2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Does the Minister for Home Affairs know if it is true, as stated in the press, that the Railway officials deny the allegations made by honorable members regarding travelling accommodation, and declare them to be unjust? Will the Minister place the following statement before the Victorian Railways Commissioners, in order to ascertain if it can be disproved - That an attendant booked Mrs. Hutchison and myself on Tuesday, 14th November, for Friday, 17 th. That he was informed ail the cars were full, but he would see if accommodation could be found. That the attendant later on made inquiries. That on the 17th, after 4 p.m., the attendant was again informed there was no sleeping accommodation. That when I applied at the booking-office about 4.30,I received the same reply myself, That on application for a compartment, I was told it could not be provided. That on stating I did not blame the bookingofficer, but that I would have to see his superior officer, and that I did not intend to travel myself, having been detained by. my parliamentary duties,he immediately booked Mrs. Hutchison in the sleeping-car. Why could this not have been done at the time a berth was refused, a minute before ? As Senator Guthrie was booked for Adelaide, and had his berth cancelled on Friday, why: could I not have had that gentleman’s berth ? Will the Minister consult my South Australian Labour colleagues, on whose behalf I have had to complain, regarding the truth of my other complaints ?
– I shall certainly put the honorable member’s statement before the officials concerned. Of course, I am not at present in a position to form any opinion on the subject.
– Honorable members ought to have seen the Minister on the subject, instead of referring to it in this House. It is purely a departmental matter.
– Personally, I should prefer in all these cases to be furnished with a written complaint, about which I could cause inquiries to be made. In regard to the complaints made by the honorable member’s colleagues, I shall be glad if he will give me, in writing, a succinct account of the treatment complained of, so that I may cause the matter to be inquired into.
– I have found the Railway authorities exceptionally obliging.
-So far as the Department of Home Affairs is concerned, the Railways Commissioners of all the States, and their officers, have always extended us every courtesy.
– The members of the Tobacco Select Committee are complaining of the treatment theyhave received.
– If there is a ground of complaint, I should like to hear both sides on that particular matter. These complaints may involve the reputation of cer- tain officers, and should, in fairness to them, be properly investigated. I will take steps to request that they may be inquired into.
– I have always found the Railway authorities very obliging.
– I do not complain without cause. We have been long suffering.
– I understand that the Government have further information in regard to the death rate in the northern division of New Guinea, which, according to the last account, was abnormal. Is the Prime Minister prepared to inform the House on the subject?
– When the administration of British New Guinea was last under discussion, I ventured the opinion that the death rate in the northern division - between 22 and 23 per cent. - was abnormal, and due to special causes. The returns for the. following twelve months, which have since come to hand, substantiate that opinion, the death rate, according to the most recent information, not exceeding 6 per cent. Evidently the first information was erroneous, or the excessive death rate, of which we were informed, was due to an epidemic, because, so far as we know, there has been no appreciable change in the surrounding conditions.
– Is the honorable and learned gentleman referring to the death rate among native carriers?
– Among native workmen generally. The men who serve as carriers often take work in the mines on arrival there.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When will the amounts withheld from officers in the Postal and Telegraphic service, as District Allowances, be paid to them?
– The district allowances that were withheld pending the approval of the Classification Scheme are now being paid.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has received any offers of copies of works on Australian Geography for distribution amongst the schools of Great Britain ; and, if so, the nature of such offers?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
When submitting a sample copy of An Australian Geography, the publisher, Mr. C. W. Wittber, of Adelaide, offered - in the event of the Commonwealth Government selecting it for distribution in Great Britain - to supply 25,000 copies at 5d. each - ^520 r6s. 8d. As already stated in this House, in reply to a question by the honorable member on 14th September, such a purchase will be considered in connexion with the distribution of other publications as part of a general scheme.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 5627), 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 ‘ be now put.” Such motions shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
An affirmative vote of not less than twentyfour members shall be necessary to carry any motion under this Standing Order.
– I shall not detain the House much more than a quarter of an hour, because I have no wish to deal with this question at length, or to go over again ground which has been traversed by other honorable members. But I cannot allow the occasion to pass without expressing one or two views on the subject. In my opinion, if we adopted the closure, we should make the admission that the House is unworkable, and I am not prepared to admit that this body is an unworkable institution, or composed of men who neglect their public duties. No doubt every Ministry is apt to consider that the Opposition is taking up too much time, but to try to make the public believe that business can not be conducted in this House is to utter a libel on Parliament. I am in favour of limiting speeches, and I think that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney would be an admirable one to adopt to effect that purpose, while it is more democratic than the suggestion of the Government. The honorable member, except under certain circumstances, would not allow members to speak longer than an hour. I think that if such a rule were adopted, it would result in betterthoughtout speeches. Honorable members, knowing that only a certain time would be available to them, would prepare their subjects more carefully, and would present their views with more method, so that our discussions would do great credit to us, and cause the House to be respected by the press and by the country. I do not wish the public to think that this House has descended so low that business cannot be conducted here without the drastic rule which the Ministry wish to apply. In my opinion, the proposed new standing order has been brought forward in a spirit of petulancy, but I hope that the feeling provoked last week will not continue, and that a special session will be devoted to the whole subject of standing orders. There is really no needfor the closure here, because the number of subjects on which the Commonwealth Parliament is permitted by the Constitution to legislate is not very large. In the States Parliaments, where the members number more than the members of this House, and there are more subjects to legislate on, there may be some reason for the adoption of machinery to prevent delay, but, as I have said, we have not that reason in our case. Besides, all our measures are subject to the review of the High Court. I hope that it will be the aim of honorable members to make our legislation as perfect as possible. Apparently, the object of some of the States Parliaments is to rush through as much legislation as can be passed, in order to make a record for the session, though the result generally is that a great part of following sessions has to be devoted to the consideration of amending Bills. The value ofthe work of a Parliament cannot be ascertained by applying a foot-rule to the measurement of its legislation. In this matter, the Federal Parliament should set an example to the Parliaments of the States, and while dealing with measures slowly, should take pains to deal with them thoroughly, because our usefulness is to be gauged by the effectiveness of our legislation, and not by its quantity. Some honorable members seem to think that the duty of Parliament is to rush through so many measures each session - to merely nominate them; but our real work lies in criticising and making suggestions in regard to the proposals put before us. The very fact that our membership is small should constitute an argument against the adoption of drastic closure rules. No comparison can be instituted between a House containing, only seventy-five members and the British House of Commons, containing 670 members. Neither are our conditions on all-fours with those which obtain in theStates Parliaments. Our working strength is about fifty members, but assuming that we could secure the attendance of the whole seventy-five representatives in this Chamber, the Opposition could not number more than thirty-seven, and it is not likely that the whole of the members forming that section of the House would engage in obstructive tactics. It seems to me that the Government are proposing to use a Nasmyth hammer to crack a hazel nut. It would be far preferable to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney. The honorable member for Franklin elicited from the honorable member for Wide Bay last evening the important admission that the “ gag” was being brought into operation for the special purpose of doing justice to the working man. That was an admission that the Government proposal was introduced with a specific object. Do I understand that the Labour Party are supporting the closure in order that they may pass a certain measure through this House?
– The honorable member for Wide Bay stated that the object was to secure justice to the working man. I think that our energies should be directed to securing justice, not only for the working man, but for all sections of the community. I represent as large a number of working men as any honorable member, and I belong to the working class. I understand that the working men desire that all their ends shall be achieved by constitutional means. They do not wish that the closure shall be applied in order that the measures of which they approve may be rushed through Parliament without proper con sideration. If they are not successful in one Parliament they appeal to public opinion, and endeavour to secure such support as will enable them to achieve their ends at a later stage. If the Labour Party, in supporting this proposal, aim at the erection of a strong party engine, they will before long regret their action. In the next Parliament, another Ministry may be in power, and the Labour Party may find themselves in opposition. They may resist to the utmost of their power the passing of certain proposed legislation, but if the closure be applied to them all their efforts will be without avail. I cannot understand why members of the Labour Party should lend their support to the Government proposal.
– If we are ever guilty of wasting time to the extent that the Opposition have done, we shall deserve to have the closure applied to us.
– It is not necessary to apply the closure even to the strongest Opposition that could exist in this Chamber. We know that although one or two members may occasionally obstruct business, dilatory motions cannot be availed of to any effect unless the members of the Opposition are thoroughly united, and feel that they are justified in using every means that the Standing Orders permit. The Melbourne Age has advocated a measure of this character for many months past, but I am not willing to believe that the Prime Minister is acting at the dictation of that newspaper, or that his proposal was framed in the Age office. Under the motion, as it stands, an unpopular member, erven thoughhe might be advocating in a perfectly legitimate manner the best of causes, would be silenced by the application of the “gag.” We are told that the Government will not apply the closure, and that the new standing order is intended to act merely as a warning to honorable members. That amounts to an admission that a provision for the closure is useful chiefly when it is not availed of. I have some recollection of the way in which’ the closure was applied in the New South Wales Assembly. It was used only after long sittings, and usually in the early hours of the morning. I have seen Ministers of the Crown rushing about the passages screaming “ gag.” with a view to summoning their followers to the Chamber to silence some members of the Opposition. Their cries now ring in my ears like the shrieks of tormented souls. It frequently happened that, be- cause the “ gag “ had been applied to one honorable member, it was thought necessary to apply it to others, in order to avoid invidious distinctions. No regard was paid to the consideration that an honorable member was furnishing the House with valuable information. If the Government proposal be adopted, the closure will bs employed to enable Ministers to pass without delay practically any legislation they deem desirable. The same course will be followed by succeeding Ministries, and the ultimate result will be instability of policy. Fighting at the elections will be keener, and the party that comes back with a majority will use the closure without compunction in order to demonstrate to the people that they are carrying out the poHey of which the majority have approved. This will lead to constant changes of policy. One Ministry will, in the most expeditious manner possible, render nugatory the work performed by a previous Administration. Take, for instance, the Tariff question. At present we have in operation a semi-protective policy, with which certain protectionists are not fully satisfied, and of which free-traders do not approve. If at the next general election a majority of honorable members favorable to an increase of protection were returned, a new Tariff might be introduced and rushed through without any discussion. Public feeling might undergo a change before the succeeding election took place, and the position of parties, so far as the fiscal question is concerned, might be so altered as to lead to further amendments of the Tariff. This is not a desirable state of affairs to contemplate. I believe that those honorable members who are now advocating the closure will be the first to endeavour to abolish it. The members of the Labour Party, in supporting it, are certainly preparing a rod for their own backs. Those who represent the most radical thought in the country should be the very last to advocate the adoption of such a conservative machine as the closure. If we had 200 or 300 members in this House there might be some reason for adopting measures for limiting debate, but up to the present time no excuse has been afforded for such a proceeding. If the motion now before us be passed, it will be futile for honorable members of the Opposition to discuss the supplementary “gag” proposals which the Government intend to submit. They call the further proposed additions to the Standing Orders “machinery clauses,” but they are intended to impose j still more restrictions upon debate. If these be adopted the members of the Opposition will be, to all intents and purposes, chloroformed, and the Government will be able to perform any political operation they may please. It has been admitted that we are not a disorderly House. Notwithstanding the strain that was imposed during the: recent long sittings, it must be admitted that the proceedings were orderly, and, in view of all the circumstances, reflected credit upon honorable members. This fact in itself should be sufficient to show that there is no necessity for the adoption of such stringent rules as those proposed. There is no necessity for us to hurry’ our legislation through. I think that the public would be better served if they were not disturbed by so many legislative innovations as are now being thrust upon them. If it could be shown that the Opposition were, day in and day out, obstructing the public business, there might be some reason for adopting the closure, but no one can pretend that honorable members travel hundreds of miles in order to block business. As I have said, it is evident that the Labour Party, favour the closure, secause they think that it will enable them to secure justice for the working man.
– Members of the Labour Party desire to do justice to all.
