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Thursday, 12 November 1914

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - Senator Stewart's remarks might lead outsiders and readers of Hansard to believe that the Senate had lost its sense of self-respect and responsibility to the constituencies in dealing with a Supply Bill in the way the Government are asking us to deal with this one. Whatever justification the honorable senator may have had on previous occasions for protesting against proceedings of this kind, he can have very little now, because the Bill came up for discussion in another place yesterday, when Parliament reassembled after a fortnight's adjournment. That was, therefore, the earliest opportunity that the Government had to introduce the measure. To-morrow (Friday) is pay day for the Public Service, as the 15th falls this month on a Sunday, and it is, therefore, necessary for Supply to be granted by Parliament to-day in time to allow payments to be made throughout the Commonwealth tomorrow. Had the Bill come to us last night before we adjourned, the Minister could have moved the first reading then. That motion could have been carried, and the second reading gone on with to-day. If, then, the Bill had passed through Committee unamended, it could have reached the report stage, and by suspending the Standing Orders the third reading could have been carried to-day, or, without that, the first thing to-morrow. If, however, that course had been followed honorable senators would have been deprived of an advantage which they now have, because under the Standing Orders a general debate is allowed on the first reading of a Supply Bill. Therefore, the action of the Government enables Senator Stewart and others if they so desire to ventilate any grievance they choose to-day.

Senator Lynch - He does not know when he is well off.

Senator KEATING - That is what I am trying to show him. The Senate has certainly lost no sense of self-respect or of responsibility in connexion with financial measures. It is not in relation to Supply Bills that this Chamber can assert its right effectively to the control of the finances. That can be done only in connexion with the general Estimates. Some years ago the Minister representing the Treasurer in this Chamber afforded the Senate an opportunity to deal with the general Estimates, and assert its control over them, by circulating the Budget-papers here on the same day as they were circulated in another place, and moving a formal motion for the printing of a paper. On that motion the whole of the Estimates were before the Senate, and as it remained on the notice-paper for a considerable time it was competent for the Senate from time to time, in intervals between other work, to continue what was practically a Budget debate. The same course might be followed this year.

Senator Pearce - It has been done every year since then.

Senator KEATING - It is a desirable practice, and I trust it will be maintained. It gives the Senate complete and effective control of the finances, and a full opportunity of discussing the whole of the general Estimates long before we are called upon to embody them in a schedule to the annual Appropriation Bill.

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