2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. McWILLIAMS presented a petition from the Mayor of Hobart, the Chairman of the Queensborough Town Board, the Chairman of the Tasmanian Tourists’ Association, the Chairman of the Lower Sandy Bay Road Trust, and land-owners and residents in the vicinity, praying the House not to sanction the retention of the rifle range at Queensborough.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister what business he proposes to take after the first Order of the Day has been disposed of?
– The Standing Orders of which I gave notice yesterday.
– In view of the extraordinarily long sittings of last week, will the Prime Minister see that the telegraph messengers and the boys fromthe Government Printing Office who were compelled to be on duty practically all the time, and who receive only weekly wages, are paid extra remuneration?
– The suggestion is a very humane and reasonable one, and I shall endeavour to give effect to it.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The required information is being obtained, and answers will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he is aware that -
Whether, under the circumstances, with a view to
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (a) The Trade Marks Bill is not based upon Mr. Moulton’s first Bill. Some suggestions were taken from Mr. Moulton’s Bill of 1904 (his second Bill). Mr. Moulton’s Bill of 1905 has been carefully watched through all its stages, and the amendments circulated by the Attorney-General were settled after a careful perusal of that Bill in its final form.
Bill contains any amendments of the Imperial Acts of 1883 and 1888 proposed by Mr. Moulton’s first Bill, and not included in the Imperial Trade Marks Act of 1905.
The Government does not think it necessary to withdraw the present Bill, which is new and up-to-date.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, in making provisions for any system of wireless telegraphy, he will take into consideration the suitability of Rottnest Island (already connected by cable with the mainland) as a site for a wireless telegraphy station?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes, the suitability of Rottnest Island as a site for a wireless telegraphy station will be taken into consideration by the Postmaster-General when making provision for any system of wireless telegraphy in the Commonwealth.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 5522), 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 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 ; 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 ‘ he 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.
– While under other circumstances I might have been prepared to speak at length on this important motion, under existing circumstances I do not feel disposed to occupy any large amount of time in discussing it. But considering the importance of the proposed new standing order, and the manner in which, if adopted, it will affect the privileges of honorable members, it is the duty of those of us who object to it to protest against this innovation in the strongest and most emphatic language that we can employ. In my opinion, the proposed new standing order will not only restrict, but will practically put an end to legitimate discussion by an Opposition when the Ministry in power has a strong body of supporters at its back, and that being so, I feel it my duty to strenuously oppose its adoption, in the interests of free speech, and the free expression of the opinions of the people. I take the further objection that the proposed1 standing order was brought forward at a time of passion and excitement, lt appears to me to be essentially one which, before submission to this House, should have received the approval of the Standing Orders Committee. It has, however, been introduced without the sanction of that Committee, to provide means for forcing through the House the trade union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill. Legislation in respect to trade marks is a power conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament, and the Government were therefore quite within their rights in introducing a Trade Marks Bill. But I have yet to learn that there has been any demand on the part of the people for the enactment of such provisions as are contained in Part VII. of that measure. T heard no reference to the trade union label during the elections, nor have any petitions been presented to the House in favour of its sanction by Parliament.
– Does not the honorable and learned member think it an important matter ?
– It is so important that I feel bound to oppose, by all means in my power, the new standing order, which has been proposed for the specific purpose of forcing it through the House without proper discussion. It appears to me that the proposal has been submitted with a view to enabling the Government to reward the Labour Party for the service which they are performing, in keeping Ministers in office.
– That has already been said about ten times. The honorable and learned member is guilty of tedious repetition.
– I have not previously expressed that opinion. The Prime Minister stated that, in consequence of the ob structive tactics adopted by the Opposition, the business of the country had been impeded, and that it was,, therefore, necessary to introduce the closure. But I fail to seethat there has been any obstruction of such a character as to justify the action of the Government. If the proposed new standing order be adopted, members who are now in a minority will be deprived of their rights as representatives of the people to fully criticise the measures submitted to them. It has been urged that the power now sought would not be used tyrannically, but I would point out that Ministers are only human, and that it is natural to suppose that they would make free use of the power placed in their hands, in order to carry out their own desires or to comply with the wishes of those upon whose support they are primarily dependent for their occupancy of office. We all recognise that we are not entitled to abuse the privileges we enjoy to the extent of impeding the legitimate business of the country. But under such a rule as that now proposed we should always be exposed to the risk of a misapplication of the powers conferred upon the Government, that is, with the object of stifling .legitimate criticism. The closure could be applied not only for the purpose of preventing an individual member from expressing hisviews, but with a view to debarring the whole of the members, of a party from taking part in an important debate. It cannot be denied that hostile criticism is very frequently productive of the best results,, and it is very undesirable that the facilities now offered for free debate should’ be unduly curtailed. It has been urged that in order to carry out our present system of Government, it is necessary that the majority should rule. We admit that, but we claim that minorities, as well as majorities, have their rights. The experience gained in Australian institutions has shown that minorities which have frequently carried on a. valiant fight, have secured the approval of the electors, and have eventually’ been converted ‘into majorities. In this particular instance^ the minority is neither small nor insignificant. It comprises a large number of members who claim to represent a very considerable body, if not a majority, of the electors. The Government will assume a very serious responsibility if, in obedience to the dictates of those who are keeping them in office, they stifle de- bate and prevent the free expression of the views of those who are opposed to their proposals. There is a very strong probability that pressure will be’ brought to bear upon the Government, not only by members of this House, but by outside organizations, to apply the closure. If such a condition of affairs be brought about, the representatives of the people will be placed in a most undesirable position, and serious trouble will ensue. Moreover, if the Government proposal be passed, it will reflect very seriously upon the character of the Legislature. As a Parliament, we have been in existence only four years, and yet the Government are in, effect declaring that the representatives of the people here are not capable of carrying on the business of the country without having the “ gag “ applied to them. It is most undesirable that the electors of the Commonwealth, who entertained such high expectations in regard to the career of prosperity upon which we should be launched when the Federation was ‘ established, should have their faith in their representative institutions shaken. Nothing could tend’ more strongly in that direction, however, than the adoption of the proposed standing order. The motion appears to have been drawn up in a moment of excitement. It is proposed -
That notwithstanding any provisions in the Standing Orders to the contrary, there be forthwith adopted the following standing order.
It seems to me that the Standing Orders,, which it is intended’ to supersede, or which in any way conflict with the proposed new order, should be clearly set forth, so that honorable members may be able to judge as to the exact extent” of the change that is to be made. We all know the circumstances under which the closure was adopted in the House of Commons. It is. true that it was at the instance of Mr. Gladstone that the closure was brought into effect. But that statesman had previously expressed himself very strongly against the adoption of any such measures. I propose to quote from the third series of Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, of 7th February. 1882. Upon the date referred to, Mr. Marriott, who delivered a speech in connexion with the adoption of a proposed new standing order providing for the application of the closure, said -
The Prime Minister referred to a certain article which he wrote in August, 1879, in a valuable publication, The Nineteenth Century, and in which he said - “There are abundant, contingencies in which obstruction of this kind has led to the removal of a perilous or an objectionable measure, and it is precisely in regard to cases where a party is small and the convictions strong, that the best defence of warrantable obstruction may be found. The House of Commons is, and I hope it ever will be, above all things, a free assembly. If so, it must be content to p.iv the price of freedom.”
Hitherto this Parliament has been regarded as a free assembly. Its members are elected upon the broadest franchise in the world, and it is an assembly in which honorable members are supposed to be able to ventilate the opinions of their constituents. I claim that we should be very chary in attempting to interfere with the freedom of speech of the representatives of the people. In this connexion I should like to make an appeal to. the members of the Labour Party, who,. I understand, with the exception of the honorable member for Kennedy, intend to vote for the proposal under considerations Need I remind them of what occurred in the Queensland Parliament only a few years ago ? I find that some of their members who at present occupy seats in this Parliament spoke very strongly upon the necessity for preserving freedom of speech in our legislative bodies. Their utterances on that occasion, when contrasted with their attitude towards this proposal, evidence a remarkable change of front. I might make many quotations in support of my statement, but I intend to confine myself to three. In the Legislative Assembly, upon 10th October, 1900, Mr. Stewart, now Senator Stewart, in speaking upon, a proposal to amend the Standing Orders, said -
I think every Member of this Chamber must feel that we have arrived at a crisis in the misgovernment of this Colony. I wonder whether the honorable gentleman who has introduced this resolution has considered what he is doing ? Has it dawned upon the intellect of the honorable gentleman - if he has any intellect-
Hon. D. H. Dalrymple. No, it is all monopolised by North Rockhampton.
Mr. STEWART. That in making this proposal he is making a deliberate attempt to subvert the institution of Parliament? I ask honorable gentlemen whether election to this House does not carry with it two inalienable rights, given to us by the Constitution of our country, written in the history of our country, and won by the blood of our forefathers on many a wellfought field - the right to speak and the right tcvote in this Assembly? I say honorable gentlemen on the other side have as much right to attempt to deprive us of our right to vote as to attempt to deprive us of our right to speak. I say this motion is the last resource of impotence.
I go further, and say it is an arrogant and indefensible prostitution of power. The honorable gentleman relies upon his servile majority. . . I ask the honorable gentleman does he believe that thirty members of this House have the right to deprive twenty-nine members of the right of speech? Can honorable members on the other side say to me, who has been returned to this House by a constituency, and granted by the Constitution of this country the right to come here and speak and vole - can honorable gentlemen opposite, by any mere act of theirs, abrogate the Constitution, arid, depriving me of the rights I hold under it, make a farce of parliamentary government? For that is exactly what this means, and what the Premier is attempting to do. He says that honorable members on this side have been obstructing the course of public business. Have we gone outside the Standing Orders? The Speaker would not permit us to do anything of the kind. We have only to use the weapons which the Constitution has given us, and the honorable gentleman with his big majority and in his impotence, has not been able to carry his measures, and therefore he resorts to the cowardly act of striking our weapons from our hands.
A little later the honorable member said -
Because we do not agree with honorable gentlemen opposite, we are to be silenced. It does not matter two straws to me what is done with me. It is the assault on the rights and liberties of my constituents that I resent. I say this is a direct attack on the liberties of the people of Queensland - upon their rights - through their representatives in this Chamber. What an arrogant position for Honorable gentlemen opposite to take up ! They say, “We have made up our minds.” The oracles have spoken, “ This shall be done, and you of the common herd over there shall have no voice in these matters at all.” If this motion is carried there will be an end of constitutional government - of representative government - and we will have an irresponsible oligarchy sitting on the other side of the House. I wonder if the Government contemplate what the result of this sort of business will be. Have they the slightest idea of that, or are they so blinded by their insane desire to force particular measures already referred to through this House? There is an old adage - “ Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.” -
It seems that the gods wish to destroy the present Government, and have therefore induced them to submit this mad proposition. The honorable member continued -
I look upon this as an omen of hope. There is “ the writing on the wall.” Jove is about to hurl his thunderbolt at the heads of honorable members opposite, and he first sends them raving mad. If they were not in the last stage of lunacy, they would never have proposed a motion nf this character.
I commend these .utterances to the VicePresident of the Executive Council and the Postmaster-General, who are the only representatives of the Government in the chamber. M.v next quotation is from a speech delivered by Senator Givens, who at the period in question represented the electorate of Cairns. He said -
Well, I would ask those honorable gentlemen to remember that when they attempt to gag any member of this House, they do not gag the individual only, but they deliberately gag the constituencies. What sort of a position will the constituencies be in if the motion of the Premier is carried? It will simply mean that after one or two members have spoken, all other members representing all other constituencies will be silenced. Suppose the honorable members for Bulloo and Nundah speak on a question, and I follow them on this side, it will then be competent for a member like the honorable member for Burnett to move, “ That the question be now put,” and the Government with a tyrannical majority behind them will be able to carry the motion. I do not think a proposal was ever put before any Parliament which appeals less to the common sense of members or of the electors, and I am certain a vast majority of the electors would resent this attempt to curtail the right of speech of the representatives they have sent here.
I feel satisfied that, from one end of Australia to the other, those who have sent us here resent the proposals of the Government. The only other quotation that I desire to make is from a. speech delivered bySenator Higgs, who at that time represented the electorate of Fortitude Valley. He said -
Why should honorable members opposite try to apply this instrument? If they do there is a Nemesis, and that Nemesis will show himself later on when honorable, gentlemen opposite may occupy different positions in this Chamber. I hope that if honorable members on this side ever hold the reins of Government, they will never act in the same tyrannical manner as the present Ministry is prepared to do.
I commend these utterances to the consideration of honorable members. I feel sure that what is being done by the Government, with the support1 of the Labour Party, will provoke resentment at the hands of the electors of the Commonwealth. The consideration- which members of the Opposition have bestowed upon measures brough before us does not entitle the Prime Minister to characterize our conduct as obstructive. I feel satisfied that the people of Australia who believe in our free institutions, and in the right of free criticism by their representatives in this Parliament, will visit upon the heads of those who are responsible for the introduction of the “ gag “ that condemnation which their action merits.
– As one who has been caught in the toils of this monster which intelligent men-designate the closure, but others call the “ gag,” perhaps I may be permitted to say a word or two upon the proposal under consideration. I feel that this assembly has progressed a considerable distance towards civilization. I do not desire to make more than a passing reference to what happened a day or two ago. In my opinion, that debate was a sin’gular tribute to the advanced state of civilization which we have reached. lt was, indeed, remarkable to find two armies - because we are virtually armies - facing each other for forty of fifty hours -without anything of a discreditable character occurring. Although an extreme amount of tolerance was exhibited by tlie Government and their supporters, I freely admit that, if an ungenerous statement was made during the course of the debate, the honorable member who was responsible for it was ready within a very brief period to apologize for his action and to express contrition. Passing away from that aspect of the case, I do not suppose that the views of an Opposition matter very much if they cannot enforce them. As long as they are in a minority their views can have no practical effect.
– The Government will desire the support of the Opposition when the Immigration Restriction Act Amendment Bill is under consideration.
– I am speaking of the Opposition in general terms. As to the opinions of honorable members of the Opposition, I would point out that almost every one of them has been a party to the application of the closure, and has approved of it.
– I repeat that nearly every honorable member of the Opposition has participated in the application of the closure, and that if they maintain the attitude which they took up as members of other Parliaments, they must recognise that the Government is entitled to their full assistance in seeking to pass Standing Orders which will prevent the House being sacrificed to the garrulity or vanity of any honorable member.
– Was the honorable member pleased with the application of the “ SaS “ t° himself as a member of the State Parliament of New South Wales?
– I think that it was right. No . speech that might have been made on that occasion could have affected the vote in question, and therefore the speech that I delivered was unnecessary from a practical point of view. The honorable member for Macquarie was a supporter of the Parkes Government which introduced the closure proposals in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and he has informed us that he did not vote on those proposals, because he was absent at a picnic. I am confident that had the vote been one to destroy a native industry, to bring disaster to the work of our own countrymen, or to do an injury to our farmers, the honorable member would have been in his place when it was taken. I make this passing reference to the honorable member, in order to show that he was either of the opinion that the proposals in question -were of no importance, or else approved of them. The honorable member has told us- that he was away at a. picnic -a social gathering of a kind which at times people have found disastrous - and it seems that he considered attendance at such a function more important than was hi? duty to be present in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales when the closure proposals were dealt with. Those who were members of the House at the time must be aware of the position which the late Sir Henry Parkes took up as the leader of his party, and of the attitude of the honorable member for Macquarie as a member of that party. Had Sir Henry Parkes declared that closure proposals were to be passed, would the honorable member have dared to say “ nay “ ? Imagine his daring to make that answer to such a political autocrat as Sir Henry Parkes !
– I voted against him when some of the honorable member’s party wished to sell the tramways.
– I was not then a member of the State Parliament. My desire is to deal with definite statements, and not to hark back to pre-historic times.
– Does the honorable member recollect the conference which took place at the back of the House? I shall tell honorable members something about that matter.
– I shall anticipate the honorable member’s reference to it. He has spoken more than once of the liberty that should be afforded honorable members. What liberty did he enjoy under the leadership of the late Sir Henry Parkes? When that honorable gentleman expressed his opinion with regard to any question,, not one member of his party - except, perhaps, such a man as the honorable member for North Sydney - would have dared to offer any resistance.
– I was never under the leadership of the late Sir Henry Parkes. I was not in the House at the t ime.
– A man of the character of the honorable member for North Sydney might at times have shown spasms of independence, even when under a leader such as was the late Sir Henry Parkes ; but, so far as I can judge character, no other honorable member of the Opposition would have done so. Passing away from, that aspect of the case, I would emphasize the point that Sir Henry Parkes - the greatest constitutionalist we have had- introduced closure proposals in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and that some honorable members, who have referred to this motion as being one to degrade the Parliament to a caucus, were members of that Assembly, and did not offer any protest. Another point is that from 3887, until their return to this Parliament, many of these honorable members, to a large extent, controlled the Government of New South Wales; but. notwithstanding what they have said during the last few days, in opposition to this motion, they; never dreamt of availing themselves of the power they possessed, even as Ministers, to repeal the Standing Orders in question.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the Federal. Government is the same as a unified Government, like that of New South Wales ?
– My experience of the present Commonwealth Government is that it is better than any we have had.
– The honorable member has not grasped my question.
– The honorable member knows that I sat here hour after hour last week without making an interjection. I was sorely tempted at times to do so, but felt that if I gave utterance to my thoughts, I should say things which were not polite. My first point is that, although some honorable members of the Opposition say that they do not approve of this motion, they not only failed to protest against the passing of a similar standing order in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, but allowed it to remain permanently in force, although they had the power to repeal it. What was the position last session? Every Honorable member of the Opposition believed at the time that there was an abuse of the rules of debate, and would have voted for the application of the closure. The present leader of the Opposition said, indeed, that he could not go on without such a standing order.
– The honorable member is in error.
– Then what did he say ?
– That he was in favour of a reasonable limitation of debate.
– Is not that exactly the position of the Government?
– In submitting these proposals the Government said that they were prepared to consider any amendment that would not interfere with their desire to bring about the triumph of the parliamentary institution over the recklessness or the vanity of the individual. We asked no more than that.
– The motion goes a long way beyond it.
– The charge against the Opposition is that they are playing the part of political skirt-dancers, for the moment we endeavour to pass Standing Orders desirable to make our parliamentary institution more satisfactory and more in consonance with their expressed opinions, they turn on their heels and scout the proposition.
– Does the honorable member mean to suggest that the leader of the Opposition is in the front row of the ballet ?
– I do not; but the honorable member is aware that almost every deliberative assemblyin the world has found it necessary to have a standing order of this description. So great is the vanity and thoughtlessness of the individual - so indifferent are many legislators to the wellbeing of the parliamentary institution when their self-advertisement is in one balance and the good of the institution in the other - that almost every Parliament has found it necessary to pass resolutions to cope with the difficulty. But I ask honorable members to view the situation as if no Government had previously submitted such a proposal. In this connexion I wish to make a passing reference to the honorable member for Wentworth, not because he has ever said anything better than any one else could say it, but because his persistent iteration affords an excellent example of the attitude of the Opposition, who speak so frequently of the liberty of representatives and the absolute importance of securing independence of expression and freedom of debate: Such sentiments have been expressed ad nauseam. Let us endeavour to analyze the attitude of the honorable member for Wentworth, who points to the members of the third party, and asserts that every question of public moment which comes before the people is submitted to1 the consideration of their caucus. We must not forget that the humblest member of that party has a right to speak at the caucus. The course of action to be followed by the party having been determined by the majority, the leader comes into the House and states their views.
– If this motion be passed, they will not have the same liberty in the House.
