House of Representatives
24 November 1905

2nd Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 5760

ASSENT TO BILLS

Assent to the following Bills re ported : -

Representation Bill.

Life Assurance Companies Bill.

Amendments Incorporation Bill.

page 5760

QUESTION

DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT

Mr JOHNSON:
LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I wish to know from the Prime Minister, having regard to the fact that the concerted actionof the Government and the Labour Party in “gagging “ the people’s representatives has destroyed the fundamental principles of parliamentary government, and substituted coercion by an irresponsible caucus for independent Ministerial responsibility, whether he will advise the Governor-General to immediately dissolve Parliament, with a view to an appeal to the constituencies for indorsement of their actions, and to afford the electors an opportunity Ito express their opinion at the ballot-boxes on such proposals asthe legalization of the boycott by means of a union label, and the adoption of socialistic principles of legislation?

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister for External Affairs · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · Protectionist

– No answer is expected, none is deserved.

Mr PAGE:
MARANOA, QUEENSLAND

– I wish to know, through you, Mr. Speaker, if there is any reason which prevents the honorable member for Lang from resigning his seat, and going before his constituents? I know of none.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I know of no reason, beyond the honorable member’s own wish.

page 5760

PERSONAL EXPLANATION

Mr ROBINSON:
WANNON, VICTORIA

– I desire to make a personal explanation. The other afternoon, when the motion of the honorable member for Echuca for a return showing the importation of harvesters was on the notice-paper as unopposed, I rose to move an amendment on it, believing that information regarding the export of harvesters had been refused to the House; On looking through the columns of Hansard, I find that that information has been supplied, and, therefore, I do not wish to move an amendment on the motion. If it can be restored to its place as an unopposed motion, I shall beglad to see that done, because my action in regard to it was due to a misapprehension.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I am not sure that the motion can be dealt with in that way, now that the standing order has taken its course, unless the honorable member for Echuca can secure the calling on of the motion later in the day, when Government business has been disposed of.

page 5760

NEWSPAPER REPORT

Mr BATCHELOR:
BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– This morning’s

Argus contains the following report of a portion of yesterday’s debate: -

Mr. J. Cook shouted across the Chamber “ There are thirty gaggers over there,” and the Opposition cheered lustily.

Mr Kelly:

– “ Thirty pieces of silver.”

Mr Robinson:

– You can buy some of them for less than that.

I wish toask the honorable and learned member for Wannon, through you, Mr. Speaker, if he. made any such remark yesterday.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Questions to a private member areadmissible only when they relate to business on the notice-paper in his name.

page 5760

QUESTION

NEW STANDING ORDERS

Non-debatable Motions : Individual. Closure.

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister for Extemal Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– I move-

That the following Standing Orders be forthwith adopted : -

The following motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and shall be forthwith put from the Chair without amendment and the vote taken : -

A motion for the first reading of a Bill;

A motion, That this debate De now adjourned.

A motion in Committee, That the Chairman report progress (either simply or in any form);

A motion in Committee, That the Chairman leave the Chair;

A motion to reinstate on the NoticePaper any business which has lapsed because of a count-out.

Should any such motion be negatived, no similar motion shall be received within a quarter of an hour of the declaration of the preceding decision, and no such motion shall be received if the Speaker or Chairman is of opinion that it is an abuse of the rules or formaof the House, or is moved for the purpose of obstructing business.

A motion without notice may be made, That a Member who is speaking “be not further heard,” and such question shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.

It is unnecessary to repeat the observations which I made to the House two days ago in moving a similar motion. The malady for which a remedy is proposed is, as I thein explained, chronic, although this proposal has been provoked by a special attack. At first it appeared that a minimum limitation would suffice, but had I. been aware that the Government would be refused assistance in obtaining anything approaching a real and efficient standing order for this purpose, I should at once have moved the adoption of the whole system of closure in force in the House of Commons. The criticism to which my first proposal was subjected has not impaired our justification for its introduction. It is essential for the pro- per conduct of parliamentary business. It was thought last week that the standing order then proposed would have taken less time to discuss, seeing the need, at this period of the session, for preserving our time, but, under the circumstances, and in view of the fact that that standing order is general in its application, it is desirable to prevent idle discussions on certain motions, and to deal with obstruction on the part of individual mem- bers. The first part of this motion aims at prevention. It provides that motions which ought tobe treated as formal shall be dealt with formally, that is to say, that they shall not be subiect to amendment or debate, but shall be put at once to the House, or to the Committee, as the case may be. In this way a great deal of obstruction will be prevented without any active intervention.

Mr Johnson:

– And a great deal of useful debate may also be prevented.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Very few will share the honora’ble member’s opinion, and, I think, no one who has listened to the recent speeches on the motion “ that the Chairman do now leave the chair.” This part of the motion has received the approval of the Standing Orders Committee in the last Parliament and in this Parliament, and, therefore, is recommended in a fashion which should specially appeal to honorable members opposite. The second part of the motion is aimed at individual obstruction. If we relied entirely on the standing order adopted yesterday, it might happen that the House, exasperated by the irrelevance or undue length of’ a few speeches, might close a debate, and thus prevent honorable members who desired to address themselves, in reasonable fashion, to the question from doing so. This part of the proposed new standing order! is taken from the practice of New South Wales, where it has been in force for a great many years, and a somewhat similar rule exists in Western Australia. I am not aware that complaints have been made against its operation, except, perhaps, in a few cases.

Mr Robinson:

– Is the honorable and learned member aware that Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. R. E. O’Connor were both closured when fighting for Federation?

Mr DEAKIN:

– The fact is not in my memory, but does not affect my argument. If, in the course of years, the rule has been unwisely or improperly applied in individual cases, it has beenno more mishandled than the best and soundest laws may be. The powers of restraint on which civilization rests are all capable of abuse, and all have been abused at times, since capacity to be used implies capacity to be abused. The object of this rule is to prevent abuse of the time of the House, and of the rights of honorable members; and to say that it can be abused in its turn is not a sufficient objection to it. If we cannot rely on the good sense and judgment of Parliament, on what are we to rely ? On the one hand, we have the judgment of the great body of members, and, on the other, theresistance of, often a small, and sometimes a numerically insignificant, minority, who set their individual desires against the clear wish of the House. Unrestricted individual speech is impossible in modern days, in any Parliament, no matter how small. There must be self restraint on the part of the units if Parliament as a whole is to be free and to work effectively. The choice offered to us is between the risk that the units may occasionally suffer at the hands of the majority, and the danger that the business, standing, and dignity of Par liament shall suffer from caprice or deliberate attack at the hands of the units. I am confident that both these rules will come to be employed with due regard to the rights of honorable members, applied infrequently, and with as little abuse as possible. After the first experiences are over, they will take their place with the other Standing Orders, and be handled in the same way. The last rule is aimed at protecting free speech, by giving to the more modest and less loquacious members of the House opportunities of which they are now often deprived by- the prolixity of others. It is intended to enable us to transact our business in a businesslike way which will command the respect of businesslike people outside. The decision’ in each case will be given by the majority in the full light of day, and with a full and clear sense of responsibility. A member of the majority cannot shelter himself behind numbers, but will have to take upon himself the responsibility of his actions before the people as a whole, before his constituents, and before his fellow members. When power and responsibility go hand in hand, and that power is placed in the hands of this House, I have little apprehension as to the results of its exercise. Honorable members will fully realize the importance of any action that may be taken either under the standing order passed yesterday, or those now proposed. The last new standing order need rarely, if ever, be used for party purposes, and never, I trust, will its appllication be dictated by partisan motives.

Mr Lonsdale:

– A party vote was given yesterday.

Mr DEAKIN:

– I do not think that the members 6n this side of the House are to be blamed for that. It is in the power of either side to make any question a party question - that is one of the necessary conditions under which we transact our business; but in dealing with individual members, it is to be hoped that party considerations will not be allowed to influence the actions of the majority. It is the duty of honorable members not to sit idly by listening to irrelevant speeches, or to stand up themselves and make inconsequent observations, but to devote themselves to the business which they were sent here to transact, with as little delay as is consistent with due regard to the discharge of their obligations.

Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Is it not idle prattle for the Prime Minister to tell us that these proposals are not prompted by party considerations, and that the new standing orders will not be used for party purposes ? Every one else knows, and the Prime Minister must know, that these proposals have their origin in fierce party rancour. No one blames the honorable gentleman for what he is doing. We have only pity for him.

Mr Deakin:

– I take the full; responsibility for my action.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I know that the Prime Minister is compelled to take . the responsibility.

Mr Kelly:

– He is merely the tool of the caucus.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I must ask the hon,orable member to withdraw that remark.

Mr Kelly:

– I withdraw.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– If we may judge by the attitude of the Prime Minister, he assumes his responsibility with bad grace, and certainly not with his usual cheerfulness and jauntiness. Every one knows that these proposals originate, not with the Government, but with the honorable member for Bland.

Mr Deakin:

– He never saw them.

Mr Tudor:

– The honorable member for Parramatta is absolutely; wrong.

Mr Maloney:

– The honorable member’sstatement is absolutely untrue. I withdraw the word “untrue,” and substitute the word) “ incorrect. ‘ ‘

Mr SPEAKER:

– I was about to request the honorable member to withdraw his’ first remark. I also desire the honorable member for Parramatta to observe the rule which requires one honorable member to accept an assurance given by another. The assurance has been given more than once by the Prime Minister, that he was not acting at the dictation of any one.

Mr Deakin:

– So far as I was aware, neither the honorable member for Bland’ nor any member of his party saw a word of the proposals before they were tabled.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I do not say that the leader of the Labour Party saw the proposals. I stated that he had suggested them, and was the main inspirer of them.

Mr Maloney:

– The honorable member is wrong again.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I may, be wrong, but), if so, the leader of the Labour Party is also wrong, for he has admitted what I have indicated in this House.

Mr Isaacs:

– The honorable member for Bland denied it the other night.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– He did not deny it. The Prime Minister has* submitted what he claims to be a series of very innocent proposals, such as have been adopted in nearly every other Legislature in the world. I challenge him, however, to show a single instance anywhere in the wide world in which a set of similar proposals have been brought down under circumstances such as these. . I challenge him 4o prove that the business of a session has at any time been interrupted for the purpose of bringing down “gag” proposals of this kind, with the object of pushing through the remainder of the business of «the session. I defy him to show an example in which, a measure like the Trade Marks Bill has been suddenly- withdrawn for the purpose of submitting proposals intended to enable the Government to stifle -debate upon the measure.

Mr Deakin:

– How was the Trade Marks Bill withdrawn? The honorable member would not permit us to reach it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That was simply because the Government made up their minds to rush the Bill through without :-reasonable discussion, and because they refused a fair proposal, and peremptorily required honorable members’ to continue sitting for an unreasonable time. The Bill was withdrawn after the fairest of offers had ;been made - an offer which will not be repeated when we come to consider the measure on its merits. Judging from, the amendments which have already been suggested, it will be impossible to pass at one sitting any such number of clauses as were offered to the Government upon, the occasion referred to. Now as to the merits of the Government proposal. The Prime Minister has stated that the guillotine provisions in the House of Commons have worked well. Strange to say, this morning’s Argus contains testimony to the contrary.

Mr Deakin:

– I was fully aware of that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Men who are <mite as able as the Prime Minister, who “have operated the guillotine provisions for themselves, and have worked under them for years, unhesitatingly denounce them, and say that they are undermining the ‘functions of Parliament. It is a -matter of common knowledge that there were never such complaints against the parliamentary institutions of Great Britain ,as have been made since the guillotine provisions have been in force. They have not justified themselves, either by uplifting the character of parliamentary institutions or by facilitating the work of the Empire as a whole.

Mr Deakin:

– It has been proved that legislation would be absolutely impossible -without them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It is easy to make such a statement, but I would point out that legislation in Great Britain was not impossible before the guillotine was adopted. It was impossible before to pass through such measures as the Education Bill, or the Licensing Bill. I will tell the Prime Minister also what would have been impossible in the absence of the “ gag “ in New South Wales.

The SPEAKER:

– I can see very great difficulty in the way of strictly complying with the Standing Orders on this occasion. It is, my duty to prevent any debate that may have any bearing on the discussion which closed last night. This debate is entirely separate, and cannot be regarded as a continuation of that which took place yesterday and on preceding days. Any debate upon what were called the “gag” or guillotine proposals adopted last night will be entirely inadmissible on this occasion. At the same time, I recognise that the second proposal which is now before honorable members does so far cover the area to which I have been referring that I cannot prevent references from time to time which may go back over the previous debate. It will be my duty - and I rely on honorable members to assist me - to avoid as far as possible any duplication of the debate which closed last night.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I have no intention to transgress that very wholesome rule. The case to which I was about to point was one in which the closure was applied to indivi’dual members time after time in order to pass through the New South Wales Assembly the provisions in the Land Act relating to improvement leases, which have given rise to the recent land scandals in that State. Those scandals must be attributed to the application of the “gag” on that occasion.

Mr Maloney:

– They are attributable to the thieves who have profited by them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I am now speaking of the legislation which made the thefts, as they are called, possible. The course of the “gag” can be traced throughout the civilized world. In nearly every case in which it has been applied, as it was on the occasion referred to, in ill-temper and under the influence of party motives, it has led to the passing of some measure which did not commend itself to the public outside. Does the Prime Minister pretend that the Bill to which the closure proposals are to be applied has received the- approval ‘of the people ?

