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Wednesday, 17 June 1914

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) . - I second the motion. The statement is being made in interested quarters that this party is repeatedly taking business out of the hands of the Government in this Chamber. It is singular that it never struck our critics in that way until the Labour party were in a majority in the Second Chamber. Let us look at the history of the State Parliaments. The Legislative Council of Victoria does not even recognise the Government. After the Government has appointed its Minister, its members meet at the commencement of the session and choose an unofficialleader, and nothing can be done in that Chamber without his consent. The Leader of the Government in the Council must approach him to ask how the business is to be arranged, and when adjournments are to be moved. He can dictate to the Government how the business shall be brought before that body. It is the same in many other Legislative Councils in Australia. There is another point that has not been considered by our critics. It has a distinctive place in the Constitution. Is it to give up that position because it finds itself with a majority of its members in Opposition, and a minority of them on the Government benches? The Leader of the Government here has stated plainly, and without equivocation, that they have no intention of bringing business before the Chamber; he made that statement, not once, but several times. Is the Senate, elected by the adults of Australia, because a minority of seven of its members say, " We will do no business," to surrender or resign the pretence of being a legislative body? I ask our critics just to think of what the Constitution is, and the relative position of the two Houses, and to remember that the Senate has the right of originating legislation. Every private senator has the right to bring forward measures. If a private senator has promised his electors that he will bring forward Bills, there is no power in the Chamber which can prevent him from taking that course. Our very Standing Orders are so framed as to give him an opportunity of carrying out his promise to his constituents. I hope that our critics in the press and in Parliament,who so glibly talk of the Opposition taking the business out of the hands of the Government, will give the matter more consideration in the future, and remember that we are simply doing a duty in endeavouring to the best of our ability, in pursuance of the Standing Orders, to give effect to what we believe they sent us here to do. I second the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, because in doing so I believe that we are only performing our duty to the electors.

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