2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Letter concerning the Federal Capital Site, from the Prime Minister to thePremier of New South Wales, dated 15th November.
Ordered to be printed.
Notification of the acquisition of land at Glen Innes, New South Wales, for defence purposes.
– As a representative of the Marconi Wireless Telegraphy Company is now in Australia, will the Postmaster-General have him interviewed, in order to ascertain if communication can be established by means of wirelesstelegraphy between Burnie, Tasmania, and King Island?
-I expect to have an interview with the gentleman referred to, and with the representative of any other company. If any definite decision is come to on the subject, I shall inform the House of it.
– I wish to know from the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as. representing the Minister of Defence, if it has been decided to allow warrant and non-commissioned officers who possess longservice medals, but have retired from the Forces, the privilege of wearing their uniforms, and retaining their rank.
– A decision has been arrived at. There was an obscurity in the regulations, but it has been removed.
Debate resumed from 16th November (vide page 5434), on motion by Mr. Deakin -
That, notwithstanding any provisions in the Standing Orders to the. contrary, there be forthwith adopted the following standing order, namely : -
After any question has been proposed, either in the House or in any Committee of the Whole, a motion may be made by any member, rising in his place, and without notice, and whether any other member is addressing the Chair or not, “ That the question be now put,” and the motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
When the motion, “ That the question be now put” has been carried, and the question consequent thereon has been ecided, any further motion may be at once made which may be requisite to bring to a decision any question already proposed from the Chair; and also if a clause be then under consideration, a motion may be made, “That the question, ‘That certain words of the clause defined in the motion stand part of the clause,’ or That the clause stand part of or be added to the Bill’ be now put.” Such motions shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate,
) An affirmative vote of not less . than twenty-four members shall be necessary to carry any motion under this standing order.
– I trust that honorable members are in a frame of mind different from that in which they entered upon this debate, and that the mutual arrangement which has been come to will lead to that calm and unimpassioned discussion which the importance of the motion requires. The proposed change is so momentous that none of us can predict what, if agreed . to, its result will be. It is only within the last three or four centuries that men have begun to entertain the idea that questions should be decided, by an appeal to reason. In earlier times the number of followers possessed by a man determined the tightness and the wrongness of his actions. In those days they followed -
The good old rule,
. . The simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And theyshould keep who can.
No regard was paid to ethical considerations, and discussion was absolutely out of the question. But as more or less scattered units came to be moulded together under one form of government, and as the idea of representation found favour, it began to be seen that there were manyquestions on which, after full discussion, it was possible to lay down certain rules of conduct to be conformed to by all within the realm.
– We had all this last week.
– I did not speak on the original motion last week. We are now dealing with what is-
– An. almost universal rule.
– The rule is not anything like universal, and where it operates, has produced very serious evils. A couple of centuries ago no one was permitted to publish reports of parliamentary proceedings, and the House of Commons had noprinted set ofrules to govern its procedure, it being left entirely for the Speaker to say what was, and what was not, in order. Even to the present day, in AngloSaxon communities, chairmen of public meetings are held to be possessed of an inherent power to say on what lines the discussion of the business before them shall proceed, and I believe that, even those presiding over municipal bodies and shire councils, are, in some instances, unfettered by rules in controlling debate. In some of the States Parliaments, standing orders which aim at the limitation of debate are in operation, whilst in others, the closure has been applied. I venture to say, however, that the adoption of rules for the suppression of debate, has, in nearly every instance, been attended with serious evil. I could quote no better instance of the terrible misfortune attached to the exercise of a power such as that sought under the Government proposal, than the consequences which ensued from the application of what were called decrees of urgency in the first and second French Parliaments after the Revolution of ‘89. Under these decrees, debate could be completely stifled. A motion could be hurriedly introduced, whenever it was desired, to prevent the use of arguments that might bring the people back to a calm consideration of the matter before them.
– Does the honorable member honestly think that the closure would be so applied in this Parliament?
– I consider that it could be so used.
– But would it be so used ?
– When the decrees of urgency were introduced into the French Parliament, no one thought that they would be used for the purposes to which they were applied. They lent themselves to an absolute abuse of. the powers of the majority. I know of the extent towhich the closure has been abused in the New South Wales Parliament. Onone occasion, I saw an honorable member - I think it was Mr. Levy, the member for Fitzroy - rise to make a protest against certain clauses in a proposed consolidation of some statutes,. He was proceeding to point out that a mistake, had been made in the consolidation, and that it really involved an alteration of the existing law, but almost immediately the closure was applied. It afterwards transpired that his view was absolutely correct, and that if he had been listened to a great amount of litigation, which arose out of the alteration to which he directed attention, would have been avoided. Thus, owing to the want of calm consideration, a consolidation of the laws which was intended to prevent litigation, resulted in a vast increase in the number of law cases. Upon the same occasion, two other honorable members who rose to support the attitude assumed by Mr. Levy, were, by the application of the closure, denied an opportunity to express their views. When the honorable member for Maranoa asks me whether I think that the closure would be harshly applied in this House, I reply that, judging from experience, it probably would be. I will go even further. If honorable members have followed my arguments, thev will recognise that, after all, we are not a Parliament whose actions affect only one particular State. We are not dealing with rules of debate intended to regulate the proceedings of a unified Parliament. As a Legislature, we stand in an absolutely unique position as compared with the various States Parliaments, the Standing Orders of which have been quoted by advocates of this proposal. We are not a unified Parliament, but a Federal Legislature, and that being sp we must adopt entirely different methods of debate. The application of the closure might result in the representatives of some of the smaller States being denied an opportunity to ventilate their views. At present the States are safeguarded by the fact that they oan appeal to the common sense - the broad sense of equity - of the public. If, however, honorable members are denied an opportunity to place before the public the rights and wrongs of a particular question,, it must be admitted that the States they represent are being retained in the Federation by force. If it be urged that the closure may not be applied, I ask why provision should be made for it? No power should be sought unless it is clearly necessary, and the necessity for the closure can arise only when it becomes absolutely impossible to carry on the business of the country in the absence of such a provision.
Do honorable members mean to say that we could not have gone on sitting during ordinary hours for another month or six weeks, and have dealt with all the urgent measures on the business-paper?
– Judging from our experience of the past, we could not have done so.
– For what purpose were honorable members of the Labour Party returned to this Parliament, if not. in order that they might take part in the debates, however extended they might be? I have always been in favour of the suppression of licence, but the Government proposal goes far beyond that. It aims at the suppression of debate. Honorable members must that under the proposed standing order, it would be within the power of the majority to decree, after a member had spoken for one minute, that he should be no longer heard, and to insure that the question should be put forthwith. As we see from the additional proposals of which the Prime Minister has given notice, it is intended to introduce still further limitations of debate - in my opinion a breach of the agreement entered into - to bring forward a set of standing orders even more stringent than that now under discussion. If the closure be applied it will not be possible for an honorable member to continue a debate, no matter how seriously the interests of his State may be affected. We may take it for granted that if an honorable member becomes what I may term too powerful in his arguments, some irascible or irrational member will probably seek to close the debate by the application of the closure, and as a consequence we shall have an absolute negation of discussion upon matters which should be fully and freely debated. I believe that I have made sufficiently clear the difference between what I have called a unified Parliament and this House. If the proposed new standing order is adopted we shall transfer to the Senate the power that now rests with this House, thus really increasing the power of a minority. The Senate has not brought into effect any such provision up to the present time. If the people of the various States find that it is absolutely impossible to secure a full expression of their views through their representatives in this House, we shall fall seriously in their estimation. If we had been in existence as a Federation for thirty or forty years,, and this had become a practically unified Parliament, instead of being a mere assemblage of representatives of. the States for the purpose of discussing matters, there might not be the same danger of the transfer of power and influence to which I have referred. But if the people of the smaller States form the impression that they may not be able to secure a full and effective expression of their ideas in this House, bitterness of feeling, such as exists in Germany, will arise. One of the reasons why honorable members can, after some of the most angry debates, walk away and talk matters over outside with an amount of good feeling that would be surprising had it not become customary amongst us, is that no honorable member is under any limitation as to the expression of his views. At present honorable members can uphold their principles to the fullest possible extent, andwhen overcome are prepared to submit with a good grace. When, however, rules are applied to prevent a full expression of opinion, extreme bitterness of feeling is inevitable. Ihavepointed out that the probable effect of the application of’ the closure in this Chamber would be to cause the representatives of some of the States to rely for the expression of their views upon their ‘ representatives in the Senate. By so much as we focus public attention upon the Senate, by so much shall we strengthen its- already great powers. We mustrecollect that that body occupies a very different position from that of any second Chamber in the world. It is elected upon the same franchise as are members of this House.
– In Norway and Sweden the members of the two Houses were elected upon the same franchise.
– I presume that the honorable member will scarcely regard that illustration as a good one. seeing that the people of Norway have recently established a separate form of Government. I am sure that he does not desire to bring about the separation of any of the States from the Commonwealth. There is another very good reason why this House should modify the terms of the motion under consideration. Their stringent character is beyond question. We are invited to allow a small section of members to affirm that an honorable member shall discontinue his remarks. That is tantamount to saying to honorable members : “ You need not come prepared to address the House with a well-considered speech, which is likely to. influence its judgment”; because if the fate of a Ministry were in the balance, what is more certain than that the closure would be applied, so. as to absolutely shut out from the discussion all our ablest debaters? One of the first occasions upon which a Government would justify the application of the closurewould be that upon which its own safety was threatened. Consequently when an Opposition was about to advance the strongest arguments against the gross misuse of Executive power, or against some maladministration, of so serious a character-
– Does the honorable and learned member think that the House would apply the closure under such circumstances ?
– It has already been pointed out that upon a certain occasion in New South Wales no less than eleven Labour members voted with the then Government in favour of applying the closure.
-They must have been quite justified in doing so.
– Unfortunately for that view, the Court held that they were absolutely wrong. It is true that some Labour representatives voted upon the opposite side-
– Surely that statement is applicable to all parties.
Mr.CONROY- Most certainly. But there is no reason to suppose that this House will be more far-seeing than anv legislative body which has preceded it. If honorable members are in favour of majority rule - as they profess to be - why are they not prepared to allow the closure to be applied only with the censent of the majority of the House? Exclusive of Mr. Speaker, there are seventy-four members of this Chamber, and. consequently, thirtyeight would be necessary to constitute a majority .
– That, proposal would work out all right if we could always insure a full attendance. But some honorable members absent themselves from the House for months, and then come here and lecture us.
– The late Government could notkeep a quorum. Thev used to ask members of the Labour Party to assist them to maintaina House.
– We have been asked toassist in keeping a quorum for the present Government before now.
– Rubbish !
– When the Watson Government were in power, upon a dozen occasions I assisted them to keep a House. However, I have no desire to discuss that question. The Ministry do not even propose that a quorum shall be necessary to apply the closure, although that would require the attendance of only one honorable member out of every three. Of course we mav be told that the closure has been introduced into France. So it has. But there the deputies sit only about four hours per diem, and from the time that they take their positions at the desks set apart for them, they cannot leave the chamber. Here, however, honorable members are at liberty to absent themselves whenever they desire to do so, and can and do retire to (the Library, the Smoking room’, or the lobbies. We know perfectly well that some honorable members, who have the largest number of attendances to their credit pass very little time within the House itself. In a sitting which extends over eight or nine hours, there are plenty of honorable members who do not spend more than five minutes in the chamber. Surely every honorable member ought to be in his place in the House at least one hour before he is entitled to vote for the application of the closure. That is what happens in France. There every member has to be present in the chamber for some time before he can support a motion’ of that character. I object to the closure under any circumstances, but I specially object to its application for the purpose of suppressing debate. It may be necessary to suppress licence-
– How would the honorable and learned member define “licence”?
– If an honorable member had been speaking upon any subject for an hour, it might well be said thatwithout the permission of the House he should not be at liberty to continue his remarks.
– If he had been speaking for an hour, and had not said anything which was worth listening to.
– The evil to which the honorable member refers is one which very speedily cures itself. I recollect that, when! - at the time the Tariff was under consideration - I endeavoured to show the probable effect of certain proposals, I was shouted at and howled down by Ministerialists, vet I was absolutely correct, and time has proved my statement. Similarly, when the Sugar Bounty Bill was being discussed, I pointed out that the s.um of ,£45,000 or £50,000 which we were asked to vote, was manifestly insufficient, and that within three or four years we should be invited to sanction a further grant in that connexion. I stated that, so far from £50,000 proving sufficient tq give effect to the purposes of the Bill, at least £150,000 would be required. But the honorable and learned member for Angas, who entertained a similar view, and myself, had to speak in the midst of an ominous, silence. If the proposed standing order had been in operation then, who can doubt that it would have been applied to us ? Yet our prognostications, have been absolutely verified. Again, the honorable and learned member for Angas, and myself, were the only members of this House who protested on the third reading against the passing of the ‘ Pacific Island Labourers Bill. But already we see a dozen signs that the Government cannot give effect to its provisions. If it had been within the power of the House to decline to listen to us upon that occasion, does anybody seriously suggest that the “ gag ‘ ‘ would not have been applied ? Nevertheless, our predictions have been absolutely justified by events. In the case of two of those Bills, amending measures, have been brought forward, and I venture to say that a similar course will be followed in regard to the third.
– What authority has the honorable and learned member for suggesting that the kanakas will not be deported ?
– I do not intend to discuss, that matter now. Apart from the question of illegality, I shall content myself with saying that this House is not dead to all sense= of justice and humanity, and that the wholesale deportation of the kanakas from Queensland will not be assented to by the people of Australia. I do not propose to enter into a discussion as to the deportation of those who desire to return. _ Honorable members appear to be forgetting the very meaning of the word “Parliament.]’ What is. Parliament other than a place in which to parley - to speak ?
– I hope that we shall do something more than speak.
– The honorable and learned member hopes that we shall act. but we shall act ignorantly if we refrain , from adequately discussing, the matters submitted to our consideration. Over and over again we have had to pass amending Bills. Notwithstanding the lengthy debate on the original Electoral Bill - a measure which I pointed out at the time was drawn upon two conflicting principles - we have now on the notice-paper an amending Bill of fifty-five clauses. I prophesied that the Bill would have to be amended in the course of eighteen months or two years, but honorable members were so strongly opposed to my view that had this standing order been in force they would have applied it to me. Do not honorable members gather from these facts that our discussions have been too short instead of too long? We have failed in cur duty to give the people an assurance of the absolute certainty of the laws we pass. Some of the wisest and greatest democrats who have ever lived have held that a constant alteration of the law is dangerous - that it is better to have a bad law, with which the people are thoroughly familiar, than to have a dozen sound, but uncertain, ones. The people are always averse to sudden changes in the Jaw. In some of the American States the people have absolutely declined to allow their Parliaments to remain in session for more than thirty days in two years.
– It is the law in the majority of the States that the local Parliament shall not sit more than once in two years, and, notwithstanding this, their sessions are very short.
– I know that in America many of the States Parliaments are not allowed to sit more than ‘thirty days in two years, but I do not sav that that is the case in regard to the majority.
– Do not members of Congress, instead of delivering their speeches, write them out, and hand them in for publication ?
– The Government may bring in a standing order to provide for that being done in this House.
– It would result in a saving of time.
-I should not be surprised at any standing order proposed by the Government. The trouble is that there are sometimes honorable members sitting on the Ministerial benches who wish to place a veil over their own ignorance, bv preventing the discussion of their measures.
– Is not thehonorable and learned member proving that; as a rule, a debate, no matter how long it may be, does not alter the voting ?
– I assert that the great bulk of Ministerialists ought to be addressed with a club having a spike at the end of it. I do not say that I should think of resortingto such an expedient, but it would result in a suppression of speech corresponding with that effected by the proposed standing, order. I object to the one kind of violence just as much as I do to the other. It is particularly undesirable that an attempt should be made to apply such a rule in relation to a Parliament which represents the States of the Union. By so much as we do away with the feeling of the States that they have an opportunity in this Parliament for the expression of their views, by so much shall we endanger the stability of the Union. The trouble in Russia at the presenttime is due to the fact that there is no adequate representation of the views of the people. Does any one imagne that such serious evils as have occurred there would arise in a British community ? Are not honorable members aware that much of the bitterness on the part of the populace of Germany, Austria, and Hungary is due to a feeling that there is a suppression of their views in the Legislatures of those counrtries. In one or “two cases military Governments for the time being have been pleased* to allow popular representation, but care is taken to have such a suppression of debate that views which are opposed to those of the Court are . not expressed. The proposal that the closure shall be applied upon the determination of less than a majority of the House is an abuse of the power of the Government. Such a standing order is absolutely unnecessary, because, if it be true that too much time is occupied in debating the matters submitted forour consideration, all that we have to do, in order to overcome the difficulty, is toremain in session for anl additional six weeks or two months each year. The illustrations I have given show that some of the measures that we have placed on the statute-book have not been sufficiently discussed.
– The question under consideration is one as to holding up the Government on their policy, and not as to debate upon their proposals.
– The honorable member proposes to hold up the Government policv only with a view to support their union label proposals.
– Did not the honorable member for Kooyong say that the gloves were off?
– I think that the gloves ought always to be off when one party is fighting another which proposes to substitute for the care of the whole of the people by the Parliament the care of only a section of it. Who suffer most by the passing of bad laws? The poorer workers of the community, because they have not the capital to go to law to seek redress. They can dono more than suffer in silence. That is why I strongly object to the unnecessary multiplication of our laws. The rules of conduct by which men are guided are so numerous and complex that no wise Parliament would attempt to deal with all of them. Most of them are determined absolutely by conditions of life to whichParl iament is a stranger - conditions over which it has no control, and in respect of which, even if it had control, it could not attempt to legislate. The bulk of the citizens have no anxiety to come into conflict with the laws of the country ; their only desire is to follow a course of conduct which will enable them to earn their daily bread without injury to their fellows. Laws are passed merely to prevent one man appropriating the work of another. Our desireshould be to preserve peace, and to enforce the general well-being and security of the people, for it is in, that way alone that we can bring about the advancement of thecom- munity. It has been urged that in the House of Commons the closure can be applied on the affirmative vote of 200 members, or one-third of the total membership. Honorable members forget the difference between a unification and a federation. They also lose sight of the fact that not more than about 300 members of the House of Commons are supposed to attend regularly. It would be an extraordinary thing if 450 members were present at any general debate. When it is remembered that an affirmative vote of 200 members is required before the closure can be applied there, it will be realized that an entirely different state of affairs exists. It is a recognised custom there, too, for many members to pair for the session. Here members would lose their seats if they were absent for two months without the leave of the House. But that could not happen in the House of Commons, which, although it comprises 670 members, has seating accommodation for only400. It will be seen that when it fixed the affirmative vote for the application of the closure at 200, it proceeded on entirely different lines. If we were to apply the same proportion, it would be necessary for us to provide for an affirmative vote of from thirty to thirty-three members in order to enforce the application of the closure.In the House of Commons, too, there is the additional safeguard that the rule cannot be applied without the consent of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees.
– Proportionately, they have not so many talkers as we have.
– I think that every one would be willing to leave the administration of the proposed rule in the hands of the present occupant of the chair. It was fortunate indeed for the House that he was presiding over its proceeding’s last week. He preserved all the dignity which attaches to his high office, and now that the combat is over no man can but feel truly thankful, as I do, for such a happy state of affairs.
– Order ! If I were to permit the honorable and learned member to . commend an action of the Chair I could not, of course, refuse to allow an honorable member to condemn an action of the Chair. Any observations of this kind would be most injurious to the business of the House. Therefore I ask the honorable and learned member not to continue that line of remark.
– I can thoroughly appreciate, sir;, your reason for intervening. I feel very thankful that last week’s proceedings in the House took place under certain circumstances. But other circumstances might arise where it would be absolutely expedient for a party to try to secure as Speaker not a man whom they believed to be absolutely the best to represent the House as a whole, but a partisan, in order that he should not be trammelled by any nicety or delicacy of feeling when an effort was made by the majority to apply a stringent rule like the closure. For that purpose, a party might pick out the greatest partisan on their side. What a clanger that would be to the House as a whole ! I can conceive of nothing worse than the selection of a partisan to occupy the Chair of the House. I can well imagine the scenes which might arise here if such an appointment were made. I shall vote against the motion, because I do not believe in the application of the closure to any individual or to any debate. If the House, however, wishes to make a change in the rules of debate, let it limit debate by an individual, and not suppress debate by a party.
– A great injustice might be done to the individual by that proposal.
– The House would not apply the closure to a member unless there were very goodreason for taking that course.
– I have just mentioned an instance where three members were closured, although they all happened to be. perfectly right in the objection which they took, and which was afterwards upheld. When they were closured they were not trying to debate the question, but to point out the alteration in the law provided for in the Bill as, it stood. The honorable member for Macquarie and myself were present when the three members were closured one after another, and a very sorry . scene it was, I regret to say.
– I am afraidthatthe honorable and learned member would be one pf the first victims to his own. suggestion if it were adopted.
– That is very possible, because that would be in accord with the fate of men who are advanced in knowledge, or have taken the trouble to acquire information upon a subject. If the House intends to insist upon a limitation of debate, let that limitation be applied to an individual member, and then only after he had been allowed a reasonable time in which to state his case.
– How much?
-Say, an hour and a half.
– Would not the honorable and learned member make it depend upon how much a member said in the allotted time?
– That, Iam afraid, could hardly be done. Sometimes a debate would be very considerably shortened if absolute silence were observed, if there were no interjections. We all know how debates are sometimes lengthened by members interjecting, and suggesting points of difficulty which occur to. their minds.
– Would the honorable and learned member agree to maintain absolute silence until the end of the session ?
– The only time I have known some honorablemembers to be absolutely silent, was when they were lying asleep on the benchels the other night.
