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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) - As to the question between the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Government, I, as a member of the Labour Party, am prepared to leave the public to judge. But something has been said to the effect that the action taken by the Government was due to coercion by members of the Labour Party.

Senator Gray - The Minister said so.

Senator PEARCE - The Minister neither said that he was coerced nor that he was moved to take action by the Labour Party. When midnight was approaching, the members of the Labour Party, who support the Government on this question - not like some Government supporters, who really support the Opposition - approached the Minister and pointed out-- .

Senator Mulcahy - Is the honorable senator alluding to me as a Government supporter ?

Senator PEARCE - I am alluding to Senator Mulcahy for one.

Senator Mulcahy - I never professed to be a Government supporter.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senators came here labelled as a Ministerialist.

Senator Mulcahy - I never did.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator may be left to explain his position.

What happened last night was that certain members ofthe Labour Party pointed out that if the debate was going to continue they would lose their trains. The position at the time meant that the Government would either have to stop at the clause then before the Committee - which was, I believe, clause 6. and not clause 10 - and thus the Minister would not accomplish what he had set out to accomplish, or his supporters would be kept here by the Opposition until the early hours of Wednesday morning. Judging by the number of clauses passed between half -past 2 and11 o'clock, clause 10 could not have been reached until 5 o'clock in the morning.

Senator Lt Col Gould - When was clause 10 reached?

Senator PEARCE - Not until about twenty minutes to 12 o'clock.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Was there any debate after the division on the first part of clause 7 ?

Senator PEARCE - I shall not say there was any debate, but rather that there was much tedious repetition. There was no coercion or pressure of any kind exercised by the Labour Party, and, personally, I think that the action of the Minister was justified. The consequences' from which the Opposition suffer were brought about by their own action. They declined to allow any progress to be made until they had penalized supporters of the Government by making them lose their trains.

Senator Lt Col Gould - If I can make them lose their trains again I shall do so !

The PRESIDENT - I must ask honorable senators not to interject so much.

Senator PEARCE - We on this side noticed the chuckling amongst honorable senators opposite as midnight approached, and we realized that the late sitting was intended as a sort of punishment to us. If the Opposition had shown* a desire to make reasonable progress, and had, for instance, disposed of clause 5 within an hour or two, there might have been some ground for supposing that their acceptation of the offer which the Minister made was genuine. As a matter of fact, the Minister never told honorable senators on this side about any arrangement as to clause 10; all we had knowledge of was the undertaking he gave on Friday.

Senator Dobson - I am glad the honorable senator calls it an undertaking, for that is what it was.

Senator PEARCE - It was an undertaking entered into on the condition that fair progress should be made, and I defy any one to say that fair progress was made yesterday.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Better progress was made here than was made in another place.

Senator PEARCE - I hope the day will never come when the proceedings of this Chamber will be marked by the same unruly methods that are adopted elsewhere, especially by the section of politicians to which Senator Gould belongs.

The PRESIDENT - I do not think the honorable senator is in order in reflecting on another Chamber.

Senator PEARCE - I was drawn away by an interjection.

The PRESIDENT - I know, but it is contrary to the Standing Orders.

Senator PEARCE - I repeat that no coercion has ever been exercised by the Labour Party on the Government, either last night or at any other time.

Senator Drake - Pressure, then !

Senator PEARCE - Nor pressure; there was not even a suggestion that the Minister should in any way break a promise. When Ministerial supporters! realized that they had lost their trains in consequence of the obstructive tactics of the Opposition, they thought it only fair that they should be allowed to proceed with business. It was open to members of the Opposition to have also stayed and dealt with the Bill. I once more deny that any pressure has been exercised by the Labour Party on the Government in regard to this or any other measure.

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