– I am sure that that is the desire of honorable members generally. I am a representative of the workers, and am, indeed, a member of the working class ; but I am not prepared to join with the Labour Party in passing a motion which will enable the closure to be applied to prevent the proper consideration of the various measures submitted to us. I cannot understand why honorable members should be so anxious to lead the public to believe that a House consisting of only seventy-five members cannot carry on its business without the application of the ” SaS-“ I well remember the occasion on which the honorable member for Gwydir was held by the Chairman of Committees to have been guilty of tedious repetition. From a perusal of the Hansard report of his speech. I have come to the conclusion that he was badly treated ; but at the time in question, a heated debate was taking place, and, as a supporter of the Government, I did not wait to consider whether the honorable member for Gwydir was in the right or not. The only consideration that weighed with me for the moment was that he was in opposition, and I, therefore, supported the proposal that he be no longer heard. The incident furnishes an illustration of the way in which the closure may be applied. The adoption of such a motion as that now before us will give rise to unpleasantness. I am confident that those who are closured will seek to get behind the standing order, and, in some way or other, to obtain revenge. I am satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that if you were on the floor of the House, and were closured in a way which you considered unjust, you would succeed, despite the existence of such a standing order as that now proposed, in “stone-walling,” and so wasting the time of the House, if you desired to do so. I know, at all events, that that is the course which, in like circumstances, I should follow. Another point is that the proposed standing order may be unfairly applied. An honorable member who, because, perhaps, of a mere mannerism, is somewhat unpopular, may be closured almost as soon as he rises to speak ; while another, who, although possessing less ability, is very popular in the House, may have not only liberty, but licence, extended to him. I would ask honorable members to carefully consider the amendment suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney. His proposal is a democratic one, and would place every honorable member on an equal footing. If the limitation of debate which he suggests be imposed, I think it will lead to honorable members preparing their speeches more carefully than many of them do at the present time. My experience as a member of this House forces me to the conclusion that the Government proposal is absolutely unwarranted, and that the application of the closure will cause friction. Then again, if, as the result of a general election, one party in the House be returned with increased strength, it may seek by means of the closure to graft on to the statute-book of the Commonwealth the particular proposals which are embodied in its programme. In this and other ways the proposed standing order, if adopted, must tend to weaken the stability of our parliamentary institutions. I utterly fail to understand why honorable members should be anxious to see measures forced through the House without being adequately discussed. No one can say that the House is a disorderly one ; if it were, there might be some reason for the adoption of this motion. Every honorable member should bear in mind that in supporting the motion he will assist in forging a weapon that maybe used against himself. Its adoption will be an indication to the public that the House is neither intelligent nor publicspirited. I am sure that that is not the case. The members of the first Parliament, like those of the present one, were all public-spirited men ; but it seems that the Government desire to pass this standing order in order that they may be able to control even an Opposition thirty-seven strong. I trust that the motion will be amended in several respects.. In conclusion, I have only to say that if any one ought to be grateful for the consideration extended to him by honorable members, it is myself. During the last few days I have received the most kindly treatment at the hands of honorable members, and this is only indicative of the feeling which prevails among honorable members generally. We are not an assembly of savages that we need to be dealt with in the way proposed by the Government.
– We are martyrs.
-It cannot be supposed that honorable members travel 1,200 miles - as many of the Opposition do - every week merely for the purpose of attending here to block the transaction of public business. We have neither the temper nor the inclination to do anything of the kind ; and I regret that it should have been thought necessary to introduce such a proposal as that now before us. It will enable the “ gag “ to be applied, not merely to an individual speech, but to the various questions that may be submitted to us. If the dominant party at any time seek an excuse for applying the “gag,” they will put up an obnoxious member, who will soon give rise to a feeling of irritation, with the result that the closure will be applied, and the measure under consideration rushed through. I earnestly hope that if the House is not prepared to accept the amendment foreshndowed by the honorable member for North Sydney, it will at least insist upon the Government proposals being amended in several other directions.
– I think that the House is pleased that the honorable member for Dalley, after his temporary indisposition, is once more able to take part in our deliberations.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I also believe that the House generally is delighted to find a return to common sense, and that the idle task of building up a “stone-wall” to block public business has. been abandoned. I view the proposal now before us with mixed feelings, because, during my political career, I have invariably opposed the application of the closure. In the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, of which I had the honour to be a member for some seven or eight years, the closure obtains; and the present leader of the Opposition in this House did not hesitate to avail himself of it when he wished to force through the House measures which he had introduced. Although I was then giving a general support to the Government of which he was the leader, I could not concur in his action in that regard; but, as the result of my experience in this House, where, in the absence of such a standing order, a minority has been able to hold up the Government and the majority supporting them, I have come to the conclusion that some such proposals as those now before us are absolutely necessary.
– The standing order proposed by the Government will mean, not the limitation, but the suppression of debate.
– I regret that it should be necessary to take such a step, for I feel that in such a House as this the greatest liberty should be extended to- honorable members. But when liberty is so abused as to become licence, and the business of the. country is held up for an undue length, of time, something must be done to protect the rights of the House.
– Is the honorable member aware that the Senate of the United States has absolutely refused to pass laws dealing with the suppression of speech, and that to-day it is the strongest legislative body in the world ?
– That may be so, but probably it has not been faced with the conditions which now confront us, or with those that have induced the States Legislatures to resort to the closure.
– Does not such a statement partake of the cry of “ stinking fish “ - no Parliament in the world is as bad as ours?
– No. But the proceedings in this Chamber during last week will give the “stinking-fish” party some ground for making statements derogatory to the national Parliament. I wish to deal briefly with the position taken up by the honorable member for Dalley. He denies that any necessity exists for the introduction of proposals of this character.But I would remind him that during the currency of the last Parliament he recognised the need for arming the majority with power to control its own business in a proper manner. Upon page 4335 of Hansard, vol. XVI.., he is reported to have said -
I consider, however, that we have a serious grievance against the Ministry, for no effort has yet been made by them to secure the adoption of permanent Standing Orders for our guidance.
– That is a speech, which I made upon the Standing Orders.
– A little later on the honorable member said -
The want of proper Standing Orders has given me many a sleepless night, and I wonder, therefore, at your placidity, Mr. Speaker, under the ‘ circumstances.
The honorable member then dealt with the powers of the House under existing conditions. In this connexion he observed -
All that we have for our guidance are temporary Standing Orders, and in view of the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, have had, practically no greater power over us than hasthe chairman of a public meeting - having no permanent rules for your guidance - it redounds to the credit of the House that our proceedings have always been characterised by a due regard for the best traditions of political institutions.
That was an accurate presentment of the case at the time. The pity is that it is not an accurate presentment to-day. The honorable member also stated -
The Chairman of Committees was powerless to stop the flow of their eloquence, and the patience which he has exhibited under the circumstances has been truly remarkable. Honorable members have harassed, worried, and bullbaited the Chairman, and yet, with all these facts before them, the Government have, taken no steps to protect him or the Speaker. It would be in the interests of the Government if they facilitated the adoption of proper Standing Orders, because the public business would be transacted very much more expeditiously. The present condition of affairs is scandalous. Although no “ stonewalling “ has yet taken place, thereis a positive danger that, with other members in opposition, the abuse of parliamentary forms might occur. . . . It is a standing disgrace that this important subject should be neglected ; and if the Prime Minister is not careful he will find some honorable members taking advantage of the present orders in order to “ stonewall “ the proposals of the Government. I am surprised that the newspapers have not published articles commenting on the neglect of the Commonwealth House of Representatives to frame proper Standing Orders…
It may happen that in the future some designing Opposition will take advantage of the faultiness of the Standing Orders to prevent Ministers from carrying on the work of the country.
The honorable member was a very good prophet. The position to which he referred has actuallybeen reached. The Opposition have practically decided to “ hold up “ the Government of the country. They have consistently blocked the transaction of public business during the present session. The first sign of a departure from the principles of fair criticism and a generalrecognition of the Tights of honorable members manifested itself when the Labour Government assumed office. The attitude then adopted by certain honorable members marked the beginning of a new era in our political history, and naturally it provoked reprisals when that Administration was defeated. A disposition was exhibited on the part of some of its supporters to repay the lateGovernment in. their own coin. But, although I felt strongly that fair treatment had not been meted out to the followers of the honorable member for Bland, I did not feel called upon to copy their bad example. Consequently I took no part in the opposition that confronted the late Prime Minister. Indeed, whenever any of his followers were compelled to absent themselves from the House, I was not only prepared to pair with them, but to assist in maintaining a quorum. When the ReidMcLean Government was displaced, similar objectionable tactics were adopted towards the present Administration. Although there is a substantial majority in this House in favour of the measures which they have submitted, the session has been chiefly remarkable for its barrenness. What is the cause of that barrenness? Undoubtedly it is due to the action of the Opposition in deliberately attempting to block the progress of Government measures. In support of my statement I need only quote an extract from an article in the last issue of Life, a magazine published in this State which cannot be charged with being hostile to the Opposition. It says -
The month proved another disappointment to all those who fondly imagined that the principal business of the Federal Parliament is to work, not squander its time in futile verbiage. The Prime Minister is evidently sensible of the fact that his assurance to Lord Northcote that the present Parliament was capable of transacting the affairs of the country was, to say the least, somewhat premature.
When the leader of the Opposition advised the Governor-General to dissolve this Par liament, after the defeat of the late Government, no doubt he assured His Excellency that the House, as at present constituted, was incapable of carrying on the business of the country. Evidently those who sit behind him are endeavouring to prove that he accurately presented the situation. The other night the Prime Minister outlined the Bills with which he proposed to deal during the remainder of the session. I trust that he will adhere to his intention, and that he will decline to permit this Parliament to be prorogued until all those measures have been passed, even if the adoption of that course necessitates the House reassembling after Christmas. I have no desire to see useful measures pushed into the background, and to be called upon to face my constituents without being able to point to a record of useful legislative work. Such a position might be satisfactory to the Opposition, who wish to prove that the Government are incapable, but I am satisfied that it is not one which will commend itself to the great majority of the electors.
– What does the honorable member say about consulting the electors ?
– I am prepared to consult my constituents whenever the honorable member is willing to appeal to his. The honorable member feels very jaunty just now because he happens to have the Employers’ Federation behind him.
– Why does the honorable member utter a slander of that kind ?
– The Employers’ Federation is behind the honorable member in regard to the business awaiting our attention in this House. I should like to direct his attention to a paragraph which appears in one of the leading newspapers of this city to-day. It relates to a condition of affairs which obtainsin a partially inhabited island in the South Pacific, where responsible government has only been in operation during the past five years. This is how the Age describes the proceedings in its representative Chamber -
The central power of this (obstruction tactics) is the bunch of members who have come to be known as the “ squealing dozen.” They are a body of ill-mannered and intensely aggressive type - loud, self-assertive, and boisterous to the verge of clownishness.
– I do not think thatthe honorable member should read such a statement as that. The honorable member would not be in order in using such words himself, and, therefore, he cannot be permitted to quote them.
– Then I will leave honorable members to read the article for themselves. The statement which I have read indicates the nature of the criticism which proceedings such as those of last week tend to provoke, and the impression which is conveyed to the electors. Before the resent “stone-wall,” I had occasion to take exception to what I considered undue levity in the conduct of business here.
– The honorable member lectured us well.
– I thought it my duty to myself, to the House, and to the electors, to express my dissatisfaction on the subject. I find that I am not alone in the view which I hold, the honorable and learned member for Parkes having expressed a similar opinion in a very instructive letter, which appeared in last night’s Herald ; though, instead of blaming the House altogether, he blames the press to some extent for giving prominence to certain conduct. The proceedings of last week have accentuated what the conduct of business throughout this session has made evident, that, if the majority is to rule, some provision must be adopted for putting an end to ‘the tyranny of the minority. The Opposition have dictated to the Government what business they are to bring forward, and how much is to be transacted on any particular occasion. When I was a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and the right honorable member for East Sydney was Premier of the State, he would say that a certain amount of business had to be done, and would keep the House sitting until -it was done, in some cases going to the extreme length of applying the closure in order to get his business through. In this House, however, the Opposition have been taking it upon themselves to instruct the Government as to what business shall be done. We have heard a great deal about their offer to give the Attorney-General so many clauses of the Trade Marks Bill. Because he refused to accept that offer, and1 to deal with the measure as they thought it should be dealt with, they claimed to be justified in preventing the transaction of business for more than a week. Such conduct is an exemplification of the tyranny ©f a minority. But if the best traditions of parliamentary government are to be maintained, we must recognise the principle of majority rule, which, whatever its disadvantages, is preferable to the tyranny of the minority. To secure the recognition of the principle that the majority must rule, the Government have introduced this motion, providing^ for the adoption of the. closure. My experience in New South Wales disposes me to oppose the adoption of the closure, as applied to debate, unless it is supplemented by a provision for its application to individual speeches. When the motion now before the House was submitted last week, very few speeches were made upon it, although “ stone-walling “ tactics prolonged out discussions for several days. The probabilities are that, had the Government been able to apply the closure, they would have done so, and the motion would have been got through at the expense of honorable members who had not spoken, and wished to address themselves reasonably to the question at issue. If, on the other hand, the closure had been applied to individual speeches, only offending members would have been punished, and other members would not have been deprived of their rights. I should be very loth, except in extreme cases, to apply the closure to a debate, but I should have no hesitation about applying it to an individual who was evidently obstructing the progress of business.
– If the closure had been applicable in the past, no one would have suffered more frequently than the honorable member.
– I am prepared to take my chance of that. There is, however, one consideration which has given me some concern. Last night reference was made to the fact that the closure was applied in New South Wales to force through the Tariff proposals of the Reid Government after a discussion of eighteen hours. I fear that that incident may be taken as a precedent. It can easily be conceived that the manufacturing industries of Victoria may develop to such an extent that, ultimately, it will be possible to make three-legged glue pots here, and then, no doubt, we shall be asked to place an import duty upon such articles. Mv fear is that the closure may be applied to the discussion of such a proposal. I deny, however, that to oppose the/ adoption of the closure is to make an attack on freedom of speech. Every one must admit that the House .has a right to conduct its business as it thinks fit, and all that the Government have proposed is the adoption of certain rules which will give the majority power to do that. If the closure is applied harshly and tyrannically, those who are responsible for such application will no doubt suffer, because I think that the improper application of this rule will bring its own punishment. But although I should have been glad could the House have continued to transact its business without a restrictive rule of this character, the proceedings, not only of the past fortnight, but of the whole session, have forced me to the conclusion that an effective weapon of the kind proposed must be placed in the hands of those who are intrusted with the conduct of business, and, therefore, I shall support the motion.
