2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The Senate met at 2.30 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
TheClerk of the Parliaments read the proclamation.
NOR-GENERAL entered the chamber and took the chair. A message was forwarded to the House of Representatives, intimating that His Excellency desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber, who, being come with their Speaker,
HIS EXCELLENCY was pleased to deliver the following speech : -
With the concurrence of the States, a Conference of Commonwealth and State electoral officers was recently held for the purpose of securing uniformity of electoral administration, from which greater economy and efficiency are anticipated.
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives :
Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives :
His Excellency the GovernorGeneral having retired,
The President took the chair and read prayers.
– I have to report to the Senate that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a copy of the speech with which he opened Parliament, and I lay it upon the table.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence [3.1]. - I move -
That an Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s speech be taken into consideration on the next day of sitting.
– Before that motion is dealt with I should like to invite your attention, Mr. President, too standing order No. 11. According to our Standing Orders, if I correctly read them - of course, their interpretation .is in your hands - it is incumbent upon us to proceed to deal with the Address-in-Reply at once. Standing order 1 1 states -
The speech having been reported by the President - which is the position in which we now are - a motion for an Address-in-Reply to the speech will then be made and agreed to with or without amendment.
Now, the point which I submit for your consideration is whether, under this standing order, it is not incumbent upon us to proceed with, or at any rate, to initiate, a debate on a motion for the adoption of an
Address-in-Reply to the speech which you have just reported?
– I am bound to say that, if the standing order referred to be strictly interpreted, Senator Millen is correct. Honorable senators will recollect that two circulars have been issued, the first stating that, the speech having been reported to the Senate, a day would be fixed for the consideration of the AddressinReply. When I saw that, I pointed out to the Clerks that the course proposed was not in accordance with standing order 11, as standing order 11 contemplated that we should immediately go on with the consideration of His Excellency’s speech. A second circular was then issued. But I afterwards found that circumstances had arisen which presented a great difficulty. That is a matter for the Senate to take into consideration ; but if I am asked to interpret the standing order strictly, I think Senator Millen is right.
– Perhaps I may be allowed to say a word or two. I do not understand that we are bound strictly by the standing order. We can be guided by our own convenience in matters of this sort. I do nob think we ought to be slavishly bound to follow any particular standing order. But, in addition to that, I would remind honorable senators of what took place on the last occasion of this kind. I find that something of the same kind occurred then. The then leader of the Government moved, at precisely the same stage as we have arrived at now -
That the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be taken into consideration tomorrow.
He did that under precisely the same Standing Orders as we have to-day, and honorable senators opposite never said a word in objection. We, who were then in opposition, were at all events willing to assist the leader of the Government, and to meet the general convenience, recognising the difficulties that those members of the Senate would be in who had to move and second the Address-in-Reply if they had not a copy of the GovernorGeneral’s speech in their- hands some time before the Senate met. We, as I say, on that occasion took no objection to the course then suggested, and that course was adopted, in spite of the standing order. It was a convenient and proper course to adopt. Look at the position.’. It was not until yesterday, after 12 o’clock, that the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral was finally agreed to.
-Col. Gould. - Whose fault was that?
– It does not matter whose fault it was. It was impossible, through circumstances which arose, to deal with the matter earlier. It was not the fault of the Government.
– The Government had six months in which to prepare the speech.
– Honorable senators know very well that a Government has to leave the preparation of the speech opening Parliament till the last moment.
– Does the honorable senator intend to conclude with a motion ?
– I do not intend to conclude with any other motion than that which I have moved.
– Them he is out of order.
– The President has not yet given a definite ruling, and I want to put the position in order that the Senate may know how matters’ stand. I have explained what was done last year. The same thing was done the year before. It is the common practice. It has been the practice because it is a convenient one to follow.
– It is very convenient for the Minister to break standing orders when they do not suit him !
– It was very convenient to break them last year, when Senator Millen took no objection to the course, which his leader proposed^ He never troubled about it then. But of course his party is not in office now, and the present Government is.
– The obligation rests on me to try to keep this Government in order.
– We are an orderly Government, and do not need the honorable senator’s assistance.
– What are the exceptional circumstances that have arisen?
– The circumstances are that the two senators who are to move and’ second the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s speech need an adjournment to enable them to think it over sufficiently well to be in a position to make speeches to the Senate worthy of the occasion.
– What are members doing in the- other House?
– I think I can suggest a way out of the difficulty if the Minister will sit down.