Mr Deakin:

– My proposals apply to everything.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– They would not have been introduced but for the experience of the Government in connexion with the Trade Marks Bill.

Mr Deakin:

– They would have been introduced in connexion with any Bill if honorable members opposite had treated it in the same way.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Other Bills have been treated in the same way, but no closure proposals have been introduced, and, therefore, we, must look to the peculiar circumstances of the case for the explanation of the action of the Government.

Mr Deakin:

– What other measures have been treated in the same way?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Prime Minister must know of other measures which have been even more vigorously opposed - the Commerce Bill, for instance. I wish now to quote what! Mr. Asquith- says as to the effect of the guillotine -

On the other hand, executive government by the joint operation of the guillotine and the block became every year, both as to legislation and policy, more and more emancipated from parliamentary control. That might be convenient for the holders of office for the time being, but in the long run it was bad for the Executive, derogatory to Parliament, and injurious and even perilous to the Empire.

Surely that statement is entitled to as much respect as is the off-hand opinion of the Prime Minister?

Mr Deakin:

Mr. Asquith is almost alone in that opinion.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– He is one of the leading men at home.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Prime Minister has declared that these proposals will make unrestricted debate by individuals impossible. In that connexion, I cannot help thinking of the effect which they will exercise upon the honorable and learned gentleman himself. I think that for long speeches in this House he “ takes She cake.”

Mr Brown:

– Only yesterday, the honorable member credited me with that distinction.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The honorable member runs a good second to the Prime Minister. In delivering his longest speech - .that upon the Judiciary Bill - the Prime Minister occupied four hours and twenty minutes,, and, upon various occasions, the honorable member for Canobolas has spoken for four hours. Consequently, I apprehend . that when these proposals become operative they will be applied to some of the individuals who are supporting them most cordially to-day. I come now to the Prime Minister’s statement as to the use and abuse of the “gag.” He has expressed the hope that no party spirit will enter into the application of these proposals. If their enforcement rested with him, perhaps theremight not be so much to be urged against their adoption. An analysis of the votingupon the Government proposals last night,, shows that only eighteen Ministerial members supported them.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must not refer to last night’s debate.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I merely wish) to show that the Prime Minister has no authority for submitting these new proposals^ Out of a House composed of seventy-five members, all the support he could muster,, inclusive of pairs, was that of eighteen members. Does that fact justify him in making; this attack upon the privileges of Parliament ? Whence does he derive his authority, to make any such attack ? That question admits of only one answer. Obviously he gets- it from his masters in the Labour cornerThere is only one way of effectually getting, rid of obstruction in any Parliament. The best cure for parliamentary obstruction is at strong Government, with a strong mandate from the constituencies. I venture to say that there are times in the history of many Parliaments, when obstruction becomes at duty. I do not admit’ that the Opposition have been guilty of any obstruction duringthe present session - indeed, I entirely repudiate that suggestion. But all the circumstances of the present position warrant any obstruction which a united Oppositioncan offer, since the Government have nomandate to enact the legislation which at present finds most favour in this House. What has consumed the time of the session, and resulted in the introduction of theseproposals’? Clearly, it has been the consideration of two measures, as to which theconstituencies have never expressed anopinion - two measures of which the electorsknew nothing whatever, until their terms were made known to them by the process of discussion in this House. The discussion of one of those Bills has occupied five weeks, out of a short session of four months.

Mr McCay:

– To what Bill does thehonorable member refer?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– To the Commerce Bill.

Mr McCay:

– The consideration of that measure did not occupy five weeks of the present session. Only five weeks elapsed between the date of its introduction .and the time when it was disposed of.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– If ever there is justification for an Opposition determinedly resisting what they regard as pernicious proposals, it is when such proposals have not received the approval of the electors.

Mr Thomas:

– Does the honorable member think that a union label is a pernicious thing ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I was referring then to the Commerce Bill. I say that in Australia the introduction of the union label is unnecessary.

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must not debate that question.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– If I might say one word in reply to the honorable member

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must see that if I allow him to say one word another honorable member will desire to say two, and so debate may be multiplied almost indefinitely.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The peculiar feature of this debate is that some honorable members who are intensely opposed to the objective contemplated by these proposals are calmly and determinedly supporting the Government. It is well known that some of those who are supporting the application of the closure, both to the individual and to debate, are sternly opposed to the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill. I do not understand their consistency in so acting. In other parts of the world proposals of this character have always been submitted at the beginning of the session. They have formed the first business of the session, and in the majority of cases they have been introduced only after a direct appeal has been made to the constituencies. So far as I know, therefore, the circumstances surrounding their adoption have always been free from partytaint .and party bias. They have been submitted in a calm and dispassionate atmosphere. They have never been introduced at the end of a session which has been wasted in the passing of measures for which no demand has been made by the people. When the present Government assumed office we were assured that the session was to be devoted to Bills of a non- contentious character. That was the Prime Minister’s declaration.

Mr Deakin:

– The Bills have not been contentious.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Does the Prime Minister say that the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill are noncontentious proposals ?

Mr Deakin:

– I think that they ought to be.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– They are not so regarded even in the Cabinet itself.

Mr Deakin:

– They are.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– We know perfectly well that some members of the Cabinet have expressed a- wish that the union label provisions of that measure were far enough elsewhere instead of being before this Chamber. A question upon which the Cabinet itself is divided must necessarily divide this House, and cannot possibly come within the category of “noncontentious “ measures.

Mr Deakin:

– The question certainly does not divide the Cabinet.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The Prime Minister must be aware that the VicePresident of the Executive Council does not believe in the union label a bit. He knows very well that in his heart the honorable gentleman hates it, and that if he were at liberty to express his opinions he would most fiercely denounce it.

Mr Ewing:

– I am never afraid to express my opinions.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The honorable gentleman will take very good care not to express any opinions in favour of the union label. I challenge him to do so.

Mr Ewing:

– Wait till we come to discuss it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I should like to hear the Treasurer express his views upon the union label proposals. Of course, I admit that these two Ministers may find it in their hearts to support those provisions, seeing that they are constantly being whittled down by ‘the Attorney-General. Only this morning I see that yet another set of proposals, containing still further modifications, is to be submitted in lieu of Part VII. of the Bill. I congratulate my honorable friends in the caucus upon this constant whittling down of the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill by the Attorney-General. If that process continues much longer, it may be that at last the Cabinet will be solidified upon them.

Mr Tudor:

– The honorable member is opposed to the union label proposals, despite the fact thatthey have been whittled down.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I have not had time to study the new provisions which were circulated this morning. When the Government bring down proposals, the consideration of which occupies five or six weeks - proposals which fiercely divide men upon both sides of the Chamber - they break faith with their profession that the session should be devoted to noncontentious legislation. When I peruse the business-paper, I am led to ask myself whether it contains anything to justify the application of proposals such as those which are now under consideration. Is there anything upon that business-paper, the attainment of which would warrant us in delivering into the hands of a Government, without authority from the constituencies, the whole liberties of the Parliament of Australia? Is there anything in the Ministerial programme to justify the aspersion that the adoption of these proposals will put upon our parliamentary institutions, and upon the character of our debates - Is there anything to justify the complete falsification of the Prime Minister’s prediction some years ago, that Federation would result in a national life of a higher type, in which all these trumpery things should find no place?

Mr Deakin:

– So it will.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I hope it may yet be found that the structure of Federation is “ strong as a fortress and sacred as a shrine.” There is certainly nothing sacred about these proposals. They are of the very essence of fierce party, rancorous debate, and have originated in a desire to bend this national Parliament to purely parity ends and purposes. Now I come to the proposals themselves. The first portion of these proposals is taken, as is well known, from the Standing Orders proposed by the Standing Orders Committee. If they had been brought down in a set of new Standing Orders, such as those already submitted to the House, I should have had no word to sayagainst them. But whilst they are the proposals of the Standing Orders Committee for the limitation of debate - proposals made after careful and lengthy deliberation - theMinister absolutely refuse to accept them as sufficient in themselves. They seek to buttress them by the individual “gag” as well as the “gagging’’ of the question. The Prime Minister is going far beyond what the best judgment of this House has already formulated as being sufficient to control’ fair debate.

Mr Deakin:

– We shall see whether the honorable member will go back upon them when he is on this side of the House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– May I remind honorable members that among the Standing Orders under which we are at present working, there are provisions for the limitation of debate, of which advantage is never taken? Standing order 276, for instance, ought to be sufficient for all purposes.

Mr Frazer:

– It failed last week.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Is not that the best proof that there was no prolonged, irrelevant, or tedious debate ? Honorable members may laugh, but they know that their laughter is a reflection upon the officers of the House. Standing order 276 provides that -

The Speaker or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the House or the Committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, or the taking up of time by a speech of such unwarrantable length as to obstruct the business on the part of a member, and may direct such member to discontinue his speech.

Here we have a standing order, already operative, to prevent prolonged individual obstruction.

Mr Wilks:

– It was applied last session to the honorable member for Gwydir.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– As I am reminded the only occasion upon which it has been brought into force led to a proceeding which has never been forgiven by the colleaguesof the honorable member for Gwydir. They cherish, to this day, feelings of rancour against the officer of the House who dared to put it into operation.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– That is why the honorable member for Kalgoorlie nominated a candidate in opposition to the Chairman.

Mr Frazer:

– Nothing of the kind.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– These honorable members now desire a stronger dose of parliamentary closure than that which gave them so much concern when administered in a very mild way during last session. The Standing Orders under which we are working afford ample means for the suppression of unnecessary debate. May Iremind honorable members, that those Standing Orders contain a very effective form of closure which has not been put into force? We ought to know - but it appears that we do not, or we should not be tinkering with these proposals - that, at any time, an honorable member may move the previous question, and that if that question be negatived

Mr Thomas:

– After discussion.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– How long could it be discussed in the House?

Mr McDonald:

– As long as honorable members pleased.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Certainly not. An honorable member could speak only once.

Mr Frazer:

– Could such a morion be moved in Committee?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– No.

Mr Frazer:

– The honorable member omitted to mention that fact.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It can be moved in the House. The standing order enabling Mr. Speaker to close down any irrelevant, obstructive, or unnecessarily long, tedious, or repetitive debate, together with that providing for the moving of the previous question, should be sufficient for the purposes of the House.

Mr Maloney:

– The honorable member has proved that the present Standing Orders are insufficient.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I wish’ the honorable member would refrain from interjecting.

Mr Maloney:

– I object to the honorable member wasting time.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It is open to the honorable member to put a stop to my speech. In dealing with one of the most momentous, subjects that have occupied the attention of the House, I have spoken for only a half-hour, and yet I am told that I am wasting time. This is an indication, I presume, of the spirit in which the Government proposals will be applied. I repeat that it is not a matter of the use or abuse of the proposed Standing Orders by the Prime* Minister, but of their use by honorable members of the Ministerial corner, who seem inclined not to allow an honorable member1 to speak unless he gives: utterance to that which has previously been pumped into him by the caucus.

Mr Thomas:

– Poor old caucus !

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I think that the caucus is becoming an absolute tyranny and a danger to the Constitution.

Mr Thomas:

– The honorable member’s leader did not think so when we were sup porting him in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– But the caucus in those days was nothing like that which now obtains.

Mr Thomas:

– It was.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It continues to develop, and the honorable member is developing with it. ‘We know that “debate is sometimes protracted to enable an honorable member, who may be temporarily absent, to get here to record his vote. But the Government proposals would prevent that being done. On many occasions a speech’ has been delivered merely to put in the time necessary to allow of an honorable member reaching the House to take part in a division. Is that an improper thing? I read the other day - I think it was in the Catholic Press - a statement to the effect that the Attorney-General, while in Court, threw down his brief, his wig, and his gown, and rushed up to this House to vote om the Home Rule motion. The debate was kept going to enable him to come here to vote, and the) newspaper in ‘question spoke of the honorable and learned member in terms of the highest commendation. It commended his promptitude and the sacrifice he made in rushing to the House to vote upon that momentous question.

Mr Tudor:

– The debate must have been carried on by an honorable member of the Opposition.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– No. On the day in question I think the speeches came from the opposite side of the House. I am reminded by an honorable member that the honorable member for Coolgardie, who on- the occasion to which I refer was the power behind the throne, actually asked the honorable member for Kooyong to speak whilst he gathered his men together. Such a thing, would be impossible; under these closure Standing Orders.

Mr Tudor:

– Then it was an honorable member of the Opposition who kept the debate going.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– So it seems, but he did so at the express wish of an honorable member opposite. We are usually wrong when we take their advice, and it appears that we were very wrong on that occasion. I only cite this as an illustration of the purpose for which a discus sion may sometimes be prolonged. I do not intend to dwell upon what will be the effect of these proposed Standing Orders upon the smaller States. I merely point out that they will be the chief sufferers. It is not the larger States - which have here a delegation that is always sufficient for their purpose - but tha smaller States which are represented by only five members that will be most liable to injury from the closure. The Application of the “gag” to an individual representative of one of the smaller States will mean the closuring of a fifth of its representation. What is the position ? A Bill which, after remaining on the business -paper for two months, suddenly became urgent. Other business specially set down for consideration on the night in question was postponed in order to allow that Bill to be taken in its place. At whose request, if not at the request or demand of those most interested in the Bill, was that action taken? Did the Government willingly push aside the Electoral Bill, or the Copyright Bill, in order that consideration might be given to the Trade Marks Bill? Without notice of any kind that Bill suddenly became urgent, and found a first place among the proposals for discussion. I have already alluded to what took place on the evening to which I refer, and I do not wish to traverse it again. The whole trouble arose owing to pique on the part of the AttorneyGeneral.

