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Wednesday, 1 November 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I wish to direct attention to certain statements made by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat - statements which, disguise them as you may, amounted to a charge of absolute corruption against the late Administration. That charge was to the effect that the previous Government had, for purely party purposes, created certain polling places where it suited them, and had withheld polling facilities where they ought to have been granted. I invite the Government either to prove or to disprove that charge. In fairness to those whose honour has been reflected upon, they ought to do the one thing or the other. If the charge be true, every man in the late Administration ought to be branded throughout Australia as absolutely unfitted to occupy any place in the public life of the country ; but if the charge be not true - if there be no justification for it - I have no hesitation in saying that the man who made it ought to be drummed out of public life.

Senator Long - What an exhibition of heroics !

Senator MILLEN - I have no doubt that, finding that there is no evidence whatever to justify such a charge, the honorable senator would like to make it appear to be a subject for jocularity. But I challenge honorable senators opposite, here and now, to make good their allegation. The Minister who was responsible for this particular work, in the late Government did exactly what was done by all previous Administrations, and followed the only course that was open to an honest administrator. That was to leave the matter entirely in the hands of the responsible officers. No Minister in the last Administration, nor,. I believe, in any previous. Administration, who had charge of this Department, attempted to dictate to the officers as ,to where polling places should be established. There is a member of this Senate, who was the Minister who initiated the policy which has been followed by all of his successors. He will be able to say whether what I am stating is not the truth. Let me point out, further, that if the charge made by Senator Henderson were, true, and polling places were arranged in the manner he has described, it was his duty to make a statement to that effect at the time: Butthere is not the slightest evidence in support of what he has said. He has been entirely actuated by a desire to vilify his political opponents. I invite Ministers tosearch the records of the Electoral Office, and to see if there is anything whatever to justify what Senator Henderson has said I think I am warranted in saying that no action whatever was taken by the official head of the Department with reference to the country officials under his control, except in so far as he was acting upon the advice of his responsible officers. I say, moreover - repeating my invitation to the Government - that they ought to search the records of the Department, and bring forward proof, if they can find any, in support of the charges to which we have listened.

Senator Long - What is the use of going into the past offences of the Opposition? They have been punished for them.

Senator MILLEN - Why did not Senator Long make his protest against this resurrection when Senator Henderson was making his libellous statements? But no protest came from the honorable senator then. He never said a word.

Senator Long - Senator Henderson was able to justify his statements, as he always is.

Senator MILLEN - Here, again, we have a member of the Ministerial party reaffirming the same libel. ' I say, once more, to the Government, that in fairness to their political opponents they ought to search the records of the Department, and tell the "Senate whether there is the slightest justification for it.

Senator Long - Come tothe rescue of the Opposition?

Senator MILLEN - Come to the rescue of honesty in public life - a thing of which the honorable senator appears to have no conception, or he would not be making these interjections now. It is becoming a deplorable state of affairs when honorable senators opposite are prepared to get up and make a charge of political corruption against their opponents without having the manliness to produce a tittle of evidence when challenged to do so.

Senator Long - I warn the honorable senator not to push his request too far.

Senator MILLEN - I am pushing it right home. I repeat my statement that if it can be shown that the late Ministry, for purposes of party or for self - for that is what it amounted to- wereguilty of such a breach of political honesty as

Senator Hendersonhas alleged, they ought to be drummed out of public life. But if; on the other hand, the charge cannot be proved, the Government, in fairness tothose who have preceded them, ought to tell us frankly that there is no foundation; for it. Turning to Senator Walker'samendment, I have to say that, howeverstrong his desire may be to revive a system, which I personally hope has disappearedfor ever from Australia - namely, the electoral rights system - I cannot give him any support. I saw too many bundles of these documents in the hands of my political opponents to make me feel comfortable about the system. More than that, I suggest that the clause under consideration is hardly the proper place for the discussion of the subject. This is merely an index clause; it is not even an interpretation clause. Whether the words proposed are added or not, the term "Voting by Post " should becomplete as a reference in itself.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel CAMERON (Tasmania) [9.10]. - I should like to ask the Government whether it has been absolutely decided by them that no opportunity whatever shall be afforded to women, or topersons who are indisposed, to vote unlessthey go to a polling booth? Do I understand that that is absolutely the position taken up ? I suggest that the Government: have power by regulation to bring in a system that would enable two classes of persons who are in every way entitled to our respect to have their rights regarded, nomatter what party may sit upon the Government benches.

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