That was an innovation to which I very strongly objected, and I propose at a later time, when we shall not be worried by the strain which is consequent upon the discussion of this motion, to bring, forward a proposal which will prevent such a scene of confusion and disorder arising here in the future. I am against the limitation of debate as applied to honorable members collectively, because it might include the very man who was most competent to give instruction to the House. The mere fact that an honorable member had spent days in getting up the subject might be regarded by those who had a personal objection to him as a sufficient ground for moving the closure, and perhaps after he had been discussing the question for only four or five minutes. Could there be anything more serious than that, in order to get the right to speak, an honorable member should be driven to adapt both his speech and his general course of conduct to the wishes of the majority? The most fearless man is generally the one who excites the greatest animosity ; certainly he excites the most disagreement ; but that is not the type of man to closure. His arguments should be listened to, and controverted if possible; but if they be too sound to be controverted, then they should be followed. The consequences are beneficial when a man follows his reason - not, of course, his unaided reason, but” that reason which comes to a man after having thought and studied over a subject for, perhaps, some years. If a man draws upon the stores of knowledge which have been laid up by our ancestors, and then gives the benefit of his reading to the House, truly he is doing that work which he was elected to do. Unless a man doe3 try to enrich his mind with the knowledge of past times, it appears to me that he has failed to recognise what are the real duties of a Member of Parliament. I would suggest that an affirmative vote of thirtyeight members should be required before applying the closure. One would have thought that the very first men to concur with the proposal would have been the members of the Labour Party who have always declared themselves for majority rule. If the closure is to be adopted let it be enforced by a majority of the House, or let the rules be altered so as to compel honorable members to be present. If the determination of the question be not left to the majority, then honorable members on both sides would, to a certain extent, give up attending. Who would take the trouble to prepare matter to submit when he knew that any honorable member might move “ that the question be now put,” even when perhaps eighteen or twenty members of the Opposition were present? Frequently the Opposition might constitute a very small minority. Suppose that a Government had come back from the country in the proportion of two to one. There would never be an occasion on which the minority could speak, because by the application of the closure twenty-four or twentyfive members on the Government side could always impose their will upon the minority. Sensible people outside will often say that there should be an Opposition, but of what use isi an Opposition if it is not to be allowed to express its views ? It is perfectly clear that a power such as this is, asked for only in order that it may be used. Would any one believe that Ministers would, have interrupted the course of business in this House, and have exposed themselves to what they have recently gone through, if they had not intended to use oh the minority of this House the proposed standing order as a weapon of coercion and oppression ? I have no hesitation in saying that throughout I shall be found opposed to any proposal for the limitation, and especially for the suppression, of debate. In whatever form it is submitted, it i’s particularly inadvisable that a Federal House should adopt such a standing order. It may be that when certain amendments are proposed, I shall feel myself bound to vote for them, as some improvement of the motion as it stands; but by voting for any such amendments I shall not in any way pledge myself to support the motion as a whole. I trust I shall be afforded art opportunity on Thursday next to record a vote against the proposal, as I understand it is agreed that we should try to complete the debate on the proposal in the interval.
– Try to limit it?
– ‘ Honorable members opposite must agree with me that if this proposal is carried thev may themselves be the first to experience its evil effects. This is a measure which can be used by the party dominant, for the time being, and it is agains.t human nature to suppose that a part against whom it has been used will not. when the opportunity is afforded, be willing to say to those at whose hands they have suffered : “ You applied the standing order to us, and we shall get even with you now.” If the next elections, result,: as I have every reason to think they will, in the Opposition being returned to power with a majority, there may be some who will then be thankful that this weapon has been provided to their hand. Personally I should prefer that our debates should be carried on as they have been in the past. The bitter struggles through which we have already gone prove that the business of this House can be carried on without any such standing order. It may be necessary that we should sit for a month or six weeks longer in each year, but if we care to occupy the extra time we s.hall have no difficulty iii dealing with the measures presented to us. It is not too late, even now, for the Go,vernment to agree to adopt a moderate course. I do not expect that they will do so, and in the circumstances I have only to wait the opportunity- to record my vote against the motion, promising, also, to record my vote agains.t the Government, because of their conduct in bringing forward one of the very worst proposals which could be submitted to Parliament.
– In the calmer atmosphere to which the House has returned, I am glad to have an opportunity to express my very strong opposition to the Government proposal. Mv abstention from the debate last week, when so many speeches were delivered from this side, must not be taken by my fellow members as a proof that I am not heartily with those who have so strenuously opposed this proposal.
– The honorable member might have put in a little work for them.
– That is so, but I confess that I have not the nimble wit of a Wilks or the hurricane eloquence of a Conroy, and not feeling qualified to take part in the debate in an effective way, I preferred to wait until, the House being in a calmer mood, I should be able to put my objections before honorable members. Under our present system of Government, I can see no reason why so much objection should betaken to an endeavour on the part of the minority in Parliament to give effect to their views to the best of their ability, and in the strongest way thev can. While honorable members opposite speak of the majority ruling, we know that the power of the minority to hammer away for a long time at an objectionable measure, is the only power they possess, and with-; out it there can be no representation of the minority. The trend of modern opinion seems’ to me to be in the direction of giving the minority some voice in the Government of the country, and to be against such a proposal as that before the House, which must have the effect of entirely overwhelming the minority. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne made some! reference to the top-dog, but this is “ sooling on “ the top dog with a vengeance, and is calculated to introduce the system of the spoils to the victor, which is one of the abuses of the party system in. America. I fail to see how the minority can fairly be blamed for exhausting their powers in resisting an attempt of this kind. I am not at all opposed to a reasonable limit to what is sometimes debate, and sometimes any thing but debate, but under this proposal it seems to me that we shall be going from one extreme to the other, and that representatives of some districts will be placed in such a position that their voice cannot be heard at all. The more ardent spirits in the House usually get in first in a debate, whilst the more modest and moderateminded men lag behind. It is possible that the first four or five speakers in a debate might so irritate the House that the closure! would be applied before some of those who know most on the subject had had an opportunity to speak. The Prime Minister, in introducing the proposal, said that there is no instance of its abuse, and that where it has been adopted, a standing order providing for the closure has never been repealed. I am surprised that the honorable and learned gentleman should have said that. He must have forgotten something of the history of Victoria of thirty years ago. I refer to 1876, and I remember the circumstances we’ll, because at the time I determined to contest the constituency in which I lived. I have looked up what occurred at the time, and [ find very strong proof that not only was the system then proposed, but it was also gone back upon. The closure; at that time was moved in very much the same words as are used in the motion before the House, but it was then proposed with very much greater justification than can be urged in the present instance. Mr. Graham Berry, who had been refused a dissolution by the Governor, set up a “ stonewall,” which stopped the ordinary supplies, although not on the merits or demerits of any particular measure. The ordi nary business of the country was paralyzed, no civil servants could be paid, and no public works could be carried on. There were much the same anticipations of moderation expressed then as were expressed the other day by the Prime Minister, and except that the justification in that case of such a standing order was greater than any which can be mentioned now, to show how absolutely on all-fours the positions are, I should like to read a short extract from the) speech of a prominent member of the State Parliament of that time who voted for the closure.
– Who was that?
– The member to whom I refer was Mr. Murray Smith. I should say that it was the conservatives who at that time applied the “ gag,” and the justification offered then and to-day was that it was for a special purpose. I find that at page 2032 of the State Hansard for 25th January, 1876, Mr. Murray Smith is reported to have said -
Why should a number of innocent men be brought to ruin by our quarrel? … I need not say that I am not one Who would feel disposed to take away the rights of the minority. I have been too long one of a party who have been a minority in this country. I know that even now the political opinions I profess are those of a minority ; and therefore I am not likely to be one who would wantonly lend myself to straining the Constitution for the sake of achieving a political triumph. I hardly know any political triumph that would be worse to sacrifice ; but when it comes to a question of whether on the one hand we are to ruin and defraud a numerous class of innocent ‘people, or whether we may not endeavour by probably straining the Constitution by some tedious, long, and weary process, to find means of averting that ruin, then in the interests of the country we are bound to take the. latter course, and we cannot help it.
The standing order proposed on that occasion was very much the same as that now before this House. It proposed that-
When any motion has been moved in the House, or in any Committee of the Whole House, a resolution may, without notice, be proposed “ That the motion be now put” ; whereupon such resolution shall be put forthwith, without amendment or debate, and no motion shall be made, or question of order raised, until such resolution has been disposed of.
That closure was adopted on the 10th February, 1876. I call in question the statement of the Prime Minister, that there has been no abuse of such a standing order. On the Estimates for the year to which I refer, there was a sum of ^10,000 for harbor improvements at Warrnambool, and on the 3rd March, 1876, when that came on, Mr. Gaunson, who is still a member of the State Parliament, called attention to the vote. I find that at page 2635 of the Victorian Hansard, he is reported to have said -
It was perfectly true that this sum was placed on the Estimates by the Berry Ministry, but it had been retained by the present Government, and he thought it would be wrong that anything like . 1 bribe should be held out to the constituency of Warrnambool to return a gentleman whom they believed would serve them by getting the money granted for local works. At the last election the walls of Warrnambool were placarded with this announcement, “ Vote for McCulloch and ?10,000 for the Warrnambool breakwater.” Of course, those placards were issued without the Premier’s sanction, and no doubt when the honorable gentleman had found out what had been done, he told his election committee that they had been guilty of gross impertinence and impropriety. Still, however, the placards were issued, and if honorable members wanted to put a stop to the cancerous sore of mere local representation which was eating into the Parliamentary institutions of this country, they ought to reject this vote under the circumstances, and discountenance anything that partook of the character of bribery ; if he were alone on the question he would divide the committee. A sense of propriety ought to induce honorable members to scout the vote, notwithstanding that the Berry Ministry placed it on the Estimates.
Then ensued a debate which filled about five columns of the Hansard report, and which could not have occupied more than, say, twenty minutes, when the member for the district rose.
– How many columns did Mr. Gaunson occupy?
– I have read all that Mr. Gaunson said on that occasion ; and the other speakers were Mr. Bayles, Mr. James Service, Sir James McCulloch, and Mr., afterwards Sir Graham, Berry. The whole report of the debate occupies only about four pages of the Victorian Hansard, from which it appears that the member for the district, Mr. Jones, then rose, and, in a speech of about a column concluded by saying -
The honorable member for Maldon might rest assured that other sums would be necessary for the completion of the works. It must not be supposed that this ?10,000 would be a final payment. Under the circumstances - the works having been sanctioned, as he had shown, and the necessity for them being thoroughly manifest - hewould move, “ That the question be now put.”
The Hansard report proceeds : -
Mr. SERVICE. I think that is disgraceful of the honorable member.
Major SMITH. I say it is disreputable.
Mr. GAUNSON. I say it is a scandal to the Legislative Assembly.
– What was the result?
– The motion was put, and carried by twenty-seven votes to twentyone. The honorable member for Gippsland, during the discussion on the question before us, pointed out that any honorable member who knew that in the precincts of the House he had a majority in his favour, might, as in the case I have cited, suddenly move that the question be now put. I do not remember how many members there were in the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1876, but the voting was as I have stated.
– The motion would have been carried by a majority in any case - even supposing there had been a week of debate.
– I do not think that we can fairly take that view. Some reason must be observed, and I do not think such a course is a proper one to take on any questionbefore a deliberative assembly. I was much impressed when the honorable member for Gippsland pointed out that a standing order of the kind is greatly open to abuse. I ought to mention that this standing order in the Victorian Legislative Assembly was passed merely as a tentative rule, to have force for only one session, and that the forty-one members who voted for it, and were afterwards known as the “forty-one gaggers,” came back to the House only twenty strong after the general election of 1877. The indignation of the people of Victoria was so great that no proposal of the kind was afterwards entertained in the Parliament of that State. I do not submit any scheme of my own, but prefer to wait to hear what amendments may be moved. I cannot vote for the proposal as it stands at present. I particularly regret the tendency in this House to rush proposals at periods of excitement. The honorable member for Perth, in his able speech not long ago on the question of elective Ministries, quoted an article by Sir Martin Conway in the Nineteenth Century, on “Is Parliament a Mere Crowd?” That question Sir Martin Conway answered pretty well in the affirmative, holding that while individual men might calmly, considerately, and honestly debate questions, a legislative body which degenerated into a rabble or a crowd had neither brain, conscience, nor heart. That is the position, which, I am afraid, we shall find ourselves in when the proposed closure is used. I do not wish to speak offensively, but in the last change of Government we have an instance of rushing matters, resulting in what I heard one of the supporters of the Government the other day describe as a Comedy of Errors. In about four hours we had a complete overturning of affairs. We have a second instance in the introduction of these proposals, hastily decided upon in the middle of a discussion of a measure specially obnoxious to the Opposition ; and no one can fail to recognise that if we do not find better ways of conducting business we shall be placed in great danger and risk. We may have to go a long way further, and alter our system altogether, in order to arrive at some definite understanding. I should have liked the Prime Minister to give us an opportunity to discuss this question from a broad point of view, instead of proposing the closure at a time when everybody is excited over a highly contentious measure. Had such an opportunity been afforded, we might have arrived at some satisfactory conclusion as to how to shape our course in the future. As it is, I view with great apprehension the proposal before us ; I cannot see what the outcome may be, and certainly the results of a similar method were most disastrous in the Parliament of Victoria. I rose more particularly to acquaint honorable members with the effects of a similar standing order in the Parliament of the State in which we now are, being of opinion that an ounce of experience is worth a hundredweight of predictions, and prophesies. We are assured that the standing order now proposed will’ scarcely ever be used, and then only with moderation. But I do not believe that will prove to be the case ; because whatever party is in power, when the temper of the House rises the standing order will be applied with. I fear, disastrous results. I hope the proposed standing order will he amended. We are practically subject to the closure now, seeing that the debate has tol terminate within a certain time : and, therefore, I suppose we must look forward to some rule of the kind. I hope, however, that the good feeling and good sense of Government supporters will come to our rescue, and that the proposal1 will be amended in such a way as to make it less dangerous than it now appears to me.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I should like now. if it is convenient; to submit the amendment of which I have given notice.
– There is an understanding that we shall discuss the general motion.
– If any one desires to discuss the general motion, I shall yield at once. My only desire is to place an amended proposal before honorable members.
– I desire to speak to the general motion.
– Then I yield at once.
– The understanding arrived at yesterday by all sections of the House, was that there should be a general discussion on the motion ; and with that object in view, the Prime Minister asked honorable members to negative the amendments already before the Chair. After that general discussion there will be an opportunity to submit amendments. We must remember that, virtually, we are under a compact, by which, in any event, the debate on this motion shall conclude on Thursday night. I had intended! to propose an amendment; but, under the circumstances, I shall not do so. but will take the opportunity afforded to myself and other honorable members to discuss the main motion. Personally, I have always thought there should be some reasonable limit to debate, where it is evident that a large number of honorable members desire to take part in it. In ordinary cases, in which discussion is confined to a section of the House, or to a small number of members, I do not think there is any necessity for limitation, except, of course, the ordinary limitation, under the Standing Orders, that honorable members are to speak only once on an. question before the Chair. In exceptional cases, when partyfeeling runs high, and there may lie a disposition to speak at great length, probably with tlie intention of obstructing business, the House is. in my opinion, justified in adopting reasonable means, whereby not the right to speak wil’l be taken away, but the duration of speeches will be limited. That, however, is not the aim of the proposal before us. The proposed new standing order is not directed1 to limiting to a certain period an individual member/s right to speak, but to preventing discussion altogether. That is the inherent evil of the proposal. We have to consider the circumstances which have led to our discussing this motion at the present time, instead of discussing another measure. This motion was introduced during the discussion of a highly contentious Bill ; and, consequently, may be taken to be specifically intended to check debate on that measure, and must ever be ineradicably associated with that Bill - I refer to the Trade Marks Bill and the union label That, in my opinion, was most unfortunate ; and, notwithstanding that after a reasonable interval, we have commenced a new sitting, and that we have resumed the discussion after cairn and cool reflection, it is still to be regretted that the proposed standing order was interposed at this juncture, instead of being submitted in the ordinaryway on the business-paper along with other proposed standing orders. The great underlying evil of the proposed standing order is that its effect will be, not only to curtail the speech of an honorable member who may unduly take up the time of the House with the obvious intention of obstructing business, but to prevent any other honorable member, who may be guilty of no offence, from exercising his undoubted right, as a representative of the people, to voice his opinions either for or against any proposed measure. That, I submit, is an unwarrantable interference with the liberty and privileges of honorable members, and also an unwarrantable interference with the right of the electors to have, not only their opinion voted for. but voiced on the floor of this House. The Prime Minister, when introducing the motion, said that Parliament is not a debating society, but that it exists to conduct and supervise legislation. No one will find fault with the statement that Parliament exists for conducting and supervising legislation, but I certainly take great exception to the statement that Par- liament is not a debating body, and I say, further, that the contention is absolutely untenable. As a matter of fact, the very origin of the word “ Parliament “ is found in the old French word “parler “ which, adopted in England after the Norman invasion, and contracted into “parle,” meant 1:o speak, debate, or discourse,_ as shown by the word “parlement,” which is the origin of the word spelt as it is to-day - a gathering of persons to parley, discourse, debate, or discuss. The very essence of the word “Parliament” shows that we are a debating body - that the primary purpose of the institution is debate. Therefore. I cannot for the life of me understand how so erudite a gentleman as the Prime Minister should have put forward so astounding a proposition as that Parliament is not a debating body. As to the assertion that it exists to supervise legislation, how, may I ask, would it be possible for Parliament to fulfil that function unless the inherent power existed to discuss the propositions submitted to it? Can it be supposed for a moment that a body of men who are called together for the purpose of making laws for the government of the country will sit down like dumb brutes or automatons, and merely record their votes without attempting to argue the principles and propositions laid before them? Can it be suggested that that was the intention of the people in electing the Parliament? If that were so, we might as well be wooden images as reasoning beings. All we should have to do would be simply to sit still in our places, without offering any reasons for or against the measures of the Government. We might as well have voting machines in the House. They could do the work just as effectively. The occupant of the Chair would only have to press a button, and the votes would be recorded. How, under those circumstances, they would be recorded for or against, I cannot pretend to explain; but, since the Prime Minister has himself advanced this astounding theory, no doubt he will be able to tell us how it could be done. I regard this motion as a very dangerous one. It will, if carried into effect, amount to the humiliation of Parliament and the degradation of our free institutions. The Prime Minister has himself admitted that at goes further than any other closure rule existing in any deliberative assembly in the world. At any rate, he acknowledges that it differs from them; although he has said that, in his opinion,, the differences are not consequential.
– It does not go as far as does the Queensland closure rule.
– It does. I propose to quote the Queensland rule to show that it is far less stringent than the one now proposed. It must be remembered that the closure rules in existence in any Parliament in amy part of the world are safeguarded in certain directions, whereby the rights and privileges of members are conserved. But this proposed form of closure has no such qualification. If it is carried in its present form, it will only be necessary for any one member of the House to rise in ibis place and move, not that- the speaker be no longer heard, not that the offending member shall have his mouth closed, but that the question shall be forthwith, put.
– Such a rule has been: in existence in South Australia for a number of years.
– Though it may have been in existence for centuries, it cannot commend itself to a reasoning man as a precedent to be followed, if it be a bad rule. This ought not to be made in any sense a party question. It should be viewed in the light of the rights of members all round, always bearing in mind that, even though some may be inclined to be tyrannical, the time may come when the obnoxious rule may be applied by those to whom we. have previously applied it.
– Quite right, too.
– And because it is quite right it is well to consider that the Opposition of to-day may be the Government of to-morrow, when the Government of to-day will be the Opposition of tomorrow. It must be remembered that a deliberative assembly of this character could not exist without a division of opinion. Where there is a desire on the part of some to have certain measures carried, there is likely to be.an equal desire on the part of others that such measures shall .not be enacted. There is a natural inclination on the part of those who are in a majority to get their proposals passed, and to attach very little weight to the arguments of their opponents. That is not peculiar to those who are sitting behind the present Ministry. It ia a very natural wish. But it furnishes a reason why we should not put a power into the hands of any party that will enable it to crush out an expression of opinion on the part of its opponents. There should not be a power to force measures through by a tyrannical and autocratic suppression of the right of free speech - a method which hitherto we, as Britishers, or descendants of the British race, have been taught to regard with feelings of the utmost repugnance and as being peculiar to institutions of a Continental or Eastern character, and utterly foreign to those of British origin. I take it that those of us who, though born in Australia, belong to the British race, have within us the inherent instinct to love liberty and the free expression of opinion. We distrust all expedients designed to prevent the infringement of that principle. It is better to tear with actual evils, in the way of the abuse of that privilege, to the utmost straining point, rather than attempt by coercive means to introduce measures designed to suppress those rights of freedom, and free speech- which have been handed down to us by our forefathers, and which have been so dearly cherished by the present generation. I am surprised to find that a proposal of this character originated from and is supported by a party which, above all other parties in thisHouse, claims to represent the democratic feeling of the community, and to be the champion of the liberties of the people.. I am surprised to find that this same party is that which always in this House advocates and supports measures of a restrictive character, aiming at the curtailment of the liberty of the people. The action of itsmembers in this direction, and their words outside, are of a totally different character; so that we have the voice speaking in one direction and the act operating in the opposite direction. This is a peculiar and deplorable trait of democratic development. I trust that some day, when wiser counsels prevail, there will be a truer appreciation of the real basis of democracy. In speaking last week, the honorable member for Hindmarsh quoted from a speech delivered by the right honorable member for East Sydney at Adelaide some time ago. The honorable member represented the leader of the Opposition as having described the proceedings of the Labour Party last session as constituting an outrageous abuse of parliamentary privilege, which should be checked by just some such proposal as that which has been submitted by the Prime Minister. I have carefully read the reported speech of the right honorable member for East Svdney on that occasion, but I see no indication of any such suggestion. He certainly did complain of the outrageous abuse of parliamentary , privilege indulged in by members of the then Opposition ; but I can find no record of any statement of his which- would bear the interpretation placed upon it bv the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who is a member of a party which on several occasions during the last session certainly occupied in speeches a much greater length of time than has been occupied at any period’ during the present debate bv any member of the Opposition. He asserted that the longspeeches to which the right honorable member for East Sydnev referred were madeonly upon a motion of censure. The honorable member’s memory is not reliable in that particular. As a matter of fact, thelongest speeches made in this House onthe occasion referred to were not made on a motion of censure, but in Committee during- the consideration of the Estimates. During that time speeches of three, four, and five hours in duration were made repeatedly. One honorable member went to such extremes that the Chairman of Committees thought it his, duty to interpose to order him to discontinue his speech. No such action was thought necessary by Mr. Speaker or by Mr. Deputy-Speaker during the proceedings which concluded yesterday. But, notwithstanding the action to which I refer, no indecent haste was shown by the Prime Minister of the day, such as was shown last week by the present Prime Minister - in rushing forward with a proposal for the adoption of the “ gag.” What the right honorable member for East Sydney desired to do was to bring forward standing orders after the recess had given an opportunity for party heat to cool, so that honorable members could take up their consideration calmly and deliberately. Those standing orders would have included one for effectually dealing with abuse of the right of speech; but it was not proposed that the consideration of such a standing order should be interposed during the heated discussion of a measure of vital importance. Similarly, the late Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone convened a special session to enable the British House of Commons to consider proposed standing orders for the limitation of debate, and, although that body ife now governed bv a standing order similar to that which is being proposed bv the Prime Minister, it was brought forward under circumstances which allowed its calm and full discus.sion.
– It was brought forward under circumstances similar to the present, when there was. practically a dead-lock. Besides, the British Parliament has seven years, in which to show the electors what it can do, whereas this Parliament has only three years.
