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Wednesday, 15 April 1914

1.   On account of health and other private reasons, I have felt obliged to resign the office of Governor-General of the Commonwealth before the expiration of the full period for which I was appointed. This will be the last occasion, therefore, on which I shall be privileged to call you to your high and responsible duties.

My stay in Australia has been a most pleasant and useful one to me, and I would fain hope it may have been of some slight service to Australia. My relations with both Governments and people have been of the happiest kind, and Lady Denman and I shall leave Australia with feelings of the deepest regret.

2.   The exigencies of public affairs have caused me to summon you to resume your deliberations earlier than usual. My Advisers consider that under existing circumstances a prolonged recess is not advisable, and that Parliament should be given an early opportunity of considering the best means of expediting the despatch of urgent public business.

3.   During the first session of this Parliament, my Ministers, for reasons which they advise me were beyond their control, were unable to pass legislation on many subjects outlined in their policy statement presented to you on 12th August last. Those subjects comprised Bills dealing with the prohibition of preference or favoritism in Government employment, and the restoration of the electoral provisions for voting by post.

4.   These measures failed to pass, and it is intended to make a further effort to pass them in the short session now commencing.

5.   The report of the Conference of the Premiers of the States with my Ministers will be submitted to you, embracing full information as to the conclusions arrived at.

6.   The question of the transfer of the State debts has engaged the consideration of my Ministers, in conference with the Premiers, and the matter is to be further discussed at an early meeting of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurers of the States. It is expected that a satisfactory arrangement will be arrived at.

7.   My Advisers have, in conference with the State Premiers, undertaken to bring before Parliament at an early date certain measures to give effect to agreements there arrived at, and accordingly a Bill will be presented for abolishing the dual control of the savings of the people existing at present, and making such arrangements with the State Governments as will greatly strengthen the Commonwealth Bank, increasing its resources, and enabling it to be of immense service to the people of the Commonwealth in connexion with the management of their debts, and, it is hoped, new loan negotiations.

8.   My Advisers submitted to the Premiers' Conference a proposal for the establishment of a uniform railway gauge throughout the Commonwealth, and suggested that the question be referred to the Inter-State Commission for examination and report. This was agreed to.

My Advisers are confident that a workable scheme for carrying out and financing this desirable object will result from its deliberations.

9.   A Bill will also be introduced to give effect to an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, for the future use and control of the waters of the River Murray and its tributaries for irrigation and navigation, and to reconcile the interests of the Commonwealth and the riparian States mentioned.

10.   My Advisers hope to place before you a proposal for co-operation of the Commonwealth with the States with regard to immigration.

11.   A Bill will -be introduced giving additional powers of control over combines affecting, or likely to affect, injuriously the trade and commerce of Australia.

12.   It is intended later in the year to bring forward proposals for meeting the financial issues which will then claim the serious attention of both Houses.

13.   The Inter-State Commission is engaged considering the Tariff question. My Ministers look forward with great hope to the labours of the Commission in regard to this important and difficul* matter.

14.   The defence schemes are both progressing satisfactorily. The InspectorGeneral of the Oversea Forces is completing an inspection of all sections of the Military Forces, and his report will be shortly available.

The construction of Naval Bases is proceeding on lines laid down by Admiral Henderson, and, pending receipt of the final report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice regarding Cockburn Sound, it is intended to proceed with such preliminary work as is justified by the information already available.

15.   The report of the Commission on the Northern Territory has been received, and comprehensive proposals for its development have been prepared which, together with the report, will be laid before you. The permanent survey of the rail- way route from Katherine to Pine Creek, and trial surveys from Oodnadatta to the Katherine -River and to the Queensland border have been completed.

16.   The construction of the TransAustralian railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie is progressing; 150 miles have already been laid, and as sufficient rollingstock is now to hand, much greater progress is assured.

17.   I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties, in the earnest hope that, under Divine guidance, your deliberations may further the welfare of the people of Australia.

HisExcellency the GovernorGeneral having retired,

The President took the chair at 2.52 p.m., and read . prayers.

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