4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he is . aware that Mr.
– The honorable member kindly drew my attention to the paragraph which he has quoted, which, I understand, appeared in a Sydney newspaper. If those who think that they have a grievance against the Government would communicate through their parliamentary representatives, or directly, with the Departments concerned, replies would be sent to them which, would remove all excuse for the making of seriously incorrect statements.’ In this case, when contracts were being let for the supply of certain clothing, there was no Wages Board governing its manufacture in New South Wales, and the Minister therefore directed that’ the award operating in Victoria should apply. Subsequently, the Victorian Wages Board increased the rate from 36s. to £2 2s. per week, whereupon the honorable gentleman obtained legal advice as to whether the wages paid under the contract could be raised, but found that he was powerless to raise them. He was informed, however, that all the mills but one voluntarily increased their rates, the exception continuing to pay the 36s. rate, which is regrettable. I understand that a New South Wales Wages Board is now dealing with the question of rates of payment in the clothing industry of the State, and whatever decision it arrives at must be complied with by all the mills in the State.
– I find in the file of papers laid on the table of the Library a statement signed by the authorities in Sydney to the effect that they strongly recommend that no part of the Victoria Barracks be relinquished, and following it a paper from the Commandant there generally supporting the suggestion of transfer. How this originated is not to be ascertained from the papers, unless one takes the minute of the Minister; which reads -
I understand that a site at Double Bay, a property known as “ Redleaf,” is available. The site is roughly indicated on attached plan, and its- advantages -are set forth in accompanying memoranda. 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence why it is that the attached plan does not appear in the papers, and what are the sources of the Minister’s information regarding the availability of “Redleaf” and other properties in Double Bay. That information is not to be obtained from the papers. Can the House be informed as to who originated the proposal? Honorable members should be seized of all the circumstances.
– I am not aware of the reason for the omission of a plan from the papers. There is not the slightest objection to all information being given to the honorable member, or to all the papers being submitted for his perusal.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs ascertain- whether the Constitution does not entitle New South Wales to an additional representative without the reduction of the representation of the other States? The increase in the number of electors enrolled for the State has been very large during the last four years.
– Since compulson enrolment was introduced, the increase of the electors of New South Wales has been stupendous. I shall ask the advice of the Attorney-General, and reply to the honorable member’s question later.
– Has the Prime Minister seen, or been informed of, the announcement in the London Gazette that His Majesty the King has conferred the Alfred medal of the second class on an Australian aboriginal named Nabor, a native of the Northern Territory, the decoration being conferred for bravery’ in rescuing from the Roper River, when in flood, a mounted trooper in whose charge he was, and the rescue being effected although the prisoner was in chains? Does the right honorable gentleman intend to recognise this extraordinary performance?
– It was on the recommendation of the Minister of External Affairs that the recognition was made, and the circumstances were duly published to the world at the time. We shall always look kindly upon this man.
– Is he in gaol still ?
– No; a pardon was given to him on the representation of the persons concerned.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral lay on the table a copy of the memorandum prepared by the Secretary to his Department for the members of the South African Convention in framing their Constitution ?
– I was under the impression that it had been printed. If it has not been printed, I shall be very glad to lay it on the table.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in his capacity of Treasurer, whether there is any truth in the statement that twenty-four members of the Military Forces have been withdrawn from Queenscliff to stand guard over the gold held inreserve by the Treasury against the note issue, and, if so, whether the cost is one of the charges made against the note issue?
– I do not know what number of the military stand guard over the rooms where the gold reserve is kept, nor do I know the cost to Australia of their being there. My recollection is that, when the arrangement was made, it was considered .good exercise for the men, while the Military Forces suffered no inconvenience. We provide the men well with mealsand proper accommodation; and I think that they are being well trained for any emergency. I have no objection to debit the cost to’ the note issue if if is not debited now.
– Does not the Prime Minister think that considerations of exercisewould justify all the entrances to theTreasury being guarded, instead of the Government indulging in the farce of guarding only one, as at present?
– A ‘ns.w strongroom isbeing built, and is nearly completed. Seeing that this will be one of the best strongrooms in the world, we may be able to dispense with the guard, and thus ease theminds of honorable members opposite.
