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Thursday, 12 May 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - Senator Pratten, and possibly another honorable senator, seem to have misconstrued, I hope unintentionally, the- purpose of the motion before the Senate. The question of the agreement has come forward, and the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, in conformity with accepted practice, has placed it on the table of the Senate with a proposal that the adjourned debate on the motion ho has submitted shall appear as one of- the Orders of the Day for to-morrow. No exception can be taken to that course. The question, as Senator Keating points out, is - what we will do with it to-morrow. Senators Thomas and Pratten say they want time to consider it. They can have that time so far as the Government are concerned. If tomorrow honorable senators say they want further time to consider it, they can have over the week to do "so. There is nothing to prevent them, if they so desire, from resuming the consideration of the agreement on Wednesday next.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is just it.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because there is a general desire, in which I share, that we should rise to-morrow afternoon, that does not carry us to the extent of saying that public business which may suddenly arise, is to be neglected on that account.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This has not suddenly arisen.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has, in the sense that the agreement has only recently been completed. I do not know at the moment, nor does Senator Russell, whether it. is important that the agreement should be ratified in the next few days or in the next week or two.

Senator Keating - Is not the present contract operative until. September next?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is, but it occurs to me that the company may reasonably ask to be informed as early as possible what the decision of Parliament is. These arrangements are not made or unmade in a few hours. I hope the Senate will get out of its mind any thought that the Government are trying to stampede the agreement through. The Senate is master of its own business, and can have whatever time it likes for the consideration of the motions submitted to it. If the Senate is prepared to allow the motion to pass without further debate I shall make myself more familiar with the position before to-morrow, and ascertain the urgency of the matter. If it is urgent and it should go through now it may be necessary to ask honorable senators to meet again next week in order to complete the discussion.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That will include the obligation of putting it through another place.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think the honorable senator need be concerned about another place, as there is sufficient here to occupy his time at present. If the Senate will allow this motion to go I shall make myself familiar with the degree of urgency attaching to it, and, if it is necessary in the interests of the country or the company the matter will be proceeded with. If, on the other hand, the matter can stand over without detriment there is no necessity to . disturb the mutual arrangement arrived at by the consensus of opinion in this Chamber.

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