– I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes, because I do not think that any very great advantage will be gained by prolonging the debate ; but, as I represent the most populous electorate in Victoria, after that of the honorable member for Yarra, I feel that I should be failing in my duty to my electors if I did not enter my protest against the passing of the motion. The merits of this proposal have not been properly discussed, because it has been brought forward by the Government in order to provide means for forcing through the Trade Marks Bill, in which have Been inserted provisions which are detrimental to the best interests of the manufacturing community, and of the public at large.
– It is only the “ boodlers “ who say that.
– The honorable member should not talk rubbish. Many of his interjections are calculated to destroy the reputation which he has gained for taking a sensible view of matters. I contend that the Government proposal has not received that calm consideration at the hands of the Government to which its importance entitles it. The manner in which it has been introduced is objectionable, and the merits of the proposal are questionable. Many of lis; believe that the honorable members on the Government side have done as much as have any others to obstruct business in this House, and no section of honorable members can say that they have not upon occasions prolonged debates unnecessarily. I am sure that mem bers of the Labour Party, when sitting on this side of the Chamber, have occupied as much time as members of the present Opposition have done in expressing their disapproval of Government proposals. The honorable member for Canobolas has referred to the tyranny of the minority. There is no doubt that, so far as this House is concerned, the tyrannous minority sits in the Labour corner. It is perfectly clear that they are tyrannising over Ministers, who are being used merely as instruments to give effect to the decisions of the Labour caucus. Surely no body of men in this Parliament should be more jealous than the Labour Party of any attempt to interfere with the rights and privileges of the minority. They at one time represented very insignificant minorities in the Australian Legislatures, and yet they could not complain that they were unjustly treated on that account. The Opposition represent a minority merely because two smaller sections of the House have united their forces1 for the purpose of carrying through certain measures, of which the general body of electors do not approve. It is unfortunate that, owing to the circumstances under which the Government proposal was introduced, we are unable to give reasonable and proper consideration to its merits. We all agree that if our proceedings are not to be extended beyond due bounds, some steps will have to be taken to put a stop to the unnecessary repetition of arguments, and the delivery of speeches of inordinate length. And most honorable members are prepared to consider proposals in that direction. The greatest resentment of honorable members on this side of the House is directed to the manner in which the Government have submitted the proposed new standing order. The present time is most inopportune, because any such measure should certainly not be adopted without the most serious consideration. In view of the small number of representatives in this House, and the large area that is affected by any legislation passed by this Legislature, it will be a most serious matter to interfere with the. full liberty of speech. Two or three votes, one way or the other, may decide questions of the greatest importance and the most farreaching results ; and in view of these circumstances we should afford the fullest opportunities for the ventilation of the views of representatives from all parts of the Commonwealth. I hope that the
Government will realize the grave responsibility that they are assuming in applying repressive measures to a minority which has recently performed such excellent .service. They are, with the assistance of trie Labour Party, proposing to forge a weapon which may be used with the most disastrous effects. I am glad to say that the moral standard of honorable members is exceedingly high, and that no suggestions have ever been made against their integrity or honour. But the proposed new standing order will place in the hands of Ministers and their supporters a dangerous power, which will subject their moral fibre to the severest of tests. I hope that we shall at least so amend the motion that it will be impossible for a private member to move “ that the question be now put.” The Ministry should take the full responsibility for their actions. Not only should the power of “moving “ that the question be now put “ be confined to Ministers, but you, Mr. Speaker, should be made the sole judge of whether or not any proposal before the House has been sufficiently discussed. think that we should provide that, even in Committee, the closure shall not be applied except with the concurrence of Mr. Speaker. I have the greatest respect for the Chairman of Committees, but I think that, just as we require Mr. Speaker to be called in whenever the attention of the Chairman is called to the absence of a quorum, so we should provide that he alone shall determine whether the closure shall be applied.
– It was the Opposition who declined to accept the Chairman’s word. They suggested that he could not count.
– - I have the fullest confidence in the Chairman of Committees, but think that it would be wise to amend the motion in the way I have indicated. The honorable member for Riverina- last night quoted the speeches of various honorable members in connexion with the introduction of the closure resolutions in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. I venture to submit, however, that, so far as the application of the “ gag “ is concerned1, the position of the two Parliaments is altogether dissimilar. Members of the States Parliaments do not suffer inconvenience in attending to their duties, but members of this House have to travel long distances from week to week, and various obstacles might be placed in the way of their attendance here. For example, the representatives of
Tasmania might be prevented, by the breakdown of a steamer’s machinery, from attending here for a few days; and, similarly, various difficulties might be placed in the way of the attendance of other honorable members. In their absence, it would be possible for a few honorable members to apply the closure and rush a Bill through the House. I therefore think that it is absolutely necessary that the Government proposals should at least be properly safeguarded. I rose solely to enter my emphatic protest against the motion, which to my mind is most inopportune. It is idle for any one to suggest that it has been introduced merely because of a sudden desire on the part of the Government to pass new Standing Orders, applying generally to the business of the House. The public recognise that this motion has been submitted for the specific purpose of enabling them to bludgeon through the House the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill. We have been asked again and again why we should so stoutly resist the passing of those provisions, since the union label clauses inserted in the Bill on the motion of a private member in. another place, are to be rendered innocuous. Such a suggestion is an insult- to the intelligence of honorable members. Every one knows that the union label provisions of the Bill are to be used for a certain purpose, but that is a matter which I am not at liberty at present to discuss. The feeling of most of my constituents is one of gratitude to the Opposition for having taken a course which has enabled the people to realize the true purport of the Government proposals. They recognise that the Opposition have been fighting, not so much because of a motion that may, after all, be so amended as to meet with the approval of honorable members, but because it is the evident desire of the Government to coerce the minority, who wish the country to be fully apprised of what is going on. It is for these reasons, and because we believe that the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill will prove disastrous to the very people who are now doing their utmost to rush them through the House, that we have taken up a resolute stand in opposition to the proposals of the Ministry.
– The concluding remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong would lead one to believe that the rights of the minority in this House have been absolutely ignored. In view of recent experiences, I had almost come to the conclusion that toe majority had forfeited whatever rights they originally possessed. Many objections have been urged against the’ Government proposals, and it has been freely stated that there is no justification for them. But those who make such an assertion must be speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. The history of this Parliament affords ample evidence of the necessity foi some such standing order as that now proposed.
– Did not the honorable member once boast that no argument that might be adduced would cause him to change his mind ?
– I am not aware of having made such a statement, but there are some unfortunate individuals who have not a mind to change. Their prejudices have become so petrified that they find it impossible to alter their views with respect to any question. We have only to review our proceedings in order to find ample proof that some such proposals as those now made are absolutely necessary. The Government in office, when this Parliament assembled, found it impossible to carry on business, and their successors were in the same position.
– They passed so many measures that we have since had to amend many of them.
– Order ! The honorable and learned member for Werriwa will have another Opportunity to speak.
– What was the position of the late Government? Did they not tell the country that it was absolutely impossible for them to proceed with business in this House? Did they not inform the people that the forms of the House were such that it was impossible for them to secure finality in relation to the consideration of contentious measures, and that they, therefore, proposed to pass new Standing Orders ? I venture to say that the Opposition are not entirely to blame for the present situation. Instead of allowing our parliamentary institutions to be discredited by proceedings which culminated in the unedify.ing spectacle which we witnessed last week, the Government should have submitted such proposals as those now before ns immediately on taking office. A curious change has come) over the situation. As soon as the gun was placed in position, there was a complete transformation on the part of the Opposition, and, this week, twenty speeches, which have not averaged forty minutes each, have been delivered in the House. What is the reason for this sudden fall in the average?
– Because we entered into a compact with the Government to dispose of the matter to-night.
– Why did the Opposition enter into that compact? They knew that brute force would prevail when reason would not. Can honorable members of the Opposition say that they have taken up a dignified position? It is absurd for them to talk about the desire of the Government being, to suppress debate, when we know that in the House of Commons, to which we look for light and guidance, more drastic Standing Orders prevail. And yet the business of the nation is dealt with satisfactorily in that House.
– There are nearly 700 members in that ‘House.
– The proportion is about the same, and the volubility of members of the Australian Parliament is by no means less than is that of the members of the British Parliament. It is idle to say that the motion means the suppression of speech.
– Then for what is it intended ?
– As a policeman arms himself with a baton for protection, so honorable members in this House also desire to arm themselves with a weapon of defence. No Government would seek to apply the closure unless they felt that the stress of the situation rendered it absolutely necessary to do so. Although I have condemned the failure of the Ministry to introduce these proposals earlier in the session, I am pre-‘ pared, even at this Tate hour, to be subjected to them. I prefer to place my privileges and rights as a member of this House, under the control of the majority, rather than that of the minority. During the present session, the Government have been absolutely controlled by the minority. What business has been done up to the present time? Practically, only one Bill of importance has been passed.
– The honorable member gauges the work done by the House by the number of Bills that we pass.
– Certainly not. I judge of the work by its importance.
– The honorable member does not believe in the application of the “gag” to enable the passing of the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill ?
– I think that the “gag”isvery convenient when an honorable member becomes a nuisance. The temper of the Opposition to-day reminds me of an incident of the early days. When we sought, in the back-blocks, to subdue the “brumbies.” we used to say that we were “ fizzer “ hunting, and it was not long before we reduced those which we caught, to such a state of submission that they would eat out of our hands. When the final touches have been put upon our Standing Orders., we shall be able to capture the Opposition with a “ johnny cake. “ Every time that I have looked at the Opposition benches during the present session I have been irresistibly reminded of a birdcage. I have heard the same old tune times out of number. But this remark does not apply merely to the present Opposition. I am free to admit that when I sat upon the other side of the House I was associated with honorable members who adopted precisely similar tactics. Whatever position I may occupy in this Chamber, I shall never lend myself to deliberately obstructing the business of the country. If the proposed Standing Orders recoil upon those responsible for their introduction, they will not receive any sympathy from me. In my opinion, the proposals of the Government are intended to achieve a good purpose, and I feel that they will be used only to facilitate the proper conduct of public business.
– I thought that the honorable member was referring to the union label.
– As far as I can see, a good deal has been said concerning the purposes of the union label which has no application whatever.
– It is a wonder that the honorable member is prepared to indorse the application of the “ gag “ to secure its adoption.
– I support the Government proposals, because I desire to see public business transacted. I grew tired of supporting the late Government because it was powerless to accomplish anything, and I should grow equally tired of supportingthe present Administration if they did not push on with useful legislation.
– I am sure we are all delighted with the lecture we have received at the hands of the honorable member for Moira. He has admitted that when in Opposition he resorted to extreme tactics to prevent the transaction of public business.
– The honorable member should quote me fairly.
– I may tell the honorable member that his support of the Government is of no value whatever in the absence of the support of the honorable member for Bland. In a leading article this morning the Age points out that it is the duty of the Ministry to make the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill a non-party question. The honorable member for Moira must know that at one time the Age had power to say to the Government : “ This measure must be made a party question.”
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the Trade Marks Bill.
– I do not intend to do so. The honorable gentleman admits that at one time the Age-
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is deliberately transgressing the direction of the Chair. You, sir, told him that he was out of order in making a certain statement, and he immediately commenced to repeat it.
– I asked the honorable member not to discuss the Trade Marks Bill. His next remark was that he did not intend to do so. The honorable member will have to keep that promise, and I am sure that he will do so.
– Speaking generally, and with no reference whatever to the question of the union label, I say that at one time the Age could dictate to the Government.
– Is it not a fair thing that the honorable member should leave the Age alone whilst he discusses the question of whether or not the proposed standing order should be adopted?
– I cannot see how any remarks of the Age can have any bearing upon this question, or that the Honorable member has any right to introduce that newspaper into a discussion of this kind.
– Then, I will not refer to the Age. I will say that at one time a certain influence was sufficient to induce the Government to take any course which was suggested. That power has now vanished. The Age has no influence with the Government to-day. All the power is exercised by members of the Labour corner.
– The Tocsin is the power behind the throne now.
– Yes ; the position 06 affairs has completely altered.
– What has that to do with the question under consideration?
– Last night the Vice-President of the Executive Council made a long attack upon individual members of this House. But we did not hear the honorable member for Bland rising to points of order then. He is very sensitive to criticism.
– The honorable member has had a verv wide latitude allowed him.
– The honorable member for Bland does not care how he “gags” anybody. I think he is most tyrannical in his attitude towards others. I repeat that the Age cannot influence the Government to-day as it used to do. The Ministry dare not submit a proposal tomorrow and say, “ This question is a nonparty one,” without” the approval of the honorable member for Bland.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the honorable member is in order in so frequently evading your ruling, sir, which is that he must confine his remarks to the question under consideration. During the whole period that he has been speaking, I submit .that he has not addressed himself to the question for one moment.
– I notice that honorable members upon either side of the House very strongly hold the opinion that all who speak upon the other side are speaking aside from the question. I think that the honorable member for Macquarie is perfectly entitled to show the genesis of the proposed standing order if he wishes to do so.
– Honorable members opposite do not like any statement to be made which reflects upon them, although they are in the habit of making assertions - personal or otherwise - which reflect upon the Opposition. The honorable member for Moira can make any suggestion that he chooses to the Prime Minister, but no heed will be paid to it unless it meets with the approval of the honorable member for Bland.
