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Wednesday, 31 July 1912

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I rise to direct the attention of Senator Sayers to the fact that, in the early part of this debate, there were references read from practical men who had employed Mr. Chinn. One reference was from Mr. E. O. Moriarty, EngineerinChief for Water Supply, in Sydney, and it was to the effect that Mr. Chinn had done work in his department for six years. It is a very high-class recommendation, indeed. Another reference was quoted from Garnsworthy and Smith, to testify that Mr. Chinn was engaged by them as an engineer for eleven years, and they praised highly the work which he did. Mr. Chinn also received references from Mr. Falkingham, a railway contractor in Victoria, and Sir William Zeal, a civil engineer. I feel quite sure that when Senator Sayers made the statement he did he was not aware that Mr. Chinn had received these splendid recommendations from practical men. I rose chiefly to thank Senator de Largie for putting me in possession of facts which I never dreamt were in existence.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator will see that nobody else had the facts brought forward before this afternoon.

Senator GARDINER - I recognise that many honorable senators may have been in the same position as I have been in for a fortnight. They' may have really believed that there were some slight grounds for the statements made in another place, which gave rise to considerable discussion in the press throughout the Commonwealth, and which would lead plenty of persons to believe that Mr. Chinn was appointed, not because of his ability as an engineer, but simply because he had succeeded in obtaining recommendations from two or three Labour men. Until I heard Senator de Largie this afternoon, it never entered my mind that Mr. Chinn was so highly recommended, and that he was so competent and capable a man in his profession as his references prove him to be. These are not mere professional recommendations, which would be tossed to any person, but recommendations from men who understand and appreciate the value of his services. It will come well from those who have attacked the appointment to do tardy justice to Mr.

Chinn by recognising that, owing to the absence of papers, they were placed in a false position. The Leader of the Opposition certainly will not take that attitude. The only thing I regretted when 1 was listening to his speech was that he was not playing with the Australian cricketers in England, because; if ever there was a man who could make the best of a bad wicket, it is he.

Senator Millen - I could make a century off this bowling.

Senator GARDINER - I have no doubt that the honorable senator will score under any conditions. For a fortnight at least the press has been spreading the story not only in Australia, but abroad, that a man had been appointed to a high position whose one qualification is that he has a friend at court in the Labour movement. To-day, when references which cannot be questioned are submitted, the position is altered.

Senator Millen - These references were not in at the time the appointment was made.

Senator GARDINER - I do not know whether they were in or not.

Senator Millen - The file discloses that they were not in.

Senator GARDINER - These references, which show that Mr. Chinn occupies a very high position in his profession, cannot be glanced at or passed by by any one who is fair-minded. I do not object to criticism from the Opposition side, because it is their duty to keenly criticise the actions of the Government. This discussion will not be reported in the press. The facts will be smothered up, and onlythose persons who get Hansard, will realize how great an injustice has been done to Mr. Chinn. I hope that ultimately every justice will be done to this gentleman, seeing that his references have emanated from responsible men. One reference was written after eleven years' experience of Mr. Chinn, and another inference after six years' experience of his work.

SenatorMillen. - He was not appointed because of these references; they were not in when he was appointed.

Senator GARDINER - Instead of the honorable senator recognising that his party have made a mistake in attacking this appointment in the press; instead of coming forward in a manly way and admitting that in the absence of information the party made an error, he, as well as Senator St. Ledger, has tried to raise a discussion as to whether Mr. Chinn is entitled to use the letters C.E. after his name. If I were writing a letter about Senator Millen I would have no hesitation in putting C.E. after his name.

Senator de Largie - To indicate what?

Senator GARDINER - Clever, Elusive ! I might write C.E. after the name of Senator St. Ledger- Chief Egotist ! These letters may mean much, but what has the whole quibble been about here to-day ? Merely that the letters chave slipped into some communications from gentlemen, and that Mr. Chinn did not draw their attention to the fact that they had been used.

Senator Millen - Which he circulated with good effect.

