3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a brief statement bearing upon a recent political development. As the result of certain- action taken in the other House, the Fisher Government tendered its resignation to His Excellency the Governor-General, who thereupon commissioned the Hon. Alfred Deakin to form a new Administration. That task has been accomplished, and the Prime Minister has submitted to His Excellency the following names: -
The Honorable Alfred Deakin. - Prime Minister, without portfolio ;
Senator the Honorable Sir Robert Wallace Best, K.C.M.G.- Minister of State for Trade and Customs ;
The Honorable Patrick McMahon Glynn. - Attorney-General ;
I may add that the Ministry, with the exception of the Honorary Minister, was ‘ sworn in this afternoon, and that at a later period I desire to make a further intimation to the Senate.
– I beg to move, with concurrence -
That the Senate places on record its profound regret at the untimely decease of the Premier of South Australia, the Honorable Thomas Price, and expresses its deep sympathy with his family and the people of South Australia.
The deceased statesman has been so much in the minds of the people of Australia and honorable senators during the past few years that it will need very few words of mine to emphasize the sense of loss expressed in the motion I am submitting, r had not the privilege of knowing the deceased gentleman ; I knew him only by his reputation ; but I venture to say that the reputation which he built up as one who lived a strenuous and straightforward life, must command’ the approval and regard of all sections of the community. I venture to say that all sections of political thought in Australia, irrespective of any wide divergencies which may have existed, must have recognised “in the deceased gentleman sterling qualities which should justify us in using, relative to his death, the term, a distinct national loss. I submit’ the motion with every confidence that it will be carried- unanimously.
– I beg to second the motion. I am sure that no man who has known the late Premier of South Australia, as I have known him for the last twenty-five years, can feel other than the deepest regret at the loss of such a man to the people of Australia. As a workman he might be ranked in the very first class, “ and as a member of Parliament very few could honestly say a single word against either his life or his intentions. That he became, a Minister, after living down prejudices, and even misstatements, and rose to the highest position that the people of South Australia could confer upon him, showed that his character >was something above the ordinary. Those who knew him best know also that, although he was successful in all those things, yet his crown was very often a crown of thorns,, that he bore with a dignity which I am sure has endeared his memory to all the people of Australia. I think it is due to his relatives that such a recognition as has been tendered in another place should be unanimously accorded here. I have much pleasure in seconding the motion.
– I have no intention to oppose the motion. At the same time, I think this form of recognition, is one’ of those things which should be ‘ done away with in public life. I knew the departed gentleman,. I always had the greatest respect for him, because I believed that he was sincere and earnest. But what can I think when I am told that all those who had abused him for years, who had misrepresented him, who had decried him and all his works ever’ since he took a part in public life, now regret that he is gone. Those are the things which make one think that there is very little sincerity, and an enormous amount of hypocrisy, in connexion with this sort of business. Here was a gentleman who, as Senator McGregor has said, had to fight down misrepresentations and bear the odium of all sorts of charges, who was denounced from one end of Australia to the other as one who was endeavouring, not to do good, but to do all the harm that lay in his power, and yet eulogies are passed upon him now that he is gone. If I do not respect a man and his work when he is alive, I do not know that I am called upon to pass a eulogy upon him when he is dead. Times without number when I met Mr. Price he did not complain much, but he thought that the way in which his earnestness, his endeavours to better the condition of those with whom he was associated for many years as a workman, were received ‘ was most un fair. It seems that now eulogies are passed by those who condemned him ail through his political career. I believe that he was a good man. We are told that’ his life was clean and pure, that his home life was admirable; and 1 honestly believe it was. But a recollection comes to my mind that only a few months ago he was charged from one end of Australia to the other with being one whose sole aim was to destroy home life, who had a mission, if he had’ one in this world, to abolish the marriage tie. So strongly did he feel this that he had to go to a little town in bis State, and what did he tell them there? He told them the truth. He tore the wretched rags of hypocrisy from, some of those who had been denouncing him, and for that act his name was sent from one end of Australia to the other - as what? As a good servant of the State ? ‘ No ; but as one who wasendeavouring by every means in his power to do all the harm to home life and to everything else which men and women hold sacred that it was possible for people to denounce one another for doing. It is for these reasons that I hope this sort of thing will be dropped out of our publiclife. The adoption of the motion will’ not add to the reputation of the late Mr. Thomas Price. His work will speak for him. That, it seems to me, is the greatest monument that he has erected to his memory in Australia. In my opinion, it is amongst those with whom and for whom he hasworked that he will be missed - in the circles where he was always welcomed, where he was never denounced and nevertraduced, but was regarded as a straightforward, upright, honorable man who would’ not do any harm either to an individual or to any number of individuals in the State. That is the greatest monument that he hasleft behind him. That is what will speak for him in the years to come far better than will any resolution that we mav placeupon the records of the Senate. That’ is; all I have to say in regard to the first portion of the motion that has been submitted. So far as the second part is concerned I’ can say nothing, because I realize that thesorrow of those whom he has left behind isvery, very great.
– I hope that upon an occasion of this kind neither this Parliament nor any other Parliament in Australia will ever seek to put a political label upon the dead. We all recognise that the late Mr. Thomas;
Price was a very useful man, and our eulogy of him and sympathy for those who mourn his loss will go accordingly.
Question unanimously resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators rising in their places.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That the. President be requested to convey the resolution to Mrs. Price and to the Acting Premier of South Australia.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales-
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [2.44]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 23rd June.
I submit this motion for the obvious purpose of enabling the new Ministers to consider the measures which they propose to present to Parliament. The Government were anxious to have tabled a motion for an adjournment to an earlier date, but after due consideration they concluded that the business of Parliament would be expedited and better progress would be made later on by securing a longer adjournment, because they would then be able to come down with their programme thoroughly digested. The adjournment sought is only parallel to that granted upon previous occasions, and I have no doubt that my honorable friends opposite will readily agree to it.