– Would the Prime Minister be in favour of mobilizing theForces, and having the whole located’ around the Treasury, debiting the cost tothe note issue, and thus preventing any profit in connexion with it?
– I do not think that we shall do that.
– In view of the persistent report as to the difficulty in securing ships to bring people to this country, and the further difficulty which shippers have to get cargo space, has the AttorneyGeneral’s attention been called to the matter, and, if so, what steps does he propose to take?
– I have no specific information beyond what appears in the press. I do not know the precise powers of the Commonwealth in relation to agreements of the kind made in other countries. I shall look into the matter, and, if the Commonwealth has any powers that it can usefully exercise, and if such powers have not already been given legislative effect to, I shall make a recommendation to the Government that such effect be given them. I shall look into the matter to see whether we have any statutory power to deal with the British Shipping Ring.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Gidginbung, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Warships - Memorandum regarding Delays in the Construction of Australian Vessels building in the United Kingdom.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral arrived at any decision in regard to the salaries to be paid to persons in charge of allowance post-offices?
– No; but I hope to do so in the very near future.
– In view of the press reports as to the prevalence of small-pox in some of the Eastern countries, will the Minister of Trade and Customs consider the advisableness of providing a fully equipped quarantine station on the north coast of Australia, or somewhere in the north, in order that vessels with contacts on board may be quarantined there, thus obviating the necessity of bringing them on to Sydney ?
– Negotiations between the Government and the Queensland Government for a site near Brisbane have been going on for some time, but we have not been able to arrive at finality. There is every intention to see that the quarantine service is made effective.
– Has the Director of Quarantine recommended the establishment of a quarantine station in any part of the north of Australia where these vessels first call?
– There is already a quarantine station at Thursday Island, and another at Magnetic Island, opposite Townsville. The latter has been allowed, while under State control, to get into disrepair, and we are trying to make it available. It will not, however, be a principalstation ; we cannot have stations sufficient to accommodate large-numbers of people all around Australia.
– As Thursday Island is usually the first port of call for vessels from the East, can the Minister of Trade and Customs not make temporaryprevision there, pending permanent provision, so that isolated cases, which develop between the East and Thursday Island, may be dealt with?
– I find I was wrong in saying that there was a quarantine station at Thursday Island ; it is, I find, at Friday Island, just across the water.
– It is an unused leper station.
– I understand that it is at present available for quarantine purposes, but it is not large enough to accommodate a whole ship’s crew. I shall be pleased to lay on the table, as soon as possible, the report of the Director of Quarantine on his investigations into the methods followed in other parts of the world. It is the desire of the Government to have quarantine administered under the best possible conditions, with, of course, due regard to economy. I do not think that the people desire the provision of large stations all around Australia. .
– The Minister of Trade and Customs appears to have misapprehended the tenor of my question. I know that a wharf is in slow course of erection, and other steps taken to provide a quarantine station at some time in the future, but I desire to know whether, in view of the prevalence of smallpox in the East, and the imminent danger of the disease developing on vessels on the voyage, he will arrange with the local medical officer to receive, not ships’ companies, but isolated cases, pending the construction of a permanent station?
– I shall have inquiries made, and, if it be possible, I shall be pleased to do what the honorable member desires.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether, under the present system of Voting at Elections, it is not easy to vote more than once, without being detected, and whether there is any check to prevent impersonation?
– Under the present system of voting, every elector not being an absent voter is required to answer the following verbal question before being allowed to vote : “ Have you already voted either here or elsewhere at this election?” The penalty for making a false statement is two years’ imprisonment. Every elector voting as an absent voter is required to sign a declaration in which he declares that he has not voted, and will not vote elsewhere ; and moreover that he is aware that the penalty for personation or making a wilful false declaration in any particular is two years’ imprisonment- In any suspected case of double voting, a comparison of the rolls can be made,’ but general action in this direction has not been justified by experience, and the special investigation made after the general election of 19 10; nor is it desirable without good reason, inasmuch as it involves heavy expenditure and great delay, and moreover leads to innocent persons being placed under suspicion, and made the subject of police inquiry, in cases where their names have been erroneously marked as those of voters by the presiding officers through inadvertence or misunderstanding.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Auditor-General has furnished the following replies : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether his attention has been drawn to the statements in the Age that the American Beef Trust has started operations in the Commonwealth, and whether he will use to the fullest extent existing legislation to prevent, in the interests of both . producer and consumer, the repetition in this country of the methods employed by the Trust in the United States of America, the Argentine, and other parts of the world ?
