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Friday, 26 September 1913

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - The rapid rate with which we are dealing with legislation in this Chamber is sufficient to take away one's breath. We are now about the middle of the session, and yet, with the exception of Supply Bills, no legislative proposals have been introduced into the Senate. The present Government, who were going to repeal the bad legislation of the Labour party, and to restore responsible government, have hitherto only provided us with a " dead horse," in the shape of the Address-in-Reply and three Supply Bills. This is about the only opportunity that honorable senators have of refuting the unfair statements which are made from time to time by members of the Ministry. I am pleased to say that not one of the Ministers of whom I am going to complain is a member of the Senate. But they must accept their share of responsibility for the misdoings of their colleagues in another place. No later than last night we had another disgraceful exhibition. From time to time, we have had exhibitions of the most blackguardly conduct on the part of members of the Government that I have ever known. We know that a certain case is at the present being inquired into by a Select Committee appointed by the Senate, and that the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General,, and the whipper-snapper who holds the position of Honorary Minister in another place, have indulged in the most scandalous criticism of that body.- I say, advisedly, that, from the very inception, the Government have done their best to prevent an honest inquiry being conducted into one of their acts of administration. When the constitution of that Select Committee was brought forward, I endeavoured to secure the services of Government supporters upon it, and, on the floor of the

Senate, I invited the Government to nominate members of the Select Committee. No fewer than four senators upon the Government side of the , Senate were approached with that end in view, but only one of them would consent to act. That fact evidences that, from the very beginning, the Government endeavoured to burke inquiry into this case. Twenty-four hours later, we had a further proof of that. Speaking at one of the Fusion gatherings in Victoria, before a single step had been taken by the Committee, the Prime Minister declared that it was a partisan Committee. I challenged his statement in this Chamber, affirmed that Mr. Chinn had Been a persecuted man, and that evidently the Prime Minister was prepared to go on persecuting him. My statement was based upon the findings of the Royal Commission which was appointed to investigate some of the most scandalous charges that were made against him by a member of the Fusion party, not one of which was proven. As a matter of fact, five out of the six charges preferred were clearly disproved. In the light of these facts, I declared that political persecution was being indulged in. I care not whom I offend in this connexion, and so long as I believe there is a case of injustice, I shall be man enough to stand up for the individual concerned. No matter how unpopular the cause may be, no matter how powerful are the individuals who are trying to deprive that man of his rights, I shall secure justice for him if I can. The people of Australia ought to know who the members of the Government are that try to burke inquiry into their administration of public affairs, and into their dirty tactics, because dirty tactics of the most contemptible kind have been pursued in opposition to this Committee ever since, and even before, we began to make our inquiry. We had the last exhibition of it only last night, when Mr. Wait, the Premier of Victoria, went completely out of his way to interfere with the affairs of another Government. I think I can shed some light on the cause of this outbreak on his part, although I may not be able to clear it all up, but just as a straw sometimes shows which way the wind blows, I may be able to show, by reading a statement made by Mr. Hedges at the last election in Western Australia, why Mr. Watt pushes his oar in at the present time. This Chinn case was, perhaps, more before the public at the last election than was any other Government matter that I know of in any other election in Australia, and the most blackguardly statements were made against a man who had just cleared his character from the charges made against him. Certain statements, made during- the election, were submitted to eminent members of the Bar in Western Australia as to whether they were libellous or not, and two at least of those gentlemen declared that Messrs. Fowler, Hedges, Forrest, and the rest . of them had gone right up to the line of the libel law, although they did not cross it. They were very careful how far they went. They were ready to wound, ready to injure this man, although they were not prepared to take the responsibility of their actions. This kind of conduct had been going on for such a time that, when I had an opportunity of refuting the statement of the present Prime Minister that the Select Committee was a partisan body, I was entitled to declare that Mr. Chinn had been the victim of a conspiracy on the part of the Fusion party, who condemned him on the floor of the House of Representatives last year, using the coward's castle to damn this man's character. During the election, we had these matters dished up to us from different standpoints. Even before the Royal Commission undertook its investigations, the 'very same tactics were pursued that are being pursued at the present time. The other side are ready to damn this man, and to force him to seek a living elsewhere, because if a man is once condemned by thai section of the community which has the power to employ him, he is compelled, even though he is a native of Australia, to go elsewhere to earn a living. That is- the kind of persecution that is going on, and that I am going to expose, if it is in my power to do so. I was, therefore, justified, when speaking of the past, in saying that the Fusion, party had persecuted this man, simply because he differed with them in politics. That is my statement, which I repeat fearlessly, and I am not at all afraid that I shall not be able to prove it from what has already taken place. Even after a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria was appointed a Royal Commission by the Fisher Government to inquire into the case, and after closely scrutinizing the various charges made against Mr.

