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Wednesday, 5 November 1913

Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia) . - Seeing that the Government have three representatives here, I naturally expected that one of them would have condescended to tell the Senate what their attitude on this question is to be.

Their attitude so far has been quite apparent to those who have been taking more than an ordinary interest in the inquiry. The fact that the representatives of the Government here are so silent puts me rather at a disadvantage in discussing the amendment, but I do hope that, for the sake of their own reputation, they will announce what they intend to do in regard to it. Either the motion or the amendment will suit' me as an expression of opinion. I can vote for either question quite consistently, except that, in my . opinion, as I said before, the motion is more an attempt to side-track the Senate than anything else. But having declared that I would vote for the motion, I intend to adhere to that statement. I would advise Senators Rae and Gardiner, in order not to be side-tracked, to withdraw the amendment, and let a straight-out vote be taken on the motion. It is quite apparent that the Government are in a dilemma. One of their supporters has brought forward a motion, but so far they have not announced what they intend to do. The position of those who have asked for an inquiry all through is quite clear, and that is to extend the inquiry if possible-, although I do not think it is, as we have exhausted every means in our power to get the fullest possible evidence. The only way I can see in which we could get more evidence would be for the Government to supply funds to enable the Select Committee to go to Kalgoorlie, examine the engineering work done onthat section of a great project, and take the evidence of the witnesses who were on the job when the dispute arose. > If that course were taken by the Government, undoubtedly the investigation might be extended. To pass a motion, which I think is not worth the paper it is written on, and which at the most is a mere pious hope that something may be done which the Government have opposed all through, is a mere waste of time unless Senator Oakes and his advisers are prepared to take up a much stronger attitude than is indicated. If he wants to do something, if there is any real business in his motion, I would advise him to bring' the matter forward at the next Caucus of the Ministerial party, and see if he can get them to help him to extend the investigation. The members of the Select Committee were all quite familiar with the testimonials read by Senator Gardiner, and so there was no need for them to hear the testimonials read again. I have heard and read them a dozen times at least, and as regards the majority of those read by the honorable senator, not a question has ever been raised.

Senator Senior - The public ought to know what they are.

Senator DE LARGIE - The Government are the only people who can let the public know, and it is their duty to see that such papers are printed. The Labour Government retired from office before this Parliament assembled, and consequently they were not in a position to order the printing of the report of the Royal Commission. Senator Gardiner said that the Royal Commission, at all events, was above question, but that is not so, because we have had supporters of the Government questioning the Commission, and insinuating that it was not all that it should have been.

Senator Needham - Senator Gardiner meant that the Commission ought to be above reproach.

Senator DE LARGIE - Senator Gardinerwas quite right in what he said, but I would point out that even the Royal Commission was questioned by supporters of the present Government. Not only did the late member for Fremantle, Mr. Hedges, do that, but he even questioned the honesty of the Commissioner, Mr. Justice Hodges. That was a most extraordinary thing for him to do, and it goes to show the length to which the present Ministerial party will proceed in order to blacken the character of a man. I trust that the amendment will be defeated. I hope that the motion will be carried, and that the Senate will not be side-tracked in the way that our honorable friends on the other side have attempted to do by bringing forward a motion which they, in their hearts, would like to see defeated, and against which they hoped that honorable senators on this side would vote in order to have it defeated.

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