– I am quite willing to listen to what the President may suggest, but I desire to point out before sitting down that, as a matter of fact, I am practically adhering to the standing order. The standing order simply says that the Governor-General’s speech having been reported by the President, a motion relating to it shall be made. I have moved such a motion. There is not the slightest doubt that I have submitted a motion in regard to the Address-in-Reply. I then asked for an adjournment till next Wednesday to prepare a further motion dealing with the subject. I contend, therefore, that I am acting strictly in accordance with standing order n. But I say that, even supposing I was not doing so, we are not bound strictly by standing order n if it is found to be inconvenient to the Senate to adhere to it strictly. It was considered to be more convenient to have an adjournment to give the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply an opportunity to study the speech. I further point out that I am following precedent, and that, in fact, I am adhering much more closely to the standing order than any Minister did on any such occasion previously, because I have submitted a motion that, the speech be taken into consideration on the next day of sitting.
– I understand that my honorable friend does not desire to proceed to-day with his motion. He endeavoured to draw a distinction between it and my motion of last year, but he frankly admits that the difference is somewhat like that between Tweedle-durn and Tweedle-dee. This motion, though not in the same words, is the same in substance. Without entering into the matter at any length, I desire to say that I do not see the need, on a point of order of this kind, for the heat which the honorable gentleman has introduced. I should, further, like to say that the course taken last year - which is the precedent alluded to - is no precedent if it is wrong. It must not be thought for one moment that I am at all shrinking from the course which was pursued last year - a course which was the same- as that pursued the year before that, and in previous years.
– I do not think that Senator Symon is correct as to the year before last.
– Then I am obliged to you, Mr. President, for correcting me. At any late, the course now suggested was adopted1 last year, and I was under the impression that it had been adopted in the previous year. If attention had been called to the irregularity last year, the probability is that some way would have been found to escape from the difficulty. I understand that you, sir, propose to now make some suggestion to that end. Obviously if the standing order is inconvenient, the proper method is not to “ ride roughshod! ‘ ‘ over it, but to suspend it. In connexion with the business immediately before us, there may no doubt be inconvenience in at once proceeding with the discussion. I do not know what difficulty there is in the way of extending to honorable senators the same courtesy that is extended to members of another place, who are charged with the obligation of moving and seconding the Address-in-Reply. I understand that this motion is to be proceeded with in the other chamber to-day, and the same facilities that are extended’ to members of this Parliament elsewhere ought to be extended to us. Therefore, I ask that neither you, sir, nor the Senate should be influenced bv any such reason as that submitted in, assenting to any departure from the strict interpretation of the standing order. At the same time, I quite agree that it is our duty to assist the Government in every way, so far as concerns the arranging of the business of the session! at its inception, and 1’ personally desire to extend that assistance. No doubt there is inconvenience in dealing with such a motion, especially when there is a long speech of which one has to find out the pith : it is like hunting for a needle in a bundle of hav.
– It is longer than the speech presented by the Government of which Senator Symon was a. member.’7
– The speech of the Government of which I was a member was emphatic and to the point.
– I must ask Senator Symon not to be led away by interjections.
– The interjections are inviting, and I ask your forgiveness i’f I yield to a temptation to which better men have yielded before now. If there is a way of arranging the matter, and the honorable gentleman in charge of the Government business, instead of vehemently “ pitching into “ Senator Millen, will make a suggestion to that end,
I shall be pleased to help him. At the same time, we must agree with what you, Mr, President, have said in regard to the strict interpretation of the standing order. If I acted last year in the way now suggested, probably I was wrong; but my attention was not called to the matter at the time. At any rate, the course then pursued is no precedent for setting aside the standing order now.
– I think we are all getting very constitutional and endeavouring to interpret the Standing Orders in our own way. I do not see anything in the standing order to deter us from accepting the proposal of the leader of the Government. What does the standing order mean ? I am not now talking from a legal point of view, but from the point of view which is taken on this side, that of commonsense. When the Governor-General delivers his speech a motion is to be submitted for an Address-in-Reply, and that motion is to be carried with or without debate. But the standing order does not say that this has to be done on ‘ the same day. The standing order, to my mind, and according to the practice of all the Parliaments of which I have any knowledge, simply means that no other business is to intervene until the Address-in-Reply has been disposed of. If honorable senators will look at the matter in that light . they will come to a correct conclusion. Supposing the Governor-General opened Parliament at 5 o’clock on Saturday .afternoon - which he would have a perfect right to do - and a discussion such as this followed, should we be compelled to sit on Sunday in order to finish the business? Can. honorable senators not see the absurdity of the position created by straining the interpretation of this standing order? I think that you, Mr. President, when you look at this matter calmly, will agree that, the standing order only means that no other “business is to come before the AddressinReply.
– Which need not be agreed to at one sitting.
– The standing order does not say that the Address-in-Reply shall be agreed to at one sitting, but only that it must be agreed to before any other business is proceeded with. If we look at the matter in that light we see that the Government last year were doing what they had a perfect right to do, and that the present Government are simply following the example of their predecessors in doing the right thing.
– Mr. President, before you give your ruling, I should like to call your attention to the working of the standing order which-
– The President has given his ruling.