– We have heard that statement’ made over and over again during the past fortnight.
– I remember one occasion, when the honorable member for Moira attempted to lecture the right honorable member for East Sydney ; but the latter soon gave him his reply. I notice from to-day’s newspapers that the Government Whip has been addressing a public meeting, at which he pointed out that the “ gag “ has been introduced for the purpose of preventing the Opposition from giving expression to their opinions.
– He did not say that.
– I shall quote the newspaper report of the honorable member’s remarks.
– From what journal does the honorable member propose to quote?
– From the Argus. Honorable members may laugh. Do they suggest that the report is inaccurate ?
– The honorable mem- ber must not read from newspapers or other documents referring to debates in the House during the same session.
– The honorable member to whom I allude pointed out that these proposals had been introduced because the Government intended to bring forward legislation dealing with the harvester question.
– Does the honorable member really believe that he made that statement?
– I have no doubt that he did. Of course, if the honorable member denies its accuracy, I am prepared to accept his assurance.
– Nobody but a lunatic would make that statement.
– Order ! I notice that there is a general disposition that the honorable member for Macquarie should not speak at too great length. One of the bestways to shorten his remarks is for honorable members to refrain from interjecting. I ask honorable members to allow him to make his speech in his own way.
– It would be a good thing if he discussed the question under consideration.
-.- I did not intend to speak at any length upon this proposal. I should not have discussed it in detail but for the honorable member for Bland.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the question before the Chair. Even if disorderly interjections are made, there is not the slightest reason why he should reply to them.
– Last night the Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that the late Sir Henry Parkes had brought forward certain closure proposals. That statement is perfectly true. But I would point out that those proposals are of a very different character from the proposals of the Government.
– They are much more drastic.
– They are not anything like so drastic as the proposals of the Government. Under the Standing Orders which were adopted at the instance of the late Sir Henry Parkes, the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case might be, was invested with discretionary power to determine when the closure should be brought into operation, and even then its application required the support of forty honorable members.
– That is not correct. Iread the debate only a couple of nights ago.
– It was necessary for forty honorable members to vote in the affirmative, in order to secure the application of the closure.
– Forty members out of a House of 140 !
– Forty members are nearly twice the quorum of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, but the number the Government require for the application of the closure here is less than the quorum, and little more than the strength of the Labour Party.
– Why does the honorable member always, sneer at the Labour Party ?
– He will not do so when the elections come on.
– I do not sneer at the Labour Party, although I draw a distinction between the members of the party in this House and the labourers outside. I have certainly never been anything like so offensive in my remarks about the party as the honorable member for Bourke has been, although he is now being supported by the caucus. Although I feel that there are occasions when honorable members are called upon to take a strong and determined stand for their rights and those of their electors, I am prepared to give fair consideration to any reasonable proposal to prevent abuse of the privileges of the
House. Honorable members say that the “ gag “ has never been abused ; but, on one occasion, when I visited the New South Wales ‘Legislative Assembly, in company with the honorable and learned member for Werriwa and the honorable gentleman who then represented Kalgoorlie, we saw three members “gagged,” although we remained only a few minutes. I have taken the trouble to go through the New South Wales. Hansard record, to be able to tell honorable members exactly how the “ gag “ has been applied elsewhere.
– Bythe honorable member’s Government?
– By the remnant of the honorable member’s Government which was led by Sir John See.
– Why does not the honorable member refer to the instance in which the Tariff proposals of the Reid Government were closured through?
– I leave that instance to the honorable member. In 1902, at 1.20 a.m. on a certain sitting, the See Government refused a request for an adjournment, and brought forward the following consolidating Bills: - The Public Health Bill, the Constitution Bill; the Parliamentary Electorates Bill, the Billiard and Bagatelle Licences Bill, the Standard Time Bill, the Usury Bill, the General Legal Procedure Bill, the Sydney Corporation, Bill, the Width of ‘Streets Bill, the Public Parks Bill, the Cattle Slaughtering Bill, the Sydney Abattoirs Bill, and the Sydney Mint Bill. Certain honorable members pointed out that in some respects those Bills differed from the legislation which they had been introduced to consolidate; and, in the succeeding three hours and eighteen minutes, the “gag” was applied no fewer than twenty-two times, although the whole report of proceedings does not occupy more than thirteen columns of Hansard.
– The Bills were accompanied with certificates stating that they merely consolidated the existing law.
– Yes. But honorable members were not bound to accept those certificates. They had a right to show that the Bills differed from the existing law, and that contention has since been borne out by several of the judgments in the Law Courts.
– It was held by the authorities that the House had no power to deal with them.
– No outside authorities can bind the action of Parliament.
– Does the honorable member think that the House would have been wise in trying to amend those Bills?
– I believe that some of them were amended in some particulars, and I understand that the Courts have since held that some of their provisions differ from those of the laws which they were introduced to consolidate. Those proceedings were an instance of the gross abuse of this power. It has been said that there has been a lot of obstruction here this session, but I do not think that there is any ground for that statement. Last Tuesday week, when the House met, the Opposition found that the Trade Marks Bill - which, on the previous Friday had occupied a position at the bottom of the notice-paper - had been moved to the top. As honorable members had assembled under the impression that they would be asked to consider the Electoral Bill, the honorable member for Parramatta moved the Chairman out of the chair to protest against the alteration. He, himself, spoke for only ten minutes ; but the discussion of the motion lasted for some time. Ultimately, however, the friendly suggestion was made that fifty-seven clauses should be passed, and that then the House should adjourn. Many honorable members opposite thought that the proposal was a fair and reasonable one.
– So it was.
– I believe also that that opinion was shared by the majority of Ministers. We evinced our desire to help the Government to carry on the business of the country, but they declined our offer, and then calmly charged us with obstruction, and introduced the closure proposal.
– There was nothing to discuss in the fifty-seven clauses referred to.
– There were one or two matters of great importance to be considered, but we were quite prepared to dispose of them after indicating, as briefly as possible the amendments we considered necessary. There was no dictation on our part, but a friendly suggestion was made, originally at the instance of some honorable member on the Government side of the House. There was no justification whatever for the attitude assumed by the Government towards the Opposition, nor was there any warrant for the introduction of the motion now before us. The honorable member for Moira has criticised our action in debating the proposed new standing order last week. We had no desire to remain here until midnight on Saturday ; but we considered that the Government had acted unfairly towards us, and entered the strongest protest of which we were capable. We were quite prepared to consider the Government proposal in a reasonable way, but we resented the action of Ministers in trying to impose the closure upon us without affording fair opportunities for debate. After we had had a rest, an arrangement was entered into with the Government to close the debate to-night, and although that compact has been broken by the Prime Minister in giving notice of his intention to introduce still more drastic proposals, we intend to perform our part of the agreement. We do not object to measures that are intended to prevent abuses of the rights and privileges of honorable members, but we resent the action of the Government in introducing closure provisions, with the evident intention of forcing through the House a certain measure containing many objectionable features. If the Government had been sincere in their belief that the Opposition were obstructing public business they should have introduced their closure proposals long ago. We should then have been able to fully discuss them on their merits. I regret that the motion now before us was not dealt with in Committee, where proposed amendments could have been more conveniently considered. That course was adopted on a former occasion, and I fail to see why it should not have been followed in the present case. Under the circumstances, we must do our best to safeguard the rights and privileges of honorable members, and to remove at least some of the objections which now attach to the proposed new standing, order. The manner in which the closure has been applied in New South Wales - a manner that was never contemplated when it was introduced - has convinced me that it would be very undesirable to adopt any similar rules in this House.
Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) proposed -
That all the words after “ namely “ be left out, with a view to inserting 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 AddressinReply or on the Budget, or in a debate on a motion of ‘ No Confidence,1 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 noi 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 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.”
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).A new proposal has been submitted from this side of the Chamber for the express purpose of limiting debate rather than of stifling or suppressing it. altogether, and I venture to say that, if relief be needed in this Chamber, that is the direction in which it should be sought. If we adopted the closure, as proposed by the Government, and deliberately exposed to the application of the “ gag “ the representatives of the people, many of whom come here with a view to making specific proposals, we should place in the hands of a tyrannical Government the power to prevent the views of the constituencies from being expressed, and to thus deal a deadly blow at our representative institutions. I, therefore, think that if there be a desire to save time and to transact business at a greater rate of speed than has hitherto been the rule, the direction proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney is the one in which limitation of debate ought to be sought. I am not quite sure whether we are not in danger nowadays of forgetting what is the real object for which Parliament assembles. We have come lately to regard Parliament as merely a machine for turning out laws to be judged by their number, rather than by their quality and importance. And so one becomes impatient of debate of any kind, since it’ interferes with the quantity of work that we turn out from time to time. I trust that we shall agree to some modification of the drastic proposals of the Government, that we shall accept proposals which, while limiting debate and allowing business to be done with reasonable despatch, will not result in the total suppression of free speech in this Chamber. Reference has been made this afternoon by the honorable member for Canobolas to the”” holding up “ of this House. If any honorable member has held up this, and the last, Parliament, it is he. He has drivelled from the back Opposition bench for three or four hours at a stretch, with less than half-a-dozen honorable members in the Chamber, and those anxious to reach their homes. If any honorable member has added to the tedium of attendance here - has added to the obstruction of the business of the House, so far as prolonged debate is concerned - the honorable member for Canobolas has done so. I know of no one who has more freely indulged in that kind of debate, which he now declares lead’s to the Parliament being “ held up.” No honorable member has wasted the time of the House to the same extent that he has done, when his speaking has been absolutely of no avail,
– The honorable member will find that the Hansard reports of my speeches are not nearly so long as are those of speeches made by himself.
– If I turn to Hansard, I shall find that the honorable member has spoken for four hours at a stretch, whilst I have always been able to compress my remarks within an hour and a quarter, or an hour and a half at the most. The majority of my speeches have been delivered in less than an hour. The honorable member, taking no thought for the convenience of honorable members, nor of their desire, to get home, has always been regarded as the last speaker in a debate, and has added wearily to the weary waiting of the House. We now find a sudden change of front. The honorable member has either turned right about face, or some great overshadowing influence is upon him. He now feels that the House is being “held up,” because reasonable speeches are being made upon a most important proposal. I was never more surprised than by the speech which he made this afterneon.
– According to the honorable member for Gwydir, the speeches delivered this session, by the honorable member cover ninety-one yards of Hansard.
– During this short session I have had to do my own fair share of work, in addition to that which should have been done by the honorable member. He has had the “ gag “ put upon him in the caucus, and I have, therefore, been compelled to take his share of the burden of talking. If I were to measure the space covered by the Hansard report of the honorable member’s speeches, I believe I should find that it totalled not ninety-one yards, but 199. The honorable member for Gwydir also gave us some statistics last night; but if the speeches which he delivered last session were measured, it would be found that they ran into very much more than ninety yards. The peculiar feature of this debate is that honorable members, who are now most anxious to apply the “ gag,” have indulged in the dreariest drivel, and have spoken longer at a stretch than has any other honorable member. Take, for example, the honorable member for Coolgardie, The1 Opposition well remember sitting last session, with aching hearts, on the Government side of the House, whilst the honorable member from the second Opposition bench reeled off by the yard a report by some Post-office officials concerning postal matters in Western Australia. He has now come to the conclusion that debate ought to be! limited. It seems that, as the result of their crossing the gangway, the opinions of these honorable members concerning liberty of speech, and the foundations of democracy as a whole, have! been completely revolutionized. I congratulate them upon the slender basis on which’ their democracy rests, since the mere transfer of their seat from one side of the House to the other makes such a vast difference in their views on this subject. The honorable member for Canobolas made use of an expression that conveyed the inference that the Opposition were acting at the instigation of the Employers’ Federation. I wish to inform him that I am acting neither at the instigation of that body, nor of that of the Labour caucus. So far as I am aware, there is no compulsion upon me’ to do anything of which I do not approve individually. Instead of acting at the dictation of an association of any kind, I am taking that course which I believe best fits in with a sound and healthy view of democracy, and certainly is in keeping with a desire to do that which is best in the interests of Australia as a whole.
– If press telegrams are to be believed, the honorable member is being thanked by employees’ organizations all over the Commonwealth.
– I am glad to receive support from any Quarter, and should not. mind if the Opposition received the thanks of the labour leagues for the stand which they have taken with’ reference to the “ gagging “ proposals of the” Government. I think that we are entitled to their thanks. It will be found hereafter that we have been seeking to preserve liberties which’ the honorable member and his caucus confreres are flinging contemptuously away - liberties which were won only after years of struggling and much tribulation. A peculiar feature of this debate is that we have had one honorable member after another declaring that he does not believe in the “ sand-bagging “ process proposed by the Government, and yet intimating that he is going to vote for it. The honorable member for Coolgardie spoke against the “ gag “ as an institution,, but announced his intention to vote for’ it j whilst the honorable member for Gwydir spoke in favour of this proposal,, and concluded by saying that hewould vote against it. The rule of contrariness seems to have- been operating throughout the debate. Honorable members in the Ministerial corner find themselves in a tight place. They are going to vote for the Government proposals, although they really hate them, and will probably avail themselves of a convenient opportunity to rescind them. Thev are going to vote to-day under compulsion. And why? Simply because the “gag” is associated with the passing of a proposal to which they give their hearty support. That emphasizes another point. There are members of the Government who do not believe in the union label, but they seek to maintain their place and power by putting up what they describe as a fair record of legislation. They are in favour of the “ gag/’ but] not of the union label clauses of the! Trade Marks Bill. It is well known that half the members of the Government are strongly opposed to those provisions.