Mr Deakin:

– No.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It arose owing to pique for which there was not a scintilla of reason.

Mr Deakin:

– The Opposition- admitted that he met them half-way.

Mr McCay:

– No.

Mr Deakin:

– He stated what he proposed to do-

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! Conversations across the chamber are disorderly.

Mr McCay:

– I shall have to make a personal explanation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The AttorneyGeneral made a demand in what I regarded as a peremptory and insolent fashion. I object to be waved off by the -pince-nez of any Minister in the way that the honorable and learned member sought to put me’ off that night. He treated me with every mark of peremptoriness - as if I were a schoolboy instead of a member of this House. I resented such treatment,, and shall always do so. But I wish to bring my remarks to a close. Honorable members below the gangway say that I am wasting time. They have made up ‘ their minds regarding these proposals, _and I do not suppose that any argument that I may submit will cause them to change their views. . I fancy that they are not open to argument. The decision of the caucus, I suppose, has been taken.

Mr Thomas:

– That is what is the matter. It saves time.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– There is no doubt about its solidity and irrevocableness ; neither is there any doubt as to its tyranny. It is the latter aspect of the caucus to which I most strongly object. I do not object to their solidifying to push through any good proposal, and to do useful business, but when ‘they solidify to push through measures for their own personal interests, the caucus becomes a tyranny and a menace to the people of Australia, and a danger to the Constitution. The “gag” proposal was pushed through by bitter class feeling, and we have been told by the Prime Minister, from his own lips, that these later proposals have been made in revenge. He told us the other night that, but for our conduct regarding the first proposal, he would not have submitted his further proposals, but would have been content to see how the first worked. What is that but saying that the Government are satisfying upon us their feelings of revenge? There can be no stronger condemnation of these proposals than the spirit which has prompted them, and the motives with which they have been brought forward. I do not intend to let the “gag” make the slightest difference to me. Honorable members on this side will proceed with the discussion of business as if the “ gag “ did not exist. In my heart, I despise the Government for the motives and feelings which have prompted their action, and I care nothing as to what is done in this matter. We shall proceed with the consideration of measures as though the “ gag “ did not exist, leaving the Government to apply it as they think fit. “Mr. Hume Cook. - That is a threat.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– It is not a threat. There has been no justification for the restraint which the Government seeks to put on the House. We shall take no notice of this sword of Damocles which has been hung over our heads, and shall proceed to perform our duties, caring, nothing whether it falls or hangs. We can “do no more. The Government, by reason of a compact as politically immoral as any ever made in this Chamber, will have their desire. They can command a majority to put these pro- posals through. But, although they may “gag” the House, we must all appeal, in the last resort, to the political Caesar- outside. That appeal will take place within a very short time, because two-thirds of -the life of this Parliament is spent. When an appeal is made to the electors, we shall let them know what the object of these proposals was, and how they originated, and leave it to them to decide whether their representatives in the Federal Parliament of Australia shall be treated as the Government now propose to treat us.

Mr McLEAN:
Gippsland

– I should not have much objection to these proposals, if they were modified, although I do not believe in them in their present form; but I have the strongest objection to the manner in which they have been introduced, and feel that I should be failing in my duty if I did not express it. I do not accuse the Government of absolute breach of faith, but I say unhesitatingly that, when negotiating with the Opposition for the termination of the discussion on the “gag” proposal, the Government suppressed

Mr Deakin:

– No.

Mr McLEAN:

– Did the Government tell the Opposition that they were bringing forward these further proposals?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Not a word.

Mr Deakin:

– I wished to bring forward the question of the Standing. Orders at that meeting.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Not at all.

Mr Deakin:

– The honorable member absolutely declined to discuss them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– This proposal - yes.

Mr Deakin:

– One could not be discussed without the other.

Mr McLEAN:

– All that took place on that occasion was placed before me, and not a word was said about the introduction of further gagging proposals.

Mr Deakin:

– Nor was one word said about the existing proposal.

Mr McLEAN:

– There are two ways of misleading those with whom one is dealing - one is by making a statement that is absolutely untrue, and the other by suppressing known facts having a material bearing on the question at issue.

Mr Deakin:

– Considering that the honorable member was not present, he is not entitled to pass judgment.

Mr McLEAN:

– There may be difference of opinion as to which of these two courses is the more immoral, but, while the person who tells an untruth’ does so with the knowledge that he must accept the responsibility and the consequences of such action, the person who misleads by the suppression of material facts takes the benefit of his deception, but tries to evade the responsibility of his action.

Mr Deakin:

– Those remarks have no application to this case.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– The honorable and learned member admits all that the honorable member for Gippsland says.

Mr Deakin:

– I do. not. I deny absolutely the correctness of his statements.

Mr McLEAN:

– If, in commercial life, a producer, a manufacturer, or a merchant, adopted a similar course in regard to the disposal of commodities to customers, he would be regarded as guilty of sharp practice, and a trade union label would not be required to insure the boycotting of his goods in the future. It is a lamentable and unfortunate thing that, in ari assemblage of gentlemen elected to deal with the vital interests of the nation, we should be content with a lower standard of morality than prevails in! the mercantile world. I do not wish to labour this question.

Mr Deakin:

– No; because we are being given an example of a lower standard now. The honorable member is condemning us unheard’. If this were a mercantile transaction he would rue it.

Mr McLEAN:

– Does the honorable and learned gentleman deny that the knowledge of his further1 proposals was withheld from the members of the Opposition with whom be negotiated?

Mr Deakin:

– I deny it in all the senses in which the honorable) member has referred to it.

Mr McLEAN:

– Then I regret very, much what I have said.

Mr Deakin:

– Why does not the honorable member allow those who were present to speak?

Mr McLEAN:

– I am speaking on the words of those who were present.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Hear, hear. Every word that the honorable member has said is correct.

Mr Deakin:

– He is making charges on an ex forte statement, without hearing the men he is condemning.

Mr McLEAN:

– This panic legislation is degrading to Parliament. We are told that similar rules are in force in the House of Commons, but honorable members know that, although that .body contains between 600 and’ 700 members, it managed to conduct its business for several centuries without such rules.

Mr Maloney:

– The number of members of the House of Commons was not formerly so large.

Mr McLEAN:

– I am aware that the number of members has gradually increased.

Mr Maloney:

– Furthermore, members . of the House) of Commons are elected, not on manhood suffrage, but on a property vote.

Mr McLEAN:

– That has nothing to do with the question. If in the House of Commons the; business of the nation cannot be conducted on the same high standard of conduct under manhood suffrage as under other systems of representation, that is a condemnation of a principle for, which I have fought all my life. I have been an advocate, not only of manhood1, but of adult suffrage. This is a House of only seventy-five members, and yet, after we have been in existence less than five years, the Government ask us to confess to Australia and to the world that we are incompetent to conduct our business reasonably and fairly.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– The Senate, with a membership of only thirty -six, has adopted the “gag.”

Mr McLEAN:

– In my opinion, that is not very creditable.

Mr Maloney:

– The honorable member should go outside, and inquire how our time is wasted, and by whom.

Mr McLEAN:

– I know that a good deal that is disreputable and disgraceful transpires at public meetings which my honorable friend is in the habit of attending, where no one is heard unless his views are in accordance with those favoured by the majority of a certain section.

Mr Maloney:

– If the honorable member’s information on the negotiations between the Prime Minister and the Opposition is as absurd as that, his statements are too wild to answer. He should know that what he says is not correct.

Mr McLEAN:

– The honorable member will have an opportunity to address the House when I have finished.

Mr Maloney:

– Perhaps I shall be able to show how the honorable member treated the right honorable member for Balaclava.

Mr McLEAN:

– The Government view iti regard to the application of the closure was,, I presume, placed before us by the Vice-President of the Executive Council ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– The honorable member must not refer to a, previous debate.

Mr McLEAN:

– Am I precluded from alluding to the views which the Government hold on the subject? Cannot I deal with the reasons which have actuated the Government in bringing forward this motion ?

Mr SPEAKER:

– Yes, if the honorable member can do so without referring to a previous debate.

Mr McLEAN:

– I think that I can dothat. I understand that the Government view is that Members of Parliament aremere voting machines.

Mr Ewing:

– On the Opposition side.

Mr McLEAN:

– The Government position is that, when the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition have expressed their opinions, other members are to range themselves on one side or the other, without giving expression to their views. If I thought that I occupied such a degraded position, I would not remain in the House for an hour. I have never, when before my constituents, quoted the opinions of others, and expressed my intention to abjectly follow them. I have never adopted any other course than to place my own views before my constituents, telling them what I thought proper, and I have been elected on my own views. So far as I know, I have never yet violated a promise which I made in that respect.

Mr Thomas:

– What did the country think when the honorable member turned the right honorable member for Balaclava out of office?

Mr McLEAN:

– No doubt it thought that I was a good fellow, and I hope that it will think as highly of my honorable friend. I. do not mean to say that I am infallible, or that my career has been without mistake, but, whether I have done right or wrong, I have endeavoured to keep my election pledges. According to the Ministerial view, private members should be mere pawns, and vote as they may be directed. I hold no such opinion. I have always understood that Parliament was a deliberative assembly, and that each honorable member was entitled to submit such views as his constituents approved of. The very best legislation results from compromises between those who hold conflicting views. Ministers, however, ‘apparently hold the view that we should meekly adopt the views of the one man who happens to be

Prime Minister. No man is infallible. The best amongst us may make grave errors of judgment, and it is only by full and free discussion that it is possible to arrive at satisfactory results. If the proposals now before us had been submitted independently of the standing order adopted last evening, I should not have entertained any very strong objection to them, although I do not believe in the application of the closure to individual mem”bers. I regard the time limit as very much to be preferred. Sometimes an honorable member may trespass unduly upon the time and patience of the House, but no one cares, by his vote, to silence that member, because it is well known that if he t>e “ gagged “ he will be injured in the eyes of his constituents. I felt very much bored last session by long speeches of four or five hours’ duration, but if I had been asked to support a movement in the direction of silencing the offending members, I should have hesitated to do so, because I could not ignore the fact that action of that “kind would injure them in the eyes of their constituents.

Mr McDonald:

– Did not the honorable, member vote last session in favour of applying the “ gag “ to the honorable member for Gwydir, by supporting the Chairman’s ruling against him ?

Mr McLEAN:

– It is one thing to support a Chairman’s ruling and another to vote for the application of the closure.

Mr Thomas:

– It was all the same to the honorable member for Gwydir.

Mr McLEAN:

– We were called upon, on the occasion referred to, to choose the lesser of two evils. We believed that the Chairman was acting within his proper discretion, and therefore coul’d not shield the honorable member for Gwydir by condemning the Chairman. I am emphatically opposed to panic proposals of the character now before us, especially towards the close of the session. I think that the course the Government now propose to adopt’ will deprive the people of the country of one of their most cherished privileges, namely, the right to have their case fully and fairly stated in the counsels of the nation, when matters of vital importance are under consideration. I regret to say that in the future the boasted high court of Parliament will have to decide matters of the most vital importance to the public without hearing evidence. There is, however, one ray of light to relieve the dark prospect before us - no closure that may be applied here will prevent us from stating the case fully and fairly to the people of the Commonwealth when we are afforded an opportunity - which I believe will be deferred until the last day of the statutory limitation - to go before the country

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The Prime Minister stated, by interjection, that it was agreed (hat the statement as to what had taken place at the conference held to bring to an end the recent dead-lock should be put forward by one of those present at that conference.

Mr Deakin:

– Hear, hear.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I have a distinct recollection of all the circumstances attending that meeting, and while the Prime Minister is perfectly right in saying that there was no discussion of the terms of the closure proposal then before us-

Mr Deakin:

– It was expressly refused.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That was because it was thought better to leave Parliament to discuss the terms of the proposal rather than that the conference should do so. We entered the conference in the belief that the proposals with which we had to deal, and which we, as an Opposition, felt that we ought to resist, were contained in the motion that had been the whole cause of the trouble.

Mr Deakin:

– I do not admit that.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– No indication was given of any other proposal. The motion originally submitted by the Prime Minister was that over which the trouble had arisen, and the conference would have been a farce if we had known that more drastic proposals were to be brought forward to supplement those which we regarded as too severe.

Mr McCay:

– No one suspected that there was anything further.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– If we had known that the Prime Minister had something else up his sleeve, and desired to remove the opposition to one proposal in order to pave the way for the introduction of others of an even more drastic character, we should have felt that we had still stronger reason for resistance. The Prime Minister dealt only with the motion then before the House, and asked us whether, under the conditions, a settlement could not be arrived ,at under which full opportunity would be given for discussion, and the debate could be brought to a termination within a reasonable time.

