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Wednesday, 31 July 1912

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - If there is one thing which is more diverting than ¬her, it is the facility with which honorable senators opposite, during the present session, have seized upon points which they thought good from their stand-point, and the alacrity with which they have dropped them when they have proved otherwise.

Senator Millen - We are not dropping this matter.

Senator PEARCE - The keen opposition shown to the motion submitted by Senator de Largie this afternoon emphasizes the point which I am endeavouring to make.

Senator Millen - We are breaking the Standing Orders. That was my objection.

Senator PEARCE - I should have thought that honorable senators opposite would have welcomed the discussion of this question anywhere, under any conditions, and at any time ; but, apparently, they will welcome its discussion only if one side can be stated. They desire to prevent any evidence being brought forward to justify the action of the Government.

Senator Millen - Show me where such a debate can be initiated ?

Senator PEARCE - It is a proper debate to initiate here.

Senator Millen - And for only one side to be heard ?

Senator PEARCE - As soon as the opportunity is given to both sides to state their case, honorable senators opposite want to run away. As Senator Henderson has already pointed out when Mr. Chinn's appointment was first attacked, only certain portions of the file Of papers relating to it were made public. The other portions were suppressed. It was thus made to appear in the public press that Mr. Chinn had no qualifications whatever. It is the duty of those who are responsible for his appointment to let the public know what are his qualifications. To-day we haVe been told what they are, and I venture to say that they cannot be attacked. Senator Sayers clamoured for the recommendations of men who had employed Mr. Chinn. Well, those of us who knew the late Sir William Zeal know that' the whole of his business life, until he entered politics, was devoted to civil engineering. We also know that he was very sparing in his friendships, and in dealing out compliments to anybody. I was surprised to learn that he had paid such a fulsome compliment to Mr. Chinn, because - as everybody knows - he was particularly chary about giving a recommendation to anybody. He was a recluse practically, and had very little to say about anybody. But he was a practical man, a civil engineer of high repute, and one who made his money in railway contracts. Senator Sayers may hold any opinion that he chooses, but I venture to say that no honorable senator opposite will urge that the late Sir William Zeal gave that recommendation to Mr. Chinn without 'Knowing the man to whom he was giving it. In addition, three other recommendations were read by Senator de Largie from persons for whom Mr. Chinn had worked - I refer to Mr. Garnsworthy, Mr. Moriarty, and Mr. Falkingham.

Senator Long - And the Mr Lyell rail- . way is not paralleled in any part of Australia from the stand-point of engineering difficulties.

Senator PEARCE - Senator St. Ledger usually discovers points which everybody else fails to discover, but when they are inquired into, they almost invariably prove to be myths. This afternoon, he argued as if Mr. Chinn's appointment should have been ma'de by Mr. Deane - indeed, as if all these appointments should have been made by that gentleman. As a matter of fact, none of them were made by him. They were made by the Government, who are expressly authorized by the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act to make them.

Senator St Ledger - That is the point which I was making.

Senator PEARCE - It never dawned on anybody that that was the point which the honorable senator endeavoured to make. As a matter of fact, he kept inquiring, "Did Mr. Deane appoint Mr. Chinn?" He even drew the attention of the President to the fact that he was guilty of tedious repetition in asking the question. Section 16 of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act, which we passed last year, reads - .

The Minister may appoint, for any period not extending six months beyond the date on which the line shall be declared open for traffic, all such officers as he thinks necessary for the purposes of the construction or working of the railway, and may authorize the employment of any persons for those purposes.

The Minister appointed Mr. Deane, and he also appointed Mr. Chinn, and the other ' engineers. In view of all these circumstances, I can understand that the Opposition are very anxious that this matter should be lost sight of, at least whilst Parliament is in session and the facts can be placed before the public. But if Parliament closed, we should have the country flooded with literature of the same class as that in which this attack originated. My honorable friends having originated the attack now desire to call a truce till the parliamentary shutters are up, because whilst Parliament is sitting, the public have an opportunity of hearing both sides of the case. And we are quite content to let the public judge cm the evidence submitted here this afternoon, as well as the evidence brought forward by the Opposition previously, both in the press and in Parliament.. We have no reason to doubt what the verdict will be.

Senator St Ledger - What about the " C.E." business?

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator means that Mr. Chinn does not possess a diploma of civil engineering from a university.

Senator Millen - And the file which the Minister placed on the table of the Library said he had one.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator cannot produce any paper in which Mr. Chinn referred to himself as a civil engineer.

Senator Millen - No; but there is abundant evidence that he allowed others to call him a civil engineer.

Senator PEARCE - There is evidence in one file, compiled by a clerk, that the letters C.E. were placed after Mr. Chinn's name, but the Opposition cannot find an instance where Mr. Chinn claimed that distinction for himself, or where the Minister put that title to Mr. Chinn's name.

Senator Millen - This afternoon there was read a letter addressed to Mr. Chinn, C.E. He sent that letter on, and never put his correspondent right ; he sent a falsehood into circulation.

Senator PEARCE - Mr. Chinnhas never claimed this distinction, and, moreover, where he has signed his name, he has never added the letters C.E.

Senator Millen - He has allowed other people to do that for him.

Senator PEARCE - Mr. Chinncannot prevent that being done. This is the' third attempt to damage the Government. First, we had the Brisbane strike; second, the political appointments in the Northern Territory ; and now, Mr. Chinn's appointment. The condemnation of the Brisbane strike was going to ring in the ears of the people up to the time of the elections, but the Opposition never mention it now. The condemnation of the political appointments in the Northern Territory was going to be kept alive, but the Opposition never mention them now. Now the matter of Mr. Chinn's appointment is brought forward, and honorable senators opposite complain that it should not be discussed, and that Senator de Largie has driven a " locomotive" through the Standing Orders. When -the public see that, on the Government side, so far from there being a desire to hide anything, there is a desire to drag the whole business before the country, and when they hear that the Opposition object to the discussion, they will be able to draw their own conclusion as to which party is in the right.

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