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Thursday, 4 October 1906

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) . - I do not think it would be wise to vote against the first reading of this Bill. Honorable senators generally have not yet had an opportunity to ascertain what is contained in the measure, and to refuse to read it a first time would be a very heroic remedy for the distresses under which we are now labouring. A copy of the Bill came into my possession a few days ago, and, in my opinion, it is one that will require an explanation from the Minister. Whatever may be the subject-matter, the Bill, on the face of it, does not bear an intelligible meaning. Personally, I have some idea of what is meant ; but the Senate generally will be very much in the dark until we hear, whatI hope will be, a full explanation from the representatives of the Government. The time has come when the Government should give us a plain statement as to the relative importance,they attach to the Bills, which constitute the mass of legislation now blocking the business of the Senate. There may be different ideas in regard to those Bills. Some honorable senators may look with more or less favour on a Bill, according to the State he represents, or his own idiosyncrasies. As to the relative importance which the Government attach to the measures, we can only judgeby the actions of Ministers; and I should say that' their ideas do not accord with mine. I regard the Bounties Bill as of the greatest importance, and, either by speaking or remaining silent, I should be prepared to help the Government to pass it into law.

Senator O'Keefe - Of course, that Bill isvery important to the honorable senator's own State.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator will remember that there was a tie; and if I worried about the measure I should be accused of wasting time.

Senator DRAKE - The Bounties Bill was introduced carelessly, and it was only when in Committee that the Government discovered that their supporters were not present. Compare the treatment of the Bounties Bill with the treatment accorded to the Bills dealing with the distilling and harvester industries of Victoria, or with the treatment given to the Railway Survey Bill, of which I was a supporter. In the case of none of these latter measures did the Government go to a division without a careful " whip."

Senator Playford - The Government had a majority of two, as I ascertained after I myself made a " whip " ; but those two honorable senators voted contrary to what they told me.

Senator DRAKE - Was such a mistake made in regard to any of the other Bills I have mentioned?

Senator Playford - The honorable senator cannot blame me. I went round the House myself ; and then Senator Neild declared that it was derogatory for the representative of the Government to make a " whip."

Senator DRAKE - I do not attach any blame whatever to either of the Ministers in the Senate. I know perfectly well, however, that during the forthcoming elections the position in regard to these measures will be misrepresented. It will be said that the Bounties Bill failed to pass because honorable senators discussed other measures at too great a length. But any student of Hansard may see that the Bounties Bill never received that attention and care which the Government bestowed on the measures dealing with the distilling and harvester industries.

Senator Playford - The Bill passed another place, and I did the best I could with it here.

Senator DRAKE - The Anti-Trust Bill, and the other Bills I have mentioned were carefully nursed by the Government, and it is evident to any one who can read between the lines that these are the particular Bills to which, for some reason or other, the Government attach first importance.

Senator Playford - We had majorities in regard to those other Bills.

Senator DRAKE - The Bounties Bill, which may be used for electioneering purposes, is quietly allowed to be swamped by other legislation.

Senator O'Keefe - Is this not one of the Bills which the honorable senator regards as of such importance that it should not be rushed through at the end of the session?

Senator DRAKE - The Bounties Bill ought to be passed if it is a good Bill.

Senator O'Keefe - Would it not take as much time to properly consider the Bounties Bill as to properly consider any of the other Bills?

Senator DRAKE - I very much doubt it. Up to the present the Bounties Bill has not taken up a tithe of the time that has been occupied by the other Bills I have mentioned.

Senator Playford - Tt would have taken as much time, if it had been gone on with.

Senator DRAKE - How can the honorable senator say that? The honorable senator, as in the case of the other Bills, could have ascertained what support he had.

Senator Playford - I had not a majority. '

Senator DRAKE - Honorable senators were not pressed in regard to this Bill, as they were in regard to the other Bills. The numbers on the division were ten to ten, so that there was really a thin House. The measures relating to preferential trade arrangements are also of first-class importance.

Senator Playford - Those measures will be brought on in due course; but if the honorable senator keeps on talking as he is doing now, they cannot be brought on.

Senator DRAKE - A month might be profitably spent in discussing those measures. Let me direct the attention of honorable senators to the position of the Bounties Bill on the notice-paper - below the Appropriation Bill.

Senator Playford - Hear, hear.

Senator DRAKE - What does that mean? It looks very much as though the Bill had been abandoned already. Are the Government going to abandon certain Bills in order to pass other legislation? Preferential trade is distinctly a part of the policy of the Government.

Senator Playford - Hear, hear.

Senator DRAKE - At the last general election it was part of the policy of the Government; and they are more particularly identified with it than with any other question. At the present time we do not know when the session will end; and yet no attempt is made to have the preferential trade proposals discussed. Every day Bills are being steadily introduced in another place. Surely preferential trade within the Empire is of more importance than additional protection ito Melbourne distillers or Victorian manufacturers of harvesters? Yet. for some reason or other, which, perhaps, the Ministers or their supporters can explain, everything this session has been subordinated to the interests of those distillers and manufacturers.

Senator Clemons - And the people may well ask why

Senator DRAKE - It is an open secret that the Government are to lose the support of their Labour allies. What position will they occupy when they go to the country ? To what extent will they be able to point to the work of the session as proving a desire on their part to carry out the policy to which they were pledged. They will have to admit that they smothered preferential trade and other important measures in order to pass a couple of Bills relating to two industries, and practically to only two Firms. They have devoted weeks to an effort to secure increased protection for two industries that are least deserving of -it. We are now in the last days of the session, and T appeal to the Minister to tell us with what measures the Government propose to deal. If thev place the Bounties Bill and the preferential trade proposals at the head of their programme, I shall certainly help them all I can. I, and those who think with me, are not being fairly treated by the Government. We desire to help them to deal with preferential trade and the Bounties Bill, but we find them day after day leaving these matters in the background and introducing new Bills. '

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