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Wednesday, 27 April 1904

Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) (Minister for Home Affairs) - I should like to congratulate my honorable friends opposite upon their accession to power, and I feel sure they will devote all. their energies and abilities to the administration of the public service. I should not have spoken upon this occasion, but that I wish to add one word to what has been said by the right honorable member for East Sydney concerning the constitutionality of the position occupied by honorable members opposite. I do not suppose there have been many instances in British, countries in which the members Of a party have exhibited so much -bravery as have those of the present Government. I do not think there is any instance upon record in which a minority in Parliament have formed a Government without first assuring themselves that they could command a fair measure of support from one section or another in the House.

Mr Watkins - What about the position of the recent Government ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I will reply to the question of the honorable member, notwithstanding that it has already been answered by the right honorable member for East Sydney. The position of the present Administration is very different from that which was occupied by the late Government. That Ministry assumed office before Parliament had been called into existence, and its members continuedto administer the affairs of this country as best they could from that time until a day or two ago, getting support, as the right honorable member for East Sydney said, " from one section of the House or the other."

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is not the right honorable member satisfied with the statement of his leader ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - When a per son is requested by the representative of the Sovereign to form an Administration, and undertakes that important and responsible duty, it is usual for him to assure the representative of His Majesty that he has promises of support which will enable him to carry on the work of government. He should be able to assure His Excellency that he has a fair chance of securing a working majority. Should he fail in obtaining promises of sufficient support, it is customary for him to return the commissionto the representative of the Sovereign andto suggest that some one else should be sent for.

Mr Hutchison - The right honorable member is using the exact words of a letter that appeared in the Argus.

Mr Page - Why does not the right honorable member take his gruel kindly?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have never heard or read of. a case in which the head of a party accepted Ministerial office without having first assured himself, and the representative of the Sovereign, that he had reasonable grounds for believing that he could command the support of a majority.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rise to a point of order. I have no objection to the right honorable member for Swan delivering a lecture upon constitutional practice, at the conclusion of the remarks which have been made by the late Prime Minister and the right honorable member for East Sydney. My point of order is that the observations of the right honorable member are not relevant to the motion that is before the Chair. I raise this question for the purpose of ascertaining whether honorable members generally will be at liberty to discuss the constitutionality of the question when the right honorable member has resumed his seat. It is delightful to listen to the lecture ; but I wish to know whether we all are to be placed on the same footing.

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