– If the honorable member will bear with me for a moment, I shall point out the position in which he stands. I am dealing only with facts, and have correctly stated the procedure of the caucus. I am prepared to acknowledge, as every member of that party- will do, that the presence of a third party of that kind would not be in keeping with an ideal assembly, such as Parliament was originally presumed to be - an Assembly devoid of any of those associations which have grown up in connexion with party government, and one in which every man was absolutely free to give expression at any length to his individual opinions and judgment. But we have not such an assembly, nor has any other country.
– It is good to hear the honorable gentleman defending the caucus.
– I am not; the party require no defence from me. I am simply dealing with the facts of the case; and .if honorable members can reply, I shall be glad to hear them. It is not my business to defend the third party in this House, nor is it their desire that I should assist them.
– Would the honorable gentleman quote the honorable member for Richmond with respect to that party?
– On various occasions I have discussed at length the question of Socialism, with regard to which I still entertain similar views, but no one has ever heard me discuss ungenerously the question of work or labour. I wish to deal with this matter with absolute fairness. I have spoken of what would be in the minds of all honorable members, as it is in the minds of a considerable number of people outside, if Parliament were an assembly in which every man was free to give expression to his own individual opinions under all circumstances. But we must always take the comparative view of these matters. An essay was once written on Machiavelli by one of the leaders of English literature. Now, Macaulay expressed ideas which apply exactly to the question of debate, and to the work of a Parliament which proposes to apply the closure. He was of opinion that no man could be expected to be purer than his day ; that a pure man was but a little better than his day ; but that, after all, it was our duty to judge men simply by the ideals of their own, time. He held that it was not fair to judge of the criminality or the virtue of one century by the ideals of another, and. bearing this point in mind, I wish honorable members to take a comparative view of the question of liberty. The word is one that has been used .during this debate until its repetition has become nauseous. The honorable member for Wentworth is one of those who have claimed the right of full individual liberty, and therefore I will take his case as an example, though* the House should remember that’ my remarks would fit equally well the case of any of the other illustrious members who are sitting opposite. At the last general election, a representative was needed for the constituency of Wentworth, and the honorable member’s name was submitted to the caucus of the foreign trade party. They wished to know if he.would obey the machine, should he be elected, vote to destroy Australian industry, and to drive as much work as, possible from Australia to be given to foreigners. He replied that he would do so, and the machine, om the understanding that he would obey implicitly in those matters, returned him to Parliament.
– What about the electors ?
– The foreign trade machine managed the election. If a walkingstick had been able to make the promise which the honorable member made, it would have been returned, even if George Washington had been the rival candidate.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean to say that the honorable member for Wentworth is a walking-stick?
– No; but prior to his election he was an unknown man. Whatever capacity or ability he may possess - and’ he has since shown himself capable of considerable garrulity - was still undiscovered, though I hope that he will live to be well known and more appreciated. The honorable member, like the rest of his party, had to approve of the programme of the machine, and to vote for it. He entered the House as a follower of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and when that gentleman has sauntered into the chamber, and made a speech, every other member of the party is compelled to confine himself to a re-hash of the statements of the leader.
– On this motion the’ right honorable member for East Sydney spoke after all the other members of his party.
– On this occasion the deputy leader of the party spoke for has leader. When the leader of the party has spoken, every member of the party must either voice the same views, or remain silent. If a subordinate member expressed an antagonistic opinion, he would have to leave the party, and the House. Who believes that any honorable member of the Opposition enjoys individual liberty, or dares to express an opinion in opposition to that of his leader? Honorable members opposite dare not made a speech antagonistic to the views of their leader. One man runs the show, and they have to obey him.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that these remarks relate to the question before the Chair?
– Yes,. The explanation is that honorable members opposite claim that the application of the closure would’ be an interference with their individual liberties, and I am showing that, under the system of party government, individual liberty to express opinion does not exist for them. Every politician knows that, and the remark applies more or less to the members of every party. What right has a private to dictate to a general? The private may think fie knows more than his general, but’ to obtain concerted action it is necessary that the will of the leader should be obeyed. Similarly, among the members, of the Free-trade, the Protectionist, and the Labour Parties, the necessity for cohesion to a great extent destroys individual liberty. The honorable member for
Wentworth is no more free as a member of the present Opposition than is a baggage mule attached to any arm of the British Forces is free. He, like other members of his party, is under the strictest discipline, and does not enjoy individual liberty in the expression of opinion. Reference has been made to the position of independent members, and, although I do not desire to obtrude personal reminiscences upon the House, I may say in this connexion that I was an independent member of the New South Wa-les Legislative Assembly for fifteen years. I knew the difference between free-trade and protection, and was returned as a _protectionist. I knew that foreign trade meant the removal of the Customs, duties and the substitution of direct taxation, which would greatly increase the taxation on farmers’ lands, and I was aware of the need for establishing native industry, so that on the main principle I voted with the protectionists. But I held the fantastical idea that a member of Parliament should under all circumstances follow his individual views. The horror of the situation of an ‘independent member is impossible to describe. Sometimes he fights with one party, and sometimes with another; but at the elections he is hunted by both,, and has nothing to depend upon but his own sense of rectitude and the intelligence of his constituents, whereby I was able to pull through. It is not given to every honorable member to have so honorable and intelligent a constituency as is mine. I could afford to take risks. But the existence of an independent member who has no machine behind him, and no party with him, who, year after year, fights for his own hand, and for his individual liberty, is the deadliest life to which a .representative, civilized Being can be condemned. Should the honorable member for Wentworth throw the machine to the wind’s, and act independently and against his party, Parliament would never see him again. Where, then, is his liberty? When his leader has spoken, there is practically an end to the debate. All that is left for followers is to make a weak re-hash of the leader’s trenchant statements, and to reassert ungrammatically what ‘ he has spoken wisely and eloquently. Their speeches, as it were, cover the question knee-deep in straw.
– The proposed standing order will effectively prevent even the leader of the party from speaking.
– If I thought that any party in Parliament would be so lost to :i sense of responsibility and duty as to use this standing order wrongly, I would have nothing to do with it. But we all know that when the closure is adopted there will be the greatest difficulty in obtaining the votes of honorable members for its application. The honorable and learned members for Werriwa and Illawarra have had a great deal to s,ay about the value of lengthy debate, but old parliamentary hands know that, although opinions may be altered by speeches in Parliament, votes never are so altered. The honorable member for Barrier suggested that honorable members might be permitted to hand in their speeches in writing, to save the time that would be occupied in delivering them, and the Legislatures of some of the more intelligent States of the American Union allow that practice. By its adoption, time would be saved, while the speeches which had been prepared would have the same educational value as the speeches which are now published in Hansard after delivery. Indeed, it has been suggested that, instead of imposing the closure, we could provide that no speech should be made until a vote had been taken, when, the matter having teen dealt with, any one “who thought it necessary to speak could do so.
– That is ridiculous.
– The arrangement does not seem to appeal to the honorable member ; but he cannot dispute the fact that, in twenty cases out of twenty-one, after the leader of the Government, the leader of the Opposition, and the leader of the third party have spoken, it can be ascertained exactly how the members of the three parties will vote.
– When the Reid Government brought down the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, honorable members of his own party voted against it.
– I am not speaking of matters of that kind. Honorable members claim that their speeches are literature which must be embalmed in Hansard. That publication is a sepulchre - a tomb. The people, as a rule, know, and wish to know, nothing about it. Once a speech gets into Hansard, no one looks it up, except, perhaps, an infatuated lady friend of the hon orable member who delivered it. On one occasion, when I was in the electorate of a member of the Opposition - I make this explanation, since honorable members will understand that the intelligence of the people there is not of a high order - I met several persons, and, after speaking on usual topics, such as the weather and the crops, I asked if any one there had Hansard. One of my auditors looked at me for a moment, and then he said, “ Jim Jones, down the street, has been very sick for a long while, and we did not know what was wrong with him - perhaps he has it ; but no one else has been troubled with the disease.” Honorable members regard their speeches as literature, but the opinions which have been expressed by them during the last three or four weeks would not appeal to the intelligence of a he-goat. They say that the closure must not be applied, because they -wish to make great tomes of the record of their speeches, so that the people can bury their jaws in it, and fill themselves with the windy words and illconsidered ideas of their representatives. Literature 1 I spoke a moment or two ago of Sir Henry Parkes. I had the rare privilege of being a close personal friend of that great and illustrious man. I visited him on one occasion when he was ill_ in bed. On going into his room I saw upon the small’ table at the side of his bed a Bible, a volume of Shakspeare, Motley’s Rise of the Dutch Republic, and a few other works. That was literature. There was no Hansard there. Outside Yarra Bend, and possibly Callan Park Asylum, in Sydney, no one reads Hansard, or wants to read it. What were our feelings last Sunday, after we had listened to the long speeches of honorable members opposite throughout the previous week. As I walked down one of the boulevards. I suddenly saw Parliament House in front of me. The evening sun was glinting upon its turreted towers, and I could imagine the golden bowers at the back of the House, but the speeches of honorable members had transformed this palatial building into a chamber of torture, and I had to shut my eyes, and turn down a side street. Such was the effect of the brilliant periods of the honorable member for Wentworth and others - magnificent in the mass, but paralyzing in detail. So far as Hansard is concerned, I believe that it would become a most valuable publication if the closure were applied to the debates in this House. If we could give the people homoeopathic doses of Hansard, they would appreciate it. If the speeches were restricted to the leader of the Government, the leader of the Opposition, and the leader of the third party, together with, one or two of the ablest members belonging to each section of the House, Hansard would become a highly valuable publication.
– Why not reduce the representation in Parliament to the leaders of parties?
– Virtually the decisions of Parliament rest upon the leaders of parties. If it were possible to publish in Hansard only three or four speeches bv the ablest men in the House, the public might read that publication, but when over the brilliant rhetoric of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the great speeches made by the able leaders of the House are tipped cart-loads of noxious literary rubbish, the value of Hansard is destroyed. Those who look for any good in it are like persons searching for a needle in a bundle of straw. Hansard reminds me of a French hen with feathers stuck out all over it.
– A foul insinuation !
– It looks as big as an emu, but when you pluck it, you find that it is all feathers and no bird. It has been said that the only way in which one man differentiates from another is in morals, intelligence, and knowledge. These three elements constitute the difference between man and the animal. I do not know what morality may have had to do with the success of some honorable members opposite at the elections, but I know that the electors believe, however unjustifiably, that their representatives are men of intelligence and knowledge. Of course, the foreign trade party would not return an intelligent man unless he agreed to join with others in doing all he could to destroy native industries, and to substitute land taxation for Customs duties. But, other things being equal, even the gentlemen about Sydnev who deliver most of their orations in broken English, would choose a man of intelligence and knowledge. If honorable members opposite are right in their contention that we ought not to provide for the termination of our debates within such a time that -intelligent and cultured men could last them Out, but that we should resort to a trial of strength, with all its brutalizing influences, what chance would a man like the honorable member for Wentworth have? If honorable members have their way, and it is to be a matter of sorrow and sweat and degradation, if we are to be condemned to listen to fifth-class English and’ interminable incoherent expressions, what chance would the honorable member for Wentworth have against’ Hackenschmidt ? When.it caine to a brutal struggle, the world’s wrestling champion could show his muscles and put the tape round his chest, and’ boast, with some reason, that he could last longer than any one else. We should have a House composed of athletes of the type of Peter Jackson or Jem Mace. If it were a question of brute strength - ‘and any one voting against the closure must aim at such a condition of affairs - where would the honorable member for Lang be in comparison with one of these pugilists? It should not be a question of brute strength in this Parliament, but superiority of intellect should prevail. Debates should offer a premium to intelligence, and the ablest, and not the strongest, man should win. Some honorable members urge that they should be permitted to speak at interminable length, that one of the qualifications of a member should be ability to pour out a hatful of inconsequential drivel to the House on every conceivable occasion. Speeches of inordinate length would not be tolerated in any other assembly in Australia outside of Parliament. I grant that the members of the Opposition are entitled to an opportunity to fully express their opinions, and no Parliament would ever refuse that privilege. So far as the closure is concerned, the difficulty is to induce honorable members to resort to it. The Parliament that would unjustifiably avail itself of the closure would be unworthy of the name. But, on the other hand’,” a Legislature that would’ sacrifice its value as an institution to the garrulity of individual members would forfeit all public respect. If a wind-bag finds his way into a municipal council, and talks for hour after hour, he is turned out. If half-a-dozen farmers assemble to discuss the question of building a bridge,, and a wind-bag appears on the scene and talks inordinately, they quickly get rid of him. If a number of persons meet upon a show ground to discuss the number of prizes to be given for sheep and other matters, they will quickly taboo any person who seeks to overwhelm them with his talk. The general public have sense, and I ask if Parliament is to be the only body lacking in that quality ? If some people are disposed to talk endlessly, is not Parliament to have the power to impose some limit upon their loquacity? I am sure that my constituents will tell me that I would not be justified in sacrificing the public interests to the long-windedness of honorable members opposite. Oppositions are all the same.
– They should not be here, I suppose?
– Of course they should. They are a necessary evil. Members of the Opposition are full of hope. They are like spendthrifts. They are ready to give a bill for ^1,000. When they come over to this side of the House, as they probably will in the course of 200 or 300 years, they will say : “ We gave you a bil I for £1,000; take £1 and give us a renewal for £999-“ Their position is similar to that of the leader of the Opposition, who told the people of New South Wales that if he were in power for one month there would be no more unemployed in that State. He occupied office for years, and left more unemployed than ever. I have shown honorable members that almost every great party leader in the world has been in favour of some measure for limiting debate in Parliament. That great statesman, Sir Henry Parkes, was in favour of it.
– He was not in favour of a proposal like that before us.
– He favoured closure rules even more stringent than those we propose. Several honorable members opposite, who were formerly members of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, permitted the closure provisions to remain “in force for thirteen years, and did not attempt to interfere with them. Honorable members’ situated1 as are those opposite have no ‘individual liberty. They dare not express the,ir opinion except within -,the strict lines of party policy. They are at the mercy of the machine, and, like soldiers, are’ under the control of their leader. If that be so, my case -is incontestable, Tn my opinion, licence ‘ in debate, any attempt to degrade Parliament bv the institution of a test, not of intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, instruction, oratory, and all those things which go to make a man great, and to render nations important and progressive, but of brutal physical endurance, should be resented. We are prepared to vote for a limitation of debate, not only in the interests of Parliament and the country, but in the interests of the more intelligent of honorable members themselves.
– If there be anything that a deliberative body is entitled to expect, it is that responsible Ministers should address themselves with proper decorum to the consideration of great questions. For some days, honor able members of the Opposition have waited to hear a Ministerial pronouncement upon this proposal, the adoption of which must inevitably result in the abolition of a great many of our liberties. If the arguments adduced by the VicePresident of the Executive Council are the only reasons which the Ministry can advance’ in support of this motion, it is not remarkable that they prefer to put them forward here - and that after considerable delay - rather than upon the public platform. For three-quarters of an hour we have listened to a speech, which, if it had emanated from this side of the House, would have been characterized as one of the most drivelling efforts at “ stone wall.” But because it has fallen from the lips of a Minister - who has apparently devoted himself with infinite care to the preparation of the gems of wit to which he has given expression - we must regard it as the best effort of which the Government are capable. If so, the position of the Ministry is indeed a sorT v one. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has assured us that no liberty is to be found in any corner of this House. He went on to say that any man who had not a machine behind him occupied a very difficult position. We mav occupy a sorry position if we have no machine behind us: but I submit that a Minister who has to submit to the dictation of a “machine” party is obviously no better off. During the past three-quarters of an hour,* the VicePresident of the Executive Council has given us a parody of Ministerial responsibility bv uttering views in which he does not believe, and in which this House knows that he does not believe. For :<nv man to occupy such a position is one of the sorriest spectacles that we can behold. The honorable Gentleman has declared that members of the Opposition have no more liberty of thought or of action than has a baggage mule. His statement reminds me very forcibly of an utterance by Frederick the Great. When he was asked why he occasionally put men who possessed no experience over the heads of others who had served in many campaigns, he replied that though baggage mules might have served in twenty campaigns, they were still baggage mules. If Frederick the Great had been here to-day. he would have said, in regard to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, “ He may have served in twenty campaigns, but he is a baggage mule still.” The honorable gentleman has been associated with many parties in New South Wales, not to their profit, but to his; for whenever there has been a critical division on hand, he has crossed the gangway. I do not think that we can ever seriously regard any utterance by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. The only serious address which, to my knowledge, he has attempted to make was one relating to the question of Socialism, shortly before the meeting of the House. At that time he was associated in the most intimate way with honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, who were then, as now, strongly opposed to the Labour Party, whose members are now assisting the Governments© force through these closure proposals. Upon that occasion he expressed himself as follows–
– The honorable member’s remarks have no relevance to the motion which is under consideration.
– I am merely referring to this matter incidentally, and to illustrate the fact that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is never in earnest. Only a fo,v weeks before he voted to displace the Reid-McLean Government, he expressed the hope that the alliance would last, and he went on to say : -
The fiscal question ought never to have divided up the parties, and he trusted it never would again do so, and separate him from men of the intellectuality, integrity, and high personal character of their guest of that evening.
At that time ne was referring to the leader ot the Opposition.
– I say the-same thing now. He is an able man. and honorable members opposite ought to appreciate him.
– We do. We also appreciate these one or two gleams of wisdom on the part of the honorable gentleman. It is a curious, thing that the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who has so confidently declared that his constituents will’ support him in his present attitude, has had some very severe strictures passed upon his recent treachery. Even the newspapers in his electorate have spoken in such a way as to indicate that he has forfeited their confidence. Oneorgan wrote of him as follows : -
Mr. Thomas Thomson Ewing deserves a paragraph all to himself.
– That is only the opinion of one man.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. But I would point out that the’ writer is an influential man, because all people do not regard a newspaper as merely expressing the opinions of one individual. The journal in question spoke of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in no complimentary terms. It stated : -
He threw over Mr. Reid and his anti-socialistic principles without an instant’s warning when the time appeared most ripe.
Most ripe for what? To get into his present position ! To retain his office he is prepared to advocate the “ gag “ or anything else that his masters in the corner may direct him to do. ‘ I think that -he has spoken too confidently of the way in which he will be able to gloss over his many shortcomings before his constituents. Since he took a “ header “ into the arms of the caucus his constituents have been only awaiting arc opportunity to eject him from his present exalted position of VicePresident of the Executive Council and Chief Jester of this House,. Of course, in private life, his cynicism is a matter which concerns honorable members only in so far as it affords amusement. But an exhibition of that cynicism, when it takes the form of a Ministerial utterance, is deplorable. He himself is best seized of his own qualities, his own limitations, and his own shortcomings. It was that knowledge, I suppose, which upon a former occasion - when he attempted to make a serious speech upon defence matters - prompted hint to say that “ All the cards are on the table.” I wish that upon the present occasion he had felt it his duty to assure us that there was nothing concealed up his sleeve. He certainly owes to us a mede of candour which was not evidenced ‘in the address which he has just delivered. Such speeches are neither useful nor wise. The honorable gentleman has made them before. Upon one occasion he spoke at great length, and after a preparation extending over some months^ of his present’ colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs. He then told the country that whilst he occupied a seat in this House, it would be his endeavour to get as far away from that honorable gentleman as he possibly could. At the present time, however, he is mostly concerned in securing a few of the emoluments enjoyed by the Minister of Trade and Customs.
M!r. Ewing.- The Minister of Trade and Customs is not in the Chamber at present. I can stand all the honorable member’s criticism.