Senator GARDINER - That is the honorable senator's statement, not mine. I agree with Senator Sayers about the desirability of always getting a recommendation from a man who has had some experience of an applicant's work. Any one who reads or hears read the recommendations of Mr. Chinn must admit that apart altogether from quibbling as to whether or not he is entitled to use the letters C.E. after his name, the recommendations are of a character which justified the Government in appointing him. In my opinion, no other applicant possessed the experience and ability which he did, and there is no man in Australia to-day who can claim to take that position over his head. It was only fair to the country that Senator de Largie should have taken this course, and I thank him for placing before me facts which I never dreamt were in existence. I cannot imagine that a party would, merely for the sake of getting a passing political advantage, direct a serious attack upon the Government. If we are to judge by the space which has been devoted by the press to the discussion of Mr. Chinn, this is the worst appointment which the Labour Government have made.

Senator Millen - Perhaps you have not heard the last of ityet.

Senator GARDINER - I hope that we have not. I agree with the Minister of Defence that the more the matter is thrashed out the better it will be for the party and the Government.

Senator Millen - Is that why they have refused the appointment of a Select Committee ?

Senator GARDINER - By whom was it refused ?

Senator Millen - In the other House.

Senator GARDINER - I do not know anything about that. If we are to judge by the space which has been devoted by the press to Mr. Chinn's appointment, it is considered by the Opposition to be the worst appointment which the Labour Government have made. Although, during their period of office, they have made hundreds of appointments, yet from one end of Australia to the other, this is held up as absolutely the greatest instance of political favoritism on record. When the facts are gone into, every fair-minded man must admit that this so-called bad appointment is justified on the ground that Mr. Chinn holds the highest possible credentials which any man in the engineering profession could possess. If the Opposition are honest, they will admit that the Government were fully justified in making it, having regard to the ability, the experience, the character, and the capacity of the gentleman whom they appointed.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [5.53].- It has, I think, been rather 'a mistake on the part of the friends of Mr. Chinn to bring this matter up in the peculiar circumstances existing in the Senate. It is on record that a debate took place in the other Chamber with regard to the appointment of Mr. Chinn as supervising engineer for the western portion of the transcontinental railway, and although Senator de Largie and others have managed to get round the Standing Orders - I do not know any rule or law which it is not possible for an ingenious man to get round - we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that largely this debate has been due to the discussion in the other Chamber.

Senator O'Keefe - And press criticism.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - And from that discussion has arisen press criticism. The place where this question was discussed, and the alleged attacks were made on Mr. Chinn, was the place where his character ought to have been vindicated, if it required vindicating. Moreover, if we are to have duels of this sort between the Houses, we do not know where the matter is going to end. It may be that to-morrow or next week a member of the other House may feel impelled to say something with regard to the debate that is taking place here in order to vindicate his action and conduct, and by that means we may bring the Houses into conflict with each other. If it were impossible to vindicate Mr. Chinn, except by bringing the matter up here, no doubt that would be a perfectly right course to pursue. But the point which I wish to make is this - that it is well to observe in spirit the intention of our Standing Orders, that we should not bring on a conflict between the two Houses of the Legislature. Senator de Largie made some very strong statements. He did not mention the names of those to whom he referred, but every one knew who they were. Suppose that those gentlemen felt called upon to reply to those statements? When would the trouble between the two Houses come to an end?

Senator Gardiner - Is the honorable senator referring to Sir John Forrest or Mr. Fowler?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am not mentioning names, but every one knows to whom Senator de Largie referred. It is deplorable that such incidents should happen in the relations between the two Houses. All the papers that have been read to-day in regard to Mr. Chinn should have been laid upon the table in the other House, and should have been ordered to be printed. Then there would have been an opportunity for members of Parliament to refer to them. But they have been delayed until they were brought up here to-day. The whole gravamen of the charge against the Government is that the appointment was made for political and party reasons, and that the best man available for the position was not honestly chosen.

Senator Rae - Who was a better man ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I am not concerned with' that. I am only pointing out what the gravamen of the charge is.

Senator Rae - Can the honorable senator allege that Mr. Chinn was not the best man, unless he knows of a better?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- I do not know Mr. Chinn. I never heard of him until this question arose. 1 do not know whether as an engineer he is good, bad, or indifferent.

Senator Rae - Is it fair then to say that the appointment was a bad one?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I do not say that it was, but I do say that the papers laid upon the Library table indicate that the great strength of this man's application was the fact that he had assisted the Labour party in Western Australia.

