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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator GRAY (New South Wales) - It is absurd for any honorable senator to stigmatize the Opposition as a party who have deliberately wasted time on the Commerce Bill, when we recollect that last session, when the question of preference to unionists was under consideration, the Labour Party strenuously tried to carry their point by using the same arguments on each amendment which they submitted. I look upon yesterday's incident with considerable regret, because hitherto I have been able to tell the critics of the Commonwealth Parliament that, so far as I could judge, the proceedings of the Senate have been conducted in a creditable manner. My fear is that yesterday's episode will lower the Senate in the estimation of the public. The Minister of Defence distinctly broke faith with the Senate, and although he has indulged in equivocation, which, I think, only aggravates his offence, I feel certain that the readers of Hansard can come to no other conclusion than that he has created a precedent to which other leaders of the Senate may point as a covering for similar acts. It is most regrettable that any one should be able to adversely criticise the manner in which Senator Playford has conducted the Commerce Bill. Considering the great importance of the measure, the people of the States had a right to expect that their representatives would be allowed to criticise all its details. I feel sure that, upon calm reflection, Senator Playford will see that he has been led into creating a precedent which, if acted upon, must be hurtful to the best interests of the Commonwealth. Outside the Chamber I have reflected in very strong terms upon his action. I hope that it will be the last occasion on which the word of a Minister can be doubted either by the Opposition or by his friends.

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