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Friday, 25 November 1910

Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I do not share the alarm that Senator St. Ledger has expressed, but I must express my profound disappointment, not that the Prime Minister may go to London merely to echo the opinions of a Labour Conference, but at not knowing what subjects are to come before the Conference. As a member of that much-abused body, the Caucus, I do not know what the Imperial Conference is to discuss, and feel very much disappointed at the situation. It seems to me that we are taking this proposed long recess too lightly altogether. We are asked to vote two months' Supply for the purposes of the next financial year on the ground that, owing to the Coronation of King George, the Parliament of the Commonwealth will be- unable to meet until September. I do not recollect that there was any prolonged recess on the Coronation of King Edward VII. What reason is there for greater importance being attached to the Coronation of King George than to that of King Edward ?

Senator Story - We sent a delegation of soldiers to London on the occasion of the Coronation of King Edward.

Senator RAE - Probably it was just as well that they were sent, because we did not want them here. But now we have a proposal that Parliament shall shut up shop for seven months in order that some people may go and "act the goat" in the Old Country.

Senator St Ledger - Some of them will do that very well.

Senator RAE - It is a pity that the honorable senator is not going. I consider that a recess of ten months simply because a king is to be crowned is altogether unreasonable. Kings come and kings go, but what difference does it make to any one? It does not matter whether there is a new king on the throne or an old one. Kings are merely rubber-stamps or figure-heads nowadays, and it makes- not the slightest difference whether a king is crowned or whether he dies before the Coronation ceremony takes place. We know - notwithstanding all the bunkum talked about loyalty - that it does not matter a snap of the fingers whether the king is crowned or not. The ceremony is merely like a Lord1 Mayor's Show. It may be said that everybody goes to see everybody else. But there is no justification for closing this Parliament for ten months to enable some persons to have a holiday on the cheap.

Senator Fraser - The honorable senator may be one of those chosen to go.

Senator RAE - I" am not at all anxious on that account. I would not go under any circumstances. I should like to see the Old Country, but when I go I shall pay my own expenses and have a quiet time. I believe that this Parliament has too much important work to do to justify us in closing up for ten months. We met later than usual this year, but that was necessary in order that business might not be commenced until the newly-elected senators could legally take their seats. But there is no excuse whatever for a late meeting of Parliament next year. I do not at all object to the Commonwealth being represented at the Coronation. I have no wish that this country should stand separate from other parts of the British Empire on such an occasion. But why not send some one who is not indispensable to the conduct of this Parliament? We might send a Minister accompanied by an Honorary Minister, ot, perhaps, by a leading member of the Opposition.

Senator Needham - Is any Minister indispensable to this Parliament?

Senator RAE - No; but we cannot allow one- fourth of the whole Parliament to go away accompanied by several Ministers, and have a meeting of Parliament notwithstanding. Their absence makes it impossible to carry on business. The present state of affairs is very much to be regretted. If certain honorable senators wish to go to London next year, by all means let them go. It would be a good thing if members of Parliament went round the world periodically. They would thus acquire a wider knowledge of the affairs of other countries than they at present possess. But their absence should not cause this Parliament to cease attending to its own business. I enter my emphatic protest against this measure, which is rendered necessary by the unwarrantable project of sending to London on the cheap a party of members of this Parliament. We have no justification for closing Parliament in order that they may go to the Old Country to enjoy themselves. I certainly consider that we ought to know what questions are to be discussed at the Imperial Conference. It is all very well for Senator St. Ledger to urge that the Prime Minister may attend that gathering as the delegate of a political party. But I have no sympathy with his view of the matter. Necessarily the Prime Minister, when attending the Conference, will indorse the views of this Parliament. That is to say, he will indorse the views of the majority of it.

Senator St Ledger - Then he will attend the gathering in the capacity of a delegate.

Senator RAE - I do not know that that is not a good thing. The Prime Minister should not attend the Conference as our master. The highest official in the land is our servant. But I object to any person attending the Imperial Conference as our representative without Parliament being first afforded an opportunity to express its opinion upon the subjects to be discussed there. There is no justification for hurriedly closing the session, and thus depriving us of that opportunity. Until Parliament indorses the decisions arrived at by the Imperial Conference, I do not think that any delegate should have power to bind the Commonwealth or any other selfgoverning community. There is no need for me to discuss the items in the Bill, because they are based on the expenditure for the current financial year.

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