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Friday, 11 November 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I desire to take advantage of this opportunity to refer to a question which I submitted to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen) yesterday in regard to the appointment of Sir Joseph Cook as High Commissioner, and his reply to the effect that there was no information to give. Again, this morning, when another place was congratulating Sir Joseph Cook on his appointment, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), who was the only Minister present at the time, informed me that the position was the same as it was yesterday. I am not making the complaint a personal one; but as a member of this Senate who contends that we have co-ordinate powers with another place and are entitled to be supplied with public information at the same time, I strongly dissent from the Minister's attitude in declining to give information on a matter of public interest when it was available in the place which makes and unmakes Governments. May I throw out a suggestion to the party opposite, and say that the time has arrived when the number of Ministers in the Senate should be more in proportion to the number of electors we represent. I realize that we have three Ministers, one of whom is usually absent, and perhaps it is unfair to complain of scant treatment, because they appear to be overworked; but it is time an alteration was made. I utter a most emphatic protest against Ministers in this Senate withholding information, or supplying misleading particulars, in regard to public matters when correct information is in possession of honorable members in another place. I am not going to complain unduly of the attitude of the Minister who was in charge at the time, although he was responsible for the refusal to answer the question I submitted this morning. The time for secrecy has passed, and I lodge my protest, trusting that Ministers will cease giving scant attention to the questions asked in this House. Ministers must realize that it is not the individual who is slighted by a refusal to answer, but the prestige of this Senate. This branch of the Legislature, except where otherwise stated in the Constitution, has powers equal to those of the other Chamber. As a senator, I shall always insist on public information being made available here at the same time as it is disclosed in another place, and if it is not, I shall do as I am now doing - utter my emphatic protest against treatment of such a character.

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