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Friday, 25 November 1910


Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of Executive Council) . - I move -

That this Bill bc now read a first time.

On the motion for the first reading of Bills of this description honorable senators have a right to address themselves to general questions. I, therefore, embrace this opportunity to explain the position which the Government occupy in respect of the measure. Honorable senators will recognise that, owing to this being the first session of the new Parliament, and owing to the control of business being in the hands of a new Administration, an attempt has been made to transact a large amount cf business. Indeed, everybody must acknowledge that a great deal has been accomplished. Since the -inauguration of the Federation there has been no session in which so much has been attempted and so much has been done. In the past it has been customary for the Governor-General at the opening of Parliament to come to the Senate and read the speech which had been put into his mouth by his responsible advisers - a speech in which legislation in various directions has been promised - and for us to find at the close of the session that only a very small proportion of that promised legislation has been placed upon the statute-book. But so far as the present Government are concerned, an honest attempt has been made to give legislative effect to their promises. This has necessitated strenuous effort in both Houses of the Parliament, and, as a result, the Estimates have reached us at an unusually late stage of the session. But honorable senators will recollect that about two months ago the Budget papers were laid on the table. Although very little opportunity has been offered for discussing the Budget


Senator Givens - Absolutely none.


Senator McGREGOR - But the fact remains that yesterday, when an opportunity was offered, no honorable senators desired to say a single word upon the subject. The motion for the printing of the papers was carried without discussion.


Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - Of what value would such a discussion have been?


Senator McGREGOR - It would have been of -as much value then as it is now. Nobody can deny that an opportunity was afforded honorable senators to 'debate the Budget. But that opportunity was respectfully declined, and, as a consequence, the sitting of the Senate had to be suspended until 8 o'clock last evening, and then we had to adjourn.


Senator St Ledger - The Government were like the foolish virgins - they were too late.


Senator McGREGOR - And the honorable senator, who might be classed with those respectable individuals, had no oil in his lamp. But, be that as it may, we now find that if we desire to close the session to-day we shall have to exhibit an almost miraculous agility.


Senator Millen - The Vice-President of the Executive Council means that we shall have to shirk our duty.


Senator McGREGOR - I do not think it is fair to deprive any honorable senator of his rights. Therefore, if honorable senators opposite wish to prolong the session, not only beyond the ordinary hour for adjourning this afternoon, but beyond this evening, or even to next week, I shall utter no word of complaint. Every honorable senator is perfectly justified in adopting whatever course of action he may think fit. But if there be any item in these Estimates which honorable senators desire to vote against, those items need not be discussed at undue length. A vote can be" taken upon them without delay. On the other hand, if there be no intention to eliminate from this Bill any of the items which it contains, would it not be an unnecessary display of fireworks to debate them exhaustively ? When the Budget papers were laid on the table of the Senate some two months ago, I made a statement indicative of the attitude of the Government, which I considered was quite sufficient. To-day I shall not occupy more time than is necessary to point out the position in which the Government and the Parliament find themselves. In this Bill honorable senators are asked to vote what is apparently a large sum of money for carrying on the necessary work of administration throughout the Commonwealth. I say that they are asked to vote what is apparently a very large sum, the total amount being ^16,841,000.


Senator Millen - In addition to the amount which is involved in the Supplementary Estimates.


Senator McGREGOR - But I am not dealing with the Supplementary Estimates at the present time. Owing to legislation which has been enacted by Parliament, those Supplementary Estimates are absolutely necessary, and I hope that sufficient explanation of them will be forthcoming to justify honorable senators in voting for them without lengthy discussion. I repeat that what is apparently a large sum is involved in the Bill which we are now considering. But we have to recollect that a large portion of that amount has already been expended under the authority of the temporary Supply Bills which Have been passed. Consequently, the sum of £6,094,906 094,906 involved in this measure is not such a serious item after all. Honorable senators may have observed that even the financial journals of Great Britain have taken notice of the large sum which the Commonwealth proposes to expend during the current year. I am very glad to know that the High Commissioner has- put the correct view before the people of that country. He has pointed out to those journals that legislation has been enacted which involves a very large expenditure in regard to old-age pensions, defence, and other matters,* and that very little, if any, of the amount of ^16,841,000 is being expended upon socalled wild-cat socialistic schemes. It is all being spent for the solid development of the Commonwealth. When honorable senators come to Seriously consider the amounts which are required by each Department - and any. inquiries which they may put will be replied to by Ministers to the best of their ability - they will recognise that we ought to be able to dispose of the remaining work of the session in time to permit of the representatives of distant States returning to their homes by the afternoon trains.







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