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Thursday, 20 June 1912

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - Senator Givens Has forestalled me in his protest against the motion submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I propose to move an amendment to delete the words " 3rd July," and to insert in their stead the words " 21st June, at 10.30 a.m." This, of course, will mean that, instead of adjourning for a fortnight, we shall resume our sittings to-morrow morning.

Senator McGregor - There is no need for an amendment; the honorable senator has only to vote against the motion.

Senator NEEDHAM - Then I shall do so. I agree with my comrade, Senator Givens, that it is absolutely false to the doctrines of the Government to slavishly follow the custom that, because somebody in another place moves a no-confidence motion, this Chamber should forthwith cease its deliberations. It is patent to all members of the Federal Parliament, and to the people outside who placed us here, that the object of the motion in another place is simply to waste the time of Parliament and of the country.

Senator Millen - Is the present Government not to be open to criticism, like any other Government?

Senator NEEDHAM - I have patiently listened this afternoon to the honorable senator for about an hour and threequarters without once interrupting a speech which is absolutely the weakest he ever delivered in this Chamber. Everything that Mr. Deakin, and 'every one of his followers in another place, can drag up against the present Government could well have been said in the debate on the Address- in-Reply.

Senator Millen - The . no-confidence proposal is an amendment on the Addressin Reply.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator- knows very well that it has been the custom in the past, under similar circumstances, for Ministers to suspend their operations during such a debate. There have been times in this Parliament, and in State Parliaments, when a motion of noconfidence had a chance of being carried, and when Ministers were at their wits' end to secure support in order to retain their positions. Is there any such necessity to-day? In another place there are seventy-five members. Of these, forty-one are members of the Australian Labour party. Of these forty-one, seven are Ministers of the Crown, leaving thirtyfour, thirty-three of whom are supporters of the honorable member for Ballarat. If each of the thirty-three, including the affable gentleman I have just mentioned, all speak, can they gain one vote from the forty-one supporters of the Government?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould -No hope!

Senator NEEDHAM - Then, why fight a forlorn hope? Why suspend the National Parliament and the ' functions of government for a fortnight ?

Senator Findley - The probability is that if all the members of the Opposition speak in another place they will lose a few votes.

Senator NEEDHAM - I am not addressing, myself to this matter in any spirit of levity or frivolity. I am not concerned whether the Senate adjourns for a fortnight, a month, or six weeks, so far as- - visiting my own State is concerned, because, in any case, I shall remain in 'Melbourne. My point is that the Government are slavishly following an obsolete custom. When, on the 13th April, 1910, the people of Australia vested the Australian Labour party with the guidance of the destiniesof this nation, what did that party do? In the first place, Mr. President, you did not come into this chamber in wig and gown, as Senator Gould used to do ; and a similar course was followed by Mr. Speaker in another place, and that very . great bauble, the mace, was abolished.

Senator Vardon - The more is the pity.

SenatorNEEDHAM- It should have been abolished much earlier. As we, as an advanced party, did abolish those old slavish customs, we ought to-day to continue in that strain. The Senate should proceed with its deliberations in spite of the fact that persons are wrangling in another place. Yesterday afternoon, the representative of the King came here and read a document in which were outlined certain measures which it is proposed to enact and which could be dealt with by the Senate. There is no need, for the Senate to adjourn because other people are wrangling. I contend, and contend with all sincerity, that if this Government wish to carry out the legislation foreshadowed in the Speech delivered yesterday, we ought to abolish that old custom, and continue our sittings. I object to the Senate- adjourning for nearly a fortnight because it has been thought necessary that the honorable member for Ballarat, the Leader of the Opposition in another place, should, table a no-confidence motion.

Senator de Largie - Besides, we may lose an opportunity ?

Senator NEEDHAM - There is no question of an opportunity, but a question of principle, as far as I am concerned, and the sooner that principle is recognised by the Government, the better. Time and again the Senate has adjourned for very small reasons, and the reason given to-day is, I think, the smallest reason of the lot. There is no charge that can be levelled against the Ministry under cover of the noconfidence motion which could not be levelled against them and well threshed out under the wide margin which is afforded to members of each House in the debate on the Address-in-Reply. If it should be thought advisable to have a. division I shall record my vote against the motion.

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