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Friday, 24 November 1911

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I remind the honorable senator that the question is as to whether there should be an additional sitting day, and not whether the work of a Minister is hard or not.

Senator GARDINER - I bow to your ruling, sir. I intended to move that Monday should also be appointed an additional sitting day, and I wish to give as a reason that, arduous as the work of Ministers may be, it is not as hard as lumping on the wharves or navvying on a railway line, and yet the men doing that work have to work on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. I believe that if we had longer sessions there would be no occasion to complain of want of time in which to do the . whole of the business of Parliament. If Ministers came before Parliament with a definite programme of the work ito be done, and it was understand that that work would have to be got through, there would be less waste of time in frivolous debating with the intention of embarrassing the Government by crowding the work at the' close of a session.

Senator Millen - Is the honorable senator referring to the debate on the Naval and Military Decorations Bill ?

Senator GARDINER - I recognise that in proportion to the importance of that measure, there was an enormous waste of time in discussing it.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is out of order in referring to previous debates of the same session.

Senator GARDINER - I recognise that I may be out of order in discussing a previous debate, but surely I may be permitted, when the Government are asking for an extra sitting day, to point out that they were prepared to waste a week in the discussion of a measure which the country had never heard of before the Minister introduced it. I might put that forward as a very good reason, if one were so inclined, for opposing the request for an" additional sitting day now. This system of short sessions enables those opposed to the Government to debate measures at greater length than is necessary in the hope of forcing the Government to rush measures through in order to close the session and enable honorable senators to get to their Homes for the Christmas. I hope the Government will realize from the debate that there is a desire, if not for continuous sessions, for, at all events, long sessions. There is no desire to close the present session when there is a large amount of work which the Government should carry out.

Senator Vardon - The work might have been done by now if the Government had been ready in time.

Senator GARDINER - No Government can be ready for everything.

Senator Vardon - We wasted the first month practically in doing nothing.

Senator GARDINER - We know that so far as the character of their measures is concerned, the present Government have succeeded in carrying more important legislation than was carried by any previous Government in the history of this Parliament. I might refer honorable senators to the Defence Act, the Naval Construction Act, and - notwithstanding the opposition there was to it - the Land Tax Act, which latter affects only the wealthy in the community. Then, we have dealt with the transfer of the Northern Territory and the Federal Captial question.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is discussing the business of last session, and not the motion before the Senate.

Senator GARDINER - I made the statement as a reason why there should be no hurry on the part of the Government to conclude the present session. I was pointing out the number and magnitude of the measures which the present Government have already passed, and I did that in reply to interjections. I think that such a splendid record might be considerably added to if it were not determined to bring this session to a conclusion in December, as apparently the Government intends. I hope that, in reply, the Vice-President of the Executive Council will let us know whether the Cabinet will fairly consider the proposal not to bring this session to a conclusion in December, but to continue it in January and until such time as all the business which the Government have to lay before Parliament is passed into law.

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