Chinn by Mr. Fowler, under the cover of privilege in another place, had shown that not a single one of them could be upheld, Mr. Hedges the then member for Fremantle, cast aspersions on the Judge who tried the case, and insinuated that corrupt action had been taken by no less a person than Mr. Watt to bring this result about. He stated that Mr. Watt, because of his connexion with a certain timber company, had taken certain action, with the object, I suppose, of saving his own skin. Mr. Hedges went even to the length of insinuating that the Chief Justice of Victoria was a party to this sort of thing. These were serious charges to make. When I have quoted the reports published in the press of Western Australia on the subject, I will ask honorable senators to say whether there is not some ground for believing that Mr. Watt, in order to save his own miserable skin, is prepared to join in this cowardly howl against one individual. This is what they call British fair play ! I would sooner be a blackfellows dog than join in a howl against a man who is down; but these creatures, who call themselves men, want' to hound' him out of the service, if they can. Some of us are trying to get fair play by holding an inquiry into his case; and if he is found to be at fault, I am prepared to hold him responsible, and let him take the consequence, and so, I am sure, is every other member of the Committee. While I am a member of the Senate, however, I shall never sit quietly by and see any man persecuted without giving him an opportunity of clearing his character, when he may be innocent of the charges made against him. That is what the Select Committee is doing, and what the Senate authorized it to do. Mr. Hedges, during, the last election, went over quite a number of matters connected with the case, with which we need not trouble ourselves at the present juncture. Suffice it to say that not a single one of the charges brought against Mr. Chinn on that occasion can be proved against him. That; fact should have carried some weight with the present Government when they took office. They knew that this man had gone through a very severe ordeal to clear his character, and had been subjected to treatment which few men would have been able to come through so well. These considerations, however, carried no weight, for as soon as the present crowd got into power they got rid of him as quickly as they could.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -Why?

Senator DE LARGIE - That remains to be seen.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - For incompetence and disobedience.

Senator DE LARGIE - Is the honorable senator sitting in judgment on Mr. Chinn ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I am not; but that is the statement which was made.

Senator DE LARGIE - We will see what truth there is in it. The present Government are taking every step to prevent the Select Committee from getting at the truth. They have refused us the means necessary to secure the proof of these matters. All this is part of the same conspiracy and the same contemptible tactics that we have to complain of.

Senator Long - It is because you are getting the proofs that you are being subjected to that treatment.

Senator DE LARGIE - We shall get at the truth at all costs. If the Committee will take my advice, they will see the matter through to the bitter end, especially when we know that Mr. Chinn has been the victim of lying and vindictive charges in the past. On the occasion referred to Mr. Hedges said -

The Minister of Defence-

He was referring to Senator Pearce - speaking in Western Australia said that the Government could not have acted more fairly in the inquiry, as they had asked one , of the leading Liberals to nominate a gentleman to select a judge to hold the investigation.

That had reference to the Royal Commission, and I think any one who looks into the facts will admit that the Fisher Government acted in a very impartial manner. They did not appoint a Royal Commission of members of Parliament, or of the High Court of Australia, but went right out of their own sphere into the State arena, and asked their political opponents to appoint a Judge to inquire into and report upon the case. They acted throughout in a fair and impartial manner, but received very little credit for it. Now comes the serious portion of Mr. Hedges' statement -

Mr. Wattwas the leading Liberal referred to, and that gentleman is a shareholder in the Powellising Company.

That was in reference to one of the charges made against Chinn - that the Powellising Company had, in some unfair and dishonest fashion, obtained a contract from the Government -

One of the charges made against Mr. Chinn was in relation to commissions from that company. Mr. Watt did nominate Sir John Madden, who selected the Judge.