– I understand that the President has not ruled, but has merely said that if he is called upon to rule he must take a certain view. The matter is under discussion, and I desire to present an aspect which - -
– I do not wish to block Senator Trenwith, but I take it that the President has given his ruling.
– I said that if I were pressed to give a ruling I should rule in a certain way. I did not wish to be pressed to give a ruling.
– There seems to be a disposition to press you, sir, to give a ruling, and before you do so I would suggest a reading of the standing order which commends itself to me. The speech of the Governor-General having been reported by t’he President, there mus* be a motion for an Address-in-Reply. The question is : what is a motion for an Address-in-Reply? The motion may be that certain words be the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency for the speech presented to Parliament, or, it seems to me, it may be a motion for provision for a subsequent consideration of an Address-in-Reply. It would not be straining the standing order to read the motion of the Minister of Defence as a motion for an Address-in-Reply, seeing that he has moved that an Address-in-Reply be taken into consideration next Wednesday. Clearly this is a. motion for providing for an AddressinReply. I submit that if the Senate , so desires, it is competent for us, under the standing order, in the reading I have presented, to accept the motion of the Minister of Defence as one for an AddressinReply. That is clearly what is intended bv the standing order. As pointed out by Senator McGregor, no business can be proceeded with until we have disposed of the Governor-General’s speech. It would be competent for us to adjourn immediately’, without doing any business, but if we do any business we must first of all deal’- with the speech from the Crown.
– The standing order appears to me to be quite clear. I am, of course, intimately acquainted with the history of this standing order. Under the practice of, I think, all State Parliaments, when His Excellency opened Parliament by a speech, a small committee was appointed to bring up a report, which was then referred to the Committee of the whole. The Committee of the whole reported to the House, and when the motion was submitted for the adoption of the report, His Excellency’s speech was discussed. The Standing Orders Committee desired to do away with all this circumlocution, and advisedly struck out those provisions which caused delay. The Standing Orders Committee, in effect, said, “ We do not wish to waste time, but) to go straight on with the business ; directly His Excellency’s speech has been delivered the discussion shall be proceeded with; a motion shall be made directly relative to the speech, and there shall be no Committee of three or four honorable senators to consider the matter ; no Committee of the whole and no report.” That was the object of the standing order, and, therefore, when honorable senators refer to the practice of Parliaments, they must bear in mind that we intended to alter that practice. The House of Representatives has a similar standing order, and the intention in each instance was to alter the practice, and go straight on with thediscussion, the avowed object being to avoid what were considered to be useless forms. I understand that difficulties have arisen, and, as our Standing Orders are really intended to facilitate the proceedings, I suggest that one of two courses be adopted - either that the Standing Orders be suspended, or that the senator who has been chosen to submit the motion shall submit it, and. after saying a few words, ask leave to continue his speech on a subsequent occasion. It’ is not for me to do anything but interpret the Standing Orders, and, strictly speaking, a motion ought to be submitted for an Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech.
– Ifyour suggestion, Mr. President, is to be adopted, I submit that the motionpresented to the Chamber by the Minister of Defence should first be withdrawn.
– I have ruled that the motion of the Minister of Defence is out of order.
– I understood that no ruling had been given.
– Then I give the ruling now.
– The Minister of Defence might be permitted to withdraw his motion, and Senator Styles asked to submit his motion.
– The motion of the Minister of Defence cannot be submitted, and, therefore, there is no necessity to withdraw it. I am quite clear that the practiceadopted last session was wrong. My attention was not called to the matter at the time, or I should certainly have pointed out then that it was wrong.
.- I have been asked, because, I suppose, I am the youngest member of the Senate, to move an Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech. I may say that I never heard or read a line of that speech until His Excellency delivered it a little while ago.
– Did the honorable senator not read his advance copy last night?
– I had no advance copy last night. I received ah advance copy at my house this morning, and saw it for the first time about 10 o’clock, as I was leaving for town. Even an honorable senator with the great experience of Senator Gould would hardly undertake to deal’ “ right off the reel “ with a document of this kind, containing some thirty-six paragraphs. I shall ask leave to continuemy speech on a subsequent occasion, but, in the meantime, I submitthe following motion : -
That the following Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
May it please Your Excellency :
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
I am unable now to speak at any length, and I ask by the indulgence of the Senate to be allowed to continue my speech, on the next day of meeting.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
MINISTERS laid upon the table thefollowing papers: -
Reports, with maps, of the Commissioners appointed to distribute the States of New South-
Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia into electoral divisions.
Return under the Immigration Restriction Acts.
Return under the Naturalization Act of the number of persons to whom certificates of naturalization are granted during the year 1905.
Amended Customs regulations Nos. 103 and 104, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 1.
Amended drawback regulations, No. 132 - Jams, &c. - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 3a.
