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Thursday, 7 July 1904

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - I direct the attention of the Minister of External Affairs, who is now in charge of the House, to the fact that when the Government have these little surprises in store, they might let their friends into "the know." I give the honorable and learned gentleman fair warning that, so far as I am concerned, I shall lose no opportunity of springing a surprise on the Government if they are going to make arrangements behind the backs of honorable members, as has been done this afternoon, and not for the first time. It would have been very convenient for me if I had been made aware two hours ago that the House would adjourn at 6.30 o'clock.

Mr Fisher - I think this is done with the cognisance of the honorable member's leader.

Mr KENNEDY - Well, then, I have not that confidence in leaders, or allegiance to leaders, at the present time which would induce me to accept everything they do, and to agree to any arrangements they may make for their convenience behind my back. The sooner we understand each other the better,, and I am giving fair warning now, that when a fitting -opportunity arises, I shall attempt to -spring a small surprise on the Government if this procedure is repeated. They probably know what that means. I do not care to take any unfair advantage, and it might not be convenient to do anything of the kind now.

Mr Higgins - Is the honorable member to be considered a new leader of the Opposition ?

Mr KENNEDY - No. I am leading a party that, so far as I can judge, has been fairly well led for a good many years in Victoria, and that is a party of one. I do not intend to allow that party to be dragged at the heels of any other party (hat goes on its own without considering me. It is a matter of surprise to me that when the Government finds the House in a humour to do business, evidence of which we have had to-day, they do not proceed with it. We have now been four months, if not more, in session ; we have got partly through one Bill; we have disposed of one Government, and we have had another on the grid-iron. If the members of the present Government desire to get on to the coals, I may be permitted to' say that they are going the right way to get there, because they are practically on strike' to-day.

Mr Mauger - Of what use is it to blame the present Government for this arrangement ?

Mr KENNEDY - It is all very well for the honorable .member for Melbourne Ports, of No. 66 Bourke-street, to say that this is a matter of no moment ?

Mr Mauger -- I did not say that. I said it was a matter of arrangement.

Mr KENNEDY - The honorable member has evidently been " in the know," and he may have some special appointment for to-morrow. I have business in view that it would be very convenient for me to deal with to-morrow, arid which I could have dealt with if I had been made aware that the adjournment was intended. I was left stranded in the same way a fortnight ago, kicking my heels about in the city. As a matter- of fact, I cannot get to my home now until Saturday morning. It is but fair to ask that the Government should consider 'honorable members who sit here regularly to help them through with business. ' They must be aware -that they could have done no business this afternoon, if honorable members had been inclined to foe 'captious. Surely, when they recognise >t)he position, it is not too much to claim that they should have made some, statement last night on -this subject, suggesting that .urgent business would not be taken. They need not publish their intentions in large capitals ; it is sufficient to give honorable members a hint. We are prone to take 'even very mild hints in this House. I am practically in the .same position as honorable members coming from other States, because I come from an outlying portion of Victoria. The Minister of External Affairs can realize what it is to honorable members to be six, eight, or nine months away from their districts and their homes, and' to have to make a second home in Melbourne. Under the practice adopted, we waste one day in each week. We sit nominally for four days a week, but in effect for only three. Honorable members were aware that during this and past sessions we have practically done nothing on the fourth day of the week. We have sat here and looked at each other, arid honorable members have very often talked against time. I venture to say that, as commonsense business men, we should put an end to that sort of thing. If the intention is that we should sit three days a week only, let us know it in time. If we are to sit four days with the intention of doing business on those days, let the Government clearly intimate to the House that that is to be done. In any case, I give fair warning now, that I may spring a little surprise upon the Government if they are not very careful, and if they do not deal more fairly with honorable members than they have done during the last fortnight.

Mr. L.E. GROOM (Darling Downs).I rise to support tine protests which have been made' by the honorable member for Kennedy .and the honorable member for Moira. In these matters I think that consideration ought to be extended to members who come from distant States. In this Chamber there are some representatives who were members .of the last Parliament, and who during the past three years have not been six months at their own homes. I do not think that this Parliament should be perpetually in session, thus keeping representatives away from their- homes. In my judgment a .great disadvantage attaches to long sessions. Honorable members do not know what is transpiring in their own constituencies. They get out of touch with local matters. They are practically isolated. I do not believe that Parliament should sit only two and a half days 'a week. Of course, I understand that there are occasions upon which the convenience of hon orable members ought to be studied. I have no desire to inconvenience the representatives of New South Wales or of any other State; .but I claim that when an adjournment of this nature is contemplated, some previous notification of it should be given. Only last week the Electoral

Committee, of which I have the honour to be a member, refused to hold any meeting on the Friday in order that honorable members might be free to attend the sitting of the House. Had we been apprised of the intention of the Government we should have been able to sit all that .day, and should probably have completed our examination of witnesses here.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it was not known then that the Prime Minister was unwell.

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