I regret that it should be necessary in matters of this kind to impugn any one’s honour, but I ask any honorable member whether; in connexion with negotiations with another member for the removal of obstruction to a proposal, which was strongly objected to by a section of the House, he would have considered himself fairly treated if he had been kept in ignorance of the fact that other proposals were contemplated. I do not know whether the proposals now before us were in the hands of the Prime Minister at the time. I doubt if they were, because I understood him to say at a subsequent stage that’ they had’ not then been determined upon. If they only cropped up afterwards, the Prime Minister ought to have considered that it would be highly dishonorable to bring them forward after a settlement had been arrived .at without the slightest knowledge on the part of those taking part in the conference that any additional proposals were to be made. The fact that the terms of the proposal then before the House were not considered has nothing to do with the question. They were not considered for two reasons. The members of the Opposition thought, first of all, that they should be debated in the House, and, in the second place, they knew that if they were discussed, difficulties would arise, and that if any settlement were to be arrived at the fewer the differences of opinion the better. The Prime Minister knew that the chief objection to the proposed new standing .order then before the House was its severity, and if he had known that other proposals of an even more drastic character were to be brought forward he should, as a matter of honour between man and man, have informed the other members of the conference. He should have said, “ I wish you to know that we intend to submit further proposals.”

Mr Mahon:

– Under those circumstances, would the Opposition have continued the “ stone wall “ ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I am not discussing that matter. We weire negotiating in the reasonable belief - not having been informed by the Prime Minister to the contrary - that the proposal then before the House was the only one with which we should be invited to deal ; and the honorable and learned gentleman had been told again and again that our oppo sition to it was based upon its severity. Despite his knowledge of that fact, the honorable and learned gentleman never intimated that he intended to make that proposal even more severe. I cannot regard his action in that connexion as other than, a breach of faith, and I am sorry indeed that in making an arrangement of that character, anything of the kind should have occurred. I would further point out that in the proposals submitted for our consideration there has not been that strict adherence to the] promise of a Minister which’ I believe should always attach to such pledges. We all know that the Attorney-General intimated to the House that the Prime Minister had promised to accept a certain proposal. I say that any such promise should be fulfilled to the letter. I know that there are someMinisters who - if such a promise were not fulfilled by the Prime Minister - would hand in their resignations. There should be nothing more sacred than the deliberate pledge of a Minister to Parliament. W© have had evidence that there has been an absolute breach of a deliberate Ministerial promise, and although the matter must rest as between the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, one of them has been placed in a false light, and one* of themshould consider his position. Last night the honorable member for Bland, by interjection, disclosed the verv improper reasons which are responsible for the attitude taken up by some honorable members, and possibly by the Ministry. He said that no amendment upon any of the proposals submitted by the Government would be considered, because of the action which the Opposition deemed it their duty to take towards the close of last week. What did his statement mean? It meant that for reasons of revenge, any promise whichhad been made to’ accept an amendment should be departed from, and this House should commit itself to proposals which will affect not only the present, but future Parliaments, because some honorable members under certain circumstances had taken a certain course of action. Admitting, which I do not, except for the sake of argument, that the action of the Opposition was wrong, I ask whether the conduct of public business is in future to be regulated by the acts of individuals? Are proposals such as those upon which we voted last night’, and which were admitted to be of too drastic a character-

Mr SPEAKER:

-Order ! I do riot think that the honorable member was in the Chamber when at the beginning of the debate I pointed out the risk of this discussion overlapping the debate which closed last night. I have allowed the honorable member very great latitude indeed, but1 he has not yet connected his remarks with’ the question before the Chair. I thought that he might perhaps have done so ere this. I feel bound to read to him standing order 266, which says -

No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion.

The honorable member will see that that standing order imposes an absolute prohibition upon oven an allusion to a debate which has taken place during the present session. As I have already allowed the honorable! member a larger amount of latitude than I ought to have done, I must ask him to debate the question which is before the Chair.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I have every desire to adhere strictly to your ruling, sir, but I do not think that it precludes me from pointing out that the” proposed standing orders do not stand by themselves. They represent an addition to other standing orders which we have adopted.

Mr SPEAKER:

– That, of course, is so.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That is what I wish to point out. The proposals of the Government must be regarded as, an addition to the Standing Orders which have been adopted during the present and previous sessions. Honorable members who are supporting these proposals have upon a variety of occasions - sometimes outside the Chamber and sometimes inside it - given expression to opinions which clearly show that any such proposals as those under consideration, in addition to the Standing Orders already in existence, should not be applied to any Parliament. To me it is astonishing to find that men who profess to be democrats should, the moment the opportunity presents itself, desire to become autocrats, and to go even further than the Conservatives have ever gone in any British Parliament. These proposals, added to our existing Standing Orders, will form a code of rules which exceed in severity those which are operative in any British Parliament.

Mr Fisher:

– Either the honorable member does not know the nature of the rules which obtain elsewhere, or he is making a deliberate misstatement.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That remark is unworthy of the honorable member. Will he name any other British Parliament in which more severe Standing Orders obtain?

Mr Fisher:

– The Parliament of Queensland.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The honorable member has named the Parliament of Queensland, and he associated his. previous interjection with an objectionable remark.

Mr Fisher:

– I withdraw that.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I would point out that the Standing Orders operative in the Queensland Parliament contain, some of the very safeguards which we endeavoured to insert in the proposals of the Government, and which the honorable member opposed. They provide that the enforcement of the closure must be authorized by Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be. Therefore the honorable member must see that my statement that these proposals, in conjunction with our present Standing Orders, are more severe than the rules which obtain in any other British Parliament is correct.

Mr Fisher:

– The honorable member is in error. There is a standing order for the application of the guillotine, which is ten times more effective.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– To what does the honorable member refer?

Mr Fisher:

– I am speaking of the guillotine motion, under which a whole Bill can be passed practically without discussion.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Under the Government proposals a Bill can be put through without discussion. The honorable member is alluding to a practice which exists, not only in the Queensland Parliament, but in the British Parliament - the practice of fixing a time at which the debate upon a measure shall conclude. But I maintain that the proposals of the Government in conjunction with our present Sanding Orders - seeing that they do not provide for any control by Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees - are more drastic than the Standing Orders which obtain in those Parliaments.

Mr Fisher:

– Any Opposition which cannot indulge in fair discussion under the Standing Orders proposed is an Opposition which is incapable of performing its duties.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That is a matter which rests, not with a majority of the whole House, but of twenty-four members of it. It is for them to say whether an Opposition, shall be afforded an opportunity of properly considering any measure.

Mr Fisher:

– I shall be no party to preventing reasonable discussion.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I do not say that the honorable member will. If we had to deal with men of a moderate cast of mind like himself the position would be somewhat different. But if we had to deal with men like the honorable member for Bland - judging from his attitude during the course of the recent debate - these restrictions would be brought into operation like the crack of a whip.

Mr Fisher:

– I think that the honorable member is doing him an injustice.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– A short time ago I should have considered that I was. But in the light of the events of last week, I say that, if the honorable member for Bland had had the power, the twenty-four members necessary- to make the closure effective would have been speedily found, and business would have been forced through without amy more debate than the honorable member himself deemed to be sufficient. That would be a very subservient position for the House to occupy. I regret exceedingly that the safeguards attached to certain standing orders of the House of Commons and the Legislative Assembly of Queensland were not embodied in the standing order adopted last night, so that an impartial officer of the House, elected by ourselves, would be called upon to decide whether or not it was being rightfully applied. I do not view with pleasure the prospect of what may take place in connexion with the application of these Standtag Orders, for I have seen the enforcement of less drastic rules in another Parliament create much bitterness and trouble. A Minister who, despite his anxiety to push on with the business of. which he was in charge, and notwithstanding the irritation which criticism of that business so often creates, would not sometimes be in favour of the unreasonable application of the closure would be more than human. I have known similar provisions to be applied most unreasonably! by Ministers who were usually amenable to reason. I had hoped that the

Ministry, having been a party to a certain arrangement, would be satisfied w,Uh some modification of the standing order originally submitted by them, and, at all events, would not require the second part of those now before us to be passed. I do not take such strong exception to those of the proposed Standing Orders now before us, which have been taken from the report of the Standing Orders Committee. So far as they are concerned, we have had some notice of them, for the report of the Committee has been laid on the table. But I do take the strongest exception to the proposal to add to the standing order already passed, one which is altogether too drastic, and is likely to lead to the making of an invidious distinction. All parties to the arrangement arrived at should have received honorable notice of what was the intention of the Ministry in regard to new Standing Orders. What would have been said if, in accordance with an agreement arrived at, the Government had withdrawn the standing order originally proposed by them, but had re-introduced it on the following day? Had they done so, their action would have been on all-fours with that which they are now taking. If it was the intention of the Ministry, when the conference took place, to introduce these Standing Orders, they should have notified us accordingly. They gave no such notice to those who conferred with them in regard to the standing order adopted yesterday, and this naturally causes vis to consider that we have not been treated as honorably as we ought to have been- Whilst I object to these proposals being introduced without notice, I am not so strongly opposed to the first part of the motion as I am to the latter part of it. Surely, in view of the drastic character of our present Standing Orders, it should be unnecessary to give the Government the further power to apply the closure to Individual members. Their proposal will enable invidious distinctions to be made. The closure will not be applied always with good reason. In many cases, it will be applied to individual members because of personal or other considerations in no sense connected with the business of the House. I have known that to be done in another Parliament, and feel satisfied that our experience in this House will be in no wise different. As the Ministry are already armed, in my opinion, with greater powers than should be given to any Govern- ment, I strongly urge the House to refrain at least from passing the last of these proposed standing orders.

Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister for External Affairs). - I find that, unfortunately, my honorable colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the honorable member for Bland,who were present with me at the conference to which reference has been made, are absent from the House. I prefer to wait until they are here before making a statement that will greatly modify, and indeed contradict that which the honorable member for North Sydney, who was present, has put before honorable members.

Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I have a personal explanation to make. In the course of my speech this morning, I pointed out that a debate was sometimes carried on to enable an honorable member to reach fhe House in time to take part in a division. Whilst I was showing that such debate was not unreasonable, an honorable member behind me intimated that on one occasion, the honorable member for Coolgardie asked the honorable member for Kooyong to carry on a debate for that purpose. I made use of the information so given me, but have since learned that it was entirely incorrect. I do not know whether my informant intended the statement to apply to the Home Rule debate, but I do know that the honorable member for Kooyong did not take part in that discussion, and that he was not by any means pleased that he had not an opportunity to deliver the speech which he had prepared on that subject. I therefore. did him an injustice! when I coupled the reference to the Home Rule debate. I desire to say that the statement which I made was incorrect, and should not have been made to me in the terms stated by the honorable member in question.

Mr KNOX:
Kooyong

– By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that I was not in the House when the statement to which the honorable member for Parramatta has referred was made. I was waiting an opportunity to speak on the motion relating to Home Rule-

Mr Fisher:

– Is this matter important?

Mr KNOX:

– I think it is. Whilst I was waiting an opportunity to speak on the motion relating to Home Rule, the honorable member for Coolgardie pointed out to me that the time allotted to private members’ business on the afternoon in question, was nearing a close, and added, “ Are you going to speak? We are anxious to get to a division.” Shortly afterwards, when there was an opportunity for me to rise, there were loud cries of “divide, divide,” from those, who, like myself, were opposed to the motion, and the result was that I did not insist upon my right to speak that evening. On the next occasion when the matter was under consideration, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who had moved the motion, continued the debate, and in reply to a question which I put, you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that he was replying, so that I was precluded from addressing myself to the question. The suggestion that the honorable member for Coolgardie attempted in any way to influence me, is inaccurate.

Mr MAHON:
Coolgardie

– I wish to state that the account which the honorable member for Kooyong has given of what took place on the afternoon in question is absolutely correct. The incident occurred on12th October last. An effort was made, both by honorable members opposite and by myself, to secure a division on the Home Rule motion that afternoon, and I asked the honorable member for Kooyong, who desired to speak, whether he would forego his right. He very kindly consented to do so. Later on, owing to certain developments, I informed the honorable member that there was no likelihood of a division taking place that afternoon, so that it would be open to him to avail himself of an opportunity ito address himself to the question. I wish to corroborate the honorable member’s statement.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– After the excellent speeches which have been delivered from this side of the House, and which have covered most of the arguments in opposition to the motion, I do not propose to occupy more than a few minutes. In generally indorsing what has been said by honorable members of the Opposition, I would suggest that the Government might well be satisfied with the measure of repression which they have already secured. I certainly take exception to the proposals now submitted, although my objection to one or two of the proposed standing orders whichhave been recommended by the Standin Orders Committee, is not so pronounced as is my opposition to those which are entirely new, and have never been considered by that Committee. This is an illustration of the insatiable gluttony of power.

Mr Thomas:

– Does not the honorable member think that he has already expressed bis opinions upon this question with sufficient fulness?

Mr JOHNSON:

– Not with regard to the proposals now under consideration, and if I am not interrupted, I shall occupy the attention of honorable members for only a few minutes. I propose to submit an amendment. I object most strongly to the conditions under which we are asked to consider this motion. No one can say that there was urgent need for it. The Government have already ample power to restrict debate. Under standing order No. 276, tedious repetition or obstruction of business may be effectually prevented, and having regard to that standing order, together with the one which was passed last night, the Ministry had no justification for seeking - particularly at this stage - to arm themselves with additional powers. The standing order passed last night will enable the “gag “ to be applied collectively, whilst the proposal now before us’ is to permit of the application of the “ gag “ to individual members. Both will be equally effective in preventing honorable members from expressing their opinions on any question submitted to the House. It will be open to any Government supporter, directly an Opposition member rises to speak, to move that he be no further heard, and that motion can be moved in respect to each member of the Opposition as he successively rises. That is a most drastic and unnecessary power to confer.

