinary statement ventilated under scare headings in the press about the conduct of the elections in that State. It was stated in a most open and glaring manner that there was a char-a-banc kept going in Unley from one place to another carrying twenty odd voters, and that they were conveyed to every polling booth to record votes where they could get them recorded.

Senator Findley - You did well there.

Senator Lt.-ColonelO'LOGHLIN.We did well, but without any resort to impersonation or duplicate voting. However, in the press, which was wholly behind the Fusion party, these allegations appeared for several days after the elections under scare headings, and every possible publicity was given to them ; but later on, as it was found there was small possibility of substantiating these statements, excitement subsided, and we heard very little about them after the inquiry was started. When the result of the inquiry was made public those portions of the press which gave such prominence to the accusations placed the reports of the returning officers in obscure corners of their papers, and in the smallest type possible. I wish to call attention to another matter. Senators who have preceded me have pretty well ventilated this subject, but I would like to know why the Senate candidates were ignored in this inquiry.

The PRESIDENT - The motion has been moved for the express purpose of calling attention to a specific matter of urgent public importance, and except casually, by way of illustration, the honorable senator is not entitled to travel beyond the ambit of the motion.

Senator Lt.-ColonelO'LOGHLIN.I do not intend to take up time to. any extent. I have already given notice of questions in regard to this matter, but it is possible the Senate will not meet for some days.

Senator Millen - If you move to suspend the Standing Orders you can deal with it. You can do what you like.

Senator Lt Colonel O'LOGHLIN - I do not intend to avail myself of that suggestion. Fortunately we are in a position to do what we like without asking permission. But I would ask why Senate candidates were ignored in the inquiry when they were equally concerned in regard to these charges, and in regard to the conduct of the election? I hope that if any Minister is going to speak to this motion he will give me information on this point. I rose particularly to direct attention to it, and I do not propose to further discuss the question so fully ventilated by other senators.

Suggest corrections