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Tuesday, 28 November 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I am sure that honorable senators are obliged to the Vice-President of the Executive Council for his extremely interesting statement. Honorable senators on this side will, in the future, as in the past, be extremely anxious to assist the Government in the despatch of business, but it requires a larger swallow than I have to accept the statement that we are expected to pass this long list of measures at the rate of something like one per day. The announcement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council was combined with something which amounts to a threat. We have been told that it is the intention of the Government to practically force these measures through at such a rate that it will be impossible for honorable senators, individually or collectively, to subject them to the consideration they call for.

Senator McGregor - Honorable senators have been considering them a long time.

Senator MILLEN - .How. long have we been considering the Northern Territory policy ?

Senator McGregor - Honorable senators have been thinking of it.

Senator MILLEN - That matter alone is one on the consideration of which we could profitably spend a fortnight.

Senator Gardiner - Go on after Christmas.

Senator MILLEN - The fact that the question of going on after Christmas arises is no fault of those on this side of the Senate, nor, so far as I know, of the rank and file on the other side, but is due entirely to the fact that the Government, after the longest recess on record., had absolutely no work to place before this Chamber when it met. Because of the incompetent manner in which the Government have managed the business, it is proposed now to compel us to swallow these thirteen measures in as many days, working long hours, so that it will be impossible to consider them properly, under the threat that if we do not complete them in the time we are to go on sitting after the Christmas week.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The Senate has adjourned less this year than in any other year.

Senator MILLEN - It has met less than in any other year. We did not meet for business until October. After we had disposed of the debate on the AddressinReply, the Government, after having had the longest recess on record, had to tell us frankly that they were not prepared to submit a. single measure for our consideration.

Senator Lynch - The same as you did.

Senator MILLEN - We never had such a recess. It is one of the distinctive features of the Labour Government that the moment they took office they went into the longest recess that their followers would allow them to take.

Senator Lynch - I have heard you from these benches justify the recess for which you asked the Senate.

Senator MILLEN - After our Government was formed, we asked for, and were entitled to, a week to develop our measures, and Senator Lynch was one of those who, if they had had their way, would have refused us even that time. This Government had twelve months, and even with the tremendous advantage of the support and assistance of Senator Needham, they were not prepared, when the session began, to bring down even a simple measure dealing with military decorations.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Did you support the adjournment for the purpose of obliging the Government?

Senator MILLEN - I will support every adjournment of the Senate when the Government tell the Senate frankly that they have no business to put before it.

Senator Lynch - Less than half-an-hour ago Senator St. Ledger described the session as a strenuous one.

Senator MILLEN - It is being made strenuous because of the incompetence that has marked the management of the business. If the Government had so prepared their measures as to have placed before us during the two or three weeks of that forced adjournment some of the proposals they now intend to bring in, there would have been no need for us to sit on Mondays, or for long hours every other day in the week. So far as the measures which are now before Parliament are concerned, the Government would appear to be justified in asking us to deal with them before there is any talk of a prorogation, because they could have been comfortably disposed of. But when they propose to bring in new measures which are highly controversial, although, according to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, they are short, either they intend by means of the Stand-, ing Orders and by. sitting unduly long hours to force them through without proper criticism or discussion, or else to put the Opposition in such a position that, by mere physical weariness, we shall be bound to let them go through. There is the proposal to allow the public servants to go before the Arbitration Court. The Minister says that is a little measure, but he knows as well as I do that it is highly controversial, and there is also a measure relating to Commonwealth stock.

Senator Pearce - After last week's experience the Opposition is apparently not capable of physical weariness.

Senator MILLEN - When inspired by a sense of duty the Opposition will not easily allow itself to be wearied.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Perhaps it would be better to adopt the method of your Government, and. apply the "gag."

Senator MILLEN - We did not apply it.

Senator Pearce - We shall get those measures through without the "gag."

Senator Needham - The honorable senator's Government applied the " gag " in the other place.

Senator MILLEN - The "gag" was passed at the instance of the Labour party. The one great achievement for which that party can take credit was the framing of the "gag" resolutions, and then they had not the courage to apply them. Another matter is the note issue. We do not know what is covered up in that measure, but, bearing in mind the general financial policy of the Government, we may reasonably assume that it will call for examination, and probably for continuous criticism. Another matter relates to naval defence. That may involve a complete reversal of policy. The Minister went on to speak of one or two other measures. If he is going to pile up a list of this kind, he is not justified in appealing to the Senate to assist him to get the business through. Let the Ministry revise that list in the light of their own practical experience as to what is a fair thing to ask Parliament to pass in the time.

Senator McColl - There is the Budget as well.

Senator MILLEN - A week would not be too much to devote to the Budget papers.

Senator Lynch - Why did you not think of that when your side were wasting the time over the Electoral Bill?

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator should be the last to say that one moment longer than was justified was occupied over that measure. If he insinuates that we were talking tor the mere purpose of obstruction, he must be a perfect babe in the art of obstruction. Senator

Gardiner would scoff at the idea of what took place last week being regarded as a " stone wall." If there had been a " stone wall" the Bill would not have been through yet. If the Government honestly wish to close the session in time to enable members of Parliament to get to their homes for Christmas, they are not justified in bringing' in measure after measure with the intimation that there will be more to come. They should retain on the list what they regard as absolutely essential, and leave to next session the less important measures which are being brought in at the last moment. If they did that, they would have a claim on us, to which I think honorable senators would readily respond, to use every effort to bring the session to a close. Such an appeal, however, falls upon prejudiced ears when coupled with the intimation that not only is this long list to be completed; but that it will probably be added to. I trust the Government will see the advisability of shortly intimating to the Senate that it is intended to drop some of the less important measures. If that assurance is given, the Government will have no reason to complain of the assistance received from this side of the Chamber.

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