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Thursday, 23 August 1906


Mr JOHNSON (Lang) .- We ought to have an assurance from the Government as to the order in which, the remaining business of the session is to be taken. At present we appear to be proceeding in a haphazard way. After entering upon the discussion of the Estimates, they are suddenly withdrawn from discussion, and honorable members are asked to deal with measures of no urgency. What is the object of this? A few days ago I asked the Prime Minister when, in view of the expressed desire of the Government to rectify Tariff anomalies, and to relieve the distress alleged to be due to an inadequate Tariff, it was proposed to .proceed with the work of Tariff revision. In reply, the honorable and learned gentleman said that it was intended to proceed immediately with it. The business paper, however, affords no indication of a desire on the part of the Government to give effect to that intention.


Sir John Forrest - The Prime Minister said to-day that the question of Tariff revision would be dealt with early next week.


Mr JOHNSON - We now find on the business-paper the Copyright Bill, the Preferential Ballot Bill, the Bounties Bill, the Lands Acquisition Bill, and other measures which certainly are not of great urgency, and with which, in the circumstances, the next Parliament might well be left to deal. At all events, I think that, before granting supply, we ought to have a positive assurance from the Government that they intend to submit the question of Tariff revision to the House during the present session.

Pir John Forrest.- - The Prime Minister said that it would be dealt with early next week.


Mr JOHNSON - I doubt the sincerity of these promises, since the business-paper contains no reference to Tariff revision. We are justified in harbouring the suspicion that the object of the Government 'in pressing forward other measures is to delay the consideration of this question, which was said by Ministers twelve months ago to be so urgent as to demand our immediate attention. The Opposition have expressed their desire to assist the Government in dealing before the general election with the Tariff, but apparently, so far as that question is concerned, the Ministry are adopting a policy of procrastination. Either the Government propose to proceed this session with the measures now on the notice-paper, or they are fooling the Parliament and the public. If thev have no desire to pass them this session, they are guilty, of a gross and deliberate waste of time, and are perpetrating an act of absolute deception upon the Parliament and public. The Treasurer is best able to determine whether a Supply Bill is necessary at this stage, but, having regard to the fact that the Government have received from the Opposition more generous treatment than they deserve, I think they ought to take us into their confidence and tell us what business we shall be asked to deal with this session, and also the order in which it will be taken.







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