– Whether or not we have sufficient power with our laws properly to control the monopoly in question is a matter which is already receiving the earnest attention of our Crown Law authorities. The honorable member may be sure that this Government will spare no effort or expense by all the means in its power to protect Australia from that injury to legitimate industry which has characterized the operations of trusts in other countries.
– When might we expect some definite announcement?
– We were aware some time ago of the operations of certain trusts, this amongst others.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The information required, which will take some little time to prepare, will be furnished in the form of a return.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act 1911.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That leave be given, to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Audit Act 1901-1909.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906-1910.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 16th July (vide page 845), upon motion by Mr. McWilliams -
That, in order to secure the despatch of business and the good government of the Commonwealth, the Standing Orders of this House should be immediately amended in the direction of placing a time limit on the speeches delivered by honorable Members in the House and in Committee,
Upon which Mr. Webster had moved -
That the following words be added : - “ No Member shall speak for more than . halfanhour at a time in any Debate in the House, except in the Debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a Debate on a Motion of ‘No Confidence,’ or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the Debate on the Appropriation Bill or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a Member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour. In Committee of the House no Member shall speak for more than ten minutes at any one time, or more than Four times on any one Question before the Committee : Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a Member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.”
.- I am not in favour of either the motion or the amendment. It is strange that, after our getting along so well under temporary Standing Orders, and doing a large amount of work during the first twelve years of Federation, we should now suddenly take it into our heads to amend a portion of the Standing Orders. We have had what may fairly be called rather stormy times, and we have had some long speeches ; but now, because there have been three weeks of a kind of mixed discussion - I am doubtful whether it was on the Address-in-Reply or on a censure motion - a motion is brought forward which simply asks the House to express an opinion as to whether speeches should not be curtailed. To this an amendment has been moved which ties members up in such a way that we might as well say they are not to speak at all. It is ridiculous to expect members to do justice to a measure before the House in half-an-hour. On many important measures there is an array of facts which in themselves would take half-an-hour to state without exhausting them, and without any waste of time, no matter if they were condensed as well as the cleverest men in the House could condense them. In addition, there would be the arguments based upon those facts. The proposal of which the honorable member for Cook has given notice is certainly better; and I want to discuss it separately, because it might be workable, but the amendment now before us is unworkable.
– To what part of the amendment do you take exception ?
– The whole of it; it is absolutely ridiculous. All the clauses of a measure are important, and it is in Com,mittee that they have to be carefully reviewed, and that legislation has to be really shaped. In spite of what the honorable member for Melbourne said, members do change their views and vote differently on account of arguments that are put forward^ especially in Committee. I disagree with the assertion made last night bv the honorable member that no speech ever alters a vote. Experience teaches that the contrary is the case, more particularly when a Bill is under consideration in Committee. How is it possible for an honorable member to deal with an important clause in all its bearings in a speech of ten or fifteen minutes’ duration? Whilst there should be reasonable despatch in the transaction of public business, we have to recognise the importance of the work submittedto us, and we cannot hope to pass sound and effective legislation if we are unduly tied up in the way proposed. Sometimes an honorable member who has been unavoidably prevented from speaking on the motion for the second reading of a Bill avails himself of the opportunity to make a secondreading speech in Committee on the first clause, but such a practice - which has never been abused - would be no longer possible under the proposed standing order or the amendment to this motion which has been submitted by the honorable member for Gwydir. It is in Committee that we have to consider carefully the strength or weakness of a measure, and to make the amendments necessary to bring it into conformity with our views. I consider, therefore, that it would be most unwise to determine that no member shall be allowed to make more than four speeches of fifteen minutes’ duration in respect of an)’ one question. Such a limitation, indeed, would be likely to induce many honorable members to speak four times on one clause when, without any such standing order, they might not do so. An honorable member could avail himself of the