– The honorable member can stand anything. He has the skin of a rhinoceros. He reminds, me verv forcibly of a phrase which Mr. J. H. Want, one of the finest men we had in New South Wales, applied to a man with a great deal more ability, and some of the honorable gentleman’s characteristics - I refer to Mr. B. R. Wise. Mr. Want was accused of speaking too severely of that gentleman, and in reply he said, “ Well, I must put it pretty roughly, you know. One cannot skin a rhinoceros with a fruit-knife.” That. is the position, which we must take up towards persons of the pachydermatous nature of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The honorable gentleman made a most serious contribution to the debate when he suggested that Hansard should be closured. No doubt he is extremely anxious that his remarks - which only become important when he chooses to transfer his allegiance and to join persons whom he has formerly denounced - should be suppressed. I can sympathize with the honorable gentleman in that connexion, although I cannot respect him for his anxiety. When certain statements have once been recorded in the pages of Hansard, it is surely to the interests of the electors that they should know the type of man who is responsible for them. An individual who can say as hard things of another as one can listen to and who can afterwards warm himself politically at the domestic hearth’ of the person whom he has denounced deserves an honest statement in Hansard. For my part, I most strenuously object to any closuring of that publication. I have no desire to concern myself any further with the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I repeat that if the Government can put forward no better arguments in support of their proposals than those which the honorable gentleman has advanced, they cannot expect their reasons to be seriously regarded by the country at large. We are the country’s-
– “ We are the country.”
– Look at the present anxiety of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to get as far away from the Minister of Trade and Customs as he possibly can.
– He is bound to him by a golden chain.
– He is bound by a golden chain, as the honorable member poetically expresses it. I regret that the VicePresident of the Executive Council is now about to leave the chamber.
– I think he is tired of listening to the honorable member.
– If so, he does not possess quite such a pachydermatous nature as I had credited him with possessing. I wish now to address myself more briefly than the VicePresident of the Executive Council has done to the motion before the House.
– Before the honorable member does so, I think that we ought to have the Vice-President of the Executive Council once more in the Chamber. [Quorum formed.]
– Since so much attention has been paid to the origin of this motion, I think that I shall be in order in expressing my own opinion as to, whether or not it is justified,, especially as, unlike that of the Ministry, it does hot represent the view of any one standing behind the curtain. Ministers maintain that the business of the session has not proceeded in this House, as well as it should have done. I do not think that that contention is by any means correct.. But let us, for the sake of argument, assume that it is. In that event, I say that the delay may have been due to one of two reasons, and that one of those reasons has been ignored, perhaps naturally, by the Government. If the business of the House has npt proceeded properly it is reasonable either to indict the management of the House, or the House itself. We have heard that the House has refused to do business, but we have heard nothing in denunication of the Government’s conduct of public business during the session. Naturally the Government cannot see their own shortcomings, and, even if they could, it is equally natural that thev would not be anxious to parade them. But we have a right to consider whether the conduct of the Government in dealing with the business of the House has not in itself contributed to whatever delay . has occurred. We know, for instance, that knowledge of a subject shortens discussion; the more knowledge the House collectively has in regard to any matter under discussion the greater is the probability of that discussion ‘ being brought to a speedy close. In order to allow that knowledge to be availed of, it is essential that business shall be taken iri its proper sequence. Can the Government say that, from time to time, they have given the House ample notice of the measures they have proposed to deal with, in order that honorable members might have full opportunity to make themselves conversant with the facts relating to them? We know that, as a matter of fact, the Government have not taken this simple precaution to insure brevity of. debate, and the speedy transaction, of business. Let us take, by way of illustration, the position in regard to the Trade Marks Bill, which, so far as its union label provisions are concerned, is solely responsible for the present motion. It was introduced originally in the early stages, of the session. Opposition was expected, and amendments were framed of a character that it would be difficult for the Ministry either to accede to, or reject. The Government promptly dropped the measure for the time being. At that lime the House was prepared to discuss the non-contentious provisions of the Bill, but the Government deliberately proceeded with other business, which was dealt with, I may say in passing, with far more expedition, than the Labour Party displayed in connexion with the consideration of certain measures last session. Towards the close of our consideration of that most necessary measure, the Appropriation Bill, members of the Government assured honorable members in the course of conversation, that the best way to secure the dropping of the Trade Marks Bill was. to pass that measure, and. so put them in a position to prorogue. But what happened ? The day after the passing of that Bill, the Government brought the Trade Marks Bill from the bottom of the noticepaper - where, according to their own private statements, we expected it to remain - to the top, and invited us to give immediate attention to it. Is that the way to expedite public business? Can a Ministry expect public business to proceed with reasonable promptitude when they hoodwink the House as to their intentions with regard to it? If there has been any delay in re- lation to that measure, the refusal of the Government to take the House into their confidence is a sufficient explanation. The Ministry must bear the responsibility for whatever delay has occurred, and, instead of asking the House to give up any of its liberties, should endeavour to be more tactful and straightforward in the conduct of the business of the Chamber. Another reason, apart altogether from the necessity of taking the business of the House in its proper sequence, for any delay that may have occurred is the conduct of Ministers themselves,. A great deal of the delay has been due to the Government having committed the indescribable folly of placing the conduct of business in the hands of a schoolmaster. I can characterize the AttorneyGeneral’s handling- of the business committed to his charge only as the effort of a pedagogue-to force his own views upon his pupils. The Opposition have certain rights and privileges, and it is their duty to act as the watch-do^, of the people in respect of all measures brought forward in the people’s House. That fact seems to be entirely ignored bv the AttorneyGeneral. When the honorable and learned member has recognised the constitutional rights of the Opposition, and when he has also recognised that if you desire to persuade a man to act with you it is wise to act towards him with common courtesy and tact, the business of the House will be dealt with with infinitely greater expedition. We should blame and punish the Attorney-General, and indeed the Government generally, for whatever delay has occurred. We certainly ought not to seek to further infringe the liberties of the House. The curious feature of the proposal now before the Chamber is that, not only has it been introduced to remedy difficulties which the Government’s own incapacity has brought about, but that it was introduced suddenly and without warrant in the middle of our consideration cf a measure of a highly controversial character. I say, without hesitation, that its introduction in such a way, and at such a time, constitutes one of the grayest scandals in the history of representative government in Australia. The three-party system of control’, which at present prevails in Australia, is one which the Prime Minister himself has described as subversive of representative government, and surely it is the duty of the Opposition, when we have the Prime Minister’s assurance on that point, to be especially careful that any controversial legislation brought before the House shall be passed not only by a majority of the House, but in accordance with “the feeling of the majority of the people. When the controversial part of the Bill, to which I have already referred, was brought before the House, the Opposition felt that only the exigencies of party government could make the passing of such a Bill possible in this so-called representative Chamber ; and that, although the Government, in their efforts to act as the humble tool of the Labour Party, might endeavour to force these provisions on to the statute-book of the Commonwealth, the people were absolutely opposed to them, and would be with us in endeavouring to prevent their passing. Surely, therefore, it was our duty to resist to the utmost such a. proposition. We resisted the Government proposal for a whole sitting, and I cannot say that our resistance was entirely unreasonable. On the first night of the sitting, at which the Bill was considered, the Opposition offered to agree to the passing of no less than fifty-seven clauses - probably the greatest measure of business that has been dealt with by this House in one night. The Attorney-General, worked up probably by the dignity of his position, thought that he would be able to enforce his merest whim on the House, and demanded that before rising we should pass every clause in the Bill except those relating to the union label. As the Senate had taken some weeks to discuss these clauses, we thought it only reasonable to devotesome attention to them, and were forced to sit all night in order to resist the AttorneyGeneral’s inordinately vain proposition. That is the history of the first consideration of the Bill last week, at which we are said to have been guilty of “stone-walling.” We rose eventually after the Attorney-General had been ba d 1 v beaten, and at the very next sitting the closure proposals were rushed upon us. The Opposition naturally wished to draw attention to the public scandal involved, and we sat down to a long debate. The Attorney-General told the House that he was determined that, these proposals should he passed absolutely as they stood before the House rose, and, having been forced into that position bv his stupid recklessness, we addressed ourselves to the Question from Thursday until Saturday at midnight. The House eventually rose, and the Prime Minister, disregarding his impetuous AttorneyGeneral, on Monday adjourned the
House, and offered us three days in which to consider these proposals. No sooner was that done than, the AttorneyGeneral proceeded to pose in the public . press as the hero of the situation. He boasts that “ alone he did it,” and that “ the great victory “ of the Government was gained by his resourcefulness and capacity. However, I do not wish to make further reference to so small a matter as his amour propre. If the Government secured a victory, the Attorney-General suffered a humiliating defeat; because, although he expressed himself as determined that honorable members should do a certain thing before the House rose, it is now more than a week since his statement was made, and what he said should be done has not yet been done - and that with the Government’s sanction. The Government, should not intrust the Attorney-General with the canduct of delicate business. He may, on occasion be an excellent Age leader, but he is not a leader for this House, and I suggest that the Government should substitute for him some more astute and capable person, such as the Postmaster-General, whose capacity, especially for subterranean work, is unquestioned. With regard to the charges of delay which have been made, I would point out that some honorable members can do more in a few minutes to cause obstruction and delay than other honorable members can do in hours. Two words uttered by the Attorney-General in the dictatorial tone which he is pleased to assume at times have caused more delay in this Chamber than the five-hours speeches of the honorable members for Darling and Gwydir.
– According to the Opposition, if the Attorney-General says nothing, he is wrong, while, if he speaks, he is wrong. Whatever he does is wrong.
– No doubt that is so, and some more capable Minister should be put’ in charge of the business of the House. Until that is done, the Government cannot blame the Opposition for any delay that may occur.
– The Attorney-General knows too much for the Opposition.
– They would not have had this standing order but for him.
– Is the Attorney-General, then, the author of this standing order ?
– According to the honorable member, he is.
– That statement is about’ as correct as the brief remarks of the honorable member usually are. I have not accused the Atorney-General of being the author of this standing order. I know that he is here to do what he is told. He has accepted a general retainer from the Labour Party, at a “fee of ,£1,500 per annum, the only stipulation being that his business outside the Chamber shall not be interfered with.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– It is an absolute statement of fact. The closure motion could not have originated with the AttorneyGeneral, because the honorable member for Bland formulated the whole proposition, and it was conveyed to the AttorneyGeneral.
– The honorable member for Bland has already denied in this Chamber that he had anything to do with the closure motion. Is the honorable member in order, therefore, in saying that he brought it in ?
– The honorable member for Wentworth must not repeat a statement which has been denied by the honorable member concerned.
– I am aware of that rule; but the honorable member for Maranoa did not. correctly report what I have said. The honorable member for Bland told us that he was approached by one of the Ministry, who showed him this proposed new standing order.
– Because the Government wanted to know whether the drafting conveyed what they understood to be the wishes of -he honorable member,
– The honorable member for Bland did not say anything of the sort. The honorable member is twisting his words.
– I am not. I have stated exactly what the honorable member for Bland said. The- AttorneyGeneral, therefore, cannot be accused of having conceived this project. He is not so anxious to have the Trade Marks Bill passed as is the honorable member for Bland, who has told us that the proposed standing order was put before him.
– The honorable member for Bland had no more to do with the introduction of the proposed standing order than the honorable member for Wentworth had.
– Those who were present during the long sittings of last week know that the honorable member for Bland did more to try to bring the discussion to an end than was done by any other honorable member. He raised one point of order after another in his endeavour to conclude the debate.
– The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– If I ‘am out of order, I have been led away by interjections ; but I think I have said enough to show where this proposition originated, and for what reason it has been brought forward. I wish now to address myself to the question as to what limitation of debate should be agreed to, if any be necessary. I have already shown that, in my judgment, no limitation can be deemed necessary until it has been proved that the government of the country has. been carried on in a way tending to the expedition of business. In trying to limit debate, we should surely endeavour to frame some rule which would punish those who unduly protract our discussions, instead of punishing the electors who wish to know how our decisions are arrived at. The electors cannot gain that information except by reading the debates which take place in this Chamber. The adoption of the caucus principle was the first incursion into their right to know the individual views of their representatives, and what is now proposed is a further incursion. The application of the closure will prevent the electors, who are our masters, from knowing whyit is that three of the Ministers have been left by the great bulk of their former supporters. Last year the Protectionist Party divided into two, the members of one-half sympathizing with the caucus party, and desiring office, and the members of the other half being for antiSocialism and good government. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council all belong to the first half, and are bringing forward tha proposal for the application of the closure, to which the rank and file of their half of the Protectionist Party, together with the members of the Opposition, are now making such a violent resistance. The country naturally wishes to know what excuse there is for the action of these Ministers beyond the emoluments of office : but, if the closure be applied, it will have no opportunity to obtain that information. The Vice-President of the Executive Council suggests closing down on Hansard, and, therefore, I take it, does not regard the proposed standing order as altogether just. I think that if any limitation of debate is necessary, it should be imposed by preventing honorable members from speaking at undue length. This session we have rarely had speeches of more than two hours’ duration, but last session we had speeches of four and a half and five and a half hours’ duration, the delivery of which was an infringement of the rights of honorable members. No one can complain of a speech of an hour or two in length, if the subject is important.
– Oh !
– I mean no one, except the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is always anxious to suppress information.
– I should like to suppress the honorable member.
– No doubt. I should be one of the first persons to whom the “gag’’ would be applied, if the Minister could have his way.
– Especially in regard to hats.
– The honorable member for Wentworth came off second-best in that matter.
– The country thinks otherwise. In that case, the Minister was proved to be hopelessly wrong, and it is only his constitutional inability to do a generous thing that prevents him owning up to it. Reference has been made to the Federal character of this Assembly- While this is not a States House, the representation of the States plays an important part in our deliberations. As the larger States send here a considerable number of members, the views of their people will always be tolerably sure to find expression, with or without the closure, but the people of the smaller States, who send here only five or six representatives, will be at a serious disadvantage if the closure is adopted.
– But will not the honorable member help them?
– Yes, if I think their case is just - not otherwise. Let us take the case of Western Australia. The representatives of that State have formed what I might almost describe as an Irish party in this House. They are determined to support no Government unless it promises to do everything in its power to promote the construction of the proposed transcontinental railway between Port Augusta and
Kalgoorlie. The representatives of Queens-, land desire that a transcontinental railway shall be constructed in that State.
– No, they do not.
– I think that they have advocated the construction of a railway through the western districts of Queensland to Port Darwin.
– All we say is that the construction of such a line may be necessary in time.
– We are quite prepared to pay for our own railways.
– I am very glad to hear that frank statement from the honorable member for Maranoa. Assuming that the position is as stated by the honorable member for Wide Bay, namely, that it may be considered advisable at some time to construct a transcontinental railway through the western districts of Queensland to Port Darwin, when that period arrives, the representatives of Queensland will probably, constitute a compact party in this House, and will endeavour to enforce their views upon the Government. If they do they will fmd that they cannot possibly ventilate their proposal, because of the application of the closure; and they will then make it a condition to any Government accepting their support on any matter that their railway must be built. If all the States act in. a similar manner, we shall then have six separate parties’ in this Chamber, all pledged to extravagance, and all looking to the Federal Government as to a milch cow.
– Do no forget the Senate.
– The representation of the States in the Senate can prove of no avail. We have in this Chamber members who represent their States in much the same way that we look upon Senators as representing the citizens by whom they are elected. If we apply the “gag” to any section of representatives, instead of permitting the natural ventilation of their views, the silken bond of Federation must bc broken. Our duty is to seriously consider the whole Federal situation, and to strengthen as much as we possibly can the bonds that hold* the States together. I propose to refer to a report which appears in this morning’s Age. Upon some rare occasions that newspaper can be moderately accurate. The report shows that the Trea. surer is betraying the confidence of the people of Western Australia by persisting in his present attitude.
– I think that the Treasurer ought to be present to hear the statements of the honorable member for Wentworth, and that a quorum should be formed. [Quorum formed.]
– An honorable member has just paid me the compliment of saying that I am breaking the agreement entered into with the Government by “ stone-walling.” The agreement was that the matter should be fully debated.
– “ Stone-walling “ is not debate.
– The only debate we have had, so far as the Government are concerned, has been an immature utterance from the Vice-President of the Executive Council . Other honorable members opposite have entered into a conspiracy of silence. From the report to which I have previously referred, it appears that at the largest meeting of business men ever held in that’ city, the Perth Chamber of Commerce, formerly ardent supporters of the right honorable gentleman, unanimously carried the following resolution : -
That this meeting records its best thanks to those members of the House of Representatives who are opposing the union label clauses of the Trade Marks Bill as a protest against legislation which will have a ruinous effect upon trade and commerce, and seriously interfere with the operations of commercial men. No demand has been made for such class of legislation, except by a small section of the community, and this meeting trusts the Bill will be rejected or withdrawn until the constituencies have had an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon it.
The gentlemen present at that meeting, who were formerly supporters of the Treasurer, think that the proposals for the adoption of union labels should be withdrawn, and consequently that the “gag “ should not be applied to their discussion. I trust, therefore, that the Treasurer will support the Opposition, if not in opposing it holus bolus, at any rate in making such amendments in the proposed new standing order aswill modify the application of the closure. If the closure had not been in operation in Western Australia-, the last years of the Treasurer’s administration there would not have been characterized by hopeless incapacity. He left the affairs of the State in a hopeless muddle. We know that he had a privy purse, containing£500,000, to draw upon to meet special emergencies as he might think fit.
– I never heard of such a thing.
– The right honorable gentleman has admitted it in private.
– Certainly not.
– As honorable members know, serious defalcations have been committed by public servants in Western Australia.
– That has nothing whatever to do with this debate.
– I am endeavouring to show that if the “ gag “ had not been applied in Western Australia, these serious defalcations would have been discovered sooner.
– That is absolutely untrue; there have been no serious defalcations.
– Order ! The Treasurer must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the statement, but I desire to say that the honorable member’s assertion is absolutely incorrect.
– It has been proved by the late Postmaster-General that serious, defalcations have taken place in the Postal Department in Western Australia.
– To the extent of how many pounds?
– The amount represented was a hundred times more than has been misappropriated in any other State.
– Order ! The question referred to must not be discussed in any way. There can be no possible connexion between the operation of the closure and defalcations by public servants.
-I shall not pursue the subject. I hope that the motion will be amended, because, in its present form, it is, altogether too drastic. It would be competent under the proposed new standing order for an honorable member to rise in his place at any time, and, with the assistance of a few others, put an end to a debate. The Labour caucus might decide that the “gag” should be applied throughout the debate on a certain measure. We know that the Labour Party consists of twenty-five members, and therefore thirteen members could impose their will upon the whole party, and bring about the application of the “ gag.”
– Let me give the honorable member some information. The caucus is unanimous.
– I do not think that it is inside ! The Ministry should not be able to shelter themselves behind any party, when the privileges of honorable members are in jeopardy. For that reason, I hope that the Prime Minister will agree to amend this proposal in the direction of insuring that only a Minister shall be able to move “That the honorable member be no longer heard.” In my opinion, a discretionary power should be vested in Mr. Speaker to determine whether obstruction is being resorted to with a view to preventing the despatch of business. I now wish to refer to another question, namely, the proposal to closure entire clauses. If effect be given to that proposal, it may happen that after a member of the Labour Party, who is anxious to secure the closuring of a certain clause has addressed himself at inordinate length to the question, another honorable member may move in the direction that he desires. The Government should so amend these proposals as to do away with the possibility of closuring a whole clause. I only desire to offer one other suggestion. It seems to me that in a Federal Legislature, above all others, we should insist upon a majority of the House being necessary to enforce the application of the “gag.” It may be urged that it will be very difficult to secure the support of thirty-eight honorable members to any such proposal. The people of Australia are just as concerned as we are in the maintenance of full and free discussion in this Chamber. Only a majority of the electors, through their re presentatives, should be able to accomplish what the Government desire. Our only effectual safeguard againstthe improper use of the closure is that thirty-eight members shall be required to support its application.