I am sorry that I have lost the more elaborate report of this speech which appeared in the other Perth paper; but although this report is not very full, it contains sufficient to show that there was some reason for Mr. Watt joining in the present howl against Mr. Chinn, and to explain why he has pushed himself into a Commonwealth matter. This is a question which Mr. Watt would have been well-advised to leave alone, because there may be need for a Royal Commission to inquire into Mr. Watt's own action and connexion with these matters. We must remember how these companies can exercise influence, and bear in mind Mr. Hedges' statement that Mr. Watt is a shareholder in the particular company mentioned. I cannot believe that Mr. Hedges would go out of his way to attack his own side. He was always ready to attack his political opponents; but there would have to be some very good reason before one member of the Fusion party would attack another. An old saying is that " dog does not eat dog " unless there is a particularly good reason for doing so. Here we have a case of a political party combining to "down" one man by hook or by crook. The speeches I have been finding fault with from time to time, as Chairman of the Select Committee, furnish ample reason, if there were no other ground, for the Committee to continue its work "and probe the matter right to the bottom. There is, underlying the whole affair, something which we have a right to know. I can assure the Senate that, before the inquiry is finished, we shall see that justice is done, so far as that lies in our power. We are hampered in every way. When we ask for papers that are absolutely essential to the investigation, it takes weeks and weeks for us to get them. The Government is throwing every obstacle in the way of Mr. Chinn proving his case, whilst every facility is given to the other side to put up its case. Mr. Deane, the Engineer - in-Chief , is helped by no fewer than four clerks in the room. They PUt things into his hand to make out his case. Not only has he the help of men from the Railway Office, but he has the assistance of men from the Home Affairs Department, and also from the Solicitor-General's Department. Then, too, the Government were quite ready to engage one of the most eminent barristers at the Victorian Bar to help them to set up their case. When a request was made by the Select Committee that similar treatment should be meted out to Mr. Chinn, there was an emphatic refusal of any such help to him. In the face of these facts - and they are facts, as every 'member of the Committee knows - it is the duty of the members of the Committee to protest here when they get this chance to do so. We are not going to be deterred from continuing the inquiry simply because the AttorneyGeneral - a man who ought to know the rules of conduct in cases of this kind - goes out of his way to make an attack upon us. He aspires to be one of the Judges of the High Court of Australia, but God forbid that such a partisan as he is should ever get into such a high position, because he would be totally unfitted to occupy, and would disgrace, the position. Then Mr. Cook - the Minister who signed the order for the dismissal of Mr. Chinn - of course, objects to an investigation into his administration. He is seeking, not only to shut down the inquiry by preventing, as far as he can, evidence from coming before us, but he is denying funds to enable us to 'bring witnesses to Melbourne, or to go to where the witnesses are. That is the sort of attack we get from time to time from the Government for doing what the Senate has every right to empower us to do - to inquire into the administration of the Government.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [3.29].- Senator de Largie has done very well in endeavouring to cloud, as far as possible, the issue which, it appears to me, is really at stake in regard to the inquiry about Mr. Chinn. I do not propose to offer an opinion regarding any matter in connexion with Mr. Chinn which has already been investigated and dealt with.

Senator de Largie - You have a right to do that.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator ought to let it be clearly understood that the inquiry intrusted to the Select Committee was as to the legality or the propriety of the dismissal of Mr. Chinn. So far as 1 have been able to learn from newspapers and reports, he was dismissed in consequence of incompetency and disobedience of orders.

Senator Needham - Alleged.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator may put in that word. The reasons which have been given for the dismissal of Mr. Chinn are that he was incompetent, that he was insubordinate, and practically that it was quite impossible to deal with him at all as an official in the Public Service. Therefore, any statements with regard to the charges made against him previously as being reasons for his dismissal are not justified. There is a minute which states why he was dismissed. I offer no opinion with regard to the general question. I admit that I was asked to join the Select Committee, but I declined to act because I had confidence in the Ministry, and in their having good grounds for the dismissal of Mr. Chinn.

Senator de Largie - What ground have you for making that statement?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - My knowledge of the people who are at the head of affairs, and the statements which were made in regard to Mr. Chinn 's dismissal.

Senator de Largie - It is a grossly unfair, partisan statement to make.

Senator Needham - You are giving judgment.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am not giving judgment, but telling the Senate why I declined to go on the Select Committee. Would it not have been very much worse if I had said, " I am going on the Committee with the intention of showing that the man was properly dismissed. I believe he was properly dismissed, and I am going on the Committee as a partisan?" I did not wish to be associated with the inquiry, and, judging by the papers and the method in which the examination of witnesses is conducted, and the latitude which is allowed to people, I am very glad that I am not on the Committee. I will probably take an opportunity when it brings up its report to raise my voice in protest against the principal recommendations that may be made, at any rate, if the Chairman-

Senator McGregor - Wait until the Committee brings up its report, and then you will have something to discuss.

Senator Henderson - Withdraw that statement like a man ! It is a cowardly statement to make.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I shall not withdraw the statement for the honorable senator.

Senator Henderson - I do not care whether you do or not. It is a cowardly, despicable statement.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator is a coward to make that charge.

Senator Maughan - It is worthy of the party he belongs to. We must not expect anything else.

