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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) - It is really amusing to hear honorable senators opposite say that what occurred yesterday was entirely due to a breach of faith. What are the facts? When the Senate met yesterday, and commenced the consideration of clause 5 of the Commerce Bill' in Committee, amendment after amendment was moved, and speech after speech was made. Those speeches were nothing but repetitions of other speeches - so much so that the Minister of Defence had to complain of second-reading speeches being made in Committee. It was admitted that clause 5 was not really contentious,, and not an important clause of the Bill But if honorable senators opposite had had their way it would not have been dealt with by the end of the sitting. We sat here patiently waiting for the Opposition to come to serious business, but there was no sign of their doing so. ft was only after about seven hours' delay that we got beyond clause 5, and commenced seriously to discuss the Bill. If honorable senators opposite had really wished to keep to the bargain which they allege was made, but which I say was never made, that we should get up to clause 10 before adjourning, would they have occupied seven hours in considering clause 5, which they admitted to be unimportant? Would they not have confined their attention to clause 7, which they say was most important? As they did not do so, we must regard the whole of the discussion that took place on clause 5 as obstructive. Now, what are the facts with regard to the alleged bargain? On Friday last the Minister of Defence made -a fair proposal. He said that itf the Opposition would agree to go as far as clause 4 on Friday afternoon, he would consider that fair progress had been made; and that, ff on the following Tuesday, they would agree to go as far as clause .to, he would be prepared to adjourn. But it takes two to make a bargain.

Senator Drake - It takes one to make a promise.

Senator GIVENS - If I make a promise to a certain gentleman conditionally on his doing certain things, undoubtedly if he does not fulfil his part of the bargain I am absolved from doing my part.

Senator Lt Col Gould - No conditions were expressed.

Senator GIVENS - The condition was that fair progress should be made with the Bill. But yesterday the whole of the talk was a mass of obstruction.

Senator Pulsford - I rise to order. Senator Givens asserts that everything said yesterday afternoon was obstruction. I ask for your ruling whether he is in order. I proposed certain amendments yesterday afternoon, but I never once spoke with the object of obstructing business.

The PRESIDENT - Whether Senator Givens' statement is correct or not, it is not for me to say, but there have been some very hot speeches, and I am not prepared to call him to order

Senator GIVENS - I withdraw the expression that the. talk was a mass of obstruction, and say that it looked like a mass of obstruction. When we found so much debate taking place on clause 5, which was not regarded as important, we could come to no other conclusion than that there was something like an organized attempt to obstruct business. With respect to the alleged bargain which the Minister in charge of the Bill made, I think that a fair proposal was submitted to honorable senators opposite. It was never accepted. If the Opposition had had their way last night, we should not have got to clause 7, let alone to clause 10. They kept us here until itwas utterly impossible for the great majority on this side to get to their homes by the ordinary means. Was it likely that, after listening to a repetition of speeches for hours, we would agree to adjourn at .12 o'clock, and allow our opponents to go away laughing at us in their sleeves? In the face of the obstructive tactics which were exhibited, the Government were quite justified in proceeding with the Bill, and we on this side were justified in supporting their action. The Government would have been false to their trust to carry out important legislation if they had not, at the close of the session, taken strong measures to overcome the tactics of the Opposition, especially when there appeared to be in another place an organized system to obstruct all legislation, if possible. In various parts of Melbourne, and in the precincts of the Senate, I have heard honorable senators opposite say that they believe that no good legislation can emanate from this Government, and that therefore it would be well if they could be stopped from doing any work. That is the position with -which we are faced. When we know that honorable senators hold those views, are we who desire to see certain legislation passed, and which T may say has not emanated from the party to which I belong, to submit tamely to their obstructive tactics?

Senator Pulsford - Is the honorable senator referring to his " stone-walling " on the Papua Bill? '

Senator GIVENS - I did not do any " stone-walling " on that Bill. The senators from New South Wales may be very anxious to adjourn on Friday at about a quarter to four; but those who, like mvself, are compelled to remain in Melbourne have no desire to go to New South Wales, and therefore are free to devote to the consideration of Bills that amount of time and attention which their importance' demands. I hope that isa the future the members of the Opposition, when they are defeated, will take their beating like men, and not come down here on the following day and whine because they did not get all their own way. This discussion has been carried on for two hours, which could have been usefully occupied.

Senator Dobson - What is my lord doing now ?

Senator GIVENS - I am not trying to do what the honorable senator sometimes tries to do; I am not trying to take down the taxpayers of the country. I never presented a bill to the Government-

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I ask the honorable senator to discuss the question, and not to be led away by interjections.

Senator GIVENS - I have never presented a bill for three times more than I was entitled to.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is not discussing the question.

Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator imply that Senator Dobson is a take-do\\m ?

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I ask Senator Givens not to take any notice of interjections.

Senator Dobson - They are worthy of the Labour Party.

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator GIVENS - I can produce documentary evidence in support of what I say, if it is wanted by Senator Dobson.

Senator Dobson - I am sure that the honorable senator can !

Senator GIVENS - It is not my fault, sir, that I am led away from my argument.

The PRESIDENT - I ask Senator Dobson not to interject, and Senator Givens to confine himself to the question at issue.

Senator GIVENS - But for the interjections, I should have finished what I have to say. I enjoy a good fight as well as any one does. Yesterday evening, when the Opposition believed that the Bill was one which ought not to be passed, they were quite within their rights in putting up a good fight. Possibly if I had been in their position, I should have fought just as vigorously as they did. But while conceding to' them their right to use the forms of the Senate, I think that the Government and their supporters have rights to be respected. Are we not to be allowed to fight? Are we expected to be quiet-

Senator Drake - The question is whether the Government used fair means last night.

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator GIVENS - It has been insinuated that the fight on the Commerce Bill has not been a fair one. We had just as good a right to fight as had the Opposition. It is not dignified, or, I think, in accordance with parliamentary custom, to renew a fight. It looks as if the Opposition were whining because they were beaten last night at their own game. We were perfectly entitled to carry on the fight when it was forced upon us. I hope that the Government will always insist upon business being done, notwithstanding any obstructive tactics which may be pursued by their opponents.

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