– I have every sympathy with the Vice-President of the Executive Council in asking for an adjournment. But I recollect that when the Fisher Government assumed office there were a number of honorable members, not only inthe Senate but another place, who were very anxious that Parliament should meet in March or April. I also remember that a requisition or round-robin was signed by nineteen or twenty honorable members in favour of Parliament being called) together in the month of April so that it might get on with very pressing public business. But now that a new Ministry has been formed it does not seem that that urgent necessity exists for conserving time for the transaction of public business that has existed during the past six months. I do not see that we should be justified in acceding to the long adjournment which is sought. I therefore move -
That “ 23rd “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ 16th.”
The adjournment which I propose will afford the Government ample time to prepare all the measures which they will require to bring before both Houses of Parliament, and will also allow them an opportunity to formulate any other measures that they may desire to frame. I submit the amendment because I am anxious that we should expedite the consideration of public business and because I know that amendments are required in the Old-age Pensions Act - amendments which are absolutely necessary to bring it intouniformity with the Old-age Pensions Acts of some of the States - and which it is essential should be made before the beginning of July. Consequently, I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council would be wise in acceding to the amendment.
– I desire to say a word or two in support of the amendment. I wish to point out how unreasonable it is to drag honorable senators from distant States down here and keep them cooling their heels in Melbourne for three weeks “when they might, perhaps, be more usefully occupied in their own States. I was very anxious to remain in Queensland a little longer, but owing to the great anxiety of honorable senators opposite Parliament was called together a month earlier than was essential in the light of the motion which has now been submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. That being so, I find myself here when I should be attending to matters in my own State, yet it is now proposed that three weeks of my time should be wasted. Honorable senators from Western Australia and the other States occupy a similar position.’ I hope that the Senate will not agree to the motion. The adjournment for a fortnight which Senator McGregor has proposed will be ample to enable the newlyformed Government to formulate their measures, especially in view of the fact that we have been told by their own press organs that the fusion which has just been completed has taken place upon a well-defined policy. Where, then, is the necessity for a three weeks’ adjournment? We must recollect that ever since the close of the last session - and even before - there has been a continual clamour in favour of Parliament being called together at an earlier date than usual this year. Honorable senators opposite, who represent a combinationof our old friends the Conservative Free-traders and the so-called’
Liberal-Protectionists, have been continually claiming that it was essential that Parliament should be called together earlier than usual’ in order that the transaction of urgent public business might be facilitated. Now that Parliament has been called together, the Government want to postpone the transaction of business for three weeks. Therefore it is apparent to any one who takes time to consider the matter at all that the clamour for calling Parliament together early was not prompted by a desire to proceed with public business, but rather by a desire on the part of certain gentlemen to have an early opportunity to eat their publicly professed principles.
– I remind the honorable senator that the motion before the Senate does not relate to the professed desire of the members of the Government to call Parliament together early, but is introduced simply to fix a date for the next meeting of the Senate.
– I am, ‘I think, entitled. Mr. President, to “cite the opinions of honorable senators opposite with regard to the urgent need for calling Parliament together ?
– I did not attempt to stop the honorable senator from do:ng that, but merely wished to intimate to him that it would not be in order to proceed further with the matter. Of course the argument to which he has just alluded is clearly -in order.
– The contention of honorable senators opposite was that it was essential that Parliament should be called together to transact public business. Now, however, that Parliament has been called together, the Government will not proceed with public business, but coolly propose an adjournment for three weeks. What has become of their urgent desire for the transaction of business? Seeing this changed attitude on their part, I am justified in coming to the conclusion that their clamour for the calling together of Parliament at an inordinately early date was not with a desire to transact urgent public business ; but, as I have said, was really to give them an opportunity to eat their alleged principles and to grab the sweets of office. We were told six or eight weeks ago that Parliament ought to be called together to afford an opportunity for presenting a Dreadnought to Great Britain. Where is” now the urgency of that proposition ? Do we hear a single word about the necessity for demonstrating the loyalty of Australia by presenting a Dreadnought to the Mother Country > I am justified in believing, and the public will believe, that the whole clamour was a piece of arrant hypocrisy, and, I repeat, was simply raised to give certain gentlemen an opportunity of grabbing the sweets of office. I am exceedingly anxious to get on with public business. It is within the knowledge of every one that this will be the last session of the present Parliament. There must be a general election eight or nine months hence. That being so, the business of the present session will require to be concluded about the end of October next. If we do not reassemble until 23rd June, it is possible th”at no serious business will be transacted or attempted to be transacted by the Government until about the middle of July. Then we shall only have the remaining weeks of July, the months of August and September, and part of October, within which to do all the work that has to be accomplished. We shall have only about three months in which to do all the urgent public business which, as recognised by members of all parties, requires to be done before the general election takes place. I am assuming that the Government intend to propose any serious business at all. ‘ My own opinion is, however, that the Government will not bring down any serious proposition to this Parliament, notwithstanding all their clamour. The divergence of opinion amongst themselves is so great that the moment they propose to Parliament any serious business the fusion or confusion will burst asunder. It is, therefore, quite reasonable to assume that this .request of the Vice-President of the Executive Council for a three weeks’ adjournment at the present stage is merely a request for a little further time within which the Government can patch’ up their differences and enable the process of fusion to go on. They are now in the cauldron being boiled, and goodness knows what they will be like when they come out of it ! I notice that the Vice-President of the Executive Council smiles, but he is undergoing contamination from the microbes which, he once said, infect the Government benches. I am anxious to know what effect they will have upon him.
– These benches have been fumigated since then.
– On the contrary, there has been a further accession of microbes since the occasion when the honorable senator made use of that phrase. Indeed, the Labour microbes have been very active over there very recently, and my honorable friend may be infected by them. The fact” is patent to every one, I take it, that the Government have no policy, but that they are trying to remove their differences, and to come to some sort of a commonunderstanding. With that end they coolly come along and ask honorable senators to kick their heels about Melbourne for threeweeks. I trust that the Senate will not do anything of the kind, but that we shall giveto the Government that reasonable time to which any Ministry is entitled. A fortnight, in my opinion, will be a reasonable time, and that being so, I trust that the amendment will be agreed to.
