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Thursday, 15 April 1915

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I should like to remind honorable senators, by way of preface, that, although this is actually a continuation of the session commenced in the autumn of last year, it is, for all practical purposes, the beginning of a new session. It was necessary, in the circumstances in which the Government found themselves situated, that Parliament should be kept in a position to be called together at any moment. But for that, the session would have closed in the ordinary way, and we should now have been meeting, as. in fact we are, at the commencement of a new session. It is for that reason, I presume, that the Government have seen fit to present to this Chamber the statement which we are now considering, and the Minister has moved that that paper should be printed, not because he desires it to be printed any more than it has already been printed, but in order to provide honorable senators with the opportunity which would have been theirs had the session been opened in the ordinary way by a debate on the Address from the Throne.

Senator Needham - This is a continuation of the session.

Senator MILLEN - It is. But the adjournment of Parliament was merely a device adopted to enable the Government to call Parliament together ac any moment if circumstances rendered that course necessary. We are, therefore, practically commencing a new session. At such a time, it is usual for honorable senators, and especially for members of the Opposition, to embrace the opportunity of reviewing the administrative acts of the Government during the recess, and of directing some attention to the programme for the session. When we met here at the commencement of this session, I was the recipient of more than a doubtful compliment from the Minister of Defence. H© paid me the compliment of having been brief in my remarks. I am willing to accept that compliment. It is one which is not too often heard in legislative halls. But he went on to say that it was one of the most pleasant speeches he had ever listened to from my lips in this Parliament. I am not quite certain that that compliment was entitled to be placed in any other category than that of reproach. But, whether it was a compliment or a reproach, I am afraid that I shall render myself liable to a repetition of it on this occasion. When we met on the occasion to which I have referred, we were then, as now, meeting with the knowledge that the one matter which transcended all others in importance - which was filling our minds to the exclusion of all others - was the great war, in which is involved the fate of the Empire. The position is exactly the same to-day. It is true that a certain period has elapsed which has enabled us to adjust our ideas a little more accurately, but the fact remains that this war is still undecided. The reasons which then induced me to refrain from anything in the nature of a critical examination of the Government programme, or to venture a reference to its administrative acts, are those which prompt m© to-day to adopt a similar course - as, indeed, they ought to prompt any public man with a full sense of his responsibilities. Therefore, I do not propose to occupy the time of the Senate for more than a few minutes. This war still overshadows us, and, in comparison with its vital importance, all other matters which at ordinary times might excite our interest, or appeal very strongly to our reason, sink into absolute insignificance. I candidly confess that I find it extremely difficult to interest myself in those other matters. I believe that in saying that I am merely expressing the' attitude of the general citizen of this country. It is to me inconceivable that honorable senators can address themselves with any seriousness to quite insignificant ' matters when at the present moment the fate of the Empire is undecided.

Senator de LARGIE - Many of the other things arise out of the war.

Senator MILLEN - So far as they are connected with the war, they are matters which should receive our attention. But I am not referring to them. Seeing that the situation to-day is the same as it was then, I feel that it is only necessary for me to repeat the assurance which was then given. I can repeat it with all the more emphasis to-day, because that assurance has been already given by a higher authority' in the party than myself - by the Leader of the Opposition - and I venture to say that it has been buttressed by the action of the Opposition ever since the advent of the present Government to power. The Government are assured of the hearty co-operation of the Opposition in anything they may do to assist in carrying the war to a successful conclusion. In saying that, I do not merely mean that assistance will be given to them in any action which they may take here. I go further, and say that the Opposition will be found disposed to give the Government the fullest powers for which they may feel called upon to ask, and will consider it its duty not to pass too closely under review their administrative acts, or to criticise them too minutely. Before passing from this matter may I say that I read with considerable pleasure the intimation in the Ministerial statement that the .Government are disposed to take a somewhat brighter view of the outlook of the war than apparently they felt justified in doing when this Parliament met a few months* ago'. There are indications in the statement - prompted, I presume, by official communications with the Home authorities/ - that matters in connexion with the war are proceeding, if slowly and painfully, still satisfactorily. We have been induced to hope so much from the news which has come -to us in scanty form through the newspapers, that it is a gratification to us all to find that there is throughout the paragraphs of the statement read here yesterday a distinctly optimistic note. There is one phrase used in it to which I should like specially to refer -

We face the opening of spring with the highest hopes of success in this great struggle for freedom.

I think we all entertain these hopes, but I should like to remind honorable senators and Ministers that hopes are not going to win this campaign. We shall be entitled to entertain these hopes in proportion as Australia, in common with the rest of the Empire, decides to put forward the best effort of which she is capable in order to convert such hopes into realities.

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