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Saturday, 16 December 1905

Mr ISAACS (Indi) (Attorney-General) . - The business for Monday will be the Copyright Bill, Patents Bill, Price and Bayly Bill, and the Seat of Government Bill. This order of business is by direction of the Prime Minister. There is no reason whatever why the Patents Bill and the Price and Bayly Bill should not be easily disposed of, and thus leave only the Copyright Bill before the Capital Sites Bill. As to the observations of the honorable member for Parramatta concerning the absence of honorable members, it has been well known for a considerable time past that the Government have resolved to proceed with the determination of the Capital Site question this session. The question, as I understand it, is one, the consideration of which will take very little time, namely, how best to effectuate quickly the existing determination of Parliament. When we hear honorable members like the honorable member for Parramatta complaining that we do not proceed with that business at once, I should like to say that it was certainly with the acquiescence, and, I believe, to a large extent at the suggestion, of the Opposition that the debate was adjourned to-day until a later period.

Mr Conroy - Certainly not. I moved the adjournment of the debate because the Treasurer desired that the Supplementary Estimates should be dealt with.

Mr ISAACS - I understand that what I have stated is perfectly correct.

Mr Conroy - I can assure the AttorneyGeneral that my statement is accurate, and I can appeal to the Treasurer for corroboration.

Mr ISAACS - I can only say that we appreciate the importance of the question, and are determined to have the matter settled. We think also that, as some honorable members have made arrangements - and it is well known that they have done so - which will render it impossible for them to be here until Tuesday, it is only right that the final determination of the question should not be arrived at until that day. It is known that certain honorable members have made arrangements to be here on Tuesday for that purpose.

Mr Conroy - I have heard nothing about that.

Mr ISAACS - It would therefore be unfair to rush to a determination of the question on Monday. There is no reason why we should not have the matter sufficiently forward to enable us to arrive at a conclusion this session in both Houses of the Parliament with regard to the delimitation of the Federal Capital Site. Some observations have been made as to the absence of Ministers when expenditure incurred by their Departments has been under consideration ; but I should like it to be understood that the financial measures brought forward by the Treasurer to-day related to the transactions of past Governments only. They were introduced merely in order to put on a legal basis what previous Governments had done, and they have no reference whatever to the administration of the members of the present Government. There was, therefore, no necessity for members of the present Government to be present to explain any of the votes, and if any of them required explanation, honorable members who were members of the late Administration should have been here for that purpose.

Mr Mahon - My complaint was that the House had been sitting so long that Ministers had to go away because they were fatigued.

Mr ISAACS - I am quite sure that if there had been any business necessity for Ministers to be here to-day they would have been here ; but, as I have explained to the House, they were not concerned personally in the legalization of the transactions of the members of other Governments. With regard to the observations made by the honorable member for Fremantle, the PostmasterGeneral informs me that he will take the matter to which the honorable member referred into his personal consideration, and will see what conclusion should be arrived at.

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