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Thursday, 3 March 1904

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister for External Affairs) . - I move -

That on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, in each week, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business, and that on each Thursday, until halfpast 6 o'clock until otherwise ordered, general business shall take precedence of Government business.

I had proposed to adopt the practice under which we worked during the last Parliamentwith varying success, but have always doubted as to whether the time proposed to be allotted to private business was wisely placed at the end of the week. Any interruption of Government business either during the week or at the end of the week is of course undesirable, in the view of those who are charged with its transaction. But it is a perfectly open question as to whether the Friday sitting provides the best means of dealing with private business. The Cabinet, after consideration, thought that if the practice were left as it was. it would be attended with advantages, but I have since had an opportunity of consulting several honormembers who sit on this side of the House, who are of opinion that probably the one means of dealing with the question would be as useful as the other. I am, therefore, prepared by way of experiment - as we know the consequences of dealing with private business on Friday - to allot one afternoon each week during the next two or three months in lieu of Friday for the transaction of private business.

Mr Watson - The afternoon, not the evening ?

Mr DEAKIN - No, only the afternoon till the adjournment for dinner. It seems to me that whilst the period thus allowed for Government business will suffice at the opening of the session, probably towards the end of it we shall have to revert to our former practice. However, I have no objection to taking business in that order for a . time. I propose, therefore, that upon Thursday afternoon, from 2.30 to 6.30 p.m., private members' business shall take precedence of all other business, I have consulted those who are in charge of the Government business in the Senate upon this matter, and they assure me that the arrangement proposed has worked satisfactorily there. They do not know that it is better than devoting Friday to private members' business ; but they are satisfied that from the Government point of view it is satisfactory.

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