– As I have said, the standing order providing for* the closure was, dealt with by the British House of Commons in a special session, whereas, in this instance, it has been proposed in the midst of the discussion of a measure of vital importance, affecting the rights, liberties, and, indeed, the very lives of a large majority of the industrial population. That will always be am even more serious objection to it than the objection to the terms in which it is framed. There would have been no objection of that kind had a special session been convened to consider the proposed new standing order, or had the Prime Minister brought it forward on the conclusion of the business in hand. The fundamental reason for bringing it forward, however, was to enable the union label clauses! pf the Trade ‘Marks Bill to be rushed through without’ discussion, by sand-bagging the Opposition into silence, so that they could not record their protests against it, or explain their reasons for opposing it. The idea was to suppress, all newspaper reports of our proceedings, which would give expression to the views of honorable members opposed to those infamous clauses of the Bill, and to prevent anything from going into Hansard which would enable the people to understand the real nature of the proposals. It was that more than anything else which led up to what will be known henceforth as the “ great s,tone-wall.” Had the AttorneyGeneral listened to reason, the proposed new standing order would probably not have been thought of. The speeches to which I have referred, as occupying four or five hours in delivery, were made with the avowed purpose of obstructing business.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong in saying that.
– I have a distinct recollection that one honorable member said, “ We will speak here if we have to obstruct business all night,” and that I interjected: “ Then the honorable member admits that his purpose is obstruction.”
– The honorable member cannot find those words in Hansard.
– The interjection may not have been replied to, and therefore may not have gone into the record; but I have a distinct recollection of the words having been said, and of having drawn attention to them at the time, and of having referred to them on a later occasion. The discussion of the Trade Marks Bill, however, was reasonable and legitimate. The Opposition pointed out the drastic nature of certain provisions in the Bill, but offered, in order” to secure an adjournment of the debate at the usual hour, to voluntarily forego their right of speaking, and allow the Government to pass no fewer than fifty-seven clauses. That offer shows that their desire was not to obstruct, but to facilitate, public business. What the Opposition really objected to was the unreasoning and childish obstinacy of the Attorney-General in refusing to listen to the reasonable request for an adjournment. Under these circumstances, the Government cannot justify its action in bringing forward the proposed new .standing order on the ground that’ there has, been obstruction. In this connexion. I should like to contrast the attitude of certain honorable members of the Labour Party in regard to the present motion, with their attitude in regard to a similar motion, when they were members of another Legislature. The honorable member for Kennedy, in 1900, when a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly spoke against a proposed closure motion-
– He has stated that he intends to vote against this motion, so why read! his speech on that occasion?
– I was. not aware of that; but I will read1 his remarks, because they contain arguments which have not yet been put to the House, and which I commend heartily to other honorable members of the Labour Party, on account of their soundness of principle. He is reported, at page 2299, of volume lxxxvi. of the Queensland Parliamentary Debates, to have said: -
I may say at once that I am totally opposed to the amendment moved by the Honorable the Premier, because I think, if it is carried, parliamentary government is no more. I believe that in carrying that motion you are going to reduce members of this House to voting machines, or turn this Assembly into a machine merely for the recording of votes, as occasion may require, by the Government. For a considerable time in this House we have had members in it who are merely voting machines - that is to say, members who never take any active part in the debates, but simply come in, as occasion requires, at call of the division bell, and record their votes.
That is what the present motion means. He says further -
The introduction of this proposal into our standing orders will mean that for the future we shall have no rights in this Assembly at all - ^ that the whole of the rights that we are supposed to have had handed down to us for hundreds of years, through the House of Commons, and adopted by us, will practically be wiped out. It is no use the honorable gentleman saying that it is not the intention of the Government to use this power ; but they told us that when they introduced the first closure motion, and yet they took the first opportunity of putting the gag on.
May not exactly the same thing happen here - nay, is it not certain to happen? Is not the proposed new standing order intended to be brought into operation at the earliest possible moment? The honorable member proceeded -
That was done repeatedly, and when honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches took that action wilh regard to the closure, I think they will be likely to commit any political crime in order to get these private syndicate railways through.
The experience of the Queensland Parliament in this connexion will probably be repeated here. The proposed new standing order may be’ used for the purpose of rushing through private syndicate railways, or a Bill for the construction of the proposed transcontinental railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. In such’ an event, the Opposition would be not only powerless to prevent the passing of such measures, but- would be unable to communicate their views to the country. That is not a desirable or creditable state of affairs to contemplate. As the honorable member for Kennedy said, it would put an end. to the authority of Parliament, and even the reason for its existence. He went on to say -
Again, we have been told that the introduction of the motion is not going to restrict the rights and privileges of. honorable members in this Chamber.
Have we not been told exactly the same thing by the Prime Minister?
We have been told through the press that this motion will not have that effect; but I can only come to this conclusion : that people who say that this motion will not have the effect of depriving honorable members of this Chamber of their rights and privileges are only hypocrites and liars.
I do not propose to apply these expressions to the present Government, or its masters - the Labour Party.
If there is no meaning in this motion, why introduce it?
Might not that question be pertinently asked in regard to the motion before us? I do not say that if. it rested entirely with the Prime Minister he would not seriously deliberate before putting into operation a standing order such as that now proposed. Unfortunately, however, the matter rests not with him, but with honorable members of the. Labour Party. At a later stage, the honorable member for Kennedy said: -
I think it is far better to settle all those differences by intellectual force than by brute force. But is this motion going to settle them in that way? I take the opposite view of it. I take this view of it, that it is not an attempt to settle matters by reason but by force, brutal or otherwise, whatever you like to term it - by a majority, by the mere force of numbers. Right or wrong, reason does not enter into it at all. Nor is it an attempt to settle difficulties in an intellectual way. The honorable gentleman must know that when he decides to apply this standing order j the result will be. that there will be no discussion at all. And I refuse to admit that the honorable gentleman who now leads the House is the one man in this Chamber who lias the special capacity and sufficient of the commodity to be able to say whether a matter has been sufficiently dealt with or not. . . A discussion may be initiated on the first clause, containing the short title. The supporters of the Government, knowing there are a number of obnoxious clauses in the Bill which will not stand intelligent argument, or bear the light on them, will go on discussing the short title clause, in which no principle is involved, right up to the time the Chairman of Committees gets up and proceeds to put the Bill through in globo.
I am pleased to hear that the honorable member still holds these views, but I am sorry that they are not shared bv other members of the party to which he belongs.
– I was in the Queensland Parliament when that matter was under discussion, and I have since changed my opinion.
– I am very sorry to hear that the honorable member has changed his opinion for the worse. I now desire to mole. s some remarks made by the late Mr. W. H. Groom, which I would commend to his worthy son, the Minister of Home Affairs - a worthy son of a worthy father. He said -
Again, take the “ stone-wall “ over the £1,000,000 for unspecified railways. Will the honorable gentleman say that that “ stone-wall,” in which he joined, was not justifiable, when we never budged from this Chamber for ninety-six hours, and objected to placing £1,000,000 in the hands of the Ministry for a number of railways to God knows where? … I only mention this to show that there are occasions when it is perfectly justifiable to “ stone-wall.” Now, with regard to the question of this standing order. I pay great deference to the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral, and I am sure he would not venture a strong legal opinion unless he felt satisfied that lie was on very firm ground, but, on the other hand, it must be borne in mind that in 1892, when the standing orders were passed, the honorable gentleman was not in this House. . . . But there is a possibility that a tyrannical majority may usurp functions which it ought not to do., and crush the spirit of the minority, although the minority may possibly represent a majority outside.
That is exactly what is happening in the present instance. In, this House we have a minority which represents the majority of the electors, who would certainly make their voice heard if thev were afforded an opportunity to express an opinion with’ regard to this’ proposal, and others, which it is intended to assist in passing through this House. The proposed new standing order has been instigated bv the members of the Labour Party.
– That is not correct.
– Although no direct pressure was brought to bear upon the Prime Minister, an interjection made bv the leader of the Labour Party influenced him to take the present action. I previously pointed out that pressure may be either passive or active, and that in one case a mere wink might exercise greater influence than, a direct, positive mandate in another instance. In the present case, the pres.sure was an interjection suggesting the, closure from the honorable member for Bland, the leader of the Labour Party : so much the Prime Minister has virtually admitted. With regard to placing a time limit upon speeches, the late Mr. Groom said -
I believe that the present proposal is absolutely an infringement of the freedom of debate, and is dangerous to the rights of the minority in this Chamber, and, believing that, I feel it to be my duty to move the following amendment.
The amendment he proposed provided - “ No member shall speak for more than half an hour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or on the financial statement, or in a debate on a motion of ! no confidence,’ or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill, when a member shall be at liberty 10 speak for one hour. In Committee of the House no member shall speak for more than ten minutes at any one time, or more than four times upon any one question before the Committee. “ Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the financial statement in Committee of Supply or of Ways and Means.”
I .would commend that proposal to the earnest attention of the Minister of Home Affairs, as being far preferable’ in character and principle to the proposal now before us. I trust that some modification will be made in the proposed new standing order. I have drafted an amendment which I think might be adopted with advantage. Unfortunately, if I were to submit it at this stage, it would have the effect of curtailing the area of discussion. It was generally understood that a general debate should take place upon the motion before any amendment was moved. The amendment which I have framed, whilst imposing a limit upon debate, would not arbitrarily interfere with the rights of honorable members as does the motion which is under consideration. Mv suggestion is that all the words after “by,” down to the word “motion,” in paragraph a, shall be left out, with a view to inserting the following words in lieu thereof : “ The Prime
Minister or Minister in charge of the business, or the leader or deputy leader of the Opposition, after a member addressing the Chair has exceeded the limit of one hour’s speech, ‘ that the member speaking be no longer heard ‘ ; but such a motion shall not be put unless, in the opinion of the Speaker - or if the House is in Committee of the whole, the Chairman of Committees - the member speaking at the time of the interposition of such motion was guilty Of tedious repetition or deliberate obstruction of business.1”’ Sub-section a will then read as follows : -
After any question has been proposed either in the House or in any Committee of the Whole a motion may be made by the Prime Minister or Minister in charge of the business or the leader or deputy-leader of the Opposition after a Member addressing the Chair has exceeded the limit of one hour’s speech, 1 That the Member speaking be no longer heard ‘ ; but such motion shall not be put unless in the opinion of the Speaker - or if the House is in Committee of the Whole the Chairman of Committees - the Member speaking at the time of the interruption of such motion w*as guilty of tedious repetition or deliberate obstruction of business. Such motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
For the reasons which I have advanced, the motion under consideration should be considerably modified before any attempt is made to interfere with the free right of speech of representatives of the people in this Parliament.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed. ~
– I do not intend to detain the House at any great length, because we are all aware that the time available for the discussion of this motion is limited, and by so much as our remarks exceed a reasonable period by so much will other honorable members be prevented from occupying a fair share of the time that is at our disposal. In the first place, I wish to congratulate the Government upon the skill with which they can keep an honorable arrangement in the letter and break it in the spirit. It may not be beyond your recollection’, sir - as to-day is Friday, viewed from a parliamentary standpoint
– It is Tuesday.
– I distinctly heard Mr. Speaker say that, from the parliamentary point of view, yesterday was Thursday, and it therefore follows that fo-day must be Friday. At any rate, that statement sufficiently approximates to a logical sequence to be justifiably put forward and maintained with some show of success.
– -BY. a lawyer.
– If we were defending some clients, “yes.” I desire to congratulate the Government upon the skill with which they can keep an honorable arrangement in the letter and break it in the spirit.
– It is not being kept even in the letter.
– It is being kept by the Government as honorably as it is by the Opposition.
– It will be time enough for the Government to charge members of the Opposition with a breach of the arrangement if on Thursday night any objection is shown to concluding the debate. I was not aware that in the arrangement made with honorable members upon this side of the House it was implied that we were not to address ourselves to the main question. You, sir, will remember, the somewhat curious course of events last week. Upon Tuesday a bond fide debate took place from the time that the House met at half-past 2 o’clock in the afternoon until half -past 1 1 o’clock in the evening.
– A debate upon the motion “ That the Chairman do now leave the chair.”
– When the Government refused to agree to an adjournment of the debate at 11.30 p.m., honorable members upon this side of the House, not desiring to see legislation hastily passed in the small hours of the morning, followed the course which was open to them of preventing allnight sittings for that purpose.
– The question before the Chair is the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. The honorable and learned member will not be complying with the Standing Orders in discussing anything else.
– I wish to show that the; circumstances under which this proposal was introduced are in themselves a reason why it should not be adopted.
– If the honorable and learned member ( confines himself to doing that he will be in order.
– At 1 p.m., on Wednes-day, the House adjourned at the request of the Prime Minister. At 2.30 p.m. on the same day it again met, and’ the Prime Minister immediately gave notice of this motion, having utilized the interval of an hour and a half - so far as one is able to judge by external circumstances - solely for the .purpose of preparing it. Upon Thursday afternoon, the motion was moved, and after a very long sitting, the House rose - as the result of an arrangement which was arrived at with members of the Opposition - at noon yesterday. The interval thus gained has been utilized bv the Government to frame some fresh proposals for the stifling of debate. I say that such a proceeding is a breach’ of the spirit, if not of the letter of the honorable understanding which was arrived at yesterday.
– I say that the honorable and learned member’s statement is absolutely incorrect.
– I am expressing my own opinion. The terms of the arrangement were publicly announced by the Prime Minister.
– Order ! At the present time there is no question relating to an arrangement before the Chair, nor can any arrangement dealing with past business be referred to. I must ask the honorable and learned member to discuss the motion which is under consideration.
– Of course, I bow to your ruling, sir. I was merely endeavouring to show the circumstances under which this motion is before the House. I now come to my next point, which relates to the object for which the motion is introduced. In dealing with that matter, I must again refer - though only briefly and incidentally - to the fact that this motion was introduced during a debate upon a very important measure, which leads, me to the conclusion-
– The debate to which the honorable and learned member refers was not a discussion upon the measure under consideration at all.
– That again is a matter of opinion. I am inevitably led to the conclusion that the present proposal was introduced for a specific purpose - for the purpose of insuring that one measure, at least, of those upon the business-paper should be passed into law bv the exercise of force during the current session. That measure, I regret to say, I cannot do more than incidentally refer to. I would merely remind honorable members that a number of amendments have been outlined in the Trade Marks Bill, and in view of the discussion which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday last, it is abundantly clear that the proposal’ now under consideration was not introduced bond fide foi the purpose of exercising a general control over debate, and of insuring that, in general matters, the rights of the majority - whatever that ill-defined term may mean - should be preserved, but for the express purpose of forcing that measure through the House. In making my protest against the proposal under consideration, I wish it to be distinctly understood that I object not only to its form, but. to the circumstances under which it has been introduced, and to the reasons which have prompted its introduction.
– The Government have to pay their debts.
– Does not the honorable and learned member pay his?
– This is neither a debt of honour, nor of law - it is a debt of dishonour.
– An observation of that kind is particularly objectionable, but even provocative interjections do not justify loud conversations across the Chamber in reply to them.
– It is an excellent and wholesome rule to pay one’s debts, and it is a noble thing to discharge one’s debts of honour. But to discharge one’s duty to one’s creditor, and to express the humble wish that one’s, payment will be regarded as satisfactory, is an unnecessary exercise of courtesy on the part of the debtor, especially when a debt is being paid by the Government to its friends in the Labour corner. This proposal is intended to closure through the .House the special provisions of the Trade Marks Bill, which are known in popular parlance, as the union label clauses. The Government have felt impelled to introduce the motion for that purpose, because, irrespective of whether or not it has been so expressed, they rest under the uneasy consciousness that they must do so.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that that is a fair argument, in view of what has taken place ?
– 1 think that it is a fact.
– It is not a fact, and I would not make a similar charge if I were in the honorable and learned member’s place. I should think myself a cur if I did so.
– I must ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I do not think that honorable members have yet sunk to the level of becoming mere voting machines for the registration of the will of temporary majorities. I, for one, know that when the House adjourned! yesterday, it was expressly understood that members of the Opposition should have the fullest right to express their objections to this proposal and to state the reasons why they entertained those objections. Believing, as I do, that these proposals were introduced and pressed for the reason I have stated, I think that I should be failing in my duty to my constituents if I did not express that opinion.
– I should think that I was failing in my duty if I did not carry out the arrangement-
– In what respect has there been the least departure by the Opposition from any arrangement made?
– The departure has occurred on the other side.
– I say, almost unhesitatingly, that I am opposed to these proposals because 1 object both to their substance and to the manner in which they have been introduced.
– And the honorable member is exercising that liberty for which express stipulation was made.
– Hear, hear.
– In arriving at the conclusion to which he referred a moment or two ago, the Minister of Trade and Customs has either forgotten what took place, or is observing a standard of conduct which ordinary people do not understand As the result of the introduction of this procedure, the relations between honorable members on the Treasury bench and those in the Ministerial corner will become more marked and noticeable than ever. I admit that that in itself will not be an unmixed evil. When the country realizes, as well as does this House, the relations existing between the two component parts of the majority on your right, Mr. Speaker, something, will have been achieved. When, during the days or weeks to come, the prognostications of what will happen in regard to- the measure to which I have referred, are actually fulfilled, he will be a bold man who will suggest that the direct Opposition, or those sitting in the Opposition corner, were under n misapprehension in coming to the conclusion that the closure standing order was introduced for a particular purpose, and <ane That could not be justified. I feel that the proposal is one to enable the dominant minority to control the proceedings of this House. In my opinion, it has nut been introduced to secure the will of the majority. If will have the effect of securing the control of the proceedings of the House in accordance with the will of a minority ; it will have the effect of enabling a minority, consisting of about one-third of the House, which happens to be in a peculiarly favorable position for obtaining the passing of legislation-
– About one-fourth.
– There are twenty-four members in the party to which I refer, and that, roughly speaking, is one-third of the House. The proposed standing order, if carried, will enable that third to control the proceedings” of the House-
– Thirteen of that twenty-four will control its action.
– And seven might control thirteen, and so on.
– It must also be remembered, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta, that thirteen will be able to control the action of the twenty-four. The result is that thirteen members of the Labour Party assembled in caucus will be able to determine what the legislation of Australia shall be. That being so, can this be said to be a proposal to secure the exercise of the will of the majority? Will it secure majority rule, or make Parliament secure against the assault of an obstructive or determined minority? Nothing of the kind. It is ;a proposal to secure the parliamentary machine for the efforts of a determined minority. Such a state of affairs would be more regrettable than words could describe. I should also like to point out the further peculiarity that the Standing Orders Committee of the House, instead of being, consulted, ‘ was totally disregarded in this matter. Had this been a bona fide proposal, made as the result of obvious obstruction and delay of business on the part of the Opposition, the Government would first have taken the opinion of the Committee specially appointed at the beginning of this Parliament, to consider all questions of procedure’. In such circumstances, no Government would think of doing otherwise. But I shall not dwell upon that point. It is a matter for governmental consideration. The Government in this respect may do as they please. I merely wonder why in such circumstances we should bother about having a Standing- Orders Committee.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– That which has taken place during the last minute or two is a significant commentary on what is going to take place- during the weeks that are immediately to follow. There may be only a dozen honorable members in the House when an honorable member moves “ that the question be now put,” but at the sound of the division bells, honorable members will troop in. and vote on the question, although thev have not heard a word of the debate upon it.
– We might as well be in the library as in the Law Courts when a discussion is taking place.
– The honorable member knows that I practically give the go-bye to my own private affairs in order that I may attend here. I cannot say as much for some honorable members opposite.
– Such as the honorable and learned member for West Sydney - one of the colleagues of the honorable member for Barrier.
– If the honorable and learned member for Corinella had a brief he would be away at the courts.
– What is taking place now is a further commentary upon that which will take place under the proposed standing order. When the Government supporters are present, an honorable member of the Opposition, as soon ‘ as he commences to speak, will be met by continuous interjections, such as, “ Why are you going on? We have the numbers. The matter is settled; why debate it? Let us register our votes on this question, and get it through.” This Parliament is to degenerate into a mere registering machine. The high ideal of parliamentary institutions in which measures of public import aiice are discussed with deliberation until the various views of the various members receive proper consideration, is to be a thing of the past. Instead of that, we are to have periodic determinations of the opinions of the House, uninformed as to views contrary to those held bv honorable members constituting the majority for the” time being. That is a sad prediction to have to make in the early days of the Federal Parliament. Without carefully counting the columns of Hansard, I have taken the trouble to roughly approximate the time given this session to the discussion of measures the consideration of which extended over more than a sitting. I find that the consideration of the Estimates extended over what was equivalent to about eleven and a half sitting days.
– And last session the Government in which the honorable and learned member was a Minister desired us to pass the Estimates in a day.
– But that was not done. Next year, presumably, they will be passed at a sitting. I warn honorable members in this connexion that the experience of the various States of America, to which reference has been so often made, is that closure proposals are the most potent influences in the improper expenditure of money. The use df the forms of a House to close a debate and, before the public have become aroused to a knowledge of the facts, to rush through proposals involving the expenditure of large sums of money: or the making of large concessions, has worked as much mischief as has anything.
– How often has the honorable and learned member known Estimates to be altered by any Legislature ?
– lc has often happened.
– Such a thing does not often occur, but it does not follow that the Estimates should not be debated. I have always understood that the control of the country’s expenditure is the dearest privilege of the House. Owing to the complexity of public affairs, the only course open to us now is to discuss our grievances in connexion with the details of the Estimates, as well as upon the general question. Honorable members appear to think that now, when a Ministry brings down its Estimates, it will have a majority to pass them, it mav be. without amendment. I would remind the Treasurer, however, that it is only two or three weeks since, as the result of debate, an item was withdrawn from the Estimates. It will thus be realized that debate sometimes does produce good results. The second longest discussion on any measure considered this session was that upon the Commerce Bill, the debate extending over a period equivalent to nine sittings.
– It lasted nearly five weeks.
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that, so far as I was able to judge, after roughly and hurriedly looking through the debates, the consideration of the Commerce Bill extended over the equivalent ofnine sittings.
– What proportion of that time was occupied by the Opposition ?
– I have not the time nor the inclination to make the investigation necessary to enable me to answer such a question; but, assuming that the Opposition occupied the whole of these nine sittings, can it be said that that was an outrageous time to devote to the consideration of so important a measure as the Commerce Bill affecting the whole import and export trade of Australia, and introducing very stringent provisions, some of them being desirable and others being dubious in their advantage? Was nine days too long a time to give to the consideration of those measures ?
– Does not the honorable and learned member think that the business could have been effectively done in half the time?
– I do not. The Budget took the equivalent of seven and a half days. Is a fortnight’s debate on the Budget an outrageous thing?
– It was very unnecessary.
– I have known Budgets to be debated longer than that, without any objection being made.
– And so has the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– The debate on the incoming of the present Administration occupied five days. That was not an, excessive time. The debate on the incoming of the last Ministry took much more than five days, and we heard no proposal then for adopting the closure.
– I think the debate was warranted in that case.
– There was only three days’ debate on the incoming of the last Government.
– Yes; but that was followed by a four weeks’ discussion on a motion of want of confidence.
