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Thursday, 7 June 1906

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) -50]. - I am greatly influenced by what Senator Fraser has said in respect of dealing tenderly with the Government on this the first day of the session. We have not met my honorable friends at the table for some 1 months, and whilst they deserve, as Senator Fraser said, whipping, I think that the tendency will be to let them off on this the first occasion with the warning which Senator Millen has so vigorously administered to them. Ordinarily, one is not disposed1 to interfere with the Government arrangement of business; certainly not on the first day of the session. From that point of view, I am not disposed to object further to the arrangement which they suggest, but I concur in every word of the protest that has been uttered. To my mind, the protest is most opportune in every way. It is not worthy of the dignity of the Senate that such a state of things should exist - a state of things that we com-i plained of over and over again last year, a relegation literally of the Senate into a secondary position, a sort of stop-gap House that meets for only an hour or two occasionally. Last year the great difficulty with those who live in other States was that they never knew whether when they came over the business of the Senate would occupy one day or two days, or whether they might not be sent home the next day.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Or what business would be taken.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Or very often what business would be taken. It caused great inconvenience ; it caused very often irregularity in attendance, because we arrived at conclusions as to the important business to be taken. Perhaps we communicated with the leader of the Senate, as I have sometimes done, and had communications with other senators, but very often senators decide that sort of thing for themselves, and perhaps are absent when very important business comes on. I recollect an instance in connexion with the Trade Marks Bill. Senator Gould, who took a great interest in one portion of the measure, was absent at a time when it was not expected to come on, and, in consequence of his absence, he had to take special measures later on in order to give effect to his views. I do not wish to embarrass my honorable friends at the table in any way, or do interfere with the arrangements which they make, but I do put it to them very strongly that they should systematically arrange the business to be taken, so that when the Senate assembles! on a Tuesday or Wednesday it shall have full' occupation for the whole of the week. There is no difficulty about that if Ministers have business to submit. I think that honorable senators who have come from a great distance have a right to complain that a definite intimation was not given to them tha4) there would be no sitting to-morrow.

Senator Playford - It was given to the honorable and learned senator.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - My honorable friend is mistaken. I wrote to him, and asked what the course of business was to be, and he courteously replied that he proposed to, adjourn until Wednesday, but he did not think that he would be able to adjourn over Friday. I met him afterwards, when he explained that probably we should sit on Friday, but resume on, Wednesday. It was for that reason that I came over here to-day.

Senator Mulcahy - The Minister could not answer for that.

Senator Playford - I said that I was going to propose to sit on Wednesday, but that if the Senate insisted upon sitting on Friday I could not help it.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I ayn not blaming my honorable friend. All I say is that if lie had given me a definite intimation that he was going to ask the Senate not to sit on Friday 1 should have accepted that, because, although I know the Government have little or no control over the business of the Senate or the business of the country, still I suppose that he would not give an intimation of that kind without some belief that it would be carried out. If he had done that I should not have had the pleasure of being here to-day, but he did not. I am not- blaming him at all, but when he interjected just now that I knew, I reply that it was the very thing I did not know. It is no satisfaction to me, or anyone else, to come over here from a long distance for an hour, greatly as we enjoy the ceremonial of opening Parliament, and to return in the afternoon, or else kick up our heels here to-morrow. I ask Senator Pulsford not to press the amendment. But I do say that as this is the last session of this Parliament we ought to have some information from my honorable friends the members of the Government in the Senate as to the 'business that will be brought before us ; and we should have a promise that we shall not be brought 500 or 600 miles, or whatever the distance may be, to transact business, and then have to go away again the next day, or have an adjournment taking place at the dinner hour, instead of continuing to the ordinary hour for concluding our sittings. If my honorable friend could give an undertaking of that sort, there would be a much better attendance. I am sure that my honorable friend will, from his own long parliamentary experience, admit that it is desirable that there should be a definite programme of continuous work for the Senate to do; and I am also certain that if he adopts that course he will assist in maintaining the dignity and the importance of the Senate. Our importance has, in my opinion, simply been frittered away by the method adopted last year. With the protest which we have made against the way business has been conducted, I think that my honorable friend's motion may be assented to.

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