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Friday, 22 June 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - Just as' Senator Smith yesterday evinced a lack of judicial faculty, so today, I think, he is showing a remarkable failure of appreciation of the practical facts with which we are face to face. I agree with every word Senator Smith has said as to the unbusiness-like method in which the Government have apportioned the business between the two Houses. But how it can be regarded as a protest against the action of the Government, if we penalize honorable senators by bringing them together when there is no work to do, altogether passes my .comprehension.

Senator Staniforth Smith - If we refused to adjourn, the Government would have to provide us with some business.

Senator MILLEN - Nothing of the kind. Some mention has been made of a vote of want of confidence; but Senator Smith would be the last to think of submitting such a proposal.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I am a supporter of neither the Ministry nor the honorable senator's party.

Senator MILLEN - If anything like a real live motion is submitted, Senator Smith is the first to take his seat behind the Government.

Senator Staniforth Smith - That is absolutely incorrect.

Senator MILLEN - The only times I ever have known Senator Smith vote against the Government have been on the occasion of innocent, harmless motions, which did not much matter either way.

Senator Staniforth Smith - That is absolutely incorrect.

Senator MILLEN - If it be desired to have a protest of some effect, let Senator Smith table a motion that will mean something. I should then be inclined to regard his protest as one entitled to our serious consideration. But the fact is that, from various causes - and here I agree with Senator Smith - there is absolutely no business on our paper, nor can there be any worthy of serious thought for the next week or two. Are we to be brought from all parts of Australia, or kept waiting here, merely to meet you, Mr. President, in the afternoon and then adjourn ? That is all very well for an amiable bachelor in the whirl of social engagements, who finds Melbourne an extremely pleasant place; but it is entirely different for those who have home ties, and appreciate them, and who have other business besides that of mere attention to public affairs. I do not think any honorable senator would hesitate to attend when there is work to do; but it is a monstrous proposition that we should be brought over week after week when there is no business.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Let Senator Millen propose a motion that work shall be provided for the Senate.

Senator MILLEN - Suppose I gave notice of such a motion for the next day of sitting, how would that settle the question of adjournment? If we suspended all the Standing Orders, and passed a resolution that, in our opinion, the Government ought to provide the Senate with work, would that help Senator Smith?

Senator Staniforth Smith - Surely the opinion of the Senate ought to have some weight with the Minister.

Senator MILLEN - The Minister al-, ready knows the opinion of the Senate.

Senator Staniforth Smith - The honorable senator is only too anxious for a holiday, in order to get away.

Senator MILLEN - Who is?

Senator Staniforth Smith - The honorable senator himself.

Senator MILLEN - I always am when there is no work to do; but when there is work I think it will be found that I am just as close an attendant as is Senator Smith, and at considerably more inconvenience than he experiences.

Senator Staniforth Smith - No.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator uses this place ais a club.

Senator Staniforth Smith - That is absolutely incorrect.

Senator MILLEN - And as a very convenient and sociable club.

Senator Staniforth Smith - It is far more inconvenient for me to attend here than it is for the honorable senator.

Senator MILLEN - Those of us who have homes, and other business to attend to, do not desire to be kept here unnecessarily. The Minister of Defence, if he cared to be frank - if he were not under restraint owing to his Ministerial obligations - would, I think, agree with everything, that has been said as to the necessity for a fairer apportionment of the work ; and I hope that before the debate is concluded he will give us some assurance on the point. I am just as ' strong as Senator Smith or any one else - as my votes and utterances will show - in urging a recognition of the rights of the Senate, and I should be the last to do anything to undermine these rights. But I do not see that we conserve the rights or the dignity of the Senate if we punish a large number of honorable senators by bringing them here when there is nothing to do. For that reason I intend to vote for the amendment moved by Senator Givens. The extra week will give greater facilities to members from distant places, such, as Queensland and Western Australia, to visit their homes ; and, at the same time, the extra week can always, if necessity arises, be made up bv our sitting on Tuesdays. It is a business-like proposition that we should' meet when there is work to do, and meet each .sitting day of the week, and that when there is no work we should adjourn and go home.

Senator Staniforth Smith - I desire to make a personal explanation. Senator Millen has made two statements which are absolutely incorrect in regard to myself. In the first place, he said that I am a slavish supporter of the Ministry. That is not the case. I have never supported anyparty slavishly since I have been in the House. My one object has been to keep and record every pledge I made tol my constituents; and when I go before them I shall be in the position-

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