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Thursday, 4 June 1914

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) (Minister of Defence) .- May I, before addressing myself to this measure, state, in reference to what has just transpired, that, although such a course appeal's to be unnecessary, it was intimated by myself last night that every facility would be given to Senator McGregor to approach the Constitution Alteration Bills to-day at the earliest possible moment. With regard to the six measures, I am sure that the Senate will appreciate the course taken by the honorable senator in suggesting that those who address themselves to the first. Bill should be at liberty to speak as to the provisions of the remaining five measures. That course was adopted previously, when these old friends were before the Senate, and I am sure that honorable senators will recognise that the measures overlap, or are intertwined, to such an extent, that it is hardly possible for one to allude to the provisions of one Bill without actually violating the Standing Orders. Therefore, on the score of both convenience and brevity, I think that the course suggested by Senator McGregor is one to be commended.

Senator Russell - Did you say that the proposals are inseparable?

Senator MILLEN - No; but I do say that when we come to deal with constitutional amendments of this kind, some of them have such a great bearing on others that it is a considerable convenience, at any rate, to an ordinary man like myself, to be free to discuss them as a whole, and not to necessarily keep within the four corners of any one proposal. When I moved the adjournment of the debate last night, I had it in contemplation to follow the brief, but still explanatory, speech of the Leader of the Opposition, and to deal with some of the more important problems which arise from the re-presentation of the measures. But, on reflection, I have come to the conclusion that such a course is unnecessary. These proposals have been twice before the Senate, and on two occasions have been submitted to the people by referendum. In these circumstances, I cannot help feeling that no good purpose is to be obtained by further examination as to their provisions, or by argument as to what they mean or what their effect will be.

Senator Stewart - You give them up.

Senator MILLEN - I gave my honorable friend up as a bad job long ago ; but I think that he, hardened as he is in the ways of the political evildoer, will agree with me that further discussion is not at all necessary in a Chamber composed as the Senate is, where most of the members are old parliamentarians, and even those who have only recently made an appearance here have taken an active part in Federal politics outside. I assume that most of us were present on a platform when these proposals were being submitted for the popular verdict.

Senator Mullan - It will be a case of " no appearance " for the defendant.

Senator MILLEN - If the honorable senator likes to put the matter in that way, he is at perfect liberty to do so ; but I venture to think that those who know mc a little better than he does would assume, with some degree of confidence, that if I were so disposed I should have no great difficulty in occupying the rest of the afternoon in discussing the measures. I do not propose to do so. I put it as a practical proposition to my fellow senators, who are all thoroughly seized with these proposals.

We have all taken part in the conflicts that have raged round them, and I presume that these questions will be. heard of again when we next make our appeal to the constituencies. If I thought the slightest good was to be obtained either inside or outside the House by a further examination of these provisions, I should feel it my duty to make it, but I cannot think that any good would result. I therefore do not propose to examine this or the other five measures, and will merely indicate the attitude the Government intend to take up regarding them. I am sure Senator McGregor never anticipated when he put them forward that the Government would receive them with any cordiality. His attitude towards them remains unchanged, and so does that of the Government.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - Has not the Government some proposals for the alteration of the Constitution?

Senator MILLEN - We have, but they are not these.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - What are they ? We have not seen anything of them

Senator MILLEN - If certain honorable members elsewhere had not taken so long to express a little matter, the Government would probably have presented their proposals in this regard earlier.

Senator de Largie - Why not present them here when we have lots of time?

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - And where we are so prompt in disposing of them.

Senator MILLEN - Probably that is one reason why the Government did not present them here. I cannot be expected to accept these measures now any more than I did on a previous occasion. I therefore think it right to inform the Opposition that the Government will certainly not make any facilities for their passage into law.

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