– In that case, the Opposition could walk out of the chamber and the Government would not be able to secure the support of thirty-eight members.
– The Government must command the support of thirty-eight members upon a no-confidence motion, or they must leave office, and at least an equal number should be required to put the closure into operation. In handling the liberties of the people we should be at least as careful as we are in handling, the affairs of Ministers.I claim that the closure should he applied upon as few occasions as possible.
– We intend to do some business, before Christmas.
– Why is the Minister of Trade and Customs afraid to trust the representatives of the people?
– I would not trust members of the Opposition, even as far as I can see them.
– That feeling is perfectly mutual.
– The Government must accept the amendment suggested, or their action will be challenged upon every platform at the next general election.
– Why should that worry the honorable member ?
– The Government’s attitude worries me as a representative of the people. I understand that the Prime Minister, by way of interjection, has assured the House that he will agree to a proposal that thirty members shall be required to support the application of the closure. I admit that the support of thirty members is preferable to that of twenty-four, but I submit that it is. not as good as that of a majority of the House. I have no desire to delay the House in coming to a decision upon this matter. I only wish to remind honorable members opposite that the Government have already broken the spirit of the honorable understanding which was arrived at the other day. However, the Opposition recognise that two wrongs do not make a right; otherwise they would be thoroughly justified in departing from that compact, since the Government have done so. When we entered into an arrangement with them, we naturally thought that the proposal before us was the only one that we should be called upon to consider. But immediately the Government were committed to the arrangement to which I have alluded, they formulated fresh proposals.
– That was the natural sequel.
– Honorable members upon this side of the House have begun to think that, so far as honorable dealings are concerned, they cannot entertain any further hope from the Government. We expected them to adhere to the spirit as well as to the letter of the compact.
Mr.Page. - What have they done which is dishonorable?
– After allowing us to think that the proposal which formed the subject of the compact into which we entered was the only one which we should be invited to consider, they have now brought forward further proposals.
– Surely the honorable member did not suppose that the
Government would not bring forward further proposals if they thought it necessary to do so?
– I do not propose to follow the devious tortuosities of the conscience of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I do not think there is any particular reason why he should observe any honorable bargain, although there is with most men. Ministers who imagine that these proposals have the approval of the country need only refer to the provincial newspapers to see that their belief is wholly unjustifiable. If they will take the trouble to peruse those journals, I am quite satisfied that they will conclude that if they cannot altogether sacrifice these illiberal proposals, thev should so modify them as to make their use a matter of very rare occurrence.
– There is nobody, either in this House or outside of it, who regrets more than I do the necessity which exists for imposing any restriction upon the right of free speech. For many years I have cherished ideals concerning Parliament. I have always pictured it, as. described by Tennyson, as a place -
Where, girt by friends or foes,
A man may speak the thing he will.
But I quite recognise that in this life it is impossible to always realize our ideals. However anxious one may be to preserve the utmost freedom of speech in this House, practices have arisen which compel those who desire to maintain the supremacy of the majority, to revise their belief and convictions. I have no wish to say one unnecessary word in connexion with this matter. I have no desire to perpetuate the rather heated feelings which have recently been kindled in this -Chamber. I hope that no word of mine will be interpreted as an indulgence in an unworthy exultation, at the discomfiture of honorable members opposite.
– Surely the AttorneyGeneral has done enough of that ?
– I have no desire to say one word to embitter the feeling which already exists. I hope that as soon as possible -and the sooner the better - we shall all forget recent events, in order that we may work more harmoniously together. But I cannot overlook the fact that honorable members opposite, almost from the period of the present Government’s accession to office - I will not say deliberately and with malice afore thought, though I have a strong suspicion of that - have delayed business and resorted to regrettable tactics.
– They have never quoted1 long extracts on the Postal Estimates as the honorable member did. Last year the honorable member quoted page after page of extracts.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. I merely quoted a report with a view to showing that some gentlemen in Western Australia who were responsible for muddling the affairs of the Post and Telegraph Department there were not the competent officers that the Treasurer would have us believe.. I admit that honorable members opposite had a certain degree of justification for the soreness they displayed, and if these proposals’ had been submitted to deal only with the offences of the last ten days, I should not have been foundsupporting them. I like to see means afforded the House, or any section of it, to express its feelings in the fullest and most forcible way ; but the course of procedure which the Opposition have pursued almost continuously since the present Government came into office imperatively calls for the passing of the motion. ‘Their leader endeavoured very early in the present session to induce the country to believe that this Parliament was unfit to do any further work, and I conceive that the whole course of honorable members opposite has been directed to an endeavour to realize his anticipations. Unfortunately for themselves, they are doing in the House that which the defamers of Australia have attempted to do outside. A certain party outside, consisting of those who have acquired their wealth in Australia,, and are travelling abroad, seeks to put the Commonwealth in the worst possible light before the rest of the world, and honorable members opposite, in seeking to degrade the National Parliament, have apparently agreed to join with them. We have libels outside and an attempt in the House itself to degrade the Parliament. I make this statement without any warmth, and with no desire to utter one word calculated to wound the feelings of the Opposition.
– Does the honorable member really believe that we are allied with the party to which he refers?
– I admit that the honorable member would not consciously ally himself with such a body of men; but I believe that as a member of a party which is degrading the House he has unconsciously allied himself with the party outside which is defaming Australia. This is not a charge which I should make lightly. I think that the proceedings of the present session furnish proof of my assertion.
– What about the Irish party in the House of Commons ?
– The honorable member never made a greater mistake than he is committing in attempting to draw a parallel between the Irish party in the House of Commons and that of which he is a member. That is a matter, however, with which I am not at present inclined to deal. I have said that if the offence of the last ten days were the only justification for the proposals now before us I should not be found voting for them. But I find mv justification in the conduct of the Opposition ever since the present Government came into power. I shall not refer to the numberless occasions on which they kept the House sitting, quite unnecessarily, until the last trains had left for the suburbs, where most honorable members reside. Such petty tactics are altogether unworthy of those who are returned to this House.
– This is the first Ministry which has kept us sitting after ordinary hours.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member. ‘ On one memorable occasion,, after we had made good progress with the Estimates, the honorable member’s leader, after the Opposition of the day had kept a House for the Ministry, many of whose supporters were attending a banquet, declared at about 11.30 p.m. that the House must sit until midnight. That was the occasion of the alleged obstruction. I then said that if we were to sit until midnight, we might as well remain all night, because, so far as I was concerned, I had lost my last train, and in the event of our rising within the next hour or two, would have to walk home, a distance of six miles.
– Then the honorable member admits that there was obstruction on the part of the Opposition of which he was. a member?
– I spoke of “alleged” obstruction ; I make no unnecessary admissions. I repeat that the policy of the Opposition, practically since the opening of the session, affords ample justification for the proposals now under consideration. I have1 glanced through the pages of Hansard, with a view of ascertaining the space occupied by the lengthy speeches which honorable members of the Opposition have made from time to time during the session, and propose to put some figures before the House which should be of interest. The report of the debate on the Ministerial statement, which took place on 27th July last, occupies sixty-six pages of Hansard, and I find that the right honorable member for East Sydney delivered a speech which covered eighteen pages, whilst speeches made by the honorable member for Lang, and the honorable member for Dalley, occupied thirteen pages, a speech by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, twenty-one pages, and one by the honorable member for Wentworth, eleven pages. Speeches delivered by the honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, on the motion for adjournment, also covered two pages; so that sixty-five out of the sixty-six pages, representing the report of the day’s proceedings, are covered by speeches delivered by the Opposition.
– Did not the Ministry and their supporters refuse to discuss, that question?
– I do not think so. The Prime Minister spoke, and the honorable member for Bland was another contributor to the debate from this side of the House. The report of the proceedings on the following day occupies forty pages of Hansard. Of these, a speech by the honorable member for Corangamite covers five pages; one by the honorable member for Parramatta, twenty pages ; a speech by the honorable member for South Svdney, six and a half pages; and speeches by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, the honorable member for Lang, and the honorable member for New England, on the adjournment motion, three pages. Thus, out of forty pages, the speeches of the Opposition occupy thirty-four and a half. On the 1 st August the same subject was once more under consideration, and the Hansard report of the proceedings covers fiftyfive pages. Out of that number, thirteen pages are devoted to the report of the speech by the honorable member for Macquarie; nineteen to the speech delivered by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa; five to the speech made bv thai honorable member for Grampians;’ six to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Robertson; and three and a half to speeches made by the honorable and learned member for Wannon and the honorable member for Hunter. In other words, forty-six and a half out of fiftyfive pages are devoted to the speeches of the Opposition. Let me take another illustration1: When the Budget was under consideration on Thursday, 31st August, after private members’ business had beer dealt with, the honorable member for Corangamite spoke from 7.30 to 9.15 p.m.; the honorable member for Franklin, from 9.15 p.m. to 10.22 p.m.; and the honorable member for New England, from 10.22 p.m. until 11. 12 p.m., when progress was reported. That is to say, the whole sitting was occupied by three honorable members of the Opposition.
– The honorable member appears to have selected his days with great care.
– When I have completed my illustration, I think the honorable and learned member will recognise that I have not done so. I have taken the figures I am now quoting from the Chairman’s book, and I do not think that they indicate legitimate debate.
– But the debate took place on the Budget statement.
– For the most part, all that was then said was repeated on the Appropriation Bill.
– How many hours did the Opposition occupy in discussing the Budget statement?
– I have not taken out the total figures. I find that on the 31st August last, three members of the Opposition occupied the whole of the evening, from 7.30 until 11.12. On Friday, 1st September, the proceedings, as usual, commenced at j 0.30 a.m. The honorable member for New England then resumed his speech, and talked from 10.35 a-m- *° 11.38 a.m. Then the honorable member for Gippsland spoke from 11.38 a.m. until 12.13 p.m., his contribution, so far as length is concerned, being a very reasonable one. The honorable member for Parramatta next took up the running, and spoke from 12.13 p.m. until 2.14 p.m.
– That includes an hour in respect of the luncheon adjournment?
– Quite so. Then the honorable and learned member for Wer riwa, the honorable member for Gippsland, the honorable member for Cowper, the honorable member for Grampians, and the honorable member for Macquarie kept the debate going until progress was reported at 3-39 P-m-
– So that five honorable members occupied on the average one hour each ?
– My point is that very few honorable members on this side of the House had an opportunity on that occasion to say a word. On Wednesday, 6th September, the Budget debate was resumed, and the honorable member for Hunter, the honorable member for Macquarie, the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, the honorable member for Mernda, and the honorable member for Oxley occupied the attention of the House from 2.34 p.m. until 11. 2 p.m., when progress was reported. On the 27th September, the Commerce Bill No. 2 came before us for consideration, and in its discussion honorable members .ranged from Dan to Beersheba. The House met at 2.30 p.m., and the Bill was taken into Committee at 2.40 p.m. From that time until 2.50 a.m. on the following day, the proceedings were kept going by the right honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable and learned members for Angas, Corinella, Werriwa, and Wannon, and the honorable members for North Sydney, Kooyong, Wentworth, Grampians, New England, Franklin, and Lang.
– How many of them stayed to listen to the others ?
– I cannot say. Twelve hours and ten minutes were occupied by the speeches of the honorable members whom I have named, and only eighty-five minutes were occupied by Ministerialists, among whom were several Ministers. On a later occasion, we had a debate which the Minister of Trade and Customs will remember - that relating to a seizure of hats by the Customs Department. I believe that the importer valued those hats at between £50 and *£60, though they realized more when sold by the Department.
– More than twice as much.
– Speaking during that debate, the honorable member for New England filled two and a half pages of Hansard; the honorable member for Lang, four and a half pages ; the honorable member for Wentworth, nine pages; the honorable member for Dalley, five pages; the honorable member for Parramatta, nine pages; and then the honorable members for Wentworth and New England, two and a half pages more ; or, altogether, thirty-two and a half pages.
– How many hours did the debate occupy?
– I cannot say, because there is no .record. With regard to proceedings in Committee, I have been able to obtain from the Chairman’s book the time occupied by honorable members ; but this debate took place in the House. Then, although the Budget speech of the Treasurer had been debated several times, mid every opportunity had been given in Committee to discuss thoroughly the proposals contained in the Estimates, when the Appropriation Bill came before the House on the 7th November, the honorable member for Parramatta filled ten pages of Hansard in discussing it, and on the following day eight pages more, when the honorable member for Wentworth added four pages, and the honorable member for Dalley nine pages.
– Was that discussion condensed ?
– No. These speeches were made on the second reading of the Bill, and were, therefore, reported fairly fully. The honorable member for New England filled five pages; the honorable member for Cowper - modest man - one only ; the honorable member for Lang, thirteen; and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, three. On the 9th November, when the third reading of the Appropriation Bill was moved, the honorable member for Parramatta, who had evidently not unpacked his soul sufficiently, filled four more pages ; the honorable and learned member for Wannon, two more ; the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, eleven ; the honorable member for Dalley, one and a half; the honorable member for New England, one; the honorable member for Wentworth, two ; and the honorable member for Lang, half a page.
– According to the honorable gentleman, I have spoken only once this session.
– As my time is limited, I “have sought for information only in regard to discussions which it seemed to me would illustrate my point most forcibly. I dare say the honorable and learned member would, under the circumstances, have acted similarly. .
– But the honorable member has made no reference to what occurred last session, when his party was in Opposition.
– I think that I have explained to the honorable member’s satisfaction that I took a very small part in what occurred then.
– I am not referring to what was done by the honorable member individually.
– I have never at any time spoken for more than two hours in this Chamber. On the occasion to which the honorable member refers I was not going to allow myself to be brow-beaten by the right honorable member for East Sydney, who told us that we would have to put through the Estimates in one night. The honorable member for North Sydney knows enough of human nature to, be aware that very few men would submit to dictation of that kind.
– Does the honorable member forget the threats that were made in this Chamber last Tuesday week?
– I only remember that the atmosphere of the Chamber was rather heated and impure. I wish to forget all that happened last week, if the honorable and learned member will allow me to do so.
– Then the honorable member should get the Government to withdraw the “gag.”
– I do not wish the motion to be withdrawn, but I desire to forget all 1 that has happened, and to make a fresh start. The honorable and learned member, among others, attempted to draw a parallel between the position of the Irish Party in the House of Commons and that of the present Opposition. He said that I should be the last, because of my association with the Irish Party, to favour the adoption of the closure.
– What I said was that the Irish Party, who were the object of the closure, had resented its adoption.
– The same point was elaborated by the honorable member for Wentworth, who said -
The honorable member for Coolgardie by interjection has forcibly expressed himself as in favour of the gag. The honorable member, who is intensely devoted to the ideal of a separate Irish nationality, must recognise that in the House of
Commons the party that has most violently denounced the gag, and that has had to suffer most injustice as the result of it -
It is wonderful to find him admitting that the Irish Party has suffered any injustice. A speech which he made in this Chamber not long ago would lead one to believe that he holds quite a different opinion.
– It was a slip.
– Perhaps. The honor able member for Wentworth continued - is the Nationalist party of Ireland. I am sure the honorable member must believe that but for the gag in the Imperial Parliament, that party would have been able to secure a greater measure of justice for Ireland.
That statement must have been another slip, because, according to the speech to which I have referred, absolute justice has been meted out to Ireland. The extract concludes -
In the circumstances I should like the honorable member to make the attempt to reconcile his professions on the Irish question with the attitude he assumes in connexion with this proposal.
I think that those remarks express the idea which the honorable and learned member for Corinella had in his mind.
– I would prefer the honorable member to take my own words.
– In that case I shall devote my reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth, who was entirely astray in attempting to draw a parallel between the position of the Irish Party in the House of Commons and that of the Opposition here. At the time of the adoption of the closure, the Irish Party represented a country to which numerous Coercion Acts hadbeen made to apply, where public meetings were suppressed, newspapers seized and confiscated, members of Parliament imprisoned, and the Habeas Corpus Act suspended. There was no such thing as adult suffrage in Ireland, whose people were loaded with a police which was virtually a military establishment, which hunted them down and harassed them at every step. The people of Ireland enjoyed at the time none of the privileges of free men, and if, under the circumstances, their parliamentary representatives used the forms of the House of Commons to attempt to extract a little ofthe rights of free men from the dominant party in the Legislature, they did no more than they were entitled to do. It must also be remembered that even if the majority in the House of Commons had desired to do justice to
Ireland, the House of Lords was a lion in the path. But this, Parliament has been elected on the widest franchise, every adult man and woman having the right to vote in. the election of its members, so that any party in this House is differently situated from a party in theHouse of Commons. Therefore there can be no parallel whatever, and when honorable members attempt to justify their action by referring to the obstruction which the Irish Party offered to the majority in the House of Commons they are using the weakest argument ever advanced’ to support a bad case. That being so, I am not called upon to justify my action as a sympathizer with the Irish Party, in voting for the proposed new standing order. I frankly admit that I do not like it, and that I would much prefer to get along without it.
– We were getting along without it.
– The honorable member is utterly mistaken. Any one who looks at the record of the work done in this House since the Government assumed office cannot seriously contend that we have made satisfactory progress. I hope that we shall forget all the ebullations of temper that have occurred during the last ten days, that from this time out our proceedings will be more orderly, and that better progress will be made with the public business. I regret that the observation of the honorable member for Wentworth, to the effect that because at a certain period I had resisted the “ gag,” it was obligatory upon me to oppose the motion, should have rendered it necessary for me to vindicate myself. I think I have clearly demonstrated that there is no resemblance between the two cases, and that there is no justification for resistance to the will of the majority by a party elected on manhood suffrage.
– I gave way to the honorable memberf or Cool gar die and other honorable members, so that the amendment which I propose to move at the close of my remarks should not in any way prevent discussion on the main question. I intend to speak as briefly as possible, to a.void the repetition of arguments that have been previously used, and to address myself to the question in the business-like manner that was contemplated under the arrangement entered into between the Prime Minister and the deputy leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Coolgardie made a very careful selection from Hansard of speeches delivered by honorable members on this side of the Chamber. He admitted that he had exercised his choice in a manner best suited to his purpose, and therefore cannot be charged with having deceived honorable members. If honorable members upon this side of the House were to display the same industry that he has exhibited, and were to examine the Hansard reports of debates which took place when members now supporting the Government were in opposition, the position as stated by the honorable member would be absolutely reversed. Naturally when criticism is being indulged in on important matters, lengthy speeches must be delivered. What Ministry can claim to be exempt from criticism; that its measures should be accepted without discussion or cavil? Honorable members sitting behind the Government are too apt to accept the measures submitted by Ministers as if they do not need to be examined and. criticised:. They leave all that to the Opposition. I have never taken up that attitude when I have been supporting a Government. I have always examined the measures introduced, and have subjected them to criticism when I thought it was necessary. Many honorable members in this House, however, hold different views upon that subject, and consequently it is left largely to the Opposition to criticise both the policy and’ the measures of the Government. Naturally, under these circumstances, any Opposition must occupy a considerably larger proportion of the time than do supporters of the Government. I shall not delay the House by making a lengthy reply to the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council. Apparently the Minister, having recognised that the debate is to be closed on Thursday night, made use of some of the time available for discussion by indulging in a little “ stone-walling “ on his own account.
– Honorable members opposite have complained of the silence of Ministers and their supporters.
