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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

The PRESIDENT - Yes, I have.

Four honorable senators having risen in their places,

Question proposed.

Senator PULSFORD - It is with extraordinary regret and surprise that I find myself in the position I occupy to-day. The Commerce Bill is one in which I have taken special interest. I studied it carefully. I proposed a number of amendments in it, and I was prepared to propose other amendments. Yesterday being Tuesday, I arrived in Melbourne after a journey of nearly 600 miles.

Senator Stewart - I rise to a point of order. I wish your ruling, sir, as to whether something * which transpired in the Committee of the Senate can be a matter of urgent public importance, and the subject of such a motion as that now before the Senate.

Senator Givens - Especially when it can come up for discussion at a later stage.

Senator Stewart - It may be discussed at a later stage. I ask whether the question raised is one of urgent public importance ?

The PRESIDENT - I point out that the Senate takes no cognizance of what takes place in Committee until the Committee has reported. The Committee on the Commerce Bill has reported, and Senator Pulsford is now proposing a motion of urgency under standing order No. 60. It is not for me to say whether the ques-, tion raised by the honorable senator is one of urgency or not - that is for the four honorable senators who rise in their places to support him. I therefore consider that the motion is in order. I have already ruled once or twice that it is not for me to say that a question raised in this way is one of urgency. It may appear to be a matter of very trivial importance, and yet, during the discussion upon it, it may develop into one of pressing importance. I have therefore ruled that the four honorable senators, who, under the Standing Orders, rise in their places to support a motion of this kind, are the judges as to whether the matter with which it deals is one of urgency or not.

Senator PULSFORD - I was saying that I arrived in Melbourne yesterday after a journey of 600 miles. After sitting in this chamber for something like nine hours, I was fairly exhausted, and I went away on the complete understanding that the arrangement proposed by Senator Playford last Friday would be faithfully carried out. The leader of the Opposition, Senator Symon, knew that I was going away and also that I was" very anxious indeed1 to move certain amendments on the Bill prior to clause 10. I felt that I was unequal to the task, and must forego the opportunity to do so. My surprise this morning was unbounded when I found from .the newspapers that the Committee had gone right through the Bill. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the report of what occurred last Friday. First of all, I should like to say that there has been no undue time spent in the consideration of this Bill, certainly no expenditure of time warranting undue steps being taken to curtail the rights of honorable senators. Last week the Senate considered the second reading of the Bill on Wednesday, and again on Thursday night, so that a day and a half was devoted to the second-reading stage of one of the most important Bills ever introduced into any Parliament. To show how brief the time was; I may refer to the fact that on Friday morning Senator Symon arrived" in Melbourne with the express intention and desire to take par* in the secondreading debate, and the honorable and learned" senator was exceedingly surprised to find that it had been closed on Thursday night. That is a fair indication of the view entertained by am honorable senator eminently versed in public affairs as to the rate of speed with- which the consideration of this measure has been conducted. We went into Committee on. the Bill on last Friday; the consideration of it in Committee was continued yesterday and before midnight the representatives of the Government in the Senate thought they were entitled to rush the Bill through in the absence of opposition. I have here the Hansard report of what took place in this chamber on last Friday in connexion withthe suggestion made by Senator Playford. Senator Playford is reported to have said -

I may reasonably be asked what I should consider to be fair progress. It has been suggested' to me by some of my friends that it is not wise to express an opinion on such a matter until progress has been made; but I think it is only courteous to senators on both sides of the chamber to answer the question.

Senator de Largie - li the honorable senator in order in reading from a Hansard report of a debate of this session?

The PRESIDENT - So far as the Bill is concerned, the debates on all its stages are considered as one debate. That -is the recognised rule which has previously been followed by the Senate. I therefore think the honorable senator is in order.

Senator PULSFORD - Senator Playfordwenton to say -

The Bill on its second reading was discussed at considerable length.

Senator Pulsford - It was discussed only one day and one evening.

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