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Wednesday, 19 October 1910

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - The principle involved in this matter, and there is a principle involved in it, is an extremely serious one. If necessary we could cite public departments of the Commonwealth to find at work exactly the same thing that is illustrated by this Western Australian incident. Whatever may be the case to-day, I know that, not many months ago, so far as we could judge, the officials of a Federal Department were active agents in throwing obstacles in the way of our own public servants putting in time in the military service of the Commonwealth. The Minister of Defence is no doubt aware of the existence in his Department of correspondence which passed between the Defence Department and the Department of the Postmaster-General, in which serious complaints were made of the action of the Postal Department in putting difficulties in the way of postal employes attending military camps.

Senator Pearce - I must say that I have found no difficulty.

Senator MILLEN - The papers to which I refer must be in the Department of Defence. I am speaking of a time when the last Government were in office.

Senator Findley - All sorts of things happened when that Government were in office.

Senator Needham - Did any one lose his employment?

Senator MILLEN - No; because officers of the Postal Department were not allowed off to attend the camps. The previous Government cannot be charged with any wrongful act because of the action of the officers of the Postal Department to which I refer, since it was the same Government that, through the Defence Department, rebuked the Postal Department for their action.

Senator Lynch - Did the Postal' Department officials interfere with action taken by employes of the Department in their own time?

Senator MILLEN - No. What they did was this : They afforded facilities for officers to attend public" sports and demonstrations, but claimed that it would interfere with public convenience if they were allowed similar time off to attend drill. That is the whole thing in a nutshell. I am sure it is the desire of every member of the Senate to get the facts in this case. It is a little unfortunate that we have today presented to us only an ex -parte statement. I am not impugning the accuracy of the statement as submitted, but on the face of it it is an ex parte statement.

Senator Findley - There is complete unanimity.

Senator MILLEN - Amongst whom? There is unanimity amongst the gentlemen who have appeared here as advocates of the warder and who are relying upon the same sources of information for the opinions they have expressed.

Senator Lynch - We spoke as much in the interests of warders in New South Wales as in Western Australia.

Senator MILLEN - I do not question that.

Senator McGregor - Would the honorable senator put an advertisement in the newspapers after what he has learned today to the effect, " Lost, stolen, or strayed - the Premier of Western Australia "?

Senator MILLEN - I should rather be inclined to offer a reward to the Vice-

President of the Executive Council to be serious for five minutes at a time if he can. Before the Senate, or any other deliberative body, is asked to pass judgment upon a matter of this kind, both sides of the case should be presented. Owing to the failure of die Government of Western Australia to reply to the communication from the Minister of Defence we are not in a position to say what answer is to be made to the statement of the case as presented to the Senate. We have the authority of the Western Australian Hansard, for stating that the Western Australian Government has affirmed, in the answers given by a Minister to certain questions put to him, that his attendance at military drill did interfere with the duties which this warder had to discharge. If that be so, the Federal authorities should be very slow to interfere with the action of the State Government. We have to remember, when we speak of the authority of the Federal Government, that it is, or will be, limited to men under twenty-six years of age. It would be rather curious if, in addition to that provision, we were to claim to exercise power over State Governments or private employers 'in their dealings with men over twenty-six years of age.

Senator Rae - The provision to which the honorable senator refers is not to come into force until ist January.

Senator MILLEN - That is so.

Senator Needham - It makes this crime all the worse.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator calls it a crime, but we have heard the allegation of one side only, and from the other side an answer to questions stating that the attendance of this warder at military drill did interfere with his duties as a warder. I am unable to determine whether that statement is true or not on the information before us. It is rather regrettable that honorable senators who come here seeking justice should refuse to look at both sides of the shield, and should appear as open and avowed partisans.- That is hardly the way in which to solicit a sympathetic hearing for a matter like this. Senator Needham speaks of the dismissal of this man as a crime, and in so doing charges the Western Australian authorities with committing a crime.

Senator Needham - They have not denied the charge.

Senator MILLEN - The charge is denied or answered by the statement that the attendance of this warder at military drill interfered with his duties as a warder.

Senator Needham - There has been no reply to the wire sent by the Minister of Defence.

Senator MILLEN - I am unable to say whether this man's attendance at military drills interfered with his duties as a warder. All I know at the present moment is that the State authorities affirm that it did. If that statement be correct, I say that the Federal authorities should be slow to move.

Senator Rae - I do not think that " Kaiser Bill " would be very slow to move in a case of this kind. He would shake things up.

Senator MILLEN - I have noted the fact that the opinion was expressed in the Vanguard recently that it would be better for the workers of Australia to be under Kaiser William than under the present political system of this country. I should like to point out that Senator Rae would not be allowed to speak in that disrespectful and flippant tone of Kaiser William if we were under him. I say that we have no evidence here to enable us to decide whether a wrong has been done or not. No impartial member of the Senate would take the . responsibility, on the scanty evidence before it, of deciding that a wrong has been done. We must do as the Minister of Defence proposes to do - await a further reply from the Western Australian authorities on the case. That, no doubt, will be received in due course. Perhaps it is to be regretted that it was not sent by wire, but, as that may not have been regarded as a satisfactory way of dealing with the matter, it is quite possible that a more lengthy communication than we should have been likely to receive by wire is now on the way by post. I do think it is extremely regrettable that honorable senators bringing forward a matter of this kind should make a motion, professedly seeking to do justice, a peg on which to hang a party accusation against a State Government they do not like.

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