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Friday, 10 November 1905

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) - I have not taken any part in the discussion of this clause, and had not intended to do so until it was impressed on me, as it must have been on other honorable senators, that there is a conspiracy to arrange for an all-night sitting. That arrangement having been arrived at either bv the Government supporters at the instigation of the

Government, or by the Government, at the instigation of their supporters, there is any amount of time at our disposal.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The arrangement has been come to by the Government at the instigation of their supporters.

Senator Styles - I am a Government supporter, but I know nothing about such an arrangement.

Senator Playford - I certainly know nothing about it.

Senator MILLEN - I heard Senator Playford talking to Senator Croft about the matter, and the Minister desired the arrangement.

Senator Croft - I asked the Minister for advice.

Senator Playford - Senator Croft asked me whether I was prepared to sit after four o'clock, and I put the question to Senators Story and Guthrie. I have never said a word about sitting all night.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Then how long does the Minister propose to sit ?

Senator Croft - I was asked the question about sitting late, and I replied, " Yes, I am prepared to sit all night."

Senator MILLEN - And what happened when the reply was given? Senator Keating cheered the reply. There is nodoubt that an arrangement has been made which places ample time at our disposal, and there is material in this Bill demanding every moment's consideration that can be given to it.

Senator Staniforth Smith - There is plenty of time.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Smith was one who agreed to prolong the sitting, and, therefore, he cannot object if I occupy a few minutes in submitting my objections to the clause. We have all heard of the "cracking of the parliamentary whip," but the "whip" is invariably "cracked" by the Government to call their party. We have now an instance of the party " cracking the whip " and the Ministry " coming to heel."

Senator Croft - We had an instance of the Opposition " cracking the whip " a moment ago.

Senator MILLEN - It is nonsense to assert that the Opposition can "crack the whip." This question could have been settledby the Government some time ago.

Senator Croft - Yes, if the Government had done exactly what the Opposition desired.

Senator MILLEN - Was the request made to the Government so monstrous that it should not be complied with?

Senator Croft - It did not seem necessary, in my opinion.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator is a very fair example of the attorney who represents his own opinion, and that of nobody else. I cannot understand that spurious kind of democracy, which, instead of saying, " Another man is as good as myself," says, " I am much better than another man." I do not quarrel with the honorable senator for having his own opinion, butsurely I have the right to an opinion of my own ?

Senator de Largie - Is Senator Millen in order in discussing "democracy," and those other matters which he has mentioned ?

The CHAIRMAN - The question is the amendment before the Committee, and I hope honorable senators will endeavour to keep to it during the discussion.

Senator MILLEN - I am personally under very great obligation to the Chairman for reminding the Committee of the question before us.

Senator Mulcahy - Come back to common sense !

Senator MILLEN - That is quite right ; but when accusations are hurled about the chamber I desire an opportunity to reply to them.

Senator Lt Col Gould - A surreptitious arrangement has been made.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - A surrep titious arrangement to apply the gag, and take advantage of the absence of honorable senators.

Senator Givens - A surreptitious arrangement was made by the Opposition to block the Bill, when trivial amendments were passed from one to the other.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! An honorable senator addressing the Chair has a rightto be heard in silence.

Senator MILLEN - The Chairman has pointed out that I am in possession of the Chair, but I had begun to have very great doubt about it. Only last night we were told that there was nothing to be afraid of in the regulations. Why? We were told that a Minister could not do anything very wrong, because the regulations have to be submitted to Parliament, which has the power to punish a Minister. That was the reply which Senator Playford gave when I directed attention to the enormous powers conferred on the Minister who will have the administration of the Bill. It is prevention more than cure which Senator Pulsford's amendment seeks to attain. If the amendment be carried, there will be greater assurance that Parliament will have reasonable time to consider the regulations. Section 10 of the Acts Interpretation Act is as follows : -

Where an Act confers power to make regulations, all regulations made accordingly shall, unless the contrary contention appears -

(a)   be notified in the Gazette;

(b)   take effect from the date of notification, or from a later date specified in the regulations ;

(c)   be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days of the making thereof, or, if the Parliament is not then sitting, within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament.

But if either House of the Parliament passes a resolution of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after such regulations have been laid before such House, disallowing any regulation, such regulation shall thereupon cease to have effect.

I draw special attention to sub-section b ; and I ask honorable senators to remember that for the last three or four sessions Parliament has invariably been called together late in the year.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Except in the case of the first session of this Parliament.

