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Tuesday, 31 May 1904

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The debate which has taken place, and the able speech which was delivered on the whole question by the late Prime Minister relieves me of the necessity to address the Committee at any length. The conduct of the Government in regard to the Bill has been rather unfortunate. In proceeding with the measure in Committee, not as it was left by the late Government - there might have been reason for doing that - but with a great sheaf of amendments to be proposed by themselves, . they adopted an undesirable method of introducing the matter to the House. We should have had a speech from the Prime Minister which, of course, could only properly be given at the second . reading stage, expounding the new principles which he proposed to insert in the Bill, explaining their effect, and extending to the House that confidence which it had a right to expect from a Minister who introduced a measure. But we are entirely without that valuable information which we should have got earlier than at the Committee stage. We are in this further position, that the Ministry, having given notice of a large schedule of amendments, it may be found that some of those amendments, in the opinion' of many honorable members, require a further consideration of the clauses of the Bill which have been dealt with. When the measure was last before the Committee, it was understood that there was a highly critical division to be taken on this clause, and, consequently, honorable members did not devote to the earlier clauses the consideration which they might otherwise have done. It would be well, therefore, if we were given an assurance that, if honorable members should consider it necessary, either from the nature of the further amendments to be moved . by the Ministry, or of other amendments which may be introduced, we shall have an opportunity of reconsidering, without objection by the Ministry, those earlier clauses.

Mr Fisher - That can be done on recommittal.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We wish to understand that, owing to the manner in which the Bill has been taken up by this Ministry, a fair opportunity will be given to honorable members to reconsider those clauses.

Mr Hughes - Surely it is open to us to recommit the Bill for anv specific purpose.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is, if the Ministry will assist in getting a recommittal. We cannot expect them to agree to recommit, willingly at any rate, the latter portions that we now have an opportunity to deal with. The Government should be quite willing to give an assurance to the Committee that they will not oppose a recommittal.

Mr Hughes - Does the honorable member infer that any of these amendments are of such a nature as would render a recommittal necsssary?

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