– In ordinary circumstances, I should be found supporting a proposal for an adjournlment such as is necessary to enable an incoming Government to present its business to Parliament in a proper form. But I do not regard the present circumstances as ordinary, because, not only were we informed by the leader of the Government in another place that time was so urgent as to necessitate extraordinary measures being taken, but we bad the VicePresident of the Executive Council also stating a few days ago that, so urgent was the state of public business, that he did not even consider it necessary to discuss the Governor-General’s speech. So urgent was the state of business that he departed from that well-known and thoroughly established practice.
– That was not the reason which I assigned.
– I will quote the honorable senator’s own words -
But, in view of certain developments of which I have been reading in the press -
– That was the reason. Senator PEARCE.-
I venture to think that it would be unnecessarily occupying the time of honorable senators if I, or any other member of the Senate, were to seriously attempt to discuss the programme submitted to us. For that reason, I do not propose to follow what I have indicated is the usual course.
For the same reason, I do not propose to follow the usual course in this regard; because I take it from the honorable senator’s own words that the state of public business was so urgent that they required-
– I never said so.
– That Parliament should meet two months earlier than the usual time. Further, the state of public business was so urgent that the usual and established course of discussing on their merits the propositions contained in the Governor-General’s speech, and, if necessary, challenging them, was not adopted. But now we have these same gentlemen cuolly saying that a programme which a week ago they told us had been indorsed and was a definite programme - one so simple that he who runs might read ; one which, in the eloquent words of a member of another place, was simplicity itself - will require three weeks’ work to permit of its even being placed before Parliament in the initiatory stages of its progress towards the statute-book. Well, I am not going to be quite so simple as to accept such a proposition. I am going to follow the lead given here by the late leader of the Opposition, now VicePresident of the Executive Council. I am going to be in a hurry, and I hope that the Senate is going to be in a hurry also. I am in a hurry to see the proposals which this Government will have to place before us. I have read their manifesto, and I frankly confess that it has given me an appetite for more, because it is so vague and so ungrammatical - if I may be allowed to say so - that so far I have been unable to understand it. It would be of great service to the Senate and to the country if at a date as early as possible we were given an opportunity to consider the measures which are to give effect to that peculiar agglomeration of words which has been put before the country as a programme. I therefore ask the Senate to accept the assurances of the late leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and the leader of the Government in another place, that they have a programme to lay before us and a policy to put to the country, and to say that they do not need an adjournment of three weeks to enable them to do so. I shall support the amendment.
– I support the amendment. It is only right that honorable senators who live at a great distance from Melbourne should raise their voices in strong protest against the Government proposal that they should remain here in idleness for three weeks. We are being asked to punish ourselves in order that a Government who, I believe, have no earthly in- tention to submit a programme of business to this Parliament, may have time enough within which to solidify the warring elements that are indisputably present within their ranks. Even if that were not so it should! be remembered that many members of the Senate suffer considerable inconvenience in having to leave their homes and families, and that they could not expect to go to their homes, remain there for five minutes, and return within a period of three weeks. It is evident, therefore, that the Government do not take into consideration the convenience of honorable senators so placed, but look entirely to their own. The adjournment suggested by the amendment should give the Government ample time for the preparation of a programme on the lines, for instance, of that put forward the other night in the Melbourne Town Hall. It was said there that they had a programme made for them a fortnight before that meeting took place. When they had a programme ready at that time, why should they now permit themselves to be controlled bv what appeared in the Age this morning? The Age has no right to control the Senate, or any part of the Federal Parliament. If the Age wants three weeks’ holiday let it take it, or let it bury itself for three months if it pleases.
– The Age does not control the Senate, and never will ; but it does control one or two persons in the Senate.
– The Age is making a very strenuous endeavour to control the Senate. It has not only outlined the programme which the present Government should adopt, but it has presumed to tell them when they should start with that programme and when it is necessary to submit it to the Senate.
– The Age is used to carpeting Ministers.
-I believe that the Age is used to that kind of thing, but it is time that honorable senators stood up for the rights of the Senate and declared emphatically that the Age is not going to control this branch of the Federal Parliament, nor is it to be permitted to decide the public business which should be discussed here. Honorable senators opposite should recognise that we, who have watched the whole of the recent proceedings, remember that it has been said that their programme is complete.’ We do not know what it is, though honorable senators opposite say that they do. Having been engaged during the last four or five months in the framing of a programme which they intended to have ready for April, they might at least be expected to be prepared with it in the month of June, especially when we know that they are arranging a programme to carry them over a period of three months, in which they intend to do absolutely nothing. It is high time we considered the convenience of honorable senators. There are members of the Senate for whom an adjournment of less than five weeks is useless at any time. Why should they npt be considered as well as those who are able to leave Melbourne for Sydney and other places to-night and arrive at their homes in the morning? I hope that honorable senators will see the advisability of carrying the amendment.
– As a senator coming from the same State as the last speaker, I desire to enter my protest against a three weeks’ adjournment. I have looked up Hansard, and I find that when the late Government took office they asked for only eight days, and not three weeks, to enable them to prepare to meet Parliament with their programme.
– Which Government does the honorable senator refer to?