– We tried to shift them.
– Quite so; but it was all part of the same thing. Up to the present time four and a half days have been spent on the Trade Marks Bill, and four days on the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. I am sure that no one will charge my honorable friends in the direct Opposition; as contrasted with the Opposition corner, with desiring the latter Bill to be carried into law.
– How many days have been spent in trying to move the Chairman out of the chair?
– With one exception, there has been no time spent in trying to move the Chairman out of the chair, except after hours.
– Who should be the judge as to the hours ?
– Common sense should be the judge. When we have been sitting for eight or nine hours it is time for us to adjourn.
– What exception does the honorable and learned member refer to?
– One, as far as I can recollect.
– There were two.
– I do not remember the other.
– The honorable member for Parramatta moved the Chairman out of the chair one day, and the honorable member for Dalley moved a similar motion next day.
– The discussion on the latter motion lasted ten minutes, and certainly a ten minutes’ discussion does not require the application of the closure.
– It just shows that the honorable and learned member’s, arithmetic is wrong.
Mr.McCAY. - I do not count such things. The debate upon the Appropriation Bill occupied three sittings. The debate on the Address-in-Reply, and on which the last Government went out of office, occupied three days. The House has devoted two sittings to the Sugar Bounty Bill, two sittings to the Orient Mail Contract, two sittings to the Public Service Classification Scheme, two sittings to Supply Bills, two sittings to the Appropriation (New Works and Buildings) Bill, one and a half sittings, to the Representation Bill, and a little over one sitting to the Papua Bill.
– What has become of the rest of the sitting days?
– That accounts for fifteen weeks, or sixty sittings. Is there anything in that list to warrant the assumption that the House requires to be closured on any motion whatever? If I were to deal with matters germane to the present discussion, and as to which honorable members interject, in a few minutes I should be told that I was, wasting time. I desire to compress my remarks into one hour, and I decline to be led aside by matters which, however interesting and however relevant to the discussion, are not those upon which I rose to speak. I have no doubt that if further information be desired there are honorable members on this side who, perhaps, may deal with those very points.
– How many pages of Hansard are credited to the Opposition for the present session?
– I do not know.
– Nine-tenths !
– The Opposition has to criticise.
– When the Government sits silent the Opposition has to speak. If the percentage of columns of Hansard credited to the Opposition this session and last session from the 7th September to the day of prorogation be compared-
– Take the whole session.
– -No. It will be found that the Opposition to the Reid-McLean Government had quite as big a percentage of columns of Hansard as has the present Opposition to the Deakin Government.
– This session , eight members of the Opposition have had nearly four hundred yards.
– That makes a long line of speeches, which.it would do the Minister a power of good to read.
– I never speak except when I have something to say.
– The honorable member’s judgment as to what is worth saying does not agree with that of everybody else. I may be biased as regards his speeches, out itshould be remembered that we can have too much of even a good thing. When I was interrupted I was drawing attention to the fact that, with the exception of the time given to the Commerce Bill, the Budget, the Estimates, and the incoming of the present Government, nothinghas taken the equivalent of five sittings. Does that warrant the introduction of the closure? Dees’ it not show that while the Government pretends that it is introducing this rule in the interest of what it calls conserving the rights of the majority, it is seeking.’, to conserve the rights of the minority, to secure that the will of the minority, whose instructions they mustobey shall be . carried into effect - to pay the price for the bargain, expressed or implied, into which they have entered. That is doing a wrong to the House and to the country. I do not blame those who hold the whip-hand for flourishing the whip whenever they think it necessary.
-What whip is the honorable and learned member talking about?
– If the honorable member is so innocent as that I would advise him to inquire of his leader, from whom he could get full information.
-What does the honorable and learned member mean when he says the Government has “ to pay the price”?
– I meant that the political price of the Government’s existence is concessions to the Labour Party.
– Support in return for concessions.
– In the interests of the country.
– In the interests of a section of a portion of the community, and of no others.
– The honorable and learned member might as well say that that applied to his side in the first Parliament.
– In the ‘first Parliament, the honorable member and I were on the same side.
– The honorable and learned member is the hungriest man for office who has ever appeared in political life, and he knows it.
– The honorable member’s rest has not improved his temper.
– Oh, my temper is all right.
– Order ! Will the honorable and learned member address his remarks to the question before the Chair?
– The honorable and learned member ought to be just; he should not make these charges.
– I am making an assertion which I believe to be true.
– So is the honorable member for Melbourne. If the honorable and learned member says that we are corrupt, it calls for a reply.
– I do not say that honorable members on the Treasury bench are corrupt. I did not quarrel with the honorable member for Melbourne for making the statement he did. I only said that he appeared to be out of temper, otherwise he would not have said such a thing. But I am not deeply concerned with what his opinion may be. Being forced to carry into effect certain measures, the Government find that it can only do so by stifling debate, by insuring that the minority shall not have an opportunity of fighting fairly measures which they deem to be injurious to the welfare of the country. If the Opposition had been engaged in continuous obstruction to all legislation-
– So they have.
– That is a matter of opinion, and I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The honorable and learned member has an instruction.
– I have not had an instruction from any one with regard to my conduct in the House, and in that respect I differ from some honorable members opposite.
– No caucus bludgeoning over here.
– One man bludgeoning.
– That is so - one man rule.
– These constant interjections make it almost impossible for the honorable and learned member to continue his speech. For the sake of securing the continuity of his speech, of observing the Standing Orders, and economizing time, I ask honorable members not to repeatedly interject.
– For some minutes I have been endeavouring to avoid even listening to the interjections, because, as I said when I started, I do not desire to speak at length. I have not yet spoken, I suppose, for forty-five minutes, and I do not wish to trespass upon the time which justly belongs to other honorable members. I summarize my position in this matter by saying that, in the first place. I object to the substance of this proposal. It is, if not the most drastic and most unreasonable form of closure that can be found anywhere, certainly unsurpassed in those most undesirable qualities. It affords a means by which a minority of a majority may control the business of this House, and what is more than that - because, after all, the business of this House is only a means to an end - may control the legislation of this country in a way which cannot fail to be injurious to its welfare. Because the invariable consequence of power wrongfully given is that it is wrongfully exercised. Honorable members opposite are no more than human.. They possess no more angelic qualities than does the average man, and they can no more insure that they will avoid an improper use of this excessive power than they can insure that any ordinary human beings will fail to exercise excessive powers improperly given them. I shall not enter into the details of the proposal at this stage, because I. may have an opportunity on various amendments, which may be moved, to speak briefly as to the improvement of details of the proposal. Apart from its form, I say that this proposal is ineradicably tainted by the circumstances of its origin, and while these facts remain, no amount of argument or of silence - which apparently is what we are to be treated to - on the part of the Government will convince the public that there is not some specific ulterior object in view in its submission at this juncture. I may say, in passing, that when I heard yesterday that there was to be fair debate on this motion during the next three days, I supposed that we were going to hear from the Government side of the House some argument in favour of the proposal made.
– Why does not the honorable and learned gentleman give honorable members on this side an opportunity to speak ?
– The fact is that a pause is made every time an honorable member of the Opposition ceases to speak, because we desire to see whether any honorable member on the Government side will rise, and none rises. Because honorable members opposite choose to keep silent, we cannot keep silent also. I did suppose that we should) hear some arguments in favour of the proposal from the Government side of the House, and that we should at least hear some answer to the allegations made as to the circumstances in which it has been introduced. I canonly assume that honorable members opposite continue to refrain from taking part in the debate, because they cannot find it in their consciences to support with their voices a proposal which they are going to support with their’ votes, or to attempt to answer statements which they know to be correct. It is a pitiful state of affairs that this should be so. All we can do is to enter our protest against the procedure being followed, and against a proposal which I regard as a wrongful means of carrying out an object injurious to the welfare of Australia. I venture to prophesy that if the contemplated objects of the Government and their friends be achieved, Australia will have reason to rue it, and will have reason to regret the adoption of a course which must have the effect of producing results from which the whole community will suffer, to say nothing of prolonging a state of affairs which the Prime Minister not two years ago described as intolerable and subversive of the principles of good government. I desire to say no more than that very notable modifications of the proposal now before the House will be necessary to induce me to support it. I cast aside as a flimsy pretext the allegation that it is being introduced for the purpose of preventing obstruction, and in order to insure and protect the rights of the majority. I point to the object I have already mentioned as the real object which the Government and their friends propose to achieve, the real object which the country will recognise, and which, I trust, the country will punish as it deserves, as soon as- an opportunity is afforded to get the verdict of the electors.
– We are discussing a matter which, apart from the immediate circumstances which have given rise to the introduction of this proposal, must have cropped up sooner or later in this Parliament. On whichever side of the House we sit, and to whatever party we belong, most of us admit that some restriction of the privileges which enable honorable members under the Standing Orders to indulge in orations occupying three, four, or five hours, would sooner or later have become necessary. Consequently I should have been in accord with the present or with any other Government in any attempt that might be made to introduce new Standing Orders to deal with a difficulty which’ has been experienced in the past, and which must be felt more and more as time goes on. I have felt that the practical work of Parliament has been retarded to a very large extent by the facilities afforded under our existing temporary Standing Orders for opposing business by inordinate discussion. I am perfectly prepared to consider any reasonable means to remedy what must be admitted to be a growing evil in this Parliament. But when I come to consider the precise terms of the proposal placed before us bv the Government, and the circumstances inwhich it has been introduced, I say that there is ample room for division of opinion as to the wisdom underlying it. Some pro- pose which, was not framed in a panic would have better met the circumstances, no matter from which party it proceeded. This particular motion for adding certain
Standing Orders to those which govern our debates has been brought forward under special circumstances, and it seems to me that it is most unwise to deal with general laws because of special circumstances. I have previously referred in this House to an historical occasion peculiarly applicable to this particular case. When William of Orange came to England, the settlement of the relations between the people and that monarch was made under a statutory enactment, which laid down the powers of the Crown and the privileges of the people. Under that law, all punishment in the shape of torture was absolutely abolished. In Scotland an endeavour was made to pass a similar enactment; but, owing to the fact that some crime of great enormity was committed at the time, the Scottish arrangement with the Crown failed to abolish torture, and it was consequently permitted in Scotland for some years after it had been abolished in England. When the Government bring forward “ certain Standing Orders with the direct object of dealing with a specific enactment, the course adopted is evil in every sense. Such matters should be dealt with from a general stand-point, and not because of any specific legislation which the majority may have in view. In this respect I think the Government have done wrong. In dealing with any alteration of our Standing Orders it was their bounden duty to have proceeded through the ordinary Committee of this House appointed to deal with such matters. They should have brought their proposals before that Committee, which was representative of different parties in this House, and on which you, Mr. Speaker, in whom all sides of the House place equal confidence, had a seat. We might then have had a standing order submitted to us, after investigation and inquiry by that special Committee, which would have had a far better chance of securing the general approval of the House. A proposal submitted by the Standing Orders Committee would have been free from any party view, and would have been a carefully considered regulation for the purpose of governing discussion in this Chamber. The Government adopted a course of action which they might very well have anticipated would give rise to friction in this Chamber when they passed over that Committee and proceeded, without reference to it. to formulate a standing order to deal with what is am admitted evil. Their action has already led to the incident which took place here the other day, when several honorable members felt that they were bound in honour and conscience to enter their protest against the conduct of the Government by resigning from this very important Committee. The Government have shown that, in bringing forward this particular standing order, they have been actuated solely by the exigencies and necessities of the hour. There is danger, in dealing with matters of this kind, in being actuated by such limited considerations. With regard to the proposal itself, it bears on the face of it proof that it has been framed in a hurry - one might almost say in a panic - and that it has not had that consideration at the hands of the Government which its importance demands. The form adopted is bad, and the object is not expressed in that precise, definite, and clear legal language, which we have a light to expect. The proposal ,3s embodied in the resolution before the House is almost on all-fours with a similar standing order adopted in the House of Commons. Any Government might be credited with wisdom in following a precedent of so well respected and honoured a Parliament as is the Mother Parliament of British Legislatures. But this standing order departs seriously from the Brinish standing order not only in language, but in principle. Viewing their Speaker, as they have done throughout their history, as the recognised defender of minorities and the rights of individual members, the British Parliament enacted that this form of closure should not be enforced except with his concurrence and assent. The standing order submitted here does not call for any assent on the part of the Speaker to the application of the closure. That, in my opinion, is a departure from British precedent which is certainly not warranted by our experience of the operation of the British standing order, and it shows at once that the object underlying this particular motion is a purely party one. On all sides of the House such a standing order would be much more acceptable to honorable members, if it were governed and limited by the necessity for obtaining the assent of the Speaker to its application. Whether you, sir, continue to occupy the chair, or we may select some other gentleman from amongst us to preside over our deliberations, I am sure we may safely look to the Speaker, in the case of heated party conflict, to protect the recognised right of the minority to be heard. But this standing order, in eliminating the Speaker from any influence as to its application has departed, as I say, not only from English precedents, but from the principles which should underlie the application of such a rule. And, further, there is a confusion of terms in the motion. I have refreshed my memory, by referring to May, and I think it is generally admitted, as a matter of phraseology, that a proposal is only a “ motion,” while it is in the hands of an honorable member. If an honorable member makes a proposal to the House, that proposal is a “ motion,” and it requires to be seconded, and to be put to the House or Committee before it becomes a “question.” And yet we have in these Standing Orders a clumsy confusion which is made in the first part, repeated in the second part -
Turning to English precedents for these particular Standing Orders, I see that it is stated in May, on page 212 -
Pursuant to standing orders Nos. 25 and 26, whilst the Speaker, or the Chairman of Ways and Means, is in the chair, after a question has been proposed, if a member rising in his place moves “ That the question be now put,” that question shall be put forthwith without amendment or debate -
Honorable! members will see the difference between the two terms, “ question “ and “motion.” unless it appears to the Chair that the motion is an abuse of the rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority; and if, when a division is taken, it appears by the. numbers declared from the Chair, that not less than a hundred members voted in the majority in support of the motion, it is decided in the affirmative.
Then on page 215, we read -
If, however, when such a question is proposed from the Chair, a member rises to object to further proceeding, or offers to speak to such question, his action converts the business then” under transaction into opposed business ; as his interference brings into force the provisions of the standing order.
– Does not the word “ question “ there refer to the motion, “ That the question be now put “ ?
– The honorable member is correct, and quite in accord with my view. I am endeavouring to point out that the particular phraseology adopted in the proposed Standing Orders confuses “question” and “motion” in a way that is not in accord with the Standing Orders of the British House of Commons, or with our own Standing Orders, precedents, and practice.
– I think the proposed standing order is fairly clear.
– I shall try and explain again. I say that a proposal is a “motion,” while it is in the hands of an honorable member. When an honorable member submits a “ motion,” it has to be seconded, and at that stage of the proceedings the Speaker or Chairman is obliged to propose it as a “ question “ to the House, or Committee, as the case maybe. The “ motion “ becomes a “ question “ when it is in tha; hands of the House; it is only a motion when in the hands of an honorable member. But the proposed standing order states -
It is the word “motion” to which I object - shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
I have read ‘many pages of May in, order to refresh my memory, and I contend that the second word, “ motion,” in the first paragraph of the proposed standing order, should be “question,” in order to make the meaning clear, and iri accordance with our Standing Orders, and also those of the British House of Commons. But that is not all. When we come to paragraph b of the motion, it seems to me that there is the most woeful confusion of terms - that honorable members are likely to be confused as to what is precisely meant by the standing order. After referring to what I may call the second stage of the proceeding, ‘the falter portion of the standing order deals with a matter that should be dealt with in the first part. Paragraph b says -
When the motion “ That the question be now put “ has been carried, and the question consequent thereon has been decided, any further motion may be at once made which may be requisite to bring to a decision any question already proposed from the Chair;
Honorable members will see that this part of paragraph b, so far as I have read it, is thoroughly consistent with the standing order of the House of Commons, and with the practice under that standing order. But the -motion goes on to declare - and also if a clause be then under consideration, a motion may be made, “ That the question, ‘That certain words of the clause defined in the motion stand part of the clause,’ or ‘That the clause stand part of or be added to the Bill ‘ be now put.”
Having passed away in paragraph a from the first course of proceeding, the motion deals with a second stage, namely, with the power to be given to the Speaker or Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, to proceed to give effect to the resolution of the House or Committee; and then goes back and deals again with the first question in Committee, whether certain words shall be added to the clause, or whether the clause shall be put. If the Government had “not been in such a panic as to so hastily rush these proposals before us. that paragraph would have been divided, and the latter part would have been attached to paragraph* a, while paragraph b would have ended with “Chair.” When it has been decided that the question shall be “ now put,” and it has been put, the next stage, which is very necessary, is to give complete effect to what has already been clone; otherwise the question might be left, like Mahomet’s coffin, hanging between heaven and earth. This proposed standing order, like the standing order of the British House of Commons, gives power to carry the decision of the House or Committee to its logical conclusion by completing the business before it is interrupted by an adjournment or by a transfer from the consideration of one piece of business to the consideration of another. I feel quite clear that this particular proposal of the Government requires further consideration, in order that it may be expressed in language consistent and logical, and easily understood. Then again, in paragraph b, we have repeated the phrase -
Such motion shall be put forthwith, and decided without amendment or debate.
I contend it never is a “motion,” but always a “question,” that is put from the Chair. The “question” is put from the Chair - the “motion” is proposed by the individual member.
– An individual member has to move, “ That the question be now put.”
– But that is a “ motion “ so far as. it applies ltd, the individual member; when it reaches the Chair, and is put from the Chair, it becomes a “question.” That view is not expressed in May in .specific language; but the clear inference is that a distinction is drawn between the “ motion “ which is proposed by a member, and the “ question ‘ ‘ which is put from the Chair. It is a slipshod motion that has been submitted to us, and even if it be adopted - which I hope it will not be, for reasons I intend to give- it will require to be amended in order to give it that definite, precise, and logical meaning which we have a right to expect in our Standing Orders. Then the proposed standing order, after dealing with what I consider to be the second part of the proceeding, refers once more to the first part. Paragraph c states: -
An affirmative vote of not less than twentyfour members shall be necessary to carry any motion under this standing order.
Clearly that third paragraph refers to the closure, which is dealt with in paragraph a. Honorable members, will see there is no logical sequence in the proposed standing order. At any rate it will require some recasting. Strongly as I have made up my mind that some definite and drastic course should be taken, in order to facilitate the business of the House, I still think - and this free from party considerations, which do not influence me in this matter - that the particular method adopted by the’ Government as a means to deal with a growing evil is a wrong one. If the proposal had been submitted at a time when no immediate outcome was expected, it would have been scouted by honorable members who now support the Government. If this proposal had been submitted in a, time of peace and calm, it would have been derided as a means of sol vine difficulties which are notorious, and which we all admit. If honorable members of the Opposition had occupied the Treasury benches., and had made a proposal so drastic, and the present Government had been in Opposition, the latter could, and would, have exercised their right of free criticism quite as warmly, and would have opposed it quite as strenuously, as we do. It is of no use for the PostmasterGeneral to shake his head. I know of what stuff the honorable gentleman is composed; and if such a standing order had been submitted while he sat in Opposition, he would have broken that silence he so frequently enjoys,, and held forth in no unmeaning terms about the enormity of the proposal. What is it we are aiming at? The particular curse is that certain honorable members monopolize too much time. But this standing order proposes to penalize every member of the House, because there are certain delinquents, amongst us.
Mi. Bamford. - Not necessarily.
– Well, it seems to me that if the order is passed - even admitting that the Government is not likely to be influenced to such an unfair and unjust extent as to apply the closure immediately a proposition has been made - it will be applied at some time; and if the ^Government are desirous of getting business through, that time will be not long after the submission of a motion. The effect will be that one or two honorable members, who are fortunate enough, in the scramble that will ensue, to catch the eye of the Speaker, will be able to voice their opinions, and the opinions of their constituents - because that is the main point - before the closure is applied, while less strenuous, members will be debarred from exercising their rights on behalf of those who sent them here. I would go as far as any man in reason to abolish evilswhich are admitted on all hands ; but we must be actuated by some sense of justice. All through my career, I have been opposed to the recognition in this or any other Legislature pf any particular right of individuals to hold the floor of the House on any and every occasion. Once in the heat of debate I had to remind the late honorable member for Hunter, Sir Edmund Barton, that, however much he might consider himself to be beyond me in his right to express his opinions outside, I, as the representative of South- Sydney, had as much right as he, or any other honorable member, to address the Speaker. The effect of a standing order such as that placed before us by the Government, would be that certain leading men in the Ministry, and possibly the leader or deputy leader of the Opposition, would be allowed to address the House, and then the Government, anxious to get its business through, would apply the closure ; so that constituencies that might be very much more important in respect of their numbers or their standing in the community, would be quite unrepresented in the debate.
– As well as constituencies which might be particularly interested in the subject.
– Yes ; the representatives of these constituencies would be completely shut out from expressing their opinions. That is why we have the right to say that this is an institution of the “ gag.” It is not an attempt to get the business of the House conducted in a businesslike way, without friction. If we wished to do that with fairness to the whole of the constituencies, which are equal in the eyes of Mr. Speaker, I am sure, we should adopt a method that would permit of dealing out even-handed justice all round. If any important measure were before the House, and the Government, in view of the exigencies of business, decided that it was impossible to grant more than 50, 60. or 100 hours to its consideration, that time ought to be divided amongst the various members who desired to address themselves to it, and each member shouldbe permitted to have his allowance of time. Every honorable member does not always desire to avail himself of the opportunity to address the House. An honorable member may not be personally interested in a question ; or his constituents may not be interested in it ; or he may not be well versed in the. subject. But if the constituency be interested in a question, it is the bounden duty of its representative as one who has accepted the responsibility to see that legislation is framed on equitable, just, and wise lines, to express his opinions freely if he desires to do so. But under the proposition of the Government, it would be possible to shut out nineteentwentieths of the House from a debate. Probably only the particular Minister who introduced the proposal, and some prominent member of the Opposition to answer him, would be permitted to speak. The House would then proceed simply to register its decree. I say that that is a position which I, as the representative of an important constituency, have no wish to occupy, and one that I will not consent to occupy so long as I can successfully resist it. But, on the other hand, I have intimated freely my willingness to give this Government, or any other Government, a standing order which will enable us to get on with the business. It must not be forgotten that any proposition of this kind is a two-edged sword, that will serve the purposes of this Government to-day in getting its business through as speedily as possible, but which may equally well serve the purposes of some other Government to-morrow. Those who today are supporting this Draconian proposal may find it put into force against them when they desire to exercise their legitimate function of criticising proposals put before them. We have reason to regret most deeply that a proposition of this character was not passed through the proper channel, the Standing Orders Committee, before being submitted to the House. If that course had been followed, the representative men forming the Committee - who were selected from various parts of the House, presided over by Mr. Speaker, in whom all parties have confidence - could have been trusted to formulate a standing order to regulate what is an admitted evil.
