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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) . - I hope that the very best of feeling will be maintained in the Senate, notwithstanding what may have happened on Friday last. In fact, we have evidences of that good feeling now, when honorable senators seem prepared to assist in every way to carry out the intentions of the Government, and thereby forward the work of the country. Even Senator Pulsford today exerted himself in assisting the President, when he desired Senator Higgs to connect his remarks with the question before the Senate. The very fact that the leader of the Opposition, Senator Symon, has given expression to the opinion that a count-out is not the best means by which to maintain the rights of the Senate, is another proof of kindly feeling towards the Government. This, of course, must be cheering to the Government 1 but we must not forget that Senator Symon was not present on Friday, and is, therefore, not fully seized of the circumstances. The Government must be congratulated on the fact that now, for the second time, Senator Millen has got up to take their part.

Senator Millen - I was apologizing for having done so once.

Senator McGREGOR - On Friday, the quarrel was not with the Opposition, but with the Labour Party. I have heard Senator Pulsford, and other members of the " Mac- Walker " party, including Senator Gray; declare that the Government are kept in office by the Labour Party.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Is it not a fact ?

Senator McGREGOR - It did not look like it on Friday. I have heard it declared that the Government had to come to the Labour Party in order to get assistance in me formulation of the Government policy.

Senator Lt Col Gould - And we all believe it.

Senator McGREGOR - It has been said that, unless the Government do what the Labour Party desire, the Government must suffer. But the very complaint made on Friday last was that the Government have, all through thesession, accepted the support of the Labour Party, while - and here I use a word so often repeated by Senator Guthrie yesterday - I " defy " any honorable senator to show that the Government have done anything to carry out any portion of the policy of the Labour Party.

Senator Millen - That is why the Labour Party are kicking!

Senator McGREGOR - Further, there are a great many acts of administration and legislation which are not embodied in the policy of the Government, but which the Labour Party are well known to favour. Notwithstanding all this, the Government have done everything they could to show that they have no desire to consult, satisfy, or in any way conciliate the Labour Party. The Labour Party were never consulted as to the policy of the Government; indeed,

I might almost say that, in regard to administration, the Government have despised the Labour Party.

Senator Clemons - Still the Labour Party keep the Government in power !

Senator McGREGOR - It is better to have a disease that may linger on for half a lifetime than tobe afflicted with a disease so painful that, as the Irishman says, we are dead half the time we are alive. So far as I am concerned - and, I believe, I may speak for other honorable senators - the action taken on Friday last was not prompted by any dislike to the representative of the Government in the Senate. That action was due to the way in which the Government had treated the Labour Party throughout the whole session, andare endeavouring to treat that party now. Evidence of that is very plain here to-day. When the Government do anything that is not in accordance with whatever agreement may exist between them and the Labour Party as to the support of the latter during the session, the Opposition are always prepared to jump into the breach, as they are doing to-day, and defend the Government.

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator has not laid that agreement on the table.

Senator McGREGOR - In the discussion on the Australian Industries Preservation Bill we have heard a good deal about what is known as a " gentleman's agreement " ; and, as the members of the Labour Party are all gentlemen, and endeavour to keep their promises, they look to the other party to any agreement to do the same. The Opposition, some time ago, resented similar treatment at the hands of the Government, and I can remember the indignation which was felt, and even given expression to, by members of the Opposition when certain action was taken before, or when, this Government came into power. We members of the Labour Party are always willing to accept the assistance of the members of the Opposition who are prepared to join with us in protesting against what we consider to be unfair treatment in connexion with any promise that may have been made as to support to be given to this or any other Government. Seeing that a protest has been entered, and that the people of Australia now know why a certain party in the Senate took that action, we are satisfied to support the Government in carrying on the business of the Commonwealth. I think I ought to refer to what Senator Millen said with respect to the humble or abject apology which ought to be tendered to the Labour Party by the Government.

Senator Millen - I did not say that the apology ought to be tendered; it was the honorable senator who said that.

Senator McGREGOR - I suppose that, because I bear a Scotch name, and a Scotchman is never supposed to make a joke or be frivolous, the honorable senator took that statement seriously.

Senator Millen - We accept the honorable senator as an exception to the rule, so far as frivolity is concerned.

Senator McGREGOR - Probably Senator Millen, not being a Scotchman, could not see the joke, though he may, perhaps, realize it in a week or two. I hope the business of the country will be carried on expeditiously, and that the Government will bear in mind that, if they desire support, they must treat in a fair way those who are endeavouring to honestly support them.

Senator Pulsford - Then the count-out was a joke?

Senator McGREGOR - No, the count - out was not a joke.

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