Regulation under the Distillation Act relating to spirits for export, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 9.
Regulations under the Excise Act, tobacco, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 5, and drawback regulations, No. 50 - Jams, &c. - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 33.
Amended Defence Act regulations governing the landing of foreign troops, &c, Statutory Rules 1905, No. 80.
Cadet Corp regulations, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 31.
Military Force regulations; paragraph 57, lieutenants - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 79; paragraph 216, addition of figures “ 214 “ - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 3 ; paragraph 130, alteration - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 4; paragraph 2A, Promotion Board - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 29; paragraph 128, age of retirement - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 30. Financial and Allowance regulations - Statutory Rules 1905, No. 77. Naval Forces ; regulations and standing orders - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 20. Financial and Allowance regulations - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 21.
Notification of the acquirement of land under the Property for Public Purposes Acquisition Act 1901 at Armidale, New South Wales, as a site for a drill hall, at Bodangora and Gilgandra, New South Wales, at Gwalia, Western Australia, at Kadina, South Australia, at Kurri Kurri, New South Wales, and at Ryde, New South Wales, as Sites for post-offices ; at Mount Nelson, Hobart, Tasmania, and at Randwick and Singleton, New South Wales, for defence purposes; and at Sandy Bay, Tasmania, for rifle range purposes.
Pursuant to the Public Service Act, a list of the permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, 1st January, 1906.
Recommendation, &c, and approval of the promotion of Messrs. O. S. Maddocks and H.
Amended regulations No. 104, grading of general division - Statutory Rules 1906, Nos. 2 and t4 ; No. 64, overtime in the general division - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 13 ; Nos. r63A and 164, special allowances - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 15. Numbers 48, 141 (b), 168, 196, 197, 258, Chief Officers, &c. - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 16. Nos. 48, 141 (b), 168, 196, 197, 25S, Chief Officers, &C; also Nos. 104, 163A, 164 - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 28. Nos. 153 and 155, allowances - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 37. No. 199, telegraph messengers - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 38. No. 16S, allowances - Statutory Rules 1906, No. 39.
Certificate under the Representation Act of the Chief Electoral Officer in regard to the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and the several States.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until
Wednesday next at 2.30 p.m.
-35]- - I understood that we were called together to despatch business. We come here on a Thursday, and we are immediately asked to adjourn for six days. As a consequence, one honorable senator who has travelled from Queensland proposes to go back to that State to-morrow, whilst two others will be returning to-night to New South Wales. We have had to make a journey of from 1,100 to 1,200 miles to do an hour’s so-called work. I think that the adjournment should be only until tomorrow, by which time the proposer and seconder of the Address-in-Reply should be in a position to proceed with their speeches.
– That was not done last year.
– I am not concerned about what was done last year, but I strongly protest against honorable senators being asked to travel so great a distance in order to remain here for one hour.
– Let us adjourn for a fortnight. ‘
– It would be better if we did adjourn for a fortnight, and I take the liberty of suggesting to the leader of the Senate that if he finds from time to time that there is not a great deal of business to be done it would be better to arrange for a lengthened adjournment. Last session I endeavoured to travel between Sydney and Melbourne every week, but that is not very good for one’s health, and now when we hare been here for only an hour an adjournment of the Senate is proposed. I enter my protest against such a motion, though it may be the last occasion on which I shall have an opportunity to do so. Some honorable senators have to go before their constituents, and may. not be again returned to the Senate, and I make this protest on my own behalf and on behalf of my successors in the representation of New South Wales hereafter.
– Not many minutes since
Senator McGregor was boasting of the possession of common sense by honorable senators on the other side. Here is an illustration of it, and an illustration, perhaps the honorable senator will say, of courtesy, as well as of common sense. In common with other honorable senators representing my State, I came all the way from Sydney today, only to find that we are now to separate, and to be asked to meet here again next Wednesday. If it was the intention of the Government that the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s speech should not be dealt with at present, a courteous intimation to that effect might have been conveyed to us, and we might have avoided the absurd and humiliating position in which we now find ourselves. I should like to hear from the leader of the Government in the Senate why we were called together on a Thursday instead) of earlier in the week, when it would have been possible’ in the ordinary course of events to have adjourned over a day, and yet to have done a fair amount of work before our sittings terminated, and we caught our trains for the other States on the Friday. I think that I am justified in asking Senator Playford to give some explanation on this point. I can see no reason why the debate on the motion for the Address-in-Reply should not be resumed to-morrow morning at 10.30 a.m. I move as an amendment -
That all the words after “until” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.”
– - I beg to second the amendment. I intend to vote against the motion-, but perhaps my object will be achieved by the course I am taking. I must! enter a protest against this want of common sense in the conduct of the business of the Senate. It was known that the Government had a long speech prepared for the Governor-General to deliver, but the usual courtesy has not been shown to the Opposition. Did not the Government give their supporters a copy of the speech to look over?
