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Friday, 4 November 1904


Mr Reid - That is quite another matter.

Mr McDONALD - Under such circumstances no Government can carry on with credit to themselves or to the country. I am quite sure that theright honorable gentleman realizes that fact quite as well as does any honorable member of this House. I feel that we are not acting honestly to the electors in allowing the existing condition of affairs to continue, and that something ought to be done to bring about an appeal to the country.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not hear any cheers upon the Opposition side of the Chamber.

Mr Thomas - I do not hear any cheers upon the other side.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We do not want to go to the country.

Mr MCDONALD - I cannot help whether members of the Opposition cheer or riot. If honorable members opposite admit that they do not wish to go to the country - that they are afraid to face their constituents - I say they are the poorest set of representatives that I have yet discovered.

Mr Reid - Wait until we get the rolls in order. Let honorable members try to turn us out of office then.

Mr MCDONALD - From the Prime Minister's interjection, I take it that he is quite prepared to appeal to the country.

Mr Reid - At any time.

Sir William Lyne - Let the right honorable gentleman do so now. We are ready whenever he is.

Mr McDONALD - The Prime Minister declares that he is ready to face the country at any time. I am heartily glad to have that assurance.

Mr Carpenter - Surely the honorable member does not believe it.

Mr McDONALD - Within the next week or fortnight, we shall see whether we can accept the Prime Minister's word.

Mr Reid - There will be no trouble at all.

Mr MCDONALD - The only excuse which the right honorable gentleman now makes for denying us an appeal to out constituents is that the electoral rolls are not in order.

Mr Reid - There are two reasons.

Mr McDONALD - What is the other?

Mr Reid - It is that we have a majority.

Mr McDONALD - The Prime Minister has now given us a second reason whyhe is not anxious to bring about a general election. He declares that he has a majority. Yet only a few nights ago, he had to rise in his place and reprove one of his supporters for a certain statement which he had made. The right honorable gentleman affirmed that he would be less than a man if he had not done so, but, nevertheless, he did not repudiate the statement of another honorable member who alleged that he held him in the hollow of his hand. He did not resent that declaration. The same honorable member also added that for the moment he would record his vote in favour of the Government, but that he reserved to himself the right to take different action at a later period.The Government; I repeat, are- prepared to carry on with an exceedingly slender majority. The. whole essence of my argument is that no Ministry which possesses a majority of one can justify its existence. I do not think that Ave can find a parallel to the present position in Australian history.

Mr Thomas - The Prime Minister compared a New South Wales Government which held on to office under somewhat similar circumstances, to ring-tailed opossums.

Mr McDONALD - Yes. In addressing himself to a somewhat similar position in New South Wales, the right honorable gentleman said that, rather than follow the course of clinging to office like a set of ring-tailed opossums, which had been adopted by his predecessors, he would resign his position. Nevertheless, he is now emulating the methods ofthe opossum. Concerning the count-out which occurred on Wednesday evening, I desire to say that I objected to the honorable member for Maranoa withdrawing his call for a division. I had a perfect right to do so. When a proposal is submitted in this House, why should I be called upon to abandon my opinions regarding it, owing to the neglect of honorable members to be present ?

Mr Robinson - If the honorable membe's vote had been properly recorded, he would have voted with the "Ayes."

Mr MCDONALD - It is quite true that I misunderstood the question when it was put from the Chair, and that I gave my voice upon the wrong side. But I immediately corrected my mistake, and if the Chairman had not accepted my correction, I should certainly have asked him to put the question again. I maintain that the Chairman adopted the proper course. I object to being compelled to forego my opinions for the sake of avoiding a countout. I have no right to be placed in that position. The honorable member for Maranoa called for a division upon the proposal which was under discussion. I was strongly adverse to the increase proposed, and "naturally desired to record my vote against it. The honorable member for Maranoa desired to withdraw his call for a division, because he did not wish to place the Committee in an awkward position. When I explained to him that the business which would lapse consequent upon a count-out could be restored' to the paper, he was quite satisfied. But I wish to point out that a difficulty is likely to arise in connexion with the motion which is now under consideration, although I presume that the Government have consulted authorities as to the course which should be followed. The motion affirms -

That the proceedings in Committee of Supply, which lapsed on Wednesday last, be resumed, and that the House do now resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.

In my judgment there are two distinct proposals involved in that motion. I can quite understand a proposition being submitted affirming that we should resume the consideration of business at the point at which it lapsed. The argument will probably be advanced that the Committee of Supply has lapsed. That, however, is not so. because our Standing Orders provide that we can restore any lapsed business to the paper and resume its consideration at the point at which it was dropped. That is all we have to do upon the present occasion. There is. no need to reconstitute the Committee of Supply.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But we cannot resume our consideration of the Estimates until Committee of Supply has been set up.

