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Thursday, 27 October 1904

Mr REID (East Sydney) (Minister of External Affairs) . - I think I stated some time ago that there would be no objectionon the part of the Government to give the honorable and learned member for Ballarat an opportunity to bring the question of preferential trade before the House during this session, and I certainly have no objection to that course being taken. I feel quite certain, however, that it would be impossible for us to adequately discussthe question under, at all events, a month, and, therefore, I do not see any prospect of dealing with it in a satisfactory way during the present session. I wish also to mention that, as honorable members know, the British Parliament has been in recess since August, and will not meet until the middle of February next.

Mr Watson - When we get into recess, we do not know when we shall meet again.

Mr REID - It is singularly refreshing to learn from a statement made by my predecessor in office, that there is any idea that this is a matter of great urgency. So far as I am concerned, I have a particular personal wish that the, honorable and learned member for Ballarat should have an opportunity to make a statement of his views on this question in the House before the session ends, for my views on the subject will be published in a very prominent way in the mother country within the next few weeks. Those views must not be looked upon as official, for they were expressed before I came into office; but they are opinions which I still entertain, and I know that they will be published in such a way as to attract, at all events, some attention. I am very anxious indeed, as a matter of fairness to those who differ from me on this question, that the leader of the movement in Australia should have an opportunity to state fully the views which he holds upon it. I shall raise no difficulty at all as to the initiation of a discussion on this most important question by the honorable, and learned member, but I confess that at the present time, I do not see any reasonable prospect of bringing it to a conclusion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 11. 9 p.m.

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