– The honorable senator is quite wrong.
– Did not the caucus see a copy yesterday morning?
– Nothing of the kind.
– Some of us travelled hundreds of miles through stormy seas to be here to-day, and now we are asked to adjourn. No business has been done which could not have been done very much better if Ve had gone on with “our work to-morrow. What is the business to be submitted after the Address-in-Reply Kas been adopted?
– We have given notice concerning two Bills.
– Are we going to have only a very small amount of business submitted?
– I do not think that on this motion the honorable senator, can discuss the whole course of business.
– If we are going to have an adjournment, it is well that we should have some notice of the intention of the Government. It is very clear that there is very little business to go on with. Therefore it would be very much better for the Senate to adjourn for a fortnight after the Address-in-Reply has been adopted.
– The honorable senator has seconded an amendment to adjourn the Senate until to-morrow morning, at half-past 10 o’clock.
– In this matter I think that the convenience of the Senate as a whole should’ be consulted. For that reason, whilst indorsing the remarks of Senator Macfarlane, I do not propose to support) the amendment, but to put before the Government the reasonableness of seeing that senators are not brought here week after week to do work which could be condensed into a very few days. That practice prevailed during the whole of last session. We were brought here on a Tuesday, and we simply fiddled through three or four days. We were brought here again in the following week to go through the same process, when we could reasonably have had an adjournment for one week, and condensed into the following week the work which was spread over a fortnight. I ask the Government to take a business-like view. If they have much business on hand, I am sure that the Senate will be prepared to meet and deal with it, but I suspect that the business with which Ministers are immediately prepared to proceed is nominal j that there is really no business ready yet for our consideration. In the circumstances, they would lose very little credit and dignity if they would frankly say that they were not yet prepared to proceed to work, and move the adjournment of the Senate to a period when they would be; prepared to submit some substantial work for its consideration. I indorse everything which has been said as to the unreasonableness of bringing senators from a long distance - in my own case something like 1,200 miles - to witness a proceeding which may be necessary, but which it was not absolutely essential that we should all attend. We came here to-day for an hour’s formal function, and will return to our homes to come here again on Wednesday for the purpose of commencing business. Such a procedure does not assist the course of legislation in any way ; it does not benefit the country in the slightest degree, but it does greatly inconvenience honorable senators in very many ways.
– But if the Government had proposed to go ,right on with the debate on the Add’ress-in-Reply, would not the honorable senator have asked for time to consider the Governor-General’s speech?
– No. The course of the Government was plain. I naturally expected that whatever adjournment might take place, it would not be beyond tomorrow, and that we would then go on with business, and probably conclude the debate on the Address-in-Reply, leaving next week free for the business which the Government should be prepared to submit. I take it that the Government have no business ready, and, therefore, they wish to make the debate on the Address-in-Reply carry us over next week, and so fill in time. It is the marking of time that I object to. I am prepared to attend here and do any work which the country calls for, and which the Government are prepared to submit for our consideration, but I absolutely object to come over here week after week merely to trifle with time and make an appearance of doing work, when we know perfectly well that there is no work to be done. I put it to the Government that they can reasonably consider the arguments which, have been advanced here to-day, and which were advanced here last year - that when there is solid work to be done they should bring us over for the whole of a week if necessary, but that when there is practically no work to be done they might reasonably say we will propose an adjournment until such time as a meeting of the Senate is necessary. That is not an unreasonable request
– Which will tend to make the Senate merely a House of review.
– That interjection is very wide of the mark. The Senate would be no more a House of review if it did its work in five continuous days than if it took a fortnight for the purpose.
– We ought to have work prepared for us.
– I agree with the honorable senator, but I am not .responsible for the want of work. It is an obligation resting upon the Ministry to see that work is ready, but if they do not recognise the obligation, they should not penalize us in consequence.
– Then we ought to adjourn for a month.
– That is exactly my contention - that the Senate should not be called together when there is no work for it to do. If it is seen that for the next fortnight, three weeks, or a month, there is only a week’s work to be done, it is useless to bring us here for three dr four weeks to do that work. Let us do the week’s work in a week. »
– How are you going to judge a week’s work?
– By the’ experience of last session.
– Continuous talk and no work.
– We ‘have only to turn to the records to find there ample justification for what I am stating. Honorable senators on that side objected time and again to an adjournment when it was proposed from this side. But when we came over here next week, what happened ? On a Tuesday we would adjourn at the dinner hour, and meet next day to do half-a-day’s work.
– That has been the case from the very start of this Parliament.
– Suppose that it has been, is it any justification for continuing the process, and bringing us here for two days in order to do one day’s work?
– We do not know how long it will take to do a day’s work.