Mr Liddell:

– It’ is a garrote, not a “ gag.”

Mr JOHNSON:

– The word “ garrote” correctly describes the proposal. To use an expression uttered by the honorable member for Kennedy, when speaking in the Queensland Parliament on a similar proposal, if this power is given, “ Parliament will be no more.” Honorable members, instead of sitting here in a deliberative and representative capacity, will become so many voting machines, or pawns in the game. They will have no right to voice the opinions of their constituents, or of themselves. I think that the consideration of all these matters should have been postponed until Parliament had an opportunity to deal with the Standing Orders as a whole, when they would be dis cussed calmly and dispassionately. Therefore, I ask the Government to withdraw the motion until that can be done. If my request is not acceded to, I shall move an amendment, which will have the effect of preventing the motion from being agreed to until the Standing Orders recommended by the Standing Orders Committee are considered by the House. Mr. Asquith is reported to have made some very pertinent remarks on the danger of the application of rules of this kind. Amongst other things, he said -

When measures reached the stage at which they ought to be properly discussed the guillotine was applied, and they were passed in the form devised by the Government but never approved or revised by the House. . . . Then, again, with regard to the voting of public money, the theory of the Constitution was that the people’s representatives were sent to Parliament to control expenditure, but what was the practice? In 1904, under the supply closure, thirty-one millions of money were voted, not one item of which had ever been discussed, and this year the amount rose to fifty millions sterling. This was a most serious state of things, for it amounted to nothing less than a creeping and progressive paralysis of the Parliamentary organism. What were the symptoms? First, a growing impotence of Parliament as an instrument of legislative production and financial control, and secondly, a growing resort to violent measures by the Government.

That is the opinion of an old and experienced member of the British House of Commons, who went on to say -

On. the other hand, executive government by the joint operation of the guillotine and the block became every year, both as to legislation and policy, more and more emancipated from Parliamentary control. That might be convenient for the holders of office for the time being, but in the long run it was bad for the Executive, derogatory to Parliament, and injurious and even perilous to the empire.

That is a very strong indictment, considering its source, and Mr. Asquith’s remarks are very opportune at the present time, when the British Parliament is likely to be asked to discard the barbarous methods which he denounces in such forcible terms, and1 which have been found so injurious to the public interests. As I think it inadvisable that the consideration of the proposal for the adoption of the new implements of torture which the Government “ desire to acquire shall be proceeded with until the whole of the Standing Orders can be discussed, I wish to give notice of the following amendment - which I shall not move at the present stage, so that “the discussion of the original question may not be hindered -

That the words “ forthwith adopted,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ brought up for consideration when the. Standing Orders recommended by the Standing Orders Committee are being considered by the House.”

I as.k that the amendment may not be proposed until the end of the debate.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to withdraw the amendment temporarily ?

Leave granted.

Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– I am glad that the honorable member has withdrawn the amendment, because the motion should be fully discussed before any amendment is considered. Had this motion been proposed in the first instance, it would have been debated more calmly, and would have received more favorable consideration than it is likely to obtain under present circumstances. But, although I feel that the Government stand in a wretched position in regard to the means which they have chosen for dealing with the evil waste of time in matters affecting legislation - they having acted wrongly and unwisely in overlooking the Standing Orders Committee, to whom all such rules should be submitted, and in proposing to meet particular ends what should be proposed to meet general ends only - I still feel compelled to support many of the rules contained in the motion. I have, for some time, thought that we might well prevent discussion on certain motions in the House and in Committee, which are of a more or less formal character, and I intend to ask the Prime Minister to so divide the motion that the House mav give a decision in regard to each portion! of it. Should that request not be assented to, I shall appeal to Mr. Speaker to act upon precedent, by putting the motion from the Chair in sections. I do not think there should be any discussion on the motion for the first reading of a Bill, because, although such a motion mav be necessary to draw attention to the proposal to introduce the Bill, and to put the Bill before the House, discussion is useless until the measure is in print, and in the hands of honorable members. Neither do I think that the motion “That the debate be now adjourned,” should be the subject of discussion, though an opportunity should be given to the mover of that and similar motions - say, five minutes - to explain the reason for moving it. Otherwise, a Minister who may have some special reason for reporting progress, because of something which has suddenly come to his knowledge,, will have no means of informing honorable members in regard to it, except by sending the Government Whip to each of them individually. But I do not think that such motions should be taken advantage of by political parties, to delay business. In my opinion, the present Opposition have not sinned to as great an extent in this respect as have other Oppositions in this House ; but opportunity should not be given to any set of members to delay business, and, therefore, I feel compelled to vote for at least several of the proposals contained in, the motion. It cannot be ignored, however, that the standing order adopted yesterday makes the second part of the motion unnecessary. My chief reason for supporting in the main the proposals, in the first part is that they provide for rules which will be applied impersonally, and will not inflict injustice on any member individually.. I quite agree, with the first proposal under which all honorable members will be placed upon an equal footing, in so far that certain motions will have to be put without discussion. No party can take any advantage of such a standing, order, nor can the majority impose disabilities upon the members of a minority or upon an individual member. That is as it should be. There is some justice in a rule that will apply all round, and I regret to say that that element is lacking in the standing order adopted last evening, and also in the second of the proposals now before us. I object to a rule which would have the effect of depriving honorable members of privileges which, as representatives of the people, they should enjoy as fully as does a Minister. Under the proposed rule, it would be open to the majority . to prevent an honorable member from expressing, his view upon a matter of vital importance to his constituents. We have already conferred power to prevent waste of time, and I see no reason why we should direct the application of the closure to individual members. I have stated over and over again that every honorable member has a right to the full privileges of membership, irrespective of whether on not he be a Minister. If a Minister has the right - as he would have, without infringing the new standing order - to address the House for two or three hours, or for even-a week, in introducing a Bill, it would be a gross act of injustice to apply the: closure to an opponent of the measure after he had uttered two or three words. A tyrannous majority could make the position of honorable members in Opposition absolutely intolerable. If it be desired to prevent speeches from being extended to inordinate length, we can impose a time limit. We could decide what period should be devoted to the consideration of a measure, and divide the time equally among members. We should not allow a brutal majority to close the mouth of an opponent by moving that he be no longer heard. Such a proposal is about the last that I should have expected the professed democrats of the Labour Party to support. If, in the first instance, we had been asked to limit the time devoted to the discussion of motions which I admit are frequently moved with the object of delaying business, most members on this side of the House would have given the proposal favorable consideration. It would have been .recognised as an attempt to prevent indiscriminate waste of time, and it would have commended itself to honorable members because of its equal application. The closure rule already adopted ought to be sufficient to put an end to any organized attempt on the part of honorable members to waste time. The application of the “ gag “ to an individual member under conditions such as those contemplated in the second proposal now before us, would involve the Parliament in disgrace. A provision so unjust in its conception must be entirely repugnant 4o the spirit of men who represent a free people in a free Parliament, and it will certainly be repealed very shortly after the next Parliament meets. I do not wish to speak at any length on this subject, because I know that the numbers are up, and that we shall soon have to come to a vote. I know that many honorable members on the opposite side of the House must in their hearts recognise that discredit will Be reflected upon the Legislature which considers it necessary to adopt such a rule, and that sooner or later they will join in seeking to repeal it. I trust that the motion will be submitted in paragraphs, so that we may have an opportunity of voting for those portions of which we approve, and of expressing our dissent from those with which we do not agree. Whilst I will go as far as any one in endeavouring to put a stop to useless discussion, I cannot support the Government in their attempt to prevent the expression of the views of honorable members who oppose measures which they consider to be inimical to the best interests of the community.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:
Robertson

– I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Lang, and I support the amendment which he has indicated his intention to move. I agree that some measures must be taken to put a stop to the long speeches which have hitherto been inflicted upon the House. A great wrong has been done to some honorable members owing to the latitude that has been extended to others who have thought fit to weary us with long-winded orations. In effect, the closure has been applied in many cases, because some honorable members have occupied so much time that it has been considered necessary to enter into an arrangement by which the debate could be brought to a close within a reasonable period, and many honorable members have thereby been deprived of an opportunity to express their opinions upon matters in regard to which they have felt verv strongly. Stringent measures for the limitation of debate have been adopted in the House of Commons with good effect, and similar rules might, with advantage, be adopted by us. We know that the abuse of any privilege will lead to the adoption of extreme remedial measures. At the same time, I do not approve of the action of the Government in bringing forward drastic provisions, with the idea of pushing through a certain measure now before the House. The leader of the Labour Party has made it clear that the Government brought forward their closure proposals because of the legitimate resistance offered to provisions in the Trade Marks Bill, to which strong objection is taken byl a body of the electors. In all other cases in which closure rules have been adopted, they have been introduced early in the session. In the House of Commons, the more stringent of the. closure rules were not adopted until there had been months of obstruction, and a number of members had been elected from the House. The Government, in this case, had not had to encounter any such difficulties. Ministers have chosen’ a very inopportune time to introduce their proposals. They have selected a period when passions have been inflamed-

Mr Deakin:

– We are doing exactly what is. done fra the House of Commons as the session advances.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– But, as has recently been pointed out by Mr. Asquith, the application of the closure in the House of Commons has now developed into an abuse. He says : -

When measures reached the stage at which they ought to be properly discussed, the guillotine was applied, and they were passed in the form devised by the Government, but never approved or revised by the House.

I take it that when honorable members speak for hours at a stretch upon any particular measure, they exclude others from participating in the debate upon it. By so much as those members are excluded from taking part in the discussion, by so much do we practically disfranchise their constituents. This shows the abuse of freedom of speech.

Mr McLean:

– The time limit would be the best cure for that evil.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I do not think that a time limit should be imposed1 upon all honorable members’ speeches. I can quite conceive of the honorable member for Gippsland occupying, perhaps, two Hours in an address which was brimful of information. Such a deliverance ought not to be closured. Mr. Asquith further says : -

Then, again, with regard to the voting of public money, the theory of the constitution was that the people’s representatives were sent to Parliament to control expenditure, but what was the practice ?

He also affirms that in the House of Commons the result of “the application of the closure has been to sanction the expenditure of tens of millions sterling without any consideration whatever being given to the matter. During the currency of this Parliament I have seen millions of pounds voted practically without discussion, simply because the House had been exhausted by the long speeches of certain honorable members, and had no heart to consider details. Immediately those honorable members have concluded their remarks,, the cry has been raised : “ Let us get to a division.” I say that the evils to which Mr. Asquith refers exist here under licence. That fact in itself evidences the necessity for the application of the closure in some form, if not in the form proposed by the Government. I believe that the form adopted by the House of Commons is much preferable to that submitted by the Ministry, because under the former a discretionary power is vested in Mr. Speaker to say when the closure shall be brought into operation.

Mr Watson:

– Would not such a system impose upon Mr. Speaker rather an invidious task?

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

-.- I do not think so. We all recognise the absolute impartiality of Mr. Speaker. We know that he is well able to determine whether an honorable member is making a useful contribution to any debate, and whether his remarks are acceptable to the House. Mr. Asquith further states : -

This was a most serious state of things, for it amounted to nothing less than a creeping and progressive paralysis of the Parliamentary organism.

I have long been of opinion that this Parliament has reached a state of paralysis. We frequently hear honorable members repeating at great length what they have previously uttered. As a result, honorablemembers generally retire from the House utterly exhausted. The foetid atmosphere of the Chamber in itself is not calculated to sharpen one’s faculties, and I say that the House is absolutely paralyzed by the longwinded speeches of honorable members upon all sides of the Chamber.

Sir William Lyne:

– Oh, no.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I am not referring to the present session particularly. My remarks are applicable to the period which has elapsed since the very inception of this Parliament. I have long been of opinion that my constituents have been badly treated, inasmuch as very frequently when I desired to speak, I have been told that it was time the House got to a division. I seldom speak at length, and I hail with satisfaction the opportunity, to vote for some sort of closure, although I do not think that the present is the proper time to introduce it. The general impression outside is that ;these proposals have been brought forward to enable the Government to push through certain legislation. That legislation has never been before the country, and the closure should not be applied to it. Mr. Asquith continues -

What were the symptoms? First, a growing impotence of Parliament as an instrument of legislative production and financial control -

I think I Have shown very clearly that long speeches and tedious repetition produce the same effect. The House really becomes impotent when it is within the power of a small coterie of members to obstruct legislation. In conclusion, Mr. Asquith says - and, secondly, a growing resort to violent measures by the Government.

