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Wednesday, 17 June 1914

Senator MULLAN (Queensland) . - I rise to say a few words in connexion with the uncalled for remarks of Senator Millen in his criticism of the proposal of the Opposition. Perhaps I had better say nothing strong, but at least it was most unfair for Senator Millen to say that the Labour party by their action seek to drag the Governor-General into the dispute, and to make him the " storm centre " of the coming fight.

Senator Oakes - They were well chosen words.

Senator MULLAN - Nothing could be further from the mind or desires of the members of the Labour party. If any party is responsible for the GovernorGeneral being the storm centre it is the Government party. Did not the members of the Government party, through their leading politicians and their scurrilous press, try from the moment the test Bills were mentioned to induce the people of Australia to believe that a double dissolution would be granted ? From their platforms, and in their press, they made no secret of their anticipation of what the Governor-General would do.

Senator Long - It was more instruction than criticism.

Senator MULLAN - As Senator Long has said, they practically instructed the Governor-General from their platforms, and through their press, that they expected him to grant a dissolution of both Houses. They went further, and when Lord Denman resigned, it was openly stated in the Conservative press, of Queensland, at all events, that a change was desired, inasmuch as Lord Denman was, to some extent, compromised by his previous association with a Labour Cabinet. What did that mean if it did not mean that these men desired, if they could do it - I do not say that they could - to exercise influence upon the present Governor-General. If Mr. Cook did not wish to drag the Governor-General into the arena of politics, he would not have made the meagre statement which he did make to the House of Representatives when telling the members of that House that he had the double dissolution in his pocket. The statement he made on that important occasion was so meagre that he was obliged himself to admit that he was wrong. That is proved by the fact that a few days later he had to amplify the statement, and instruct the representative of the Government in the Senate to make the fuller statement here. In the very near' future, the public of Australia will be called upon to decide grave issues. The Government and the Opposition will be placed on their trial, and the people should be given an opportunity to record their verdict. A very important feature of the trial will be the evidence on which the people will be called upon to decide, and a most important portion of that evidence is to be kept from the people if the Government refuse to let them know the reasons which they submitted to the GovernorGeneral in asking for a double dissolution, and the full text of His Excellency's reply. It is quite possible that the Government deliberately set themselves out to mislead the Governor-General in order that they might succeed in the object they had in view, and secure a double dissolution. This would not be the first time that such a thing was done in the history of Australia. In 1877, the

Fysh Ministry, on being defeated in Tasmania, went to the then Governor, Sir Frederick Weld, and asked for a double dissolution.' A big rumpus was raised over the dissolution, which he granted, and eventually a memorandum setting forth the reasons upon which he acted was placed before the Tasmanian Parliament, and the House gave it as its opinion that the statements upon which the dissolution was founded were inaccurate, and that consequently the dissolution was entirely wrong. It is quite conceivable that the present Government have done likewise - that they have misled the GovernorGeneral. This is a very serious situation. The decision of His Excellency to grant a double dissolution transcends in importance any interpretation which has yet been given to the Constitution, even by the High Court. The rights of all the smaller States have been swept away - rights which were guaranteed as a special inducement to them to enter the Federation, and without which they would never have entered it. The status of the Senate has been lowered, and the whole Federal character of our Constitution has been changed by that decision.

Senator Rae - Destroyed.

Senator MULLAN - Exactly. Is it not right, therefore, that we should be made acquainted with the reasons why this great change has been brought about ? The people will have to approve or disapprove of the advice tendered by the Government to His Excellency, and they should be afforded an opportunity of arriving at a decision upon it. They cannot do that if the evidence is withheld from them. The Ministry must be ashamed of the advice which they tendered to the Governor-General, or they would not be afraid to let the people know exactly what it was. I submit that government should not be carried on in this Star Chamber fashion. To-day, thanks to the Labour party, the very humblest citizen at the forthcoming election will have an opportunity to express his view upon this issue. But in order that a just decision may be arrived at, the reasons presented to the GovernorGeneral in favour of a double dissolution should be made public. If the Government desire to release His Excellency from this dispute, they have it in their power to do so. The Leader of the Opposition will have no objection to with- drawing the Address if ths Minister of Defence will release the GovernorGeneral from his present position by offering to place the whole correspondence between the Government and His Majesty's representative on the table of the Senate.

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