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Thursday, 13 October 1904

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I believe that on one occasion I exceeded the limits of a three hours' speech. To-night I have listened to a speech for four hours or more ; and I humbly apologize to the House for my own offence, the enormity of which has been brought home to me. At the present time, throughout the country, there is no doubt much reflection cast on the House on account of the length of our discussions. It seems to me, however, that if the people would only consider, they might take a great deal of comfort to themselves. This is the only Australian Parliament for many years past which has sat for seven months, and has not by any law it has passed added to the cost of administration, or deprived anybody of a portion of his earnings. That fact is unique, in the history of latter day Australian Parliaments, and one over which we may very well re'joice. I am not one who complains of the want of legislation in this House. It appears to me we are only too faithfully reflecting the indecision of the electors, as shown in December last, when they were unable to make up their minds as to which policy should be pursued. Although three separate lines of policy we're placed before them, the electors were unable to definitely decide in favour of any ; and the result is seen in the three parties within this Chamber. One is very greatly surprised to hear members of the Labour Party - though, I am thankful to say, not members of the late Ministry - complaining that the late Government had not a fair chance. If the late Government desired one provision more than another in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, if was preference to unionists; and on that issue the Government were distinctly' defeated. I cannot understand, therefore, why there should be; any complaint from that Government because they had to resign office. No one can pretend that there is a majority in this House in favour of giving a preference to unionists unless it is clear that the whole of the workers connected with a particular industry is in favour of such a step. All this talk about want of fair play to the late Government is, under the circumstances, very surprising. Challenge after challenge was issued by the late Government to the then Opposition to meet them in the House ; and that course was taken, and the Government were defeated. Every honorable member was allowed to make only one speech, and not two or three1; and that was the reason the Government were challenged in the House. The course pursued placed some limitation on the debate, and confined members to the particular motion before us. However, all this has been dealt with before, and I shall not go fully into it again. It is also surprising that, in the course of this long debate, we have heard nothing but whimpering and complaining because certain forms of the House were followed. If honorable members do not agree with those forms they may be altered. We are asked now to show by our votes whether we support the present Ministry, and it is perfectly clear that if we do not there must be a dissolution. Two parties in the House have already been exhausted, and a third party is now on trial. It is the duty of all of us to prevent, if possible, a dissolution, not merely on personal grounds, which, of course, and rightly, have a great deal of weight, but especially because that course would involve the country in an expenditure of something like ^60,000.

Mr King O'malley - Sufficient to make a substantial addition to our salaries.

Mr CONROY - The cost of a general election would be quite enough to give 60,000 working families provisions for a month, though that is a point the Labour Party appear to have forgotten. I assert that we have every right to try to prevent a dissolution. The present Government and honorable members on both sides have had to give up, not their principles, but the assertion of their principles for the time being. They have had to recognise, as we always must recognise in legislation, that unless there is a distinct majority on one side in favour of a certain line of policy, that policy ought not to be pursued, though other classes of legislation, on which a majority do agree, ought to be passed. 1 should have liked to deal with other subjects, but I understand that many honorable members are desirous that the debate shall close this evening, and, in order to give the leader of the Opposition an opportunity to address the House, and have his remarks reported, I shall confine myself to stating that at the present time it seems absurd to plunge the country 'into the turmoil of a general election. It. is especiallyridiculous when we remember that, supposing a similar House were returned, the Senate might deal with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and so alter it that this House would not be able to accept it. That would mean another dissolution. Whatever our feelings may be with regard to the lines of policy to be pursued - and nobody on either side can feel satisfied when he does not see his own ideas carried out - we can have no hesitation in recording our votes against the motion. While I do not pretend that this Ministry has my full confidence - or, indeed, that any Ministry, of which I was not a member myself, could have my full confidence - I shall feel no hesitation in voting against the motion.

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