The periodical attack by Mr. J. J. Sullivan on the Stock Inspector, Mr. C. R. Brett, occurred rather unexpectedly at the monthly meeting of the Bathurst P. P. Board yesterday. Mr. Sullivan launched his offensive from two distinct points, whilst Mr Brett after reflection and an adjournment for lunch, replied with a counter-attack. The arguments were centred round Mr. Brett's duties on polling day last, and subsequent to the Board and recommendation by him to the Board regarding the refund of travelling fees for starving stock. At times the atmosphere was electrical.
Recently the Bathurst P.P. Board decided that instead of the Stock Inspector (Mr Brett) refunding travelling fees for starving stock at his discretion, each case should be placed before the Board and dealt with on its merits by the Board.
At the monthly meeting of the Board yesterday, Mr Brett recommended that in the case of W. G. Brown of "Wyonga" Mongery, who had removed eight horses from Newbridge to Narromine, (the travelling fees amounting to £2 8s. 10d., less 2/6 exchange, should be refunded.
Mr Sullivan said that in his opinion, Mr Brett did not have the right to make recommendations at all.
Mr. Brett: I was especially asked to do so at the last meeting.
Mr. Sullivan: I didn't hear anything of it or I would have strongly opposed it. It is a matter for the Board to decide whether the fees should be refunded.
Mr. J. H. Kerr : We would have to ask the Inspector for the facts of the case, at any rate.
Mr. Sullivan: All we want to know from him is whether the stock were here and the fees paid. It is not right for him to recommend.
Mr. R. C. Webb : A recommendation by the Stock Inspector should be welcomed by the Board, because it might save a great deal of trouble. We can't take umbrage at it.
Mr. Sullivan: I take a different view altogether. The Stock Inspector has no right to make such recommendations, because it would lend it self to corruption. Something might be arranged between the Stock Inspector and the owner of the stock. That is the reason why I strongly object to it.
Mr. Brownlow: What the Board wants to know is whether it is a genuine case. The owners, in making the application should state the full facts of the case.
Mr. Brett: I make full inquiries when the sheep come into the district and am acquainted with the full conditions I am therefore in the best position, to make the recommendation. This is a perfectly legitimate case.
Mr. Sullivan: No one says it isn't. My objection is that bribery might creep in and cause a lot of trouble.
The refund was granted.
Mr. Sullivan renewed his attack on the Stock Inspector when the latter submitted a request for special fodder allowance of £1 a week owing to the increased cost, due to the drought.
Mr. Sullivan said that at the previous meeting of the Board. Mr. Brett had made a misleading statement in his report—a statement he should not have made—and which only went to show how Mr. Brett was fooling the Board. The statement was in regard to the Inspector's duties on March 19 and 20. Why the Inspector reported for those two days he didn't know, and be would like him to explain.
Mr. Brett : It is news to me. Produce the report.
Mr. Sullivan: I will tell you. You stated that on March 19 you went to Wattle Flat, and on the 20th you were presiding officer at the Wattle Flat polling booth, without leave. In your report you stated that you were inspecting Mr. Bestwick's stock and interviewing trustees of the Common. Instead, you were on duty at the polling booth from 8 a.m. to 7 p. m. and you didn't report a word about it to the Board. Why didn't you?
Mr. Brett: I inspected the stock before the polling booth opened and interviewed the trustees at the booth.
Mr. Sullivan: How could you? You didn't leave here till late on the Friday. I met you on tho road. Still you say you were engaged at Wattle Flat, doing business for the Board.
Mr. Brett: I didn't ask for any travelling fees in connection with that trip.
Mr. Sullivan: I shouldn't think you would. If the Board is going to allow its Inspector to take engagements like that without permission I'm not going to stay on it.
Mr. Brett: I have had permission year in and year out to accept the position of presiding officer.
Mr. Sullivan: Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Brett: The Chairman was consulted with regard to it, and granted permission to the secretary and myself.
Mr. Burgess (Secretary): I acted but was in the office during the day.
Mr. Sullivan: I don't care whether you got permission or not, you misled the Board.
Mr. Brett: I did not mislead the Board. (Warmly): I'm not going to put up with these unfounded insinuations from Mr. Sullivan. I had permission—
Mr. Sullivan: Why didn't you tell the Board?
The Chairman at this point intervened and asked for a fair deal for the Inspector. He added that he had givenn Mr. Brett permission to act as Presiding Officer.
Mr. Sullivan and the chairman then had a heated discussion regarding this statement The former recalled a discussion he had had with the Chairman some time ago, when the Chairman stated that he had not given Mr. Brett permission.
Mr. Boyd: I said I had.
Mr. Sullivan: No, you didn't.
Mr. Boyd: Don't say that or I will tell you what you are.
Mr Sullivan: I met you in the street and asked you and you told me that Brett had had no permission.
Mr. Boyd: I did not say it. He rang me up and asked me if there would be any objection and I said no.