Mr McDONALD - If the second portion of the motion be carried, the question will at once arise, " Are we to set up a Committee of Supply de novo, or from the point at which it lapsed last Wednesday?"

Mr SPEAKER - I have looked into this matter very carefully, and I find that there have been many examples of a count-out in Committee of Supply in the House of Commons', and that there the custom has been for Supply to be restored at the point at which it lapsed, as a matter of form, upon the next dav of sitting. In this case, the House in the first place is called upon to resolve that the consideration of business shall be resumed at the point at which it lapsed, and in the next to affirm when that consideration shall be resumed. To resolve that its consideration shall be resumed without fixing a date for such resumption would be obviously futile. The two proposals are necessary - first, that the consideration of the business shall be resumed, and secondly that a date shall be fixed when it shall be so resumed. The two matters are properly combined in one motion, and no point which has arisen in any such Parliament as this has been overlooked.

Mr McDONALD - I am very much obliged, sir, for that information. Under the circumstances I have nothing further to add upon that subject. The honorable member for Barrier has been kind enough to inform the House of the names of the members who were present when the count-out occurred upon Wednesday evening. I think that it is only fair to state who were absent.

Mr Wilson - What object can be gained by so doing?

Mr McDONALD - It will allow the electors to see how the country is being governed under existing conditions.

Mr Reid - We are getting a good exhibition of it just now.

Mr McDONALD - -In the first place, the Government majority, in the person of the honorable member for Wilmot, was absent. Similarly, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, Werriwa, Ballarat, South Sydney, Richmond, Denison, Illawarra, Flinders, Mernda, Angas, and the right honorable member for Swan, were not in attendance. With the exception of the honorable member for South Sydney and the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, none of these gentlemen are very constant in their attendance.

Sir John Forrest - I am more constantly in attendance here than is the honorable member.

Loud laughter.

Mr SPEAKER -Order ! I would point out that not only is it disorderly to interrupt an honorable member by interjection, but that it is equally disorderly to interrupt by laughter.

Mr McDONALD - It is very difficult for me to proceed, but I desire to'acknowledge that the right honorable member for Swan is very constant in his attendance. Then the honorable members for Lang, Wentworth, Kooyong, Hunter, Corinella, Echuca, Franklin, Bendigo, East Sydney, Grampians, Parkes, and Robertson, many of whom attend regularly, were also absent.

Mr Kelly - I was paired with a member of the Opposition on , the evening in question.

Mr McDONALD - I think' that the pairing system is objectionable.

Mr Carpenter - Are all these honorable members Government supporters?

Mr McDONALD - Yes. I shall leave honorable members opposite to deal with the absentees upon the Opposition side, and I trust that they will in future pay greater attention to their parliamentary duties. The Prime Minister says that he has. givenĀ£400 worth of his time to the business of the country, and that some of us would not do that in a lifetime.

Mr Reid - I did not say that. I spoke of one honorable member who referred to me ; it was simply a case of tit for tat.

Mr MCDONALD - We occupy a responsible position. We have been returned to attend to the business of the Commonwealth, but a large number of honorable members do not appear to recognise that fact.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be better for some honorable members to be away than to waste time in this manner.

Mr McDONALD - That may be, but the Government alone are responsible for any waste of time in regard to this matter. No one knows better than does the Prime Minister that a Government cannot carry on with any degree of success when they have so narrow a majority as have the present Administration, and that in the present state of parties it is a mere waste of time for us to attend here day after day. It is for this reason that we desire the Government to go to the country at the earliest date. The right honorable gentleman has practically told us that as soon as the rolls are in order he will go to the country. We challenge him to keep that promise.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He told the House of another reason why it was not proposed at present to go to the country.

Mr McDONALD - That was an after thought. We have also been informed by a member of the Government that within three months the rolls will be in perfect order.

Sir William Lyne - That was a fortnight ago.

Mr McDONALD - It was. We may therefore reasonably expect the Prime Minister to fulfil his promise, and let us have a genera] election about January, or February next.

Mr Wilson - He made no such promise.

Mr MCDONALD - The honorable member is the representative of only a minority of the electors in his constituency, so that we may feel assured that he does not desire a general election.

Mr Wilson - I admit that I do not, but not for the reason which the honorable member suggests.

Mr McDONALD - I do not think that any material advantage would be gained by voting against the motion, but if the honorable member for Barrier desires to go to a division in order to enter another protest against the position of the Government, I shall certainly support him.

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