– The Prime Minister is a member of the Standing Orders Committee.
– I do not attach very much importance to that fact. My point is that, as the Committee represents all sides, and is presided over by Mr. Speaker, it ought to have had an opportunity to consider the standing order before it was proposed to the House. In that case, when the matter was brought before us we should have had the assurance that the proposal had received that careful and complete consideration which we might expect to be given to it. We might have expected that the question had been approached irrespective of any particular object in view, and without reference to any particular party in this House. If that course had been pursued it seems quite clear to my mind that the proposal brought before us would have been consented to by the House much more readily than the one that is now before us, which has been proposed by a Government actuated by panic - absolutely by panic. The Government were brought face to face with a difficulty that they did not know how to deal with. They therefore set to work and drafted this Draconian proposal. They did so in order to get through a measure which this House is determined to fully discuss, I do not blame any Government for desiring to get its measures through. It is the duty of everv Government to endeavour to do so. But there is a legitimate way of doing business, and I think that the Government have departed from that legitimate method, and have yielded to pressure from a section of the House, that they have submitted proposals to us now which neither the members of the Government nor the party exercising the pressure upon them would have consented to in their calmer moments. It is for that reason, that I intend to -vote against the proposed standing order. But if, on the other hand, the Government will agree to modify their proposition in such a way as to give this House more power to stifle unnecessary discussion, more power to prevent individual members from ocupying four or five hours in addressing the House on perhaps some comparatively insignificant motion - if they aire willing to Accept amendments1 with that object in view, they will find me with them, and supporting them, as I would support any other Government in endeavouring to frame Standing Orders designed to carry on the practical business of the country in this Chamber. There is another point to which I wish to refer. It is stated in the proposal before us that an affirmative vote of not Jess than twenty-four members shall’ lue necessary to carry the closure motion. Of course, that affirmative vote necessarily has to be a majority of the House. I think that, in the circumstances of this Chamber, and in view of its size, twenty-four is altogether too small a number to which to intrust that power. The Prime Minister io submitting the> motion pointed to the fact that in the House of Commons 100 members were required tq carry the closure motion, whilst the number of members in the exalted mother of Parliaments was 670. He seemed to argue that if 100 out of 670 is a fair proportion there, twenty-four memberg out of seventy-five is a fair proportion here. If that was the Prime Minister’s reasoning - and I think it was - it was altogether fallacious. For instance, our Constitution lays it down definitely that the quorum necessary for transacting business in this Chamber shall be twenty-five. But in the House of Commons the quorum for 670 members is only forty. Consequently, iri the House of Commons the number necessary to carry the closure is two and a half times the quorum. If in.’this House we were to say that the minimum number to carry the closure should be two and a half times the quorum, it would practically require the whole House to vote for it. But I do say that, if we are going to adopt this or any other similar motion, the number twenty-four ought at least to be in- creased to thirty. I do not think that any Government having the slightest warrant for remaining in occupation of the Treasury benches should refuse to accept such an amendment, because if a Government had not thirty members at its back it would Iia ve a very small chance of remaining on the Treasury benches at all. First of all, as a working body of at least twenty-five members has to be retained in the House in order to keep a quorum, it seems to me to be inconceivable that any Government with a scintilla of justification for remaining in office would not have at least thirty members behind it prepared to vote for putting the closure in force. There is no doubt that the Government has a majority in favour of the motion; therefore we must expect it to be passed. But we may at least make an appeal to them to raise the number from twenty-four to thirty, which will afford a better guarantee that the minority will not be stifled at the dictation of so small a number as is at present proposed. Let me point out that, in the existing circumstances of parties in this House, the whole of the twenty-four might be constituted of one particular section of the House. Thirteen members sitting behind the Government could thrust the closure on the House, though the remainder of the twenty-four might be disinclined to support it. In other words1, a simple majority of a minority could force the Government, ‘so long as thev were their supporters,, to apply the closure. Another objection which I have to the proposed new standing order is that under it any private member would be permitted to move the application of the closure. . In my opinion, so long as we maintain the system of party government - though I hold it to be a bad system - we should adhere to the principle that the Ministry in power for the time being should be held responsible for the proper conduct of the business of Parliament, and the extraordinary step of summarily putting an end to a debate should be safeguarded by permitting it to be taken only on a proposal emanating from the Treasury bench. That limitation has ‘been adopted by many other Legislatures. To allow any private member to move the application of the closure might be to give that power to a member of a section exerting,, as under present circumstances, complete control over the Ministry ; but if we are fo pass the proposed new standing order at all, we should allow the closure to be moved only by a Minister of the Crown. I think that unnecessarily long discussions would be better provided against by an expedient quite different from those which have been proposed. The charges of obstructing business, or occupying time unnecessarily, which have been made, or could be made, arise out of the party system of Government, and the expedients which have been proposed or adopted in other Legislatures for preventing the consequent waste of time are inefficient compared with what might be achieved by the abolition of party government. The obstruction which takes place from time to time - and I am not now ‘referring to the mere immediate incidents of last week - does not proceed from a real difference of principle amongst honorable members, but is due to the claims of party allegiance and the operation of party conflict. If there were a real disposition on the part of the Government to cope with the admitted evils which have grown up, under which Legislatures are, as it were, paralyzed, they would seek to alter the constitution of the Executive in such a way that honorable members would not be called upon every now and again to obstruct business in obedience to the dictates of party leaders. Last session, when another party occupied the Opposition benches, they obstructed at the dictates of their party leaders, or from a feeling of party loyalty, and the same thing will happen over and over again. The restrictions proposed to be imposed will be inefficient to deal with this evil. To my mind, it proceeds from our present system, of constituting the Executive. I ask those who have given attention to the subject to consider if the Swiss Legislature is often called upon to deal with unnecessarily long speeches or unduly prolonged debates. In that Legislature, where the Executive, when elected, has the general confidence of the Chamber, there is no reason for such opposition as takes place here. It is true that party divisions exist and will always, exist, so long as there are honest differences of opinion; but under our system they are marshalled -and organized. Party government lends itself to the adoption of expedients for the obstruction of legislation which lead to fruitless waste of time, a:nd the obtaining of inadequate and often evil results.
– Honorable members are sometimes unfitted by the long sittings for legislative work. .
– If we wish to kill, and not merely to scotch, the snake - if we desire to honestly attempt to get the best results out of this Legislature, we shall not be content with lopping the branch of the tree, but will go to the root, and, by altering the system of constituting the Executive, remove incentives to obstruction. In ordinary social intercourse outside the Chamber, the best of feeling prevails between honorable members, the heated differences which occur here being simply the result of party organization and conflict. To get rid of this, we have only to alter’ the manner in which we choose the Ministers who are intrusted with the initiation of legislation, and “to let those whom we select know that whatever their proposals may be, they are to obey the wishes and dictates of this Chamber. If we do this our difficulties must disappear. There would be no individual desire on the part of any honorable member to oppose any reasonable proposal that may be brought forward. He may give’ reasons why a proposal should not be adopted, and may vote against it, but? he will not organise a useless opposition merely for party purposes. If we honestly wish to cure the present evil, we must do more than pass standing orders for limiting speeches, or applying the closure. We must take away the incentives to party organization which require one set of men to defend their position, while another set tries to drag them out of it, arid to supplant them. This state of affairs exists in every Legislature similarly constituted to our own, and until we get rid ‘of it, we shall have to face such difficulties as have been experienced recently, as well as in times gone by. I do not think the House could better occupy itself, if it wishes to formulate a system under which better results could be obtained from its work, than in considering such an amendment of our practice as I have suggested. It is not an amendment of the Constitution that I propose. If this system were adopted, Ministers could be dealt with separately and independently, according to their qualifications for any particular office. Any Minister in whom the House* had confidence would be certain of re-election, so long as he was returned to the Legislature, while, if any change were made in the personnel of the Ministry, it would be made exactly where it was required, Ministers who had not merited dismissal being left where they were. Under that system real expression would be given to the will of the people. At present each side casts in the teeth of the” other the statement that it represents the will of Australia on some particular question, but under the system which I advocate expression would be given to the will of Australia automatically, because there would be no inducement to honorable members to support any party, and therefore they would support this or that man, or proposal, according to their reason and conscience, in order to give effect to what they believe to be the will of those whom they represent.
– There is on the notice-paper a motion moved by the honorable member for Perth, on which the honorable member has moved an amendment, and I am afraid that what he is now saying may anticipate the discussion on the Order of the Day to which I refer. That I cannot permit, and I ask him, therefore, not to anticipate discussion on that Order ofl the Day.
– I think it will be admitted by you, Mr. Speaker, and by honorable members generally, that I am as desirous as is any man in the Chamber to keep within the rules of debate, and to obey your rulings. Therefore, I shall not go into details on this subject. But, although I cannot embody my suggestion in an amendment on the motion now before the House, I urge, as a reason why the proposal of Ministers is inefficient for the purpose contemplated, the fact that a much more drastic and widereaching reform is required to meet the conditions. The right honorable member for East Sydney has admitted over and over again that it is absolutely necessary to devise means whereby this Legislature may be permitted to .give effect to the will of the. people in a more practical manner than has hitherto been possible. Honorable members of the Labour Party, I am sure, sympathize with that desire, and the motion before us shows th’at the Government are prepared to go as far as any one in the matter. But all the laws and standing orders which have been adopted for this purpose by other Legislatures are totally inefficient compared with the more drastic and far-reaching reform which will be obtained by altering the constitution of the Executive, thus destroying the reason for party organization and opposition. I shall not proceed further with this argument, but shall content myself with urging; it as an additional reason why we should carefully consider the effect of what is proposed. The proposed standing order will, in my opinion, do more’ to create evil1 than would be done by an alteration of. the constitution of the Executive. By the application of the closure, large numbers of honorable members would from time to time be prevented from expressing their views, many of whom might never have been guilty of obstruction, or of making long speeches. I have made rather long speeches on one or two occasions, but I think it will be admitted that I have done so only when speaking on subjectsto which I have given special attention, and that I do not speak very frequently. By the application of the closure members, like myself would from time to time be prevented from expressing the views of our constituents. Therefore, it is fraught with evil to a greater extent than any other proposal that has been made for remedying the difficulties with which we are now face to face. A paper has been prepared - I do not know upon what authority - containing extracts from various Constitutions, relating to the measures which have been taken in other Legislatures for limiting debate. These extracts are not so well arranged as they might be, but the compilation will relieve honorable members of the necessity of looking through a large number of works of reference. An examination of this document shows that, apart from Great Britain, where a closure provision similar to that now proposed by the Government has been adopted, subject to certain limitations, with regard to the assent of the Speaker, no rule similar to that now submitted for our approval has been brought into operation. There are,’ however, many practical proposals,, which might well engage our attention. I find that in the New Zealand Legislature the Standing Orders provide -
No Member snail speak for more than half an hour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or on the Financial Statement, or in a debate on a motionof “ No Confidence,” or in moving the second reading of a Bill, and on the debate on the Appropriation Bill, when a Member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour.
In Committee of the House no Member shall speak for more than ten minutes at any one time,, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee.
This rule does not apply in Committee to a Member in charge of a Bill or a Minister when delivering a Financial Statement in Committee of Supply.
Under this standing order reasonable, and I should think adequate, means are provided for meeting the necessities of the case. We might very well adopt the same principle, and give it a trial before proceeding to the lengths that the Government propose. In the United States provision is made as follows: -
No Member to occupy more than one hour in debate on any question in the House or in Committee, except the Member reporting a measure under consideration from Committee, who, if the debate has extended beyond one day, shall be entitled to one hour at the close notwithstanding that he may have used an hour in opening.
When general debate is closed by order of the House, any Member is allowed five minutes to explain any amendment he might offer, after which the Member who first obtained the floor is allowed to speak for five minutes in opposition to it; but no other debate is allowed thereon. The same privilege is allowed in favour of and against any amendment to an amendment.
Both the Legislatures, referred to, to whom liberty of speech is, no doubt, as dear ‘ as it is to us, have adopted the system which I have joined with other honorable members on this side of the House in advocating. We have no right to indiscriminately and blindly shut off debate, but we are perfectly entitled! to decide what time shall be allowed for the discussion of any measure at its various stages. We should take care, however, that the time fixed for debate is equitably and justly divided amongst honorable members,. We are supposed to represent equal constituencies, and any blind, haphazard system, by which the guillotine could be applied after half a dozen honorable members had expressed their opinion to the exclusion of sixty or seventy others does not commend itself to my mind, and I cannot conceive of its being approved by honorable members, who have any sense of justice. Under both the systems referred to adequate time is given for the expression of the opinions of honorable members. It is possible and probable that if speeches were limited in, the manner provided for in New Zealand,’ honorable members would express their views more tersely and effectively. If we were compelled to recast, our ideas in such a way as to enable us to express them within a limited time, the results would -be much better than those achieved under the present conditions, In the United States of America, certain concessions are made to members who report Bills. In that Legislature a measure upon being referred to a Committee receives semi-private consideration, and is afterwards intrusted to a certain member for the purpose of being reported to the House, and commended to its favorable consideration. We can understand that such a member would require special facilities for putting his case before the House. We have to recognise that under our system of responsible government, which differs from that of the United States, Ministers occupy an even more important position than do members of the United States Congress, who are intrusted with the duty of reporting Bills. Therefore, we ought to afford Ministers ample time in which to lay their measures before the House. The rest of the time available should be equally divided among honorable members, so that the debate may be automatically closed. If the New Zealand system, which I favour, were adopted, and every honorable member, except Ministers in charge of measures, were allowed to speak for half-an-hour,, not more than eighteen hours, at the outside, would be devoted to the discussion of a measure. That period is not too great to allow for the expression of the matured views of honorable members upon a measure of firstclass importance, and it would be much safer for us to adopt such a system than to place it in the power of any section of honorable members to close a debate by the application of the closure or guillotine. I understand that in the United States of America the speeches in Committee are cut down to five minutes each. They have adopted the somewhat ingenious plan of allowing a member who does not desire to speak to yield his time allowance to some other member. I find by reference to an official work published under the authority of the United States Congress that -
When a member yields of his time, but retains control of the floor, an amendment may not be offered in the yielded time without his consent. A member who receives time from another may yield of it to a third only with the consent of the first.
From that it appears that they have adopted a system in which a party, such as the Opposition in this House, having a number of members each entitled to five minutes, may grant their allowance to some specially informed man on their own side, to enable him to place their case effectively before honorable members.
– That system is too elaborate.
– I am inclined to very severely cut down the time for discussion in Committee. But if we reduce the allowance in Committee to five minutes three times over in regard to the same subject, it would not be reasonable or desirable to restrict honorable members from yielding their time to others who might be in a position to make better use of it.
– Would the honorable member fix the same time limit for all clauses, regardless of their importance?
– Yes, I would; because I think it is impossible to draw a distinction. We should, however, overcome that difficulty if we afforded facilities for the transfer of time from one member to another. Whilst five minutes three times over would be ample to permit of the expression of the views of an honorable member with regard to an unimportant clause, it might be desirable upon a matter pf importance to allow a leading debater a longer period within which to give adequate expression to not only his own views, but those of other honorable members with whom he was acting dm co-operation. Upon all ordinary occasions it seems to me that after having fully debated a Bill upon the motion for the second reading, we occupy much too long a period in discussing details in Committee. We might very well cut down these debates by allowing each member only three periods of five’ minutes upon each clause. I think the Government proposals are fraught with evil. It is proposed to give too much power to the members of one section of the House. At the same time, I do not wish it to be supposed that I am opposed to any measure for putting an end to the obstructive talk that takes place in this and every other Legislature. Although I do not desire to prevent honorable members addressing themselves to the question now before the House, which can come on again after my amendment is negatived, I move -
That all the words after “ namely “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ No Member shall speak for more than halfanhour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or on the Financial Statement, or in a debate on a motion of 1 No Confidence,’ or in moving the second reading of a Bill, and on the debate on the Appropriation Bill, when a Member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour. “ In Committee of the House no Member shall speak for more than five minutes at any one time, or more than three times on any one question before the Committee. 11 This rule does not apply in Committee to a Member in charge of a Bill, or a Minister when delivering a Financial Statement in Committee of Supply.”
The New Zealand standing order provides that a member shall be entitled to speak four times on any one question, but I think that three times is sufficient. Honorable members, who profess to be democrats, can hardly refuse to accept my amendment. I shall have extreme doubts as to the democracy of any honorable member who prefers to adopt the Government proposal. Under my proposal, every honorable member would be placed upon the same footing, and every one would be afforded an opportunity to exercise his right to freely express his views. Its effect would be to materially limit our discussions, and debates would be automatically closed when all those who desired to address the House had exercised their privilege. Under the Government proposal, however, a gross injustice might be perpetrated by a section of the members of the House. What I propose as an alternative will mete out even-handed justice all round, will limit debate, and will remove those abuses which have cropped up, although I am of opinion that a more drastic reform is required - a reform in- the constitution of our Executive.
– The amendment is not seconded.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).The system: advocated by the honorable member for South Sydney would no doubt constitute a great improvement upon the system which obtains in this House. But I was not prepared to support his proposal, because I have framed an amendment which I conceive to be very much better. I regret that I had not the opportunity of adding a few words to the discussion which took place upon this motion last week, when public attention was being directed to the extraordinary position taken up by the Government. They submitted this proposal for a specific purpose, and their action in so doing was absolutely indefensible. However, full justice was done to that aspect of the matter, and as a result I believe that the public are now thoroughly seized of the motives which prompted its introduction.’ It was introduced for the express purpose of enabling the Government to force through this House legislation which has never been before the country - legislation which was inserted in another place at the instance of a private ] member. Their action was prompted by a desire to satisfy a large section of this House. I have no objection to that section holding any views that it pleases, but I protest against the action of the Government in suspending the consideration of a Bill in order that they may be able to embody in it a great principle which has never been considered by the electors, and upon which we have received no mandate whatever. A review of the history of other1 Parliaments will show that closure proposals have never been submitted except as the result of very great provocation. The excuse urged by the late Mr. Gladstone, when he moved in that direction, in order that the transaction of urgent public business might be facilitated, was that, owing to the obstruction of forty members of the House of Commons - which number would be equivalent to eight members of this House - and notwithstanding that its sittings had extended over forty odd hours, the Government had been unable to consider legislation for the welfare of Ireland. That was Mr. Gladstone’s apology for bringing forward proposals of this character. He admitted that he would not be justified in submitting such proposals for the purpose of getting rid of the arrears upon the business-paper. The present Government cannot urge that they have not passed a fair number of measures this session. They might have been able to dispose of other Bills of a non -contentious character. The consideration of contentious measures may well be deferred until next session, and if they are not then finally dealt with, we should appeal to the electors upon them. Had the Government submitted this proposal at the proper time, they might have obtained for it a great deal more support from members of the Opposition.
– Surely if the proposal is a good one it must be good always.
– Evidently the honorable member has not been listening to my remarks. The Government desire to pass the proposed standing order for the purpose of limiting discussion upon a measure as to which the people have not expressed an opinion.
– The honorable member was not present last week.
– Do I not receive a copy of the parliamentary debates? Does the honorable member imagine that
I am not aware of what has taken place? I have even read his interjections, which are always untimely. Liberty of speech in Parliament has been gained as the result of centuries of fighting, and we should not lightly part with the privilege that we enjoy of fully discussing every measure which comes before us. Mr. Gladstone, in his famous speech in 1881, stated that there was no reason whatever for “ gagging “ a speaker who had something to say which was of importance to the country. He only objected to the same speeches being repeated ad nauseam. That vasi the abuse which he sought to remedy. He did not take to himself the power which the Government propose to take to themselves, of determining when the closure should be put into operation. He proposed that the closure should be applied only with the concurrence of Mr. Speaker and a large proportion of honorable members. The late Prime Minister declared -that one of the first matters to which this Parliament should devote its attention during the present session was the framing of revised Standing- Orders, which would have the effect of limiting the long speeches to which some honorable members are addicted. The present Government appear to have taken fright at something. It is said that unless certain action was taken they were notified that they must quit. The Prime Minister is not worth his salt if he can be intimidated in that way. It seems to me that some such intimation must have been given.
– The honorable member is not certain.
– The honorable member says that I am not certain. He may be frivolous, or he may be really stupid. I have read the Hansard report of the remarks made by the leader of the Opposition last week, and it seems to me that he stated very clearly what were his views upon the subject of the limitation of speeches.
– We were told that the honorable member started to walk.
– Evidently some limitation should be imposed upon long speeches. The drivel that we hear from the honorable member who is so stupidly interjecting should be subjected to some restraint.
– The honorable member for Dalley said that the honorable member was walking from Sydney.
– If I lived as close to Parliament House as does the honorable member I should be present every day of .the session. I may add that every day that I am in Melbourne I attend to my parliamentary duties.
– I do not think that the honorable member’s remarks have any relevance to the question before, the Chair.
– I do not think that they have. But it occasionally happens that an interjection which is used against an honorable member for political purposes, finds, its way into Hansard.
– No interjection is recorded in Hansard unless it is replied to.
– I think that it was in the year 1889 that proposals similar to those now before us were submitted to the Legislative Assembly of Victoria by the Gillies-Deakin Ministry, but after being debated for five days they were withdrawn. If the Opposition, without regard to the interests of the country, had continued the debate on this motion, as. long as they might have done, I feel confident that the Prime Minister would have been compelled to withdraw it, and having regard to the amended proposals put before the House to-day, I think that they would have been justified in doing so.
– Would the honorable member have hauled down the flag had he been present last week?
– I should have joined with my fellow members of the Opposition.’ in debating the matter until I thought that public attention had been fully directed to it. I do not consider that any Opposition would be justified in discussing such a proposal longer than was necessary to enable the people of Australia to be apprised of what was sought to be done. There is no doubt that the people will vote against those wEo have supported the action of the Government. We are returned to pass legislation necessary for the well-being of the people, and should not remain in session longer than is requisite to do so. It is evidently the desire of the Government to curtail the discussion of measures that have not been considered by the people. I hold that they are not justified in seeking means, to apply the closure to measures yet awaiting our consideration upon which the views of the people have not been ascertained.’ It will rest with the people themselves to take whatever action may be necessary to make an example of them. The Minister of Trade and Customs is in this respect an old offender. He supported similar proposals in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.
– It was on the motion of Sir Henry Parkes, that they were passed.
