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Friday, 12 June 1914

Senator DE LARGIE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Skilfully phrased, as the honorable senator puts it. The memorandum may be true, or only half true. We do 'not want any halftruths in a discussion of this kind. Before we can agree, we must see the documents for ourselves. We cannot bring a dispassionate judgment to bear in the absence of all the facts. We have a perfect right to demand the production of these papers. I understand that a money Bill will shortly be engaging our attention, and, before that measure reaches us, we should have the fullest information in respect of the subject-matter of this motion. The Government have shown today that they have no business with which this Chamber can proceed, and, as plenty of time is available, the full facts should be placed before honorable senators. Later on, when an important step has been taken, it is just possible that we may not be able to retrace our steps. I maintain that we have a right to be placed in possession of the whole of the facts of the case presented to the GovernorGeneral in support of the request for a double dissolution, and also of the literal text of his reply. We have been " bull-dozed " intotaking certain action. We have seen how the Government have managed to retain office, notwithstanding that they have no policy. If they can secure a double dissolution as the result of misrepresentations made to the Governor-General, and if they are thus able to use the machinery of government during the forthcoming elections, they will undoubtedly wield a power which they are not entitled to exercise. In the Senate, we know that Ministers have no power. The Opposition can do practically what it chooses. At a time like the present, every step taken by the Senate should be taken only after due deliberation. Otherwise, I can see a danger of the whole thing being rushed through before we have time to properly consider it.

Senator Maughan - Who will rush it through 1

Senator Oakes - The honorable senator's party may rush it through the other House, but his party here may not rush it through.

Senator Millen - I do not think that Senator de Largie can seriously accuse the Senate of " rushing."

Senator DE LARGIE - I have always looked upon Senator Millen as a man whom nobody could accuse of laziness, but his attitude to-day left him open to that suspicion. He wanted to get away from his duties, but we would not allow him to do so. Evidently the weight of years is beginning to tell upon him.

Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'loghlin. - The sins of the Ministry !

Senator DE LARGIE - If Senator Millen has to carry that load, I am not surprised that he is tired, and that he desires a rest. However, there is no escape from this position: We have reached a stage in the history of the Senate when it behoves us to take every step deliberately, so that we may know exactly what that step will mean in the future. If we proceed, blindfold in the present crisis, we shall advertise ourselves to the electors of Australia as being quite unfitted for the positions that we hold. I have been a member of the Senate ever since its inception, and I have seen important crises arise from time to time.

Senator Millen - But none of them has troubled the honorable senator as much as does this one.

Senator DE LARGIE - This one does not trouble me at all, because there is no State in the Commonwealth which is more solid against the present Government than is Western Australia.

Senator Maughan - And Queensland.

Senator DE LARGIE - Queensland occupies a similar position. As both those States have returned all Labour senators, the Minister's statement will not hold water.

Senator Long - There is something more important than our own positions to be considered.

Senator DE LARGIE - Exactly. The day will come when there will be none of us here, and when history comes to be written it may happen that the attitude taken up by the Millens and the de Largies will be the subject of criticism. I have no desire that the historian of the future should be able to point out to his readers that I made a mistake by accepting the invitation of Senator Millen to walk into his parlour, just as the spider invited the fly to do. This Senate, I submit, is the most representative Upper House of Parliament in the world. There is no other Upper House elected on such a broad franchise as the Senate of the Commonwealth.

Senator Oakes - Then why does the honorable senator fear an appeal to the people ?

Senator DE LARGIE - Senator Oakeshas a great deal more to fear than I have.

Senator Oakes - The honorable senator is arguing against going to the country.

Senator DE LARGIE - No. I am arguing against the Senate being tricked, and as a result of that trick, the establishment of a precedent that will weaken the Senate for all time'. We know how the Democracy of the world has been humbugged in the past. We know that the constitutions of the great Republic of America, and of the first Republic of Prance, breathed of the very broadest Democracy. But we also know that the operation of those constitutions has been of the most disappointing character. We do not desire a repetition of that sort of thing in Australia. Under our Constitution the Senate possesses co-ordinate powers with the other branch of the Legislature, except in regard to the initiation of money Bills. That being so we would be acting foolishly if we took any step during the present crisis without having first given it the very fullest consideration. Consequently, I invite the Government to put all their cards upon the table. We desire to know exactly what arguments they used with the Governor-General when they requested him to grant them a double dissolution, and also the exact text of His Excellency's reply. Until we are put in possession of the full facts of the case I hope that the Senate will not take a jump in the dark.

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