Senator Rae - The Minister read statements to the contrary.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - This is one of the statements made in support of Mr. Chinn's application by the Attorney-General of Western Australia -

All I desire is that if Mr. Chinn's qualifications in all other respects are satisfactory -

Senator Rae - That is honest.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I want to be quite fair, and therefore I have quoted that part of. the letter- then his services to our party in the recent elections should not be forgotten.

Senator Henderson - Hear, hear; that is tip-top.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Honorable senators opposite are faced with this dilemma. The gentleman who wrote that testimonial knew nothing about Mr. Chinn's professional qualifications, but he urged his appointment as a matter of gratitude for party services rendered.

Senator Henderson - Wise man I

Senator Millen - That is frank.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- It is, indeed. Again, Mr. Collier wrote this -

He is, too, a member of our party, and rendered valuable assistance during the recent elections.

That is the great qualification. Once more,

Mr. McCallumwrote ;

Hispapers will demonstrate his previous record. I may also mention that Mr. Chinn materially assisted the party in the recent elections.

These papers make it abundantly evident why Mr. Chinn was appointed.

Senator St Ledger - In America they call that kind of thing " graft."

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator is quite right - in America they; call it graft. Evidently the Government did not know that such testimonials were in existence as have been read here to-day. The Minister admitted that he did not know of Sir William Zeal's testimonial. We are justified in concluding therefore that the Government made the appointment on the papers they had before them, and those papers made strong reference to the value of the services rendered by Mr. Chinn to the Labour party.

Senator Millen - They appointed him on the papers they had, and not on the papers which they had not.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Exactly ; if the appointment was made honestly it must have been made in view of the facts of the case presented to the Government at the time. Therefore the appointment was made simply because of the services rendered to the Labour party, and not because Mr. Chinn's professional qualifications were superior to those of any other applicant. If his professional qualifications were the best available he was, of course, entitled to the appointment, no matter what party he supported. But I draw attention to another feature of the case. On the 6th February, Mr. Deane said, " I understand that the Minister intends to appoint Mr. Chinn," and he went on to say what, in his opinion, Mr. Chinn should be instructed to do. On the 14th February, Mr. Chinn was appointed.

Senator Needham - By Mr. Deane.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - No, by the Minister of Home Affairs, who had the responsibility of appointing him. On the 22nd February, eight days later, appeared the advertisement from the Home Affairs Department asking for two engineers to take charge of the Kalgoorlie railway. The applications had to be sent in by the 22nd March, and on the 14th February one of these appointments was filled.

Senator Needham - On the 14th February Mr. Deane recommended Mr. Chinn.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I do not care whether Mr. Deane recommended him or not j the Minister was responsible. Mr. Deane was the Minister's official, and could not, of course; do anything against the wish of the Minister, who is allowed to exercise discretion in such matters. He could not dictate to the Minister, and it would be deplorable if be could. I want it to be noted strongly that the appointment was made on the 14th February, whilst on the the 22nd February an advertisement was published inviting applications for the positions to be filled. The public notification was, therefore, a sheer piece of bluff on the part of the Minister, and was merely intended to deceive the public as to what was being done. Any one who looks at the whole of the particulars of the case, and at the action of the Minister subsequently, must see that this was not an honest appointment, and that no attempt was made to obtain the services of the best man available: I do not attach much . weight to the point that Mr. Chinn has had the letters " C.E." placed after his name. A man may obtain a diploma from a university and be entitled to use those letters; but, at the same time, many a man who obtains valuable practical experience is called " C.E." by courtesy. Of course, if a man practises in the medical profession without having a diploma, and calls himself " Doctor " he is liable to prosecution, but, nevertheless, any individual who chooses may call him " Doctor." That appears to have been the sort of thing that occurred here.

The PRESIDENT - The time for the discussion of this motion has now elapsed.

Senator de Largie - Have I not the privilege of a reply ?


Senator de Largie - I am very sorry, because there are a few points which I should like to make. I now wish to withdraw the motion.

The PRESIDENT - Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the motion be withdrawn ?

Senator Chataway - No, I object.

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