3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday I waited upon His Excellency the Governor- General, and tendered the resignation of Ministers. At his request we retain office pending the appointment of our successors. Subsequently he sent, I believe, for the honorable member for Wide Bay, and commissioned him to form a Government. At the honorable member’s request I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Next Day of Meeting - Constitutional Position of New Administration. Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- It was not very courteous to those who come from distant States not to consult their convenience in fixing the next day of meeting. While Tuesday may suit those who come from South Australia and New South’ Wales, it is well known that the Tasmanian representatives cannot get to their homes and return before Wednesday.
.- It would be a convenience to honorable members to know how long the next sitting will last. If it is to be merely a formal one, occupying, perhaps, five minutes, it would not be worth while for members to come from distant States to attend it, as those of us who live in and near Melbourne could attend in a sufficient number to make a quorum.
.- The probability is that on Tuesday we shall have merely the formal announcement of the names of Ministers; no one expects the new Prime Minister to make his policy speech then. If by common consent it were agreed that nothing beyond the announcement of the names of Ministers should happen, honorable members who reside at a distance would not find it necessary to attend on Tuesday. The important occasion will be when, after Ministers have been duly sworn, and have framed their policy, they submit it to the House. No one wishes to inconvenience the representatives from Tasmania, and it seems to me that, upon the general understanding to which I refer, it willbe unnecessary for members from other States to comehere on Tuesday. After Ministers have announced their policy, there will, no doubt, be an adjournment for a reasonable period.
-For how long?
– The honorable member for Wide Bay being only commissioned to form a Government, and not having been sworn in, cannot make an announcement, and should, therefore, not be interrogated on the subject.
– Surely we can pass our criticism upon the position?
-I do not suppose that any one wishes to criticise the new Government until its policy is announced. Any attempt to do so would meet with my strongest opposition. The convenience of every honorable member will be met if we arrive at the understanding that on Tuesday next only the formal announcement of the names of Ministers will be made.
– These repeated adjournments may not inconvenience members who can readily return to their homes, but for those who are. situated as I am, they are very inconvenient. There is no reason why a compact body like the Labour Party, which has been considering the situation for weeks, should not be able to announce to-day what names are to be submitted to His Excellency the Governor-General. If the honorable member for Wide Bay is as strong as I think he is, he might have settled the matter by this time. To adjourn next Tuesday for another week will cause still more inconvenience. We have lost a week which might have been devoted to public business, and Christinas is now not far off, while there still remains a great deal to be done. When the new Ministers have submitted their policy, and the debate on it has been concluded, there will scarcely remain time to do more than pass the Estimates. I do not know whether I am at liberty to speak upon the action of the members of the Labour Party in taking office; but I would as soon do so now as later on. There is a full attendance of honorable members.
– It must be remembered that the honorable member for Wide Bay, not having been sworn in, could not reply to any criticism, and therefore it would be unfair to make it.
Several honorable members interjecting -
– Interjections and remarks across the Chamber are out of place on an occasion like this, and I ask honorable members to refrain from conduct that is unseemly. The question before the Chair is the adjournment of the House.
– I wish to know from you, sir, as I have the fullest confidence in your judgment, whether I am at liberty to make some observations on the constitutional position. If I am, 1 will speak now, instead of later on.
– It will not be a decent thing to do.
– That is a matter of opinion. I must be the judge of my own conduct. It is not my intention to say anything outrageous, but I wish, if in order, to deal with the constitutional position - not at great length, although in tren chant terms, perhaps. I wish to ascertain, in view of the attempt of the Labour Party to gain office without, in my opinion, possessing a sufficient majority, what promise of support it possesses, and what assurance has been given to the Governor-General that its leader is in a position to accept his commission.
– Surely the right honorable member has no right to ask that question?
– If, Mr. Speaker, you think that, although I should be within my rights in taking this line of action, it would be unusual or undesirable, I shall bow to your great knowledge of parliamentary procedure.
– I think the matter which the right honorable member has raised is scarcely a question of order. Whether the right honorable member ought or ought not to say certain things of which only he himself knows, is a matter of which he should judge, and not I. As the right honorable member, however, has asked whether I consider the course which he proposed to take unusual or not, I am bound to say that that course would seem to me to be unusual, and also undesirable from two points of view. First, that no Government has been as yet formed from what the right honorable member termed the Labour Party, and secondly, that it would be very improper for the honorable member for Wide Bay at this moment to make a disclosure of any remarks which he may have made to the GovernorGeneral .
– I shall accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker-
– It is not a ruling, it is a suggestion.
– Then I shall accept your suggestion, sir, although I take it as a ruling so far as I am concerned, and will bow to it if you still hold the same opinion after hearing the further remarks which I am about to make. It seems to me. that if I do not do what I propose to do now, the honorable member for Wide Bay will have no opportunity whatever of considering my views, nor will the Governor- General have an opportunity of reading them.
– Now we see which way the cat jumps.
– I think not. I have had no interview with anybody, and know no one’s views on the subject but my own. I shall have no opportunity of expressing those views with any effect after the mischief has been done, and it seems to me that it is mischief. Of course, the honorable member for Wide Bay cannot take office with a party of twenty-seven against the rest of the House, but he can do so if, besides those twenty-seven, he has a promise of support for the policy or programme of his party from a sufficient number of other honorable members.
– The right honorable member would have risked it all right.
– My remarks must be troublesome to those honorable members, judging by the interruptions,
– I did not think the right honorable member would take a defeat so badly.
– There is no defeat as far as I am concerned. The point I wish to press is that it is rather late to talk about a thing when it has been done. It is better to take the opportunity, which it seems to me I have on this occasion, of protesting against what is about to be done. If, sir, you are still of the same opinion as that which you have just expressed, I shall at once conform to your judgment.
.- I should like to pour a little oil on the troubled waters, and make a business suggestion. Unfortunately, we have been called here to-day unnecessarily. I quite understand the disabilities attaching to the formation of a new Government, but I do not think we ought to be called together again until some definite information can be placed before us. I am satisfied that the press will be good enough to inform honorable members as to who are to compose the new Ministry, and that time will be permitted to honorable members from other Statesto reach their homes. If the House could be adjourned from to-day until Tuesday week the leader of the Labour Party, and future Prime Minister, would then be in a position to unfold his policy. In that way the time of honorable members will be saved and a business principle would, perhaps, for once, obtain in this House. ,
.- When J was interrupted I wished to ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you are still of the same opinion as that which you previously expressed, after the additional remarks that I uttered.
– I did not understand that the right honorable member desired . 1 further ruling from me. If I had, I should certainly have given it immediately upon his resuming his seat. I can only add that I think the course which the right honorable member proposed to take is very unusual, and, if I might be permitted to say so - although, of course, I could not rule in such a direction - also undesirable.
– In moving the motion for the adjournment of the House until Tuesday next, I did so without explanation, assuming that all honorable members would be perfectly aware from the necessities of the case that all that could transpire on that day would be the announcement of the formation of the new Government, and a motion for adjournment to enable the new Ministers to make themselves acquainted with their Departments. If I had not unfortunately assumed that, some of this discussion might have been spared. When that explanation is offered, however, the honorable member for Bass will see that the representatives of Tasmania will not in this case suffer any disability, even if they are not able to be present on Tuesday next. All that we have to secure is that there shall be a quorum present to hear the statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1908/19081112_reps_3_48/>.