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Thursday, 4 August 1904

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) - I was not previously aware that so wide a range of debate could be allowed on a motion for the special adjournment of the House. The right honorable member for Swan, had he made inquiry, might have learnt that the proposed adjournment is not at the instance of the Government.

Mr Batchelor - The Government protested against the adjournment.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - One reason for the adjournment is that the Select Committee on Electoral Administration desire to bring their investigation to a close, and purpose holding a meeting in Sydney to-morrow. But for that fact I myself should have remained in' Melbourne. I believe I am correct in saying that the right honorable member for East Sydney, who is the leader of the right honorable member for Swan, came to an understanding with the Prime Minister that there should be an adjournment - it was an understanding arrived at on the suggestion of the right honorable member for East Sydney.

Mr Watson - Certainly, it was at the right honorable member's suggestion. The understanding made was that a vote on the Capital sites question should not be taken until Tuesday.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - There can be very little more debate on !the Seat of Government Bill, and it is rather anomalous that a lieutenant of the leader of the Opposition should, after an arrangement had been arrived at in the way I have described, attack the Government for carrying out that arrangement.

Mr Batchelor - It would appear as if there were "too many captains" on the Opposition side.

Sir John Forrest - I had no communication with anybody on the matter.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The right honorable member ought to have communicated with his leader.

Sir John Forrest - Who is the leader of the honorable member for Hume?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not think that the right honorable member has on this occasion been fair to the Government, considering that most of the talking last night was done by a lieutenant of the leader of the Opposition, assisted by the right honorable member himself. If there has been any delay during this week it must, I think, be attributed to the machinations of the right honorable member, who certainly ought not to blame the Government for taking a course which they were practically compelled to take under the peculiar circumstances.

Sir John Forrest - Why cannot the honorable member let the Government answer for themselves?

Mr. WATSON(Bland - Treasurer).What has just been said by the honorable member for Hume is absolutely correct. It was found that a large number of honorable members proposed leaving Melbourne for Sydney, Adelaide, and elsewhere, quite independently of the members of the Select Committee on Electoral Administration ; and, in any case, it would have been impossible to get a quorum to-morrow. But the adjournment is not at the suggestion of the Government; it has been arranged simply for the reason I have stated. The debate on the Seat of Government Bill is practically ended, and it was evident that if the House met to-morrow the vote would be taken in an exceptionally thin House ; and I am sure that would not meet with the wishes of any honorable member.

Sir John Forrest - If it had been arranged to take the vote to-morrow, honorable members would have been here.

Mr WATSON - It would have been practically impossible for a large number of honorable members to be here ; and, unfortunately* from my point of view, every honorable member is not so seized with the importance of selecting the Capital site as to allow it to disarrange his private business. " Demoralizing," " scandalous," and a few other emphatic terms have been applied by the right honorable member for Swan to the present state of affairs. It is most extraordinary that the right honorable member should have been content to sit in this House for three months past, while the " scandal " has been going on, and should do nothing towards challenging the position of the Government. If the right honorable member and any other members of the Opposition object to the present Government, let them come up like men, as it is their duty to their constituents to do, and table an adverse motion. What is most demoralizing in this House is not the attitude of the Government, but the continual rumbling, and muttering of threats by the right honorable member and his confreres opposite. They threaten in this fashion, but do nothing, with the result that honorable members are kept in a state of suspense, not knowing what may occur.

Sir John Forrest - Why did the Prime Minister interpose the Seat of Government Bill during the consideration of the Arbitration Bill?

Mr WATSON - It was necessary to have a little time in order to consider the Arbitration Bill.

Sir John Forrest - The Government had plenty of time in which to do that.

Mr WATSON - Honorable members on the other side, including the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, asked the Government to consider a number of abstruse questions concerning legal interpretations; and that consideration which was necessary could not be given to the matter in a day. However, it is not the fault of the Government that the consideration of the Seat of Government Bill has lasted so long. Not one member of the Ministry has spoken during the debate, and,

I believe, only one or two Government supporters have addressed themselves to the merits of the various suggested sites.

Sir John Forrest - The Prime Minister must have known that the consideration of the Bill would take a long time.

Mr Austin Chapman - The Bill is so important that a month might be well spent in its consideration.

Mr WATSON - That may be; but the right honorable member for Swan has no right to complain that the Government have delayed matters.

Sir John Forrest - My complaint is that a new Bill was interposed in order to gain time.

Mr WATSON - The Federal Capital question on the last occasion took four days to decide, and the Government were justified in expecting that no more time would be occupied on the present occasion. It is open to the right honorable member, or any one else with authority from the members of the Opposition, to take steps at the earliest possible moment to end the present position, if that position does not suit honorable members opposite. The Opposition talk of the Government being in a minority ; but I deny that that is so. If, however, that is the belief of honorable members, let them take the usual Parliamentary means of demonstrating the fact. Question resolved in the affirmative.

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