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Wednesday, 5 September 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - The Minister has brushed aside with lightheartedness a point which I think seriously requires the attention of honorable senators. On the second reading Senator Gould raised the question of whether or not a provision making a corresponding extension of the term of members of another place was contemplated by the Government. Unless there is such an extension it seems to me that the professed object of the Bill will absolutely fail. The other House will, I assume, terminate its existence some time in November, and the new Parliament must meet within ninety days, when it will commence its term of three years. Unless a corresponding Bill is passed in another place, not only the next election, but the election after that, will be at variance with the election for the Senate. Ministers ought to consider the position, and enable honorable senators to consider the details of the proposed new arrangement.

Senator Playford - There will be plenty of time for that in the next Parliament.

Senator MILLEN - Here is another example of the Minister's levity. We are to ask the people to approve of an amendment of the Constitution which can only become effective if ianother Bill is passed.

Senator Playford - Let us wait untif the people have spoken.

Senator MILLEN - If that is the attitude of the Government we ought to have been so informed during the debate on the second reading. In any case, if theanswer nowgiven is the correct one. it does not appear to me to be sufficient. We are asked to pass a Bill with the obiect of enabling the Constitution to be altered : and I say that simultaneouslv there ought to be a Bill introduced in another place extending the term of the members there. We should then have some reasonable guarantee that at the election which follows the coming election, the members of the two Houses would commence their term of office on the same date. We may assume that the next election will take place about the middle of November, and that the new Parliament will meet about the. middle of February. That Parliament, if it runs the full term, will expire in February, 1910. It is not contemplated under the Bill that future elections will be held as early as February, and I assume that they will probably be held two months later. How is it proposed to get over the interval? Is it contemplated that there shall be a time when there is no Parliament in existence, and everything shall be left to administrative action? We know, of course, that Parliament is frequently in recess ; but we can be called together if a sufficiently serious crisis arises. Now, however, the Government are deliberately creating a position in which not only will the object of this Bill be defeated, but in which there will be a period when no Parliament can be called together, no matter how great the national urgency. If the .Government have an explanation of how it is proposed to tret over the difficulty, we ought to hear it.

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