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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator Lt Col GOULD (New South Wales) - During a long parliamentary career I have heard complaints made by an Opposition of false dealing and unfair practices on the part of Governments, but the cause of complaint against Senator Playford and his colleague in connexion with this Bill is possibly graver than any cause of complaint which I have known to give rise to recrimination and unpleasantness. The excuse given by the former was a miserable subterfuge.

Senator Givens - On a point of order, sir, I desire to know whether Senator Gould is in order in saving that any statement made by an honorable senator is a miserable subterfuge ?

The PRESIDENT - I do not think the honorable senator should have made use of that expression.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I accept your ruling, sir.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator had better withdraw the expression.

The PRESIDENT - I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the expression.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I withdraw it at the request of the President; but I reserve to myself the right to think and say outside of this Chamber what I see fit in regard to it. This- is but another instance of the attempts made to gag honorable senators, and to place them in fetters. Honorable senators opposite desire to prevent a man from saying honestly what he believes. I pity Senator Playford on having been driven into such a wretched position that he has had to make this excuse for a gross, breach of faith with members of the Senate. The honorable senator has tried to induce us to believe that he meant that we should adjourn at n o'clock, but why did he not honestly and straightforwardly tell us what hour he did mean? We know what the honorable senator said on Friday last. He said: -

If at 4 o'clock we have dealt with the first four clauses, I think I can regard that as fair progress. The next part of the Bill deals with the inspection of imports and exports, and the third part relates to the prohibition of imports and exports. I think that the whole of Tuesday might be devoted to the second part of the Bill.

I point out that the second part of the Bill was dealt with on Tuesday, because it had been dealt with not later than 11.30 p.m.

Senator Playford - That was too late for the trains.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The honorable senator must be aware that the last trains do not leave until midnight.

Senator Sir Josiah , Symon - And cabs were provided.

Senator Keating - No cabs had been provided then.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- Honorable senators who were supporting the Government knew that if they remained provision would be made for cabs to enable them to get to their homes.

Senator Henderson - The honorable senator could have stayed, mid why does he talk about the " gag"?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I am talking about the gag, and also about dishonorable conduct.

Senator Henderson - The honorable senator talked all day yesterday.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I shall talk all day to-day if L see fit; I shall not as,k the consent of the honorable senator.

Senator Henderson - Then why does the honorable senator talk about the " gag"?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Because it was attempted to put the gag upon honorable senators. Honorable senators were induced to go away in the belief that the Committee would noi go beyond clause 10.

Senator Playford - It was well known in the early part of the night that I did not propose to do so. If the business had been conducted in reasonable time there would have been" no trouble.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - As, long as the Senate is prepared to swallow any dose given to it, at the instigation of their friends and supporters of the Labour Party, everything will, of course, go on comfortably. Senator __Playford stated as distinctly as possible "that he would be satisfied if Tuesday were devoted to the second part of the Bill, and if the consideration of the third part of the measure were dealt with on Wednesday. On his own showing, the honorable senator is. proved guilty of a breach of faith, because he took up the third part of the Bill at the Tuesday's sitting. The Minister may quibble as much as he pleases with regard to the meaning of words, but he is well aware that a parliamentary day commences at the hour set down, for the opening of the proceedings, and continues until the business of the sitting is concluded. If honorable senators will refer to what is happening in another place, they will find that a sitting which was continued until mid-day on Wednesday was still regarded as Tuesday's sitting. Senator Playford knows that until half-past 2 o'clock in the afternoon he cannot make a move to take up the business set down for the Wednesday's sitting. The honorable senator has branded himself as a man who has been guilty of gross deception of the members of the Senate in connexion with the conduct of its business. Two or three honorable senators were got rid of last night. The Minister knew perfectly well that honorable senators who have taken a very great deal of interest in this measure were not present yesterday, and would in all probability be present to-day. Senator Walker left at the close of last week under the impression that no more than the second part of the Bill would be dealt with until Wednesday.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator had a live pair all day yesterday.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - He had a migratory pair. He was paired at one time with one honorable senator on the other side, and at another time with another. The honorable senator has been deprived of the opportunity of expressing his opinion on certain clauses of the Bill, and no pair can make up for that. Senator Millen was not here yesterday, and I dare say that the Government considered it very convenient to get rid of the honorable senator, who is always keen in his criticisms and shrewd in his remarks, and who can generally make the force of any remarks he has to make felt by the Government. Then we are aware that Senator Best was cajoled out of the Chamber' by means of false representations. I am prepared to believe that if Senator Playford had been free to act in accordance with his own judgment, he would have had some hesitation in committing such a breach of faith with members of the Senate.

Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator would have done the same thing in his place.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I should have been very sorry to have done so. If Senator Playford had said that he intended to press the Bill through the Senate as Quickly as possible, he would have been justified, and we should have had no cause to complain. I admit that so long as the supporters of the Government are willing to remain to assist them, they have a right to prolong a sitting to get their business through, but it is a very different matter when the representative of the Government gives a promise that he does not intend to go beyond a certain clause in a Bill at a particular sitting. We cannot be taxed with any obstruction of this Bill. Do honorable senators know, how long the measure was debated in another place?

Senator de Largie - Is the honorable senator in order in referring to the debates in another place?

The PRESIDENT - I understand that the honorable senator is referring to the proceedings in another place, and not to a debate.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- That is so. I find that this Bill was no less than five times before honorable members in another place on' the second reading. A motion was made to refer it to a Select Committee, and that was discussed on four different occasions. When it was negatived, and the Bill -was afterwards considered in Committee, it was dealt with on six different occasions, and on two or three other occasions in connexion with motions for the recommittal of the measure. This lengthy, consideration was due to the importance of the Bill, and the desire of certain honorable members in another place, if possible, to effect some improvement in it. Here, after a debate extending over two days on the second reading, we are charged with obstruction, though the second reading of the measure was debated for seven days in another place. When it was desired to devote three days to the consideration of the Bill in Committee, that is also considered obstruction, though in another place seven or eight sittings were devoted to the same stage. We have a far higher duty than that of supporting a Government in order to pass particular legislation, and that is our duty to the electors who have sent us here, and who have a right to expect us to- give our best attention to legislation submitted to the Senate. I am satisfied that the electors do not approve of the gag being, applied to honorable senators because one section in this Parliament desires to force certain legislation through. I ask Senator Playford whether the price of the Labour Party's support is the passing of this measure, with all its crudities and absurdities, and .the rank injustice attempted to be perpetrated upon the community under it ? I ask whether the Bill which is now being so earnestly debated in another place is to be pressed through for the same purpose? AVe know that the Government must kow-tow to the men by whose breath they live, and bv whose breath they could be blown out of existence to-morrow. Notwithstanding their declarations of independence and of regret at the harrowing way in which the previous Government were driven, members of the present Government are prepared to eat the dirt provided for them in order to retain the sweets of office. No Government ever placed themselves in a more contemptible position than has the present Government. How can any member of the Senate ever again accept the word or the promise of the leader of the Government in this Chamber after his gross breach of the promise he made on Friday last? Unfortunately, the honorable senator has placed himself in the contemptible and despicable position of being regarded by a large section of his fellow-members of the Senate as a man whose word is not to be relied upon. I believe in fighting a Government fairly, and in the Government fighting the Opposition fairly, and I am prepared to accept defeat when the business of Parliament is conducted honestly. When two men are engaged in open conflict, and a third, taking one at a disadvantage, tries to stab him, there is little credit in a victory so achieved. What is such a victory worth ?

Senator Stewart - Then what is the honorable senator making such a row about ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Because Senator Stewart has assisted in covering this Chamber with contumely in theeyes of the public by assisting Senator Playford in his breach of faith.

The PRESIDENT -The honorable senator will please take his seat. He has occupied the time allowed under the Standing Orders.

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