Senator Needham - It is not worthy of a man.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Let me finish my sentence. If the Committee make a report in the direction in which it is very evident Senator de Largie will work to bring about-

Senator Needham - Here is an attack on the Chairman now.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - If the- members of the Select Committee will join in the report which I believe Senator de Largie will submit

Senator Needham - Will work to get.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Yes, if the honorable senator likes to put it in that way.

Senator de Largie - If you say that of me, it is a contemptible statement. No man would make it.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am very glad I have not to take part in the inquiry, having regard to the way in which it is being conducted, if I am to rely upon the newspaper reports. I do not object to the Senate appointing a Select Committee to inquire into any matter of administration by a Department, or anything else.

Senator de Largie - Yes, you do ! You voted against it.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- The Senate has the right to do as it sees fit, and individual senators have a right to record their votes as they see fit. Although I was not in sympathy with the proposal to appoint this Select Committee, I recognised that the Senate had a perfect right to appoint it. I do not say that anybody has the right to en deavour to burke a full inquiry into any matter which the Senate, in the exercise of its inherent right to make an inquiry, wishes to have investigated. I am not going to do anything to prevent the Select Committee from working out its inquiry to what Senator de Largie calls " the bitter end."

Senator Needham - Get your leader to withdraw his objection to money being advanced.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Will the honorable senator let me go on?

Senator McGregor - He is only helping you to "stone-wall."

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Wherever the Senate sees fit to appoint a Select Committee, I think that that Committee should have the opportunity to make a full investigation. I do not object to that being done, although I did not believe that there was any need or justification for instituting the present inquiry. That, of course, was my private opinion, which was expressed by my vote in opposition to the proposal. I am very sorry, too, that there has been so much attention paid, through the press and in certain ways, to the action of the Committee before the whole investigation is finished, when it will be time to criticise any individual as severely as we see fit. So much for the Chinn inquiry. Let me now say a few words in regard to complaints made about the Government not producing business for the Senate to deal with. It occurs to me that Ministers, if they were to submit matters of policy in the Senate, where they know there is a majority of four to one against them, would be rather foolish. The other House is the place for the Ministry to submit all broad matters of policy. While I did hear an interjection that Labour had won all along the line because it is in a majority here, at the same time, I realize that, in the other House, no less than five seats were gained by the Liberal party from the Labour party, and that by that means a majority was obtained there. Mr. Fisher, the Leader of the Labour party, and the responsible Minister of the Crown, told the GovernorGeneral plainly that he was unable to carry on the business of the country, and therefore advised that Mr. Cook should be sent for.

Senator Guthrie - Can Mr. Cook carry on?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - That remains to be seen. I do not suppose that any Government, confronted with a vigorous and determined Opposition, has much chance of putting any important legislation through with a majority of only one.

Senator Guthrie - Why do they not " chuck" it up?.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Who is to take the control if they do?

Senator Long - That is for the country to say.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am quite agreeable that the country should have an opportunity to express its wish. I am also willing to go to the country with my honorable friend, and give our constituents an opportunity either to send us back again or to put somebody in our places.

Senator Barker - What have we to do with that anyhow ? It is not our quarrel.

Senator Guthrie - It is not our trouble.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I think it may be my honorable friend's trouble by-and-by.

Senator Guthrie - No fear I

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - At any rate my honorable friends do not desire it. I wish to bring before the Government a matter which is of considerable importance to New South Wales, and that is the quarantining of Sydney. I recognise that the quarantine area was proclaimed in the early stages of what might have become a very dangerous disease to the people of the Commonwealth. One could not complain about the steps which were taken then to protect the public health and public safety as far as possible, but the quarantine has existed for a considerable time, and it has been shown that this is not what might be termed a virulent disease. There have been no deaths in connexion with the disease. There certainly has been a number of cases in which persons have been attacked, but, fortunately, they have all recovered. It has been shown that it is not a disease of a virulent type, in fact, it is no worse than measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and many other diseases which attack people from time to time. In the interests of, not New South Wales alone, but the whole of Australia, it would be well, I think, if the Government could see their way to remove the quarantine.

Senator Findley - They say it is not small-pox, but " fusionitis."

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I do not know what is said, but I understand that medical men say that it is a very mild type of small-pox. On the Health Board of New South Wales there are medical men of considerable knowledge and skill in this disease, who have made a very strong recommendation to the State Government, and, I believe, to the Commonwealth Government also, that the quarantine should be lifted. I put it to the Government that it is time that they should give full consideration to this matter with the view of doing what I think would be in the best interests of the country.

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