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Friday, 13 October 1911

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - It would be an insult to the intelligence of honorable senators to expect them to believe - despite the statement of the Minister of Defence - that this Bill -could not have been brought forward last Wednesday. The Minister has failed to give anything like an adequate explanation of the reason for the delay which has occurred. But I would point out that in connexion with- this Bill there is a much larger question at issue. It must be abundantly .evident to everybody that the Senate has no control whatever over the financial policy of the Government. That has been a feature of the administration, not only of this Government, but of all past Governments. It is now the middle of October, and it will be well into November before we shall have an opportunity -of critically examining the position revealed by the Treasurer's Budget. It is a maxim which has long been established by experience that finance is government, and government is finance. How cak the Senate at this late stage of the year discuss critically and exhaustively the financial policy of the Government as contrasted with that of other Governments, and from the stand-point of the urgent necessities of the Commonwealth - that is to say, of the enormous expenditure to which we are committed? For this reason I say emphatically that the Standing Orders should not be suspended.

Senator Givens - The longer the honorable senator continues talking on the motion the shorter will be the time at our disposal to discuss the details of the Bill.

Senator ST LEDGER - I know that -every word which I utter is delaying the payment of salaries to our public servants who have earned them. But this ad misericordiam appeal is always made in connexion with Supply Bills. On the present occasion there is absolutely no excuse for it. It is perfectly plain from the statement of the Minister of Defence that this measure could have been introduced very much earlier. But the practice is becoming more intensified every year of transmitting Supply Bills to this Chamber under -circumstances which prevent us from exercising any control whatever over the financial policy of the Government. If we could successfully resist the suspension of the Standing Orders on the present occasion we have ample justification for adopting that course, and I, for one, will willingly support it.

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