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Friday, 24 November 1911

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I think that the present trouble originated through the -Government not being prepared to meet the Senate with business earlier in the session. The Electoral Bill was delayed, with the consequence that we were required to sit something like twenty-eight hours at a stretch to get through it. Some honorable senators are very anxious about private business. As far as I am concerned, I think that private business is practically a farce. When it is dealt with, there is seldom more than a bare quorum present. Honorable senators clear out immediately Government business is finished, and it is always difficult to maintain a quorum. That has been the case ever since I have been a member of the Senate. Interest in private business is not sufficient to keep honorable senators on both sides present. To a large extent the time devoted to such business is wasted.

Senator Lynch - Our present Defence system originated from debates during private senators' time.

Senator SAYERS - The)re (may be a grain of wheat in a bushel of chaff, but, speaking generally, it is difficult to keep a quorum for the consideration of private business. Last night, for instance, after sitting for twenty-eight hours, honorable senators desired to go home to bed, and private business was not proceeded with. I make no complaint against the motion, nor shall I object to the proposal to sit on Tuesday, but I do not think that we should expect Ministers to meet Parliament on Mondays as well. A large amount of departmental business has to be done, and a conscientious Minister will not be content merely with reading ' and signing papers. If 1 were a Minister, I should like to read every document of any importance that I had ' to put my name to. If any mistake in administration is made, Parliament holds the Minister responsible.

Senator Gardiner - Parliament holds the Minister responsible for departmental officers' mistakes.

Senator Barker - But he would not be much of a Minister who would shelter himself behind an officer.

Senator SAYERS - Certainly not ; a Minister must take the blame. I do not object to Parliament sitting after Christmas if necessary. It will not inconvenience me ; indeed. I think it is my duty to be here if there is business to do. I hope that next session the Government W 111 be prepared to bring forward measures early in the session so that we shall not have- such a pressure of work towards' the close.

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