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Friday, 26 September 1913

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) . - To show that Senator McGregor has not been talking without some warrant, I intend to quote what the Prime Minister said, as reported in the Age of the 26th of this month, when addressing the annual convention of the People's party.

Senator McDougall - Which one is that?

Senator MCGREGOR - It is number seven.

Senator PEARCE - I understand that it is the Liberal organization of the primary producers of this State. Mr. Cook said this -

The Government had asked for a month's Supply for the wages of civil servants. The Opposition had debated the matter during the whole day and would not give it.

There were cries of " Shame." The Prime Minister continued -

The Government had had to adjourn the House without it, and he doubted whether the Government would get it that day. He supposed the Opposition would have something to say on the matter which was totally irrelevant to the question of Supply. There was a systematic obstruction of business going on, and he hoped the country was taking note of it. Meanwhile the Government was doing the best it could - it was doing nothing, but it was doing it well.

I suppose that the gentlemen whom the Prime Minister was addressing were quite unaware of the fact that these Supply Bills afford the only opportunity we have, as representatives of the people, to criticise the administration of the Government. When he told his audience that we were hanging up the Supply Bill, they cried, "Shame!" Were we hanging up the Supply Bill ? I venture to say that the debate in another place on the Supply Bill which we are to consider to-day was about the shortest on record. I think that will be the experience here also. . I am surprised that, in order to make political capital, Ministers should say these things outside. They must result in reprisals here. Honorable senators on this side do not propose to interfere with the motion now before the Senate, although when similar motions were submitted during the. last Parliament no one more vigorously denounced them than did Senator Millen when leading the Opposition in this Chamber. It is time that the country was informed that the humbug which Ministers talk outside is merely intended to cover up their tracks, and that the Government do not desire- to. do anything. The speech which I have just quoted would warrant honorable senators on this side voting against the motion now before us, and if it were defeated the retaliation would be justifiable. I point out that, even if it were defeated, the civil servants would still get their pay in time, as we could sit to-morrow and pass Supply before the end of the month, and their wages and salaries are not due until the end of the month. The statement of the Prime Minister that we are preventing the payment of the civil servants is an absolute falsehood, and that gentleman ought to know it. It was made merely to mislead the people. In the helpless position in which- the Ministerial party is in the Senate, it . is very unwise of members of the Government to make these malicious statements outside. They will undoubtedly provoke reprisals if they are continued. .

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