– The honorable senator knows, from his long experience, what work he has in hand, and how long it will take to deal with it. The fact remains that last session the Government never had enough work for us to do, and Ministers were not honest enough to stand up and tell the country that that was. the reason they were calling us together every Tues- day - to do what? - merely to adjourn at the dinner hour. That is all I object to. If the Government have work to do, I shall be here to do my share of it, but on the other hand if there is no work to submit I shall certainly protest against being called upon to come over here for four weeksmerely to do work which could be condensed into a week or a fortnight.
.- I am very sorry indeed that the senators from other States have been brought here almost to no purpose. It is very cruel to ask them to travel 1,200 miles only to find that there is really nothing for them to do, and that the mover of the Address-in-Reply is not yet ready to proceed with his speech. I hope that in the remaining few months of this Parliament the Senate will either have work to do when it meets, or will not be called together until there is work to be done. Surely, there is some work which we could do. At the same time, I do not think that .the amendment should be pressed to a division.
– Why not?
– I am not inclined to whip the Government just at present.
– The honorable senator would drive them fast enough if “he could.
– I would whip the Government fast enough if I saw good reason, but I think that the course which they are pursuing has been taken before.
– To some extent, at any rate. I feel that it is very hard upon honorable senators who have come such a long way to be called upon to go back without even the Address-in-Reply having been dealt with. If it were to be dealt with to-morrow I think there would not be so much cause to complain of the proposed adjournment.
-50]. - I am greatly influenced by what Senator Fraser has said in respect of dealing tenderly with the Government on this the first day of the session. We have not met my honorable friends at the table for some 1 months, and whilst they deserve, as Senator Fraser said, whipping, I think that the tendency will be to let them off on this the first occasion with the warning which Senator Millen has so vigorously administered to them. Ordinarily, one is not disposed1 to interfere with the Government arrangement of business; certainly not on the first day of the session. From that point of view, I am not disposed to object further to the arrangement which they suggest, but I concur in every word of the protest that has been uttered. To my mind, the protest is most opportune in every way. It is not worthy of the dignity of the Senate that such a state of things should exist - a state of things that we com-i plained of over and over again last year, a relegation literally of the Senate into a secondary position, a sort of stop-gap House that meets for only an hour or two occasionally. Last year the great difficulty with those who live in other States was that they never knew whether when they came over the business of the Senate would occupy one day or two days, or whether they might not be sent home the next day.
– Or what business would be taken.
– Or very often what business would be taken. It caused great inconvenience ; it caused very often irregularity in attendance, because we arrived at conclusions as to the important business to be taken. Perhaps we communicated with the leader of the Senate, as I have sometimes done, and had communications with other senators, but very often senators decide that sort of thing for themselves, and perhaps are absent when very important business comes on. I recollect an instance in connexion with the Trade Marks Bill. Senator Gould, who took a great interest in one portion of the measure, was absent at a time when it was not expected to come on, and, in consequence of his absence, he had to take special measures later on in order to give effect to his views. I do not wish to embarrass my honorable friends at the table in any way, or do interfere with the arrangements which they make, but I do put it to them very strongly that they should systematically arrange the business to be taken, so that when the Senate assembles! on a Tuesday or Wednesday it shall have full’ occupation for the whole of the week. There is no difficulty about that if Ministers have business to submit. I think that honorable senators who have come from a great distance have a right to complain that a definite intimation was not given to them tha4) there would be no sitting to-morrow.
– It was given to the honorable and learned senator.
– My honorable friend is mistaken. I wrote to him, and asked what the course of business was to be, and he courteously replied that he proposed to, adjourn until Wednesday, but he did not think that he would be able to adjourn over Friday. I met him afterwards, when he explained that probably we should sit on Friday, but resume on, Wednesday. It was for that reason that I came over here to-day.
– The Minister could not answer for that.
– I said that I was going to propose to sit on Wednesday, but that if the Senate insisted upon sitting on Friday I could not help it.
– I ayn not blaming my honorable friend. All I say is that if lie had given me a definite intimation that he was going to ask the Senate not to sit on Friday 1 should have accepted that, because, although I know the Government have little or no control over the business of the Senate or the business of the country, still I suppose that he would not give an intimation of that kind without some belief that it would be carried out. If he had done that I should not have had the pleasure of being here to-day, but he did not. I am not- blaming him at all, but when he interjected just now that I knew, I reply that it was the very thing I did not know. It is no satisfaction to me, or anyone else, to come over here from a long distance for an hour, greatly as we enjoy the ceremonial of opening Parliament, and to return in the afternoon, or else kick up our heels here to-morrow. I ask Senator Pulsford not to press the amendment. But I do say that as this is the last session of this Parliament we ought to have some information from my honorable friends the members of the Government in the Senate as to the ‘business that will be brought before us ; and we should have a promise that we shall not be brought 500 or 600 miles, or whatever the distance may be, to transact business, and then have to go away again the next day, or have an adjournment taking place at the dinner hour, instead of continuing to the ordinary hour for concluding our sittings. If my honorable friend could give an undertaking of that sort, there would be a much better attendance. I am sure that my honorable friend will, from his own long parliamentary experience, admit that it is desirable that there should be a definite programme of continuous work for the Senate to do; and I am also certain that if he adopts that course he will assist in maintaining the dignity and the importance of the Senate. Our importance has, in my opinion, simply been frittered away by the method adopted last year. With the protest which we have made against the way business has been conducted, I think that my honorable friend’s motion may be assented to.
