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17. Chapter XVII Grateful Acknowledgments

I CANNOT pass from this phase of my career without placing on these pages most grateful testimony to my colleagues. All were, from first to last, efficient and devoted. If I may mention those who dealt with the more important measures, I would refer to the splendid way in which Mr. Carruthers dealt with land policy, ably assisted by Mr. Brunker. Mr. Sydney Smith's zeal in founding agricultural farms and colleges, and in improving the state of our coal mines, was also most noticeable. Mr. Want, one of the ablest advocates and one of the most delightful companions, was also a great ally, although on the Federal question we had to part company twice. Mr. Joseph Cook subsequently my right hand in the Federal Opposition, and afterwards Prime Minister, was also a singularly able and devoted colleague. The defeat of Mr. Albert Gould, afterwards a most efficient President of the Federal Senate, Mr. Jacob Garrard, and Mr. Sydney Smith brought in Mr. J. A. Hogue and Mr. Varney Parkes, all good friends and colleagues. Mr. Hogue was one of the best editors of a leading daily newspaper I have known, and, like all the rest, one of the most loyal of friends as well as of colleagues. The Hon. John Hughes was an ideal representative of the Government in the Council. When Mr. Want resigned,

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I became Attorney-General; Mr. Carruthers became Treasurer, Mr. Young took my office, and Mr. C. A. Lee became Minister for Works. As for my supporters in the House and Council, their loyalty and devotion were darkened by few exceptions.

Mr. Lyne formed a Ministry, in which Mr. See became Colonial Secretary. The new Premier took the office of Colonial Treasurer.

The difficulty between the Imperial Government and President Kruger was coming to a head whilst I was still Prime Minister. I confess I did not at all anticipate that the trouble would make a serious strain upon the resources of the British Government.

A month after the new Ministry was formed Mr. Lyne, as an urgent matter, submitted a proposal that we should send a contingent to South Africa, to act with the British forces.

I heartily supported the motion. The Secretary of State (Mr. Chamberlain) had been apprised by me of the desire of large numbers of Australians to volunteer for service. At that time he thought there was no real emergency calling for large drafts from Australia, but he was evidently pleased with the offer and desired to encourage the spirit which prompted it. He proposed that the Colonies should pay cost of equipment and transport to South Africa, but Imperial funds would bear the burden of everything else, including pay at Imperial rates after arrival, and transport back to Australia. Of course, the Colonial Government added to the pay of the men, as Imperial rates would hardly suit Australians. The total

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number from Australia was small at first, but as the war progressed several fresh contingents were dispatched, until at last the Australian force was a considerable one. One of the War Office stipulations in the telegraphic dispatch of the Secretary of State looked rather absurd afterwards: “May be infantry, mounted infantry, or cavalry. In view of numbers already available, infantry most, cavalry least serviceable.” In that country of long distances mounted infantry, especially our contingents of bushmen, proved the most valuable.

The Premier and Colonial Treasure made his first Financial Statement on December 6th. By taking the Treasury he got into the best possible position for discovering whether there was any truth in his constant attacks upon me in reference to the Public Accounts. The Treasury Accountant and his officers were there to be examined and cross-examined, and all the books were there. If there had been anything wrong, if I had at any time interfered with the discretion of the officials in keeping the accounts, there was a full opening for discovery and exposure.

But nothing of the kind was even suggested by my successor. He resorted to the Auditor-General's second set of figures, ignoring the first set kept according to law, in a further attempt to justify his position; but in his accounts for his new financial year he had to bring forward as a cash balance at June 30th, 1899, the amount stated in our accounts as existing at that date!

More than that, he made a complete answer to all

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his unfair attacks by quoting the reports of the Auditor-General for each of the four years of the new system, showing cash balances in each and every case.

But he proceeded to put the accounts as if my financial policy had not been approved by Parliament, and as if I were responsible for deficiencies and suspense accounts which concerned transactions before I took office!

Then I advanced moneys from the Trust Accounts to the Loan Acts, instead of raising loans, as we had to pay interest on the Trust Funds, and by doing what I did I saved the country many thousands of pounds which I should have had to pay for interest on loans raised when money on which I had to pay interest was lying idle!

In one of Mr. Lyne's statements then submitted he brought out a deficiency of £733,000 on the four years, by including payments which belonged to the old system and were not legally chargeable to the new.

Including such payments, he made the totals out to be, from July 1st, 1895, to June 3rd, 1899:

Receipts .. .. ..  £38,576,000 
Payments .. .. ..  39,309,000 
Deficiency .. ..  £733,000 

But the Accountant for the Treasury, rejecting payments that belonged to the old system, and which

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the Treasury could not legally charge against the new system, gave the true figures as follows:

Revenue .. .. ..  £38,395,000 
Expenditure .. .. ..  37,659,000 
Surplus .. .. ..  £736,000 

This return was certified by the Accountant to the Treasury, Mr. Donald Vernon, afterwards Auditor-General.

I thought it high time that the public credit should not be exposed any longer to these damaging misstatements, and said so.

I was quite willing that Mr. French, the manager of the Bank of New South Wales, and Mr. Dibbs, the manager of the Commercial Bank of Sydney, should be two of three Commissioners to inquire and report, and I said that I would consult with Mr. Lyne as to the third member.

When it came to the third member Mr. Lyne gave me no voice, but named one of my political opponents who had in his public speeches prejudged the question at issue. Mr. Dibbs was one political opponent and Mr. Yarwood made two! Then Mr. Lyne would not allow me to share in framing the questions to be dealt with, nor allow me to add any of mine to his! I therefore declined to recognise the Commission. The questions put to the Commissioners were skilfully constructed so as to compel answers that could not be favourable to my point of view, because they ignored the Acts of Parliament establishing the new system

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of accounts! In spite of all this the Committee put the following statement in the forefront of their report:

“We recognise that the accounts, as they were submitted, after the change of system to what has been termed the cash basis, conformed to the programme sanctioned by Parliament, and embodied by Parliament in the Audit Act Amendment Act of 1895 and the Treasury Bills Deficiency Act of the same year. The accounts as so made up brought out a surplus.” That was all that I had ever contended for. The rest was matter of policy and opinion.

To show that I did not wish to shirk full inquiry, I commissioned three of the leading accountants in Sydney to go over the accounts, and their report corroborated my figures.

The most important measure passed in the session beginning June, 1900, was the Industrial Arbitration Act. On this subject New Zealand had led the way. New Zealand legislation provided for (1) a court of conciliation, and (2) if that failed, a court of compulsion; but they were distinct tribunals. If the court had been the same, the tribunal sitting in conciliation would have had much greater authority, because it would have had beneath the velvet glove of conciliation the iron hand of compulsion. As it was, the conciliation process could be treated with contempt by either Party if it suited them, because it could settle nothing and enforce nothing.

The New South Wales Act did not work so well as the Wages Boards of Victoria. It seemed to breed disputes—the Boards seemed to settle them.

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Shortly after the Federal Constitution had been accepted by the whole of the six Colonies it was agreed by the respective Governments that a delegation should proceed to England to watch over the interests of the Bill before and at the passage of the Imperial Act. Mr. Barton was appointed for New South Wales, Mr. Kingston represented South Australia, Mr. Deakin, Victoria, and Mr. Dickson, Queensland.

The delegates were most cordially received, and were able to assist the Secretary for the Colonies materially. The only point on which any important controversy arose—in which the delegates themselves were not unanimous—related to the scope to be given for appeals to the Queen in Council. After strenuous but quite friendly discussions a compromise was arrived at.