– The Labour Government. I find that on the 17 th November Senator McGregor, as VicePresident of the Executive Council, declared that his Government would be ready to go on with business on the 25th of that month. When an adjournment of eight days was sufficient to enable a new Government to take up the business of the country in the middle of a session, though they had been suddenly called upon to do so, it is not -unreasonable to say that a fortnight should be ample time for a Government who have been in process of fusion for so long, and whose plans have been so well matured that it would be no great surprise to the country if it were proposed that they should meet Parliament to-morrow to go on with public business. If I thought any good would result from an adjournment of three weeks, I might be prepared to listen to the motion. We know that great differences of- opinion exist amongst the members of the present Government, and if there were some hope that they would he settled within that time, and that the
Government would be in a position to go on with public business, I should be prepared to support the adjournment asked for; but if the members of the various warring sections that constitute the present party opposite are at all sincere in the expression of their, alleged principles, there is little hope that any settlement can be arrived at between them. That being so, instead of going on with public business at the end of three weeks’ time, the Government may make another request for a further three weeks’ adjournment. That might be repeated until we reached the end of the year, and thus the whole session would be wasted, and no public business would be done. I am not inclined to lend myself to anything of that kind. Many of us believe that the present Government cannot possibly do any good for the country. We might as well find that out at once, and not waste time in giving them an excuse to bring forward a policy. I repeat that if eight days were a sufficient adjournment to enable the previous Government to meet Parliament, a fortnight should be ample time to enable the present Government to be prepared to go on with public business. In support of the position I take up, I should like to point out that when Parliament met the other day, it was quite obvious that those opposed to the late Government had no policy to present to Parliament. We heard nothing from any honorable senator then in opposition to show that those opposed to the late Government had anything in common, or any policy to put forward. If they had no policy then, there is no possible hope that they have one at the present moment. Why, then, should we waste time for three weeks in order to enable them to manufacture a policy ? The adjournment asked for by the Vice-President of the Executive Council is either too short or too long. The Government should have asked the Senate to adjourn to within a few weeks of the next Federal election, and we should then have known exactly where we were. We could then have gone frankly > before the country, without having to ex, plain the whole position as it is presented at the present moment. I am opposed to any adjournment for three weeks for the purpose put forward by the Government.
– Under ordinary conditions, I. should not have opposed the motion submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council for an adjournment for three weeks. I should have admitted that three weeks was a reasonable adjournment; but in the extraordinary situation which now prevails I think that the request which has been made is unreasonable, and, therefore, I shall support the amendment. It should be remembered, sir, that when, a few days ago, the Senate had a record short sitting, as just about a minute and a half elapsed from the time you took the chair until honorable senators were disbanded, ‘the then Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that certain conditions had arisen, and, therefore, he asked the Senate to adjourn until to-day. A conspiracy of silence was maintained by the then Opposition, and I asked myself then, as I ask myself now, why no objection was made to his motion, and the only answer I can find to the question in the light of after events is that they were in a great hurry to eject the then Government. Whe*n the leader of the great Liberal Protectionist party which is now in existence in another place-
– The Liberal-Tory Party, the honorable senator means !
– No, I call them the Liberal-Protectionist party, because I can see two Liberal Protectionists occupyina; the Ministerial bench - Senator Sir Robert Best, and .the once arch Free-trader in this Chamber, Senator Millen. The newly appointed leader of the LiberalProtectionist party in the Federal Parliament gave as’ his only reason the other day for the ejection of the Fisher Government the necessity of pushing on with public business. We are asked here, and possibly another place has been asked, to adjourn for three weeks, notwithstanding the fact that a process of fusionizing has been going on for at least three or four months. Bv medium of the press the people of Australia were told that the party of fusionism had a policy ready to submit to them. Not only that, but the leaders of the opposing elements to the Labour party have had many meetings. They have beaten a track from this building to the Grand Hotel, and thence to the private chamber of the Employers’ Federation. Day after day during the past fortnight the Age and the Argus have published, with great cross headings, the policy of the new fusion party. We were led to believe that a policy was ready. Having the numbers, and the leader of another place having told the people that his only object in removing the Fisher Ministry was to proceed with public business, we are now asked to adjourn for three weeks. If a policy was not ready then, it cannot be got ready within three weeks. I am not opposing this motion simply because I come from Western Australia, and cannot make a visit to that State within that period. But I recognise that this is the last session of this Parliament, and that there are many important matters which it has to deal with before its masters can have a chance to record their opinions. It is imperative that we should waste as little time as possible in dealing with very necessary measures. I care not what party may occupy the Ministerial benches. I am also forced to remember that two or three months ago there was a demand from a certain section of the present Parliament that it should be called together - for what purpose? To compel the Fisher Government to present a Dreadnought to Great Britain. That scare has passed. The pioneers of that cry - those who were foremost in promulgating the demand for a Dreadnought - have now secured the end which they had in view, and that was the displacement of the Fisher Government. We now see sitting on the Ministerial bench, cheek bv jowl, the arch Protectionist of at least this Chamber, if not of Victoria, and the arch Free-trader of this Chamber; and still we are told that Protection is the keystone of the oolicv of the present Government.
– I hope that the honorable senator intends to connect his present remarks with the motion before the Senate.
– I am connecting the recent, statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council with the statements made by some of his colleagues within the precincts of this building. Having read those statements, and having heard some of them uttered, I think it is unreasonable for the Government to ask the Senate to adjourn for three weeks, when it is quite an easv matter to have their policy readv for submission to the Parliament and the people of Australia within at least a fortnight. That, sir, is the reason why I am opposing the motion. When the Fisher Government met the Senate, they only asked for an adjournment for eight -days, in order to get their business programme ready ; but now the great LiberalProtectionist combination ask for an adjournment of three weeks. Without any desire to be hostile to the new Ministry, or to the gentle men who are now in charge of the business of this Chamber, I cannot support the motion, but will support the amendment.
