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THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
AGREEMENT REACHED. MR. HUGHES PLEASED.
"IN SIGHT OF THE PRO-
SENATE ELECTION SHORTLY
Melbourne, February 13
The Fusion Committee, consisting of the Prime Minister, Senator Pearce, and Mr. Jensen, representing the Ministerial party, and Mr. Cook, Sir John Forrest, and Mr. Glynn, delegates for the^ Liberals, met this morning and put the finishing touches to the agreement arrived at as the resnlt of last- week's consultations. This occupied practically the -whole of the morning and up till close upon 2 o'clock. The Prime Minister, on emerging from the conference, announced that "like Christian in 'The Pilgrim's Progress, they had been sur- mounting one difficulty after another, but," he eaid, "we have now passed through the valley, of. the shadow anidare in sight of the promised land, in other words, we have completed what we assembled to do " ' i
Mr. Hughes, consulted his following early in the afternoon. The proceedings were of the briefest nature, lasting less than five minutes. The party had left matters al- most entirely in the hands of theirdchief. The agreement reached was read, and though-not wholly acceptable to all the party, ft was adopted, it being deemed in- advisable to jeopardise the position by in- sisting upon too much detail.
It will probably be found that the agree- ment provides that the new national Wat Government ihall^ comprise six Liberáis and five Ministerialists, four members of each party to hold portfolios, with two Liberal« as assistant Ministers, and one Miniiïterialist ' in a similar capacity. There will also be t.vo Liberal
Whips in . the House of Representatives. These positions are almost certain to be filled by Messrs Greene and Thomson, who are already filling the role?. There will be one Ministerial Whip in the Senate, who is likely to be Senator de Largie, who now holds the post.
Tlie understanding also provides for the holding of a separate Senate election, in the hope that the Labor majority in that Chamber .will be converted into a minority, 60 that a solution will be found of the pre- sent unworkable position. Should this object be achieved the life of the Parlia- ment will be extended for the period of the war, and possibly for a term of three years. At the Senate election, and also at the election for the House of Representa- tives, whenever that takes place, there will be an arrangement wnicli seats shall, be contested by the respec- tive parties, and wherever a' Ministerial candidate is put forward he -will be im- mune from opposition by the Liberal Party,
and vice versa.
The tariff is to be ratified by a' short Bill. This would have to he done in anj- ease, otherwise the duties the Government have been collefting ever since the sche- dule was submitted over two years ago would have had to be refunded. Owing to circumstances arising out of the war it (juite unlikely that the tariff can be revised in detail at the present juncture. As. a matter of fact, no action in this direction is likely to be taken until the clcse. of the war, as it would i.iise questions intimately affecting the Empire and the Allies, and complications might ensue.
There has been a sharp and an insitïtent demand from the Liberals-ever since the war begin for stricter economy in Go- vernment departments. Mr. Hughes has consented to follow this policy in future, with a particular eye to defence and naval I extravagance. Certain features of the policy of the Hughes Government with Thich the Liberal Party, or a majority of it, ja in^accord, have been preserved, but it will probably be" found that some o: the taxation proposals -that are awaiting the assent of 'Parliament will be " re- modelled. The war time profits tax, for instance, may be expected to undergo con- siderable modification before being brought forward bv the fusion Government. Both the Liberals and the Ministerialists recog- nise that this is a legitimate field for taxa- tion, and a fairly substantial rate ia likely to be fixed. So also in the case of the suggested wealth tax the fusionists are agreed that if wealth is not directly taxed some otüer form of taxation will become necessary during the period of the war.
It is understood that as far "as the Ministerialists are concerned the question of portfolios was not discussed at their meeting. The Ministers who are now be- hind Mr. Hughes were content to leave the matter entirely in toe hands of the Prime Minister to arrange with Mr. Cook.
It is stated, although not officially con finned, that one of the decisions arrived at by the conference of the parties was that the Prime Minister should be accompanied to the Imperial Conference by a second delegate, and that the selection was prac- tically certain to fall upon Mr. Cook. In that event it is thought that Senator Pearce will become acting. Prime Minister during Mr. Hughes* absence, and that Sir John Foi rest will lead the combined parties in the House of R envesen tative-5 while Parliament is sitting. There is, how- ever, a movement in Labor circles, having for ite object-the dispatch of a special re- presentative of the Official Labor Party to England,'whose mission it will be to en- deavor, as far as possible, to counteract the influence of the Government representa- tives, and put before the people of Great Britain the labor view of Australia's posi- tion. The party intends to bear any ex- pense that may be incurred.
LIBEKALS LOOKING FOR
A SARCASTIC SENATOR.
Melbourne. February 13.
Tn the Senate to-day Senator Findley, speaking on the motion for the adjourn- ment of the House, said the Liberals had been closeted together since 8 p.m., but had split into factions over the question of how the Ministerial positions at the disposal oF the Liberals were to be allotted. There were three factions-the Cook faction, the Liberal faction, and the ,"I.'V\ AV.," that was the "I William Watt" faction. (Laughter.) They were all battling-for office, though, of course, the ostensible object was to win the war. They .were not concerned about portfolios, and 'that was why they were etill in con- ference. It waa out of regard for economy that there was only to be one election one for the Senate-but what was £100,000 in comparison Avith the_ object of winning the war for the allies and civilisation. The only proposal being de- bated was not how to win the war but how to capture the Senate seats and save
the Ministerial seats.