Senator MILLEN - That was not due to any Ministerial act, but in order to comply with the Constitution, that being the first session after the general election. The practice is, and it must be continued, to call Parliament together towards the end of the first half of the year - that is, the end of the financial year. I think I am correct in saying that this year Parliament met in June. Assuming that Parliament meets next year, well on towards the termination of the first half of the year, it will be inevitable that a long discussion will subsequently take place on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General's Speech. In the course of that debate, a motion may be moved involving the fate of the Government, and if the practice which has hitherto obtained is followed the Senate will adjourn during the time that motion is under consideration, and we shall have no opportunity of discussing the regulations framedunder this Bill until after the stipulated time set out in the Acts Interpretation Act. That Act allows thirty days for the presentation of the regulations' after they have been published. If they are published early in May they need not be presented until thirty days afterwards. Something may happen in another place in the meantime, which will lead to the adjournment of the Senate, and we shall have no opportunity to consider the regulations.

Senator Guthrie - The Acts Interpretation Act allows fifteen sitting days for their consideration.

Senator MILLEN - But in the meantime the regulations may become operative.

Senator Pearce - Then we shall have an opportunity of finding out their defects, and will be able to remedy them.

Senator MILLEN - If that is the view we are to take, we have only to legislate blindly, pass all sorts of laws, and trust to Providence to see how they will work out. Senator Pearce would not venture to submit a motion to the Senate in any such way.

Senator Croft - This is a disgraceful waste of public money and time.

Senator MILLEN - Is Senator Croft inorder in characterizing what I am saying as a disgraceful waste of public money and time?

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator is not in order.

Senator Croft - I do not refer to what the honorable senator is saying, but to the whole discussion.

Senator Millen - Then I must ask the Chairman if the honorable senator is in order in characterizing the discussion as a disgraceful Waste of public money and time?

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator is not in order, and I hope he will not continue to transgress.

Senator Croft - I withdraw, the statement.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Givens has complained that there should be so much discussion about a couple of weeks in point of time, and honorable senators opposite must take all the responsibility for holding up the Bill on a matter which they regard with indifference when they have heard that we considerthe amendment extremely necessary.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator desires to defeat the Bill altogether.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator is doing me an absolute injustice. We know very well that underneath his fighting aspectthe Honorable senator has the genial nature characteristic of his race. If he had paid me the compliment of listening to my remarks last night he would know that I support the major principles of the Bill.

Senator Givens - Did not the honorable senator vote against the second reading?

Senator MILLEN - Undoubtedly.

Senator Givens - Then the honorable senator is opposed to the Bill.

Senator MILLEN - That is a very inaccurate way of stating the case. There are eighteen clauses in this Bill, and there are only three to which I object.

Senator Givens - Why did not the honorable senator vote for the second reading in the hope of having those clauses struck outin Committee?

Senator MILLEN - Because it was made clear by the interjections of honorable senators opposite that they would not support the elimination of those clauses, and if they are to be retained , I should prefer to lose the Bill altogether.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator believes that what is bad in the Bill outweighs what is good?

Senator MILLEN - Undoubtedly.

SenatorGivens. - Then the honorable senator is opposed to the Bill, and I get back to my original contention.

Senator MILLEN - I am opposed to the Bill if the clausesto which I refer are to be retained, but I still hope that honorable senators opposite may be induced to agree to some amendment.In the event of the contingencies to which I have referred, it would be impossible for the Senate to have sufficient time to discuss regulations framed under the Bill, unless the amendment is agreed to. If it is accepted we shall at least secure the two or three weeks' additional time, and we shall have better assurance that the regulations will come before usin time to be considered before they become operative. It has already been contended that enormous powers are proposed to be conferred on Ministers under clause7 - powers which find no parallel in any other legislation the world over. The Czar of Russia has no greater powers than those conferred on the Minister in this Bill. In view of the further fact that these powers are absolutely vague, that there is no indication as to the limits to be placed am their exercise, and that the Minister is at liberty to apply the provisions of the Bill to seven-tenths of the imports and exports of Australia, the matter is certainly serious, and it is incumbent upon the Committee to see that ample time is given for the discussion of regu lations framed under the Bill before they are put into operation. It is on this account that I am now pleading for an extra week or two, and the answer is that the matter is not worth fighting about. It will make all the difference between the Senate having an opportunity to consider the regulations and losing that opportunity. Will honorable senators opposite contend that it is an insignificant matter that Parliament should exercise some control over the Executive? If I were to put the question to them in an abstract form, they would admit that Parliament should exercise control over the Executive, and yet the only way in which the Senate can expect to exercise that control in connexion with regulations framed under this Bill is by agreeing to the amendment.

Senator CROFT(Western Australia).I may, perhaps, have used rather strong terms in the interjection which I made, but I do believe that there has been a waste of time in the consideration of this Bill in Committee. I do not think that the importance of the amendments proposed on this clause justify the time occupied in their discussion. We have not yet passed one clause of the Bill. I asked several honorable senators whether they were prepared to sit all night to consider this Bill, and we are certainly justified in talking of sitting all night when we find honorable senators on one side prepared to talk until they get what they want, especially when the amendments they desire to see made are not important: When I spoke of sitting all night, I did not mean that we should do that if we made reasonable progress.

Senator Lt Col Gould - The honorable senator is to be the judge of that.

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