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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Mr JOHNSON (Lang) . - I had not intended to trouble the House with a personal explanation, but as my name has been mentioned, it is only fair to myself that I should make some explanation as to my connexion with the events under review. So far as I am concerned, what happened was this: At about twenty minutes to 1 o'clock I was on my way to the library, when I met the honorable member for Yarra, accompanied by several others, who were about to go to lunch. The honorable member for Yarra said, "I suppose there will not be any division before lunch." I said that I could not answer for that absolutely, but that I did not think so, because the honorable member for New England had just risen, and I thought that he would in all probability cut out the time until 1 o'clock. I added that I did not think that there would be any division, because, if necessary, I would keep the debate going until the adjournment for lunch.

Mr Kelly - But the honourable member did not know that there would be a countout in the meantime.

Mr JOHNSON - No. When I returned to the Chamber, I was surprised to find that the honorable member for New England had concluded his speech, and that the honorable member for Kooyong was addressing the Committee. As soon as the latter honorable member had concluded, at about a quarter to 1 o'clock, I rose with the object of continuing the debate, but simultaneously the Minister in charge of the Bill, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, also rose, and suggested that the adjournment for lunch might at once take pl'ace. I was thus prevented from speaking, and then the honorable member for Wentworth suggested that it would be desirable to have a quorum before an ' adjournment was made for lunch.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Had no consultation taken place among the members of the Opposition ?

Mr JOHNSON - There was no conspiracy organized by the Opposition, as alleged by the Prime Minister, to effect a count-out by calling for a quorum. I believe that, as a matter of fact, the PostmasterGeneral was to blame for what occurred, because in an audible whisper he advised the Minister in charge of the Bill-

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must confine his remarks to an explanation of his own conduct.

Mr JOHNSON - I shall content myself with what I have already stated.

Mr Deakin - The count-out was a wicked waste of public time.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have had a wicked display of bathos on the part of the Prime Minister.

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