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Friday, 30 July 1920

Mr HUGHES (Bendigo) (Prime Minister and Attorney-General) . - I move -

That on each sitting day, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of general business.

In submitting the motion, I remind honorable members of the state of the businesspaper and the position of the House. Many measures of great importance await consideration, and, although Parliament has been in session for some five months, little business has been done. I shall not animadvert upon the causes of this state of affairs, but as it is the duty of the Government to see that the business of the country is proceeded with expeditiously, I would remind the House of some of the measures that have to be dealt with. ' First of all, there is the Tariff. Some honorable members have not sat through a Tariff debate, but I am one of those who have done so. If I remember aright, the first Tariff occupied the attention of Parliament for about twelve months.

Mr Tudor - For sixteen months.

Mr HUGHES - At that time my position in regard to the Tariff was different from what it is now, and that may make some little difference in the length of the debates, but a man would be an intolerable optimist who could imagine that the Tariff could be disposed of in a short time. During a Tariff discussion the ordinary party lines are not drawn, and when I had the honour of association with my friends opposite during the last Tariff discussion, it was a common thing, for us to be hopelessly divided on various items. The circumstances in which I now find myself will prevent me from shaking a free leg, so to speak, -when the present Tariff is discussed, but every honorable member who is not a Minister will be free of party ties regarding it. Then there is finance. That is, to say the least of it, a matter that requires consideration by this Parliament. Our position is serious enough, and we should not be doing our duty to the country unless we gave to financial problems that consideration which is due. Then there is the question of the Estimates. An early opportunity to discuss them has been asked for, and a promise has been given that they shall be discussed. That promise will be fulfilled. But clearly one of the conditions precedent to the fulfilment of that or any promise is that opportunity shall be given for the despatch of public business. There is also the problem of defence. Nobody has said anything about that so far. But it is clearly one of those questions that must be faced. There is room for difference of opinion as to the scope of our defence policy, and the amount which should be expended upon it, but I think no one will deny that some policy is necessary. We shall require time to consider that matter. There is the question of the civil administration of the Pacific Islands, and the giving of effect to the mandates. In addition, there is the group of three Bills relating to industrial matters. One is already before the House, and it is to be followed by the Public Service Bill and the Bill for the amendment of the Arbitration Act. Other Bills of great importance must be brought before Parliament. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has brought under my notice a matter which, owing to the unearthly hour at which this Chamber persists in meeting on Friday, had escaped my notice. He reminds me that the business of the House cannot be effectively carried on until the seat of this Parliament is removed to Canberra. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) can argue that matter with the honorable member for Dalley ad lib. We have wasted a great deal of time. We must now make up for our lost opportunities and whilst I should be the last to say that the discussions which take place on private members' day are not interesting - they are full of interest, and yesterday was a most enjoyable day - yet they do not advance the business of the House. Therefore, I am asking honorable members to allow Government business to take precedence of private members' business. I am perfectly prepared to pledge myself and the Government to allow a week to private members' business at the close of the session. Honorable members laugh; I suppose that the contemplation of a whole week is a little too much for them. But I do say, not necessarily for publication, but as evidence of ray bona fides, that I promise honorable members an opportunity before the close of the session to deal with those private motions which now appear upon the notice-paper. Therefore, since the opportunities of honorable members to deal with such business will not be denied, but merely delayed, I ask them to agree to this motion without much discussion. I assure them that there are many measures which they and I alike agree are necessary to be dealt with. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) reminds me that next Thursday is '^Grievance Day." That is an additional reason why honorable members should vote for the motion. I shall not argue the question further. Honorable members understand the position, and I promise those who have notices of motion upon the business-paper that they shall have a week for their consideration at the end of the session.

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