In the present instance, honorable members of the Labour corner practically say to the Government, “ We will give you the power which you seek, upon the condition that you pass certain legislation which is demanded by labour organizations generally, but which is not demanded by the people.” All the evils which Mr.. Asquith alleges have been produced by the abuse of the closure, have been created here by the abuse of freedom of speech. I trust that the Government will adopt the amendment which has been foreshadowed, and defer the consideration of these proposals until the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee are under review. I do not think that any great hardship would follow the application of these proposals to proceedings in Committee. I was astonished when I first learned that an honorable member could deliver set speeches in Committee. I hope that the usage of the House of Commons will be adopted, and that the Committee stage of a Bill will be regarded as purely a business stage. Certainly, it should not (be a. period at which exhaustive debate should take place. If a proposal is not acceptable to the Committee, there is every reason why it should be disposed of immediately. If a member is a nuisance, he should be closured. I hope that I shall not come within that category:, although I recognise that there is a danger that I may do so under the present system, because one gets so little opportunity of talking under the gaslight-

Mr Thomas:

– The honorable member always has something to say.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– In all probability the honorable member does not mean that.

Mr Deakin:

– The interjection of the honorable member for Barrier is a compliment to the honorable member.

Mr HENRY WILLIS:

– I will take it as such. At any rate, I have never had an inclination to talk for the mere sake of hearing myself speak. It is quite a common tiling for me to tear up the notes of half-a-dozen speeches, because I have not had an opportunity to deliver them. Upon one occasion I informed the leader of the Opposition of _ this “ fact, and, in reply, he said : “ But it’ all does good. It is a preparation for the next speech.” I recognise that it is. The preparation of those notes has done some good j but I think that if I had been allowed an opportunity to place my views on record, it would have done .this House and the country much more good.

Mr WILKS:
Dalley

– The modesty of the honorable member for Robertson is almost overwhelming. In the expressive but not very elegant phraseology of the street, I think that “ the game is up.”

Mr Tudor:

– Then! “ ring off.”

Mr WILKS:

– I intend to do so in two or three minutes. I agree with the plea made by the honorable member for Robertson in regard to the restriction of debate upon dilatory motions, and approve of the proposal made by the honorable member for North Sydney that a time limit should be placed upon speeches, believing that it would induce Honorable members to prepare their speeches more carefully than they now do. I trust that with the coming into operation of the closure standing order, the honorable member for Robertson will contribute to our debates more frequently than he has done. The pearls of wisdom which will then fall from his lips will astonish the House. My experience is that it is the invariable custom for an honorable member to commence his. speech by saying, “ But for such and such a matter “ - meaning the speech made by the other fellow - “ I should not have spoken,” and to conclude with the assertion that he thinks that the question has now been sufficiently debated. The Ministry succeeded last night in placing the curb on honorable members, and they now propose to apply the bridoon to us. We have to take our physic, and might as well take it smiling. I, for one, do not intend to sip it. I shall swallow it at one gulp, and so get rid of it’ as soon as possible!. The value of an Opposition has been shown in the most striking manner by the fact that the Attorney-General, who is- mainly responsible ‘for the introduction of these closure proposals, has distributed a fresh list of amendments in relation to the Trade Marks Bill. Had we not debated that Bill the Government’ would have asked the House? to pass its union label provisions in the crude and drastic form in which thev were first placed before us. The Attorney-General by his latest1 action has admitted that the Opposition have done good work in relation to a measure our constitutional right to pass which is said to be a moot point. A rational discussion, although it may be regarded by some honorable members as mere oBstruction, often fends to the perfecting of legislation. One result of the application of the closure will be the pass- ing of imperfect laws which may be challenged in the High Court. The city hoardings are placarded with notices that a certain preparation ‘” once tried is always used,” and I am afraid that that will be our experience of these proposed Standing Orders. The honorable member for Bass, for instance, who has a keen desire to push on with business, may move that I be no longer heard, and although I rarelytrouble the House, I should not be surprised if such a motion received considerable support. Then, again, the honorable member might say, “ The honorable member for Kennedy is a saucy young rascal, and we ought to apply the closure to him.” The closure, once applied, will come into general use. But it is useless to complain. The Government have, so to speak, chloroformed the Opposition, and T shall content myself by appealing to the Prime Minister to be merciful in the application of his new-found power. I am Sure that he would be delighted if he only knew of the eloquence which will in future characterize the speeches of the Opposition. It is said that Dr. Guillotine was the first to suffer the application of the machine which he invented, and I should not be surprised if that were the experience of the honorable; and learned gentleman. We have known him to speak four or five hours upon the question of preferential trade, but he will not have another opportunity to deliver such an oration ; he will never have another chance to make a five-hours’ speech in explanation of his Ballarat utterances. At any time when he is speaking, an irreverent honorable member may move that he be no longer heard, with the result that his remarks may be brought to an abrupt termination. I find some consolation in the knowledge that it is not proposed to apply the closure to interjection’s. You alone, “Mr. Speaker, have power to suppress them, and I hope that the Opposition will be able to avail themselves occasionally of such a means of expressing their views. I could not help thinking, sir, when you were giving a ruling this morning, that if the Standing Orders were properly framed, it would be in the power of an honorable member to move that you be no further heard. In that event, Mr. Speaker, you would find yourself in a very awkward position. I am trying to appear happy when I am really very miserable. We are sad because the closure motion has been passed ; but I wish the Government luck with” it. I have no complaint to make in regard to the first four clauses of the motion now before us, but I certainly favour the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lang; I agree that certain well-framed closure standing orders, if properly used, would lead to an improvement in debate. Like the police, they have a dormant influence. They are. a warning to would-be evil-doers, and I hope that the honorable member for Robertson will be warned and take care not to offend. But if the people of Melbourne decided to riot, the whole police force would not be sufficient to quell the disturbance. And so with the Standing Orders. There are times when many of the members of an Opposition, like Government supporters, go mad, although we never hear of all the members of an Opposition becoming politically insane at the one time.

Mr Deakin:

– There is one, at least, who never does.

Mr WILKS:

– I thank the Prime Minister for the compliment. If there be a student of literature in the Chamber, it is he, and I am sure that he has read Montaigne’s admirable’ essay on, Caesar, in which he makes Cato say, “Oh, that such a sober man should have almost ruined a nation.” I feel constrained to paraphrase those words, and say, “ Oh, that such a sad, sober, and stubborn man as the Attorney-General should have almost ruined the Commonwealth.” Montaigne, like the AttorneyGeneral, was a lawyer, although his knowledge and ability were infinitely superior to those of the honorable member. I believe that the Labour Party will be the first to feel the effect of the proposals now before us. We have to admit that the Government now have the power; but, once they seek to apply it, many honorable members will display quite a feverish anxiety to bring the guillotine into play, and the result will be the passing of faulty laws, which must necessarily lead to litigation in the High Court.

Mr McCAY:
Corinella

– I desire to address myself to the motion for only a few minutes, as I recognise, in common with the rest of the House, that the main aspect of the question has been sufficiently dealt with in connexion with previous debates. I have two suggestions to make. The first is that the motion should be dealt with as other complicated proposals have been treated, and that the two paragraphs be put separately.

Mr Deakin:

– I have no objection to that.

Mr McCAY:

– Then I may take it that that course will be adopted. As for the first part of the motion, I have always held that the motions therein mentioned should be put without amendment or debate. Their object is not to create debate, but to insure on the part of the House a knowledge of certain matters necessary to the proper conduct of business. Therefore, in spite of the circumstances under which this motion has been submitted, I view the first part of the proposals in the same light that I did when they were considered by the Standing Orders Committee, and believe that the motions therein mentioned may properly be put without discussion. As to the second portion of the motion, I have always believed in the limitation of the time allowed individual members, in order that honorable members generally may have an opportunity to take part in our debates.

Mr Page:

– Then why has the honorable and learned member been kicking up a row during the last fortnight ?

Mr McCAY:

– I spoke of the limitation of the individual, not of the compulsory silencing of the minority by the majority.

Mr Wilkinson:

– Then the proposal now before us will take the sting out of the standing order passed yesterday.

Mr McCAY:

– No; it will give the stern Spartans on your right, Mr. Speaker, an opportunity to apply the remedy which they have declared necessary. But I do not wish to discuss controversial questions. It is highly desirable that we should get to the week-end without further controversy. I suppose that, as soon as this motion has been dealt with, we may pack our bags and catch our trains.

Mr Deakin:

– I have no objection.

Mr McCAY:

– I say frankly that I wish to see my home again ; it seems a century since I was last there, and such a prospect in front of us should hasten our deliberations. I wish to suggest to the Prime Minister certain amendments. There are occasions when the application of the closure to individual members should not take place. I think that there should be no power to apply the closure during debates on an Address-in-Reply, the Budget, or a “ Noconfidence “ motion, and that no limitation should be placed on the speech’ of the mover of the second reading of a Bill, or of a resolution.

Mr Watson:

– Then what would prevent an honorable member from occupying; half-a-dozen hours, and thus depriving other members of an opportunity to speak?’

Mr McCAY:

– I have never heard of any curtailment of the debate on the AddressinReply, when an opportunity is. afforded honorable members to ventilatetheir views on various political matters. Nor do I think that the closure should be applied to motions of “no-confidence,”’ when, as a rule, the side which - knows it will win leaves the other side to talk. Surely the winning party may be expected! to have the grace to allow the losing party its say.

Mr Tudor:

– During the discussion of the last motion of want of confidence, we did not know for three weeks how the decision would go.

Mr McCAY:

– That added an unusual’ spice of interest to the proceedings. Furthermore, I do not think that a majority should have the right to apply the closureto an individual until he has had a reasonable time in which to express his views onthe question before the Chair. I would’ suggest that the closure should not be applied to an individual until lie has beenspeaking for not less than an hour in theHouse, and not less than half-an-hour in Committee. Finally, I think that the proposed application of- the closure to an individual member should1 not bake effect unless twenty-four honorable members vote for it. I do not think that that numberis enough, but it is the number alreadyadopted by the House in regard to the application of the general closure. If theseamendments are made, I can no longer object to the motion.

Mr Kennedy:

– The motion would beuseless if all the amendments which havebeen suggested were made.

Mr McCAY:

– The amendment which I suggest would prevent the application of the closure to a member before he had’ exercised his right to be heard.

Mr Page:

– But members could moveamendment after amendment for evermore.

Mr McCAY:

– They could do that under the proposals of the Government ; but let me say, speaking from experience, that it is a very difficult task to frame a long series of amendments, and one which Mr. Speaker does not make, any easier. The; modifications which I suggest will take: from the proposal to apply the closure te* individuals a great many objections which* may now be urge,d against it. I understand that no amendment is before the Chair.

Mr SPEAKER:

– An amendment has !been moved by the honorable member for Lang, and temporarily withdrawn.

Mr McCAY:

– I should like to take the same course in regard to the following amendments, which I now move: -

That before the words “ A motion,” line 25, the words “ except in a debate on the AddressinReply, or on the Budget, or in a debate on a motion of ‘ No-confidence,’ and except when the second reading of a Bill, or a resolution is being moved “ be inserted ; that after the word “ speaking, “ line 26, the words “ and has been speaking for not less than one hour in the House, and halfanhour in Committee,” be inserted; and that the words “ An affirmative vote of not less than twenty-four members shall be necessary to carry any motion under this part of this standing order,” be added.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Is it the wish of the House that the honorable and learned member have leave to withdraw his amend.ments temporarily?

Leave granted.

Mr CAMERON:
Wilmot

– I have listened with deep regret to the attacks which have been made on the Ministry by honorable members of the Opposition. Apparently the friends of the Ministry have deserted (them, because up to the present time, not a single supporter has risen to speak in favour of the proposals or of the attitude of the Government. The Prime Minister has defended his proposals, and explained the circumstances which led up to their submission ; but it is well known that no criminal should defend himself, because, as a general rule, accused persons are incapable of placing the best points of their defence’ properly before their Judge, and it is thereTore customary to appoint some one ‘ to speak on their behalf. As no other honorable member appears willing to do this in the present case, I feel bound to come to the rescue of the honorable and learned gentleman. Speaking, for him, I say that neither he nor any of his Ministers is to De judged by the ordinary standards that govern men in keeping promises made specifically or impliedly. We must remember what led up to their occupancy of the Treasury benches.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I cannot allow the honorable member to go into that question.

Mr CAMERON:

– As I am speaking for a condemned criminal, I should be allowed some latitude. If you, Mr. Speaker, will not allow me to take that course, I propose to speak against the motion. I had nothing to do with the meeting which took place on Monday last between certain members of the Government and the Opposition. Had I been present, I should have opposed, to the utmost of my power, any attempt to compromise, and events have since shown that we could not afford to trust the Government. Had they been actuated by the spirit of fair play, they would have stood loyally by the letter of the agreement arrived at; but, instead of / doing so, thev, knowing that they had a majority who would support their proposals, and that the Opposition were honorable men who would keep their word, brought forward additional rules for the limitation of debate. Had these proposals been made in connexion with a general view of the Standing Orders, they would have had my strong support, but, inasmuch as they have been submitted with the object of preventing fair discussion of a particular measure. I think that they are unjustifiable. I have always endeavoured to occupy as little time as possible in this House, arid charges such as have been levelled against some members, of the Opposition, and more members of the Labour Party, do not apply to me. I have never unduly taken up the time of the House; therefore I naturally view with suspicion drastic measures such as those now proposed. We all know what is intended.

Mr Watson:

– The honorable member never makes long speeches, and therefore the closure will never be applied to him.

Mr CAMERON:

– In the future, honorable members may not desire to give me fair play. I do not think they will go as far as that-

Mr Thomas:

– - Oh, no; the honorable member is too popular for that.

