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Wednesday, 17 June 1914

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) . - I share with Senator Millen the desire that the Governor-General should not be made a storm centre in this fight, but probably from a very different motive. I do not wish him to be made a storm centre, because the electors do not appoint him, and we want the storm centre to come about the ears of those who are responsible for the present situation - the Government themselves. I differ from Senator Millen when he says that this action of the Senate will bring the GovernorGeneral into the conflict. The honorable senator's acute mind is working a little too quickly. This action of ours was made certain when the Government refused to place the papers on the tables of the two Houses. If the Government refuse to make the correspondence public, as has been done in all. other cases when it has been asked lor, they must take the responsibility of compelling this Chamber to go further. There are two parties to this action - the Government and the Governor-General. The GovernorGeneral is acting constitutionally when he takes the advice of hia responsible advisers, but the House has a right to know what advice was given tohim. So far, we have not been given a full statement of the matter, and we have a right to ask what reasons were given to him for putting section 57 of the Constitution into operation. We advance the further claim that, not only the House, but the people, are interested in the question. The Constitution is an instrument forged by them, and adopted by them for a deliberate purpose. They are now told that it has been found unworkable, that a state of deadlock has been created, and that a drastic and revolutionary course has been adopted under one of the sections of the Constitution in order to make it workable. That being told to the people, the reasons for which that section has been brought into operation are all important. Those reasons may disclose the necessity for an amendment of the section. Iti is quite possible that, if they were tabled, the people would say, " When we forged that weapon, we did not expect or intend it to have that effect, and some amendment of it has been shown to be necessary." Looking at the matter in that light, we see how enormously important it is that the reasons which the Government have put forward, and any conditions which the Governor-General attached to his reply, should be made public. For all we know, he may have attached a condition. If so, have we not a right to know it? Have not the people a right to know it? Will it not be all important to Constitution makers of the future ? Will it not be important when we come to consider the question of recasting or remoulding the Constitution? Yet the people are to be denied it; the Parliament is to be denied it. They are to grope in the dark, and not to know what the Government had in their minds when they took this course, or what His Majesty's representative had in his mind when he accepted the advice tendered to him. The responsibility for this action lies at the door of the Government for refusing to disclose their reasons, and it is they who can now be charged with having shifted the storm centre from themselves on to the shoulders of the Governor-General. They can take the responsibility off the GovernorGeneral to-night by simply tabling their reasons. If they wish, however, to escape the responsibility, they can shelter themselves behind the Governor-General. They can throw on him the responsibility of giving a refusal or consent to this Address.

But our duty to this Parliament, to the Constitution, and to the electors is plain. It is to use every legitimate means to see that the people know why section 57 was put into operation on account of the measure through which the so-called dead-lock was created, the reasons given for it, and any condition or qualification which the Governor-General made when he agreed to put the section into operation.

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