– I have not complained. I do not object to speeches from Ministers or their supporters, so long as they address themselves to the subject under discussion; but the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not deal with the subject at all. If we can regard the Minister seriously - and I admit that it is difficult to regard seriously an honorable member who does not regard himself seriously - he made the very admission that was wanted from the Government. He stated that the Opposition was of no importance to any Ministry, and, further, that there were only three or four men in the House whose speeches were worth listening to, and that their remarks alone should be embodied in Hansard. He represented that we should then have a volume in which the gems would not be buried amongst the dross, and that the people of Australia - poor, unfortunate people ! - would be able to keep Hansardat their bedsides along with their Bibles and the works of Shakspeare, Milton, and other great writers. That was the picture drawn by the honorable member, who represented that it was quite unnecessary for representatives of other constituencies, who are quite as important in the eyes of those whom they represent as is the Vice-President of the Executive Council to the electors of Richmond, to raise their voices in debate. In his view, it was quite unnecessary that they should look after the interests of their constituents, . or indicate the special effect that any measure would’ have upon the interests they represented. They Were to be dumb driven cattle, and not to be permitted to have their names recorded in those volumes of gems - Hansard.
– The honorable member does not believe he meant that.
– No, I do not believe he did. As I say, it is difficult totake the Vice-President of the Executive Council seriously. The admissions to which I’ have referred, made by a Minister of the Crown at this juncture clearly indicate the position, that isbeing assumed by the Government. The Vice-President of the Executive Council also alluded to the degradation of Parliament. I quite admit that struggles which are largely contests of brute strength must be to some extent degrading to Parliament. I always regret to see them entered upon at any time, and I think that other honorable members share that view. Therefore, it is the first duty of the Government to adopt every means to avoid them. I do not expect the supporters of the Government to admit that Ministers have failed in. that respect, but they must have their own private opinions on the subject. In the same way that the honorable member for Coolgardie rightly considered that he was entitled to resist what he thought was improper dictation on the part of the Government, some honorable members of the Opposition were, in. the beginning of this struggle, at any rate, entitled to exercise the same right.
– I said so, but I did not base my support of the closure on what had happened during the last ten days.
– I am not criticising the honorable member’s remarks with regard to the closure. I think he was very moderate and very clear in his references to the closure and his reasons for supporting it. I do not say that because I differ from an honorable member either as to the principle of the closure or its application, at a particular time - which is the main point in this case - he should not retain his opinion. Even honorable members who were ready to impose restrictions upon the length of speeches were justified in strongly objecting to the circumstances under which the present proposal was introduced. I dealt with that aspect of the matter upon a previous occasion, and I do not wish to amplify my remarks with regard to it now. There is, however, one matter to which I must call the attention of the Prime Minister. A statement was made by him as to a certain, arrangement that had been arrived at between himself and the deputy leader of the Opposition with regard to the course of business in connexion with this proposal. Ministers and others cannot be too careful to see that the spirit of any such arrangement is fully carried’ out. I wish to be able to continue to believe in the honour of the Prime Minister, of which I will judge by his way of carrying into effect the arrangement made. For this reason I hope the further standing orders’ given notice of are not to be pro.ceeded with. Arrangements made between the representatives of parties in this House should not be open to the slightest suggestion of non-fulfilment. I may tell the Prime Minister that the deputy leader of the Opposition, with ‘ the full concurrence of honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, was so particular that the compact should be observed, both in the letter and the spirit, that he asked the honorable . and learned member for Illawarra to postpone his motion to dissent from a ruling which had been given, and suggested that a perfectly legitimate amendment - which had not been moved, but which might have been regarded as coming within the scope of a proposal which had previously been submitted - should be set aside. I am sure that the Prime Minister will admit that when we were discussing the proposal before us-
– The honorable member must recollect that I wished to go into thequestion of standing orders, but that its. consideration was expressly excluded.
– Exactly. But the fact remains that all through thisdebate exception was taken to the drastic nature of the proposal under consideration.. It was thought that the arrangement announced by the Prime Minister covered everything in connexion with the proposal’ of the Government.
– I expressly asked the honorable member to go into the question of how the Standing Orders should be dealt with.
– On this particular proposal ?
– Yes, and I was perfectly prepared to have included any other proposals that we had in our mind.
– I am notquestioning the intimation of the PrimeMinister. It was considered better that we should not debate the merits of the Government proposal, because we felt that that should be done in Parliament. All that we did was to discuss the possibility of removing the dead-lock that had arisen. The Prime Minister did not indicate in any way that he contemplated anything in the nature of standing orders beyond this proposal, and we had already objected to its stringent character. I think, that the Prime Minister himself will seethat if the idea had occurred to him at the time - and if it did not, it is no reflection upon him, though it is a reason why heshould give consideration to our representations now - he should have indicated that the Government intended to submit other, proposals. I hope that the honorable and learned gentleman will reconsider his position from that standpoint. I do not think he will say that I have stated anything which is incorrect, sofar as matters of fact are concerned. I put- it to him, that if there has not been an absolute breach of the compact which was arrived at, there is good cause to considerthat the Government have not strictly adhered to what was understood from his.statement, by members of the Opposition..
I ask him whether it would not be better to remove any cause for future insinuations and charges.
– I must say that not only is there no appearance of a departure from the compact, but there can be no such appearance or insinuation about it.
– The Ministry propose to take unto themselves a very strong additional power - the power to closure the individual - when all that we thought we were asked to consider was the application of the closure to debate. The closure of the individual is a very strong power, and its exercise would engender very angry feeling. We knew nothing whatever of that proposal.’ I quite admit that the position in regard to those standing orders, the adoption of which has been recommended by the Standing Orders Committee, is a different one.
– I understood that the Opposition were all agreed about the second proposal, and that it was part of the policy of the late Government. I understood that from the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– The amendment which I intend to submit was the only proposal that was before the late Government. It was moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and seconded by myself, at a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee after the ReidMcLean Government had vacated office. That was the only proposal that was ever before that Administration.
– And it was all that was ever contemplated.
– We have no desire to take any advantage of the present Government. I regret having to move this amendment, because a somewhat similar proposal was submitted last night by the honorable member for South Sydney. His amendment was not seconded, because it was thought that the effect of so doing would be to limit debate upon this motion, and I have deferred taking action until now, in order to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss it. Consequently, it is merely an accident that I am called upon to submit it. It has been stated ‘that [until the ‘present session there has been no justification for the introduction of the Government proposal. Why were not similar proposals introduced in 1903? I find1 bv a comparison of the work actually performed, that the present session is likely to be more prolific in enactments than was the session of 1903.
An Honorable Member. - And much more prolific than was the session of 1904.
– I do not think that a comparison with the session of 1904 would be a fair one, because of the fact that there were two changes of Ministry during that year. I prefer to compare the work accomplished in 1903 when there was no change of Ministry with that which has been performed during the current session, notwithstanding that in the latter there has been one change of Government, which, of course, has had the effect of somewhat delaying legislation. Omitting Supply Bills, and the Appropriation Bill, I find that in 1903 there were fourteen Acts, passed, whilst during the present session there have been eleven Acts passed. Before we prorogue, I have not the slightest doubt, therefore, that we shall equal, if not exceed, the record for 1903. These facts prove that business is being transacted. No suggestion was made in 1903 that any necessity existed for introducing these drastic proposals. The honorable and learned member for Corinella showed the other evening that even contentious measures had not been debated excessively. But there has been no recognition of the fact that important measures have been disposed of with the assistance of the Opposition in a verv short space of time. The more closely the question is looked into, the more it will be found that there is no sufficient reason for the introduction of this proposal. But there is a particular reason for its submission this session. What is that reason? An arrangement existed that a certain Bill should be dealt with’ - a measure about which there was a very strong difference of opinion between two sections ofthe House. In it the Government proposed to introduce into Australia what has proved) to be one of the most troublesome elements in industrial life, whereever it has been instituted - the union label. In the United States it has caused more disastrous and regrettable fighting than has anything else. There it is the cause of a daily and hourly war, which we have every reason to avoid in Australia, because of the tribunals that we have established to settle industrial disputes in a more peaceful manner. There was a strong feeling evidenced upon this measure, but before it had been more than four or five days under the consideration of the House-
– Four and a half days in all,
– After it had been before us for only four and a half days, its consideration was deferred, and the proposals now before us to force it and other measures through the House were submitted. Why was this done? If any one was to blame for the delay, who was it?
– The Opposition.
– Let me test that statement. The Opposition had four and a half days in which to discuss the Bill, although for two months or more it had remained on the business- paper without action being taken by the Government to bring it forward.
– That was .chiefly because of the request of honorable members opposite.
– Does the honorable member for Kennedy seek to thrust upon the Opposition a responsibility for the conduct of business which should rest upon the Government?
– The argument was that it would be just as well to allow the consideration of the Bill to stand over for a time, in order that the Chambers of Commerce and similar organizations might have an opportunity to consider it.
– Does the honorable member think that, merely because a request is preferred by the Opposition
– Petitions were also presented, asking that the consideration of the Bill be deferred.
– Does the honorable member think that the Ministry is prepared to grant a request simply because it is made by the Opposition?
– They will be very foolish if thev do so in future.
– In postponing the further discussion of the Bill they mav have desired to consult the wishes of the people outside, but it was not because of any consideration for the Opposition that they did so. If it be true, as suggested bv the honorable member for kennedy, that the Government are -always ready to act upon the suggestion of the
Opposition, why do they not strike out the clauses of the Trade Marks Bill to which we object? It was for reasons of their own that they delayed the consideration of that Bill, and prevented the Opposition for some months from dealing with it. If any one is to blame, the responsibility for that delay must rest upon the Government. Is it to be said that we were unreasonable in devoting four and a half days to the consideration of such a measure as the Trade Marks Bill? It must not be forgotten that in that time the Bill passed the secondreading stage, and was carried into Committee.
– The Bill was committed on the 9th August last. ‘
– That is so.
– But as soon as it was considered in Committee the honorable member for Parramatta moved the Chairman out of the chair.
– He would not have done so, but that he felt - as the honorable member for Coolgardie has to’.d us that the party of which he was a member felt when on this side of the House - that the Opposition were justified in resisting the dictation of a Minister.
– The consideration of the measure, after it had been committed, was postponed for three months and a week.
– Quite so. If the honorable member for Maranoa had been in charge of the Bill, I am sure that a broad smile would have overspread his face when we offered to agree to the passing of fifty-seven clauses at the one sitting.
– I should have accepted the offer.
– I am sure that the honorable member would have done so. I wish now to allude to a statement made by the Prime Minister, in reply to a speech in which the position he takes up with reference to the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill was compared with his attitude on the question of preference to unionists. The honorable and learned gentleman then said that he was voting for majority rule. But is he proposing to do so now? Is he not proposing that twenty-four out of the seventy-five members of the House shall have the! power to apply the closure?
– If they constitute a majority of those present.’
– When the honorable and learned gentleman was dealing with the question of preference to unionists, he did not suggest that preference should be granted at the request of a majority of those attending a meeting of the union concerned. Did the honorable and learned gentleman suggest that preference should be granted to unionists on the application of even a majority of the unions in each State? Nothing of the kind. What he said was that preference should be granted only when the application was supported by a majority of those in the trade affected. What is his present attitude? He proposes that the closure shall be applied, not on the vote of a majority of the House-
– Not on the vote of a majority of those affected by the decision.
– That is the point. The closure’ mav be applied upon the decision of a chance majority.
– But we are representatives; the two cases are quite different.
– I hold that in principle there is no difference. If the honorable and learned gentleman says that he is in favour of majority rule, he must recognise that the closure should be applied only upon the decision of a majority of-
– Of those present.
– No. The honorable member, in voting for preference to unionists, did not declare that preference should be granted to them only upon the application of a majority of those attending the meeting of the union concerned in. each State-
– How could they constitute a majority?
– The Prime Minister held that preference to unionists should be granted only upon the application of a majority of those affected by the decision. Will not honorable members and their constituents be affected by a curtailment of debate? And yet it is proposed that the. closure shall be applied, not upon the decision of a majority of the House, but at the will of a chance majority of those present. I. wish to point out, in passing, that these proposals are more drastic in their nature than are any similar provisions operating in any Parliament in the British Empire.
– I think not.
– They are more severe than are similar Standing Orders in force in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, because there the closure cannot be applied, except with the concurrence of Mr. Speaker. They are more severe than the Standing Orders of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, because there the member in charge of the business when the closure is applied has a right to reply, in a speech extending over thirty minutes. Then again, they are more severe than are the Standing Orders of the British House of Commons, inasmuch as Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, as the cass may be, has to decide whether effect, shall be given to a proposal to apply the closure.
– The closure can be applied in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on the motion of any honorable member, and at any time.
– The honorable member misapprehends my point. I admit that in that Assembly there is a closure standing order applying to individual speeches as well as to motions or other subjects of debate; but the particular proposals now before us are more severe than are similar Standing Orders of any Parliament in the British Empire. Incidentally I would mention that their severity is to be increased by the application of the individual closure and by a number of other provisions. Under the proposals now before us, the Government would be able to force a whole clause through the House without discussion. The closure will not apply merely to the particular business before the Committee when the motion is moved “ That the question, be now put.” It will apply to the whole clause of the Bill under consideration, . and however numerous .its provisions mav be, it may be put through at once. In view of this, I can well imagine what lengthy clauses Bills to be submitted to us in the future will contain. We shall have Bills of one clause each.
– Or, at all events, three clauses, covering the short title, the date of its coming into operation and the machinery of the Bill.
– We may expect to have Bills submitted for our consideration in which the power provisions will be embodied in one clause, so that the Government, as soon as they have dealt with that clause, “ill have succeeded practically in passing the whole Bill.
– Hear, hear.
– When I hear the honorable member applauding such a proposal, I am reminded of the remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who painted Parliament in the blackest of colours. That honorable gentleman defended his attitude in this House by saying that he had endeavoured for fifteen years, as a member of another Parliament,’ to be independent and do right; but had found it so horrible that he had given up the task. In effect, he reversed the well-known saying, and declared, “ Dishonesty is the best policy, for I have tried both.1’ Honorable members opposite are seeking to defend the proposal now before us, one that might pass a whole Bill at a stroke, notwithstanding that it may be backed up by others which, if passed, would seriously curtail even the liberty, as well as the licence, of Parliament. Provisions copied from the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, as well as additional propositions to force an immediate decision in regard to the various motions submitted to the House, may follow. That being so, the power now proposed to be taken mav be extended to a degree which we do not vet comprehend. The motion now before us comprises the severest provisions relating to the closing of debate that are to be found in the Standing Orders of any other Parliament in the British Dominions, but we find that those checks which to some extent would safeguard the rights of honorable members, have been carefully excluded. Those who are supporting the motion will probably cry out most loudly when on some future occasion the closure is applied to them. Though I favour reasonable limitations, I have found the Labour Party always opposed to the adoption df standing orders for the limitation of debate, and that they have retired from that position under the peculiar circumstances of the present case is, to some extent, satisfactory, though, to my mind, the limitation which’ they are now supporting goes too far. I think that we should try first some less severe rule, under which, perhaps, our business would be so reasonably conducted that there would be no need for a further and more drastic limitation. It must be remembered that the most severe standing orders for the application of the closure to both debates and individual speeches are in force in the Parliament of New South Wales, but the frequency of the all-night sittings of the Legislative Assembly of that State does not give any guarantee as to their effectiveness. The Victorian Parliament also adopted the closure for one term, and abandoned it, and now - conducts its proceedings without any such rule as is proposed by the Prime Minister. Yet I do not think a comparison will Show it to be’ less efficient or speedy in its working than Legislatures which have adopted very severe limitations.
– There has been no need for such a rule in the Victorian Parliament.
– There appears to have been need for it at one time, because, as I have shown, it was adopted, but subsequently abandoned.
– And on another occasion it was proposed and abandoned.
– Can it be shown, that the absence of any such stringent standing orders has placed the Victorian Parliament in a position worse than that occupied by Parliaments which have adopted the most stringent standing orders ? I am afraid that the adoption of the proposed standing order by this . Parliament will have results similar to those which similar rules have had in the New South Wales Parliament, where the effect of the closure has been distinctly to bring about allnight sittings. Ministers hesitate to apply the closure until the sitting has lasted far into the night or into the early morning, and honorable members, knowing that it may be applied, and desiring to express their views, keep the debate going until ‘ a very late hour. I think that, if the proposed standing order is adopted, the tendency will be for Ministers to keep the House sitting until the early morning, in order that they may then have some apparent justification for closing the mouths of honorable members by the application of the “ gag.” Such a state of things would be one of the most undesirable that could be brought about. Delay in the passing of legislation is an infinitely less evil than the practice of frequently sitting beyond midnight. If the adoption of the proposed standing order should lead to frequent allnight sittings, honorable members, and the community at large, would alike have cause to regret it. _ It would be a pitiable state of affairs if this House were to acquire the habit of sitting all night. However ob- jectionable such a practice may be in a State Parliament, it would be still more objectionable in the Federal Parliament. It is desirable that all honorable members who can do so should be given an opportunity to reach; their homes as frequently as possible, and to do that many of the members of this Parliament have, each week, end, to travel long distances by train. It would’ tend to the great injury of Parliament, and impose an intolerable strain upon honorable members, if, in addition to a very large amount of travelling, they had frequently to sit up all night awaiting the termination of debates. The experience of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly clearly indicates that the closure does not accomplish all that is expected of it by those who are supporting the motion, and that, instead of lessening, it increases the number’ of allnight sittings.
– Are not the long sittingsof the New South Wales Legislative Assembly due to the fact that special trains and trams are kept in readiness to convey honorable members to their homes directly the House rises?
– That arrangement may have something to do with the length of the sittings there, though I understand that if the Victorian Parliament sits after midnight means are provided for conveying members to their homes.
– That is a very rare occurrence. The Government could not afford to do it always.
– I do not know how often the Government could afford to do it, or how often they do it ; but they are not called upon to do it very frequently, because it is seldom that the Victorian Parliament sits after midnight.
– That is because its members cannot talk.
– I have not noticed any deficiency in talking power amongst the honorable members of this House who were members of the Victorian Parliament. I am strongly of opinion that before we adopt such a drastic standing order as this, we should try some less invidious, objectionable, and tyrannical limitation, and one less likely to be improperly used. It is only occasionally during a session that the Parliament of New Zealand sits all night, and that Parliament is governed by rules limiting debate which are much simpler, less objectionable, and less invidious than those proposed by the Government. Limitations are imposed both in the House and in Committee, not upon any particular speaker or any particular debate, but upon all speakers and, with a few exceptions, upon all debates.
– That is only another form of the closure.
– No, it is not the closure; it merely limits debate. Every honorable member has equal rights, and can occupy the same time. I must emphatically protest against any form of procedure that is likely to encourage all-night sittings, which are eminently unsatisfactory.
– We have had all-night sittings without the closure.
– We have had in all seven or eight all-night sittings during the life of this and the preceding Parliament, or not more than two per year.
– Of late there has been a set determination on the part of some honorable members to prevent business fi om being done.
– Unfortunately, the honorable and Seamed member was not present when I dealt with that aspect of the question. I do not wish to repeat my arguments, and therefore I would merely say that we heard not one word about the application of the closure in the 1903 session, during which we passed only three measures in excess of the number that have already been enacted during the current session. The measures passed during this session have been as important as were those passed in 1903, and no doubt before we conclude our sittings we shall exceed the number of Bills passed into law in the session referred to. Moreover, it must be remembered that during the current session we have had a change of Ministry, with ali the delays incidental to such an event, whereas nothing of the kind occurred in 1903. Whilst the fullest notice has been taken of the action of the Opposition in regard to contentious matters, no mention has been made of the assistance afforded to the Government in respect to a number of other Bills.
– The honorable member has not referred to the action of the Opposition in moving the Chairman out of the chair.