Mr CAMERON:

– I am pleased to hear it, and I believe it. Some honorable members are given to making long speeches, and if the closure be applied to them other honorable members will be made to suffer.

Mr McDonald:

– Not under the proposals that we are now discussing. That might happen under the standing order adopted last night.

Mr CAMERON:

– If a time limit were imposed, all members would be treated ^ equally ; but it seems to me that under the proposals now before us, if an honorable member offended the majority by making a long speech, and the closure were applied, innocent members would suffer for the guilty one.

Mr McDonald:

– Not under the proposals now before us.

Mr CAMERON:

– If I could feel assured of that my objections would vanish.

Mr ROBINSON:
Wannon

– It is not my intention to prevent honorable members from catching their trains, but I wish to make a few remarks. With regard to the question which was addressed to me by the honorable member for Boothby, I may say that the remark which I made was of a purely jocular character, as must have been indicated by the words “ thirty coppers would be sufficient for some of them,” which I added in the hearing of honorable members who were sitting near me. With regard to the proposals now before us, I feel sure that had the first of them been brought forward at an earlier stage, the debate which has taken place during the last fortnight would have been avoided. The provision referred to would in itself have been sufficient to prevent any undue waste of time. It is an extraordinary fact that in Victoria, the adoption of a standing order similar to the first of the proposals now before us was found sufficient to prevent all-night sittings and unduly long debates. Experience showed that the “gag” did not provide an efficient means of closing debate, and that it did not prevent all-night sittings, but, on the other hand, gave rise to very strong feeling. The best way to prevent “ stone-walling “ is to provide that motions such as “ That the Chairman do now leave the Chair,” or “ That the Chairman report progress,” should be put without debate. The Prime Minister stated that the closure, as applied to parties and to individuals, had been adopted bv ?11 the Legislatures of Australia; but that is not the case, so far as Victoria is concerned. Singularly enough, upon the one occasion that the closure was introduced in Victoria. exact.lv The same number of members voted for it as supported it last night, namely. forty-one. When Sir William McCulloch introduced the “gag” - which was then called “ the iron hand “ - in the Victorian Assembly. forty-one members voted in favour of if.

Mr Wilks:

– What became of the “ gaggers “ ?

Mr ROBINSON:

– They were reduced to twenty at the next election. The closure provision was repealed, and although it was revived at a later stage bv the present

Prime Minister and his then colleagues, it. was eventually dropped. I do not see that any good purpose can be served by opposing the adoption of the first of the proposals before us. As to the second section, of the motion, however, I entertain the very strongest objections to it. I think that it would place a very dangerous weapon in the hands of the majority, because a member could be closured before he had spoken for two minutes. I interjected while the Prime Minister was speaking that the closure had been applied to Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. R. E. O’Connor when they were supporting the cause of Federation in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly,, in order to enable an antagonistic Billto be carried through. I do not think that any instance can be quoted in which the closure has been used, except for partypurposes. The Prime Minister stated that he did not think that it would be used asa party engine.

Mr Deakin:

– I expressed the hope that it would never be so used.

Mr ROBINSON:

– Experience has shown that it is used almost invariably for the purpose of achieving some party object. Honorable members must realize that in this. Chamber a certain amount of resentment is directed to some honorable members, because of their strong fighting capacity, and it is ridiculous to suppose that the closure would not be applied to them. It is a significant fact that under the Governmentproposals no member of the Labour Party could be closured. The only persons to whom the rule could be applied would bemembers of the direct Ministerial Party, or members of the Opposition. Labour members might speak for as long as they chose - and we have had experience of their capacity in that direction.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– In other words,, these proposals give the Labour Party complete command of the business of the House.

Mr ROBINSON:

– Exactly, and that without the responsibilities of office. Some reference has been made by the honorable member for Parramatta to the fact that honorable members sometimes find it necessary to keep a debate going in order to enable other members of their party to reach the House and vote. That practice obtains in all Houses, but it would be impossible to follow it under the proposed new standing order. It would be the easiest thing in the world to closure a member of the Opposition; but it would be im- possible to prevent the members of the Government from keeping a debate going until a sufficient number of their supporters were on hand to carry a motion. There is a possibility of a keen debate taking place upon the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill, but under the proposed standing order it would be impossiblefor members of the Opposition to keep the debate going until they could secure a full muster of the members of their party.

Mr McDonald:

– Would not that cut both ways?

Mr ROBINSON:

– No; it would cut only against the Opposition. If we were on the Government side and had a majority we could apply the closure with effect against our opponents. As the honorable and learned member for Corinella has said, every member ought to have some time allotted to him for the expression of his views. If an hour be considered too long, then half-an-hour should be allowed, and, say, a quarter of an hour in Committee. Honorable members should at least be able to feel assured that some minutes will be placed at. their disposal before the “ gag “ is applied. The absence of any such provision in the proposal before us seems to indicate that it has been conceived in a moment of heat. It is a great pity that the motion should have been brought before us withoutfair consideration. It was prepared when feeling ran high, and if appears to have been forced upon the House under the influence of a strong feeling of resentment against the Opposition. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that the Prime Minister has, beenguilty of a breach of the understanding which was arrived at with members of the Opposition in regard to the debate upon the standing order adopted last , evening. I have had some conversation with the honorable member for Grampians, who, I understand, is on friendly terms with several members of the Government, and he has succeeded in convincing me that the strong attitude which I took up in the first instance was incorrect. He has proved to me that, although there has been no absolute dishonesty on the part of the Government, they have been guilty of contemptibly sharp practice. A provision like that contained in the latter part of the motion, unless it is accompanied by some safeguard, such as that suggestedby the honorable and learned member for Corinella, will become a mere party engine for the purpose of crushing any speaker who may be making an effective reply to the arguments used on the Government side.

Mr.DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). - I propose to say but very few words in, regard to the main question. So much has been made, and properly made, of the statement of Mr. Asquith, and of the manner in which these proposals were submitted to the House during the discussion ‘ of a particular measure, that I wish to call attention to an important fact. In the House of Commons to-day the practice is, when a Bill which does not come under the operation of the guillotine standing order, is being unduly delayed, to there and then propose a resolution fixing a time at which the various stages of themeasure shall be taken. Therefore, instead of, as in our case, suspending the discussion of a particular measure, to pass a general proposal which will apply to all legislation, the House of Commons suspends proceedings when the heat of debate is at its greatest, and party feeling is most highly aroused, to pass a resolution relating only to the particular Bill which has produced the conflict.

Mr McCay:

– They do it frankly. The Government are not acting in that way.

Mr DEAKIN:

– They do specifically, in regard to the particular measure under debate, what we are proposing to do, not only with regard to the measure which was engaging our attention., but in relation to all other measures and proposals. I do not wish to labour this point, but if there be anything in the argument that weought not tohave introduced these proposals whilst a particular measure was under consideration, that contention would apply with tenfold force to the regular practice of the House of Commons. Then, in regard to the remarks ofMr. Asquith, I desire to direct attention to what has happened ‘in connexion with one of the most debatable measures that has recently engaged the attention of the House of Commons. No later than July last, after the Aliens Bill had been “ stone-walled “ for some time, the Prime Minister submitted a proposal that certain clauses should be taken upon a fixed date - on a Monday - that certain others should be dealt with on the Tuesday, and that the report should be dealt with on the following Monday. In the course of the discussion, on that proposal, which was made in the midst of the debate upon the measure, three representative leaders of the House made observations to which I desire to refer. By reference to the Parliamentary Debates, fourth series, volume 148, 1905, I find that, at page n 55, Mr. Balfour is reported as follows : -

I myself hold the view that such resolutions as that which I am now proposing, and which have been proposed by me on previous occasions, and by my predecessors, are an inevitable part of the present machinery of Parliament, and that their adoption will be found necessary by my successors, as they were found necessary by my predecessors.

He then proceeded to state that he hoped hereafter they would develop into something of a (more satisfactory character. The leader of the Opposition, the’ Right Honorable Sir Henry CampbellBannerman, in the course of a speech in opposition to the motion - as will be seen by reference to page 1 1 63- -said -

Of course, we are opposed to this mode of dealing with great Bills. But I admit for one the cruel necessity which rests upon the right honorable gentleman in all these cases of finding some remedy. I agree with him that it will not be very easy to apply, that it must be found, and must be applied, and I do not doubt that it must take the form of devolution of some kind.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Hear, hear. “ Devolution,” not the “gag.”

Mr DEAKIN:

– He then admits that until another workable system is found there is no other course open to them but to follow their present practice. Considering that Sir Henry CampbellBannerman is the leader of the Opposition, the whole tone of his speech was certainly hot essentially hostile to this proposal. Then the third leader in the House of Commons, Mr. John Redmond, is reported - at page 1166 - to have said -

The plain meaning of this was that in future, such was the condition of this Assembly, no Government could ever be expected to pass -any legislation, large or small, by the ordinary rules of the House, and that no measure of importance could be carried for the people of this country except by expedients such as this, curtailing and destroying the right of discussion in the House. He was almost entirely in agreement on this point with the Prime Minister. He had over and over again said to the House of Commons that in his judgment, as time went on, it. would become more and more impossible for this Assembly to fulfil its duties to all the manifold interests committed to its care.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– That was an argument for Home Rule, and not for the “gag-“

Mr DEAKIN:

– It was an argument for the application df the closure in the meantime as being the only means of meeting the situation.

Mr Robinson:

– Does the Prime Minister suggest that any comparison can be instituted between a Parliament which is legislating for 350,000,000 of people and a Parliament which represents only 3,500,000

Mr DEAKIN:

– The quantum of people does not enter into consideration.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Does the Prime Minister say that Mr. Redmond is in favour of the guillotine or of the “ gag “ ?

Mr DEAKIN:

– I say that in the latest discussion upon the subject to which I can refer, of three leaders of parties, one pointedly declares that without some such standing order no business is possible, and the other two, upon different grounds, practically, accept his statement. Thev all look forward to the development of better means than these if they can be found, but not one of them is prepared to put the closure upon one side until they are found. I put their views against those, enunciated by Mr. Asquith, whose opinions have been previously quoted.

Mr CROUCH:
CORIO, VICTORIA

– Even with the closure the business of the House of Commons is paralyzed.

Mr DEAKIN:

– That is so. The last session closed practically without any legislation being passed. I maintain that the speeches of the three leaders whom I have quoted, when read together, amount to this : “ Some of us approve,, and some of us do not approve;, of this, the most drastic form of closure known. in the world ; but we all agree that its application is inevitable at present, -and none of us can see our way to propose anything better.”

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– One of them suggests a further “devolution.”

Mr DEAKIN:

– But he does not say what devolution- neither does Mr. Redmond.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Is the “gag” a “ devolutionary “ process ?

Mr DEAKIN:

– It is one of the means of devolution, but there is no doubt that the term covers very much more than that. It seems to me that the two arguments which have been advanced against our proposals - the authority of Mr. Asquith and the objection to the period at which we have been obliged to take this step - are both met by the proceedings of the House of Commons in July of the present .year. Now I have to deal with what, to me, is a painful subject, because my conduct in parliamentary life has very rarely been called into question upon the ground that I have not extended proper consideration to those with whom I have been negotiating, or that I failed to appreciate what was due to my own self-respect. I must say that whils]t prepared for charges of various kinds at different times in my political life, I was never taken so entirely unawares as by the unexpected charge that in the particular negotiations of last Monday I failed in fulness of candour and straightforwardness to the gentlemen who met me in conference. I regret that the honorable member for North Sydney is not now in his place. Had he been present, I should have made a personal explanation at an earlier stage of our proceedings. But as two of the members of the Opposition who met me in conference upon that day are now present, together with my colleagues and1 the honorable member for Bland, who were associated with me in the negotiations, I propose to outline exactly what happened. Five of the six members who were present at that gathering can bear testimony to my statement of what took place. I desire to. be judged by the highest and severest standard that honorable members can set themselves in relation to this matter, when once they have heard my view of the facts of the case. Upon my arrival at the House on Monday morning I was informed that a proposal for some arrangement to terminate the prolonged sitting was to be submitted. I was asked if I was prepared to meet representatives of the Opposition to consider the situation, anc! agreed to do so without hesitation. I was not informed as to the particular character of the arrangement to be suggested, but at once came to a conclusion of my own as to what its purpose would be. I assumed, as most honorable members would have done, that it would take the shape of some proposition from the Opposition for the amendments which they desired to make in the standing order then under consideration. I naturally thought that they would ask for certain amendments, and object to others, with a view to seeing if we could not agree upon the passage of some standing order. Honorable members will recollect the circumstances of the position. We had been sitting from the preceding Thursday. A prolonged struggle had taken place. We had adjourned at midnight on Saturday until the Monday morning. We met again, I venture to say, as to this side of the House, not only strong in numbers, but high in hope and. resolute courage.

Mr Wilks:

– We were strong in spirit upon this side of the chamber.

