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Friday, 25 November 1910

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I ask the Government to consent to the Budget being dealt with next week. The whole of this sitting has been taken up, not in discussing the Estimates, but in giving reasons why there has not been time to discuss them. I join with those who have protested against this method of transacting the business. It appears to me that the whole success of government hinges upon finance. Unless we are afforded an adequate opportunity of discussing the financial proposals of the Government, anything else that we do is of comparatively small moment. Whatever honorable senators opposite may say, I do not see how any one can differ from the proposition that this Parliament has done a tremendous amount' of work. We have done work of the first importance. But there is no real necessity for concluding our work this afternoon. Several weeks are available before Christmas, and there is no reason why sufficient time should not be taken to give fair consideration to the Budget. I remember that in the Parliament of the State from which I come, Estimates not exceeding in the total some .£7,000,000 or £[8.000.000 per annum received weeks of discussion.

Senator Guthrie - Works and Buildings Estimates were included, but these Estimates deal merely with the ordinary annual services.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator was not a Government supporter then.

Senator McGregor - Is he supporting the Government now?

Senator RAE - It was not a question of supporting the Government. ' We insisted on considering the expenditure of the country fairly and adequately. I do not wish to occupy a great deal of time in discussing this point, but I think that honorable senators on all sides are practically agreed that it is impossible for us to do this work properly in the time at our disposal. Therefore, I consider that it would be well to allow honorable senators who have made arrangements to go home tonight to do so at the usual hour, and come back again on Tuesday to do an honest week's work. I am no more fond of work than any one else, and should be glad to spend next week at home, where I regret to say I have become practically a stranger. But I am prepared to do my duty to the public in order that this work may be properly performed ; and I insist that we cannot do it properly this afternoon.

Senator McGregor - We are great martyrs !

Senator RAE - It is not a matter of martyrdom; but, surely, the least we can do under the circumstances is to finish our work properly. I am well satisfied with the other work that has been done this session, but no matter how important it may be, it does not afford an adequate excuse for neglecting to look after the financial interests of this country. The representatives of the Government in the Senate will probably say that, inasmuch as we do not intend to move for reductions in the Estimates, discussion would merely be a waste of time. My reply is that no honorable senator can go before his constituents and say that he understands the whole of this Budget unless he has an opportunity of eliciting information by debate, and by questioning Ministers. Even during the little time that I have devoted to the subject, I have observed items which, I frankly say, I do not understand, and should like to have explained.

Senator Guthrie - It would not take a week to get explanations concerning those items.

Senator RAE - But if I had several little things that I should like to mention, and other honorable senators had also their lists, we should not need to occupy much time each to consume a day. It appears to me that those who oppose this proposal are not prepared to give up their time to looking after the public interest. They are chiefly concerned just now with their private interests. If I were to put my private interests foremost I should stay in Sydney next week. But I am prepared to come here again in order to get a fair and honest grip of these matters. I confess that I should like to know something about several subjects, one or two of which have been mentioned by Senator Givens. Particularly I should like to hear a statement about a rumour that has reached me to the effect that the Government propose to raise a loan. I have very strong opinions about a borrowing policy. I am .absolutely opposed to that method of financing, and consider that there is no necessity for resorting to it except in a national emergency.

Senator Walker - How can we pay for the transferred properties without a loan?

Senator RAE - I suppose that the honorable senator would not expect us to pay cash down for them? It can only be a matter of paying interest.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Then we shall have a loan on our shoulders.

Senator RAE - I think not. Of course, it is a different matter to borrow for the purpose of renewing existing loans.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The honorable senator is coming round to our view.

Senator RAE - I am doing nothing of the kind. . I have always been opposed to borrowing, and am prepared to go no further now than I was formerly. But surely the honorable senator sees that borrowing for renewing existing loans, and borrowing for new works are quite different things.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - We shall have to borrow for great national works.

Senator RAE - Of course, I shall have to bow to the majority, but I am firmly of opinion that even as to developmental works in the Northern Territory we can get all we want from revenue. I would even go so far as to say that we can build the transcontinental railway without borrowing. This country is rich enough to enable us to spend year by year all the money we need to expend in that direction. I understand that it is now proposed to borrow money to meet current expenses in administering the Northern Territory. Whether that be so I do not know. Debate will elicit information. I am certainly strongly opposed to anything of the kind, as being utterly at variance with the Labour platform, and to my own personal views.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The Labour platform is changeable from time to time.

Senator RAE - The honorable senator is absolutely wrong.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - The Trades Hall people change it for the honorable senator.

Senator RAE - Senator Gould illustrates the old adage that " a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." He knows just enough about cur Labour Conferences

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - To make an unpleasant interjection.

Senator RAE - Yes; and to display his ignorance of the facts. He has derived his information from reading faked newspaper reports of what the Labour Conferences do. Whatever little changes may have been made by the Labour Conferences as to methods, they have not changed essential principles. What I want to know, however, is whether we are going to be afforded adequate time for the discussion of these Estimates? The Government must be aware that there is a majority of honorable senators, counting those on both sides, who would like to give adequate time to the work. As far as the other House is concerned, well, if it gets its work done before we do, its members can go into the garden and play cricket until we have finished.

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