Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 4 August 1904

The DEPUTY SPEAKER - I think that the right honorable member is quite in order at present.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Upon my word ! The honorable member for Kennedy is not in charge of the business of this House. Cannot he, as a humble follower of the Government, keep quiet?

Sir William Lyne - The right honorable member is wasting a lot of time.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member for Hume has bound himself to the Labour Party. I do not mean that offensively. He has separated from me. I will put it in that way.

Sir William Lyne - I think the right honorable member separated from me.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am on the' same side as my leader.

Sir William Lyne - The right honorable member does not follow his convictions.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Who is the right honorable member's leader?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable and learned member for Ballarat is my leader. Is he the honorable member's leader ? There should have been ample time to consider the few amendments, of which notice has been given with regard to the Arbitration Bill, between the rising of the House on Thursday and the meeting on Tuesday, without any interposing of the Capital Sites Bill, especially bearing in mind the fact that those amendments were under the review of the Government during the whole time the latter portion of the measure was discussed in Committee. I say most deliberately that, as far as my opinion goes, there was only one object in. view in postponing the recommittal of the Arbitration Bill, and interposing the Seat of Government Bill, and that was to gain time, in order to try and obtain in the interval a few more votes from those honorable members who were thought to be wavering.

Mr Page - Is there anything wrong in that ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not think that that is the way to carry on the business of the country.

Mr Page - The right honorable member did it.

Sir JOHN FORREST - One would think that the honorable member for Maranoa is a parrot, because he is always saying, "You did it !" Whenever anything is urged against the Government he says.. "You did it !" If one uses an argument of which the honorable member does not approve, his reply is, "You did it."

Mr Page - The right honorable member told us five minutes ago that if we followed him we should be right.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not surprised at. the action of the Government in this matter. We have had the honorable member for Melbourne South telling the public that his party is up for sale.

Mr Watson - Who said that?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member for Melbourne South, said it.

Mr Watson - I do not think so.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have seen his statement in the press, and I know that the Vice-President of the Executive Council said it openly and deliberately in the Senate in 1901.

Mr Watson - It was one of his Scotch jokes !

Sir JOHN FORREST -We know that it has been said, and we know that it is a fact that the party opposite are willing, as a solid party, to give votes if they can secure legislation. There is ndoubt about that. What has been the result of all this finessing and delay? The

Arbitration Bill, which was said by the Government to be so urgent as to brook no delay, is almost forgotten. I do not know how many weeks have passed since it was laid aside. It will be a novelty when ' it comes before us again. We shall have to refresh our memories as to what has taken place. We have been thinking about Capital sites. All our energy and mental activity have been directed towards the various places suggested for the Federal city. We were told previously that the Arbitration Bill was a measure of the veryutmost importance. But it has been laid aside for weeks together; and only yesterday were we given copies of the amend- . ments to be moved by the Government, the most important of which we had already seen in the newspapers a week ago.

Mr Watson - I rise to order. I wish to know whether it is in order for the right honorable member to discuss Bills-

Sir JOHN FORREST - The Prime Minister cannot stop me.

Mr Watson - I do not wish to stop the right honorable member. He can argue as long as he likes at the right time. Bui he is not. going to be allowed to run this House. Is it in order for the right honorable member, in opposing a motion for the adjournment of the House, at its rising, until Tuesday, to discuss the various items upon the business-paper? If that be- so, it would be possible for an honorable member on such a motion to discuss the whole business-paper of the House. I contend that he can make only incidental reference to the business-paper.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER - The Prime Minister is quite correct. The right honorable member for Swan would not be justified in debating in detail any of the questions to which he has referred. But I understand that he is now giving reasons as to why he thinks the House should not adjourn over Friday until Tuesday. Of course, references to the work that might be done in the meantime are quite admissible.

Sir JOHN FORREST - It seems to me that my remarks do not find much favour with the Government. That is satisfactory, at any rate.