SenatorFINDLEY (Victoria) [3.21]. - I regret to find myself somewhat in a quandary in respect to the motion and the amendment. Whilst I agree that reasons, perhaps, can be given for both’ propositions. 1 feel that I cannot support either of them. If I had my way I would not give the Government breathing time. I would not allow it to live a day. I do not think that it deserves Fo live, because the people do not desire its continuance, but want Parliament to be dissolved, so as to have an opportunity of expressing their disapproval,and, may I say, their detestation, of the conduct of certain honorable senators and the conduct of certain gentlemen in anotherplace. When a general election takes place, promises and pledges, as binding as ought to be the oath administered to a witness in a court of justice, are given by the respective candidates for the suffrages of the citizens. At the last election certain honorable senators gave their word, which ought to be their bond, if there is any manliness in them, that during their service here they would support and help onward certain principles. When we find an utter abandonment of those principles by the men who gave those pledges, it is time that we, as a Senate, recognised that they should be given an opportunity of meeting their masters, namely, the electors. The reason why I am opposed to either the motion or the amendment is because, as I have said. I have no faith or confidence in the Government, nor, so far as I have been able to iudge public opinion, have the people, and that fact has been demonstrated in no unmistakable way during the last few days; so far, at any rate, as this State, is concerned.
– Do not be too anxious to get to the people.
– I am never anxious when going to the people, because I have absolute trust and confidence in them.
– Oh, yes, the honorable senator has.
– Whether they believe or disbelieve in my principles or the partv with which I am associated, I have absolute trust and confidence in the people.
– So have I.
– The honorable senator does not expect to come back ?
– I expect that a number of honorable gentlemen who were instrumental in bringing about the fusion will lose the number of their mess. At the present time when public indignation has been aroused from one end of Victoria to the other - I cannot speak of other portions of the Commonwealth because I have not visited them - they fear to meet the electors. So far as this State is concerned, 1 know what the verdict of the people would be if they were appealed to.
– The honorable senator is living in a fool’s paradise.
– Let him proceed.
SenatorFINDLEY. - Iwill make what comments I choose upon the motion and the amendment which has been submitted, until the President calls me to order. Eventually, I shall be found voting for the amendment, because I make no secret of the fact that I shall take every opportunity of harassing the present Government in the hope that this Parliament will be dissolved before the period when it will otherwise expire by effluxion of time. Should that event take place, I have no doubt as to what the verdict of the people will be in regard to the political combination which has recently been formed.
– My honorable friendl, Senator Findley, has confidently declared that he echoes the feelings of the electors when he expresses the view that the Government ought at once to proceed with the transaction of public business. He has affirmed that he knows the mind of the people - to whose decisionwe must ultimately submit - upon the present position of parties in this Parliament. Indeed, he used the word “people” so frequently that I was irresistibly reminded of a very graphic incident which occurred in the French Chamber of Deputies at an exceedingly critical time. Upon the occasion in question a certain representative used the word “people” as a reason for all his appeals. Some dastardly crime had been committed which had been adjudicated upon by one of the Judges. When it became manifest that no defence could be offered, for that crime, the accused was asked what he had to say. He replied : “I did it in the name ‘of the people.” The Judge answered: “It is rather regrettable that at the present time every blackguard justifies his actions in the name of the people.” In this Senate, there are numerous precedents in regard to motions for adjournment being submitted with the object of granting an incoming Government time in which to formulate their policy in detail. The adjournment sought has always been sanctioned. It must be apparent to honorable senators opposite that when a new Government is formed, Ministers themselves are often not in sufficiently close touch upon matters of administration to enable them in a brief period to devise the machinery by which they propose to give effect to their policy. Whenever a motion of this kind has been submitted in the House of Representatives - which more closely represents the electors than does the Senate - it has been usual to accede to it without demur. Senator Needham and others have urged that the Fisher Government, upon taking office, sought an adjournment for only eight days. I believe that that statement is historically correct. But it must not be forgotten that at that time we were on the eve of recess. It seems to me that the Opposition might have very easily blocked the adjournment which was then proposed had they chosen to resort to the tactics which are being employed on the present occasion. Under the circumstances which existed, the late Administration could scarcely have asked for a longer adjournment than the eight days. When the motion was submitted, the Opposition at once recognised that the Government should be allowed to put their policy before the people as soon as possible.
– That is what we want to do now.
– No doubt; but the circumstances are entirely different.
Senatorde Largie. - There is a mighty difference.
– I thank the honorable senator for his interjection. The difference is so great that I hope it will become more accentuated. The reason why the Ministry ask for an adjournment of three weeks must be apparent to everybody save honorable senators opposite. I presume that the members of the Opposition are acquainted not merely with the trend of political events in Australia, but also with their trend in other countries - events which may have a very important bearing upon Australian affairs. The most important question, and the one which most immediately concerns ourselves and the Empire, is that of defence. That question must be considered. It is all very well for Senator Pearce - who may be thoroughly seized of his own intentions in regard to an
Australian defence policy-
– I thought that we were discussing a proposal for an adjournment.
– The new Ministry must consider that very serious question.
– I thought that they had arrived at a decision upon it.
– No. If Ministers were not so entirely seized of the great difficulties surrounding it, they might be able to grapple with it in an instant. But they realize those difficulties, not merely in relation to the Commonwealth, but also in relation to the Empire, and though they may have formulated the general lines of their defence policy, they still have to cast upon some individual Minister the responsibility of framing it in detail. If that Minister were gifted with the gigantic intelligence of the late Minister of Defence, he might be able to convey his impressions to his Cabinet in a few short sentences, and he might also possess sufficient force of character to be able to impose his will upon his colleagues. But the present Government are not built that way, and its supporters claim that upon the question of defence - on which possibly the safety of the Commonwealth and of the Empire may depend - the Minister of Defence shall be afforded ample time in which to grip the subject from an Australian point of view, so that when he enters the forthcoming Imperial Conference, he will be able to speak not merely with a full general knowledge of that policy, but with a full knowledge of its details. I ask honorable senators opposite whether, in view of the fact that we have been invited by the Admiralty authorities to be represented at the gathering in question, an adjournment of three weeks is too short a period in which to permit of that matter being discussed in all its bearings? Did Senator Pearce, when he joined the late Government, have all his ideas upon defence matters so formulated, that he was in a position to present them to the Cabinet and to Parliament within the short space of eight days? There is another reason why Ministers are almost modest in requesting an adjournment for only three weeks. It must be apparent to every honorable senator that the position of the Commonwealth is such that the Treasurer will require a good deal of time in which to consider the financial relationship which should exist between the States and the Commonwealth. I do not think there isa single member of this Chamber w.ho - if he occupied the position of Treasurer, and were saddled with the responsibility of devising a scheme for the adjustment of the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth - would not desire ample time in which to consider that important matter in all its bearings. It is useless to disguise the fact that at the present time honorable senators opposite are simply beating time, in order to ventilate some of the irritation that they, feel. Senator Findley, in adducing reasons for opposing the motion, spoke about recent demonstrations of political opinion, showing that the Government did not hold the confidence of the public. There are times when every member of Parliament is bound to give the most respectful attention to any demonstration of public opinion. But at a time like this, when the gravest judgment is required on the part of those responsible for the government of the country, there should be full time for considering matters of policy in all their details; and I protest against any attempt to coerce a Ministry at a time when they, ought to be given an opportunity to lay their policy before the country in a proper manner. The people of this country expect-
– Every man to do his duty !