– I would remind the honorable member that the question under consideration is not whether some form of closure is desirable, but whether the form to be adopted shall be that proposed by the1 Government, or that which has been submitted by way of amendment by the honorable member for North Sydney. I ask the honorable member to confine himself to a comparison of the two forms.
– I suppose, sir, that I shall be in order in showing how the “ gag “ might be applied in connexion with any proposal submitted to the House?
– That question has been disposed of.
– The honorable member, more than a week ago* dealt with that matter, and the only question now before us is whether the proposal made by the honorable member for North Sydney should be substituted for that put forward by the Government.
– Judging by their attitude, and the expressions to which they have given public utterance, I believe that the form proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney would be more in accord with the views of Ministers. We know well that they do not all believe in the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. We are face to face with a singular combination, constituting the majority in this House, which makes it possible for the form of closure submitted by the Government to be passed. Ministers themselves do not believe in the union label provisions of the Trade- Marks Bill, but they do believe in a form of closure, whilst honorable members in the Ministerial corner do not believe in the “ gag,” but are strongly in favour of the union label provisions of the Bill to- which I have referred.
Mr- SPEAKER.- The question of whether the “ gag “ will be applicable to the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill must apply equally to the consideration of the two forms of closure, and, therefore, the honorable member, instead of discussing the relative value of the two proposals now before the Chair, is simply discussing the desirableness of applying the “gag” in any form. That is a matter with which he has already dealt, and I ask him not to make any further reference to it.
– One reason why I am advocating the adoption of the milder form of “ gag “ proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney - if any form of “ gag “ ^ to °e adopted - is that it will enable the House to discuss those measures on the business-paper to which it is to be applied.
– That is a matter common to both proposals. It is not- involved in a comparison of the two.
– May not an honorable member give his reasons for favoring or opposing these proposals? Surely no more cogent reason for opposing the Government proposition can lie given
– If anything were needed to show the force of the point I have raised, the nature of the honorable member’s speech would supply it. He is using precisely the same arguments that were used by a number of honorable members when discussing the main question. If those arguments were .applicable to the first question they certainly cannot be applicable to that now before us. It is not for me to suggest the lines of debate which are open to the honorable member. There are a number which are quite applicable to the question before the Chair, as indicating the difference between the form of closure proposed by the Government and that put forward by the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I favour the form of closure proposed by the honorable member ibr North Sydney, inasmuch as it is far milder than is that submitted by the Government. The honorable member for North Sydney simply desires to so regulate debate that the representatives of the people will be able to speak upon any subjectas a matter of right, without seeking ‘the condescension of the Government, or of the caucus which supports them. I venture to say that, if effect be given to the Ministerial proposals, it will be possible not only . to suppress debate, but to suppress the most useful portion of the debate which takes place in this House. It very frequently happens that honorable members who indulge in long speeches do not contribute so materially to the elucidation of the subject in hand as do those who subsequently address themselves to it. The “gag” is not applied after calm deliberation, and as the result of the exercise of reason. It is usually applied in a time of clamour - in a period of temper and obstinacy. Throughout” a long parliamentary experience I have never seen it applied deliberately, and as the result of the promptings of reason. On the contrary, it has always been put into operation after great asperity of feeling had been engendered. Let us suppose that honorable members were discussing the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill, or the Commerce Bill - two measures which the country has never demanded. If ever there were two proposals which required thorough and exhaustive discussion it is those two. Let us suppose that we were discussing either of those measures, and pointing out reasons why its consideration ought to be deferred until an appeal had been made to the constituencies. If under such circumstances the honorable member for Bland happened to be in a similar mood to that in which he was this afternoon when the honorable member for Macquarie rose to address himself to this question, what chance should we have of debating those measures in any reasonable spirit ? I do not hesitate to say that the honorable member would have applied the “ gag “ instantly, had he been able to do so. It is not just that men who prepare speeches which will educate the people, and materially contribute to the betterment of the proposals under review, should be closured out of their right to speak, or that they should be permitted to speak only at the whim of a Government which may happen to have a majority behind them. I urge that the milder form of closure proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney should be adopted, because it will guarantee a fair and adequate discussion of all measures which may come before this Chamber. I am perfectly content to subscribe to the limitations which it would impose. I can generally say all that I desire in an hour, even upon a biff subject, and I .am quite sure that in Committee three speeches extending over twenty minutes would exhaust all my matter under ordinary circumstances. Whatever disabilities inhere in that amendment, I am quite willing to submit to them, because I am not one of those who drivel on hour after hour simply for the purpose of consuming time. The very men who intend to vote for the Government proposal are the greatest sinners in that respect. That is the outstanding feature of this debate. Those who have compelled us to listen for four or five hours at a stretch to the veriest drivel now wish to stifle reasonable debate, and to entirely prevent the possibility of fair discussion whenever any class proposal of theirs may be under review. I hope that the House, even at this late period., will return to reason. There is no reason whatever behind the Government proposals. On the contrary, there is more crass obstinacy than I have seen exhibited in this Chamber by any other Ministry, and we all know whence the .pressure is applied. We ail recognise why these proposals are being pressed forward. We can discern their genesis. Upon the very night that they were originated-
– Order ! The honorable member is again discussing the general question.
– I was not aware that I Avas transgressing. In conclusion, I hope that honorable members who value liberty of speech in this Chamber, who believe that every honorable member ought to be able to represent the views of his constituency within reasonable limits, will assist us to apply the milder form of closure that is embodied in the amendment, and so avoid the stifling of debate.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas). -Possibly it is due to my native bashfulness that I have hitherto fallen under the rebuke of the deputy leader of the Opposition by speaking towards the close of debates. On the present occasion I am embracing the opportunity to speak earlier than usual, ‘because I desire to reply to one or two criticisms which have been aimed at myself. I have been accused of indulging in “ dreary drivel.” If there be any ground for that accusation, it is a reason why the proposals of the Government should be adopted. I can recollect only one occasion, upon which I prolonged debate in this Chamber; I refer to the time when the Tariff proposals were under consideration.
– The honorable member did good work that night.
– Upon that occasion it is true that the then Minister of Trade and Customs was “ held up “ for several hours to meet the convenience of the present leader of the Opposition. I was not then told that I was indulging in “ dreary drivel,” and I am sorry that the deputy leader of the Opposition has referred to my remarks in that way. Apparently, the side upon which .an honorable member happens to sit makes all the difference. During the debate which took place last week, I received some nice quiet hints from the honorable member for Parramatta that a, little performance in a similar direction would be very welcome. Possibly, it is because I was not able to acquiesce in “his wishes that I am now accused of having at some time or other indulged in “ dreary drivel.” Honorable members opposite, whilst severely criticising the Government for submitting proposals to control debate, confess that some action in that direction is desirable. The amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney amounts to an automatic limitation of all discussion. Its adoption would mean that a speaker, having occupied a certain amount of time, would be automatically “ shut down,” and could only continue his address by permission of the House. It seems to me that that proposal constitutes a more serious interference with the individual rights of honorable members than do the proposals of the Government. Under the latter, it is only when a majority of the House is satisfied that the question under consideration, has been sufficiently debated, or that the discussion has degenerated into a “stone-wall,” or that an individual member has exhausted his legitimate rights, that the closure can be applied. It seems to me that, if there be any unwarranted interference with the liberties of individual members of this House, it is to be found in. the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney. For that reason I shall vote against it.
– It is not more than an hour since the honorable member for Canobolas spoke upon the main question ; but in that interval he has succeeded in crossing the floor of the House, because he then spoke from the Opposition benches. I sup- ‘ pose that he was induced to take such a decisive step by what he regarded as a personal attack on the part of the deputy leader of the Opposition. In .that case, my congratulations to the honorable member for Parramatta upon his powers of speech are mingled with regret that he has lost a follower. The honorable member for Canobolas, in the course of a very brief address, made one or two rather astonishing statements. He characterized the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney - which is now’ under consideration as an alternative to the proposal of the Government - as an automatic closure. I think that he must have forgotten for a moment the veal meaning of that word. The word “closure,” as applied to individual members, means putting an end to the speech, not of a favoured individual, but of some honorable member who happens to receive scantier consideration than is extended to others. Upon the other hand, the application of the closure to debate applies equally to those who have not spoken and to those who have. The amendment presupposes that under ordinary circumstances any honorable member can say all that is necessary in an hour ; but it provides for exceptions. During a debate on an Address-in-Reply,a a member is not limited to an hour, and sometimes honorable members like to speak at great length on those occasions.
– They are the most useless debates that ever- take place in this Chamber.
– - It is the honorable member’s youthfulness that speaks, not his experience.
– Does not the honorable and learned member agree with me?
– No. Although no business results from a debate on an AddressinReply, the discussion is one of the most valuable that takes place, if the occasion be not abused. A member may also speak for an unlimited period during a Budget debate, in criticising the financial proposals of the Government, and during a a debate on a motion of “ no-confidence.” I can understand how honorable members in the Labour Conner would have kicked had any limitation been in force last session, when a motion of “ no-confidence” in the Reid-McLean Administration was being discussed. I could understand the honorable member for Gwydir or the honorable member for Darling saying : “ I could speak for five hours, or for fifteen hours, on this subject without effort, but I am being limited to one hour.” At first blush, one might be inclined to admit that one of those philosophic discussions with which the honorable member for Darling used to favour us last session, could not well be terminated within an hour, because it is one of the advantages, or disadvantages, of such utterances that, although they have a beginning, they can end anywhere or nowhere without impairing their efficiency or destroying their artistic completeness. But the honorable member would only have to ask for leave to continue his remarks to be permitted to speak as long as he wished. Under the procedure which I am advocating, there would be no extraordinary maximum limitation, and if an honorable member were addressing himself to a question on which the House wished to hear him further, permission to prolong his remarks would willingly be granted. It seems to me that the great advantages of this alternative .proposal are that the rule is not brought into operation only when feeling is running high ; that it will not prevent the full and fair discussion of any measure before the House ; and that it will not allow a majority relying on its numbers, and on nothing else, to force measures through the House. Objections raised to any proposed course of legislation will have as full an opportunity for expression as arguments in support of it, so far as the number of those opposing it permit. I should not have trespassed upon the time of honorable members in this connexion, but that I wish to point out that this proposal represents in substance the conclusions at which the last Government had arrived as to what ought to be done to limit debate. They did not intend to provide for any such closure as the present Administration has brought forward, because they felt that any limitation of debate should be of such a nature that it would act automatically, and could not be used as a weapon by the majority in times of excitement. The last Administration went out of office before it could bring this matter under the consideration of the House; but I had the privilege of submitting it to the Standing Orders Committee. There it met with opposition in some quarters, as the honorable member for Kennedy may remember.
– I opposed it.
– And other honorable members gave it very faint support, which is a significant fact, in view of the present circumstances.
– The honorable and learned member was not very strong about it.
– It received so little support that I did not think it worth while to go on with it.
– A great deal of water has run under the bridge since then.
– Yes, and we have approached the consideration of the trade union label proposals, and the end of the! session. The proposal which is now brought forward had my support when I submitted it to the Standing Orders Committee, and it will have my support now, because I believe it to be a fair one. It will not permit a minority to be compelled to speak less than a majority ; it will not permit the closure to be applied when the arguments against a measure are becoming too searching ; and it will not allow force to be used when those who are supporting a measure feel that the country had better not be given an opportunity to understand it. The objection to the proposal of the Government is largely that it would permit the stifling of debate, and thus keep information from the people whom we represent, and whom it is our duty to make acquainted with the reasons for our decisions. Under the proposal which I am supporting, every honorable member would have an opportunity to express his views with reasonable fulness. There may be those who will say that the limitation is not sufficient - that, halfanhour instead of an hour should be allowed; but, in view of the great importance of the questions which come before this Parliament for consideration, and of the fact that the geographical extent of our jurisdiction compels us to allow more time for the spreading of views and opinions than is necessary in a community of smaller geographical area, if is better to err by allowing too much time for discussion than by allowing too little. The proposal of the Government, which some of the members of the Labour corner are supporting, would have met with but scant consideration from them a few months ago, when the Trade Marks Bill was not so near its time for consideration. The honorable member for Canobolas, in saying that the amendment provides for a greater restriction of debate than does the motion, expressed only half the truth. It provides a greater restriction of debate by the majority, but not so great a restriction of debate by the minority. It .puts every one on the same footing. Whether a member belongs to the majority or the minority he will have the same rights. But honorable members will not be on an equal footing under the Government proposal. It is only the majority that can apply the closure, and the majority will not do it so long as its members wish to talk. They will use this power only to prevent the minority from talking.
– The closure might be applied by a combination of members, which, though seemingly a minority, was really a majority.
– Pigs might fly, but they are not in the habit of doing so. We know why the closure is being proposed. We know that there is only one measure on the noticepaper to which it can be suggested that it will be applied.
