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Tuesday, 31 July 1906

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I am very much astonished at the attitude taken up by Ministers. The Minister of Trade and Customs decidedly left the impression on honorable members' minds that he would provide the information on which he had based the Bill, so that we might discuss it, not at one stage, but at every stage.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I call attention to the want of a quorum. \Quotum formed.}

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When interrupted by the call for a quorum, I was saying that it was distinctly understood by honorable members on this side that the figures which the Minister of Trade and

* Customs did not put forward in full, but merely alluded to as his ground for introducing a measure of this character, would be placed in the -hands of honorable members before they were called upon to continue the debate. Had it not been for that understanding. I am sure honorable members in all parts of the House would have insisted on the Minister giving the figures in full. The Minister said that the figures contained important information which it had taken twelve months to gather, and which had induced him to introduce the Bill. Not only so, but it was suggested by honorable members on this side that, in order that the information might be available in time, it should not be handed to Hansard, but should be printed as a separate document. We now find ourselves called upon to discuss the Bill ; and to that I should not have objected in the least had the promise been fulfilled. We are asked to resume the debate without the information which is the basis of the measure, and which the Minister promised to supply. I cannot believe that if the Minister were here, he, knowing what took place on Friday, would not recognise the position at once. It cannot be said to be the fault of honorable members that delay has taken place in the printing of the documents. So much was I satisfied with the Minister's promise, that, like the deputy-leader of the. Opposition', I have waited for the information before coming to any conclusion on the Bill. At the present moment, not only have we not the necessary information, but we have not our own figures prepared, because we have been waiting for what the Minister had to place before us, naturally anticipating that he would have figures from the best source to enable us to con'sider a measure of the kind. I hope that the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, will see the desirability of carrying out the understanding arrived at, and not insist on a second reading debate in which, while considering the necessity for the Bill, we have to deal, not with its details, but with its methods.

Mr Deakin - With the principle of the measure.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not merely with the principle of bonuses ; because, whether an honorable member is, or is not, in favour of bounties or bonuses as a principle, he must consider whether the Bill proposed deals with items that require a bounty - which will most benefit by a bounty - or whether there are included items which are not deserving, or which should come second when such a question is being considered. That is the information we anticipated obtaining from the figures referred to by the Minister. It looks to me like taking advantage of honorable members to promise such figures and then fail to supply them. Had the Minister not made that promise we should doubtless have required the figures to be quoted, in order to satisfy us as to the desirability or otherwise of the Bill. I am prepared to resume the debate in a sort of way without the figures, but I am sure every honorable member will admit that, with the information available, he would be in a much better position to consider the question.

Mr Deakin - If I may interpose for a moment, without interfering in any way with the right of the honorable member for North Sydney to speak further, I should like to say that, although personally I heard my honorable colleague during the greater part of his speech, I did not hear the undertaking mentioned. But since honorable members press the meaning they attached to the remarks of the Minister of Trade and Customs, I suggest that, as the next measure to be proceeded with is not immediately available, you, sir, under the extraordinary circumstances of to-day, might see your way, with the consent of the House, to leave the chair, and resume it at the usual hour after dinner. Such a course would relieve the honorable member for North Sydney from speaking on the measure before he is prepared to do so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should also like to interpose-

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