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Wednesday, 12 October 1910

Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I think that the Senate has some cause for complaint. It was very generally under- stood amongst honorable senators that there was some objection to the questions as embodied in the forms supplied to us. I heard a great deal of criticism with regard to some of them.

Senator Givens - Some of them are mere impertinences.

Senator STEWART - One-half of the questions were deemed to be of a most ridiculous character, and as tending to bring discredit upon the authority which was responsible for issuing them. Somehow or other the feeling got abroad that the Government was prepared to give the Senate an opportunity of discussing the questions with the object of discovering which of them were objectionable to honorable senators, and that the result was to be some sort of a guide to them in framing regulations. Senator McGregor promised that the Senate would have an opportunity of discussing the questions. For some reason or other that promise has not been carried out, and now the Government falls back on its present decision which is to issue the regulations in due course, and then we are told the Senate will have an opportunity of discussing them. I wish to point out that the regulations, so far as we know, are not yet framed, and that after they are ready the Government will be under no obligation to lay them on the table at once. They can do so at any time within thirty days after they are so prepared. I do not say that the Government will delay the tabling of them for that period, but it may do so. If that course is adopted the Parliament will have no opportunity of discussing the questions. Thirty days from a week or a fortnight hence will be well into the month of November, when, I suppose, everybody will be anxious to get away, and there will be the usual crush of business which occurs at the end of every session. In those circumstances, the probability of the census questions receiving anything like a fair discussion is very doubtful. I did not hear what the Minister said in reply to Senator Gould, but the Government need not give the Senate any opportunity of discussing the questions.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator heard what I said to-day, in reply to Senator Chataway 's question, but, of course, he will please himself as to whether he will believe my statement or not.

Senator STEWART - I did not hear the honorable senator; indeed, he is so saving of his breath that in nine cases out of ten I do not know what he is talking about.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator does not want to know.

Senator STEWART - Either I shall have to get some sort of artificial ear, or the honorable senator will require a bellows to give him more wind.

Senator Pearce - There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

Senator STEWART - That is rather an ungenerous statement. In any case, I think that the first decision of the Government was the best. It would have given the Senate an opportunity of discussing thi: questions in a friendly way before they were embodied in regulations, and then, after they had been issued there would have been no need to go over the whole matter, again. "

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