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Thursday, 3 March 1904


Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I objected to the proposal on the ground that it is undesirable that the House should sit on four days in the week. Regarding the question from the Ministerial point of view, it seems to me to be utterly impossible for Ministers to give proper 'attention to public business whilst Parliament is meeting for four days in the week. Many of the faults in their administration may be to a certain extent attributed to the fact that they have had no time whatever during the greater part of the last two years to attend to that important branch of their duties, and have had to delegate some of their functions to the permanent heads of the departments. Honorable members are interested in reserving to themselves sufficient time to enable them to consider in the fullest detail every measure brought before us. With the House sitting four days a week this is impossible. Every Act passed by us contains serious defects. I need only refer to the Electoral Act, which was so badly drawn, and was so altered during its passage through the House that doubt has arisen whether the High Court can deal with cases of bribery and corruption. We shall do well if we legislate for two days in the week, and reserve the other four days for the careful study of the measures before us, If the House is prepared to remit the duty of making laws to the Parliamentary Drafts man I admit that my objection falls' to the ground ; but I do not think we have yet come to that. We think that the Bills passed in this -House should express the considered intention of honorable .members, and in the last Parliament we sat so frequently that it was utterly impossible for us to properly, consider the measures brought before us. That honorable members were themselves conscious of this is shown by the fact that on many occasions we failed to get a quorum except by the ringing of the bells. I think that upon one occasion I had myself to draw attention to the fact, no less than seventeen times, that there was not a quorum df members in the chamber. This shows that honorable members were not in a fit condition of mind to deal with business. If we are going to do anything more than merely play at legislation we must have time for the consideration of the measures brought before us. Unless we have that time we shall be no more than any outside committee of men to whom a matter is presented for decision after five minutes' consideration.. I am sure that three days are often enough for the House to sit during the week ; and, allowing one day for rest, that would give us three days in which to look into the measures submitted to us. It may be- said that honorable members coming from other States will be very desirous of getting through the legislative work of the session as quickly as possible, but the aim of Parliament should be to legislate not quickly but well. I am certain that honorable members would not have voted as they did vote upon many clauses in Bills submitted to them if they had had time to consider those Bills in the way they should have been - considered. The matter is not one which I intend to labour ,; but I repeat that it is impossible for any House to thoroughly consider the measures brought before it if it is asked to sit more than three days in the week, and it is equally impossible for the administrative work to be properly carried on by the Executive if we are expected to sit more frequently. We admit that a certain amount of time is necessary to enable the Executive to attend to administrative work by the fact that we do not propose to meet in the morning. If we adopt this motion in its entirety we shall enter upon the same bad practice as before, and while we shall be passing a great many laws, they certainly will not be sensible laws. If. we do not take the time necessary for the proper consideration of legislative measures we shall have no right to call ourselves a deliberate assembly.







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