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Friday, 26 September 1913

Senator MCGREGOR (South Australia) . - I hope that the representatives of the Government in the Senate will not imagine for a minute that any member of the Opposition was opposing, or even complaining about, the suspension of the Standing Orders: We know that no business of this character could be dealt with to-day unless that course were followed. In our remarks, we only meant to call attention to the conduct of those who are now carry ing on the government of the country when we were in office with respect to suspending the Standing Orders. A motion for that purpose was never moved in the Senate without being complained of, and complained of very strongly, by Senator Gould. He has been a perpetual grumbler at anything which has ever been proposed by the party represented on this side. We have a right to complain of the conduct of business in the Senate, and the very contention of Senator Clemons, who is leading the Government here today, that he had to obtain our concurrence, shows that the members of the Opposition have such sympathy with the small band of heroes opposite . who are endeavouring to carry on the business of the country in this Chamber that we are prepared to always treat them leniently. I am very glad that the honorable senator has made that admission. I am also pleased to learn that it is the intention of the Government to bring business before the Senate. Parliament has been in session for nearly three months, and the Senate has sat only about one week altogether, The reason why we agreed to special adjournments was because we thought that the Government were in a difficult position and wanted to help them out of it. Owing to the manner in which we have been referred to, in almost every case, where an opportunity has been afforded to members and supporters of the Government, we may be compelled to abandon, the leniency which we have shown hitherto, and, in the interests of the people of Australia, to introduce measures to which we are pledged. I am sure . that if that time should arrive, the members and. supporters of the Ministry here will not be in a position to complain-. With regard to the action of the Government in connexion with Supply .generally, it may be easily realized that, so far as a first Supply Bill is concerned, there are always certain limitations which are recognised, and that, consequently, a Supply Bill for a large amount might not be acceded to, though the Opposition in another place allowed the Government six weeks' Supply. Was any attempt made to find out the attitude of the Opposition with respect to the second Supply Bill? So far as my knowledge goes, no one in the Senate, in' view' of the circumstances existing, would have complained about a Bill for two months' Supply. The grant-, ing of one month's Supply just landed the Parliament of Australia in the middle of the visit of the Parliamentarians from Great Britain, and also in Show Week, which is a most difficult time for getting Supply of any kind. If* the Government had had any foresight at all, they would have anticipated that position, and put these facts to the Opposition in another place, as well as to the Opposition here, when, I feel sure, two months' Supply would have been granted, and all this wrangling and waste of time would have been saved. With respect to this Supply Bill, we must admit that the amount, asked for one month's Supply is very moderate. I am not going to complain, but to call the attention of honorable senators, and the people of the country, to the fact that scarcely a Supply Bill has been introduced by a Labour Government without very strong criticism being indulged in, and serious objection raised to voting any considerable amount for the Treasurer's Advance. Yet, in one Supply Bill this session, an advance of £250,000 to the Treasurer was asked for by the present Government; and in this Supply Bill an advance of no less than £300,000 is asked for. That means over £500,000 in two months for purposes of the Treasurer's Advance. We may be ignorant of some of the conditions requiring a larger amount than would appear to be necessary. It may be the intention of the Treasurer, quite apart from the sanction of the Government, to proceed with the works at Cockburn Sound. It may be his intention to do many things without the advice and sanction of his own colleagues. Therefore, we, as members of the Opposition, have stronger reasons for objecting to this extended Treasurer's Advance than has been the case previously. But I do not think that any member of the Opposition intends to oppose the grant. Of course, we know that Sir John Forrest finds no difficulty in spending any money that is advanced to him. What is a million to him? I thought it right to call attention to the large amount of the Treasurer's Advance in order that it may be known that we are watching what is occurring. Every honorable senator will have an opportunity of expressing his opinion on grievances and matters of policy, but I hope that before we adjourn to-day the Supply Bill will be carried, and that no public servant will be alarmed as to the prospect of receiving his salary next week.

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