– I have already mentioned that fact. In most of the States Parliaments of America a somewhat similar standing order is in force, but in no case was the proposal to pass such a provision made with a view to force certain legislation through Parliament. As the name of the late Sir Henry Parkes has been mentioned, I may say that the Parliament with which he was associated worthily upheld the best traditions of British parliamentary institutions, and it is to be regretted that he was not here to take his place as the leader of the first Commonwealth Parliament. I do not think that any one had a greater admiration for him than had the VicePresident of the Executive Council. Sir Henry Parkes was a sound constitutionalist, and, although he was a poor man, would not think of taking office, unless, he could do so with honour. He brought forward proposals somewhat similar to those now before us, but took care to follow the rule laid down by Mr. Gladstone that such propositions should be made only when there were no contentious matters before the House. Mr. Gladstone called a special session of Parliament to consider closure proposals, his desire being that the matter should be dealt with free from party considerations and standing orders passed that would make it -impossible for honorable members to deliver long speeches, merely for the purpose of preventing the Government of the day from carrying into law legislation which the country demanded. It cannot be too clearly stated that he laid it down that such proposals should be considered at a time when there was a clean sheet, so far as the business of the House was concerned, and that, as the result of the action which he took, the leader of the Opposition assisted him in passing standing orders which would enable the House of Commons to give effect to the will of the people. With the exception of what is known as the Nationalist Party - a party which was then obstructing the business of the House of Commons - the standing orders were unanimously agreed to. T would point out, however, that when the Minister of Trade and Customs introduced closure proposals in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, his desire, like that of the present Ministry, was to be able to pass legislation upon which the country had not expressed an opinion. The Parliament, after all, can merely give expression to the will of the people. We cannot say to the people : “ AVe shall pass a certain law, and you must obey it.”
– Why not?
– Here we have & simpleton interjecting. It is impossible for a Parliament to expect the people to respect the legislation which it passes, unless they have been a party to it. Any one who has given the slightest consideration to political economy, knows that Parliament must be the voice of the people. Even an Emperor dare not declare war against an enemy unless he has the people behind him’, and no legislation will be respected bv the people unless it embodies the will of the people.
– The honorable member was not here last week, and is taking an advantage of those who were.
– I had no intention of speaking longer than twenty minutes. It is true that on one or two occasions I have made long speeches, but in so offending I have been guided’ by a desire to study the public interests. I have, however, seen the error of my ways, and have made up my mind to refrain in future from making long speeches, because I find that I can say as much in twenty minutes as most honorable members say in five hours. I think I have made it clear that the Government were not justified in submitting these proposal’s, because they were led to do so only because of a desire to force through the House legislation forming no part of their own policy, but dictated by the Labour Party. Their desire is to rush through the House legislation introduced by a private ‘member in another place, and which, so far as I am aware, has been approved only by the labour caucus, and the labour organizations outside. Such legislation may embody the views of a large and respectable portion of the community, but it certainly does not represent the opinion of the people. The Prime Minister was not justified in submitting the motion now before us, for the specific purpose of passing those proposals into law without adequate discussion. A measure cannot be said to have been adequately discussed unless it has been put before the people. Why did they hare the hustings in the olden days? Was it not to enlighten the people as to measures likely to come before the Parliament? All proposed legislation should be discussed on the public platform. The Bill whose passage these closure proposals are designed to expedite, will come as a shock to more than half of the people, for it is entirely new to them. Except in the case of the closure proposals submitted to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, under the guidance of the present Minister of Trade and Customs-
– They were not submitted under my guidance.
– The honorable gentleman has always been regarded as an influential member of every Parliament with which he has been associated. I have no doubt that on the occasion in question he was able to pull the strings, and to bring to bear sufficient influence to induce the Government he was supporting to submit closure, standing, orders to the House. I have no doubt that those now under consideration meet with the full approval of the honorable gentleman, and that he brought con- ,siderable pressure to bear upon the Prime Minister to induce him to submit them to the House. Having regard to all the facts, the motion should not be carried in the form in which it has been submitted. I should favour the amendment of the proposed standing order so as to provide that it shall not come into operation unless not less than twenty-four members vote in favour of its application, nor less than twenty-three members against it. The suggestion which I make is not an original one ; it was first made, in a somewhat different form, in the House of Commons. If it were carried into effect, it would mean that the closure could not be applied unless not less than forty-eight honorable members were in attendance. In that way some representation would be given to the views of the minority. Another point is that the Opposition would be compelled to assist in keeping a House. That in itself would be a material advantage to the Government, and I think that the amendment I have foreshadowed should command the support of the Labour Party. While I have expressed my opinion that they have been instrumental in forcing upon the House the proposal made by the Government, I believe that they will have all to lose from) the passing of the legislation which it is designed to further. In the course of time, the Labour Party will inevitably go down, assuming for the moment that it is now on top, and the other sections of the House will coalesce. There will be a fusion of those parties, and the Labour Party will be im a minority.
– A fusion of which parties ?
– The Liberals of this Parliament will become the Liberal Party, and the extremists known as the Labour Party will remain the Conservative Party. The Minister of Trade and Customs may laugh, but he has only to examine the character of the legislation which they favour to realize that my statement is correct. If we go back to the time of Henry VIII., Henry VII., or Edward VI., we shall find on the English statute-book precedents for the legislation which is now proposed for Australia by the Labour Party. For centuries the Liberals of Great Britain have been fighting for the liberties of the people, and undoing what was donein those times. The Labour Party seek to place upon the statute-book of Australia legislation which would rob the people of their liberties. The closure would work very hardly indeed, so far as they were concerned. Therefore, I should like it to be made as effective as possible, so that full justice may be done to the people; for, while I do not claim to be a member of the caucus party, I claim to be a representative of all classes in the community ; indeed, I yield to no one in the extent to which I would go in passing domestic legislation for the benefit of the working people, as well as every other section of the community. I have only to refer to my record in the House to justify my claim to represent the working classes, equally with every other section. My desire is that the minority of the people shall be represented here, as well as the majority, and they will be represented, and receive full justice, if this proposal be modified in such a way that no harsh and unjust treatment could be meted out to their representatives.
– One cannot approach the discussion of the merits of this proposal without casting one’s mind back to the events of the preceding week; to the reason, for the introduction of the closure, and the manner in which the debate which was initiated some days ago was met bv honorable members on the Government side. I was one of ‘those who endeavoured last week to exercise a pacific influence. It was my desire to try to secure a settlement which would be just to all sections of the House and honorable to the parties concerned in the contest. It is my intention to vote on the proposal in the manner I indicated at an early stage of this debate. I think, however, that I should be perfectly free to depart from the attitude I then took up, because the action of the Prime Minister, in giving notice of a certain motion, this afternoon, was a distinct breach of the understanding which was implied in the settlement arrived at yesterday. It ought to make it clear to us that, in any agreement for a settlement to which the Opposition may come with the Government, it will be necessary to get something far more binding than such, an ordinary understanding aswould and ought to be accepted by honorable men. I have no objection to> a reasonable method of limiting debate, although I think that this particular proposal goes a great deal too far. But when not only one kind of closure is pitchforked into the middle of a discussion on a most controversial question, but on top of that another kind of closure for the purpose of gagging individual members isgiven notice of, we can see that a very serious attempt is being made to curtail our right of free speech.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the question under discussion is the motion upon the business-paper in the name of the Prime Minister, and not the motion of which he gave notice this afternoon.
– I have been listening very carefully to the honorable and learned member. So soon as he exceeds an incidental reference to that notice of motion, he will’ be out of order - in fact, I .now asls him not to further refer to it.
– It was not my intention, sir, to debate that notice of motion, but merely to make an incidental reference to it, so that honorable members might bear in mind that), in addition to the present proposal, other proposals will be submitted for consideration. There is no real’ urgency for introducing the closure at thepresent time. It will be recollected that on Tuesday last we commenced to debate a question on which public interest has been excited to a very considerable degree, and’ to which all sections in the community, except that compact section which occupies the Ministerial corner -benches, are hostile. After a general discussion on the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill, this closure proposal was brought forward for our consideration. By the exercise of ordinary tact, it would have been possible for the Minister in charge of the House at the time to secure a reasonable form of closure on Thursday last. A reference to the Hansard report of the proceedings on that occasion will show distinctly that it was the arrogant, browbeating attitude of the Attorney-General which contributed more than any single cause to the terrible experiences which we all had to undergo. I find that, on page 5333, the honorable member for Kooyong said -
I appeal to the Attorney-General to agree to an adjournment.
The request from so pacific and moderate a man as the honorable member for Kooyong met with this response -
We must go straight on, and finish this debate.
On page 5335, the honorable member for Kooyong renewed his request -
I again ask the Attorney-General to agree to an adjournment of the debate. >
The honorable and learned gentleman, in reply, said -
We must finish the business before the House.
That particular attitude, I submit-
– I am very sorry to have to rise again to a point of order. I submit that the honorable and’ learned member is out of order in reading extracts from speeches made in another debate of this session.
– I must ask the honorable and learned member not to refer to a previous debate of this session.
– These- two quotations prove conclusively that it was the attitude of the Attorney-General which, more than any single cause, contributed to the fierce scenes which took place last week. No one regrets, them more than I do - no one is more sorry - that we had to put up with such a fierce debate. But I contend that, in the special circumstances of the case, -it was the duty of the Opposition to take up a strong attitude, in order that the public conscience might be awakened, not only to the union label proposals, but to the undoubted fact that a closure proposal of a more drastic nature than any closure which has ever existed in the Parliament of Victoria, and I think in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, was to be used for the purpose of dragooning certain measures through the Rouge Members of the Opposition succeeded in awakening the public conscience, and whatever expressions of public opinion, by means of meetings and so forth, have taken place since Tuesday last, they have resulted, I think, in attracting, attention to the union label provisions, and strengthening the hand of the Opposition in reference thereto. I am of opinion that, although a rule for limiting debate is in some Parliaments very necessary, in other Parliaments it. is not so necessary. I think that this Parliament belongs to the latter class. Reference has been made to the closure rule in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but it must be recollected that that Parliament guides,, not only the affairs of the United Kingdom, with a population of 45,000,000, but also the destinies of the British Empire, and that the consideration of foreign and colonial policies must absorb a very large portion of its time. When it is recollected that the population of the British Empire ranges from 300,000,000 to 350,000,000, it will be recognised that drastic steps must be taken in the British Parliament to limit debate; otherwise important proposals could not possibly be discussed or decided. In a similar manner there may be more .reason for having the closure in the States Parliaments than in this Parliament, which possesses only limited powers of legislation. There can be, no doubt in the mind of any one who has ever looked at the Constitution for a moment that the legislative authority of the Commonwealth is but a fraction of that of the States Parliaments. Therefore, while in some instances the adoption of the closure in States Parliaments may be justified, the necessity for its adoption bv this House does not exist to anything like the same extent.
– The necessity for its introduction here would not have arisen had not the Opposition started to “stone-wall.”
– I have a vivid recollection of the Labour Party, including, I think, the honorable member, doing their share of what is called “stone-walling “ in the previous session. I am not one of those who object to an Opposition taking reasonable steps, or, if need be, unreasonable steps, if their object be to secure a dissolution of the House. If the purpose of an Opposition be to force the members of the House to their constituents, no steps which it can take in that direction can be regarded as unjustifiable, because, after all, the constituencies are the supreme arbiters on these questions. An- Opposition which seeks to subject, not only its opponents, but its own members, to the test of public opinion, takes up an attitude which cannot be called selfish or self-seeking.
– An Opposition which talks of dissolution is in a state of lunacy.
– I know that the word “dissolution” has an unpleasant sound to the honorable member, because he believes in perpetual membership of the House, at ten times his present salary.
– No, double.
– Fortunately the constituencies are not likely to agree with the honorable member. I hold in my hand a list of the proposals which have been decided by the House. I quote these to show that the opportunities for obstruction afforded to the Opposition by the proposals put before them have not been availed of, though it would be foolish to attempt to deny that there are members of every party who do at times endeavour to prevent business going through too rapidly. In the first place there was a want of confidence motion in the late . Government, and the debate upon that occupied but a very short time. Then there was a debate on the policy of the Deakin Government, which also occupied a very short time. When it is recollected that the debate upon the policy of the Reid Government and on the want of confidence motion moved in the Reid Government occupied five weeks, it will be admitted that honorable members on this side of the House were extremely moderate in dealing with those questions. Then we considered in Committee a message from the GovernorGeneral on the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway Survey Bill. That afforded an opportunity for the greatest obstruction, because as this was a new session, it would have been competent for honorable members to have debated the whole of the pros and cons of that proposal. A great many honorable members would, in my opinion, have been justified in attacking that proposal with the utmost vehemence, because of what thev considered the very extraordinary change of attitude on the part of a particular individual, very much interested in it. However, honorable members of the Opposition did not do so. They allowed the proposal to go through practic ally without debate, though some, like myself, had they been urged to do so,- would have been prepared to make a very emphatic and lengthy protest against that measure. We might have devoted weeks to the consideration of it without being open to any charge of obstruction, and with the knowledge that the Age newspaper, which is now attacking the Opposition, would have supported us. Then we dealt with certain amendments in the Papua Bill in Committee. Some small Bills were put through, such as the Evidence Bill and the Secret Commissions Bill, and a large Bill in the shape of the Commerce Bill. I refer to that measure as a large Bill, because it affects oversea trade to the value of from £60,000,000 to £80,000,000, and it affects, not only importers and manufacturers in Victoria, but people who, in my opinion, are worthy Of more consideration than either, and they are the farmers and producers of Australia. The discussion of that Bill necessarily occupied a long time, because of the extraordinary way. in which it was drafted. Then we had a Service and Execution of Process Bill, and we also debated a motion to appropriate ,£25,000 for a memorial to Queen Victoria. Nearly two days were occupied in debating that question, and honorable members of the Labour Party will admit that they occupied the bulk of that time. If there was “ stonewalling “ in connexion with that proposal, the charge cannot be made against the members of the Opposition. Then we discussed the Public Service Classification, and I do not think that it can be said that the Opposition took up the bulk of the time in debating that question. We dealt, also, with some small Bills, such as the Census and Statistics Bill, and the Wireless Tele.graphy Bill. We considered, also, two important mail contracts, one dealing with the service between Australia and the United Kingdom, and the other with the service to Canada. In dealing with the first, amendments in the interests of Queensland were submitted, and the representatives from that State - who are, I think, with one exception, labour members - all spoke on the question in urging the claims of their State. Considerable time was taken up in the discussion of the contracts I have referred to, but the bulk of it was not employed in the delivery of speeches from tha Opposition benches. We have also dealt with the Estimates. Honorable members are justified in discussing the Estimates very fully, because if there is any subject in connexion with which, more than with any other, the Opposition should be afforded opportunity for full discussion, it is that of finance.
– What was the length of time taken up in discussing the Estimates?
– I could not say.
– In order to get the business through, we refrained from speaking, because honorable members opposite occupied so much time.
– It cannot be said that [ took up much time, because I spoke only twice, and then on matters in which’ I was deeply interested. We have dealt with the Appropriation Bill, and we have had under consideration the Representation Bill, in which representatives of New South Wales and of other States are deeply interested. Two other small Bills that have been considered are the Amendments Incorporation Bill and the Life Assurance Bill, whilst other proposals have been partially discussed, such as the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. I refer to all these items because in my opinion the list shows that the charge made against the Opposition that they have prevented business being done is absolutely without foundation in substance or in fact. If the record of this session is compared with that of last session, it will be found that the measures dealt with in this session greatly exceed the number of those dealt with last session.
– No thanks to the Opposition.
– There is no pleasing the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. We, in Victoria, have had an . experience of the closure. It is to my mind a very striking fact that the Victorian Parliament which, with all deference to the Parliaments of the other States, I think I can say is least notorious for prolonged debales and stormy scenes, is a Parliament absolutely without closure proposals of this kind. There was a time, in 1876, when similar proposals were submitted, and carried in that Parliament. They were then known as the “Iron Hand “ proposals, because they gave the Government of the day what this Government desires. - an “ iron hand “ with which to crush debate. There was a majority of two ‘ to one in favour of those proposals - forty-one to twenty. They were introduced bv the Premier of the day, Sir James McCulloch, in February, 1876, and the Age of that day, which I have been looking up, referred to those who carried them as “ Sir James McCulloch and his forty gaggers.” At the ensuing, election, the Age appealed to the electors - and by the way, to the Liberals of that day - by means of placards, asking them to vote against “ Sir James McCulloch and his forty gaggers.”
– And they did vote against them.
– They did vote against them. The man who introduced the iron hand and his forty gaggers were slaughtered at the ensuing election. Of the forty gaggers, only twenty got back to Parliament.
– Why not let this go now, and see whether we shall come back?
– I am quite prepared to go to tha constituencies now. The gagging .proposals were again brought up in the. Victorian State Parliament in 1889, and were withdrawn after the fullest expression of opinion from all parties in the Legislative Assembly. The Government that brought them forward was a Government of which the present Prime Minister was a member, and therefore the honorable and learned gentleman cannot now be charged with inconsistency in this endeavour to “ gag “ his opponents. All I need say is that the State Parliament of Victoria thought it better to do without such Standing Orders. By adopting proposals which I should have agreed to willingly in place of , those now submitted in this Parliament, they reduced the opportunities for obstruction enormously. The Victorian Parliament provided that the motions, “That progress be reported,” and “ That the Chairman leave the chair “ should be put without debate. In other circumstances I should have been prepared to accept such proposals willingly, in place of those now submitted. It is an astonishing fact that without these gagging closure proposals, and- without the “Iron Hand,” the Victorian Parliament to-day does its work as rapidly and as well as does anz State Parliament, whilst it is as free from obstruction and from “ scenes “ as is any Parliament we know of. The reason is that it is recognised that if, in the opinion of the electors, any honorable member misuses his opportunities and privileges, they will take steps to deal with him at the proper time. The proper time at which to deal with such an honorable member is, in my judgment, not in the middle of a debate upon a controversial, novel, and important question, but at the elections. Another objection I have, not only to this, but to all closure proposals, is that they have an undoubted tendency to belittle and degrade Parliament. Parliament ought to be a place for the free expression of the views of the chosen of the people. It is becoming a place to which men are sent to register the decrees of the Government of the day. All these proposals, it seems to me,, tend to belittle and degrade Parliament. Wellknown writers, contributing to such periodicals as the Spectator, have pointed out the growing tendency to belittle Parliament in the attempts continually made by a certain section of . the press and by certain persons inside Parliament. I feel convinced that the effect of these particular proposals will be to lessen- the prestige and influence of this Parliament throughout the Commonwealth. They will not increase the prestige of the Government, nor will they in the slightest degree improve the position which the Federation now occupies in the opinion of the people. The Federation does not occupy a very high place in their esteem, and I do not believe that by the introduc-. tion of gagging of this kind for a specific purpose we are likely to raise the general opinion of the Federal Parliament.
– Nor will the conduct of the Opposition last week do so.
– I do not believe that the “ gag,” even though it should be applied by the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, is a measure which is likely to improve the condition of this Parliament, or to increase its prestige. I had not the pleasure of hearing the speech, but I can well remember a speech which was delivered some years ago by the present Prime Minister at Bendigo. It sent an electric thrill through every Australian native in Victoria, and through many persons who were not natives of this State. I can remember the brilliant peroration with which the honorable and learned gentleman concluded that speech. The memory of it even now must speak to one’s heart in the tones of an organ trumpet. The honorable and learned gentleman concluded a most impassioned deliverance with the lines -
Oh ! let us rise united, penitent,
And be one people, mighty, serving God.
Is this the way in which the Prime Minister fulfils that prediction? Does he serve his
Creator by bringing in these dragooning proposals for the purpose of bludgeoning through measures which have not been before the electors, and which the newspaper that supports him and every section of the metropolitan press unreservedly denounces? The honorable and learned gentleman brings in these proposals because he must - because they are part of the political price he has to pay for office.
– A closure which exists in every Legislature.
– It does not exist in Victoria. It is not my intention to occupy much more time with general considerations. There are a few amendments which I desire to move on the motion. I endeavoured last week, and in an entirely informal way, without any authority or justification from the party to which X belong, and solely in the interests of peace and harmony between honorable members, to induce honorable members on both sides to agree to them. Though I consider that the action of the Prime Minister in giving the notice of motion he gave this afternoon would justify me in departing from the course I have proposed, I shall not do so. If there are to be breaches of faith, I hope that honorable members on the Opposition side will see that they are all allowed to come from the Government side. I presume that I shall be in order in commenting upon the amendments I propose to move. I move -
That in paragraph a, line 4, the word “ member “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Minister with the consent of the Speaker or Chairman of Committees as the case may require “ ; in paragraph b, after the word “Chair,” the words “and also if a clause be then under consideration, a motion may be made “ That the question, * That certain words of the clause defined in the motion stand part of the clause,’ or ‘That the clause stand part of or be added to the Bill,’ be now put.” In paragraph c that the word “ twenty-four “ bc left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ thirty.”
I ask the House to insist that it shall be the authority of a Minister of the Crown which “ gags “ honorable members - that a Minister shall- take the responsibility of stifling debate, so that if the retribution of the electors follows, it shall be visited on the Government, and not on individual members. The responsibility which the amendment proposes to cast on the presiding officer’ is great, but we must have the impartiality of that officer to decide whether or not there is an infringement of fair debate for the rights of the minority. I cannot conceive that any honorable member can raise any serious objection to the amendments proposed. As to the amendment in paragraph b, I would point out that with the paragraph, as it stands, debate might be stifled in the most extraordinary fashion, and, perhaps, I may be permitted to give one example. Last year we had under discussion the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and one of the clauses, which is now section 38 of the Act, contained twenty-three or twentyfour sub-clauses, a number of which in- volved highly controversial questions. On the first sub-clause there was keen debate on a number of important questions, including that of maximum and minimum penalty for a breach of the provision ; the persons who might claim penalties; what was known as the common rule; applying the decision of the Arbitration Court all over the Commonwealth ; and the employment of legal gentlemen in the Arbitration Court. Under the precious proposed standing order, it would “be possible in such a case for a debate to take place on the first of the sub-clauses, and for that clause to be carried through by means of the “ gag,” entailing the passing of the whole remaining sub-clauses without discussion or amendment. That illustration should be sufficient to show that not only the words to which I have drawn attention should be omitted, but that other words should be inserted to provide that a clause may be put sub-clause by sub-clause, or paragraph by paragraph. Without such a safeguard, it would be possible for even a whole Tariff to be bludgeoned through, instead of, as usual, being dealt with item by item.
– That was done in New South Wales.
– I am not sure if that is the fact, but if that was done in New South Wales, it was most improper. To bludgeon through any proposal, involving the taking of money out of the pockets of the people without allowing any opportun ity for debate or division:, on the various items, is to reduce parliamentary govern ment to a mere travesty.
– But the honorable member will recollect that it was contended that protection is not taxation.
– I remember the honorable member for Melbourne Ports making that assertion ; and the only person who could adequately express my feelings on that point is the honorable member for
Robertson. As to paragraph c of the proposed standing order, it is rather a ridiculous proposal that an Opposition, which may comprise any number up to twentythree, shall be dragooned by twenty-four members of the dominant party. I do not object to a reasonable form of closure, if the Government insist on a standing order of the kind ; but to provide that it may be applied by a number less than a quorum of the House, is to place undue power in the hands of the Ministry for the time being. It has been said that the number required in the House of Commons to enforce a similar rule, is smaller in proportion than that now proposed for this House ; but we must recollect that the enormous number of members of the House of Commons renders it impossible for more than half of them to be seated in the Chamber at the same time. That necessitates at least one-third of the members of the House of Commons being continually absent; and only on very rare occasions is there an attendance of over two-thirds.