Mr DEAKIN:

– I make no imputation. I went into the conference without feeling that it could imply anything like surrender on our part, but with a preconception that it necessarily meant that some arrangement would be made with regard to Standing Orders. When first the question of making a proposition to the House in regard to that matter presented itself, the Government took into consideration, in a general way, the whole question of Standing Orders. We dealt with the general question of Standing Orders, and resolved that we would, if necessary, go as far as the House of Commons provisions ; but if it were not necessary to go to that length, we would go as far as was necessary to meet the circumstances of the case. When, therefore, a direct challenge came from the Opposition in regard to the conduct of the business of this House. in connexion with a certain measure, we decided to take the first step and then the second, or any subsequent step that might be necessary. We left these matters generally approved, but in the rough. I wish to say that the second and third proposals, word for word as they are now before us, had not been agreed upon, but it had been agreed that similar proposals and others,, if required, should be made.

Mr McCay:

– Honorable members upon this side of the House knew nothing of that.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Nobody outside the members of the Government had any knowledge cif the matter.- I mention it now, because I have been challenged as to what I had in mv own mind, and in order to make that clear am obliged to say what would otherwise remain a Cabinet confidence. My colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the honorable member for Bland, were sUe,(rested as members of the conference, and we attended it together. The House is aware of what was. agreed upon, because the announcement was made immediately afterwards.

We disposed of the proposal that the amendments should be -withdrawn, and agreed that a discussion should take place next day upon the standing order - the discussion of which was concluded last night. As honorable members will see, we arrived merely at an arrangement as to the time which the debate should occupy, and as to the course of business. Before those matters were finally settled I said to the deputy leader of the Opposition-

Mr McCay:

– The First remark of the Prime Minister was in the nature of a proposal to discuss the motion. “ Mr. DEAKIN. - I was under the impression that that came subsequently, but agree that probably it did come first. I wished to discuss the terms of the motion. I took down the file containing the noticepaper, and said, “ Now, what amendments do you desire in this standing order?” Then to my entire surprise - though the reply was perfectly legitimate - I was told that there was to be no proposal submitted in relation to that standing order. “Mr. Joseph Cook. - I told the honorable and learned gentleman that under any circumstances we should resist it as far as possible.

Mr DEAKIN:

– That is immaterial to ray statement. At some time or other the honorable member gave me an intimation, from which I drew that inference. But, in reply to my inquiry, he told me nothing in regard to the standing order. On. the contrary, he indicated at once that he had no proposition to make upon the question of what should or should not be embodied in it. He wished to put that entirely out of consideration. I was naturally taken aback, because, until the representatives of the Opposition made it perfectly clear that they were prepared to fix a time at which the debate upon the standing order should close, it seemed to me that our conference was not likely to result iri much good. That having been made plain, and as the only question left was fixing a time for closing the debate, there was no obligation upon me to go any further. If they would disclose nothing of their hand as to the standing order-

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– We did show our hand.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Only as to time. In my opinion, that is not the point. I do not remember - but will not deny, because it is possible that the honorable member may have made it as explicit as he has made it here - any direct statement that the Opposition intended to resist the Government proposal to the uttermost. What the honorable member for Parramatta did make perfectly clear to me was that he would take no responsibility for making any statement in relation to the proposed standing order, and that he would not indicate his intentions at all. When he left the room, I did not know whether he intended to favour any amendment of the Government proposal, and, if so, what amendment. The standing order question was absolutely excluded from discussion.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That was left to the House.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Exactly. That being so, what was my position? ‘My honorable friends opposite, in the exercise of their undoubted right, chose, in spite of the three applications that I made in different forms, to absolutely decline to consider the question of the particular standing orders to be passed.

Mr McCay:

– We went to the conference to discuss the question of the proposed standing order then on the notice-paper.

Mr DEAKIN:

– No; only the time it should be voted upon. To consider one would have meant the consideration of any other standing orders.

Mr McCay:

– No.

Mr DEAKIN:

– I ask honorable members to recollect my position. I wished to open the door for a discussion of the Standing Orders, and was perfectly prepared not only to discuss amendments of that before ils, but, if necessary, to tell my honorable friends what else was in our minds. I believed, arid subsequent events have proved that there was a good deal of justification for that belief, that the first of the proposals now before us with regard to formal motions would not be opposed by them, and that I could secure its passing by mutual approval. I was perfectly prepared, in the event of their entering upon a frank consideration of the Standing Orders, to tell them everything that was in the minds of the Government in relation to this matter. I was ready to inform them of the view of the Ministry of what we thought was necessary, and what we considered unnecessary.

Mr McCay:

– But the honorable and learned gentleman did not suggest that other standing orders, were to be proposed.

Mr DEAKIN:

– No; because when I desired to open the door for the discission of the Standing Orders in ‘substance, or in form, my honorable friends opposite absolutely closed it im mv face. Would any man, not having a glimpse of their intentions, have proceeded to show his intentions in regard to those very matters which they declined to discuss with him, and their intentions in regard to which they were not prepared to indicate to any extent. That would have been an absolutely one-sided position to take up. I take upon myself the full responsibility of having been then, and still remaining, entirely oblivious to any sense of obligation towards my honorable friends in respect of any matter touching the substance of the first or subsequent standing orders. “I went to the conference thinking that they and they alone were to be discussed. I was prepared to discuss them in principle and in detail.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Not “them,” but «’ that.”

Mr DEAKIN:

– Yes, both “ that “ and “ them.”

Mr McCay:

– The Prime Minister used the singular.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Because the proposed standing order then before the House must be the basis of the other proposals now under consideration. The standing order adopted yesterday is the foundation upon which these rest. I went to the conference prepared to submit the proposals of the Government to my honorable friends. The discussion was strictly confidential, and even if our views had not been accepted no harm could have resulted from such a disclosure. I was prepared to discuss something that could be submitted to my colleagues, and to the whole of my party, and receive their assent. I was in hopes that when I put our proposals before my honorable friends they would say, “ We agree to so much, but not to this or that. We will take a division on those of which we do not approve, but it will be unnecessary to take that step in regard to those of which we do approve.” I anticipated that they would accept our first proposal that the motion “ That the Chairman report progress “ should not be open to debate, but was quite prepared for them to say : “ We will not give you the other proposals’ unless you agree to make some change in them.” I thought that they . might agree to our further proposals in the event of our making some such amendment as has been suggested to-day.

Mr McCay:

– We were asked to discuss one standing order.

Mr DEAKIN:

– I was not asked to discuss even one. I was not allowed, though I did ask it. I have not put a question to my honorable colleague the Minister of Trade and Customs, who knew as much as. I did of the intentions of the Government in this matter ; but I undertake to say that it never crossed his mind that there was the slightest obligation on our part to intimate to honorable members, who would not tell us anything of what they proposed, what were our intentions in regard to the Standing Orders.

Sir William Lyne:

– Quite so.

Mr DEAKIN:

– The honorable member for Bland, so far as I am aware, knew nothing about the ideas we entertained, but he knows that my statement of what took place at the conference is accurate.

Mr Watson:

– Absolutely accurate.

Mr DEAKIN:

– Indeed, the statement has not been “ contradicted. Honorable members will recollect that I was- not too favorably impressed by the proposal that we eventually accepted. My mind was set upon endeavouring to arrive at an understanding about the Standing Orders. I did not like the other proposal, and accepted it only in lieu of that which I desired about the Standing Orders.

Mr Crouch:

– Did they ask that the Tariff should be excluded from, the operation of the closure?

Mr DEAKIN:

– No precise proposal was made ; no other measure was mentioned.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Is the honorable arid learned gentleman sure that nothing relating to the fiscal question was discussed ?

Mr DEAKIN:

– The honorable member may recall something I do not ; I do not remember a reference to the fiscal question.

Mr McCay:

– No one thought of the fiscal question.

An Honorable Member. - That is the whole trouble.

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Supposing it had been decided-

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order ! The Prime Minister is making a personal explanation, and I think that in such circumstances an honorable member should be allowed to proceed without interruption.

Mr DEAKIN:

– -I have finished. All I can say is that if I thought that in the conduct of these negotiations my colleagues and’ I had failed in any respect to make the fullest disclosure that we ought to have made to our honorable friends opposite, I should feel nothing more keenly. Upon reconsideration I still fail to see that I was under any obligation to do more than I did, or that I would have been right in saying more. I am perfectly willing to be judged by those who realize the facts of the case /that I went to the conference with no other object than that we might arrive at a settlement, with regard to the Standing Orders, and that I was deeply disappointed at the door being absolutely shut upon any consideration of that question. The only point discussed was as to time. The door having been shut upon everything else by those who would not show me what was behind it on their side, what obligation vested upon me to show what was behind it on ours?

Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- By way of personal explanation I wish to say, in answer to the Prime Minister’s statemerit, that we declined to show him what was on our side of the door, that no one could have told him of what the Opposition had in mind. There was only one standing order in question. I told the Prime Minister distinctly that we had come not to discuss that standing order, but to see if we could arrange to put a period to the debate.

Mr Deakin:

– Hear, hear !

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– I told him that we should resist that standing order.

Mr Watson:

– How could it be said that there was a breach of any understanding if the only question under consideration was that of putting, a period to the debate ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Because all that took place at the conference was on the basis of the standing order then on the notice-paper. If the honorable and learned member had the passing of other standing orders in his mind, he should at least have told us so. That is all I say.

Mr Spence:

– Why should he have told the honorable member and his party, when they said that they did not attend the conference to discuss the standing order?

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

– Had the Prime Minister told us that he proposed to ask the House to pass other standing orders, the arrangement arrived at certainly would not have been made.

Mr Deakin:

– I wish it had not been made.

Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- Although the Prime Minister’s narrative does not include everything-

Mr Deakin:

– It was unnecessary to mention everything.

Mr McCAY:

– I think that it is a substantially accurate statement of the facts of the interview. It is one to which I desire to take no exception and to make no addition. But the position was this: There was a prolonged and dilatory debate upon the proposed standing order, and the conference, as was pointed out to the Prime Minister and those associated with him,, was for the specific purpose of ending that debate and determining the main question. From first to last the discussion proceeded on the basis that certain closure proposals were being made, and that we desired the debate on those proposals to be terminated. My objection to the action of the Prime Minister is that in my opinion - and the honorable and learned member has put it that it is simply a matter of opinion - we were led by his silence to believe that the whole of the Government’s closure proposals were those then before the House. Not one of those who attended the conference on behalf of the Opposition supposed for one moment that we were to. have a further closure motion thrust upon us.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Is it the desire of the House that the two paragraphs of the motion should be put separately?

Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.

Question - That the words “ forthwith adopted,” lines i and 2., be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ brought up for consideration when the Standing Orders recommended by the Standing Orders Committee are being considered by the House ‘ ‘ resolved in the negative.

Paragraph 1 agreed to.

Question - That before the words, “A motion,” line 25, the words, “ Except in a debate on the Address-in-Reply, or on the Budget, or in a debate on a motion of noconfidence, and except when the second reading of a Bill or a resolution is being moved ‘ ‘ be inserted - put. The House divided.

AYES: 15

NOES: 27

Majority … … 12

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the negative.

Amendment negatived.

Question - That after the word “speaking,” line 26, the words, “and has been speaking for not less than one hour in the

House, and half-an-hour in Committee “ be inserted - put. The House divided.

AYES: 15

NOES: 27

Majority … … 12

AYES

NOES

Questionso resolvedin the negative.

Amendment negatived.

Question - That the words, “ An affirmative vote of not less than twenty-four members shall be necessary to carry any motion under thispart of this standing order,” be added - put. The House divided.

AYES: 15

NOES: 27

Majority … … 12

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the negative.

Amendment negatived.

Question - That paragraph 2 be agreed to - put. The House divided.

AYES: 28

NOES: 15

Majority … … 13

AYES

NOES

Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Paragraph 2 agreed to.

Resolved -

That the following Standing Orders be forthwith adopted : -

The following motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and shall be forthwith put from the Chair without amendment and the vote taken : -

A motion for the first reading of a Bill ;

A motion, That this debate be now ad journed ;

A motion in Committee, That the Chairman report progress (either simply or in any form);

A motion in Committee, That the Chairman leave the Chair;

A motion to reinstate on the Notice Paper any business which has lapsed because of a count-out.

Should any such motion be negatived, no similar motion shall be received within a quarter of an hour of the declaration of the preceding decision, and no such motion shall be received if the Speaker or Chairman is of opinion that it is an abuse of the rules or forms of the House, or is moved for the purpose of obstructing business.

A motion without notice may be made, That a Member who is speaking “ be not further heard,” and such question shall be put forthwith, and decided without amendment or debate.

page 5792

PAPERS

MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -

Transfer of amounts approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council under the Audit Act, financial year 1904-5 (dated 24th November).

Public Service Regulation No. 89a. Furlough. Statutory Rule 1905, No. 73.

page 5792

ADJOURNMENT

Marshall Islands

Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr CROUCH:
Corio

– It has been reported in the press that Lord Jersey has received from Lord Lansdowne, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a statement with regard to the communications which have taken place between the British and German Governments relating to the action of the representatives of the latter in placing undue restrictions upon Australian shipping in the Marshall Islands. I think that such a statement should have been communicated to the Prime Minister through His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and would be glad to know if be can give the House an assurance to that effect.

Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist

– Australia is much indebted to Lord Jersey for his many personal and private actions on her behalf, and in this instance I am happy to say that he has done his best to give us the benefit of his assistance. The communication which he addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to which a reply has been received, was sent with the knowledge and consent of His Excellency the Governor-General and myself.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 3.53 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051124_reps_2_29/>.