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Wednesday, 5 November 1913

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I consider that instead of finding serious fault with the action of Senator Oakes in bringing forward this motion, we ought to be grateful to him for affording us the opportunity of replying to statements that have been made recently regarding the Committee of inquiry into the Chinn case. Statements have been made by the Prime Minister, the Premier of Victoria, and various other public men. I find no fault with them for criticising, .as citizens of the Commonwealth, the actions of the Select Committee of the Senate. But I do find fault with them when they make use of their public positions to slander the Committee. I deplore exceedingly that a more honorable course has not been adopted, and that we could not insist upon the same demeanour concerning a Select Committee or Royal Commission as is insured when a citizen is brought before a Court of law charged with any crime. A Court will punish any person who ventures to comment upon a case which is under review. I am impelled to think that in a case where a Committee has been appointed by a branch of the Legislature to inquire into very grave charges against a citizen, it should be an offence to make comments, either upon the Committee, or upon the person whose caseis being investigated, until the inquiry iS concluded. We are under a debt of gratitude to Senator Oakes for bringing forward this motion, because he has given us an opportunity such as we should not have otherwise had of entering a most emphatic protest against the publicutterances to which I have alluded. We are now in the position that the Government have refused funds to a Committee of the Senate for the purpose of carrying on its - work. Senator Oakes asksthe Senate to extend the usefulness of the Committee, although he was one of those who, when the Committee wasoriginally proposed, objected to it most strenuously, and refused to be nominated' a member. The whole of the Ministerial party that was available was asked to go upon the Committee. With onehonorable exception they refused to do so. I am confident that they now regret exceedingly the blunder they madein not taking advantage of the offer sogenerously extended to them.

Senator Oakes - I can contradict that, as far as I am concerned.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I take the honorable senator's word, but I am still of the same opinion. Notwithstanding that the Government have refused fundsto enable the Committee to conduct the inquiry properly, a Ministerial supporter now proposes to extend the work of theCommittee. But he has given us noassurance that the Government will be willing to find the money even now. We have not heard a word from theGovernment to the effect that they regret having refused in the past to provide funds. I am endeavouring to obtain a Ministerial assurance that they areprepared to retrace their steps, . and to give Mr. Chinn a proper opportunity of defending himself before the Committee. I have no hesitation in saying that the action of the Government up to the present has been an absolute disgrace. They have denied to an accused man the opportunity which is always extended to persons whose conduct may be inquired into of being adequately heard in his own defence. In South Australia, as in other States, during the elections one of the stock arguments used by our opponents Was that the Labour Government had appointed Mr. Chinn to the position of Supervising Engineer simply because he was a member of the Labour party. To-day Senator Gould, in the speech which was made in justification of his colleagues, said nothing about the undoubted evidences of Mr. Chinn's qualifications, which I am glad to say have been placed on record by Senator Gardiner. Every word in favour of Mr. Chinn was carefully avoided by Senator Gould, but the fact that he was a member of the Labour party, or was supposed to have done something for that party, was carefully placed on record. I trust that the motion will be carried, and that, as it emanates from one of their own side, the Government will provide funds for carrying it into effect.

Senator Rae - They might put the money on the Supplementary Loan Esti-

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Government can borrow the money if they like. If they did, it might cause some of those who are opposed to Ministerial borrowing to look with more favour upon the loan project. I also wish to emphasize the point that whilst honorable senators opposite are on this question as unanimous as if they had been dragooned by a caucus, and not one of them has said a single word against the motion, we on this side, who are supposed to be caucus bound and chain-ganged, have had one of our number moving an amendment and another declaring straight out his intention to vote against the motion. So that we find that the members of the Opposition are perfectly free on this, as on every other question, to vote as their conscience dictates. I shall vote for the motion, in the hope that it will induce the Government to do a fair thing by Mr. Chinn, because, up to the present time, their action has been most unfair and reprehensible. I am convinced that every citizen in Australia, whether he be a member of the Liberal Union and a supporter of the present Government or not, will, if he considers the facts fairly and squarely, admit that the Government are to be condemned for refusing funds to carry on this inquiry properly. I trust thatthe funds will be forthcoming now that a motion for extending the inquiry has come from the Ministerial side.

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