– It is a pity that the leader of the Senate, when he moved this motion, did not intimate for whose convenience he submitted it. It seems to me that it must be either for the convenience of the intended mover and seconder of the AddressinReply or for the convenience of the Government. We on this side of the Chamber might very probably look upon the motion in a different way if the leader of the Government had simply said to us frankly, “ It is convenient from our point of view to adjourn the debate on the AddressinReply until next Wednesday.” If the Minister had said that, we should have had nothing to urge in objection to the course proposed, in spite of the personal inconvenience to ourselves. But if, on the other hand, it is a matter of the convenience of the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply, I think that the Senate may well hesitate before it decides to adjourn till Wednesday. Every one of us knows that the Address-in-Reply is to be debated in the other House to-morrow ; and it seems to me that we are drawing a very invidious distinction between the ability and readiness of the Senate and of the other House if, when it is ready to go on with business, we are not. If the other House had adjourned, we might have done so also; but, as it is going on with business, it seems to me that we ought to follow its example. I should like to say a word as to the inconvenience to which I, in common, I suppose, with most members of the Senate, have been subjected with regard to this proposed adjournment. It is quite obvious that many of us from States remote from “Victoria would not have come here to-day if we had known that after an hour’s formal business the Senate was to adjourn until next week. I certainly should not have come. I came fully believing - not having the slightest doubt, indeed - that we should, at any rate on Friday, proceed with the Address-in-Reply. I wanted to be here for that purpose. Senator Playford! gave, so far as I am aware, no intimation, to me or to any other senator from Tasmania, that there would be no work for the Senate this week, and I think that I have a fair right to make a complaint on that subject. I do not know what degree of courtesy the Minister may think is due to the members) of the Senate ; but, at any rate, if I had known that no business was to be transacted this week, it would have saved me from the necessity of spending a whole week in Melbourne, which I am now compelled to do. I hope that before this motion is put Senator Playford wall frankly tell the Senate for whose convenience we are going to adjourn. It will make a difference. If it is for the convenience of the Ministry, and he will frankly say so, I shall not support the amendment or vote against the motion. But if I am told that it is to suit the convenience of the senators who are to move and second the Address-in-Reply, I shall not vote for the motion, because I do not think there is anything to prevent those senators from proceeding to-morrow; and by going on we shall certainly save time.
.- I desire to say a word or two in reply before the motion is put, and I will be perfectly frank with those honorable senators who have asked me questions. I have been asked whether this adjournment has been moved in the interest of the senators who are to move and second the Address-in-Reply, or for the convenience of the Government. So far as I know, it is neither for the convenience of the Government, on the one hand, nor of those honorable senators on the other. I looked up the proceedings of the Senate in times gone by, and I found that when it was asked to sit on a Friday for the purpose of taking the discussion on the Address-in-Reply, it met at half-past 10, and adjourned at 11. Some senators wished to catch trains or steamers, and there was nothing done.
– Parliament was never called together on a Thursday before.
– No. We always met on a Wednesday on previous occasions, but in this case we have met on a Thursday. I had nothing to do with the fixing of the day. It was fixed by my colleagues without any consultation with me. When’ it was fixed for Thursday, I looked into the matter, and concluded that it would be useless to ask honorable senators to meet on the Friday, when in all probability so many of them would want to go away. That was the experience on previous occasions. Therefore, when the leader of the Opposition wrote to me and asked what I proposed to do, I replied that I did not propose to ask the Senate to sit on the Friday, but that I was in the hands of the Senate, and could not make a definite statement. But I took care to let the press know what I proposed to do. In Adelaide, only last Saturday, the press was informed - and communicated the information to the press of the Commonwealth - that it was not proposed to ask the Senate to sit on Friday. I saw an .announcement to that effect in the Adelaide newspapers last week. ‘ I also saw it in the Melbourne newspapers.
– The Sydney newspapers had the announcement that the Senate would adjourn until to-morrow.
– Then they were wrong.
– Why did not the Minister allow an official of the Senate to inform honorable senators what was to be done ?
– I had no right to do more than I did. It is for the Senate to say when it will meet. It is for me to propose what I think will be best under the circumstances, but the Senate decides what it- will do, irrespective of me.
