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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - I think that the chief point in the dispute between the Minister and the leader of the Opposition has been lost sight of. It is just as well that we shouldhave it cleared up for our own satisfaction. There has been a tacit understanding amongst members of the Senate that when we speak of completing a certain amount of business in a certain time, it does not necessarily mean going on till 12 o'clock at night. It means continuing till an hour somewhat near the time atwhich we ordinarily adjourn.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - What would that mean?

Senator O'KEEFE - We have only to look at the facts. Usually, our sittings continue not later than half-past 1 1 . That allows the majority of the members of the Senate to get to their homes. If, however, the proceedings are carried beyond half-past 11, there is no possibility of many honorable senators who live in distant suburbs getting home. Senator Symon in his rather heated speech has asserted that he kept faith in respect of the arrangement made. He and his party may have kept faith in the letter, but they broke it in the spirit. Fortunately, I am one of those who live within ten minutes' walk of Parliament House, but others live at a distance ; and when honorable senators opposite talk about the courtesy which is due to them, they should consider the courtesy which they owe to others. Surely courtesy is due to those who support the Government and who live in distant suburbs. What is the use of keeping the paltry letter of an arrangement if the Opposition do not keep the spirit of it ? Senator Symon says that he feels grieved at this dispute.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It is a breach of faith.

Senator O'KEEFE - What was done was forced on the Ministry by the breach of faith of the Opposition in the first place. If Senator Symon and his supporters think that there was any arrangement between the members of the Government and the members of the party to which I belong, they are entirely in the wrong. I believe that the leader of the Senate intended up to half-past 11 o'clock to adhere to his arrangement. No word passed between the party of which I am Whip and the Government. If there had been such an arrangement of course I should have known about it. There was no word of any kind between us as to continuing the consideration of the Bill beyond clause 10. But when we arrived at a period of the night when it was impossible to catch trains, several honorable senators, not secretly, but openly, called out across the chamber to the Government, " Go on, and carry the Bill; as we have been kept here, let us do more business." I say again that if there was any breach of faith it was on the part of the party led by Senator Symon. But the whole matter is an unfortunate one. I hope that such a thing will not occur again, and that in any future arrangement honorable senators in opposition, and who now pose before the country as the only members of the Senate who keep their word, will thoroughly understand that what is meant by finishing a certain amount of business in a day is finishing it at least before 11.30 at night.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - The discussion was only carried on five minutes beyond that time, when the Government decided to finish the Bill.

Senator O'KEEFE - But that made all the difference between some honorable senators remaining in Melbourne and going home.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It meant all the difference between the Minister keeping his word and breaking it.

Senator O'KEEFE - I think that in any future arrangement that is made between the leader of the Senate and the leader of the Opposition, it should be understood that the business is to be finished in such time as will enable honorable senators to go out of Melbourne to their homes in the suburbs.

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