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Wednesday, 23 November 1921


Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - 'This proposal by the Government is in the nature of an afterthought. It thinks that its opinion should have another chance, although it was not substantially backed on the last occasion. This action by the Government is highly reprehensible. The Senate deliberately made up its mind, and whether the majority was substantial or slender, there is no earthly reason why the Government, having been in a minority, should now look for a chance to vindicate itself. We are told thatother items will be recommitted. I take it that the reason will be similar in those instances. Having been beaten by a small majority, the Government wants to have a second try. What about those of us of a contrary view who were also beaten by a small majority? Are we to be given no chance ofreversing slender majorities? I hope the Government is not taking advantage of the exceptional position of some members of this Committee to try to carry its point. I pointed out plainly when the item was last before the Committee that to reduce the duty from 52s. to 44s., while it might create an anomaly, would do some ' good if it would assist in arresting the insane tendency to put on duties in an indiscriminate and unwarrantable fashion. Now the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) tells the Senate that its mind was not properly made up. I say it was, but the trouble was that it did not make up its mind equally well on other items. The Government, on the whole, has, I think, done a remarkable and unworthy disservice to the Senate. It wants this Chamber to be the subservient tool of the other Chamber right through the piece. No wonder that the press, at the present time, and particularly the press in the city of Melbourne, is giving expression to opinions that are anything but complimentary to this Chamber.


Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You cannot say the press is over fulsome in its compliments of the other House.


Senator LYNCH - Judging by the action of the Government in this Chamber, it has no time for the Senate. On every' item of the Tariff the stereotyped proposal of the Minister has been, " That the request be not pressed." If the Senate is going to lie down tamely, and say it will not press its requests, the finger of Fate is writing the doom of the Senate, and t-he Government is helping it. We received from another place a Tariff schedule containing some 800 items, and we disagreed with another place on about ninety of them. The House of Representatives accepted some fifty trifling requests which we made, and refused to accept the balance of about forty. The Government now tell us that in respect of every one of those we should go back on our tracks and accept what has been proposed by another place. I say advisedly that, in the interests of the good government of the country,' the maintenance of the constitutional position of the Senate, and the preservation of the selfrespect of individual senators, I hope the Committee will take a firm stand and will tell the Minister on this occasion that, they .will not accept his advice. For my part I shall be prepared to waltz out of public life quick and lively if the dignity of the Senate is not to be maintained. I am not wedded, thank God, to this particular occupation. As one who took some part in the Federal movement in this country, and who represents a State that has made some sacrifices for Federation; that has been deservedly described as a loyal State, and which includes within its boundaries, I suppose, the cream of the population of this country-

Honorable Senators. - Oh, oh!


Senator LYNCH - That is not said by the people of Western Australia, but is conceded to them by the people of other States. I say, as a representative of the western State, that we should not do anything to aid the insidious and interested onslaughts which have been made upon this Chamber. The representatives of the Government in the

Senate bow the knee every time, and will do nothing to vindicate the dignity of the Senate. It is up to honorable senators now to say whether or not this Chamber has outlived its usefulness, and whether or not they will assert its independence. I will not follow the Minister, and if other honorable senators do so, they will be justifying the cry that the Senate has outlived its usefulness. I have endeavoured to remodel the Tariff as we received it, on lines laid down in the pronouncement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) when he was asking for the votes of the people of this country. Honorable senators can read his speech for themselves, and they will find that it is studded with frequent and sympathetic references to the producers of Australia. Still the right honorable gentleman has submitted a Tariff which gives unwarranted and unasked for concessions time and again to the manufacturers of this country, at the expense of crushing burdens upon the producers.

We are now being asked in connexion, with matters of comparatively trifling importance to say that we are sorry for the requests we made, and that we are prepared to bow the knee to another place I hope that honorable senators will take stock of the position, and will not justify those who are claiming that the Senate is no longer worthy of the respect and esteem which it once enjoyed. If ft is to be but an echo of another place, let that be understood. If we are to say "ditto" to everything that is said in another place, let that be understood, too, and let the Senate go out of existence peacefully and painlessly. I am prepared for it and willing if that is the course decided upon. But if we desire to have a strong Senate, such as is established in other parts of the world, and particularly in. the United States of America, we should stand firmly by our constitutional position: We should plant our feet on solid ground and say here and now that we have a mind of our own. At the instance of the Government honorable senators have been continually asked to say, during the consideration of the Tariff, that we have no mind of our own, and that the Senate is merely an echo of the other Chamber. If that be so,- then we have indeed outlived our usefulness. If other honorable senators are prepared to say that, then I am not. It is their funeral and not mine. If honorable senators will join in the act of self-abnegation suggested to them, and the Senate is in consequence lowered in the estimation of the public, the responsibility will be theirs. We can here make some semblance of a stand to indicate that the Senate is the Senate still; that it has an opinion of its own, and is not but a pale reflex of the other Chamber. The Senate at one time was worthy of its name by virtue of the inherent qualities it possessed. In the United States of America the Senate has exhibited its independence to the world, and the Senate of the Commonwealth Parliament should do the same and should not aid its enemies, who are everywhere trying to bring it down in public esteem, and trying to abolish it.







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