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Friday, 13 October 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I do not desire to do more than to again draw the attention, I am afraid uselessly, to the practice which is growing up of systematically ignoring the Senate as a branch of the Federal Parliament. There is no question that it was within the competence of the Government to have brought down before to-day the business in connexion with which we are asked to suspend the Standing Orders. I expect that we shall be told later that the Supply asked for is on the ordinary footing. If so, it was just as competent for the Government to bring in this Bill a week ago as it is now. There is a systematic endeavour on the part of the Government, aided by the officials, to purposely hold back these measures until they are able to come here and throw upon us the responsibility, if we refuse to suspend the Standing Orders, of leaving them in the position of being unable to pay the public servants. We are to be coerced into legislating under circumstances of that kind. There is not an honorable senator, I do not care on which side he sits, who does not know perfectly well that the procedure which is growing up, and in connexion with which this Government has been the worst offender that we have ever had-

Senator Pearce - No.

SenatorO'Keefe. - They have all been alike.

Senator MILLEN - I have made that statement again and again, but I hold that this Government is certainly the worst offender that we have ever had. The remarkable feature is that this Government was going to alter all the wrong-doing of the past. We are now to be told that we must suspend the Standing Orders which were shaped in order that the Senate should have a full and fair opportunity to consider any proposals submitted ; in other words, to prevent the rushing through of proposed legislation which, on maturer consideration, the Senate might desire to amend. Our rules are systematically being suspended simply that the Government may deny to us the opportunity of criticism, or throw upon those who wish to criticise the onus of blocking the payment of public servants. That this is being systematically done is proved by the presence on the business paper of this contingent notice of motion. It was put there, not because of a sudden emergency arising, but because a month ago the Government determined that there should be no fair consideration of a Supply Bill. Not merely have the Government taken up this attitude, but it is characteristic of the Department. In order to avoid, as they are doing, a full and fair examination of proposals, the Treasury hold these measures back until the last moment. I defy any Minister or officer of the Treasury to say that this Bill could not have been put in print a week or a fortnight ago. So far as ordinary services are concerned, it does not contain an item which the Department did not know of a month, aye, two months, ago. There can be only one reason why the Bill has not been submitted here before. The Department knows that if it can withhold the Bill until the clock is striking the eleventh hour, it will be saved a lot of trouble, because there will be no time for us to press inquiries on points on which we desire information. If the Senate is prepared to tolerate that state of things, the Opposition is, of course, impotent to do more than to enter a protest. I do not expect, nor should I invite, honorable senators on the other side to do anything to place the Government in an awkward position. I do not intend to take the responsibility of doing any- thing which would delay the payment of salaries which are earned, and which ought to be paid ; but I do invite honorable- senators to let their views be known to the Government, in order that we may look forward to a better state of things than that which has grown up, and which, as is shown by the presence of this contingent notice on the business-paper, it is the intention of the Government to continue until Parliament declares that it will have no more of such procedure.

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