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Tuesday, 31 July 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - On Friday last the Minister of Trade and Customs promisee! that before this Bill was proceeded with he would make available for honorable members certain documents from which he quoted. There was a clear and definite statement on that point. The Minister made that the excuse for shortening his remarks, and certainly for shortening his quotations. Why has not that information been made available?

Mr Isaacs - The Minister said, " I propose to have the information printed and distributed amongst honorable members," but he did not say that that would be done before the debate was proceeded with.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There was a distinct understanding that this Bill would not be proceeded with until the documents were printed.

Mr Deakin - I did) not understand that there was a definite promise, but there was an understanding that before we got into Committee the information should be available.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -And the Minister went on to- promise that there should be every speed in the printing of the documents.

Mr Deakin - That is so, but of course the Budget papers had to be printed first. This is really a Committee Bill, and we will not ask. honorable members to go into Committee upon it before the documents have been distributed.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then I am afraid that I shall have to proceed. My recollection does not accord with that of the Prime Minister. However, we are accustomed to_that ; and we are also accustomed to the constant absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs when he has business before this Chamber. It is about time that some protest was made against the. absence of the Minister so constantly when he has important Bills before the House.

Mr Deakin - He has a great deal of important business in Sydney.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that he has a great deal of important business - principally in connexion with his electorate. The Prime Minister need not apologize for the absence of his colleague, because we know quite well where he is. He is doing what we should all like ' to be doing, and for the same reason. He is electioneering, and he is doing that persistently ; but I submit that when a Minister brings down important proposals to this House, such as the Minister of Trade and Customs has done in connexion with the Anti-Trust Bill and this Bounty Bill, he ought to be here to see those measures through. He ought to be here until our business upon them is completed. But we find this honorable gentleman throwing Bills down on the table of the House, reading some statements in support of them., which very often he does not understand - and when asked for information he cannot give it. For instance, when discussing the growth of cotton the other day the Minister quoted some figures, and when interrogated by the honorable member for North Svdney as to whether he was referring to raw cotton, or otherwise, he had not the slightest idea. He could not tell us whether he was speaking of raw cotton or any other kind of cotton. Honorable members, who would have undertaken to speak to-day, have gone away, expecting that, as usual, the Opposition would keep the debate going. I think it is about time this kind of thing was stopped. So far as I am concerned, I shall decline to proceed in view of what I regard as a direct breach of the understanding arrived at on Friday."

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