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Thursday, 30 November 1905

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) - This debate is very interesting, and Senator Gould has done well to introduce the motion. As Senator Playford says, we have to make our own precedents, but in doing so we should be very foolish not to pay some regard to the practice of the House of Commons. Every precedent of the House of Commons has very good reasons behind it, and unless we can dispose of them by saying that the circumstances of Australia are so different as to justify a departure from them, I take it that in most cases the precedents which we will make for ourselves will be to a great extent founded on those of the House of Commons. It does not require a moment's thought to show that the practice of doing no business after the Appropriation Bill is passed is not without exception in Australia. Probably there will be further exceptions. The leader of the Senate has given his case away to some extent by admitting that this is not a precedent. The honorable senator has reminded us that, year after year, we have complained that the Estimates were not laid on the table earlier, and that we have not had sufficient time to discuss them. He has reminded us that the Estimates were brought forward earlier this year in another place, and the Appropriation Bill passed in that Chamber before the usual time, and before it should have been allowed to leave that Chamber, in order that we might have the Estimates in time for consideration. The honorable senator also explained that this was done because of a promise given by the Prime Minister that the business on the noticepaper would be finished, and that it was only on that account another place gave up control of the Bill. I point out to Senator Playford that he is getting into rather troublesome waters, because if this promise is to be performed it appears to me that every Bill now on the notice-paper must be dealt with this session. I did not understand the promise to go to that extent, but Senator Playford made no exception and no limitation of the promise. While I admire an honorable senator who can discuss an important principle apart from party politics, I find that the question which this debate raises is mixed up with party politics in every particular. In framing our own precedents we must take account of party politics. Ministers and their followers desire that certain legislation should be passed. The Opposition desire that some of that legislation should not be passed, and that other legislation should be given effect to. The Appropriation Bill is a whip held over the heads of Ministers, and is not finally passed until- the business of the session is concluded. Dealing with the question in a purely party spirit, let me point out the risk we run in trusting Ministers. If the promise to which I have referred has been given, I am quite sure that it will be carried out.

Senator Playford - Then the honorable senator can trust Ministers, and there is no risk.

Senator DOBSON - When they give a promise I hope I can trust them. But suppose there had been no promise given ? The honorable senator sat in his chair opposite, and insisted that the Appropriation Billmust be passed, in order that the civil servants should be paid their salaries.

Senator Playford - If there had been no promise we should not have received the Appropriation Bill from another place when we did.

Senator DOBSON - I take the case of an Appropriation Bill passed without any particular promise, and some time before the end of at session.

Senator Playford - That is not the present position.

Senator DOBSON - Of course, we understand that no party is up for sale; but certain honorable members in another place are supporting Ministers, and in return for that support they expect to get certain legislation passed. Suppose a Government in the circumstances I have indicated found that the legislation asked for was too hot for the country, that peop'e outside Parliament were not quite so anxious for it as were those inside, with the Appropriation Bill passed they would be in a position to prorogue the House at once, break faith with their supporters, and defy them.

Senator de Largie - The Chambers of Commerce are not the country.

Senator DOBSON - I suppose that the party supporting a Ministry in such circumstances might be but a small party, and it might suit Ministers to throw over that small party. I do not for a moment say that the Deakin Administration would throw over the party of which Senator de Largie is such an ornament, but we might have a much smaller party supporting a Ministry, and we might at the same time have ai weak Opposition, and in such circumstances the only hold over the Government which Parliament could have would be the Appropriation Bill. If in such circumstances they allowed it to pass a month before the end of a session, Parliament would have lost the whip, and the bridles would be taken off the horses. Such a thing never happened, except on three occasions, in the history of the House of Commons for over 100 years. I admit that we need not slavishly follow the precedents of the House of Commons, but when we are playing the game of party politics we should stick to the rules of the game. We have here absolutely ignored the rules of the game. I thought before I heard of any promise by the Prime Minister that it would be most unwise for the Senate to push forward the consideration of the Appropriation Bill, considering what was going on ig another place. I spoke to one or two of my colleagues on this side, and to the leader of the party, about it. I even asked him whether he did noL think it would be well to have an interview with the leader of the party in another place, in order that we might have a conference to discuss the crisis taking place. But the Opposition is disorganized, and we never have a conference or a meeting of the party. We have neither organization nor discipline, and if we had I dare to say that the Appropriation Bill would not yet have passed its second reading. Without referring special lv to the union label or to anything else, if we find a party in Parliament determined to press certain measures through which the intelligent Members of the Parliament and members of the Government know to be absolutely illegal, and outside the Constitution, we are very foolish to pass the Appropriation Bill in such circumstances. The position is such in connexion with' a particular measure, that the Government absolutely shrink from putting in the true definition of a certain proposal, because the definition of a trade mark in the Imperial Act on which the measure is founded shows that what a certain party desires to do is grossly illegal.

The PRESIDENT - I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss the Trade Marks Bill.

Senator DOBSON - I refer to it only as an illustration. It is not the first time that Governments have attempted to do an illegal act. It is not the first time that they have pushed illegal measures through Parliament, and in all such cases Parliament has a right to keep control of the Appropriation Bill. It is only because there is neither discipline nor organization in the Opposition that the majority in Parliament at the present time are able to do as they please. It is only by laying down precedents that we can carry on parliamentary government, and the minority, if they are to express any voice at all, must hold fast to all the power they have.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator was one of the brutal majority last night.

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