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Thursday, 12 November 1914
Page: 511

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I wish to know whether there is any special urgency in connexion with this measure.

Senator Keating - To-morrow is payday.

Senator STEWART - Then the Bill should have been introduced earlier. I have had occasion, a number of times, to protest against the unseemly way in which Supply Bills are passed in this Chamber. I have said, time and again, that Parliament has completelylost control of the financial administration of the country. As representatives of the people, we simply have no hold whatever upon it. That is a position of affairs which, if honorable senators had any sense of their own responsibilities, would not be allowed to continue for a single instant. I do not say that, in this respect, the present Government are any worse than were tha last Government, or than will be the next Government. Governments, assuming to be infallible, desire ,as little criticism of their financial operations as possible, but members of Parliament should see that the community gets fair play. The present occasion is one on which, there ought to be the very keenest scrutiny into our public expenditure, which, in the common phrase, is going up by leaps and bounds, while we are faced with a falling revenue. At a time like this it is imperative that members of the Senate, who are charged with certain responsibilities to the people, should be extremely careful in scrutinizing every item of expenditure. We ought to have time to look into the expenditure proposed in the Supply Bill. I have not seen it yet.

Senator Pearce - It is based on last year's expenditure.

Senator STEWART - That is a tale which has been told a hundred times.

Senator Pearce - It is none the less true.

Senator STEWART - The house is built on a foundation which was laid a hundred years ago, but the plan of the house may be altogether different from the original plan. Our present expenditure may be based on last year's expenditure, but it will be much greater in amount, and some of it will be of a very different character. Whatever it is, the outlook is so bad from almost every point of view that we have need to be extremely careful. We should approach this question with deliberation, instead of which the Government invite us to suspend all the rules of Parliament.

Senator Millen - In order that we may deliberate on this very question.

Senator STEWART - In order that we may pass the measure through as quickly as possible; and in this connexion despatch means lack of consideration. We should have time to consider and deliberate. The rules which have been laid down by Parliament as the outcome of the experience of centuries have been framed with the object of giving every possible opportunity to sift and examine every question that comes before Parliament. They should be strictly adhered to. I object to the suspension of the Standing Orders. I took up that position when I first entered Parliament nearly twenty years ago. I have hitherto found my opposition altogether useless. I might as well have attempted to stand before a cyclone as to attempt individually to stem this kind of thing. But I have come to the conclusion that things ought to be differently arranged; that honorable senators should have some sense of. self-respect and of their responsibility to their constituents; a responsibility which they ought in no circumstances to attempt to evade. What consideration can we give this Supply Bill if we suspend all the Standing Orders? At the close of the session we shall be in the position that millions of pounds will have been voted away without any examination whatever. The public money will have been dealt with as if it were so much sand. I register my protest against the suspension of the Standing Orders.

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