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Friday, 24 November 1911

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I recognise that this motion is associated with that which has just been agreed to, and I might not have spoken upon it if Senator McGregor had not gone out of his way to misrepresent my views as to the duties of a Cabinet Minister. Ministers must trust their officers in respect of the majority of the documents they are called upon to sign, but if there are any which they must read over and sign, they have private rooms in this building in which that work might be done. They might be more profitably employed in doing that work than in the performance of the task, which is evidently uncongenial to Senator McGregor, of listening to their own supporters upon matters being discussed in this Chamber. We are continually being told that if there were additional sitting days, and longer sittings, Ministers would not have the time to attend to their Departments. I repeat my statement that a Minister is in the position of a foreman of works, and a foreman of works who does the work of his men himself is a very poor foreman. It is the duty of a Minister to see that his departmental officers :are working. He should not work himself to an early grave by trying to do work which his officers are better fitted to do. In making this statement, I do not desire to be misunderstood. I do not think for a moment that a Minister should he what has been very well described as " a rubber stamp." It is the duty of a Minister to defend his Department from any attacks made in Parliament, and to put before Parliament the Ministerial and departmental view upon every question under discussion. Ministers would have ample time for that if there were an additional sitting day in the week. I interjected, perhaps rather heatedly, that in the absence of the Treasurer the work of the Treasury Department was carried on for mine months.

Senator Pearce - There was another Minister acting for him.

Senator GARDINER - I had overlooked that fact.

Senator Lynch - Mr. Frazer acted for him.

Senator GARDINER - But Mr. Frazer was a Minister all the time. No additional Ministers were appointed during the very proper absence of the Prime MinIster' in attending two of the most important functions that have occurred in my memory - the opening of the Parliament of the South African Union and the Coronation. If all these documents have to be read and signed, no doubt Senators de Largie and McDougall might be prevailed upon to accept positions as Honorary Ministers to attend to some of them.

Senator Pearce - Then they would "have to be away from Parliament.

Senator GARDINER - I do not wish to impose additional work upon Ministers, but their work in Parliament and at their Departments is not very arduous. It is not half as hard as the work of a navvy on a railway line or as the lumping of bags on a wharf.

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