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Friday, 24 November 1911

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - It is scarcely possible to submit any motion relating to the business of the Senate without encountering some amount of opposition. I thought that I had furnished all the explanation that was necessary. With respect to the remarks of Senator O'Keefe, Senator de Largie, and others, who are excessively anxious to continue working even .into January, I may state that they need not be alarmed in the slightest degree. The Government have a programme of work to be disposed of before Parliament is prorogued, and they intend to do everything they possibly can to carry that programme into effect. It does not matter whether we close the session before Christmas or after - the Government intend to do their work. Reasonable people must admit that that programme is not excessive, and if honorable senators diligently stick to their work and do not occupy time unreasonably we believe that we can complete the work before Christmas.

Senator O'Keefe - By sitting all night several times.

Senator McGREGOR - It is not the programme of any Government that makes it necessary to sit all night. Such occurrences are due to obstructive tactics. We were guilty of the same sort of thing when we were in opposition, and cannot blame our present opponents. But the Government are not responsible for what they do. With respect to the remarks of Senator Gardiner that we ought to sit every day. in the week, I have to say that a Minister has far more work to do than merely to present business to Parliament. A Minister who does his work conscientiously must be in his office sometimes, or he must bring his officers up to Parliament House to do business with him here. Senator Gardiner says that a Minister ought to be able to take the word of his chief clerk or departmental secretary, and that if they cannot be relied upon they ought not be there. Suppose Senator Gardiner were a Minister, and were continuously engaged in Parliament, Would he be prepared to sign papers when a departmental officer brought them up to him and said, " Here, Mr. Minister, sign these documents; they are all right."

Senator Gardiner - What would prevent a Minister from going into his private room and reading the papers there?

Senator McGREGOR - Then he would not be able to hear the words of wisdom ihat fell from honorable senators. I trust that Senator Gardiner will realize the absurdity of expecting Ministers to do their administrative work properly if Parliament sits continuously. They must pay personal attention to their departmental business if they are to take the responsiblity for it.

Senator Gardiner - The Prime Minister was away for nine months last year, and the work went on in his absence.

Senator McGREGOR - I understood Senator Sayers to say that we might have gone on with private business last night, but that honorable senators evidently had no inclination for it. How could the work have been carried on if there, was no inclination to do it? What we are now proposing has been the practice of the Senate in the past. Private senators will certainly not suffer at the hands of this Government more than they have suffered at the hands of previous Administrations. I admit that private business is of very great importance. A great proportion of the legislation that has been passed was at some time or other brought forward as private business. The advocacy by private members of Parliament of certain urgent reforms has ultimately culminated in important Acts of Parliament.. Therefore I attach considerable importanceto private business. But the work that the Government have brought before Parliament has to be done, and it ought to be done in time to allow reasonable opportunties for honorable senators to go to distant States.. If we cannot do the work before Christmaswe shall have to meet again next year. But would it not be absurd to have an adjournment for a month or six weeks, allowing: members of Parliament who live in Queensland and Western Australia to go home, and then bring them back again for the purpose of sitting for a week or two in the new year? With regard to the time proposed' to be taken, if it becomes urgently necessary we can sit on Monday and Saturday aswell as on Tuesday. We could have morning sittings each day if that were necessary. It is quite possible for us to do the work before . us if we earnestly set our minds to it. I hope that honorable senators interested in private members'" business will not be unreasonable. The Government will endeavour to treat them fairly.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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