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Wednesday, 25 October 1905

The PRESIDENT - Does the honorable and learned senator think that that matter has any relation to the question ?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD.- I refer to it in order to ascertain from the Minister whether he is going to explain the defence proposals of the Government. We ought to know in order that we may form an opinion as to whether it is necessary to give him the time that he requires.

The PRESIDENT - I do not think that the honorable and learned senator ought to discuss the merits of any particular proposal.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I dare say that when honorable senators learn that under the Swiss system soldiers get 4 1/2 d and 7d. a day for their services-

The PRESIDENT - That has nothing to do with the question.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I bow to your ruling, and shall not offend again. I trust that the Minister, in his reply, will inform us how the time for which he asks is to be utilized. We ought to know what business we have to dispose of, in order that we may make up our minds to deal with it promptly and expeditiously.

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - Sen'ator Gould has expressed a desire to get all the information I can possibly give him, but he surely does not anticipate that I intend to make a long speech, and to deal with all the subjects he has mentioned. I mentioned what I thought was a sufficient reason why the Senate should give the Government more time in which to deal with business. I may, however, state that I ask the Senate to sit on Tuesdays only when not otherwise ordered. The intention is that if it is necessary to devote more than the usual days of sitting to public business, we shall be in a position to do so without bringing forward a special motion. My motion is 'not mandatory.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Will it apply to next Tuesday ?

Senator PLAYFORD - I shall not know until Friday next. Personally, however, I intend to ask the Senate not to adjourn over Cup Day, or for garden parties, or for anything of that kind. Supposing we agree to meet on Tuesdays, we shall sit on Tuesdays if public business requires it. Business will have precedence over every other consideration. The duty we owe to those who have sent us here isi more important than a visit to the Melbourne race-course, or attendance at a garden party. Of course, if we do not get a quorum on the extra day it will not be my fault; and the names of those present will be taken down and made public. It was not from want of courtesy that I did not say a few words, but merely because I thought that the condition of the notice-paper made the reason for the motion self-evident. There is a great deal of busi ness before another place, and also before the Senate, so that our work is well "cut out" for us between now and the prorogation. We have already had before us the most important portion of the Estimates, namely, the expenditure on public works. The Estimates proper consist principally of the salaries to be paid to the various public servants, and, as honorable senators know, the Government in another place have been expediting this work as far as possible. Indeed, the Estimates were never so forward as they are this year; and the Government intend to endeavour to get them passed at the earliest possible moment in another place, so that I hope to have them here at the end of this week, or the beginning of next.

Senator Givens - What about the amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act?

Senator PLAYFORD - From what the Prime Minister has said, I believe the proposal for the amendment of that Act will be brought before another place and ultimately submitted to honorable senators. I do not know that the Government have decided what other measures it is intended to proceed with, and, therefore, I cannot give honorable senators the information they' desire. °

Senator Dobson - The Minister of Defence promised to afford us an opportunity to discuss the questions to be submitted at the Colonial Conference.

Senator PLAYFORD - The honorable senator can have an opportunity' to discuss those matters by placing a notice on the paper. I do not see that it is necessary for the Government to submit any proposals on the subject, but I should imagine, although it has never been before the Cabinet, that this is a matter for the Government to deal with. There is no doubt that the representatives of the Commonwealth at the Conference will not commit the Commonwealth without the consent of this Parliament.

Senator Matheson - What about the naval subsidy?

Senator PLAYFORD - That matter has been settled. Anything done by the representatives of the Commonwealth at the Conference will have to be approved of by the Parliament.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - In connexion with the naval subsidy, we were told that it would be a breach of faith if we did not carry out the informal promise of Sir Edmund Barton.

Senator PLAYFORD - We have nothing to do with that at the present time.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I am merely pointing out a danger.

Senator PLAYFORD - That danger will, I think, be obviated in the future.

Senator Walker - Are we to have a High Commissioner's Bill this session?

Senator PLAYFORD - I do not know. The Cabinet have not definitely decided what measures they will submit to Parliament; and I do not know why the honorable senator is so anxious about that or any other Bill. The measures which the Government consider necessary will be submitted in due course. At present we have plenty of work before us, and the motion is simply to give us an extra day if an extra day be found necessary. Should we get on expeditiously with the business, I shall not ask the House to meet on Tuesdays, but, otherwise, I must be allowed to be the judge in the matter, although I am at all times anxious to consider the convenience of honorable senators. I prefer to sit a few extra days rather than have to rush the work through in the last hours of the session.

Senator Lt Col Gould .- Will anything be done in regard to the Capital Site?

Senator PLAYFORD - Like the honorable senator, I only know what has appeared in the newspapers. At a Cabinet meeting a week ago, a certain understanding was arrived at that the Attorney-General of New South Wales and the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth should confer and bring up a report. There has been no Cabinet meeting since, and all I know is that there has been an intimation of some arrangement, which will be submitted to the Government, and subsequently to Parliament.

Senator Lt Col Gould - What about the defence proposals?

Senator PLAYFORD - There are no defence proposals that I know of. When I move the second reading of the Appropriation Bill, honorable senators will hear what I have to say on the question of defence; and I think they will find that the problems which confront us are of such a character that, in the short time I have been in office, it would have been impossible for me to lay clown any definite defence policy.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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