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Friday, 31 August 1906

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Cer Certainly not, but if an alteration of the Constitution were made as proposed, it might conduce to the better consideration of measures, and therefore to the convenience of the public, by insuring a better class of legislation. This Bill, if passed, will make it possible for every election after the coming one* - supposing there is no penal dissolution - to be held in March or April, instead of in December. Every Parliament, even if it meets early in the year, is not in the habit of rising until near Christmas time. In each session of the Commonwealth Parliament the ten.dency has been to sit almost to the end of the year, except in a vear in which the general elections are to be held. The present system means - we saw it three years ago, and we see it now - that as the elections have to be held some time before Christmas,' and we do not meet until June, the session in which to deal with business of considerable importance is very short. A number of very important measures now await consideration. Many members of both Houses would like to have an opportunity to consider them, but there is not sufficient time. Many of the Bills will, in the circumstances, be amongst the "slaughtered innocents." Senator Clemons laughs in a sneering way.

Surely I am entitled to my opinion, and need not be met by these superfluous sneers.

Senator Clemons - I am not sneering.

Senator O'KEEFE - The The honorable senator has a very unfortunate smile, then.

Senator Clemons - I never heard such a ridiculous argument. The time that we have depends upon when we began, and when we shall end.

Senator O'KEEFE - T - The time we have is that between the commencement of the session and its close. But we know perfectly well that for some reason or other Parliament is not in the .habit of meeting until the middle of the year. If the present system is continued, it will probably continue to meet in June, and if there are to be elections in December that means a very short session.

Senator Clemons - When does the honorable senator think Parliament would meet if we had the elections in March ?

Senator O'KEEFE - We We should probably meet about the beginning of July. If the elections were in the following March, it would be possible to deal with the work of the session in a proper manner. But, under present circumstances, the inevitable result is that towards the end of the session measures which many members of Parliament would like to see passed are either cast aside, or have to be considered in Houses half the members of which are away. That is actually what is being' done to-day. We find members leaving when the House is sitting to address mid-day meetings, while others are away in different parts of the country.

Senator de Largie - And "count outs" are brought about.

Senator O'KEEFE - Yes Yes. The .object of this Bill, therefore, is to make it possible for the elections to be held in March or April instead of in December. If that be done, there will, I think, be a better chance of avoiding the difficulties and inconveniences that surround us under the present system.

Senator Staniforth Smith - The greatest advantage of the Bill is that it suits the people better to have an election in March than in December.

Senator O'KEEFE - I d I do not .say that we are here to suit the convenience of Mem bers of Parliament. We have to consider the convenience of the people.

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator has been discussing the convenience of senators.

Senator O'KEEFE - N - No; I have been showing that if the present system were altered, it would not only suit the convenience of the people and of Members of Parliament, but that better legislation would result, and fuller consideration would be given to important questions. That seems to me to be the chief argument in support of the Bill. I am perfectly in accord with Senator Drake that it is not desirable to alter the Constitution hastily. No one wishes to do that. As a matter of fact, the Constitution itself prevents us from making alterations in an ill-considered manner. Every proposed amendment has not only to be fully considered by both Houses of the Parliament, but has also to be accepted by the people when submitted to them. If it can be shown that it will in any way improve our legislation and our manner of performing our duties to make the alteration proposed, that is, I think, a sufficient justification for the Bill.

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