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Wednesday, 22 April 1931

Senator BARNES (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I take this opportunity of speaking for fear that the axe may drop at any moment, as it did last Friday. I shall confine my remarks to the amendment. The obvious desire of the Opposition to postpone a definite decision on this bill is somewhat surprising. If honorable senators opposite had no intention of passing the measure in any form whatever, they could have accomplished their object by defeating the second reading. It may be that some ulterior motive underlies the delay.

The bill has had a somewhat strange history since it reached the Senate on the 18th June last year. On the 27th June the second reading of the measure was moved by the then Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Daly). Senator Glasgow, on the 10th J July, moved an amendment that the bill be referred vo a select committee, and that the committee should report to the Senate within four weeks. That amendment was agreed to. The select committee submitted a progress report on the 6th August, and the time for the presentation of the final report was extended until the second Thursday after the first meeting of the Senate following an adjournment. The final report was submitted on the 3rd December, 1930, and the second reading of the bill made an order of the day for the 10th of that month. When the order of the day was called on, Senator Daly moved that it be made an order of the day for a later hour in the day, whereupon Senator Pearce moved an amendment that it be made an order of the day for the first Thursday after the Senate re-assembled in 1931. The amendment was agreed to, with the result that the second-reading debate was not resumed until the 15th April, 1931. That is the way that the Opposition used its majority in this chamber to delay the passage of an important measure of Government policy. We have now before us an amendment that the word " now " be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " this day six months ". If the amendment is agreed to, it will be tantamount to rejecting the bill altogether. In the light of these facte, ft is a waste of time to debate the bill further. If the amendment has been moved with the consent of the party in Opposition, why prolong the agony? In that case, I suggest that the Opposition should act quickly, as it did last Friday. I do not lite to have my head on the block waiting for the axe to fall. If the amendment is carried I shall not complain, although I should like it to be rejected; but honorable senators opposite might have acted earlier in showing their contempt for the wishes of the Government. Apparently, in no circumstances are they prepared to give proper consideration to measures sent up from another place; but they prefer not to reject a bill absolutely, so "that the Government may not be in a position to take them before their judges and allow the people to say whether they approve of their contemptuous treatment of the Government's proposals.

Senator Reid - Let the Government ask the people to settle the issue.

Senator BARNES - I am prepared to go to the country, when the time comes, as cheerfully as honorable senators opposite, and that is, I suppose, as cheerfully as a condemned man goes to the gallows. As Leader of the Senate, I am entitled to be told frankly by honorable senators opposite that they do not deem the Government's proposals worthy of consideration. If that is so, we can get through the Senate business speedily and adjourn because, in the circumstances, it is useless for us to come here week after week. I strongly protest against the treatment meted out to the Government's proposals by the Opposition.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia) [3.52]. - I am surprised, that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) should, try to put upon the Opposition the whole of the blame for the time that has been taken up on this bill. It is quite true that we did demand that the measure should, before being dealt with, be subjected' to an inquiry by a select committee. That is a course which the Government should have been the first to welcome if it was earnestly desirous of having the bill passed. It is a most important measure. The Senate merely asked that, before it should be passed into law, we should have information before us as to the attitude of authorities on banking practice. There was no undue delay in making the inquiry. Although the Government did all it could to prevent the committee from being constituted, and to hamper it when it was constituted, there was no delay on the part of the committee itself, and it would be interesting if Senator Barnes would ask the officials who compiled the information he has supplied to compile other information as to the course of this bill through Parliament. Frequent adjournments took place at the instance and request of the Government. There were adjournments for a week or a fortnight time after time.

Senator Lynch - Even after the report of the committee was presented.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.Yes. " After the report was presented further progress with the bill was prevented by the action of the Government in adjourning the Senate from time to time on the ground that there was no business to bring before it.

It is an extremely difficult matter to please Senator Barnes. Last week, when we dealt rather promptly with the bill to provide for a fiduciary currency, he was extremely annoyed. He seemed to desire that the debate should be adjourned. In fact the Government Whip moved the adjournment of the debate, evidently at the instigation of the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Hoare - That is not so.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - At any rate, Senator Barnes was extremely annoyed because we did not agree to adjourn the debate, and, not desiring to exercise the right to speak, immediately afterwards allowed a division to be taken. He was then annoyed because we acted promptly, and he is equally annoyed now because we are giving the utmost consideration to another measure, the only interruptions being frequent adjournments at the instance of the Government. There is no desire on the part of the Opposition to delay the consideration of the bill, but there is every desire on its part that the measure shall b'e thoroughly examined before we come to a conclusion on it. There has been no waste of time in that regard so far as the Opposition is concerned. The report of the select committee has been a most valuable contribution to the debate. It has brought before the Senate a wide field of information of the utmost value. The only regret I have is the fear that not one honorable senator on the Government side has read the report or the evidence.

Senator Daly - That fear is groundless.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.If it be groundless, and honorable senators opposite have read the evidence in the report, I cannot understand why they do not unanimously support both amendments.

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