– The Government Whip said last night that it will be used to throttle the free-traders.
– I do not wish to throttle the free-traders, though I desire to convert them - perhaps a harder, but, at any rate, a more humane task. Under the proposal which I am supporting, I should have only ,an hour to try to do that ; but, no doubt, the House would give me leave to continue remarks which had so excellent an object. Let us take a specific case, and contrast the probable working of the two proposals. If the Government proposal be agreed to, when the trade union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill come before us again there will be a counting of heads, and the side which discovers that it has a majority will determine to remain silent, in order that the clauses may be passed through as quickly as possible. It cannot be thought that the weapon will not be used, because, until the socialistic state has arrived, human nature may be expected to use any serviceable weapon that is put into its hands. It is therefore quite reasonable to suppose that the majority will endeavour to pass into law, irrespective of their merits, the trade union label provisions of the Prime Minister, which bear the imprimatur of the honorable member for Bland. The minority, believing those provisions to be detrimental to the community, and feeling that the country should be informed in regard to their probable effect, will proceed to debate them. With what result ? That after a number of honorable members in the minority had spoken, we should hear cries from the majority that no one on their side had spoken, that no one had had an opportunity of speaking, because all the time had been taken up by members of the minority - even though the members of the Opposition had remained seated after each speech, in order to give members of the majority an opportunity of standing up and catching the eye of the Speaker^ and that opportunity had not been availed of. That fact, however, would be forgotten. The minority would be charged with having occupied all the time, and members in the majority would say, “ We must stop all this talk. We do not want to speak ourselves, and we do not want others to do so.” We have had an instance of that to-day, although the closure has not been in operation here. The result would be that, with the proposed new standing order behind them, majorities would invariably rely upon their numbers, instead of upon their reasons, and the country would be deprived of an opportunity to hear just criticisms on tlie proposals that the majority were trying to force through.
– I have seen the closure in operation in Queensland for some years, and it has had no such effect as that described.
– The events of last week make me very much afraid of what is going to be done during the next week or two. Whether I happen to be in the majority or in the minority - and sitting here in the Opposition corner I occupy a position of independence, and I may be at one time on the side of the Government, and at another om the side of the Opposition - I desire to take my share in endeavouring to enforce the views I hold by argument), and not by weight of numbers. The advantage attaching to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney, as compared with the Government proposal, is that honorable members who sit silent because they are in the majority, will not be able to prevent honorable members on the other side from exercising reasonable opportunities of expressing their views.
– No one has objected to affording reasonable facilities for speech.
– The amendment proposes to fix a reasonable limit to the speeches of honorable members, and that is the reason I support it It would debar the majority from preventing the expression of just criticisms by the minority. The Government proposal could be applied to prevent just criticism, and probably would be brought into operation when the criticism had be come of the keenest, and the majority were most anxious to prevent it from being pursued. I would not mind if I felt certain that the new standing order proposed by the Government would never be abused. That is to say, that it would never be used. Some honorable members have urged as a reason for supporting the Government proposal that the closure would not be applied. The new standing order proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney would be used, and would Be a Teal thing, because it would be the duty of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees to see that it was applied. Surely a standing order which it would be the duty of the Speaker to apply should be preferred by- honorable members to a provision subject to abuses which it would T>e the duty- of the Speaker to guard against? Our proposal, owing to its fairness, is placed in the hands of the Speaker; whilst the other, on account of its unfairness, is made subject to the Speaker’s control. The fact that it is regarded as necessary to make the application of the Government proposal subject to a check upon the part of the Speaker, amounts to an admission that it opens the door to grave abuses.
– Who is supporting the proposed amendment in that direction?
– The Prime Minister stated publicly in this Chamber that he had no objection to such a proposal being made, and carried. I presume that he still adheres to that opinion. I do not know, and I shall wait until his vote makes the point clear. Any honorable member who refuses to agree to an amendment upon the main proposal which would have the effect of imposing upon the Speaker or Chairman the duty of preventing its obvious abuse is openly confessing that he wants the standing order to be abused. Whatever may be the views of honorable members on the main question, as compared with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney, I feel sure that the majority will at least leave the final check over the exercise of the proposed standing order in the hands of the Presiding Officer.
– Is not the honorable and learned member’s argument basedupon the presumption that the majority mayat any time abuse its power?
– Yes, and I say that the people of Australia are now protected against the abuse of power by the exercise of the right of the minority to point out abuses. It is because the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney would permit the minority to exercise its right in that direction, without enabling them to wantonly waste time, that I prefer it to the Government proposal. That is the whole question. What the minority want is an opportunity to point out abuses. They cannot carry anything into effect, but they can criticise everything, and it is the fear of wholesome criticism that prevents the majority from engaging in wrong-doing. The. amendment would enable the minority to do’ what was legitimate, ‘without permitting them to indulge in wanton obstruction. It would limit the speeches of honorable members, and place all upon an equal footing, except to the extent that it would exempt honorable members in charge of Bills, or resolutions, from restrictions as to time. It would require honorable members to confine their remarks within what would, in 99 cases out of 100, prove to be an. ample margin of time. Consequently, with the alternative offered to them, honorable members - unless they desire that the power given under the standing order shall be abused - should have no hesitation in making a choice.
– Has the closure provision ever been abused in the Senate?
– I am not permitted to refer to the proceedings in another place, but if in any other place connected with the Federation there is a similar order in force, I will say that in no other place does such a state of affairs exist as we find in this House.
– Hear, hear. Eight or ten members are monopolizing all the time.
– The amendment now before the Chair would prevent that. I am supporting it because it would prevent any eight or ten men from monopolizing the whole of the time. It would also prevent any individual member from speaking for four or five hours at a time - as was done by an honorable member who was in opposition last session.
– The honorable member means last week.
– Under the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney, an honorable member of the Opposition would be prevented from speaking for four or five hours at a time. So far as I am aware, no speech of that length has been delivered during this session. I have not been sufficiently curious to search’ Hansard. in order to discover to what length speeches have been extended. When I do refer to Hansard, I read the speeches, and do not attempt to measure them with a yard stick. I do not consider it necessary to take up much more time. I should not have spoken so long, but for interruptions which led me somewhat off the track. I support the amendment now before the House, because I believe in it. I regard it as a fair thing. It will treat all members alike, and will make exceptions only where exceptions ought to be. made. It will prevent any special powers from being put into force at times when excitement is running -high. It will prevent undue debate, and undue obstruction. It will provide for limitations which will bring about the result which some honorable members say has been produced this week, during which the speeches delivered have extended loversomething less than an hour each. I consider that that will be a desirable result. It will achieve all that can be desired - unless honorable members seek to stifle debate and silence criticism, and thus enable things to be done, of which the country cannot be properly informed, through Parliament. Under these circumstances, I deem it to be my bounden duty to heartily support the amendment, and to express the hope that the more moderate of honorable members on the Government side of the House, who agree that there should be some limitation of debate, but who join with me in my dislike of the Government proposal, may see their way to adopt the alternative now presented to them. The amendment will enable us to bring about the limitation of debate in a form that is not open to abuse, whereas the Government proposal is one which, in view of the circumstances of the case, of the existence of three parties in the House, and of the dominance exercised by the Labour Party, is most likely to be abused. Abuses are bound to occur when opportunities are presented, and I have no desire to see any such opportunity afforded. I trust that honorable members will realize that the amendment is a wiser and fairer proposal than that originally made, and that if adopted it will effect all that can reasonably be desired, if honorable members do not wish to abuse the powers intrusted to them.
– Most of the observations of members of the Opposition have been based upon the assumption that the Government have been subject to some outside influence in this matter; that has weakened their arguments.
– I sincerely believe that to be true, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in saying it. Honorable members cannot expect me to be silent on the point, if I believe that to be the ease.
– That has nothing whatever to do with this debate.
– It may possibly, in some distant way, be urged as a reason why the proposal now before the Chair, rather than the original one, should be adopted. However, I do not propose to press that point. I shall satisfy myself by once more urging honorable members to seriously consider whether it is not correct, as has been stated, that the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney is fairer and less likely to be misused in a moment of excitement than is the standing order proposed by the Government.
– I strongly support the amendment, which I think should find favour with all honorable members, who desire to extend fair play to the minority. It will result in the limitation of debate, but will yet allow every honorable member an opportunity to express his views. Few honorable members can deliver a well-thought-out speech extending over an hour; but I do not think that we should agree to any standing order which would prevent an honorable member from placing his views before the House in the clearest and strongest terms possible. If the Government proposals were adopted, the closure might be applied because of the tedious repetition of three or four honorable members, with the result that a number of others who would not think of addressing the House at length, would be absolutely debarred’ from expressing their views upon the question under consideration. The honorable member for Coolgardie referred last night to what he described as the lengthy speeches delivered by members of the Opposition; but upon analyzing his figures, I find that the average time occupied in the delivery of the fifty-four speeches to which he alluded was less than one hour. It must not be forgotten that those speeches were delivered in connexion with the consideration of such important matters as the Budget, the Estimates, and the Commerce Bill. In the circumstances, no one could say that they were unreasonably long. It has been urged that the closure proposals of the Government should be adopted in order to prevent time being wasted by the present Opposition. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has clearly pointed out, however, that as the Ministerial Party accept without demur every measure put before them, it necessarily follows that the Opposition, in the interests of the country, must carefully examine those proposals. It would be wrong for the Opposition to allow measures submitted to the House to pass without full consideration ; and if their efforts to induce the Ministry to remedy defects in the measure submitted resulted in their being closured!, faulty laws would surely be passed. Ill-considered legislation comes back upon us ; nearly every session we’ have to pass Bills to amend measures; that have not received full consideration. I trust that the Government and their supporters will view this matter from an intelligent stand-point, and will agree to some of the amendments which have been fore- shadowed. We have been told by honorable members opposite that they have no desire to pass drastic standing orders, but that some limitation of debate is necessary. If that be their view, I think that the standing order submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella to the Standing Orders Committee should carry out their desire. Nothing has occurred in this House that should induce us to carry the Government proposals. If the Prime Minister had been free to take independent action, he would not have submitted them. I believe that if he had bad at his back only the members of his own party, these drastic proposals would not have been made. The force behind him has compelled him to adopt a course which is not in accord with his own desires. I hope that honorable members opposite will dismiss from their minds the feeling that the. Opposition ought practically to be destroyed, and that some of the amendments which have been foreshadowed will be accepted, so that, whilst liberty shall not develop into licence, freedom of debate will not be absolutely abolished.
– At an earlier stage in the debate I intimated my intention to move an amendment, which I think would be more effective than that now before the Chair, but as I resumed my seat without moving it, I was precluded from submitting it to the House at a later stage. I shall therefore tentatively support the amendment now under consideration, and in the event of its being negatived, shall ask another honorable member to move that of which I have given notice. The form of closure proposed ‘by the honorable member foi North Sydney is certainly preferable to that submitted by the Government. It would undoubtedly provide safeguards against the arbitrary application of the “ gag “ at the instance of what might be at any time a tyrannical majority. It is only reasonable that certain important questions should be exempted from the operation of the closure, and provision is made for this in the first part of the amendment. It provides that -
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,” ot in moving the second reading of a Bill, or in moving a resolution.
The Ministerial programme for the session is usually embodied in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the opening of Parliament, and in the interests, not only of the House, but of their constituents, honorable members feel themselves called upon, in discussing the Address-in-Reply, to give expression to their views on most of the questions touched upon. Unless an amendment be adopted that will afford honorable members an opportunity to adequately discuss such matters, a great injustice will be done, not only to honorable members themselves, but to their constituents. When a charge is made against an honorable member that he has adopted a certain attitude in regard to some of the proposals outlined in the Ministerial programme. Hansard affords him the only means of refuting the accusation ; but _ if debate on such a question as the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply is to be seriously restricted, honorable members will be left entirely at the mercy of any one who desires to place them in a false light before their constituents. The next matter which the honorable member for North Sydney proposes to exempt from the closure rule is the Budget. We all know that the Budget deals with, many questions which demand the most earnest consideration. Proposals for large expenditure may involve increased taxation, and there is nothing which requires closer scrutiny on the part of honorable members than does the Treasurer’s annual statement. I would remind honorable members that, although the last Budget was a most voluminous one, this debate upon it was comparatively brief. This affords an illustration of the fact that under ordinary circumstances honorable members have no desire to unduly prolong their speeches. It is only when matters of a highly contentious character are under consideration that honorable members of the party to which I belong, at any’ rate, exhibit any desire to speak at unusual length. I think it will be generally admitted that a no-confidence motion should be the subject of the fullest and freest discussion. How can an honorable member compress all his reasons for objecting to the policy of a Government, as well as to its acts of administration, within the comparatively brief period of one hour ? I can readily conceive of cases arising when more than two hours would be necessary to enable a speaker to even enumerate, without discussing in detail, the misdeeds of a Ministry. It would take fully that time to set forth without any argument the misdeeds of the present Government. I admit that it would be very convenient for the Ministry which happened to be in power if the “gag’ ‘ could be applied to a debate upon a no-confidence motion, but 1 maintain that such a proceeding would be very immoral and unjust. Then I can easily understand that, in moving the second reading of a Bill, a Minister may occupy more than an hour in explaining its provisions. Even during the current session I have known Ministers to exceed that time. I think that the Minister of Home Affairs occupied more than an hour in moving the second reading of the Copyright Bill.