– And forty members is a quorum in the House of Commons.
– When we recollect that fact, I do not think that the proportion which might be useful and necessary in the House of Commons, is at all a proper proportion for this House. The proportion I name in the amendment makes it imperative that the consent of more than a mere quorum shall be necessary to apply the closure. Then even a minority can rely on the probability that, in the fiercest party fight, there will be some members on the Government side who, while desirous to push a particular measure through, will decline to go the length of suppressing free speech. The minimum number which I name will conserve to some extent the opportunity to the minority to make themselves heard, and prevent any undue suppression of debate or of opinion. I enter my emphatic protest against the introduction of this standing order and against the manner and the time of its introduction. It is, I believe, absolutely without precedent to introduce a proposal of the kind in the middle of a fierce debate on a controversial question ; even if there be a precedent it must be a bad one. I hope that when we go before the electors the new Parliament will deal with the question of the Standing Orders as a whole, and, while removing any “ gagging “ proposals that may now be introduced, will at the same time strike out any obsolete forms which may give one or two obstructionists an opportunity to prevent this House from exercising its usefulness.
– If I submit all the proposals of the [honorable member for Wannon as one amendment I shall preclude certain other honorable members from submitting amendments which they have expressed a desire to introduce. I propose therefore to now submit only the first amendment, as follows: -
That in paragraph a, line 4, the word “ member “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Minister, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees as the case may require.”
When I put that question the House will understand that, until it has been disposed of one way or the other,” the debate will be confined strictly to the particular amendment.
– I understand that the honorable member for Wannon intended to submit only one amendment at a time, and that the three amendments are now accidentally before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Wannon may do what he pleases. If the honorable member decides to have the first amendment submitted, some other honorable members may move the other two.
– My desire is that these amendments shall be submitted as a whole. I do not_ desire, however, to reStrict honorable members in any shape or form. I understand that, having spoken to the general question, I shall be precluded from moving any further amendment. If that be so, I shall be deprived of their assistance in submitting these amendments, and therefore I move them as a whole. I shall be glad to fall in with any proposal which will give other honorable members absolute freedom to express their opinion.
– I propose to leave the ground clear for other honorable members, and, therefore, to take the course I have indicated in placing before the House just now only the first of the three amendments.
– I am afraid that we may get into some difficulty. I understand that it is the intention of Honorable members to submit amendments, and I should like it to be perfectly clear that they will be able to do so. I am now speaking’, not only of honorable members on the Opposition side, but also of honorable members on the Government side. On a previous occasion, in 1903, when we were dealing with the Standing Orders, the present Prime Minister recognised the difficulty honorable .members would be in in considering such matters in the House, and therefore wisely decided to have them remitted to Committee. If we were to go into Committee now, it would of course give no special advantage to the Opposition, considering that a distinct pledge has been given that the final vote shall be taken on Thursday. What is desired is that honorable members shall have a fair opportunity to have their amendments considered and, in view of the action of the present Prime Minister in 1903, I suggest that, considering the importance of the proposal before us, the effect of which will be to interfere with the rights and privileges of honorable members in a way unknown in this Parliament before, it would be wise to have it remitted to Committee of the Whole.
– Standing order 243 is as follows : -
If any motion be made in the House for any public aid or charge upon the people, the consideration and debate thereof may not be presently entered upon, but shall be adjourned till such further day as the House shall think fit to appoint, and then it shall be referred to a Committee of the whole House before any resolution or vote of the House do pass thereon.
Such questions as’ those indicated in that standing order must be dealt with in Committee ; they cannot otherwise be considered by the House. Beyond those questions, however, the matter rests entirely with the honorable member who submits the motion. On the occasion to which the honorable member for Macquarie referred, the Standing Orders, when brought up by the Standing Orders Committee, were referred to a Committee of the Whole for consideration ; and, in pursuance of that reference, they were considered in Committee. On the present occasion, if it had pleased the Prime Minister to move that the House do resolve itself into Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering the proposed standing order, he could have done so; but; as he has not done so, I know of no authority by which I can require him, , nor amy standing order by reason of which any honorable member can require him, to do so. The only way in which this matter could have been referred to a Committee of the Whole would have been bv the carrying of some amendment to that effect in the’ earlier part of the debate. As that has not been done, and. more particularly, as we have progressed so far in the discussion, I can- not conceive how we can refer this motion for final consideration to Committee. So far as the difficulty to which the honorable member for Macquarie referred is concerned, I think I can see my way clear as to any amendment that I can conceive of. I suggest that the point may be raised later on, if any serious difficulty should be experienced.
– Do I understand that the debate on the main question is closed ?
– By no means; the amendment is now open for discussion. Debate may take place upon it, and when that debate comes to an end and a vote is taken we shall revert to the consideration of the main question.
– I suggest that it would be better to deal with the main question first, and with the amendments afterwards. To deal with the amendments and subsequently come back to the main question will drag out the debate unnecessarily.
-I would point out to the Minister that if we were to proceed with the discussion of the main question none of those honorable members who had spoken could move amendments. The only honorable members who could move amendments would be those who had not spoken to the main question.
– I perceive that a serious difficulty may arise from this procedure. I presume that in an important matter of this kind we are all anxious to arrive at a satisfactory solution. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has suggested that we should deal with the main question at this stage, but you have pointed out that that would prevent an honorable member who had. spoken to the main question from moving amendments. I think that the best course would be to have the matter considered in Committee.
– I will ask the honorable member. to wait until the difficulty does arise before he asks me to deal with it.
– I would ask the honorable member for Wannon to withdraw his amendment, in order to enable me to move a prior amendment.
– I agree to do so temporarily.
Amendment, bv leave, withdrawn.
– I must say concerning the statement made by the Prime Minister as to how this matter had been proceeded with, and as to the arrangement come to with the members of the Opposition as to its treatment-
– I shall object to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Wannon being moved again, if the honorable member for North Sydney speaks to the main question.
– When, bv leave of the House, an amendment is withdrawn,, it no longer has any bearing upon the debate. Therefore we are back again to the position at which we were when dealing with the main question, and that only can be spoken to by the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I should have objected to the withdrawal of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Wannon had it not been that the honorable member for North Sydney said that he desired to move a prior amendment.
– Exactly ; if the honorable member for North Sydney desires to move an amendment, he can only do so by speaking to the main question, and in the course of his speech indicating the amendment which he desires to move.
– I understood from the honorable member’s remarks tEat he was going to move an amendment, and not that he was going to speak on the main question.
– The honorable member is going to do the only thing which he can do, that is to speak on the main question ; but I understand that in the course of his remarks he proposes to submit an amendment.
– I rose to speak to the main question, and I have no amendment to move. I do not know whether, if the honorable member for North Sydney moves an amendment, it will block me from speaking to the main question.
– The honorable member for North Sydney will, I understand, either in the course of his speech or at its conclusion, move an amendment. If that be done, the debate will be confined to that amendment.
– I shall be pleased to give way to the honorable member for Angas.
– I thank the honorable member for allowing me to speak now, as I may not be able to be present at the commencement of the proceedings tomorrow ; and I hope that the brevity of my remarks will compensate for any originality of matter. I can conceive of circumstances, in the case of a deliberative assembly, necessitating, after a long experience, the imposition’ of some limitation upon the absolute freedom of speech of its members. I can conceive, for instance, of the case of a Parliament that has had the experience of centuries, like the Imperial Parliament - that has grown practically out of all capacity to deal with the’ details of everything that is brought before it - details not only of a multitudinous character concerning the people of the United Kingdom, but complex matters relating to an Empire comprising various systems of Government, some unitary, some federal, and with various races, and with interests that touch almost all other countries of the world - being driven from sheer necessity to put some limitation upon the absolute and unfettered ( right of its members to discuss every matter submitted to it. But I cannot conceive that in the second session of a Parliament, under a Constitution conceived in very high hopes that we should be animated by mutual temperance and by a very high sense of patriotic duty, any necessity has arisen for members to impose a limitation upon freedom of discussion. I am unaware that anything has occurred during the four years when the first and second Parliaments of this Commonwealth have been in existence - that anything has occurred in the general debates - that necessitate the introduction of this closure proposal . And I do hold that such a restriction must not be introduced to meet the supposed necessities of any particular occasion. No amendment of our Standing Orders should be introduced on the assumption that there always will be a minority of this House prepared to render it impossible for the Government to carry on the business of the country. Certainly such a state of affairs does not exist at the present time. There is not the remotest justification for assuming that it does exist. But, even if the assumption of the Government were justified, before they introduced such a standing order as this they should tell the House that, in their opinion, minorities of this House always will so obstruct public business as to necessitate these limitations being placed upon debate. That is the only justification for the introduction of these measures. I say that the Government has, in the very fifth year of the existence of Federal government in Australia, impugned the verv Parliament which was created in such high hopes that we should be animated by temperance in debate and by the purest motives of patriotic duty. 1 do admit that there have been occasions upon which all. of us may have been too discursive-that we have, perhaps, as the poet says, “ drawn out the thread of our verbosity thinner than the staple of our argument;” or, as the- Vicar of Wakefield said of the ladies, we have ‘ 1 continued the conversation, while not the argument.” But, at the same time, I must say this : that there has been no wanton or wilful obstruction of public business. There has been no extended criticism that was not directed to specific and distinctly justifiable ends.
– The honorable and learned member was not here last week.
– But I know what was going on. Surely honorable members do not think that a rule is to be framed for a few exceptions. There is not a deliberative assembly in the world that would not have a code of rules limiting debate if the excesses of members were to be the limit of our duty in that respect. Loin.broso says in one of his works, that among statesmen - whom, by the way, he classifies with criminals - there are what are known as loues - that the sanity of a deliberative assembly is less than the average among those who compose it. And if that be so, there must be occasional excesses on both sides ; there must be occasional dispositions to long-windedness. But that does not justify such a strong and drastic amendment of our Standing Orders as has been proposed by the present Government. Honorable members must acknowledge that it is the duty of an Opposition to criticise. That duty must be discharged. It is all very well for the Government to introduce measures which they wish’ to put through as quickly as possible. It is the natural desire of .Governments to see that the measures which they father are successfully placed on the statute-book. But we know from the history of legislation, that if they were permitted to do that without criticism, the legislative mistakes which are now so numerous, would be much greater in number. As it is, from the mistakes which have been made in the passing of Acts of Parliament, the nature of the amendments that have to be introduced, and the unforeseen effects that much of our so-called beneficent legislation entails, there is an obligation upon us to exercise the greatest care in relation tothe measures introduced by any Govern- ment, and to criticise them with the utmost vigilance and pertinacity. If that be so, there must be times when the Government will complain of the criticism being a little more extensive than they thought was applicable to all the circumstances. But I ask honorable members to recollect that by passing this standing order we are placing a very great power, and one liable to be abused, iri’ the hands of a majority. It has been said, in the course of this debate, that majorities must rule. We all admit that. But at the same time we must acknowledge the right of the minority to be heard. Most of the opinions that have been accepted by the country were originally held and advocated by minorities. My honorable friends of the Labour Party were themselves at one time in a minority. They should remember, in the words of Carlyle, that “The truth that was yesterday a restless problem, is to-day become a belief burning to be uttered.” A minority is often the exponent of opinions which eventually will become the thoughts of majorities, and the prevailing policy of the country. But by introducing extreme proposals for the closure, you really, in a moment of temporary excitement, put it in the power of some majority absolutely to destroy the possibility of shedding additional light upon questions that will prove ultimately beneficial to the country. While we must check excessive debate when the clear necessity for doing so has arisen, we must not be precipitate in our action, nor guided by the so-called exigencies of a particular measure. The Committee was asked by the Government to pass about seventy out of, perhaps, one hundred clauses, which the Trade Marks Bill contains, but it will be found that there are scarcely two of those clauses which do not require the closest scrutiny. Moreover, the Bill has been founded upon a Bill which was introduced into the Imperial Parliament, and, after careful consideration, abandoned. The draftsman of the Bill before this House took for his guidance the Bill introduced into the House of Commons by Mr. Moulton in 1904; but that measure was objected to by the Chambers of Commerce in London, and by various expert associations, and was withdrawn, and a new Bill substituted, which has now been placed on the statute-book, and will become operative on the j st April, 1906. This measure is, in its essence, distinct from the Bill of 1904, which was abandoned, and upon which it is proposed to model the legislation of the Commonwealth. Is there any justification for introducing the closure to put a stop to debate on clauses which are objectionable when compared with the legislation recently, and practically unanimously, adopted by the Imperial Parliament? I make this statement with no desire to enter into a discussion of the merits of the Trade Marks Bill, but to show the need for recognising the strong sense of duty which may operate with an Opposition in protracting debate to lengths which may seem objectionable to a Government, though they may not go beyond the necessity of the occasion. If the power of applying the closure is placed in the hands of a majority, it will be liable to very great abuse, and we must remember that Parliament is seldom right in what it does. Honorable members seem to have forgotten that, right through the history of parliamentary government, the blunders committed have been far more numerous than the acts of which we can be proud. Parliament was wrong, for instance, in issuing general warrants. The House of Commons was wrong in claiming the right to judge its own privileges and ignoring the judgments of the Courts of Justice, which put some check on those privileges. It was wrong in imprisoning men who had petitioned in favour’ of certain public principles. This verv deliberative House of Commons was wrong in imposing a censorship on the press, and in enjoining the secrecy of debates. It was wrong in excluding strangers, and that was recognised by the refusal to enforce its standing order, which remained for many years “ like a rusty mail in monumental mockery.” The House of Commons has been wrong in many other matters within the memory of honorable members. Lecky, in his History of England in the Eighteenth Century, after a wide survey of the acts, history, and passions of the House of Commons, declares many of its measures and its temper to have been simply scandalous. At times, he says, many of its prerogatives savoured largely of despotism. Let me quote a passage from his work on this subject - and I instance the House of Commons as a deliberative assembly held by us in the highest esteem, whose character we respect, and whose records are available to us for many 3’ears past -
The abuse of the judicial functions that were properly and reasonably assumed by the House was scandalous and notorious. Even the occasional expulsions of members for corruption were often corrupt acts of a corrupt majority, perfectly indifferent to the evidence before them, and intent only on driving out an opponent
We may be told that nothing of that sort can occur nowadays ; that, under the principles of democracy, which we favour, and which have become so dear to the hearts and allegiance of us all, we cannot have these abuses of the powers of deliberative assemblies. But we are told by the same writer that -
There have been legislative bodies, constructed on the largest, freest, and most symmetrical plan, which have been passive instruments of despotism, and there have been others which, though saturated with corruption and disfigured by every description of anomaly, have never wholly lost their character.
So that we cannot claim that there is any safeguard in the extension of the suffrage to the widest possible limits - of which we on the Opposition side, as well as other honorable members, most heartily approve. Therefore, we should be cautious about placing unlimited power in the hands of the majority ; and about doing so at a time of tension, because power is certain to be abused in moments of tension, and, if conferred at a time of passion and apparent estrangement of parties, is likely to be soon abused. The introduction of the closure into the House of Commons in i88e has been referred to. May. I ask some of the Labour members if they remember the conditions under which it was introduced ? Do they remember that, from the time of the establishment of parliamentary government in England down to 1881, it was not thought’ necessary to put a power of this sort in the Standing Orders of the House of Commons? Do we so soon impugn the character of the Australian Parliament, which was inaugurated with such high’ hopes, and was to be a paragon for other deliberative bodies, as the most newly-created, and having the best and widest suffrage, that we consider it fitting to impose such limitations upon the freedom of debate, after only four or five years of its existence? Nothing has occurred in the history of this Parliament to justify such a reflection upon its morale and character as is implied by the introduction of this motion in a moment of petulancy. Do honorable members forget what led up to the introduction of the closure proposals in the House of Commons in t88i ? I remember the events fairly well. A Coercion Bill was introduced. What was its object? To limit freedom of speech; to put an end to the public discussion of matters of the utmost moment to one part of the United Kingdom ; to stop the discussion by the Parliament of the United Kingdom of proposals for the improvement of the land laws of Ireland. Mr. Gladstone’s Government refused, at 1 o’clock in the morning, to adjourn the discussion of the Coercion Bill, at the request of the Irish members, although the matter vitally affected the liberties of the Irish people, and touched the very essence of Magna Charta, so exceptional in geographical limitation was its application. The request being refused, justifiable obstruction sprang up, and lasted! for. about twenty-four hours,. ‘ The closure proposals were introduced, not owing to the general course of conduct of the House of Commons, but in order to apply the “ gag “ as an auxiliary to the passing of a measure, intended to suspend the right of public speech. If honorable members of this House are prepared to establish in Australia a precedent of that kind they will have to re-cast their interpretation of democracy and liberalism.
– Especially as every other Australian Legislature has adopted similar provisions.
– But no other Legislature has been so precipitate in its decision as was the House of Commons, where passion at the time ran high. Moreover, the House of Commons was composed, not of the representatives of electorates which are perfectly homogeneous in their character, as are the electorates of Australia. The House of Commons, for historic reasons, has been, characterized by lingering animosities and antipathies which do not exist in this Legislature. It appears to me that the Government decided to introduce their closure proposals in a moment of petulance, with the object of enabling them to precipitately pass a measure which was permitted to remain at the bottom of their programme for two months.
– We are all agreed that we cannot carry on unless we provide for some limitation of debate.
– No; we are not so agreed. Surely honorable members do not believe that the four years’ experience we have gained in this Parliament justifies such a complete reversal of the principle of the Standing Orders under which we have hitherto worked. This is one of those vicious proposals which have brought disaster in their train wherever they have been adopted.
– And yet the House of Commons continues to strengthen its closure provisions.
– Let us examine the results of the application of the closure in the British Parliament. What about the Education Act of last session? - Was that passed after free debate or not? Why is it that thousands of people have absolutely repudiated that law ? Simply because they say that it was passed without a full exposition of the case ‘ for conscience that could have been urged against it. It was passed at the instance of a philosophic weakling - Mr. Balfour.
– A philosophic power. .
– A man whom one must describe as wanting in backbone, and who is certainly not to be commended as a political example for the leader of this House. He is a grand man to talk, and a splendid philosopher, a man who can discuss every - thing under the sun. and who has a wide range of reading which is useful to himself but to no one else. He does not possess the grip of public affairs that is necessary in a Premier, and there are very few men who venture to say that he possesses the qualifications necessary to lead the Government of Great Britain.
– What has this to do with the motion ?
– Surely the honorable member can appreciate the analogy between the Education Act in England, and the Bill to the discussion of which it is intended to first apply the new standing order.
– The closure had nothing to do with the passing of the Education Act. If that measure had been discussed for twelve months it would still have been passed in its present shape.
– Then there must be a lot of sanctimonious hypocrisy about the press of Great Britain, because newspaper after newspaper has declared that the Bill was passed by means of the application of the closure. It was passed under the ten minutes’ rule, and what is that but the closure ?
– The Bill would not have been passed in ten years without the application of the closure.
– What I cannot tolerate is that the same liberalism which con demned the application of the closure in Great Britain in 1881 is now supporting its adoption in this Federal Parliament in the fourth year of its existence. There was obstruction in the Imperial Parliament before 1881. Between 1864 and 1874 there was the most persistent conservative obstruction to the Irish Church Disestablishment Act, and also to the Ballot Act. But was the closure introduced then? Certainly not. It was only in a moment of passion that the new rule was introduced in 1881 - a step that was subsequently deeply regretted. Lord Derby afterwards stated in the House of Lords that if it had not been for the very obstruction which .the introduction of the closure was intended to bring to an end, the Irish Land Purchase Act would never have been passed - an Act the development of which has done more for the pacification of Ireland than has any other measure passed during the past twenty-five years. I remember when I was a student at the Middle Temple in London, in 1887, the fierce opposition that was directed by a compact minority to the Transvaal Bill of that year. By a mistake - it was not designed by the members of the Imperial Parliament, who, in common with other Parliaments, although they make mistakes, are as a rule actuated by the very highest instincts of duty - that Bill made provision for an annexation pf territory which most men “thought should have been left to the Boers. It included a portion of Zulu territory, which, as between the British Parliament and the Boers, should have been left untouched. A very strong minority opposed. that Bill with such persistence that seventeen of them were suspended. Had these obstructive_tactics, directed to a perfectly justifiable end, been successful, Great Britain would never have been involved in the Zulu war, or in the two subsequent .wars in South Africa, the latter of which involved an outlay of ^250,000,000. I mention these facts to ‘show honorable members how little justifiable is the cocksure omniscience of the majority on some occasions. If we are going to reverse the principle of our Standing Orders, under which we have conducted our business fairly well, we ought to do so in a temperate moment, and after careful consideration, so that our action may not afterwards be regretted. The closure in South Australia has been referred to, and I wish to say that the provision made in the Legislature of that State was not introduced at a moment of crisis, or at a time of passion Or of strained temper,’ but has actually grown up with the Constitution. The closure in South Australia is’ safeguarded by an unwritten code of honour, under which no honorable member who has spoken on a subject can. afterwards vote for the application of the closure. That safeguard does not exist in the present case. I appeal to the Government to allow matters to stand as they are for the present, and to permit the Trade Marks Bill to be discussed on its merits with as much expedition as possible. If the Standing Orders are to be amended, let the change be made after careful consideration of all the circumstances, so that we may not subsequently, sorely regret our action.
– Before discussing the proposal of the Government, I should like to make a personal, explanation. Upon my arrival here last Wednesday morning I found the House in a great state of excitement over the Trade Marks Bill. I learned that the Prime Minister proposed to submit this motion at 2.30 p.m. that day, for the purpose of preventing honorable members from speaking at undue length upon the measure to which I have referred. I was given to understand that the Opposition intended to fight that proposal. Consequently, I had to determine the position that I would take up. As a result of inquiries, I found that the great bone of contention between the two parties was the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill. My investigations led me to believe that those provisions practically amounted to the extension of a preference to unionists. I was then led to consider what would be their effect upon the primary industries of Australia. I found that under their operation it would be possible to legally boycott the produce of non-unionists.
– Where did the honorable member discover that?
– That is the conclusion at which I honestly arrived.
– Did the honorable member come to that conclusion before he had read the Bill or afterwards ?
– After I had read the Bill. Naturally, I would not join obstructionists, without first weighing what would be the result of the legislation proposed. It seemed to me that under the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill unionists would be able to block expor tation - in other words, they would be able to compel all those who did not belong to unions to join those organizations - and that, in fact, the object of the Bill was neither more nor less than that which was sought to be attained in the proposal to extend a preference to unionists in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– That is quite pos- ‘sible. It appeared to me that a deliberate attempt was being made in another measure to grant a preference to unionists. I am perfectly aware that last session a similar proposal in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was very considerably amended. But I also recollect that that proposal was introduced by the right honorable member for Adelaide, and at a later stage was submitted by the present Prime Minister. I admit that subsequently the latter assisted to block the extension of a preference to unionists.
