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Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - In the first place, I offer my congratulations to the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, who made a very happy beginning. I wish them good health in the future for the arduous duties which attend them as representatives of the people. I also cougratulate the new Ministers. Some old hands have come back, but there are changes in the Ministry. Ministers have my hearty good wishes in their laborious undertakings of the immediate future, and I hope that they will be given that measure of strength which will enable them to properly discharge their duties to this great country; I find that there are now, including the Honorary Ministers, eleven members of the Cabinet, which is one more than has been customary. When, some years ago, the Ministry was increased to ten, the present Prime Minister accused the party to which I belong of having done something reprehensible, and said -

What is more important in this matter is that the Ministry are ten in number. If that sort of thing were to continue, it would be possible to suborn Parliament. If an indefinite number of Honorary Ministers is to be up- 5 jointed to suit a peculiar position, then this Parliament should seriously take the matter into consideration.

Mr Fisher - I am against Honorary Ministers altogether.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Then why has the Prime Minister increased the number of Honorary Ministers?

Mr Fisher - The Constitution fixes the remuneration of the Ministry, but does not limit the number of Ministers.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The conditions obtain now that obtained when the

Ministry was increased to ten. I presume that there i3 a peculiar position in> this case. If reports be true, there was? i very peculiar position in the Caucus - J was going to say Cabinet, and I might, as well have done so, because the Caucusis the real Cabinet - and that was thereason for the increase in the number of Honorary Ministers. It was decided,, we have been told, as a way out of a difficulty, that the members: who now fill the positions of Assistant Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Trade and Customs should both be elected to the Cabinet, and, therefore, the number of Ministers was increased.

The position of the honorable member for Bass is a peculiar one, too. We were told by the Governor-General's Speech that it is proposed to make him the Finance Member of the Navy Board. I have not the slightest objection to the appointment. I believe that my colleague, the late Minister of Defence, had! it in contemplation to appoint a member of Parliament to that position. My criticism is this : The Navy Board is only a baby Board. It is constituted of three officials, and by adding two Cabinet Ministers, you are going dangerously near tomaking it a political Board, which we should strive to the utmost to avoid. I think that the Government ought to> divide the duties in the Defence Department. The work is sufficiently heavy to┬╗ justify the creation of another portfolio. The control of our land forces alone is> enough for one Minister. Instead of having two Ministers on the Navy Board, there should be only one, but he should be a responsible Minister, performing, for the present, duties for some other Department, in addition . to his work in connexion with the' Navy. I could name a Department, which he could relieve considerably. That arrangement would be a better one than to have two Cabinet Ministers oil the Navy Board, making the political representation nearly equal to the official, and more than equal to itin authority. I offer this criticism* in no factious spirit. What I have to say regarding functional responsibilities will be said without a tinge of party feeling; we can differ on these matters without loss of good feeling.

There is another matter I should like to refer to. Reference is made in the Speech to the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament. May I say at once that I do not intend to occupy the time of the House very long to-day ? Somehow I do not feel in fighting mood just now. I should have been better pleased if the programme had been of a non-party character, but the Speech, as I view it, is a challenge to the worst party feelings of the House. I venture to say that without the slightest hesitation. I should have been very much better pleased if a programme had been submitted which could have been carried through in a short space of time, so that we could have freed Ministers to attend to the high and responsible duties which the war has imposed upon them. First of all, let me refer to the double dissolution* not to argue it, but to make a criticism with reference to the papers laid on the table by my right honorable friend. He, with a great flourish of trumpets, and to the accompaniment of the plaudits of members on his own side of the Bouse, laid on the table the correspondence between the late Government and the Governor-General. I have not the slightest objection to the papers being laid on the table.

Mr J H Catts - You did have a very serious objection.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member thinks he knows a great deal, but ihe does not know very much, and that is why he is so confident about all these matters.

Mr J H Catts - You were dead against these papers being produced.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I would suggest that the honorable member should go and tell the barber something, and hold his tongue, if he can. I desire to know what is in contemplation in regard to these papers. There must have been some reason for laying them on the table of the House in this dramatic fashion. I know they were demanded by honorable members behind my right honorable friend. I know that he had to produce them, in obedience to his party ; and I know that during the election great party capital was made out of these things, and all kinds of slanderous abuse was heaped on myself and the GovernorGeneral - even His Excellency was not spared. Now that honorable members have the papers, what do they think of them 1 I should like to know what they are going to do about them. Is the GovernorGeneral to be sent Home ?

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