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Friday, 17 November 1911

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - I was disappointed with the Minister's reply, and I can only assume, from the patent fact that he declined to meet what I thought a perfectly fair request, that the Government do not wish to disclose the reasons for making this alteration. We all know the position in which they are. If Senator Findley will say that the Department has advised the Government that, in its opinion this elasticity is desirable, I shall answer at once, " The Government have accepted that advice, and are prepared to act on it. They' have the numbers, and so further debate is unnecessary." But Senator Findley has not even said that. That may not be the reason for proposing the change. Without taking up time, or importing any heat into the discussion. I did ask him if he would give the Committee some affirmative reason why the Government have proposed the alteration. I asked nothing further, and, as every honorable senator here knows, I did not get, in any shape or form, an answer. If the Minister calls my question a demand, which, of course, I do not admit it was, all I can say is that it was based on the rule of courtesy, which invariably obtains here, namely, that a Government shall be ready to give some reason for proposing an alteration.

Senator Findley - If I tell the Honorable senator that the Department recommended that the form should not be put in the schedule to the Act, but should be left to be dealt with by regulation, for its convenience, will that satisfy him?

Senator CLEMONS - That will satisfy me.

Senator Findley - I have said so in other words.

Senator CLEMONS - That will satisfy me, so far as it goes, but the Minister will agree with me, I think, that that is the first time he has made that statement. What I should like to know, and what I expect a great many honorable senators, who d© not know, would like to know, is the reasons which the Department has given to the Government. That is, of course, what every one here would like to know.

Senator Findley - Would that satisfy you ?

Senator CLEMONS - It might. We recognise that the reasons which the Department gave to the Government have satisfied them. I do not quarrel with that. But I think that it would be more satisfactory, at any rate to members of the Opposition, if the reasons were disclosed. It may be that the reasons, if stated at the beginning of the debate, would have satisfied every senator on this side. What is unsatisfactory is that no honorable senator on this side knows what the reasons are - whether they are good, or whether they are bad. At any rate, I am glad to have got from the Minister the statement he has just made.

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