– Can the honorable ‘ member connect his argument with the question before the Chair?
– Yes. I am leading up to the reasons which prompted me to cast in my lot with the Opposition.
– That has no relevance to the question before the Chair.
– Upon a personal explanation, surely I am entitled to give mv reasons for following a certain course.
– If the honorable member has been misrepresented or misunderstood, he is perfectly entitled to do so.
– Not only have I been misrepresented, but honorable members upon this side have been similarly treated. It is for that reason, and because I reside in a distant State, that I feel it incumbent upon me to ‘defend my action. The newspapers in the remote States take very little notice of what is being done in this Parliament, until the election day comes round. Unless I am enabled to make my defence now, through Hansard, I shall be denied an opportunity to do so. Recollecting that the Prime Minister, when in Opposition, had opposed the granting of a preference to unionists-1-
– The honorable member is in error.
– The Prime Minister, in conjunction with three or four of the members of the present Government, as- sisted to make that preference valueless, according to the statements of the Labour representatives in this House.
– Majority rule.
– Consequently, I had to consider what was the object of the Prime Minister in submitting this proposal. It seemed to me that his action had been prompted by no other than a desire to force through the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill. The next point which demanded my attention was how such provisions would affect the primary industries of the country. I thought that under their operation wool and wheat might be brought down to the wharfs at Melbourne
– The honorable member must not discuss the provisions of the Trade Marks Bill.
– I am only assigning my reasons for deciding to vote for the Opposition.
– Does the honorable member think it is necessary to give reasons why he is associated with that body ?
– Undoubtedly. It would take a whole life-time of prayer to explain how I ever came to vote upon the opposite side of the House. I at once saw that under the union label clauses of the Trade Marks Bill unionists might refuse to handle produce grown by nonunionists, so as to force the latter into the ranks of their organizations. Believing that, in the interests of the country, it was highly objectionable that such provisions should be forced through the House in that manner, I had no alternative but to support the action taken by members of the Opposition. Turning to the question immediately under discussion, I would point out that a Standing Orders Committee has been in existence almost since the inception of the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not know whether it has presented any interim reports-
– It has.
– If so, I have not seen them. Certainly, I do not recollect any report having been submitted in favour of revised Standing Orders to deal with the matter to which the motion under consideration relates, I do not remember any occasion upon which a report by the Standing Orders Committee recommending the passing of closure proposals was submitted to the House.
– How could the honorable member recollect anything of the kind, when he is for the most part absent from the House ?
– I do not live within a few yards of the House, but when I do attend, I do not go to sleep on the benches. It appears to me that in the absence of exceptional circumstances, the action of the Government in introducing a proposition of this kind, without consulting the Standing Orders Committee, is a direct insult to the members of that body. That is one reason why I cannot support the motion. If it was fair and legitimate for the Government to bring forward this motion without being requested to do so by the Standing Orders Committee, there is no reason why they should not take work out of the hands of other Committees. For the sake of argument, supposing that the Prime Minister came to the conclusion that the- iron industry in Victoria was in a very depressed condition, he might feel disposed, instead of waiting for the report of the Tariff Commission, to say : “ Let us increase the Tariff to the extent of 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, for the benefit of those engaged in the industry. I have the closure at my command. The majority of honorable members are, I believe, protectionists: they will assist me. and we can force the proposal through.” That is another reason why this motion ought to be rejected.
– Then the “ stonewall “ was a free-trade blockade?
– We have been charged with “stone-walling.”
– No one has made such a charge against the honorable member.
– That is so. As a matter of fact, I rise to speak only when I feel that the question under consideration is being dealt with with undue haste. Every honorable member who is unbiased must admit that neither during the last nor the present session has amy legitimate cause arisen for the enforcement of the closure. The long debate which took place last week was in direct opposition to the Government proposal. Had the Labour Party during the brief time that it occupied the Government benches brought forward such a motion as this, what would have been the attitude of those now sitting on the front Treasury bench ? What action would have been taken by the Prime Minister, the Trea-. surer, and the Vice-President’ of the Executive Council ? Does any one imagine that -they would have been found supporting the motion ?
– It would not have been necessary for us to take action.
– It is certain that the Labour Government would not have dared to introduce such a motion, and that, even if they had, they would not have carried it. I would remind the House that this subject is a very serious one, and that its consideration should not be marked by that levity which is now being displayed by honorable members in the Ministerial corner. No doubt, after the arduous work of last week, they feel like schoolboys released for a holiday, but I would remind them that honorable members of the Opposition regard the Government proposal as one to interfere with the rights of the minority. The minority have rights just as the majority have, and when we find honorable members, simply because they happen to be in a numerical majority, paying not the slightest attention to the arguments advanced by the other side - relying on brute force, and notupon fair argument - it does not say much for their sense of fair play. There are only one or two other points upon which I desire to touch. I should like to point out that the closure proposals introduced in the House of Commons were subject to the proviso that they should be applied only with the consent of Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees, as the case might be. There is no such proviso to the proposal now before us. I believe that the motion has been honestly brought’ forward, but that it has been submitted at the wrong time. If it was felt that such a proposition was necessary, it should Rave been submitted at the commencement of the session. But I do think that the amendment which has been suggested by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne - that the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, and not an irresponsible member, shall have the power of deciding whether or not the question shall be put - is well worthy of consideration). Certainly it shall have my earnest support.
– That ought to settle it.
– I do not know whether that will settle the proposal or not, but I certainly think it is deserving of the utmost consideration from any fair-minded and” intelligent man. We have been told that by means of the closure the Prime Minister of England put through the exist ing Education Act. Until the last twelve months Mr. Balfour had one of the largest majorities which any English. Prime Minister ever had. He has seen that majority diminish, and I believe that the next general election will result in not only the disappearance of it altogether, but in his own disappearance from the proud position which he holds. Seeing that the use of the closure is to a very great extent accelerating the downfall of Mr. Balfour, I can only trust that if the Prime Minister of Australia succeeds in carrying this motion, and uses the closure to force through the obnoxious union label clauses, he will meet with a similar fate, and that when he does die politically he will die for ever.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fuller) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It will be within the recollection of the House that recently three honorable members resigned from the Standing Orders Committee. I am waiting to see whether the Government intend, as they did in the case of the honorable member for Gippsland, to move their discharge from that body.
– At their request I shall do so, but not otherwise.
– May I do it with the- concurrence of the House?
– I think it has to be done bv the leader of the House.
– I should like your instruction on that point, sir.
– The motion may be moved by any honorable member; but I would remind the honorable member that there is now a motion before the Chair. If that be withdrawn, the honorable member can do what he desires to do, but not otherwise.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the honorable members for Corinella (Mr. McCay), for East Sydney (Mr. Reid), and for North Sydney (Mr. Dugald Thomson), be respectively discharged from attendance on the Standing Orders Committee.
– I rise to oppose the discharge of these three honorable members from attendance on the Standing Orders Committee. They were elected officers of the House until the end of this Parliament, and have no right to retire because they are piqued, unless they are discharged by the whole House.
– We are now going to do that.
– They are not going to be discharged with my help.
– I cannot refuse to listen to opposition to the motion, but the common course is, as a matter of courtesy, to give leave to any honorable member to withdraw from a Select Committee. Of course, the House has a right to do as it pleases in the matter.
– I regret that the honorable member for North Sydney and the honorable and learned member for Corinella desire tq be discharged from the Standing Orders Committee, because they have both taken a keen interest in its proceedings. During a period of five years, the right honorable member for East Sydney has attended only one meeting, and. I do not regret his resignation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise to draw the attention of the Government to what I consider the brutal treatment of honorable members by servants of the New South Wales Commissioners for Railways. It i’s well known that the members of the House are expected to be here whenever the call of duty demands their presence, no matter what part of Australia they may happen to be in. When I was away in my constituency last week on public business, by prior arrangement, I endeavoured to respond to a call of duty at the House on Monday last. I had to travel a distance of 1,100 miles without a break practically, being on the train forty-seven and a half out of fifty-three and a half hours. When I arrived in Sydney on Sunday, I was not quite certain as to whether it was imperative for me to be here on Monday, but upon reaching my home I found that
I ought to be here on that day, and therefore I determined to make the through journey. On my arrival at Redfern station a quarter of an hour before it was time for the train to start, I, not having booked a sleeping berth, applied to the stationmaster for some accommodation, in order to enable me to travel to the Seat of Government, with the result that I learned that there was a full berthing list. As there was another gentleman as well as myself seeking a sleeping-berth, I asked the stationmaster to set aside a compartment, so that we could travel as we are expected to travel, but he refused to do that. We then asked if he would give up a second-class compartment, so (hat we could sleep during the journey, being quite prepared to put up with the inconvenience, but that also was refused. Just as the train was about to leave the station, I and this gentleman from Ceylon, who will return with a bad impression of our travelling facilities, were thrust into a single compartment, without lavatorv or other convenience. As this gentleman had come from a hot climate, I let him have the seat while I lay upon the floor, just as if I were a beast shipped in a truck to arrive at my destination.
– Had the honorable member a rug?
– I had neither rugs nor anything else. Singular to say, owing to the weather being warm, it was the first time I had come from home without rug or top-coat. I had to lie on the floor of the carriage tomy physical injury. I am now suffering from pains which I had never previously experienced. I am suffering from rheumatic pains and stiffening of the muscles. This is, I think, a legitimate complaint, becausethe discourtesy which is shown to the members of the Commonwealth Parliament by the Railways Commissioners and their servants is not meted out to any other section of the community. I can say without hesitation that the Federal members are not treated fairly, either by the Railways Commis- sioners of New South Wales or of the other States through which they have to travel, lt is about time that due “respect should be demanded for them. Further, I should like to sav that, so far as I know, every member of this House should be regarded as the eoual of every other member, and should, without having to demand them, be accorded the same privileges, no matter what his position in this House may be. I say without hesitation that there is favoritism of the most pronounced type shown by the Railways Commissioners and some of their servants. Honorable members who do not carry with them some official authority are not treated as are those who are in authority, or as the public generally. As we must travel to get here we should be at least able to do so under such conditions as will enable us to arrive at this House physically, as well as mentally, able to perform our duties. I appeal to the Prime Minister to let the States Governments know, once and for all, that so long as the Commonwealth pays for the passages of the members of this House, they have a right to expect courtesy, respect, and attention ; and that, if they cannot claim privileges equal to those granted by the Railways Departments of the States to the members of States Parliaments, the Commonwealth pays handsomely for the services rendered by those Departments. I understand that the amount paid for each member of the Federal Parliament is about. £60 a year. As we have to travel week by week, and month by month, to attend our duties in this House, we are not. likely to do very much other travelling, and in this respect we obtain nothing like value for the money paid on, our account to the Railways Departments of the States. Further, I believe that no less than twenty members of this House hold life passes, and there is an obligation on the Railways Departments of the States to which they belong to carry them without charge to the Commonwealth. I am, satisfied that the Minister of Home Affairs will recognise the justice of the appeal I make. The least we can expect is to be given a compartment when the sleeping carriages are full. If not. it is about time the Commonwealth came to some understanding with the States Governments to provide the conveniences which Federal members are entitled to expect. I cannot believe that the Railways Commissioners of the different States can be aware of what takes place, or thev would not tolerate the treatment accorded to Federal members bv their officers.
– Would not the Department supply the honorable member with a rug;?
– I made an appeal at Moss Vale to the gentleman in charge of the sleeping car. 1 must say of these men that their attention to travellers is unfor tunately measured by other considerations than that of doing what is right to individuals. It is every day becoming more evident on our railways and elsewhere that the man who is unable to put his hand into his pocket for tips is not treated in the same way as wealthier persons, who are better able to tip. I pleaded for a rug and a pillow. The porter found me a rug, and said that he had no pillow. The rug was very much worn, and there was not verymuch, warmth in it. I asked the honorable member for Robertson, who was in a sleeping car, to appeal to this gentleman to find me a pillow. By sitting up until we arrived at Goulburn, I found that, although he had said he had not a pillow, the honorable member for Robertson prevailed upon him to give me something on which I could rest mv head. By appealing and by remaining awake for half the night, I was able to get something on which to lay my head other than the bare boards. I have stated the facts of the case, and, in my opinion, they disclose scandalous and brutal treatment when one considers that I had made a journey of 1,100 miles, occupying 47J hours, to attend my duties here.
– In answer to the statements made by the honorable member for Gwydir, I should like to say. as a frequent traveller, that I have never observed any ‘ discourtesy on the part of the railways officials. On the contrary, I think that everything we can reasonably expect is done for us. It is most unfortunate that the honorable member should have had a very long journey before, but the railways officials could have known nothing of that. Again, it would appear that the honorable member relied upon the chance of obtaining a sleeping berth. If he had been able to say that the use of a sleeping berth was not granted to him when one was vacant, a very different condition of affairs would have been disclosed. It appears that the honorable member turned up at the station a quarter of an hour before the express started, when, unfortunately, the sleeping carriages seem to have been full. I am afraid that that experience has befallen myself. It must be remembered that the sleeping cars provide accommodation only for so many passengers. It is most unfortunate that the honorable member for Gwydir should not have been able to obtain a night’s rest, but I do not think that his experience in this case should have been brought forward as a complaint against those employed in the railway service. I know that on Monday and Friday nights, the nights on which honorable members usually travel to and from Melbourne, a car is set apart for their use. This is done largely with a view to convenience the general public, in order that they shall not be disturbed by having the ordinary number of berths, which are generally left vacant, appropriated by a rush of honorable members. In the circumstances, after reflection, and when he has recovered from the nervous irritation due to some fortyseven or forty-eight hours travelling, the honorable member must see that the fault hardly lies with those who had control of the train arrangements. So far as the Commissioners are concerned, they could not have been aware of the facts related by the honorable member. The honorable member’s late arrival gave those in charge of the train no opportunity^ to make arrangements to meet an overplus of passengers demanding sleeping accommodation. I understand! that plenty of good seats could be found on the train, but there was no room in the sleepers. The fact that he could not obtain a sleeping berth seems to be the only ground of complaint which the honorable member has, and, in view of his late arrival at the station, that difficulty was one which could hardly have been overcome.
– The. honorable member for Gwydir is not the only member of this House who has reason to complain of the accommodation provided for Federal members. On Tuesday last one of the House .attendants booked passages for my wife and myself by the express to Adelaide on Friday. One would think that that gave the Department fair notice. We were told that the cars were full, but that the officials would see what could ‘ be done. When we went down on the Friday, however, we found that no provision had been made for us. I may say that, only a few minutes before, the attendant had endeavoured to ascertain whether a berth could be obtained for my wife, because, under the circumstances, I myself did -not intend to travel. I asked the booking clerk, who, of course, I did not blame in the matter, whether a compartment could be provided, and, while he declared that that could not be done, he promised to arrange so that my wife could travel. I may further say that some time ago, when the honorable member for Boothby and myself de sired to go to Adelaide to attend a meeting, we found the sleeping car full, and only after the greatest difficulty did we get a compartment, in which we had to travel without even a pillow on which to lay our heads. Surely better provision ought to be made. All I can say is that if the arrangements are not altered in this respect, I shall not undertake to travel all those hundreds of miles in order to keep a House. This travelling is most trying with the best of accommodation, and I refuse to risk injury to my health by travelling with the worst. On the occasion to which) I have referred I caught a severe cold, which, a fortnight later, laid me up, and compelled me to call in medical advice. During the whole of last session members of the Labour- Party had nearly always to travel with strangers from Adelaide, while certain other members of this Parliament had two-berth compartments to themselves. The same sort of thing has occurred this year; the utmost favoritism has been shown. We are informed that we cannot apply for berths except week by week ; and when we do obtain them we are, as I say, distributed amongst strangers. Not very long ago the honorable member for Grey and myself, when travelling to Adelaide, were given the smoking compartment, and Ave were quite satisfied. The same thing occurred on the return journey, though, before we started, we sti- >pulated that if another car were put on we were to have berths in it. But, although another car was put on, and certain members of this Parliament were given twoberth compartments, the honorable member for Grey and myself were placed among strangers. If I am fairly treated, I am easily satisfied. If there is any special traffic, I am quite content with a berth in a compartment, instead of in the sleeping car. I am always ready, if I happen to have a lower berth, to hand it over to any elderly gentleman or other person who seems to require it more than myself. I do not think we ought to be put in the position of having to make complaints either to the railway officials or in this House. I may say that the arrangements are a little better at the Adel aide end just, now, but at the Melbourne end they are as bad as ever.
– They are better at the Adelaide end since there has been a Labour Premier.
– I have never applied to the Premier of South Australia in connexion with this matter, though I am sure that, if I did, he would see justice done. I do not think it desirable to go beyond the officials or the Railway Commissioners, though, as I said before, it ought not to be necessary to make any complaint. Proper provision ought to be made by the Government to enable members to travel in’ reasonable comfort. If a member complains on behalf of his fellow-members, he is not treated with very much respect by the railway officials. I must say that the car conductors display the utmost courtesy, and never make the slightest difference between Labour members and others.
– Why should they?
– There ought to be no favoritism, and I desire the Government to impress on the railway officials that all members of this Parliament ‘are; on an equality. I forgot to mention that last Friday Senator Guthrie, who had booked a return berth to Adelaide, did not travel, but, in spite of the fact that a berth was thus left vacant, I was unable to obtain one. If I am not properly and courteously treated in the future I propose to take a step the example of which I hope honorable members will follow. I shall book a berth every day of the week, whether I intend to travel or not, and thus apply the only remedy within my power. I have always expressed my willingness to travel with strangers if a compartment is provided for some of the Labour Party. As you know, Mr. Speaker, members of Parliament do a good deal of their work when travelling, and the party of which I am a member have often to deal with business which they do not care to discuss in the presence of strangers. We cannot expect the same accommodation to be given on the Adelaide line as on the New South Wales line, considering the larger number of New South Wales members who travel. I trust that the Government will see that better accommodation is provided for members in the future.
– I have always experienced good treatment when travelling between New South Wales and Melbourne, but not so when travelling between Melbourne and Adelaide. The last time I went to Adelaide, on my way to Western Australia, I got a berth only by the courtesy of the President of the Senate, who gave me one which he had at his disposal j and on a return trip from Adelaide I had no berth at all. It is quite time members of this Parliament knew whether their railway passes are intended to command a berth whenever travelling from one State to another.
– I have no personal complaint to make, but, in view of what has been said to-night, I should like to draw attention to a remark which I heard made by the station-master of Redfern station, who appears to have been one of the chief offenders in the case of the honorable member for Gwydir. A number of riflemen were travelling through Sydney to the Williamstown meeting, and the honorable member for Cowper, another honorable member whom I forget, and myself went to the station-master to see if better accommodation could not be provided for the men. The station-master convinced us that no better accommodation could be given, and with his explanation we were quite satisfied. He, in the presence of a number of people, said that Commonwealth orders had no cash value. This remark would naturally, lead the people standing around to understand that Commonwealth members or Commonwealth servants were travelling at the charge of the State. If it can be proved that the Commonwealth is not paying the Railways Departments a sufficient sum, we should, in my opinion, ascertain what ought to be paid, and pay. it. Of course, it will have to come out of the pockets of the taxpayers in the long run. But Tet the impression be removed from the minds of the officials that the . Commonwealth owes the Railways Departments anything for services performed. It is most humiliating for a member of the Commonwealth Parliament to have to stand on a crowded pla’tform and hear such a remark made as that which I have quoted. Personally, I do not often travel between my constituency and the Seat of Government. I came to Melbourne at the opening of Parliament, and have not been back home since, nor shall I return till the session closes. I do not think that either I or any other Queensland member is getting anything like value for the amount paid by the Commonwealth for my railway pass. It is no pleasure to travel long distances. It takes me fifty-one hours to come from my Home to Melbourne. It is only proper that a man who is forced to travel such long distances should get all the comfort that can be afforded. For my own part, I mav say that I have had such comforts ; but I wish it to be understood by the railways officials, as well as by. the public, that whatever accommodation I do receive has not been at the charge of any State, but that the Commonwealth has paid for it.
– It seems to be understood in most of the States that our railway passes are “ dead-head “ passes,, and that the Commonwealth pays nothing for them. I should think it would be better to withdraw the passes altogether, and to pay honorable members an allowance of £50 or £100 a year each, out of which they could pay their own travelling expenses. I am quite sure that I have not had £10 worth of travelling out of my railway pass in any year. I travel very little; only when it is necessary for me to do so. But T object to being looked upon as a “dead-head,” seeing that the Commonwealth pays . £60 a year for my pass. Either we, as Federal members, are entitled to passes or we axe not. If there is any trouble ahout them, let the Government call in the passes, and grant us an allowance, out of which we can pay our travelling expenses like ordinary passengers.
– In all probability what has been said will be sent on to the Railways Departments concerned. I wish to confirm the statement of the honorable member for Gwydir. I saw him come upon the platform at Sydney, and I know that there was time to make up a berth for him, because one of the attendants had offered to make one up for me. I, however, said that there was no need to do so, as I was otherwise provided for. Personally, I have no complaint to make with regard tothe travelling on my line. I can also support what has been said by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I consider that the accommodation on the Adelaide side is abominable. When I was last in Adelaide I was told that there was no sleeping berth for me. I made it my business to go to the officials, and told them that I should refuse to travel unless a sleeping berth were provided. Then they found one for me. There must be something wrong when such a state of things can occur, Iwas also informed on a former occasion that the President of the Senate has. two berths reserved for him, and that other passengers have had to go without berths in consequence. I think that it is very selfish, unbecoming, and unmanly of the President of the Senate to do so. I dare sav that after what has been said, there will be some improvement in the arrangements for honorable members. If the payment made is not sufficient, a larger grant should be made. Honorable members cannot be expected to travel long distances unless they are made fairly comfortable.
– I can assure honorable members that I sympathize with them in their desire that they shall obtain comfortable travelling accommodation. As the honorable member for Gwydir has said, it frequently happens that honorable members are called upon almost at a moment’s notice to go on journeys, and it is impossible for them under such circumstances to notify the officials some days beforehand that they will require sleeping accommodation. I “shall certainly make representations to the Railways Commissioners, asking them to see if proper accommodation can, under such circumstances,, be made for the members of this Parliament.
– I applied in plenty of time, and was told that there was no accommodation to spare,
– The matter certainly requires an explanation.
– The Minister will notice that the honorable member for Robertson indicates that a berth was offered to him about the time when I appealed for one.
– Of course, that is a matter in which some particular officer is concerned. But I hope, as I believe, that the Railways Commissioners will see that every facility is given to honorable members to secure comfortable travelling accommodation. I will take immediate steps to communicate with them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10. 48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051121_reps_2_29/>.