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Thursday, 28 June 1906

Mr WILKS (DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that the honorable member will not have an opportunity of saving to-morrow morning that' the honorable member for Dalley was not properly reported in Hansard. I have been in this House for five and a-half years, and I will guarantee that I have not made fifty corrections in the proofs of my speeches during the whole of that time.' I think that the members of the Hansard staff, instead of being spoken of unkindly, should have full credit given to them as the finest' of speech-makers. I really believe that they are responsible for the most lovely productions, and the most poetic speeches, which are supposed to have issued from the mouth of the honorable member for Gwydir, but which were never uttered by him. Yet the honorable member, above all others, endeavoured to castigate Hansard yesterday. How is it that the members of the Labour Party who believe in nationalizing everything, have been so silent in regard to this matter? As during this final session of the present Parliament we have only a few months in which to do our work, I quite agree that, even if the Opposition desired to be fractious, it would not be good policy on their part. I know from experience that fractiousness on the part of an Opposition in the early part of a session means late sittings towards the end of it. I have had sufficient parliamentary experience to teach me that a Ministry in the last session of a Parliament- will make every . endeavour t» place upon the 'statute-book as much legislation as it can,- in order to show to the electors what it has done. . I am quite aware also that if we were to delay measures now - and remember that the Opposition contains members who are fairly well experienced in parliamentary life - we should have to suffer for it later on. We should suffer in health and in comfort through1 all-night sittings, and the only result would be that we should have bad legislation placed upon the statute-book by a frenzied Ministry.

Mr Webster - The honorable member is a past master !

Mr WILKS - I do not know what I am a past master in. The honorable member for Gwydir is a past master in misrepresentation. I am only an apprentice at that business. So- far as concerns laying legitimate grievances before the House, I think I can claim to be at least an accomplished journeyman. Nevertheless, I do not make a business of bringing grievances before Parliament. I am no grievance- monger in any sense. Many honorable members have aired their eloquence to-day with regard to defence matters. I do not wish to say much with regard to them. But I should like to observe that it appears to me tb p 1 the most hard-worked Minister in this House is the most ill-paid member of the Cabinet. I allude to the Honorary Minister, the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It is a- disgrace to the present Government that that honorable gentleman should have to answer nearly all the Questions that are addressed to Ministers, whilst at the same time he draw§ the least pav. Surely here is a case for presentation to the Arbitration Court. It is a sheer matter of sweating an employe of the Government !

Mr Deakin - The honorable member is a Socialist. He wants to divide even lv

Mr WILKS - I am certainly socially inclined iti my relations with the- Prime Minister, but I am no Socialist; whilst, as to dividing equally, I never have anything to divide. Unfortunately, the members of the Opposition are nearly all Scotch, and you know from experience, Mr. Speaker, that where Scotchmen are concerned there is not much inclination to divide. My answer to the Prime Minister is that I have no opportunity of dividing anything of value on this side of the chamber, whilst for political reasons he will not allow me to divide anything with him. But I notice that at ques tion time nearly every question is answered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. When a question is addressed to the Government regarding the Post and Telegraph Department, the Honorary Minister answers it. When a question with regard to Defence is asked, the honorable gentleman bobs' up again like a cork. He is a regular Pooh Bah. During question time to-day, for instance, the reporters were kept busy in taking down the words of wisdom that fell from the Vice-President of the Executive Council, whilst the remainder of the members of the Ministry, from the Attorney-General downwards, remained silent. In the course of this debate the same honorable gentleman is the only Minister who has made any response to the criticisms which have been levelled against the Government. He made a very eloquent answer to the honorable member for Wentworth, who is a specialist, or is trying to become a specialist, in matters of naval and military defence. I observe that the honorable member for Darwin - whom we may regard as the honorable member for the Missing Link, or the honorable member for the Origin of Species - laughs at my remark. But it is true. The honorable member for Wentworth made a well-thought-out speech upon the defence policy of the Government. I am satisfied that the members of this House do not desire that questions of defence shall be discussed on party lines. Defence! is a matter quite above 1)art\, Neither i-he members of the Larbour Party nor Ministerialists, nor the Oppositionists, desire that a question of such serious import shall be treated as one out of which political capital can be made. The honorable member for Maranoa has from the very inception of this Parliament devoted careful attention to defence, and has on man v. occasions favoured us with his own practical knowledge concerning it. But although one of the warmest supporters of the Ministry, the honorable member has to-night castigated them in the severest terms. The Government have not replied to him. Why is that? The honorable member has attacked the Government for the contemplated' appointment of Colonel Hoad as InspectorGeneral of the Commonwealth Military Forces. It was a deliberate attack by an honorable member who is on this subject well qualified to speak in the interests of the people of Australia. He has quoted from a report by Major-General Hutton, an eminent Imperial officer, who has served with distinction in various parts of the Empire, and has argued that Colonel Hoad does not possess the qualities required for the position which he is to fill. If the facts are as represented by the honorable member for Maranoa, I trust that Colonel Hoad will not be appointed to so high a position ; whereas if it is proved that he is well qualified, and is the best officer we can select, I see no reason why he should not be appointed. Every care and caution ought, however, to be exercised in regard to this matter. My quiver, so far as grievances are concerned, is not by any means empty. Every honorable member, after a parliamentary recess, has his quiver full against any Ministry. But I do not intend to trouble the House and Hansard with any further grievances under which my constituents may) be labouring, as I trust that I shall have other opportunities to lay them before the House. I should not have addressed you at all, Mr. Speaker, except that I felt it to be necessary to place on record the points which I have already mentioned. In conclusion, mav I be allowed to express my sincere regret that, while these troubles affecting the constituencies of honorable members are being ventilated, you, sir, are precluded by the position you hold from saying anything on behalf of your electorate. I think it would be a good idea, if on such occasions as this, you, Mr. Speaker, .could leave the chair and have your place taken by the Chairman of Committees, in order that you might have the same opportunities as other honorable members have. Personally, I hope to see the day when the Speaker of this House will have accorded to him the compliment, which is always accorded to the Speaker of the House of Commons, of not being opposed at elections. I think that the traditions of the Imperial Parliament in that respect ought to prevail in Australia, and that the Speaker should be returned without opposition ; because, while he occupies the Chair, he is handicapped in respect to dealing, with controversial matters. When we have a Speaker possessed of such high attainments as is the gentleman who presides over this (Chamber, there is a special reason for hoping that in the near future, when the elections take place, the same treatment will be meted out to him 'as is invariably meted out to the gentleman who presides over the deliberations of the House of Commons

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