– If the honorable senator had intimated that he would move such a motion many honorable senators would not have come here to-day.
– I did the best I could under the circumstances. I am always quite willing to do all I possibly can to facilitate honorable senators, and to suit their convenience, if they will only ask me what I intend to propose. Surely they will take the trouble to ask me.
– The honorable senator will never give us a definite answer.
– I do whenever I can ; but I cannot fix these things definitely. I can only say what I propose to ask the Senate to do. The fixing of such arrangements is within the province of the Senate.
– Would it be inconvenient to the Minister to go on with business to-morrow ?
– Not in the slightest degree. It was because I believed it would be merely wasting time to ask the Senate to sit to-morrow - and I arrived at that conclusion from what had been done before under similar circumstances - that I asked for an adjournment until Wednesday. As to the statement which has been made relating to keeping business before the Senate, and not bringing senators to Melbourne unless there is work to keep them continuously employed, what I have to say is this : I can never tell for certain how much time a particular piece of business will take to transact. Suppose I have a Bill down for its second reading. I assume that it will be debated after the second reading has been moved. Perhaps I guess that this will, take a short time, but to my astonishment I find that there is a long discussion upon it. Or perhaps I expect that; a long discussion will take place upon a Bill’, and it is disposed of in a few hours. How can I help that? I can never tell what the Senate will do. I can form an estimate, but I can never be certain as to whether any particular piece of business will give rise to a long or a short discussions How is it possible for me to give a definite answer to the question very properly put by Senator Millen? How- can I tell what the Senate will do? It may take up a piece of work and do it expeditiously, or it mav take a longer time than I estimate.-
– The Government have never accused us of undue expedition.
– Honorable senators opposite have never deserved it.
– There are certain Bills which .it would be convenient to introduce into the Senate, and which I would gladly introduce here if I could. But 1 cannot. The Constitution prevents me.
– When does the Government propose to bring in the Bill to amend the Tariff?
– I cannot say at the present moment. There are several Bills which it is simply impossible for me to bring before the Senate until they have been passed by the House of Representatives, because they are money Bills. There is a certain measure that was rejected by the Senate last session. I should like to re-introduce it, in order to obtain a decision upon it instead of its having to be re-introduced in the other place, discussed at, length, and then brought up to the Senate. But I cannot do that. I refer to the Bill with regard to the survey of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie.
– Surely the Government is not going on with that measure this session?
– Yes; it is in our programme. The honorable senator cannot have studied the Governor-General’s speech or he would have known that “we intend to deal with that important measure, which is of considerable interest to the State which he represents. There is another Bill which I should be happy to bring before the Senate to-morrow, if I could. I refer to the measure which the Government intend to introduce to increase the number of the Judges of the High Court. I should like to enable the Senate to say at an early date whether the Court shall be strengthened by the addition of one extra Judge or two, and whether the salaries shall be maintained as under the present Act of Parliament. But I cannot do it. The Constitution does not permit that Bill to be introduced in the Senate. We have to wait for such Bills until they have been dealt with by another place. I have every sympathy with those honorable senators who have to travel long distances, and am sorry that they should suffer any inconvenience. I will not bring them here, if I can help it, until I know that I have a fair amount of work to keep them engaged three days a week. But the question of the hour when the Senate shall adjourn, and on what days it shall Sit, is for the Senate itself to decide. It is r.ot for the members of the Government to say, except so far as they have a voice as members of the Senate.
– Why not bring forward the motion with regard to the redistribution of seats ?
– No; I think that is a matter especially affecting the other branch of the Legislature, and as such ought not be introduced here. It would he a great mistake to do so.
– We have to assent.
– Yes, but I contend that where the Senate is interested especially in a particular question, the other House should give way to our wishes, and that where the House of Representatives is specially interested, it is our duty to give way, and we certainly ought to do so in regard to a redistribution of seats, unless we have strong grounds for acting otherwise.
– Surely it is not our duty to “ give way.”
– It is our duty to give way to their special wishes in such a matter, unless we have strong grounds for taking a contrary course. Although this Chamber is not precluded by the Constitution from initiating legislation for ai redistribution of seats, I think that, above all, the motion dealing with that matter ought to be introduced in another place. I promise honorable senators to db the best I can to keep them at work when they meet again, and, if necessary, to adjourn for a week or a fortnight in preference to calling them together for, it may be, only one day’s work. If honorable senators will confer with me, and give me something like an idea as to how long they propose to speak on certain measures, I shall be able to form some opinion as to the time likely to be occupied, and in a better position to meet their wishes.
– Will the Minister for Defence kindly mention if there are any proposals in His Excellency’s speech which can be introduced in the Senate ?
– There are the two Bills of which I have (riven notice.
– But excepting those two Bills?
– T do not know at present of any other measures. I think there aire several more, but I am not acquainted with them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 June 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060607_senate_2_31/>.