– Yes, I have, and reference has also been made to the action in the same direction by members of the previous Opposition when they considered that they were being dictated to by the Ministry. The New Zealand Parliament have adopted provisions similar to those which I intend to embody in the amendment. Before proceeding to extremes, I think that we should adopt moderate measures. So long as the rights of the minority are protected, I should not object to the adoption of a standing order as stringent as that now proposed by the Government, if it were necessary to give effect to the will of the majority.^ But the necessity for such an extreme provision has not been proved. Notwithstanding the fact that we have been working under the loosest Standing Orders in the Commonwealth, nothing has arisen to justify the extreme measures proposed. 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 one hour on any question before the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply or on the Budget, or in a debate on a motion of “ No Confidence,” or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or in moving a resolution.
In a Committee of the House, no Member shall speak for more than one hour in all, or four times in all, on any question before the Committee. This rule shall not apply to a Member in charge of a Bill or resolution.
Any Member may speak for a longer period or more frequently than is allowed by the two next preceding rules, with the leave of an ordinary majority of the House or Committee, as the case may be. The question whether the Member be further heard shall be put forthwith without amendment or debate.
That amendment will indicate that I am in favour of some limitation of speech.
– It would involve a greater interference with the liberty of speech than would the proposal of the Government.
– The proposal of the Government is of a doublebarrelled character. The first barrel has been fired off, and the second has still to be discharged.
– ‘The honorable member’s proposal would be automatic in its application, whereas the new standing order proposed by the Government would be availed of only upon special occasions, when the House thought it necessary to interfere.
– No. Under the Government proposal twenty-four members could, for any reason that occurred to them, apply the closure and immediately put an end to debate. The discussion might be growing rather warm for certain honorable members, who might wish to prevent the speeches” that were being directed against their proposal from being published. So long as twenty-four members of the House desired to have a measure put through, thev could apply the doublebarrelled “ gag.!’
– They must be supported by a majority of the honorable members present.
– Every honorable member ought to be here.
– If the honorable member believes that, he ought not to object to the application of the closure being dependent upon the approval of a majority of the whole House.
– But I am perfectly aware that it is impossible to secure a full attendance of honorable members.
– The honorable member knows that any Ministry must have the support of a majority of the whole House. He ought not, therefore, to object to a majority of the whole House being required to enforce such a stringent standing order as tha’t proposed.
– It was supposed that a majority of honorable members were in favour of the late Ministry, but they could not keep a quorum.
– We have heard that fable before. The honorable member was a supporter of a Ministry whose direct supporters were hardly sufficient in number to represent a quorum, and honorable members opposed to them readily assisted them to keep a House. The same courtesy that was extended to the late Ministry was displayed towards the previous Government. The proposal embodied in my amendment formed the subject of a motion brought before the Standing Orders Committee by the honorable and learned member for Corinella and myself, after the present Government ‘had assumed office. We desired to assist whatever Ministry might be in power by reasonably limiting debate. I move the amendment in the belief that in the heat of the late discussion, and without due consideration of the consequences, the Ministry have adopted an extreme course, which cannot lead to any good in this Parliament, and consequently cannot be attended with any advantage to the country.
– I understand that the honorable member for North Sydney desires that his amendment shall stand over for the present, in order that other honorable members may be permitted to address themselves to the main question. Is it the pleasure of the House that that course shall be pursued?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– We have now reached the stage of reasonable discussion, and honorable members may fairly state the reasons which influenced them to vote one way or the other. At all times I allow myself to be guided by experience. Provisions similar to those contained in the motion have been in operation in the New South Wales Parliament for no less a period than eighteen years. Since their adoption, in 1877, no Ministry in New South Wales has ever attempted to repeal the closure resolutions.
– Because all Governments find it convenient to retain them whilst they are in office.
– Before I conclude my remarks, I intend to show that some honorable members who oppose the proposals of the Government found it very convenient to apply them.
– Does the honorable member think that they were fairly applied?
– I think that they were very unfairly applied.
– That is what members of the Opposition will think when these proposals are applied by the Government and their supporters.
– Whether they are fairly or unfairly applied, will entirely depend upon the dominant party in this House. When the closure resolutions were submitted in New South Wales, I opposed their adoption. Subsequently, whenever an attempt was made to apply them - either by my own party, or by others - I refused to support it. But my experience in the New South Wales Legislature - and in this Parliament - has impelled me to conclude that some such rules are necessary for the orderly conduct of debate, and to insure the reasonable despatch of public business. In this connexion. I propose to quote the opinions of a few prominent Australian politicians - some of whom have passed away, although their names are still venerated. In submitting the closure resolutions to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, on 12th May, 1887, the late Sir Henry Parkes made the following remarks, which are very applicable to the present occasion, because his proposals strongly resembled those under consideration.
– They were absolutely different. Under his proposals a majority of two-thirds was necessary to apply the closure.
– I shall allow the resolutions to speak for themselves. I maintain that the Standing Orders now operative in New South Wales are far more drastic than those under consideration. Upon 1 2th May, 1887, the late Sir Henry Parkes moved -
That this House, in the exercise of the powers conferred by thirty-fifth section of the Constitution Act, agrees to and adopts the following as Standing Orders of this House, and authorizes Mr. Speaker to present the same to His Excellency the Governor for approval : -
No motion for the adjournment of the House shall be entertained, except for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, the subject of which shall be first stated to the Speaker in writing, and no such motion shall be proposed until the consent of the Speaker has been given on the ground that the matter is of urgent public importance; and when, after such consent, the motion is proposed, “That this House do now adjourn,” or any motion which the Speaker shall consider of like character, such motion shall be openly proposed without any words from the mover in support, and shall only be proceeded with on ten other members rising in their places to support it ; and, if so proposed and supported, the mover shall not exceed one hour in speaking in support of such motion, and any other member speaking to such motion shall not exceed twenty minutes, and every member making or speaking to any such motion shall confine himself to the one subject in respect to which the motion has been made. And no second motion for the adjournment of the House shall be made on the same day, except by the unanimous consent of the House, without debate : Provided that this standing order shall not operate in respect to the usual motion of adjournment by a member of the Government to terminate the sittings of the House.
No debate shall be allowed on the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into Committee of Supply or Ways and Means, and no contingent motion shall be entertained on any such order without the consent of the House being first obtained by a majority of two-thirds of the members then present, no debate being allowed, except a statement of the subject-matter of the intended motion, limited to ten minutes.
In Committee of Supply or Ways and
Means, or in Committee of the Whole, on any Bill or resolution, no member shall make any motion for the Chairman to leave the Chair, which by the ruling of the Chairman without debate shall be held to be of an obstructive character, or not consistent with the regular and orderly conduct of the business of the Committee.
The Speaker or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the House or the Committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition on the part of a member, and may direct such member to discontinue his speech.
At any time during the proceedings of the House, or during the proceedings of a Committee of the Whole, any member may move without debate, “That the question be now put”; and such motion shall then be put without debate, and if such motion be carried by a majority of twothirds of the members then present, the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, shall forthwith put the question to the vote.
In introducing those resolutions, he said -
In making the motion which stands in my name, I can say, with all truth, that I take this step with feelings of painful reluctance and sorrow. No one who has any correct knowledge of my public life can doubt that I move it now under those feelings. It is thirty-three years ago this month since I first entered the Legislature of this country. I feel entitled to refer to that epoch in my life, and to what has occurred since. I did not come into this House by any back door, or by the support or patronage of any influential person. At that time there was a property qualification of £20 for voters, and every man was compelled to record his vote openly. I, an unknown and comparatively young man, was elected, not for East Sydney, or West Sydney, or South Sydney, but for the city of Sydney as a whole, by that high suffrage, and by that open voting, and I polled two to one against a most respectable and influential old citizen of the country. I was elected to the seat which had just been vacated by William Charles Wentworth; therefore, I think, under all the circumstances, I may refer to my entrance into parliamentary life with feelings of pride. From that day to this I have been amongst the strongest to maintain the utmost privileges of Parliament. From that day to this, if I have offended, I have offended in standing up for the fullest liberty of speech. On no single occasion throughout that long parliamentary career - much longer than that of any other man in these Australasian Colonies - have I ever forgotten my duty to Parliament in trying to insist upon its full liberty of speech, in trying to support its independent action, and in doing my utmost to preserve the rights of individual members. In taking the step I do now, I take itwholly prepared to face “the consequences. A short time hence I may sit on the opposite benches. I do not make this motion in the interests of the Government, nor in the interests of the other side ; but I make this motion in support of my highest duty in maintaining the character of the Parliament of this country. The privileges which we enjoy, and which, upon the whole, we have enjoyed so fairly, and used with so much moderation and discernment, were obtained for us in most difficult times - times not only of difficulty but of the utmost danger - and no doubt it would be well for us to go on without interfering with that ancient patrimony of parliamentary rights and privileges. But it is found that it ‘is impossible to go on. It is not a question of the gratification of any person in this Parliament, or any party in this Parliament. It is not a question of forwarding the views of this section or the other section ; but it is simply a question of rendering the transaction of public business possible in the interests of the country.
The honorable gentleman then proceeded to relate the experience of other countries in this connexion. In dealing with the necessity for the introduction of somewhat similar proposals into the House of Commons, he quoted the Westminster Review, which said -
The country will shortly have to consider the conspicuous question, how the House of Commons is again to become an effective legislative instrument. A machine which wastes all its power in overcoming the friction of its parts is not likely to be continued long in use in a manufactory which is managed with due economy. A House of Commons which has to occupy itself in overcoming that friction amongst its parts, which we call “ obstruction,” which has no time to do the legislative work which is its proper function, and the primary object of its existence, is in urgent need of reform.
At a later stage, he quoted the utterances of one of the most eminent Liberals of the day - I refer to the late Mr. Gladstone, who said -
When men repeat the proverb which teaches us that “marriages are made in heaven,” what they mean is that, in the most fundamental of all social operations, the building up of the family, the issues involved in the nuptial contract lie beyond the best exercise of human thought, and the unseen forces of providential government made good the defect in our imperfect capacity. Even so would it seem to have been in that curious marriage of competing influences and powers, which brings about the composite harmony of the British Constitution. More, it must be admitted, than any other, it leaves open doors which lead into blind alleys ; for it presumes, more boldly than any other, the good sense and good faith of those who work it. . . . If unhappily these personages meet together on the great arena of a nation’s fortunes as jockeys meet upona racecourse, each to urge to the utmost, as against the others, the power of the animal he rides, or as counsel in Court each to procure the victory of his client, without respect to any other interest or right, then this boasted Constitution of ours is neither more nor less than a heap of absurdities.
Here is another quotation from the honorable gentleman’s speech -
We are not sent here merely for idle talk; we are not sent here to occupy time merely for the purpose of occupying time. A critical period may arrive when people are justified, as I have felt myself justified more than once, in resisting measures under exceptional circumstances ; but for the most part we are sent here not so much to indulge in speeches as to know when to refrain from speaking, and only to assent to those proceedings which in our honest belief are for the good of the country. It is impossible to reason upon any question in this senseless way. We know, on the contrary, that some of these lengthy speeches - still dignifying them by that name - have been delivered when it was difficult to keep a quorum together through the absolute weariness of even the speaker’s own friends. We know that they have answered no purpose whatever, and instead of throwing light on the subject which called them forth, instead of contributing to the argument which led to its settlement, they rather retarded its intelligible settlement, and have only cast a gloom and discredit upon the proceedings of Parliament.
Dealing seriatim with the proposed standing orders, the honorable gentleman said- -
The next rule I propose is in these words, “ In Committee of Supply or Ways and Means, or in Committee of the Whole on any Bill or resolution, no member shall make any motion for the Chairman to leave- the Chair, which by the ruling of the Chairman without debate shall be held to be of an obstructive character, or not consistent with the regular and orderly conduct of the business of the Committee.” Undoubtedly, if this rule were established, it would put an end for ever to the zigzag process of moving, “ That the Chairman leave the Chair,” and again, “ That the Chairman leave the Chair and report progress,” by which in the most frivolous way and for the most unintelligible objects hours and hours of time have been consumed.
Then, in alluding to one particular part of his proposals, he went on to show that it was provided that - “ At any time during the proceedings of ‘the House, or during the proceedings of the Committee of the Whole, any member may move without debate ‘ That the question be now put ‘ -
Those words are peculiarly applicable to our present position - and such motion shall then be put without debate, and if such motion be carried by a majority of two-thirds of the members then present, the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, shall forthwith put the question to the vote.” Considering this subject in the light of the abuses which have grown up from the want of proper appreciation of parliamentary privilege in different parts of the world, I can conceive of no standing order that is more just, more reasonable, more calculated to expedite business, without infringing the rights of any member, or disturbing the security of the rights of the people. I submit these resolutions with the full knowledge of the gravity of the motion I make; yielding to no man living in my desire for the stability of parliamentary institutions, and for the preservation of the individual rights of members of Parliament; yielding to no man living in my desire to promote the real and true freedom of parliamentary government; but at the same time fully alive to the necessity for some change, brought about by the flagrant and startling abuses by which we have been made sufferers - fully alive to all this, and fully believing that the people of this country reprobate the conduct which I seek to terminate, and will vindicate us in this effort to restore parliamentary government to something like its purity, its usefulness, and its honour.
If that honorable gentleman were here today, and had witnessed what has taken place in this House since its inception, I feel confident that he would use similar words in support of the motion now before us. I may say, in passing, that the proposals were submitted to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on the 12th of May, and were debated by the late Sir Henry Parkes, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and several other members of this House, the remarks of some of whom I intend to quote. An amendment was then submitted that the proposal should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. That course was pursued, and the Standing Orders Committee having reported to the House that they had approved of them without amendment, thev were finally adopted on the 19th May - one week later.
– Is the honorable member going to read the whole of the contents of the New South Wales Hansard?
– The honorable and learned member may do so if he pleases.
– The Opposition were complaining a little while ago that honorable members on the Government side of the House could not be induced to speak.
– It seems that they have not many original arguments to put forward since they find it necessary to resort to the official reports of the Parliament of New South Wales.
– We are told that experience teaches, and it is in the light of experience that I am putting before the House the opinions of some of the greatest men in New South Wales at the time in question. I claim that if certain honorable members opposite desire to be consistent they will vote for this motion, in view of what they said as members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. On the 12th of May. 1887, the Right Honorable G. H. Reid, in supporting the proposals introduced by Sir Henry Parkes, said that -
The meaning of the vote which will be given upon this matter by those in favour of that reference will be that the time has come when some rules for the more orderly conduct of this House shall be agreed to. . . .
He then went on to say -
But it seems to me that whilst the vital principle in parliamentary institutions at all times should be to protect minorities from a tyrannical action on the part of majorities, the course of parliamentary history in these later times has come to suggest another question which is equally important, and that question is, “ Shall there be in a free house of parliament, where we will not tolerate the tyranny of majority, such a tyranny infinitely worse, as the tyranny of a minority; as the tyranny not really of a minority, but the tyranny of one or two honorable members of this
House, who by their course of conduct practically deny to every other member but themselves that very freedom of speech which is the vital principle of this House ?” That is the consideration we have to deal with. . . .
The right honorable member continued -
Therefore, it is in the interests of both sides that proper rules should be established, because abuses of rules will tell just as much against gentlemen on one side of the Chamber in their turn, as they will tell against the other side. The most serious consideration is this : How can we so strengthen the authority of the Speaker and Chairman of Committees, the authority of this House, that we will be able to deal with offences against liberty of speech - offences against the sacred right, which honorable members have to despatch public business in public time for the benefit of the country - without interfering with the rights which are possessed by a minority in a house of parliament? A minority in the House of Parliament should always be protected against high-handed proceeding, or against any attempt to in any way silence legitimate expression of opinion. I look upon the minority in this House as a body which may at any time have to make the most sacred struggles in the defence of public rights. I recognise that, and I recognise that honorable gentlemen opposite in this Parliament may be striving to advance principles of public policy on which they believe the prosperity of this country depends, and much as I differ from them, utterly as I may repudiate their ideas, I shall never come to the time when I shall be in favour of repression of their opinions in this House. But we are not dealing with that sort of thing at the present time. I suppose there is no more patient body of men in the world than the men in this Assembly. They do not become impatient until an honorable member has been talking for hours in what must seem the most remarkable strain of human deformity that the human intellect is capable of, with no rational object in view, except the insane object of stifling the expression of opinion by the majority.
– Are those the words of the the right honorable member who, on Saturday last, spoke against this motion?
– They are. He continued -
References, the most absurd, are made to individual members in this House, and every possible abuse of which the English language or human intellect is capable of in the way of wasting time is resorted to. That is the sort of thing which it becomes this House to put down.
– The right honorable member was then supporting the Government of the day ?
Mr.CHANTER– That is so.
– I shall be able to satisfy the House, by quotations, that he said then what he said in this House on Saturday last.
– I do not think honorable members need to be assured that I am not misquoting the right honorable member for East Sydney, nor that I am not making quotations from his speech without regard to the context.
– I shall make some quotations from the same speech.
– The honorable member will be at liberty to do so.
– The honorable member has been quoting some good speeches.
– Quite so, and I. claim that they should have been followed up by votes.
– The Government would ‘‘gag” such speeches.
– No. It is because I consider them to be admirable speeches that I invite the House to carefully consider them.
– What side did the honorable member take in connexion with the proposal submitted by the late Sir Henry Parkes ?
– I was opposed to the closure.
– The honorable member was then in Opposition.
– As the result of experience gained as a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales for eighteen years,, and also as a member of this House, I have been converted. I recognise that, if public business is to be transacted, it is absolutely necessary that there should be some limitation of debate.
– The honorable member has not been converted; he still backs up his party.
– If the honorable member refers to the New South Wales Hansard, he will learn that I was so sincere in my convictions that, even when the closure was applied by my own party, I voted against it. I voted not only against the introduction of the closure Standing Orders, but against their application when it suited my own party to apply them. As the years rolled on, however, I saw that it was absolutely impossible for Parliament to transtransact the business of the country unless it had some power to restrict the interminable debates which were taking place, just as they are taking place in this House.
– I think that the honorable member must be making a mistake. Surely the Mr. Reid whose speech he has been quoting is not identical with the leader of the Opposition in this House ?
– I have made no mistake. I am quoting the remarks of the right honorable member for East Sydney.
Speaking in support of another of the motions which I nave read, the right honorable member made the following remarks : -
The Chairman may call an honorable member to order, and he will be compelled to discontinue his speech. What may happen? A friend ot his may take up the running, and then the Honorable member who has been called upon to dis continue his speech, may make another speech Surely that cannot be meant. This is not the cure which we want. What I would suggest is that on the House deciding that an honorable member shall discontinue his speech, he shall nor bc allowed to again address the House on the same subject during that sitting.
– if the honorable member has changed his opinion, why should he not allow the right honorable member for East Sydney to do the same?
– I am not ashamed to say that the experience I have had since compels me on the present occasion to vote differently from the manner in which I voted in 1887.
– Does the honorable member refer to the experience of last week?
