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Thursday, 30 November 1905

Senator HIGGS (Queensland) - Senator Gould is under a misapprehension entirely when he says that a certain party is dominating the Government. What is dominating the Government, and Parliament also, I think, is something which corresponds to our" Senator Negative," and that is a dissolution. Members of this Parliament have no desire at this stage for a general election, nor do I think the country wishes it. If the country desired a general election, and Members of the Federal Parliament were prepared for it, there probably would be one. If Senator Gould requires any proof that the members of j. certain party db not dominate the Government, he will be able to find it in the business-paper to-morrow morning. The honorable senator will see that the Government are bringing down a motion to ratify the Eastern Extension Company's agreement, and if some of us had any control whatever over the Government, or could dominate them that motton would never be included in the Government business on the paper. I think that the Senate very wisely rejected the standing order providing that in cases not otherwise provided the House of Commons practice should guide us. I think that you, sir, suggested that it would be wise for us, as we are a new institution, to try and found our own precedents. We struck out the standing order to which I have referred, but we should still pay great respect to the House of Commons precedents. That House is described as the " Mother of Parliaments," and I suppose that the Standing Orders of most Parliaments of the world have been based on those of the House of Commons, and have been taken almost as a body of rules from those Standing Orders. But this Senate is unique in the world. We have a unique Constitution, and we must try (to found our own practice. We are like a man endeavouring to grope his way in the dark, because there is no analogy between the Senate and the House of Lords or any Legislative Council. If Senator Gould had complained1 that we were doing wrong in passing the Appropriation Bill until measures on the notice-paper had been dealt with, he would have been "on a good wicket." But he seems to me to be on a very bad one when he complains that the Govern- ment, having passed the Appropriation Bill, should not proceed with the measures which were on the notice-paper before the Appropriation Bill was disposed of. The Appropriation Bill would have been passed last Friday night if some honorable senators could nave had their way, although we have been complaining ever since this Parliament was established that various Governments have treated the Senate in a cavalier fashion in not sending up Appropriation Bills in time to enable them to be properly discussed. This year the Government has responded to our request in theory, but not in practice, because we were told, " If you do mot pass this Bill through to-day, the public servants will not receive their salaries." That argument weighed with a great many honorable senators. The Appropriation Bill might justifiably have occupied another week. Most important items of expenditure were passed without full consideration. The New Guinea and Pacific Islands mail service items were not adequately discussed. The PostmasterGeneral's Department was debated insufficiently, in my opinion. The items relating to the Department of Trade and Customs went through without a single speech. Almost the same thing occurred in relation to Defence. The Government should have had supply until the end of November. Then the Public Service could have been paid without the necessity for hurrying the Appropriation Bill through the Senate.

Senator Playford - When I brought up a Supply Bill, I was grumbled at because the Appropriation Bill was not before honorable senators.

Senator HIGGS - Naturally, the desire of a Minister is to get his Estimates through. He does not want to hear any criticisms. Each Minister likes to be a benevolent dictator.

Senator Playford - It has been the practice of the House of Representatives to keep back the Appropriation Bill until the last moment.

The PRESIDENT - Does the honorable senator think that his remarks are relevant to the subject, which is whether we should go on with business after the Appropriation Bill has been passed?

Senator HIGGS - Perhaps I am not strictly in, order. I think there can be no harm in the Government carrying on business after the Appropriation Bill has gone through, provided new business is not introduced at this late period of the year.

It is not fair to members in either House, many, of whom are desirous of going home to their various States, to introduce important new business at the end of November. The Government is acting fairly and justly by Parliament in trying to carry through those measures which have been on the business-paper for some time. But it is acting most unfairly when, at this late period of the session, it proposes legislation such as that of which notice has been given to-day by the Minister of Defence for the ratification of the Eastern Extension Company's agreement.

Senator Playford - That is not legislation.

Senator HIGGS - It may not be in the opinion of the Minister, but it should come before us in the shape of a Bill. ' That is the only objection I have to what may be considered to be a precedent in going on with business after the Appropriation Bill has been done with. I think the Government will be making a great mistake if it brings up fresh legislation at this period.

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