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Thursday, 1 May 1902

Mr SPEAKER - That matter cannot be discussed on this motion.

Mr BARTON - Although it may have taken over a fortnight to visit the various sites before, I think that the ground having been traversed once, it will be possible to make better arrangements.

Mr Mauger - Let us have a day or two extra.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolved(on motion by Mr. Barton, with concurrence) -

That leave be given to pass the Bill through its remaining stages.

Motion (by Mr. Barton) proposed -

That the Bill be now read a third time.

Mr. WILKS(Dalley).- It is unusual, sir, for an honorable member to address you on the third reading of a Bill. This Bill has been reported with amendments. I am quite aware that you are not cognisant oft what takes place in committee. . I do not intend to refer to those proceedings, but simply to pass this remark - that if you will only glanceat the Bill in your hands it must strike you that many and serious amendments have been made9. The Bill has lost almost every vestige of its original form. It purports to perform a certain purpose - that is to vote a sum to reimburse the Governor-General for moneys out of pocket on the occasion of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York to Australia. The purpose of the appropriation I do not object to ; but 1 certainly object to the manner and the method of the appropriation. I wish as emphatically as possible to place not before honorable members, because they have declared their position by their various votes, but to place before you, sir, and on record, a protest against what I consider to 'be a most dangerous practice. I can thoroughly understand the anxiety of honorable members to close this sitting. On ordinary occasions I am willing to fall in with their desire to leave after a long sitting. But I do seriously consider that to-night an action has been performed which is not 'creditable to the Chamber. A Bill which was brought in for a specific purpose has been transformed during the exigencies of debate. It now lies in your hands, sir, so seriously amended, that practically there is only a vestige of its original form left. I admit that the expenditure incidental to the visit of the Duke of Cornwall and York to perform a national function was a national expenditure. I should be quite willing to vote the money, irrespective of the amount, on the mere assurance of the Prime Minister that it had been expended by the Governor-General, but I object to the manner and the method of the appropriation. I hold that we have established to-night a precedent which we shall regret before a very long period. I am not influenced by any consideration for the occupant of the high office of GovernorGeneral. I am merely referring ta the position itself, and the method of obtaining certain sums of money. Although agreeing with the intention of the House to reimburse His Excellency certain expenditure, I shall be compelled to vote against the third reading of the Bill if a division is taken, because I consider it is fraught with great danger, not only to ourselves but to the Constitution. I believe that we have overstepped the provisions of the Constitution. The point has not been referred to you, sir, whether the Bill is in order, or whether we have power to do that which we did. I do not intend to take an objection, because I know that I am in a minority. I cannot say that honorable members have taken this course as an act of expediency; but to my untrained eye it did appear to be an act of expediency. They have lost sight of what I consider to be the highest function of a Parliament - a close adherence to the principles of constitutional government. I am unable to place before you, sir, as clearly or as powerfully as your reading can place before your mental vision that which I desire to submit. I sincerely regret that it has fallen to the lot of one unskilled and untrained in the principles of constitutional law and government to enter this protest. I have taken this step, not for mere sport or for the purpose of obstruction, but as a matter of duty.

Sir John Forrest - The honorable member is sorry.

Mr WILKS - I do not regret any action I took in committee. I have been performing a duty in probably a feeble manner. I have not been able to influence honorable members, but I honestly believe that if the duty I am endeavouring to perform had fallen to the lot of a skilled and trained leader in the matter of Ministerial responsibility and Cabinet experience, he would have made a most powerful appeal to the House.

Mr Mauger - Let us catch the last trams.

Mr WILKS - Never, mind the last trams ; this question is more important than ten last trams. I think that' our action to-night will not stand to the credit of the Commonwealth, or as a good example to the State Parliaments.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

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