– I prefer not to allude particularly to that. I am reading these remarks of the leader of the Opposition because I hope that they may induce some of his followers to view the motion in a different light from that in which it now appears to them. The proposal of the late Sir Henry Parkes did not go far enough for the right honorable gentleman. He wished to prevent the member to whom the closure was applied from speaking again during the same sitting;. He went on to say -
Nor can we tell what emergency may suggest to the majority on the Government side how expedient it may be that the protests, that the speeches of honorable members opposite to them should be utterly suppressed. I do not think that a rule of this kind should be brought into operation until a certain state of things has arisen in the House. Why should we put upon our Standing Orders hard and fast rules, which will control us all during every moment of our political life? Why should we do this when we can frame a law under which, while the freedom of the House will be preserved, we can protect ourselves from such a state of things as the Colonial Secretary has described as being a danger to our public institutions? When such a state of things as that arises, then will be the time to put such a rule as that into force, but not until then. How can we arrive at that? Here is an instance in which I think the aid of Mr. Speaker or the Chairman may be invoked. Mi. Speaker is the guardian of the rights and privileges of the House as a corporate body, and he is also the guardian of the rights and privileges of every honorable member ; and before there is brought into operation a rule such as this, which interrupts the course of the deliberations, which compels honorable members to remain silent - 10 simply record their votes - such a state of things should have arisen that Mr. Speaker considered that the business of the House was being obstructed. Then I think it would be proper enough that a motion should be submitted from the Chair - the consent of Mr. Speaker having been obtained - to the effect that me business of the House is being obstructed; the motion should be put without debate, and if carried by a majority of twenty members - with the safeguard which I have mentioned, the consent of Mr. Speaker - I do not think that the two-thirds majority is necessary - the rule should come into operation. This would place the minority in a safe position, because the majority could not bring this terrible bar to bear on them until they had placed on record their opinion that the minority were actually obstructing public business; that would be a safeguard of the utmost value, as it would put before the country a justification for the application of the rule, and if ever such a motion was passed under false pretences, it would be such an abuse of the power that it would cover with confusion, not those who were made the victims of it, but the authors of it. With this safeguard, I have no objection to the principles contained in this rule.
A vote was taken 011 the proposed Standing Orders on the 19th May, 1887, and I find, by reference to the division list, that the honorable member for Macquarie voted for them, though he told us the other day that he did not vote on that occasion, because, with other honorable members, he was absent at a picnic which was being tendered to his leader.
– He was speaking of the occasion, in 1894, when Sir George Dibbs passed a set of Standing Orders in the absence of the Opposition.
– The Hansard record relates that, when the House divided upon the original question, all the amendments having been disposed of, there were fortyone ayes and twenty-one noes, a majority of twenty for the Standing Orders, the name of the honorable member appearing among the ayes. I will now show how the Standing Orders were worked. I have been twitted with the fact that they have been applied to my speeches, but I shall say nothing in defence of my actions, because they need no defence, and I think that they will be justified by a reference to Hansard. On the 4th June, 1895, the right honorable member for East Sydney, who was then Premier of New South Wales, introduced certain Tariff resolutions. In support of that statement, I offer my testimony, as having myself been present, and the official record appearing in the New South Wales Hansard, Vol. LXXVIII. page 6767. The right honorable gentleman, at 3.56 p.m. on the date I have mentioned,
We have had quite enough talk over these matters. We are going now to do solid work, and surely honorable members, who may find a majority of the House against them, are not going to try to substitute brute force and obstruction for the sway of intelligent opinion? Each honorable member is entitled to hold his opinion, and to give effect to his opinion; but when there is anything like obstruction in the way of the will of the Committee of the House, then a state of things arises which must be dealt with in a similar way. I hope it will not arise.
An honorable gentleman, who then represented the State constituency of Argyle, interjected -
Will the honorable member give us an idea of the time when he will put the cloture on ?
To which the right honorable member replied -
That is an unfair thing to say, because since this Government has been in office, we have never once applied the cloture. I have no hesitation in saying that I have the greatest dislike to the cloture but it may be justified. A majority of Parliament cannot be played with by the minority, however desperate it may be. I hope we shall discuss this matter all through in a fair and deliberate way, without any ill-feeling; and just as we when in opposition had to give way to the majority which the Government had on that occasion, I hope that honorable members who after a general election find themselves in a minority will act as we then acted.
– If we do the Government will get their Tariff through in twelve months !
– What nonsense ! I am not proposing to abridge this discussion at all, unless some element of obstruction arises.I shall be very sorry if we are compelled to adopt a course to which 1 have the strongest repugnance. I think the closure should never be applied except in very gross cases.
The Hansard report will show that these remarks were made by the right honorable gentleman only a few minutes after he had introduced the Tariff resolutions, and that the closure was applied within eighteen hours from that time. I have taken the trouble to ascertain exactly who spoke upon that occasion, with a view to discovering whether or not there was any justification for the application of the closure. I find that thirteen members addressed the House. The debate was commenced at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and the whole of the Tariff resolutions were passed in globo at 12 noon on the following day, the sitting having extended closure was mercilessly applied, and the resolutions were carried in globo. Incidentally, I would suggest that we might, with advantage, follow the practice, adopted in New South’ Wales, of recording the time at which an honorable member begins to address the House.
– I may inform the honorable member that that course will be followed from the beginning of next session.
– I am very pleased to hear it, because it will enable us to ascertain the exact time occupied by honorable members. I find that the honorable member for North Sydney, the right honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable member for Macquarie, and the honorable member for Dalley voted in favour of the application of the closure upon the occasion referred to. I ask how those honorable members, after having assisted to apply even more drastic provisions than those now proposed, can honestly and consistently vote against the motion? My sole desire in bringing these facts before the House is to present the truth. The honorable member for Macquarie stated that he was away at a picnic when the closure was applied for the purpose of closing the debate on the Tariff proposals of the Reid Government in New South Wales, but I am perfectly sure that the clerks of the House made no mistake in recording his vote, because I happened to be one of the tellers. I do not think that I have uttered one unfair word with regard to any honorable member. I submit that in the light of the experience through which we have passed during the last few weeks, the time has now arrived for limiting debate, in order that the public business may be transacted with reasonable despatch. It is because I hold this view that I feel perfectly justified in reversing the attitude taken uc by me when the closure was introduced into the New South Wales Assembly. I was then young, and thought that it was proposed to unduly interfere with the liberty of honorable members. I have since come to the conclusion that debates that are unduly prolonged are profitless, and that some drastic rules must be adopted to remind honorable members that they are not justified in repeating their arguments ad nauseam, and thus delaying the business of the country. To quote the words of the leader of the Opposition, “They may not be there always.” The time may come when they will again occupy the Treasury benches, and they will then be called upon to administer the Standing Orders now proposed. Cannot they trust the majority which happens to be in power to use those orders wisely and well ? What action, on the part of the Government, has induced them; to believe that they will unfairly apply the closure ? Although these rules have been in existence in New South Wales during the past eighteen years, they have very rarely Been put into operation. It is because honorable members realize that they can be used, should the necessity for so doing arise, that they are induced to facilitate the business of the country. I recognise that the time has come when some such proposals should be adopted here, and, therefore, I intend to support them°
– It is refreshing to hear the honorable member for Riverina emphasize his desire to put the truth before the House when he knows that no word which he has quoted from the New South Wales Hansard has any reference whatever to the Standing Orders which were adopted by the Legislative Assembly of that State whilst the honorable member for Macquarie and others were absent at a picnic in the National Park.
– The honorable member for Riverina said that the honorable member for Macquarie was present.
– The honorable member for Macquarie was not present when the Standing Orders, to which previous reference has been made, were submitted bv Sir George Dibbs. He was absent at a picnic which was being tendered bv members of the Opposition to the right honorable member for( East Sydney. The adoption of those Standing Orders was moved on 7th June. 1894. The honorable member for Riverina was well aware of that, and yet he stated that the honorable member for Macquarie and others had voted for them.
– I rise to a point of order. I distinctly and repeatedly stated that T was quoting, from the New South Wales Hansard for Mav, 1887.
– That is not a point of order but a personal explanation, which the honorable member might have more fitly made at the close of the remarks of the honorable member for New England.
– The honorable member quoted from the New South Wales
H’ansard for 1887 for the purpose of showing that the honorable member for Macquarie was present at the division which was taken upon the closure proposals submitted in that year. I say that his statement is absolutely misleading. The Standing Orders to which the honorable member for Macquarie and others previously referred, were adopted on the 7th of June, 1894. The present PostmasterGeneral was one of those who voted against them. I hope that he will act in a similar manner upon the present occasion. The Vice-President of the Executive Council and the honorable member for Riverina have declared that the right honorable member for East Sydney put through the whole of his Tariff by means of the closure. That statement is absolutely incorrect, and both those gentlemen knew it to be so. The facts ‘fire that the Tariff proposals were introduced in Committee of Ways and Means, and the right honorable member for East Sydney asked honorable members to allow them to pass without discussion, because thev would have the fullest opportunity of debating them upon the motion for the second reading of the Bil], and during its progress through Committee. The right honorable member for East Svdney did not pass his Customs Duties Bill by means of the closure. It is true that he passed the resolutions through Committee, of Ways and Means in that way, but he did not use the closure to pass the Bill through the House. The honorable member for Riverina has mentioned the names of various gentlemen who spoke upon the Tariff pro,posals in Committee of Ways and Means. I find that the late Mr. Copeland spoke upon them twice. Mr. O’sullivan occupied two and a half hours, and Mr. Copeland spoke for one hour and six minutes. Then he again spoke for seventy-five minutes longer, and at the end of that time was closured. Mr. Schey spoke for three hours and twenty minutes, Dr. Ross for one hour and thirtyfour minutes, Mr. Rose for three hours, Mr. Kidd for forty-seven minutes, and the honorable member for Riverina for about sixty minutes. Was not that deliberate and wilful obstruction? Has anything of the kind been done in this Parliament? The honorable member for Riverina admits that the discussion extended over some thirteen or fourteen hours. But what happened when Sir George Dibbs - who had the honorable member for Riverina and the PostmasterGeneral behind him - put the closure into operation upon the occasion that his Tariff proposals were submitted? The moment they were read Mr. Crick rose, and moved “ that the question be now put.”
– Did the honorable member for Riverina vote for that ?
– Very likely he did. Certainly the present Postmaster-General voted for it. These facts evidence the way in which the honorable member for Riverina presents the truth.
– Was he right in saying that the honorable member for Macquarie voted for the application of the closure ?
– Yes. Sir George Dibbs introduced his closure proposals on 7th June, 1894. Upon 15th June of that year the House was dissolved, and upon 2nd August Mr. Reid was in power. If similar results follow the passing of the Government proposal. I shall be perfectly satisfied. When the honorable member for Riverina quoted from a speech delivered bv the right honorable member -for East Sydney in 1887, with the object of showing that he had supported a similar standing order to that proposed, I hold .that he did not understand English. I can only excuse his statement upon that assumption. The standing order proposed by the late Sir Henry Parkes reads -
At any time during the proceedings of the House or during the proceedings of a Committee of the Whole, any member may move without debate “ That the question be now put,” and such motion shall then be put without debate, and if such motion be carried by a majority of twothirds of the members then present, the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, shall forthwith put the question to the vote.
Is there any likeness between that and the Government proposal? Under the standing order proposed by the late Sir Henry Parkes, if thirty honorable members were present it would be necessary for twenty to vote for the application of the closure before it could be brought into operation. But under the Government proposal, if twenty-four honorable members voted for its. application and twenty-three against it, it would immediately become operative. It will thus be seen that the Government proposal is very much more drastic than is the standing order which was submitted by the late Sir Henry Parkes. The honorable member for Riverina carefully selected passages from the speech of that gentleman.
– He made some very happy selections.
– Speaking upon the Standing Orders which were submitted upon 1:2th of June, 1887, the right honorable member for East Sydney desired them to be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. He said -
Under the rule to which I am referring, it will be within the power of a majority at their own option, at any time, without any check whatever, to say “ Now the deliberative functions of Parliament shall cease. This House shall be converted into a mere voting machine.” I admit- that there are times when such things must be done. I cordially approve of the principle of the rule, but I would not - nor shall I ever do so if I can help it - put it in the power of any majority to place any minority in such a position.
That is a true statement of the position. The honorable member for Riverina may run away if he chooses. Let us have the truth. The honorable member assured us that he was going to place the truth before the House.
– And he did so.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney went on to say -
It is impossible for us to know what matters of vital moment may arise in the future, when it may be of the greatest consequence to the House, and the country, that the minority in Parliament should be fully and fairly heard. Nor can we tell what emergency may suggest to- the majority on the Government side how expedient it may be -
Just as it is expedient to pass this motion, in order that the Government may be able’ to force through the House the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill- that the protests, that the speeches of honorable members opposite to them, should be utterly suppressed.
The right honorable member pointed out that proposals of the kind now before us might be dangerous to the liberty of the minority.
– Why did he vote for them ?
– I do not know that the proposals were carried. The debate took place on a motion to refer them to the Standing Orders Committee, and that course was adopted.
– They were returned to the House, and a vote took place upon them.
– I do not know whether or not the right honorable member for East Sydney voted for them. My only object is to show that he has not deviated in the slightest from the course which he then laid down. No one with any regard for the truth would make quotations from speeches in such a way as to lead the House to believe that the speaker had said exactly the opposite of what he really did say.
– I did not make it appear that he had done so. I quoted from the official reports.
– Such conduct, especially on the part of an honorable member who states that he is making quotations in the interests of truth, is utterly reprehensible.
– The honorable member for Riverina was very fair.
– He was outrageously unfair.
– He stated the page at which every quotation he made was to be found.
– I am opposed to the Standing Orders now proposed by the Government, because they are altogether too drastic. The right honorable member for East Sydney, in speaking upon the proposals made by the late Sir Henry Parkes, pointed out that the closure should not be applied, except with the concurrence of Mr. Speaker, and at the will of a majority of at least twenty of those present. There might be some reason in passing these proposals, subject to such safeguards.
– In the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales the affirmative votes for the application of the closure must be twice the number of the quorum.
– That is so. There must be forty affirmative votes, the quorum consisting of twenty members. The danger of such a standing order has been demonstrated even in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. I think that it was in T902 that Bills for ,the consolidation of Statutes, were introduced in that House, and Mr. Levy,, after looking through them, came to the conclusion that the gentleman who was responsible for the consolidation had made various mistakes. He did his best to havethe Bills so amended as to provide for a proper consolidation, of the Acts ; but the closure was applied to prevent his putting his views before the country. It has since been shown by the
Supreme Court of New South Wales that Mr. Levy was absolutely right, and that the House was wrong in closuring him-. In many cases the closure has been applied most unwisely. When I say that, as a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, I was closured, many honorable members will no doubt say, “And a very good thing, too.” But I wish to put the position clearly before the House, and to show how unfairly such a standing order may be enforced. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was being considered in that House, I made sixteen speeches, occupying a total of fifty - four minutes, or an average of three and a half minutes each. Yet, after speaking for only six minutes on the clause relating to preference to unionists, I was closured. I say at once that that was an outrage. Thirty-two members voted for the application of the closure, and twenty-three against it. Among those who voted in the affirmative were eleven members of .the Labour Party, who of all men ought to have stood up for the freedom of debate. One of those members himself had spoken for nineteen minutes on the clause in question, whilst Mr. Nielsen, who had spoken for twelve minutes upon it, also voted to apply the closure to me.
– They must have known the honorable member.
– I have my opinions of them, but do not wish to express them_ here. Two others who had spoken for three minutes each on the clause voted against me. Then, again, Mr. J. J. Cohen was closured, although he had uttered only a few words. The Labour Party were determined to push the preference clause through the House, just as the party in this Chamber are determined to-day to carry this motion, in order that the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill may be forced through the House. Our deliberations should be as free as .possible. No harm can come to the community from freedom of speech. The good that we do is not’ to be gauged by the number of measures that we pass. Indeed, I think it would be well if we put up the shutters for a few years, or else exercised our power to repeal some of the measures we have passed. It is not the number of Bills that we pass, but the degree of perfection which they show which is a matter of importance to the people. But how can we pass perfect measures if the Government supporters open their eyes and shut their mouths, and, without bringing their intelligence to bear, swallow all that is submitted to them? It seems that if the work of the country is to be done in such circumstances it must be done by the Opposition. The Opposition must criticise the mistakes of the Government, and stand by the rights of the people in relation to these matters. It would be better for us to spend many days in making one measure perfect than to pass a number of Bills in the shortest possible space of time. I have no desire to go before my constituents and claim credit for having assisted in passing 500 Acts of Parliament. When they complained a little while ago that we had not done much, I told them that it depended upon the standpoint from which they viewed the work of the Parliament ; that it was true that, having regard to the number of Bills we had passed we had done but little, but that if they looked at what we had prevented we had done a great deal. I hold that in preventing the passing of faulty legislation we do good for the country, whereas if we allowed such legislation to be enacted we should do it harm. But it seems that those who stand up against anything in that direction are considered to be deserving of the “ gag.” Why have the Government determined to force these closure proposals upon us? The honorable member for Coolgardie referred this afternoon to the speeches made by the Opposition during the present session. Taking his own statement’, together with information furnished by the Hansard staff as to the average number of pages which went to the hour last session, I find that on one of the days to which the honorable member has referred, seven honorable members of the Opposition spoke, and that their speeches averaged about one hour each. The honorable member for Coolgardie told me quite openly that he had selected the record for the days that best suited his argument.
– The honorable member would not do such a thing?
– I probably should. I am not blaming the honorable member. I find that on one of the days to which the honorable member for Coolgardie referred seven honorable members of the Opposition spoke, and that their speeches averaged one hour four minutes each. On the next day to which he referred honorable members of the Opposition who spoke made speeches which occupied on the average one hour five minutes each, whilst the average time occupied by each member of the Opposition who spoke on the succeeding days to which the honorable member alluded was one hour fifteen minutes, forty-seven minutes, one hour five minutes, thirty minutes, one hour thirtyfive minutes, and thirty minutes. It must be remembered that these speeches dealt with such important matters as the Budget, the Estimates, the Commerce Bill, and other matters of equal concern to the people. I think that if we took the average for the speeches delivered by honorable members of the Opposition throughout the session, we should find that it was very much lower. The fifty-four speeches delivered by the Opposition on the days in question averaged fifty-eight minutes each. That is the very worst that can be said about the Opposition. Yet the Government have proposed the application of the “ gag “ on the ground that time has been wasted. But is it not a fact that, only a little while ago, the Prime Minister stated in this Chamber that .he did not complain of the waste of time by the Opposition ? We have only done the fair thing by the measures submitted to us. While, on one or two occasions, I have spoken at some length, no one can find in the reports of my speeches any evidence of a desire to “ stonewall,” or to obstruct business; and I believe that the same remark’ applies to the speeches of the other members of the Opposition. I have never spoken without trying to place before the House information which I thought would be of benefit to it. Let me analyze the circumstances which are accountable for the introduction of the motion which we are now discussing. On Tues.day week, when the House met, honorable, members found that the business-paper had been turned topsy-turvy, the Trade Marks Bill, containing the trade union label provisions, which had formerly occu- pied n place at the bottom, having been brought to the top. The only way in which the deputy leader of the Opposition could protest against what had occurred was by moving the Chairman out of the chair, which he did. The Opposition discussed that motion for some time, but at about 1 1 o’clock offered to pass fifty - seven of the 100 or more clauses which the Bill contained. Having heard the honorable and learned member for Angas speak since on the subject. I have come to the conclusion that we made a mistake in making that offer. The fact that the offer was made, however, shows that there was no desire to obstruct. It was unfortunate that the honorable and learned member was absent. No one can accuse him of ever being a party to obstruction ; but if he had been here, the offer would not have been made, and I am sure that when next we deal with the Bill, some of the clauses will meet with considerable discussion, not from any desire to obstruct, but because of the nature of their provisions.
– - -Then the Opposition did not know what they were doing in making the offer?
– We did not. The Attorney-General said that he was determined to put through seventy-two clauses, and as a protest against his dictation, a debate ensued which lasted all night and the following morning. At 1 a.m. we agreed, at the request of the Prime Minister, to withdraw the motion, “That the Chairman do now leave the chair,” in order to enable the House to assemble again at the ordinary hour of meeting, and directly we met, the motion for the adoption of the “ gag “ was given notice of. No one can honestly say that the Opposition have obstructed, though the Ministry have raised that cry in order to support their action. But it is only continued obstruction and refusal to allow business to pass that can justify any party in limiting the right of free speech. The Trade Marks Bill contains provisions which have created great trouble and dissension in other countries. But the new standing order has been proposed to help to push it through. The Government are taking this course without any good reason, such as would influence men of high honour or principle, and I shall oppose with all my strength the adoption of the proposed new standing order. Some of the amendments which have been foreshadowed should be accepted, to make it at least less stringent than it would be if adopted as proposed. The Labour Party must realize that they have won all that they have gained in Parliaments in which the “ gag “ has not been applied, and that the advancement of humanity cannot be obtained without the fullest freedom in the expression of opinion. The human intellect can never be enslaved so long as there is freedom of speech ; but the moment that the liberty which has elevated the British race is taken from them, evils will be created the results of which cannot be foreseen.