– No. I spoke for only three-quarters of an hour.
– I think the Minister must have been oblivious of -the flight of time on that occasion; but still I do not object, for I hold that a Minister should be allowed the fullest latitude in explaining any measure in detail, so that honorable members may be in a position to understand the reasons which have induced the Government to bring it forward. Whilst, under the proposal of the Government, it would be competent for any honorable member, the moment a Minister rose to explain the provisions of a Bill, to move the “gag,” the amendment would prevent any such motion from being put from the Chair. Consequently, the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney should commend itself to all sections of the House. In submitting a resolution, too, I think that very great latitude should be allowed to honorable members. In this connexion I have in. my mind the motion relating to Home Rule which was recently moved by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. Let us suppose that the moment he had risen to submit that proposal, a member’ of the Opposition, who did not approve of its terms had taken advantage of the fact that there were a sufficient number of members present to close the honorable and learned member’s mouth, they would have been able to absolutely block him from assigning reasons why it should be carried.
– That could be done only after the question had been proposed, which means after it had been, put from the Chair.
– In that case the Government proposal would have limited the right of others to reply to the honorable and learned member, which would have been just as reprehensible a procedure as that of preventing the mover from proceeding upon the lines that he had mapped out for himself. It must be also recollected that many subjects are brought before this House which are of a highly contentious character, and that, in order to secure the fullest information upon them, honorable members frequently spend many hours in the library consulting various authorities. It seems to me that it would be a fatal mistake to prevent them from giving to the House the benefit of their researches. The first part of the amendment ought certainly to appeal to honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber. In the course of his remarks, the other day, the honorable member for Gwydir adopted a very “ YesNo “. attitude. After speaking strongly against the” Government proposal, he concluded his speech by announcing his intention to support them. His arguments simply meant that, so long as the closure was applied only to members of the Opposition, he was prepared to support it. That is a most remarkable attitude for the honorable member to take up, but it is one which accurately reflects the position of many of his associates in the Labour corner. His argument, ‘reduced to the last analysis, was : “ I do not believe in the right of any one else to ‘ gag ‘ me, but I believe I ought to have the right to ‘ gag ‘ everybody else.” The honorable member also stated that my speeches during the present session occupied thirty-six yards in Hansard. That may or may not be the fact. .Certainly it is not a reason why I should be brought under any system of closure. But, .in extenuation of my offence - if I am guilty of any - 1 must say that I was repeatedly requested to speak by honorable members who sit in the Labour corner. That fact was evidenced by their repeated calls for “ Johnson.” It seems to me most unkind that, after courteously acceding to their request, I should be charged with unduly trespassing upon the time of the House. But, upon looking up Hansard for last session, I find that one speech of the honorable member for Gwydir occupied no less than 342 inches. I have not had time to measure the space taken up by the whole of his utterances last session, but, so far as my researches have gone, they occupy no less than fifty-nine yards of Hansard. On the most important questions before the House, the utmost limit of any speech I have made has not much exceeded half the length of many of those of the honorable member for Gwydir on very ordinary’ questions. Had his distinguished namesake, Mr. Daniel Webster, or the no less distinguished Lindley Murray, been compelled to listen to those speeches, they would have induced homicidal tendencies in the breasts of those two gentlemen. The amendment has been framed with the object of securing the limitation of debate, and at the same time preserving the right of individual members, whether belonging to the minority or to the majority, to give fair and reasonable expression to their views. That right might be absolutely denied under the closure provided for in the motion, but the amendment removes that objection. So far as my own speeches are concerned, I would point out that there is an essential difference between them and some of those uttered by the honorable member for Gwydir, inasmuch as I have never risen with the deliberate intention of wasting time, and when I have spoken at unusual length, have dealt with matters of national importance. I should not, however, object to be limited to one hour, if that limitation applied to all, though I feel that no rule for the limitation of debate should be discussed at a time of excitement. A matter of this kind should’ be dealt with only when cool thought and calm deliberation are possible. The amendment provides that, on any question before the House, except in the debate on the AddressinReply, the Budget, or a motion of “ No-confidence,” speeches shall not exceed an hour, and that in Committee no member, unless in charge of a Bill or resolution, shall speak for more than an hour in all, or four times in all, on any question. That seems to me to be a fair and reasonable limitation, because, as a general rule, we deal in Committee, not with large questions of principle, but mainly with constructive questions of detail. I have heard it urged as an objection to this rule that a practical “ stonewall “ might still be set up, under it, by even’ member of a party determining to occupy the full period1 allotted to him. But, it must be remembered, that even under extraordinary circumstances that would never happen. In the momentous debate which has just been concluded, the bulk of the speaking, as has been pointed out by Ministerial supporters, was done by eight members of the Opposition, although the proceedings occupied almost a whole week. Notwithstanding the fact that the feelings of the Opposition were then almost at white heat, a number of its members hardly exercised their right to speak, while others did not speak at all. Therefore, it seems to me that the objection does not hold good. The third part of the amendment allows an honorable member to speak for a longer period, or more frequently, than is provided for by the two preceding rules, with the leave of a majority of the House, or of the Committee, as the case may be. ‘ That ‘seems to me a wise provision, because there may be subjects under discussion on which certain honorable members may possess special, and perhaps even expert knowledge, which they could not fully convey to honorable members within the space of an hour. The question is to be put without amendment or debate, whether the member be further heard, and, if carried in the affirmative, he is to be permitted to continue his remarks. In this connexion, I should like to point out that the amended code of standing orders recommended by the Standing Orders Committee, provides that the following motions shall not be open for debate, but shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and forthwith put from the Chair without amendment : - The motion for the first reading of a Bill, the motion “That the debate be now adjourned,” the motion “That the Chairman report progress.” the motion “That the Chairman leave the chair,” and a motion reinstating lapsed business on the notice-paper. The Prime Minister wishes to add another motion, but I shall not refer to that proposal, as it will shortly come before the House. The adoption of the suggestion of the Standing Orders Committee would still further check the tendency to undue discussion. I understand that a proposal similar to that contained in the amendment was seriously considered by the late Government, but that they were prevented from placing it before the House because of their retirement from office. In New Zealand, similar rules are in force, and work very satisfactorily, verv few all-night sittings naring taken place there. I fear that, unless we modify the original proposal of the Government, the effect of it will be similar to the effect of less drastic closure rules in other Legislatures. Wherever the closure is in force, a Ministry wishing to rush Bills through, keeps the House sitting beyond reasonable hours, until, finally, irritation is caused amongst honorable members bv want of rest: Consequently the adoption of the closure proposal would encourage, instead of prevent all-night sittings, because Ministers would find it more easy to induce honorable members to apply the “gag” when they are reduced’ to a state’ of nervous irritation than under normal conditions. I regret that the motion and the amendment were not referred to the Standing Orders Committee. The matter would then have been properly considered, and the Committee might probably have been able1 to suggest a form of standing order which would have been generally acceptable, and would have met all the requirements of the case. I presume, that owing to the resignation of several members of the Committee, as a protest against the high-handed proceeding of the Government in going behind the back of the Committee in connexion with this standing order, it would not be practicable to refer the question to them at this stage. I shall certainly support the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).- I would point out that the amendment now before us is on the lines suggested by certain members of the late Government. The late Prime Minister pointed out that some fair limitation should be imposed upon the speeches of honorable members, and his colleagues generally concurred in that view. I do not approve of the proposal of the Government, because it seems to me to be undesirable to confer upon a small section of honorable! members the power to close down a debate, and stifle discussion. I have seen the closure greatly abused in the New South Wales Assembly, and I should very _ much regret to see a similar rule applied to our proceedings. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney appears to me to meet all the requirements of the case, whilst it possesses the special advantage of being free from the possibility of abuse. It fixes a time limit for speeches, which may be extended, with the consent of the* House. That is not anl unusual provision, because in connexion with the discussions in this House to which a time limit applies, honorable members frequently pay honorable members the courtesy of_ agreeing to their request for an extension of time. As a rule! it would be possible for honorable members to compress their remarks within the limits prescribed in the amendment. It has been stated that the closure proposal was introduced by the Government on account of the extent to which honorable members of the Opposition had occupied the time of the House. I think, however, that excepting one or two cases, the speeches delivered have not been inordinately long. I have looked through the records of this session, and I find no warrant for advancing the reason indicated. In a previous session I delivered a speech extending for over four hours, but I had a special object in view, namely, to protect the rights of honorable members. But for my action, the debate upon a very important matter would have been closed, and a number of honorable members who desired to speak, but who were not at the time in a position to do so, would have been deprived of an opportunity to express their views. The debate subsequently extended over two or three weeks.
– Then the honorable member was responsible for that three weeks’ debate ?
– Yes, and I am proud of it The very fact that the debate was extended to such a length showed that I did not act without good cause. It must be generally admitted that in all Parliaments the privileges of honorable members are sometimes abused, but the Government do not propose to deal with that particular evil. They propose to take power to summarily close down a debate, irrespective of the number of honorable members who may desire to address themselves to the question. Under their proposal, an honorable member, by speaking at undue length, might bring about the ‘application of the closure, and cause many others to be penalized. Any honorable member who abuses his privilege should be dealt with without visiting his sins upon innocent persons. It would in my opinion be far preferable! to impose a time limit upon speeches, and thus safeguard the rights of honorable members, as is proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney. It has been stated that the late Government intended to introduce the closure, but that is not correct. It was mentioned .’that the late Prime Minister had made such an intimation through the press, but although I have carefully searched through’ the newspaper reports, I have not been able to find any foundation for that statement. The right honorable member for East Sydney certainly did point out that it was necessary to impose some limitation upon the speeches of honorable members who were disposed to impede the public business, and the majority of his colleagues concurred in that view. That opinion was formed as the result of the obstructive tactics that were resorted to during the previous session. Under the Government proposal, an honorable member might, merely because he was unpopular, have the closure applied to him after he had spoken two or three words. This afternoon I mentioned a case in which an honorable member in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly had the closure applied to him eight or ten times in the one evening.,
– That was not due to his unpopularity.
– The closure was applied, because the honorable member referred to had made himself obnoxious to a certain member upon the Government benches. On one occasion he was *’ gagged ‘” before he had uttered two words upon a motion for the second reading of a Bill. That appeared to me to be a gross interference with the rights of an honorable member. I was present in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly when three honorable members had the closure applied to them before they had uttered more than twenty words. My principal reason for supporting the amendment is that it would prevent such an unfair application of the closure. Whether an honorable member be popular of unpopular, he has a right to be heard. It often happens that the most unpopular members of a House are those who make the most valuable contributions to the debates, and there should be no attempt to unduly curtail their utterances. It is because I am aware that the closure has been abused in other Parliaments that I urge honorable members to accept the amendment, which, I may say in passing, accords very largely with the view of the late Government when they intimated their intention to introduce new Standing Orders. I have no wish to prolong the debate, but trust that we shall come very speedily to a division, in order that the various other amendments that have been foreshadowed may be dealt with.
– Like the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I do not propose to devote more than a few minutes to the consideration of the amendment. The principal difference between the original motion and the proposal submitted by the honorable member for North Sydney is that the latter is intended to penalize an offender in connexion with unduly protracted debate, whilst under the Government proposition the closure would undoubtedly be applied not only to individual offenders, but to the whole issue in question. In view of the present state of parties in this House - in view of the fact that we have three parties, which, in the words of the Prime Minister, make constitutional government almost impossible - the difference between the two proposals is especially; marked. The standing order proposed by the Government would enable them, or any of their supporters, to closure a motion, and the proposition becomes infinitely more obnoxious the moment one realizes the peculiar situation in which Governments may find themselves in this House. Let us take, for instance, the almost impossible situation of three parties, one party, the smallest, being in power, and another, twice its size, supporting it-
– I fail to see that the remarks now being made by the honorable member have any bearing on the amendment before the Chair. They would have been appropriate to the general question, but that having been disposed of, the only question now before the Chair is as to the relative advantages of the form of closure proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney and that submitted by the Government.
– The amendment is a proposal to limit the duration of debates. I firmly believe that some such limitation is necessary. I am informed that the honorable member for Gwydir, in the course of last session, made speeches covering no less than seventy-two yards of Hansard. That honorable member, at all events, should support the amendment. Surely those who have offended by speaking at undue length should be the first to support it. Unless they do, the people will be, naturally, suspicious of their motives. An honorable member who in one session has made speeches covering seventy-two yards of Hansard should support any proposition to fix a time limit.
– The honorable member for Gwydir does not believe in the closure being applied to himself , although he would apply it to others.
– I trust that the honorable member will be generous, and recognise that the physic with which he is prepared to dose the Opposition is one which he might well use himself. Under the amendment, an honorable member will be able to address himself to a question of importance for an hour. Surely that is a reasonable proposal ? Surely, even if the Government refuse to accept the amendment, they are not prepared to say that one hour is insufficient to enable an honorable member to properly debate any question that may be submitted. I should think that the Minister of Trade and Customs would be able within an hour to elaborate at least one argument and address himself properly to it. Why does he oppose this amendment ? And why does the Vice-President of the Executive Council propose to vote against it? These two honorable gentlemen can hardly refuse to support it, since it would not interfere in any way with their liberties. An hour would surely be a reasonable time to enable the Vice-President of the Executive Council to work off one of his jests. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I trust that if honorable members feel impelled to pass the closure motion in its original form, they will recognise that it will interfere with the right of their constituents to watch the progress of business in this Chamber, and that they will be extremely sparing of its use. If they take up that attitude, and so make the abuse of the proposed standing order impossible. I, for one, shall feel that a great many of my objections to the Government proposition will have been proved almost groundless.
Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) put -
That after the word “ namely,” line 4, the following words be inserted : - “ 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.”
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Johnson) proposed -
That after the word “ by,” line 8, the following words be inserted : - “ the Prime Minister or Minister in charge of the business or the leader or deputy-leader of the Opposition after a Member addressing the Chair has exceeded the limit of one hour’s speech, ‘ That the Member speaking be, no longer heard ‘ ; but such motion shall not be put unless in the opinion of the Speaker - or if the House is in Committee of the Whole the Chairman of Committees - the Member speaking at the time of the interruption of such motion was guilty of tedious repetition or deliberate obstruction of business. Such “ -
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment (by Mr. Robinson) proposed -
That in paragraph a, line 8, the word “ Member,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ Minister, with the consent of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may require.” -
Question - That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– There appears on the notice-paper an amendment which I intended to move with a view to safeguarding the rights of minorities; but as I consider it to be of more importance to have some form of closure than to have any particular form, I shall not proceed with it, although I feel as strongly as ever the expediency of the addition.
Amendment (by Mr. Robinson) proposed -
That the words “ and also if a clause be then under consideration, a motion may be made, “That the question,’ That certain words of the clause defined in the motion stand part of the clause,’ or That the clause stand part of or be added to the Bill ‘ be now put,” in paragraph b, be left out.”
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. .
Amendment (by Mr. Robinson) proposed -
That the figures “ 24 “ in paragraph c be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “48.”
Question - That the figures proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Although this Parliament is now one which reflects considerable credit upon the Commonwealth - and I trust that it may long continue to do so - the trend of politics is such that it is possible that at a later stage the Federal Parliament will not maintain its present standard. We are fortunate in having to preside over us a gentleman in whom every honorable member places the most implicit trust, but the time may come when the high office of Speaker will not be so worthily filled. Party feeling may run so high that the rights of members may be endangered, unless they are efficiently safeguarded. Therefore, in order to bring the proposed new standing order somewhat into accord with that which has been adopted by the House of Commons, I move -
That the following words be added : “Provided always that this rule shall be put in force only when the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees is in the chair, and it appears to the Chair that the motion is not an abuse of the rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority.”
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne). - The honorable member proposes to add to the proviso which I had intended to insert a provision that the closure shall not be enforced, unless it appears that the motion is an abuse of the rules of the House!, or am infringement of the rights of the minority. If that member had moved his amendment at the place at which I had proposed to insert it. it would have had some sense in grammar, and in reason, but inasmuch as he proposes to tack it on to the end of the motion, it will have no sense in reason or grammar, and I feel free to vote against it.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- With every respect to the honorable and learned member, it appears to me that the amendment is not only good in sense, but is also good in grammar, and that it also proposes to do common justice. Therefore, I propose to vote for it.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I merely desire to add to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that the reason can be corrected, and the grammar can be amended, and that, therefore the difficulties suggested bv the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne are not insuperable.
– The honorable member would “ stone- wall “ a grammatical correction.
– There is another reason for this political cocktailism
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know whether the honorable member is at liberty to use such a term with regard to another honorable member?
– I would ask the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw his remark.
– Certainly. I shall substitute a very old parliamentary expression. I would say that another reason why the honorable and learned member has jumped Jim Crow over his own amendment is to be found in the decision of the caucus not to admit of any modification of the Government proposal. I congratulate my honorable friend upon his complete subserviency to caucus rule.
– I desire to say that the action of the honorable! and learned member for Northern Melbourne has been taken out of loyalty to the motion, owing to his resolution to accept the standing order in its present form, rather than permit his amendment to become an instrument for , impairing or destroying it. In the most generous fashion he has sacrificed his own wishes to those of the Government.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang).- The position occupied by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne is a surprising one for a gentleman who claims to be the philosophical radical far excellence of this House. Henceforth, he will be known as the champion political chameleon of this Parliament. ,
– I have not a word to say with regard to the action of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. I merely wish to point out that the Prime Minister, in defending the honorable and learned member, seems to have forgotten that he, himself, expressed his willingness to adopt certain modifications of the Government proposals.
– That was before the “ stone wall.”
-That fact should not be allowed to influence our legislation. The honorable member has given the very worst reason that could possibly be advanced for passing legislation in a certain form. We are legislating for the future, and not for to-night or tomorrow, and honorable members ought not to urge that the occurrences of to-day should affect the decision of the House in connexion with resolutions that will operate on the parliamentary life of the Commonwealth, possibly for many years to come. The Prime Minister stated that the Government were not wedded to the particular form of their proposal.
– Hear, hear.
– And that they would be willing to accept reasonable modifications.
– I stated that we would consider them.
-Among other things, he stated that a provision that the application of the closure should be subject to the approval of the Speaker would not meet with his opposition. Now we find the honorable and1 learned gentleman opposing that proposal which originally came from a member on his own side.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).The Prime Minister has contradicted the statement made by the honorable member for North Sydney. When the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne proposed his amendment, he said’ -
I should like to move the insertion of the following words, which appear in the House of Commons rule - “ Unless it appear to the Chair that the motion is an abuse of the rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority.”
Those words must be well weighed. If it be permissible for any honorable member to move, “ That the question be now put,” the power may be exercised simply to waste time. I, therefore, hold that Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, should be able to say, “I will not put the motion; it is an abuse of the rules.” If, as has been suggested, the word “ Minister “ be substituted for the word “ member “-
– The Prime Minister expressed his willingness at the outset to agree to that amendment.
– If such an amendment be made, the need for a provision as to an abuse of the rules of the House will not be so great, but even in such circumstances, it is desirable that the Chair should have the right to determine whether the moving of the motion, “That the question be now put,” is an abuse of the procedure of the House. A Minister usually has a majority with him, and if some such provision as I suggest be not inserted, there will be a great danger of the rights of a minority being interfered with.
It was clearly understood that the Government approved of that amendment. I should like to know what explanation can be offered for the change of attitude on the part of the honorable and learned member. He was at great pains to condemn honorable members of the Opposition for obstructing the business, but he cannot accuse them of ever having gone back on their principles. He boasted of being a great democrat, and an advocate of justice for all classes of the community, and he urged that no honorable member should be permitted to move “That the question be now put,” except with the consent of the Chair. Why has this great change taken place?
– Why has the right honorable member for East Sydney changed his views ?
– The change to which I refer has taken place within the last few days, and is of a lightning character. Surely the honorable and learned member has some principles, or has he surrendered them to the caucus?-
– I would point out that the conduct of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne lis not before the Chair. The question is whether certain words should be added to the motion.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that it will be competent for me to criticise the views of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne.
– I think not.
– The views of some honorable members on this side of the House have been criticised.
– The only question before the Chair is the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter, and, so far as I am aware, it contains no reference to the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne
– The honorable and learned member said that he could not accept the amendment, because it was ungrammatical, and also because it was not proposed to insert it in the right place.
– The honorable mem- beT may discuss the question of whether or not the amendment is grammatical, or is proposed to be inserted in its proper place ; but it is not competent for him to discuss the motives of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, or to make any such reference to him as he was doing when I first called him to order.
– If honorable members turn, to page 5280 of Hansard, they will find that, when the Prime Minister was introducing the motion, the honorable and learned member for Werriwa interjected -
Would the Prime Minister accept an amendment to include Mr Speaker’s approval ?
And that the honorable and learned gentleman replied -
I should be prepared to favorably consider such an amendment.
It is remarkable that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, after giving notice of an amendment which it was generally understood would be moved by him - and which appeared on the businesspaper - should have suddenly withdrawn it. He has gone back upon his principles, and his action compels honorable members of the Opposition to take his place and fight for the rights and privileges of this House.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker–
– I rise, Mr. Speaker, to avail myself of the new privilege that has just been conferred on honorable members by moving -
That the question be now put.
– When the whole of the amendments have been disposed of the main question must be put from the Chair, and carried, or otherwise disposed of; but until it has been carried, such a step as the honorable member proposes cannot be taken.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- I wish to say, Mr. Speaker, that I was discussing this amendment with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne about ten minutes ago, and that he then told me that if it were proposed to insert it at its right place, namely, in paragraph a, he should feel that he ought to vote with the Opposition, even if he were the only honorable member on this side of the House who did so.
– I think that it is to be regretted that the members of the late Government should have displayed any heat in connexion with this matter. Their experience of honorable gentlemen on the Treasury bench should have prevented anything of the kind. They have been sold once at Ballarat, and are now being sold again.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– It is perfectlypuerile.
– The honorable and learned member forIndi is a judge of puerility. In deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the statement, and regret that I should have had to make it.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- This is about the last opportunity we shall have for free debate, and I wish to say that I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter. I deeply deplore the attitude of our radical friend, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who, for grammatical and mathematical reasons, is not prepared to support the very amendment of which he himself gave notice. It seems that the Labour Party have made an addition to their code, and that they are not prepared to support anything which is not grammatical or mathematical. I favour the amendment, because it will render it impossible for an ill-spirited member to move the application of the closure. I am strongly of opinion that the closure should be applied only with the concurrence of Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees. Some honorable members may render themselves obnoxious and be “gagged,” with the result that the closure will be applied to the whole question at issue, and unpleasantness will arise. This clanger will be avoided, to a large extent, if we provide that a proposal to apply the closure must meet with the approval of Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, whose impartiality is undoubted. On more than one occasion the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has given notice of amendments and abandoned them in the same way that he has done to-night. In the first Federal Parliament he was known as “ the revolving light,” and I now christen him “ the grammatical and mathematical member for Northern Melbourne.”
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the following words be added : “ Provided that a majority of the whole House shall be present when such vote is carried.”
We have now reached an extraordinary stage in the history of the Federal Parliament, and I think it will be well for honorable members to pause before committing themselves too far. We have seen to-night that which has never occurred in the history of any Parliament - we have seen the advocates of democracy, of liberty, and freedom, voting for the “ gag,” for an institution which outside this House they would denounce with the utmost vehemence. They have taken this action for a purpose, and their conduct reflects credit neither upon themselves nor upon the House.
– The honorable member will recognise that the question now before the Chair is the amendment which he has just moved. It is competent for him to discuss whether or not there should be a majority of the whole House present when the vote is “taken, but he cannot enter into the merits of the closure.
– My desire is to conserve the rights of every honorable member, no matter upon what side of the House he may sit. It is imperative that the closure should not be applied lightly, and I regard it as absolutely necessary that we should add to the Government proposal the safeguard embodied in my amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Resolved -
That, notwithstanding any provisions in the Standing Orders to the contrary, there be forthwith adopted the following Standing Order, namely : -
In Committee . (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Dwelling “… includes any ship or other vessel in any port of the Commonwealth or in any inland waters thereof. . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - After “thereof” insert “ or any ship’ or vessel registered in Australia on a passage between any two Commonwealth ports.”
– I move-
That the amendment be disagreed to.
I ask the Committee to disagree to the amendment, because it is impossible to include as within the Commonwealth person’s who are outside the Commonwealth. Moreover, it would be difficult to determine, were the amendment agreed to, whether persons so travelling should be credited to the State whose port they had left or to that to whose port they were going. What is necessary can be effected under clause 15, which provides that the Statistician: shall obtain returns with respect to persons who during the night of the census day are not abiding in any dwelling.
Motion agreed to.
The particulars to be specified in the Householder’s Schedule shall include the particulars following : -
the name, sex, age. . . . length of residence in Australia, and nationality of every person. . . .
Senate’s Amendment.-After “ person “ insert “ abiding in the dwelling during the night of the Census day.”
Motion (by Mr.Groom) agreed to-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 15 -
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “on that night.”
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 16. -
The Statistician shall, subject to the regulations and the directions of the Minister, collect, annually, statistics in relation to all or any of the following matters : -
Vital, social, and industrial statistics. . . .
Senate’s Amendments. - Insert new paragraphs ” (aa) Population,” “ (ab) Employment and nonemployment,” “ (fa) Postal and telegraphic,” leave out “ statistics,” line 5.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the amendments be agreed to, with the addition of the word “ matters “ to paragraph (ca), and the substitution of the word “matters” for the word “ statistics,” left out in line 5,
Clause 19 (Powers of entry and inspection).
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert at the beginning of the clause “For the purpose of making any inquiries or observations necessary for the proper carrying out of this Act.
Clause 27 (Statistical matter may be sent by post free of charge).
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out clause.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the amendments of clauses 19 and 27 be agreed to.
Reported that the Committee had disagreed to one amendment, agreed to two with amendments, and agreed to the remainder without amendment; report adopted.
That the Prime Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Treasurer be a Committee to prepare and draw upa reason for disagreeing with amendment No. 1.
Reason brought up and adopted.
House adjourned at 9.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 November 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051123_reps_2_29/>.