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Wednesday, 17 June 1914


Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) (Minister of Defence) .- There was one remark made by the Leader of the Opposition in submitting this motion to which I desire to direct attention. He affirmed that I had sneered at the action of the Senate in carrying the motion which it did the other day relative to the publication of certain correspondence between the Governor-General and the Government.


Senator McGregor - I thought that you sneered this evening, but it may have been Senator Oakes.


Senator Oakes - That is right; I plead guilty.


Senator MILLEN - In view of this explanation I need not pursue the matter further. Certainly nothing which I have said was intended, and I hope has not been taken, as in any way a reflection or a criticism on the action of the Senate represented by the motion to which I have referred. Whatever view I may take as to its expediency, or its desirability, is one thing; but I in no sense challenged the right of the Senate to take the action it did on that day. Having said that much, I want to make a passing reference to the extraordinary proposition put forward by Senator Pearce. I listened to it with a great deal of surprise, not unmixed with pleasure. He came forward and drew some consolation and some justification for the action taken from time to time by the Senate because the Legislative Councils of the States have done the same thing. If he is going to liken the Senate to a Legislative Council, which he clearly is doing when he draws a parallel between its action and that of this Chamber, I venture to say that he will find very little support from those who understand what the Senate is in the Federal Constitution.


Senator Pearce - What the Senate was.


Senator MILLEN - Of course tie honorable senator is doing his level best to make out that the Senate is only a Legislative Council. Because, he says, the Legislative Councils have done this thing, the Senate is entitled to do it.


Senator McGregor - If Legislative Councils have done this, how much more is it the right of the Senate to do it?


Senator MILLEN - That is not Senator Pearce's argument.


Senator McGregor - It is mine.


Senator MILLEN - No doubt Senator Pearce is under a very great debt of gratitude to Senator McGregor for trying to interpose in this way. I should like to point out that whatever value that argument had must rest on the supposition that there is a close parallel between the Senate constituted as it is and a Legislative Council. It is put forward


Senator Russell - As an illustration.


Senator MILLEN - It is put forward as a justification of what the Senate did.


Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - The critics who condemn the one support the other.


Senator MILLEN - As Senator Pearce justifies what the Senate has done because Legislative Councils have done it, I wish to remind him and the Chamber that it is not very long ago since he bitterly denounced Legislative Councils for doing what he has referred to tonight. How, then, can he draw inspiration and support from the action of the Legislative Council?


Senator Mullan - Do you compare Legislative Councils with the Senate ? You are doing now what you objected to Senator Pearce doing.


Senator MILLEN - I am doing nothing of the kind.


Senator Mullan - Of course.


Senator MILLEN - If the honorable senator likes to think so, I am not going to waste time by discussing a proposition so obvious. I have not affirmed that there is a parallel between the two bodies, but am pointing out that Senator Pearce has urged that the Senate was justified in doing what it has done because Legislative Councils have done it. Yet time and again he has denounced Legislative Councils for venturing to do what they have done, for pretending to interpose between the Government of the day speaking with the authority due to the fact that it is the representative of the majority of the people; he has denounced the Legislative Councils in no unmeasured terms, and now he comes here and says to the Senate, " You are entitled to do what you have done because those august bodies, the Legislative Councils, have done it." If there is an argument in that, it is to be followed by this one: If the Legislative Councils were wrong in what they did, and if they ought to have their powers in that direction clipped, does the honorable senator mean to say that there is some necessity for dealing with the Senate in the same fashion?


Senator Pearce - The only attack I have made on the Legislative Council was that it is a sectional House, representing only a section of the community - the propertied section.


Senator MILLEN - It is a strange thing that the honorable senator again draws inspiration from the action of a sectional House. I venture to say, much as I may differ from the action taken by the Senate, it has possibly placed it on a somewhat higher and broader level than any Legislative Council occupies.


Senator Russell - It would be interesting to hear you if the position were reversed.


Senator MILLEN - I think it is interesting to hear me on any side. Senator McGregor will not expect me, as a member of the Government, to support the action he is taking. I do not expect a very lengthy debate on this matter, but I think that honorable senators will see that it is simply impossible for any member of the Government to give assent to this motion.







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