– I cannot allow the occasion to pass without expressing my opinion of the circumstances under which the motion has been brought forward. To me the application of the closure under ordinary circumstances would be absolutely repugnant, and I have never yet favoured the curtailment of speech when there has been a reasonable opportunity for the expression of opinion. I am satisfied that the closure has not given the good results in the New South Wales Parliament that some people have expected from it ; and I know that frequently its application has caused a debate to become more acrimonious, and to last longer than would otherwise have been the case. Very frequently it has caused lack of interest in the measure under discussion, and legislation has been conducted in a manner which cannot be regarded as satisfactory. I look upon it as a two-edged weapon.
– Were not the improvement lease clauses “gagged “ through the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales ?
– I have not a distinct recollection on the point. But I remember that honorable members were “ gagged “ when they sought to discuss some consolidating Bills which came down from the Legislative Council. Mr. Speaker ruled that the Assembly had no power to amend those Bills, and their discussion being considered useless, the closure was applied to prevent it. I think that it was a wrong ruling to say that the House should not discuss whether they were proper consolidating Bills, but that was the ruling given, and as it was not dissented from, the closure was applied to prevent debate.
– Was it not afterwards found that the observations of the members who were commenting on one of the Bills, and to whom the closure was applied, were fully justified?
– Yes ; but that does not appear to afford any ground for declining to apply the closure in this House. As I have said before, the closure is likely torecoil upon any party that introduces it; but there are circumstances in which we have to depart from what we mav regard as proper principles, and apply drastic remedies in order to insure the reasonable transaction of public business. From what I have? learned as to the events of last week, I have come to the conclusion that the Opposition, are responsible for bringing about the present action on the part of the Government. The honorable member for New England has stated that certain terms were offered to the Government, but Ministers could not possibly permit the Opposition to dictate to them as to the manner in which they should proceed with the business.
– We did not dictate to the Government, but entered into friendly negotiations with them.
– After honorable members had talked for the whole evening the negotiations could not have ‘been of a very friendly character.
– The Opposition offered to pass more clauses in the Trade Marks Bill than were ever previously agreed to at a single sitting.
– The Opposition could not have known very much about what they were doing, or they would not have made such an offer. They could not have realized the importance of the clauses.
– I submitted four amendments for the consideration of the Attorney-General.
– I am not referring to what was done by the honorable member for North Sydney. The honorable member for New England told us that if the Opposition had had the services of the honorable member for Angas, who has discovered several serious defects in the Bill, they would have known that, in making their offer, they were sacrificing the interests of those whom they were supposed to represent. I know of no case in which greater warrant has been afforded for the adoption of the course now proposed by the Government. I would not be a party to preventing any honorable member from expressing his views in a reasonable and legitimate manner; but when we find one honorable member after another rising in his place and practically repeating the speech already delivered by his leader, we must acknowledge that the Government have ample justification for the course they have taken.
Air. Joseph Cook. - The honorable member must recollect that he occupied four and a-half hours on one occasion:
– I was then dealing with a momentous issue, and was detailing, as I was perfectly entitled to do, the political histories of a number of honorable members,, with a view to demonstrating their inconsistency. That speech was delivered during a debate upon a motion of censure, whereas honorable members of the Opposition have made long orations upon mere quibbles with regard to procedure. The Opposition have put up a record during the present session which it will be difficult for any of their successors to surpass. I find by reference to Hansard that up to last week the honorable member for Parramatta had delivered speeches measuring 3,267 inches, or 91 yards, in the columns of that publication. The session is not yet over, and it is impossible to say how far the honorable member may increase his tally. The right honorable member for East Sydney is not here very often, and yet his record is a stupendous one. He has been in attendance here at probably one sitting out of three, upon the average, and during his short visits has delivered speeches which measure in Hansard 2,924 inches, or 81 yards. Had he been here as often as has the honorable member for Parramatta, his record would probably have run into miles, instead of yards. The honorable member for Wentworth, who is learning his profession very rapidly under the tutelage of the honorable member for Parramatta and the right honorable member for East Sydney, already takes third position, and I would urge his tutors to beware, or their pupil will totally eclipse them. The honorable member’s speeches occupy 2,043 inches, or 50 yards. I would not object to the time occupied in his case were it not for the fact that the honorable member has delivered practically the one speech upon defence matters no less than six times. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa, who does not address the House very often, but when he does speak extends his remarks considerably, occupied 1,528 inches, or 42 yards. I find thatthe speeches of the honorable member for Lang occupy 1,293 inches, or 36 yards. I congratulate the honorable member upon his moderation. The honorable member for Macquarie. who is only just getting into training for serious work, delivered speeches which extend to 1,061 inches, or 30 yards. The honorable member for Dalley, who is by far the most amusing member of the Opposition, and who ably performs the difficult task of uttering in an original manner the sentiments expressed by previous speakers, delivered speeches extending over 1,001 inches, or 28 yards. The honorable member for New England, who is always boasting of the brevity, and. particularly of the quality, of his speeches which, he claims, are based upon the solid foundations of liberty and justice, has treated the House to orations which occupy 811 inches, or 23 yards. The eight members of the Opposition who claim that they have done no “ stone-walling,” but have occupied only Just such time as was necessary to legitimately express their views, have delivered speeches which occupy no less space than 13,928 inches, or 391 yards, of the columns of Hansard.
– From present appearances, I think that the honorable member could beat that record hollow.
– The honorable member could not convince me that I possess any such qualification. When we recollect that the members of the Hansard staff, in reporting our proceedings in Committee, very wisely exclude about 50 per cent. of the utterances of honorable members, it will be seen that those eight honorable members have been responsible for 782 yards,, or nearly half-a-mile, of talk.
– They did their duty nobly.
– What have the public gained as the result of their efforts ?
– It was merely in justification of their rights.
– Does the honorable member think an Opposition justified in obstructing at all times and under all circumstances, anything which may be proposed by the Government of the day ? That is not a fair position to take up. We all know that honorable members occupied hour after hour. . in discussing the seizure of a shipment of Panama hats, which was ‘ peculiarly a question of administration. Whenever they lacked a legitimate subject for debate, they attacked that question, with the deliberate object of delaying the transaction of the public business. I regret that so much space is occupied in Hansard in recording proceedings of that character. In my own electorate quite a number of persons read that publication. During last session I received numerous letters from my constituents, asking me when something original would appear in Hansard.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated this afternoon that nobody ever read Hansard.
– The honorable member must know that in his own electorate Hansard is read.
– But they are intelligent people there.
– As a general rule, I entirely disagree with the application of the closure. I have voted for its application only under very exceptional circumstances. But I admit that there are times when we must draw the line, when the exception proves the rule, and when we are obliged to take a firm stand in the interests of the public. I do not believe in the principle underlying the closure. In my opinion, its application very frequently tends to prolong debate, in addition to which it fails to achieve the object for which it is introduced. At the same time, I cannot fail to recognise that the Government have been placed in such a difficult position, owing fo the obstructive tactics of certain members of the Opposition, that the adoption of proposals of this character is absolutely necessary.
Mr. MCWILLIAMS (Franklin)”.- I do not intend to detain the House very long, but it is necessary that those who object so strongly to the application of the “gag” should assign their reasons for so doing. Tonight we have heard only three speeches in support of the Government proposals. After having listened to those deliverances, one ceases to wonder that there has been a conspiracy of silence on the part of Ministerial supporters. The speech of the VicePresident of the Executive Council can scarcely be regarded seriously. He did not take himself seriously, and, consequently, honorable members must be excused if they decline to regard his utterances in that light. The honorable member for Riverina, after declaring himself a direct opponent of the “ gag,” and after confessing that it has been harshly applied in New South Wales, announced h*is intention of supporting it. Similarly, the honorable member for Gwydir intends to vote for it, although he admits that its application, instead of limiting debate, tends to prolong it. The defenders of the Government proposal object to the “gag.” They declare that, in improper hands, it may be used to stifle debate, and yet they are willing to support it. Some honorable members, like the honorable member for Coolgardie, are prepared to sacrifice the whole of their principles for the sake of gaining a miserable mess of pottage in the shape of the union label. It has ten stated during the course of this debate that during the last session I supported the application of the <!gag.” Anybody who will take the trouble to read the report of my remarks in submitting my proposal for the limitation of speeches will see that the very object which I had in view - whilst desiring to prevent’ unnecessary waste of time - was to prevent that which the Government are now desirous of forcing upon us. Whilst I was pointing out the restrictions imposed upon speeches in Italy and some of the States of America, the honorable member for Barrier interjected -
That is not the procedure in the House of Commons.
To that statement I replied -
The practice of the House of Commons is very much worse, because they apply the closure when they desire, as our American friends express it, to “bulldose” the House, and pass a Bill through. I do not desire to see that system introduced here.
Later on, I said -
I have seen it resorted to only twice, once iti the Parliament of Tasmania, and once in thisHouse, and I do not wish to see it again.
That was the position which I took up thenI am strongly in favour of the limitation of speeches, which will secure all that is necessary. I believe that that method will have a much greater effect in saving the time of this House than the application, of a “ gag.’” If some such proposal as that suggested had been made, it would have effected all that the Government could honestly and reasonably ask - that there should be reasonable debate, and nothing but reasonable debate. I have strongly protested against the utter waste of time that has taken place by means of long speeches. But the strange circumstance is that the honorable members who are now supporting the “ gag “ have really been the longest speakers in the House. I think that the longest speeches which I have ever heard have been delivered by the Prime Minister himself. If I remember rightly, on the preference to unionists proposal, when the honorable and learned gentleman was a private member, he spoke for five hours. On another occasion, when giving reasons why he supported the Reid-McLean Administration, he spoke for upwards of four hours. I heard the honorable member for Gwydir speak for four hours on one occasion, and I think that he spoke between three and four hours on the Federal Capital Site question. It is the chief offenders who are now proposing the “gag,” not to secure the limitation of speeches, but absolutely to prevent any discussion. It mav be said that there will never be in this House an honorable member tyrannical enough to apply the “ gag.” But history shows that wherever the “gag” exists it has been tyrannically applied.
– Where does it not exist?
– Where does it exist that it has not been tyrannically applied? In the House of Commons the experience has been that the very men who were instrumental in first introducing the “ gag” are those who, during the last two sessions of Parliament, have writhed and squirmed under its application to the Education and Licensing Bills. The very men who first imposed the “ gag,” to carry through the Coercion Bill in the House of Commons, are those who are now rebelling most strongly against its application to themselves. And I am as confident as that I am standing here that the honorable members who are now assisting to pass the “ gag “ standing order in this House will be the first to regret having had anything to do with it.
– That would not worry the honorable member.
– It would worry me to see an injustice done. It would worry me to see any section in this House, or any party, treated with unfairness. As has been pointed out, this is absolutely a two-edged sword. The honorable members who are so much in favour of its application to-day may be those to whom it. will be applied to-morrow. But, apart from this House altogether, there is a very much broader aspect of the question to consider. There is its effect upon the constituencies themselves. If the “gag” is applied to any particular subject, and discussion is prohibited, the constituencies will be deprived of their right to make their opinions and wishes known through the lips of their representatives. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is the only member of the Government, apart from the Prime Minister, who has advocated the “gag” in the House, has defended it by the suggestion of a system of governing by telephone. He suggests that the Prime Minister, the leader of the Opposition, and the leader of the third party - which latter, in view of his own position, should be regarded asthe first party - should make their speeches, and then that the vote should be taken irrespective of anything else that might be stated. He asserted that every member of this House was compelled to vote as his leader dictated.
– That is true as a general proposition, is it not?
– I can quite understand that the honorable gentleman, as a member of a Government, with only eight or nine direct followers, may hold that opinion. But he knows that the “gag” was introduced simply to force through a measure, of which he and the Treasurer do not approve.
– The honorable member does not vote against his leader.
– I have voted against my leader several times. Does the right honorable gentleman state, or will he state–
– He will not speak at all on the question.
– In that respect the right honorable gentleman is very wise. I should be much interested to see the reply that he sends to the important telegram which he has received lately. The whole history of the “ gag “ shows that it has always been introduced on one of three alter - natives. It has been introduced in savage rage; it has been introduced in craven fear ; or it has been introduced with the deliberate intention to push some special measure through Parliament. The whole of the circumstances surrounding the motion that we are discussing show that the “gag” has been proposed with a view to passing a measure now before the House. Honorable members may talk about waste of time as much as they like, but they cannot get any one outside the House to believe it. They do not believe it themselves, and I say most emphatically that they will not persuade the country to believe it. On the very face of things, it is clear as noon-day that the “gag” has been introduced with the one deliberate intention of forcing the union label through this House. That is the sole purpose of it.
– -The purpose is to allow majorities to rule.
– Has the Prime Minister, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee, ever advocated the “gag” ? He has been a prominent member of that Committee for many years. Has he ever given notice of a proposal for the adoption of the “ gag “ as a standing order of this House? No. It was not until the Government saw that, rightly or wrongly, there was a considerable section of this House deter mined to fight to the bitter end against the introduction of the union label in the Trade Marks Bill, that the application of the “ gag “ was proposed. I repeat that the intention of this proposal has been, and now is, to force the union label through. That very Bill was put on one side in the midst of its progress through Committee in order to allow the “gag” resolution to be proposed. The responsibility of passing a law must always rest upon those who propose it. It is the creators of a law, not its administrators, who must be held completely responsible, alike for its existence and its application. If we pass this motion, it will be open to the Government to apply the closure either to an individual member or to the consideration of the clause of a Bill. The full responsibility for this will rest upon the House. The “ gagging “ standing order in force in New South Wales was introduced for a special purpose, and we know that bad results have followed. The first “ gagging “ standing order was introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. Gladstone for the special purpose of enabling him to force the Coercion Bill through the House, and. the “gag”isalsotobe brought into operation in this House with a special object in view.
– To give justice to the working man.
– I am glad that the deputy leader of the third party, which holds the Government, so to speak, in the hollow of its hand, admits that the “gag “ is being introduced into this House for that specific purpose ; that it is being introduced to enable the union label clauses of the Trade Marks Bill, for example, to be pushed through the House.
An Honorable Member. - Hear, hear.
– That means that it is to be used as a party engine.
– Such standing orders have always been introduced with that object in view. I assert that certain honorable members who object just as strongly as I do to the House being deprived of its freedom - who are as strongly opposed as I am to the constituencies being deprived of the right to have their views expressed in this House - are prepared to vote for the application of the closure merely to secure the mess of pottage in the shape of the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill. They seem to have forgotten that the tables may be turned against them after a general election, and that the “ gag “ may be applied to them for the purpose of en abling the House to repeal the very Bill which they are now so anxious to pass. The constituencies have an inalienable right to the full and complete representation of their views in this House. But how can they secure that representation if it be in the power of twenty-four members in a House of seventy-five, to apply the “gag” at any time. It is idle to say that it is not proposed to give such a power. We know that the proposed standing order will be more drastic than any that exists.
– Can the honorable gentleman mention any “gagging “ standing order that is more drastic?
– Those in force in the House of Commons, and also in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, are more drastic.
– It cannot be said that the closure standing orders of the House of Commons are more drastic than is that which we are now asked to accept.
– They are. The Government can say : “ This Bill must be passed by to-morrow night,” and by means of the guillotine their determination can be carried out.
– But under the proposed standing order now before us, it would be possible for the Government of the day to rush a Bill through the House without fixing any definite period within which it should be passed.
– If any alteration be required, will the honorable member vote for the adoption of the House of Commons “ gag,”in addition to the Government proposals.
– I should not vote under any circumstances for the legalising of the “ gag.” I should like to know whether it is in the power of any honorable member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland to move the application of the closure at any stage in the proceedings of the House?
– It is in the power of the Government of the day in Queensland to say that the whole of the Estimates, together with any other Bill that may be under consideration, shall be passed by a. given hour, and within a quarter of an hour of the time named the Chairman, notwithstanding that some honorable members may object, can put the whole of those matters through.
– Under this proposal it will not be necessary for the Chairman to take action. It will be open to any honorable member to say, “We will pass the Estimates as a whole.”
– That is the position in New South Wales.
– I repeat that the standing order now proposed is far more drastic than that which prevails in Queensland, because it is not proposed that the closure shall be applied only with the concurrence of Mr. Speaker or the Chairman. Absolutely no protection is to be afforded honorable members.
– Under the guillotine standing order thereis only the one question dealt with, but under the closure standing order it is open to honorable members to “ stone-wall.”
– The question may be made as wide as the Government please. It will be open to them to say, “ We will deal with the Estimates in detail or as a whole.” By the application of the “gag” they will be able to take the Estimates in globe and force them through the House. I understand that in Queensland it is necessary for the Chairman to approve of the application of the “ gag,” but in this case the Government do not propose any such restriction.
– In the Legislative Assembly of Queensland the Chairman must be satisfied that the matter has been sufficiently discussed.
– And it is because of the absence of any such proviso to the proposals now before us that I assert that they are infinitely more drastic than either the closure’ standing order of that Parliament or of the House of Commons.
– A similar standing order was in force in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, but we “ stone-walled “ a proposal so long that the guillotine motion had to be introduced. Notwithstanding that a standing order similar to that now before us was in force, we were able to speak to one question for seventy-five hours.
– That being so, the application of the “gag” in Queensland has been a failure. It certainly cannot be said to have conduced to the curtailment of debate.
– The statement should soothe the Opposition.
– The application of the ‘‘gag” in the Federal Parliament will be infinitely more serious than is its application in a State Parliament. The measure of representation of the States in this House varies. A large State like New South Wales has twenty-six representatives, whilst Western Australia and Tasmania have only five each. Naturally, the representatives of the larger States are not conversant with the position of the smaller ones, and during the consideration of a matter on which, perhaps, the financial safety of the smaller States depends, the “ gag “ may be applied after the leaders of the different parties in the House have spoken, and without one representative of those States having had an opportunity to voice their wants or wishes.
– A proposal to apply the “gag”insuch circumstances would not have my support.
– How is it that nothing of the kind occurs in the Senate, although they have adopted a closure standing order?
– They are not lively enough to keep themselves warm. I would, in conclusion, strongly urge the House to take a fair view of this matter. I am prepared to support any reasonable proposal for the limitation of speeches, and I have given notice, in connexion with the second proposed standing order, of an amendment which, if adopted, would do more to curtail debate than the “ gagging “ proposal now under consideration, while at the same time it would preserve to every honorable member his right to express his views and those of his constituents. No honorable member is more strongly in favour of a time limitation of speeches than I am. I would prefer to see only ten minutes or a quarter of an hour allowed to each speaker - though I am not ready to vote for such a curtailment as that - rather than see the “ gagging “ proposals of the Government carried into effect. If a time limit were placed on speeches, honorable members’ rights of discussion would be preserved, and the representative of the smallest constituency in the Commonwealth would have an opportunity to make known its wishes and wants in this assembly. Unless some such amendment is adopted, I shall oppose the motion to the utmost of my ability.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Wilks) adjourned. .
Bill returned from the Senate with verbal amendments.
Senate’s message considered forthwith, and amendments agreed to; report adopted.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051122_reps_2_29/>.