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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr REID (East Sydney) .- Owing to some remarks made by the honorable member for Lang, I wish to call attention to the grave inconvenience that is caused bv the mysterious absence of Ministers. I have just been reminded of the fact that mv endeavour to encourage the trawling industry in New South Wales was brought to an abrupt conclusion, when I was succeeded in the premiership of that State by the present Minister of Trade and Customs. I naturally wish to obtain from him an explanation of the circumstances under which he blighted that interesting experiment, and as to how it comes about that he is now a party to a proposal to carry on an enterprise of a similar character under the Commonwealth. If I am assured bv the Prime Minister, or even by the Postmaster-General, who knows something about most of the underground movements of Ministers, that his honorable colleague is at the Customs Department wrestling with the difficulties connected with the harvester question, or the machinery or spirit duties, I shall be ready to recognise that the pressure of circumstances often justifies a- Minister's absence from the Chamber. I am told, however, that during the past fortnight no one has been able to say whether the Minister was within 100 miles of his Department. I could understand private members occasionally absenting themselves from * the Chamber, as, unfortunately, I do, but I submit that Ministers should be within reach when the Estimates are under consideration. I hope that some clue will be discovered to indicate the precise locality of the Minister. I understand that he was last heard of in the direction of Wagga, where a show isbeing held, and where I believe the honorable member for Flinders is also to befound. The Minister seems to consider that his sole duty to the public is to follow the honorable member for Flinders whereever he may travel in. the Hume electorate.

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