Mr Watson - I shall not have a chance of replying unless I get it within five minutes.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have not very much more to say. I was not aware that the Prime Minister was going to

Sydney to-night. But surely the few simple words that I am using could bc replied to by another Minister. At any rate I must say what I have to say, even if the Prime Minister has to leave without getting an opportunity to reply. This party-

Mr Page - Which party?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The Labour Party. That party is desirous of hanging on to their position as long as they can. I do not blame them for that. They are generally recognised as being a tenacious party. Only to-day we have had a new cry raised, and for the same purpose, viz., that of gaining time. The honorable member for Bourke has interposed with a motion the discussion of which might have been continued to-day. But no ; that is not desired - delay is what is required.

Mr Fisher - The motion of the honorable member for Bourke is private members' business.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The situation is now getting rather serious. The sword is about to fall. So a new diversion is necessary, and the battle cry at the last general election, " fiscal peace," is attacked and repudiated.

Sir William Lyne - The right honorable member must mind that the sword does not fall on his own head.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I think it is more likely to fall on the honorable member's head.

Sir William Lyne - I never sold myself in any way ; I never offered myself for sale

Sir JOHN FORREST - I fear the sword will fall on the honorable member's head unless he is very careful. I do not wish to see that happen, because I have a kindly feeling for him.

Sir William Lyne - It is very unkind of the right honorable member to keep us from leaving when he knows that a Committee of the House has to go to Sydney to-night.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member can leave, so far as I am concerned. I did not know that any Committee was going to Sydney, and I am not going to be influenced in the slightest degree by that consideration. I have nearly finished ; but I intend to conclude my remarks whether the honorable member stays or does not. In my opinion, the principal object of the Government and their supporters is to "gain time, because the longer the business is delayed, the better chance they think they have of maintaining their position. I do not think that they will succeed, but there can be little doubt that what I have indicated is the one object they have in view. The question is asked over and over again why, if a vote of want of confidence is to be proposed, a motion is not submitted at once. All I know is that the right honorable member for East Sydney has been waiting for weeks for an opportunity ; but the Government will not clear the decks for action. I should have thought that, instead of asking us to cease work on the days set apart for the sittings of Parliament, the Government, knowing that they are in a minority, would have fell it their duty to dispose of all intervening business, and would have welcomed a decision as to whether they had the confidence of this House or not at the earliest possible moment.

Mr Fisher - The right honorable gentleman apparently wants to first " spike the guns " of the Government.

Sir JOHN FORREST - What the Opposition want is a fair vote of the House. I have not the slightest doubt, as I say, that the Government will hold on to office as long as possible.

Sir William Lyne - Just as the right honorable member did.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am glad of these interruptions, which only show that the supporters of the Government do not like honest outspoken criticism. I do not see, however, why I should be interrupted in this manner, though if the honorable members like to interrupt, and you, sir, allow them to do so-

The DEPUTY SPEAKER - I must ask honorable members to refrain from interrupting. I understand that it is the desire that -the right honorable member shall conclude his remarks as early as possible; and that cannot be accomplished if there is continual interruption. I ask that interjections shall cease entirely.

Sir JOHN FORREST - My object in rising is to protest against repeated adjournments over the Friday, which are certainly not fair to those of us who come from distant States, and who, although they have private business to transact, are quite willing to devote a reasonable time to the duties of this House. I am sure that the other representatives from Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, who cannot reach their homes as easily as can representatives from the States nearer to Victoria, will agree with me in my protest against three, and sometimes four, idle days each week. Our desire is that the work of the session shall be continued and completed as soon as possible, so that we may be able to return to our homes, instead of spending so much time fruitlessly in Melbourne. This waste of time is unheard of. I am not referring to any waste of time while the House is actually sitting, because I know that every honorable member may speak as he likes, subject to the Standing Orders. My protest is against the waste of time caused by adjournments over what should, be sitting days. It would appear to be almost a rule now that the House shall adjourn from the Thursday evening to the Tuesday; but such a policy does not commend itself to representatives from distant States, who have a right to expect the business of the country to be expeditiously transacted. For the last three months the Government appear to have been doing nothing but " mark time ; " they have been waiting for " something to turn up ; " they have been willing to adjourn at any and every time suggested, and they have postponed the Arbitration Bill because it was dangerous to their political existence, and interposed another, which was not so much calculated to affect their position. The present management of the Parliament of the country, in my opinion, is scandalous, as well as being demoralizing to constitutional government.

Suggest corrections