– The Opposition are not doing their duty in the sense of extending British fair play to the Government.
– Fair play ?
– They are entitled to fair play. Take the matter of defence alone. I may appeal to the late Minister of Defence, and ask him whether he would like to be delegated to go to London to represent the Commonwealth after having been only one hour in the Cabinet that proposed to send him?
– We could be ready in an hour, because we have a definite policy. The present Government want three weeksbecause they have no policy.
– Honorable senators opposite are always ready. There is nothing so cock-sure and ready for action as colossal ignorance. It is a characteristic of ‘ignorance that it is always ready to jump, and to act.
– That is the reason why the honorable senator has stepped into -the breach.
– I do not happen to be even within sight of a portfolio yet.
– The honorable senator’s chance has immensely improved after rendering this service to the Government.
– I am not defending the Government. I can understand that the ex-Vice-President of the Executive Council would like to draw all the fire upon me; but I am merely explaining what, from my point of view, is the fair course to adopt towards the new Ministry. Take the financial question! The requirements of the States, the matter of taking over the States debts, and that of the future harmonious working of the Commonwealth with the States, are difficult questions. One pf the reasons that has brought about a change of parties has been a distrust of the late Government in regard to its financial policy. One of the most important propositions that must be submitted to Parliament is a fairly definite detailed scheme for providing for the requirements of the Commonwealth, and at the same time maintaining harmonious relations with the States. The Treasurer will have to take into consideration all that has happened in the past. Under these circumstances, the request of the Government for a three weeks’ adjournment, in order that they may gather together the threads of the various questions facing them, and formulate a serviceable texture of policy, is remarkably reasonable. I appeal to honorable senators whether they think they will expedite business by shortening the adjournment. On calm reflection they will, I think, come to the conclusion that the request is a modest one. I may illustrate the point which I am emphasizing by an incident which is commonly quoted at the bar. In a celebrated criminal case in England, the evidence terminated shortly after lunch. Counsel asked for time in which to prepare his address to the jury. His request was refused by the Judge. He had to go on with the case. He proceeded until the usual time for adjourning the Court. On the following morning he resumed, but spoke for only a quarter of an hour. The Judge asked him why he had been so impatient for delay on the previous afternoon. The eminent counsel said, “ My, Lord, I have since had time to collect exactly what I wanted to say, and have, therefore, been able to shorten the business of this Court..” So also if we give Ministers time to formulate their ideas, and to make themselves acquainted with their respective Departments, we shall ‘enable them to construct a serviceable political fabric, and to present it to the public in an acceptable form. It is highly desirable that that should be done in the interests, not only of this Parliament, but of the whole Commonwealth of Australia.
[3.53]. - I think that my honorable friend, the leader of the Opposition, will, upon reflection, discover that he has been somewhat ungracious in declining to accede to what I regard, and what after further thought he will, I think, regard, as a reasonable and modest request. It has been stated by several honorable senators opposite that tinder ordinary circumstances the request would be reasonable. But, under the influence of considerable perturbation, my honorable friends have satisfied themselves that the present circumstances, for reasons mentioned by them, are extraordinary. That a Government should ask for time to prepare its business for Parliament is a most ordinary circumstance. Honorable senators opposite cannot get away from that. Senator Needham said that he would have accepted it as a reasonable request if the Government had . agreed upon their policy. I give the honorable senator my most firm and definite assurance that we have agreed upon our policy. But it is for the purpose of translating that policy into the necessary Bills for presentation to Parliament that we require the reasonable adjournment for which we have asked. I commenced by saying that Senator McGregor on reflection will regard his action on this occasion as ungracious. According to all past and well-recognised traditions of this and the other Chamber, and practically of every parliamentary institution within the Empire, a request of this kind made by a Government is acceded to as a matter of course. I shall show my honorable friend, Senator McGregor, that it has been the practice followed in this Parliament on several occasions in which he took a part himself. Some emphasis was laid just *how upon the fact that the Fisher Government asked for only eight days. That statement was not accurate. What actually did take place was that on a certain Thursday it was announced that the new Government had not completed their list of Ministers, and as leader of the Senate, and at the request of Senator McGregor, I then moved the adjournment of the Senate until next day. I have a most definite recollection that on several occasions when the last Deakin Government was going out of office, I went to my honorable friend and asked him what he wanted. The honorable senator had only to say what he wanted in order to have it conceded by myself as a member of the retiring Government, and by the then leader of the Opposition, Senator Millen.
– The honorable senator is forgetting to tell the Senate what he asked me to do.
– I do not know what my honorable friend means by that.
– I shall tell the honorable senator privately.
– I do know that I asked the honorable senator what would best suit his convenience, and I yielded to his wishes immediately. On the Friday following the Thursday to which I have referred the honorable senator asked for an adjournment to the Wednesday following.
– Did I not do the same with Senator Millen? Did I not ask that honorable senator?
