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Friday, 4 November 1904

Sir WILLIAM' LYNE (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I overlooked that fact for the moment, but I am quite prepared to help the right honorable member to have the survey made.

Mr Webster - It is the gun for Fremantle which is troubling the right honorable member.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Then, let us make him a present of it. An honorable member should not support the passing of Estimates, merely because they provide for a small expenditure in his own electorate, when they are introduced by a Government in which the country has no confidence. He certainly should not take up such an attitude when the feeling of the people is that no business of importance can be done while the Government remain in power. What business has really been dealt with since the present Administration came into office? I heard the Prime Minister say a few days ago that during his term of office he had done more work than had any other Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman was so often absent when good work was transacted by the Parliament, that he, perhaps, knows nothing about it. He has practically done nothing and, judging by the state of parties, he is not likely to do very much. His majority depends upon the attitude of one honorable member who recently denounced the Government in the most extreme terms. Such an honorable member as the one to whom I refer, and who recently denounced the Government, if giving evidence in a Court, would produce this result - that the side calling him would treat him as an adverse witness.

Mr Wilson - What he said about the Government was as nothing compared with his denunciation of the Opposition.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not know what he said about the Opposition, but I know that he could not have said more than he did against the Government, even if he had been one of their strongest opponents. As to the count-out which took place on Wednesday night, I am glad that no one can accuse me of having had a hand in it. I was away at the time, receiving the hospitality of the Governor-General, but had I been Prime Minister, I certainly should not have been absent. The head of the Government has no right to be absent from the House, unless he is thoroughly assured that while he 'is away the business of the country will be proceeded with as usual.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely the Prime Minister had a right to assume that it would go on, in such circumstances, in his absence ^

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - We have proof that he had no right to assume anything of the kind.

Mr Reid - That is the worst charge that has been made against me.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I was as much surprised as was any one when I read next morning of the count-out. I certainly did not know that anything of the kind was contemplated. I wish to emphasize the point that a Prime Minister should always be at his post, or have some one acting for him who will be able to insure the maintenance of a quorum. On . many occasions, as Premier of New South Wales, I abstained from attending public functions because of my belief that it was the duty of the head of a Government to be at his post in the House. There is no legitimate excuse for his absence while the House is sitting. It is somewhat remarkable that the Prime Minister was absent on the two occasions on which a count-out occurred this session. It is the duty of a Government to see that the business of a country is carried on, and members of the Opposition need not necessarily attend if there are any difficulties in the way of their doing so. The responsibility of maintaining a quorum rests with the Ministry and their supporters, and the attacks which have been made on the honorable member, for Barrier are quite unfounded. When the count-out took place on Wednesday night, there was a larger number of members of the Opposition than of Government supporters present; surely, therefore, the Ministry have no reason to complain. Owing to the action of the Ministry and their supporters, Supply was allowed to disappear from the notice-paper, and it is- only right that not only the Opposition, but Government supporters should direct attention to the incident.

Sir John Forrest - We do not care about doing mean things.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is not a mean thing to do. It is a proper constitutional course to follow, and I think that the honorable member for Barrier had a perfect right to draw pointed attention to it. His action has led to an interesting debate, and to remarks being made by some of 'the supporters of the Government which are worthy of notice, and even if it does no more, it will have served a useful purpose. I must say, so far as the attendance of the Opposition is concerned, that the members of the Labour. Party are most constant in their attention to the business of the country. It is seldom that one of them is absent.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the use of their being here if they do not keep a House ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - They are not supposed to keep a House for the Government. If I am opposed to a Government, and am anxious to make them go to the country, I am justified in doing all that I can to force them to do so.

Mr Wilson - Inside the House.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - And on the public platforms. It has been asserted that the House might have been counted out on more than one occasion whilst the late Government were in office. I remember that an understanding was arrived at that the debate on the Seat of Government Bill should be brought to a conclusion one evening although there was not a quorum present. I left for Sydney during the afternoon, and was informed by the leaders of both sides of the House that the arrangement had been made that attention should not be directed to the absence of a quorum. I take full responsibility for all my absences, although, excepting for occasional illness, I have been one of the most regular attendants. As the honorable member ibr Eden-Monaro said, I shall exercise my own judgment as to how I act and vote. I have not come into the Federal Parliament to be hampered in my actions. I should hail a dissolution with great satisfaction, as the only way to bring about a better state of things. I do not think we should wait until it suits the Prime Minister and his supporters to go to the country. The Prime Minister has stated on the public platform, and in this Chamber, more than once, that the next battle cry will be "unionism or nonunionism, labour or capital?"

Mr Reid - Nothing of the sort.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The Prime Minister obtained his present position with the assistance of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat on the distinct understanding that he would get rid of the three party system, and resolve the House into two parties - the democrats and the conservatives. He is opposed to the principles of the Arbitration Bill, and now he and his Government are trying to pass it through the Senate as it left this Chamber. If he were true to the principles which he has professed, he would, instead of continuing to dupe the people, obtain supply, and go to the country at once. His object, however, is to cause delay, in order that the public mind may be diverted from the position which he took up a short time ago. Under these circumstances, the Opposition is quite justified in using every means to force him to the country as soon as possible.

Mr Austin Chapman - By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that, although the honorable member for Hume twice stated that he agreed with the statement of the honorable member for EdenMonaro that the Prime Minister was humbugging the people, I never made any such statement. The Prime Minister has frankly told the House that he could not carry on the business of the country without the cooperation of the Opposition, and I said those who were humbugging the people were those who were clamouring for a dissolution, and yet would not take advantage of the forms of the House to bring one about.

Mr SPEAKER - Two hours having now elapsed since the House met, the orders of the day must be called on, unless honorable members determine otherwise.

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