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Thursday, 7 June 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - In this matter I think that the convenience of the Senate as a whole should' be consulted. For that reason, whilst indorsing the remarks of Senator Macfarlane, I do not propose to support) the amendment, but to put before the Government the reasonableness of seeing that senators are not brought here week after week to do work which could be condensed into a very few days. That practice prevailed during the whole of last session. We were brought here on a Tuesday, and we simply fiddled through three or four days. We were brought here again in the following week to go through the same process, when we could reasonably have had an adjournment for one week, and condensed into the following week the work which was spread over a fortnight. I ask the Government to take a business-like view. If they have much business on hand, I am sure that the Senate will be prepared to meet and deal with it, but I suspect that the business with which Ministers are immediately prepared to proceed is nominal j that there is really no business ready yet for our consideration. In the circumstances, they would lose very little credit and dignity if they would frankly say that they were not yet prepared to proceed to work, and move the adjournment of the Senate to a period when they would be; prepared to submit some substantial work for its consideration. I indorse everything which has been said as to the unreasonableness of bringing senators from a long distance - in my own case something like 1,200 miles - to witness a proceeding which may be necessary, but which it was not absolutely essential that we should all attend. We came here to-day for an hour's formal function, and will return to our homes to come here again on Wednesday for the purpose of commencing business. Such a procedure does not assist the course of legislation in any way ; it does not benefit the country in the slightest degree, but it does greatly inconvenience honorable senators in very many ways.

Senator Higgs - But if the Government had proposed to go ,right on with the debate on the Add'ress-in-Reply, would not the honorable senator have asked for time to consider the Governor-General's speech?

Senator MILLEN - No. The course of the Government was plain. I naturally expected that whatever adjournment might take place, it would not be beyond tomorrow, and that we would then go on with business, and probably conclude the debate on the Address-in-Reply, leaving next week free for the business which the Government should be prepared to submit. I take it that the Government have no business ready, and, therefore, they wish to make the debate on the Address-in-Reply carry us over next week, and so fill in time. It is the marking of time that I object to. I am prepared to attend here and do any work which the country calls for, and which the Government are prepared to submit for our consideration, but I absolutely object to come over here week after week merely to trifle with time and make an appearance of doing work, when we know perfectly well that there is no work to be done. I put it to the Government that they can reasonably consider the arguments which, have been advanced here to-day, and which were advanced here last year - that when there is solid work to be done they should bring us over for the whole of a week if necessary, but that when there is practically no work to be done they might reasonably say we will propose an adjournment until such time as a meeting of the Senate is necessary. That is not an unreasonable request

Senator Mulcahy - Which will tend to make the Senate merely a House of review.

Senator MILLEN - That interjection is very wide of the mark. The Senate would be no more a House of review if it did its work in five continuous days than if it took a fortnight for the purpose.

Senator Mulcahy - We ought to have work prepared for us.

Senator MILLEN - I agree with the honorable senator, but I am not .responsible for the want of work. It is an obligation resting upon the Ministry to see that work is ready, but if they do not recognise the obligation, they should not penalize us in consequence.

Senator Mulcahy - Then we ought to adjourn for a month.

Senator MILLEN - That is exactly my contention - that the Senate should not be called together when there is no work for it to do. If it is seen that for the next fortnight, three weeks, or a month, there is only a week's work to be done, it is useless to bring us here for three dr four weeks to do that work. Let us do the week's work in a week. ยป

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - How are you going to judge a week's work?

Senator MILLEN - By the' experience of last session.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Continuous talk and no work.

Senator MILLEN - We 'have only to turn to the records to find there ample justification for what I am stating. Honorable senators on that side objected time and again to an adjournment when it was proposed from this side. But when we came over here next week, what happened ? On a Tuesday we would adjourn at the dinner hour, and meet next day to do half-a-day's work.

Senator Playford - That has been the case from the very start of this Parliament.

Senator MILLEN - Suppose that it has been, is it any justification for continuing the process, and bringing us here for two days in order to do one day's work?

Senator Playford - We do not know how long it will take to do a day's work.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator knows, from his long experience, what work he has in hand, and how long it will take to deal with it. The fact remains that last session the Government never had enough work for us to do, and Ministers were not honest enough to stand up and tell the country that that was. the reason they were calling us together every Tues- day - to do what? - merely to adjourn at the dinner hour. That is all I object to. If the Government have work to do, I shall be here to do my share of it, but on the other hand if there is no work to submit I shall certainly protest against being called upon to come over here for four weeksmerely to do work which could be condensed into a week or a fortnight.

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