– I wish my honorable friend to follow this : That was an adjournment for five days. The honorable senator got that adjournment, and then he asked for an additional eight days, and without any hesitation whatever that additional adjournment was conceded as a matter of course.
– As a matter of courtesy.
– As a matter of course, as well as a matter of courtesy, it was conceded to the honorable senator at once. My honorable friend must know that on every occasion his convenience was consulted, and his statement accepted without demur. On the occasion to which I refer the honorable senator asked for eight days. What to do? Practically to consider a few remaining measures which the retiring Government desired should be put through. ‘ It was not an ‘Adjournment of eight days, for the purpose of preparing a policy for themselves; but eight days in which to prepare for finishing up a session and getting into a six months’ recess. Not only was that conceded, but in the conduct of the business of the Senate every consideration was extended to my honorable friend and his colleagues, by Senator Millen, the then leader of the Opposition, and by myself. In view of all this, and in view of the recognised courtesy and tradition of Parliament, when an assurance is” given to my honorable friends opposite that we require three weeks for the preparation of our measures, in order to expedite public business, we are surely making only a reasonable request. We, of course, must be the best judges as to the length of the adjournment we require, and I am really surprised that our statement on the subject should be doubted, or that there should be the smallest hesitation displayed in granting our request. I should also like to point out to my honorable friend that when the first Deakin Administration was ejected from office, and was succeeded by the Watson Administration, an adjournment of three weeks was asked for, and by Senator McGregor, who was then leader of the Senate. On the 27th April, 1904, the honorable senator moved that the Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday, 18th Mav-. That was for a period of three weeks. He then mentioned the new Ministers who had been sworn in, and he went on to say -
In moving that the Senate adjourn until the 18th May, I think that honorable senators will acknowledge that on account of the length of the present session, and the many difficulties that naturally face a new Ministry - many of the members of which have had very little Ministerial experience in the past, while some have had none whatever - they are really entitled to a little consideration. I am almost certain that every member of the Senate will be magnanimous enough to grant to the. new Ministry the length of time asked for. Without going into any statement of policy - which would really be injudicious, and which, in fact, I should be unable to do at present - I may state that in due course the Government will put their policy before Parliament, and will await the approval of loth Houses. I therefore submit the motion which I have already indicated.
The motion was seconded by “Senator Dawson, and then Senator Drake, who was leading; the Senate at the time, said -
It is, of course, natural that the incoming Ministry should ask for some time to prepare their policy. Those who have been in office - and there are many honorable senators who have been in that position - recognise the difficulties that face the Government. We in the Senate shall, I hope, be in the future, as we have been hitherto, critics, but I trust that we shall always be fair critics. We recognise that in order that a new Ministry may have absolutely fair play it is necessary that they should have sufficient time to prepare their Bills, and to bring them down to Parliament. When we do meet again I hope that the Government will have their bills read)’, and that we shall be able to go on with the work of the session. I have, therefore, no objection whatever to the motion moved by my honorable friend the Vice-President of the executive Council. . 0
I ask my honorable friend, Senator McGregor, to do unto others as others have done unto him.
– That is what we are doing.
– If that is the honorable member’s idea of fair play, it differs from the fair play that others have extended to him.
– We are giving the same fair play as we got at the commencement of this session.
– My honorable friend has no reason to complain ; he never got on any occasion anything but fair play. I trust that it will always be the reputation of (the Senate that it extends fair play to every Minister who may be a member of it. ‘ Ministers have public duties to perform, and they have a right to expect that generous consideration will be extended to them in the conduct of business. I say that Senator McGregor “must recognise that a number of men have been brought together in the present Ministry. I have given an assurance that we have agreed upon our policy. Is it fair that my honorable friend should doubt what I say? I tell him again that we have agreed upon our policy, and are anxious to translate it into Bills for presentation to Parliament.
– The honorable senator knows that the Government could do that in a week if they desired to do so.
– Surely with his experience my honorable friend knows that such is not the case. If this could be done in a week by the present Government, how is it that my honorable friend asked for three weeks on behalf of. the Watson Government?
– Because Parliament had been sitting for months previously.
– I cannot see what that has to do with it. Senator McGregor must know that if we are to transact our business in a businesslike way it must first be carefully prepared, and submitted to the Senate in a businesslike form. “The curtailment of the adjournment asked *for by one week would certainly not in any way expedite public business. On the contrary, it would be calculated to more seriously delay the proper and efficient transaction of public business, because nothing causes greater delay in the’ work of Parliament than the introduction of illconsidered measures. I urge that, my honorable friend is not doing himself justice in opposing the reasonable request that we have made. I am in full sympathy with what has been stated by several honorable senators, who are residents of Queensland and Western Australia, and who cannot readily get back to their homes. But there are honorable senators on both sides who reside in the more distant States, and it will be within the recollection of Senator McGregor that on many occasions there have been adjournments granted for a week, a fortnight, three weeks, or a month, without any demur or hesitation. These things are incidental to the transaction of public business, and in all the circumstances I urge my honorable friend not to be so ungracious as to persist with his amendment when he has my assurance that we require the adjournment asked ‘ for to prepare our measures. That assurance should be accepted. In view of the fact that a similar request made by the honorable senator himself on behalf of the Watson Government, of which he was a member, was at once granted, and that he expected and received on that occasion the magnanimous consideration of every member of the Senate, he should be prepared to admit that we have a right to ask from honorable senators opposite at least the same generous treatment.
