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Thursday, 12 August 1926

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) whether it is his intention to endeavour to dispose of the Appropriation Bill to-night, and also to pass certain other measures which, I understand, are still to come from another place. I think this is about the fifth occasion on which we have assembled to-day in anticipation of the receipt from another place of the Appropriation Bill. I do not think it right that this branch of the legislature should be asked to make such an unseemly rush as is evidently proposed, and be expected to dispose of the bill between now and perhaps 3 o'clock to-morrow morning, without having the opportunity to give it proper consideration. It is unreasonable to ask the Senate to pass the bill to-night. If we made reasonable progress, we could adjourn at about the usual hour, and thus allow honorable senators to reach their homes. It was at first expected that the present sittings would terminate some time to-day, and that members of both Houses would be able to leave for their respective States this afternoon. As that is now impossible, perhaps the right honorable gentleman will display a little reason, and arrange for the Senate to meet at 10 o'clock to-morrow morning. All the business could then be disposed of in time to allow members to catch their trams. Honorable senators on this side of the Chamber will assist the Government to transact all the business that it has to bring before Parliament during the present sittings. With all due respect to honorable members of another place, I think they are prone to forget that there is a Senate. Once they have disposed of certain measures they believe that that is the end, and that we are their slavish followers.

Senator Pearce - We have had a fairly full discussion of the budget since the 8th July.

Senator NEEDHAM - I do not admit that. There are many details of departmental expenditure to be reviewed, and that opportunity is not afforded until the bill is in committee. Having given the Minister the assurance that no unnecessary delay will be caused by honorable senators on this side of the Chamber, I ask him to consider my suggestion.

Last year Parliament passed a measure providing for the payment of £450,000 for the year ended the 30th June, 1926, on the recommendation of the Western Australian Disabilities Commission; but I understand no provision has been made for a further payment. I ask the Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to make any further provision in that regard. The Minister will remember that when opening the electioneering campaign in Western Australia, last year, he said that the grant would be for the current year, and that the matter would then be referred to a conference of State Treasurers. I do not think the Government has mentioned the convening of such a conference to determine whether the grant shall be continued. I need not stress the point, because the commission, in its report, mentioned the many disabilities which. Western Australia is experiencing. Today I have received the following telegram from the Premier of Western Australia : -

Have wired Senator Pearce as follows : Understand Government not proceeding with States Grants Bill. Does Government intend introduce special bill provide grant ' account this State's disabilities before Parliament adjourns. Strongly urge this course, even if basis last year's act adopted. Public opinion here very definite. Advise me fully of position.

I should like to know the intentions of the Government in this matter, and whether when Parliament reassembles next year provision will be made for a further grant to Western Australia on the same basis as last year, pending the assembly of the conference which I have mentioned.

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