As the argument was getting very warm and it was just on 1 o'clock the Chairman adjourned the meeting.
When the meeting was resumed the Chairman endeavoured to put the motion regarding the allowance, but Mr. Sullivan said that he had something more to say on the matter. He reiterated that Mr. Brett was not going to fool the Board. He should put it in his report that on the Friday afternoon he left for Wattle Flat and that on Saturday he presided at the Wattle Flat polling booth. He moved that the matter should be deferred for a month.
Mr. R. C. Webb moved that the request should not be conceded. He said that probably Mr. Brett would like to know why he opposed the grant.
Mr. Brett: I would.
Mr. Webb went on to say that at present Mr. Brett was allowed £100 a year for fodder and although at this particular time the amount may not meet requirements, he thought that under ordinary circumstances it was not only fair, but liberal.
Mr. Brett: The £100 includes other things besides fodder. It includes the purchase of everything.
Mr. Webb: Quite so, but, nevertheless, it is very liberal. We have an abnormal season just now, but taking it on the average £100 is liberal, and would exceed requirements. We are dealing with ratepayers money and cannot afford to be too liberal.
Mr. Brownlow seconded the motion, stating that he was quite in accord with Mr. Webb's views. Once an increase was granted it was difficult to withdraw it afterwards. He admitted that the price of everything was at present very high, but there was a possibility that they would decline. He was hopeful that there would be a turn in the tide.
Mr. J. H. Kerr moved an amendment to the effect that the increase should be granted for three months. He pointed out that prices were at present already greatly inflated and that it was generally anticipated that the price of chaff would go to £20 a ton.
The amendment was defeated and the motion carried by three votes to two.
Mr. Brett then drew the attention of the meeting to Mr. Sullivan's previous statement. He said that Mr. Sullivan had insinuated corruption which was a very grave reflection on his integrity, and one which he took a great deal of exception to. He would ask Mr. Sullivan to either substantiate his statement or withdraw his remarks. He, Mr. Brett, looked to the Board for protection in this respect.
Mr. Sullivan said that he did not use the word corruption. What he said was that the position left room for bribery.
Mr. Sullivan added: We all know what Mr. Brett has been in the past. We know that he denied that he had gone out to inspect stock at Alloway Rank, and that afterwards Mr. Williams came to the meeting of the Board, and stated that Mr. Brett had. Mr. Brett still denied it, stating that, he could not recall it.
Mr. Brett: And I still say that I did not.
Mr. Sullivan: Mr. Williams said you did.
Mr. Boyd: We cannot deal with the matter now.
Mr. Sullivan: Then we had the wire-netting incident, and the misleading statement regarding his trip to Wattle Flat.
Mr. Brett: I did not mislead the Board.
Mr. Sullivan: If you had done your duty you would have stated: "March 20, presided at the polling booth at Wattle Flat." I did not say he was open to corruption. I said that the position would lend itself to bribery.
The Chairman: Did you mean to imply anything against Mr. Brett.
Mr. Sullivan: Nothing at all. I object to him making recommendations to the Board.
Mr. Brett: I claim to have the right to do so.
Mr. Sullivan: There is nothing in the Act providing that the Board should act on the recommendation of the Stock Inspector.
Mr. Boyd: And there is nothing in the Act to the contrary. We generally take the recommendation of the Inspector.
Mr. Brett: Do I understand that Mr Sullivan did not mean any insinuation against me?
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. Sullivan, as an illustration of what he had intended to convey, mentioned that there was a case in his own town, where it was impossible to get work done unless 10/- was put into the hands of a certain person.
Mr. Brett: Does that apply to the board?
Mr. Sullivan: No.
Mr. Kerr: These things should not be hurled at the officers of the Board.
Mr. Brownlow slated that even if the Inspector made the recommendations, it did not follow that the Board was going to adopt them.
Mr. Webb: Of course not. As I said before, the Board should welcome recommendations from the Inspector.
Mr. Sullivan: Members of the Board are in a better position to know the circumstances of men applying for a refund.
Mr. Boyd: Often we are completely in the dark, and have to rely on the Inspector.
Mr. Wallace moved a vote of confidence in the Inspector.
Mr. Sullivan strongly objected to the vote of confidence, on the ground at there was something in abeyance, with which the members of the Board were acquainted. What sort of a position would the Board be in regard to that matter, he asked, if it carried a motion of confidence at this stage in the Inspector.
Mr. Brownlow said that he was opposed to the motion because he thought it was unnecessary.
Mr. Sullivan: I strongly object to the Board passing such a resolution.
Mr. Boyd: You can't. We will take the vote.
Mr. Sullivan said that he was speaking on the motion and continued his remarks.
Mr. Brett rose to interject, but Mr. Sullivan turned on him with much indignation: "I am speaking now" he said, "and I do not want to be interrupted by you."
After Mr. Wallace explained to the meeting that the motion referred only to the recommendation before the Board, the motion was carried, with Mr. Sullivan only voting against it.