– From the way in which the leader of the Opposition has beamed upon the Minister of Trade and Customs, I feel sure that he intends to give way, . and will not press his amendment. The principal point urged from the other side is that the adjournment should be for only a fortnight in order that the transaction of public business may be expedited. But the Minister of Trade and Customs has made a point which cannot be pressed home too strongly not only to the Senate but to the whole country, viz., that if ill-considered, illdigested, badly-drafted measures are brought down, delay must take place in their consideration in Parliament, which will seriously delay the accomplishment of any public business. I venture to say that our honorable friends opposite would be the very first to howl from a public platform - “ Look at the miserable muddle of the Bills the Government brought down. We had to alter and amend them, or they had to withdraw them and have them redrafted.” Senator McGregor is, no doubt, carefully manufacturing ammunition for the future. He knows that if the Government are not given sufficient time to prepare their measures and bring them forward in the best possible form, they will be the more open to criticism, and he will have a far better chance to effectively oppose the Government than he would otherwise have. It has already been mentioned that the Watson Government when they came into power, were granted an adjournment of three weeks. It is worth the while of the people of Australia always to remember that there is one party in Australian political life, the Labour .Party, the members of which are never tired of saying from one end of Australia to another - “We are the only party with a clearly defined platform and every one knows what our policy is,” yet .when they got into power they wanted an adjournment of three weeks in which to fix it up. The attitude which these gentlemen are taking up towards the Government is not only discourteous, not only lacking in magnanimity, but absolutely illogical and inconsistent with that which they themselves adopt when they go through the country saying to the people, “ We are the party with a policy ; we are the party who know exactly what we want ; put us in power and we will carry on our policy. The other fellows have no policy ; they have nothing ready to put before the country.” Yet what happened? When a Labour Government got into power it wanted an adjournment of three weeks - which was given without the slightest cavil by the Opposition - to put their policy into form. When a party which is alleged by them to have no policy takes office, they do not propose to allow an adjournment for even the period which was necessary to a Labour Government with a clear, definite policy, which has been skited about all over Australia. They nv.*_t have an adjournment of three weeks to get their policy ready for submission to Parliament, but when this Government, which is alleged by them to have no policy, asks for a similar adjournment to get their measures ready, they say, “That is too long; a. fortnight’s adjournment will be quite sufficient.” If honorable senators on the other side are really anxious to expedite the busi- ness of Parliament, the best possible thing which can be done, is to, enable the Government to submit their business after it has been considered very carefully, and then, if they find that the Bills’ have been drafted badly, or drawn up hurriedly, they will be’ perfectly at liberty, and entitled, to turn round and say to the Government, “ You asked for an adjournment of three weeks as sufficient to enable you to prepare your business for the consideration of Parliament; you were allowed that time, but you have brought forward measures which have been drafted badly, and which will have either to be withdrawn, or to be recast nearly from beginning, to end.” In that case, “the Opposition would have a reasonable ground for complaining against the Government. But they will have no ground for making a complaint if they compel the Government to draft their measures in a shorter timethan is considered necessary. At the end of last session there was a change, ‘ and thenew Government went on with the business which was already before Parliament. When they were pressed to fix a date for the re-assembling of Parliament - for theOpposition urged very rightly that it was necessary to get on with business as quickly as possible - it was explained that it wasabsolutely necessary for the Government te have a recess of reasonable length in order to prepare their policy. The recess raninto about 150 days, and now the present Government ask for an adjournment of twenty-one days for exactly the same purpose. Every time a member of the Labour Ministry was asked a question on that particular point he referred the questioner to what one of the newspapers heredescribed as “a place called Gympie.” ‘ where the Prime Minister was going to deliver, a policy speech, and would let thepeople know. During the recess, a mostimportant Conference was held in Tasmania. It was attended by three Ministers, and when they were asked whether they had any suggestions to make, or agreed with suggestions which had beenmade, the reply was, “ We cannot give youany information now; wait until the policy speech has been delivered at Gympie.”’ One would think that the Labour Party and the late Labour Government never ‘had’ :i policy until they managed to fire it off there. As a matter of fact, they took months before the)- would even so much as= deign to tell the people what policytheyproposed to carry out.
– The honorable senator ought to have known all that.
– The honorable senator wanted all the time he could get. I am not complaining. I knew well enough what was going to be fired off. I knew that the late Government were going to fire off confiscation at Gympie.
– Order !
– Do I understand, sir, that I am out of order?
– The honorable senator was commenting on the policy which was then formulated, and that is what I took exception to.
– I thought that Senator McGregor’s interjection, that I knew the policy, justified me in telling him what I did know. However, if I am out of order, I shall not pursue the matter. The fact remains that the late Government proposed, and secured without very much difficulty, a recess of five or six months in order that they might prepare their business and lay before Australia the policy which they intended to pursue. The same honorable gentlemen who secured that concession from both Houses are now actually refusing to the present . Government the paltry concession of an adjournment for twenty-one days. I take it, sir, that if the Opposition are really serious in wishing to carry on the business of the country, they know perfectly well that the best thing they can do in its interests is to allow the Government time in which to prepare, and bring their measures before Parliament in a proper and workmanlike form. There is no blinking the fact that the political changes which have recently taken place have “brought together sections in political life who hitherto have been, to a great extent, antagonistic to each other, but who have been forced to combine by reason of the fact that the Labour Party are attacking them wherever they have the slightest hope of winning a seat. In the face of that, it is not unreasonable that the new Administration should ask the Senate to allow them a little time in which to formulate a policy after they have thoroughly threshed out a large amount of detail. I urge that the Opposition should accept the suggestion made by Senator Best, and should not press the amendment. I think it must be obvious to them that the only thing which they can do by carrying the amendment is to put a considerable number of honorable senators to very serious inconvenience. I “had hoped to be able to go to my own State in the course of a few days, but if trie amendment is carried I fail to .see how that will be possible. The only effect of the amendment, if carried, will be that the Senate will be adjourned until the 16th instant, and when it meets on that day it will promptly be adjourned to the 23rd instant, putting honorable senators to inconvenience, doing the country no good, but merely venting some petty spite, which appears to be actuating honorable senators on the other side.
.- Mr. President-
– I think, sir, that we should have a quorum to listen to the honorable senator.
A quorum not being present,
The President adjourned the Senate at 4.2a p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 June 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090602_senate_3_49/>.