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Thursday, 19 June 1902

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (AttorneyGeneral) . - The position in which we are placed suggests certain elementary considerations, on which we are agreed. The first is, that as soon as we conscientiously can we should have a short adjournment prior to considering the proposals which will be submitted to us from another place in connexion with the Tariff. It may also be admitted that an adjournment, to be effective so far as the representatives of the distant States are concerned,, must be for at least three weeks, or, if possible, a month. We are also all agreed that the Electoral Bill is a measure which requires to be passed through all its stages this session, and so far as the Government are concerned, the session will not be permitted to close until the measure is dealt with. But the issue is put - why, under these circumstances, bring forward to-day the Bonus Bill, involving a detailed discussion, which must occupy considerable time ? The answer is very simple. The desire to have an adjournment for three weeks or a month is governed by the length of time which will be occupied elsewhere in considering the Tariff, part of which, to a large extent, hinges on the Bonus Bill.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Is it not the other way - that the Bill hinges on the Tariff 1

Mr DEAKIN - One is connected with the other ; it may be the old puzzle as to which comes first, the hen or the egg. I am not asking the House to take sufficient time to dispose of the Bonus Bill absolutely. We are faced, however, by an amendment on that Bill, tabled by the honorable member for Bland, as to the limitation to be imposed on the proposed bonus for the manufacture of iron. If that amendment be carried, it will necessarily alter the attitude of many honorable members here and elsewhere in regard, to part of the Tariff, and it is only fair to all that that portion of the Bonus Bill should be disposed of in one way or the other. Until that question is settled, we leave Division VIa. of the Tariff in a condition of uncertainty, which is in the highest degree undesirable.

Sir William McMillan - We had to settle Division VIa. without having the Bonus Bill- before us.

Mr DEAKIN - That is so. But for circumstances over which the Government had no control, the Bonus Bill would have been submitted at an earlier date, and thus have been under consideration in another Chamber simultaneously with the Tariff. All the Government ask honorable members to do is to advance the Bonus Bill far enough to dispose of this important question. Honorable members are not asked to take the Bill further, because I know that many honorable members are absent who object to bonuses.

Sir William McMillan - The desire is to test the amendment of the honorable member for Bland ?

Mr DEAKIN - Yes. If it be determined b}r the House to give these bonuses to any person or company as distinguished from the States, the Government will be satisfied with that determination. As to the Electoral Bill, we are in the hands of the House. We are perfectly prepared to continue to sit to-morrow, and, if necessary, on Saturday, or to meet early next week, and sit up to Coronation Day, in order to dispose of the Bill as far as possible.

Mr McDonald - Why not go on with it now?

Mr DEAKIN - I am asking the House to give a decision on the question as to whether or not the bonuses on the manufacture of iron are to be limited to the States.

Mr McDonald - The Bill was carried on the casting vote of Mr. Speaker.

Mr DEAKIN - What has that to do with the question before us ? I am now giving fair reasons why this issue should be settled before we rise. If honorable members will meet the Government in that way, I am prepared to meet them by sitting as much or as little as they please, prior to the adjournment, in order to dispose of the Electoral Bill. . It seems to me that if we sit for the first three days of next week, we can practically dispose of the Electoral Bill, leaving only a few consequential amendments or revisions to deal with. We can then adjourn with a clear conscience until the Senate shall have finished its consideration of the Tariff.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - There was an announcement in the press that there would be an adjournment over next week, and many honorable members have made arrangements accordingly.

Mr DEAKIN - That was contingent on the business being done. The only announcement made to the press in answer to inquiries was that if the business were transacted there would be no objection to an adjournment ; and there is no objection now.

Mr Thomson - The Bonus Bill stopped the business.

Mr DEAKIN - No; I am not asking honorable members to dispose of the Bill, because I do not wish to take advantage of those who find it necessary to be absent just now. I am trying to meet the House in every way. We regard the Electoral Bill as ohe which it is absolutely essential to pass before we close the session - as a Bill which it is desirable to pass as early as possible - having in view the machinery which has to be brought into play.

Sir William McMillan - If honorable members are satisfied with the assurance that the Electoral Bill would be passed this session, they would rather deal with it after the adjournment.

Mr DEAKIN - I am in the hands of the House. The Government are perfectly willing to sit on in order to meet the wishes and convenience of honorable members. We hope to obtain an elastic adjournment, in order that honorable members may be summoned earlier in the event of the Senate disposing of the Tariff sooner than is at present anticipated.

Sir William McMillan - The adjournment will not be worth having if we have to now go on with the Electoral Bill.

Mr DEAKIN - That rests with honorable members, but my opinion is that we can break the back of that measure in a couple of sittings.

Mr McDONALD (KENNEDY, QUEENSLAND) -paterson.- - -Why adjourn at all?

Mr DEAKIN - No one could put in a better claim than the honorable and learned member to a short adjournment prior to the reconsideration of the Tariff: The honorable and learned member represents a distant community, with whom he must have been out of personal touch for some time, and it is to afford him and others an opportunity of visiting their constituencies that a month's adjournment is proposed. AVe ought to be able to dispose of the amendment of the honorable member for Bland in three or four hours.

Sir William McMillan - Let us decide to adjourn to-morrow, no matter what happens.

Mr DEAKIN - It is doubtful whether we can do that ; but, if we dispose of the amendment, I shall take the responsibility of dealing with the Electoral Bill in the absence of my colleague. I shall do so at some disadvantage, because I am not able to afford honorable members the same information as the honorable gentleman who will administer the Bill. I am willing to sit on as long as honorable members please in order to dispose of as much of the Electoral Bill as we can before adjourning.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Why not accept the suggestion to meet a week earlier than it is expected the Senate will have finished with the Tariff?

Mr DEAKIN - I wish to give honorable members from distant parts the advantage of an adjournment for a full month ; less than which would be of little service.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable members desire to get to their homes for the Coronation festivities.

Mr DEAKIN - Thatis desirable, but we cannot have everything.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be much better to cut a week off the other end of the adjournment.

Mr DEAKIN - But the " other end " is not a fixed quantity. Honorable members who reach their homes on Coronation day will be much more fortunate than those who represent more distant constituencies. Let us have a decision on the main features of the Bonus Bill, and proceed with the Electoral Bill as far as possible. We can then have the longest adjournment consistent with our duty to the country, and with our not delaying the consideration of the Tariff by a single hour.

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