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Wednesday, 31 July 1912

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - In seconding the motion, I venture to say that Senator de Largie has rendered a service to the community, and1 to one citizen in particular. During the past fortnight we have heard a great deal regarding a certain appointment which has been made by the Government in connexion with the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. That appointment has been discussed in the press and in this Parliament, and, like Senator de Largie, I was privileged to listen to the attack which was made upon the Government inthat connexion in another place. I would not object to that attack so much as I do, if those responsible for it had been just in their conclusions. Had they any idea of equity, they would not have been so splenetic in their accusations. The genesis of the whole trouble is that the Government dared to place an important public work under the control of a man who holds views consonant with those held by the Ministry. The method of the attack which has been made on Mr. Chinn, not only in this Parliament, but in a certain section of the press, has been cowardly in the extreme. That gentleman has been arraigned, as it were, not only at the bar of Parliament, but at the bar of public opinion. So far as the bar of Parliament is concerned, he cannot appear there to defend himself, and; as an officer of the Commonwealth, he cannot very well reply to the criticism which has been levelled against him through that section of the public press which has as*sisted in the attack upon his professional qualifications and his private character. When a man has been appointed by a Government to a responsible position every member of this Parliament has the right to see the file in which all the correspondence relating to the appointment is contained. Therefore, when a member of

Parliament has the file before him, he has all the particulars relating to an appointment, but I venture to say that on this occasion a gentleman, who is a member of another place, was not fair.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator must not allude to a member of another place, as it is distinctly against the Standing Orders.

Senator NEEDHAM - When a member of Parliament has the file before him, sir, and is investigating a certain appointment, it is only fair that he should view both sides of the question. As far as this investigation has gone there have been quoted only references which emanated from public men who held Labour views - Ministers of the Crown and members of the State Parliamentary Labour party in Western Australia. I venture to say that, these opportunities being given, it would have been only fair to quote other men who hold entirely different political views from those of the man whom this gentleman was attacking. But it was convenient, evidently, not to quote their opinions, and I heard him say : " We will turn this down," in order that it might be proved according to his own mind that it was a political job. I should not mind the attack on the professional qualifications of Mr. Chinn were it not for the fact that aspersions have been cast upon his private character. I know Mr. Chinn, and any one who knows him is aware that !he is a respectable, energetic citizen of Australia. Still, he has been maligned under cover of privilege. Had he been attacked outside-

Senator Millen - Outside where?

Senator NEEDHAM - If the attack had been made outside another place, he would have had a remedy.

Senator Millen - Then the attack was made inside another place?

Senator NEEDHAM - Yes, it was.

Senator St Ledger - Are you replying to that attack?

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator NEEDHAM - I am replying to the attack.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Needhamhas only fifteen minutes in which he can speak to the motion, and I think it is unfair that heshould be interrupted.

Senator NEEDHAM - I am only allowed a quarter of an hour. I usually reply to the insane interjections of my honorable friend opposite, but on this occasion I have not the time.

Senator St Ledger - You dare not answer my question.

Senator NEEDHAM - The attack was made on Mr. Chinn, not only in Parliament, but outside it. That is why I stand here as a member of this Senate to defend a citizen of Australia. His ability as a professional man is in question. I notice that after all the spleen which has been vented in various quarters there is a suggestion now that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the abilities of Mr. Chinn. Is it fair first to arraign a man before the bar of public opinion, condemn him, malign him, vilify him, and, after that attack has failed, to ask for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the matter? To my mind that does not savour of British justice. Had that course been taken in the first instance, it would have met with my ready assent, because a Select Committee would have taken evidence from both sides, and not ex parte statements. I would have been prepared to stand or fall by its verdict. But once a man has been arraigned at the bar of public opinion, vilified, and condemned, it is useless to ask any body of men possessing a shred of common sense to hold an inquiry. The opposition to Mr. Chinn has come from a party who failed to do anything which had even the semblance of an attempt to secure the construction of the transAustralian railway. So soon as this Parliament determined to build the railway, so soon is this opposition brought forward to delay its construction in every sense of the term. It is a case of sour grapes. Because they lacked the ability to do anything, and because the line is now to be constructed, they are acting in opposition to its construction. With regard to the attack made on Mr. Chirm's professional ability, I desire to read two testimonials' which have been supplied to me. The first is from the Melbourne Water Supply, and reads as follows -

Melbourne Water Supply,

Melbourne, October 9th, 1902.

H.   Chinn, Esq., C.E.,

Dear Sir,

I am in receipt of your letter asking me to bear testimony to your ability and qualifications as a civil engineer and licensed surveyor.

I have been personally and intimately acquainted with you for a period of over twenty years, and therefore consider I am fully justified in stating that during our long intimacy nothing has ever occurred in connexion with either your personal or professional career but what redounds greatly to your credit.

In my position of superintending engineer, I have had every opportunity of estimating your worth, and it gives me great pleasure to state you have always shown exceptional skill as an engineer, and thatyou are highly valued as such by both. your brother professionals and contractors.

Your very large experience in the different classes of works carried out and completed by you must prove invaluable, and I am sure the further opportunity of displaying your ability will add to your prestige and earn you the distinction in your profession you are entitled to.

Believe me, faithfully yours,

William Dowden,

Superintending Engineer.

The second testimonial is from the Town

Hall, Brisbane -

Municipal Council Chambers,

Town Hall, Brisbane.

City Engineer's Office.

This is to certify I have known Mr. H. Chinn, C.E., for a considerable time, whose qualifications as a civil engineer and licensed surveyor I have verified.

From the testimonials he has received from engineers and others, and from my personal knowledge of his abilities and work carried out by him, I am confident in speaking of him in the highest terms, and am satisfied he ranks amongst the foremost in his profession, and I have no hesitation in strongly recommending him for the position of engineer, for which I 'understand he is an applicant.

John Kemp,

City Engineer.

I have very much pleasure in seconding the motion, and I trust that such an attack on a man's private or professional character will never again be made in an Australian Parliament.

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