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Friday, 10 August 1906

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - I wish to explain that it was only at 1.40 p.m. to-day that my honorable colleague obtained the final revise of the necessary motion, and that, as soon as I had conferred with him in regard to it, I . went to the room occupied bv the leader of the Opposition-

Mr McLean - Hear, hear.

Mr DEAKIN - There I met the honorable member for Gippsland, but, failing to find the leader of the Opposition, saw the honorable member for North Sydney.

Mr Reid - I am perfectly satisfied. .

Mr DEAKIN - Had the leader of the Opposition been in his room, he would have known of our intention within threeminutes of our final decision. As to the next question raised by the right honorable member, the rule is not to give effect toa proposal to reduce duties until Parliament has dealt with it; consequently, there can be no loss of revenue in that regard. Of these proposals I say nothing;, but before dealing with the point at issue, must say that, although, one cannot complain of a newspaper taking; advantage of any sources of knowledge open to it, it does seem that, in this particular instance, the line has been passed! at which it ceases to be proper for a newspaper to make public precise information which may adversely affect the publicrevenue.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Somehow or other, the reports of the Commissioners are always anticipated.

Mr DEAKIN - A newspaper could retain its priority of information if it simplyinformed the Minister of Trade and Customs that, having obtained certain, information, it proposed to take advantage of it.

Mr McWilliams - If it took that step the news would soon spread.

Mr DEAKIN - It need not, and would' not. Ministers are- constantly in possession of information which is not made public until acted upon.

Mr McWilliams - The honorable and' learned gentleman should blame, not thenewspapers, but those who " gave away the show."

Mr DEAKIN - I blame both. Thosewho improperly gave this information have committed an absolutely dishonorable act, and those who publish information at a time when its' publication might adversely affect the revenue of the Commonwealth, and be advantageous to individuals, act discreditably, if not dishonorably, and unpatriotically. I wish toguard myself from the suspicion of having assented to what has beendone; for it goes beyond the necessary publication of information which werecognise as the business of a' newspaper. I agree Avith the leader of theOpposition that no time should be lost in dealing with fiscal proposals. I have still a hope, although it is a faint one, that we may close the Budget debate thisafternoon; but in the special circumstances: of the case, and under the special pres- sure upon us, whether the Budget debate be concluded or not this afternoon, I propose to ask the House to take into consideration on Tuesday next the reports that the Government have had time to consider - the reports on spirits, wine, and industrial alcohol. I am very reluctant to postpone the Budget debate, but, in the exceptional circumstances of this session' - circumstances to which I can recollect no parallel in my political experience - the Government feel it necessary to dispose of these reports now, and also of the others just tabled as soon as possible afterwards. The House will be invited on Tuesday next to deal with the alcoholic.

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