opportunity to speak” four times on any one clause and, if he so wished, could move an amendment on which he would be able to make four more speeches. The suggested standing order, therefore, would not prevent the obstruction of a measure. There are various means by which members may delay the passing of a Bill if they desire to do so, and in the fighting days of a few years ago they were frequently called into requisition. I have no strong objection to the proposal that a speech on the motion for the second reading of a Bill shall not occupy more than an hour and a half ; but I object to the proposed limitation of speeches in Committee. At all gatherings for the transaction of business, whether it be a conference or a parliamentary assembly, it is generally found that if there is a great deal of talk at the beginning the time occupied on the average does not amount to more per member than where there is comparatively little said at the outset. There is no need for alarm. It seems to me that, because we have recently had some speeches that were inordinately long, we are inclined to resort to a little piece of panic legislation. I would prefer a proposal that no member should speak more than twice on any question in Committee, and that each speech should not occupy more than halfanhour, rather than that he should be allowed to make four speeches, each being of a quarter of an hour’s duration. An honorable member would have a better opportunity of giving a fair statement of his views on any particular question in two speeches of half-an-hour’s duration than he would have in four speeches each not exceeding fifteen minutes. Usually, when we are in Committee, Government supporters, no matter what party is in power, remain fairly silent, unless there is something to be said in reply to the criticism of the Opposition.
– Last year the Opposition complained that we did not talk enough.
– Quite so. If there is something in the criticism of the Opposition that demands a reply, that reply is usually made either by a Minister or a supporter of the Government; but as a rule there is very little discussion in Committee, and I do not think there is much room for complaint so far as our debates in Committee are concerned. Then, again, if there is any deliberate attempt to “ stonewall “ a measure, it can be met under the Standing Orders as they now exist. I do not believe in the “gag”; but if it becomes evident that a deliberate attempt is being made to obstruct a measure, the Government and their supporters have either to break down that obstruction by physically tiring the Opposition, or they must apply the “ gag.”
– Does not the honorable member think that there is some virtue in a “ stone- wall “ ?
– I do not say that there is not; it is simply a matter of fighting tactics. I am discussing the matter from the point of view of bond fide work. Generally you get bond fide work when measures are before the House. That is not usually the time when “ stone- walling “ tactics are applied. In the interests of the public, we must make our legislation as good as it can be made, and therefore I think that the proposal for limiting the duration of speeches in Committee must be rejected. In my opinion, honorable members should be at liberty to speak in Committee without any restriction. It seems to me that, under the proposals in full, it would be necessary almost to appoint an’ expert from the race-course as a timekeeper. Possibly when we have our new Parliament House at the Capital, each member will have his special place, and when his time for speaking is up, a trap-door beneath him will open, and he will disappear. If the proposal be amended by striking out the restrictions on Committee debate, I shall be willing to support-, as an experiment, the limitation of an hour and a half in connexion with debates in the House.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs [3.12].- I sympathize with the objections stated by the honorable member for Darling. Because a recent debate lasted for three weeks it savours of panic to go to extremes now in the curtailment of speeches. To my mind, the suggestion of the honorable member for Gwydir is impracticable. To test the practicability of a standing order, we must try to ascertain how it will work in an extreme case. It frequently happens under a Constitution like ours that some proposal appears to be unjust to the people of a particular State, and under the proposed standing order, the representatives protesting against such an injustice would have restrictions placed upon their freedom of speech, and an injustice might be done which, with freedom of speech, they might have prevented. This House is numerically small, there being only seventy-six members to represent the whole Commonwealth ; consequently, every member represents a very large area. We, therefore, should realize that an honorable member voices the opinions of a large area of his State. I agree with the honorable member for Angas that our most important work is done in Committee.
It is there that the practical problems of legislation are dealt with. In a secondreading debate, general principles are discussed, but in Committee you are faced with their practical application to working conditions. Honorable members who have drafted legislation know the difficulty of giving practical application to principles. It sometimes happens, too, that, consequent upon the criticism of a Bill at the secondreading stage, a Minister will present, in Committee, by way of amendments,, altogether different proposals, which honorable members have not discussed. Would it be right under such circumstances to limit the duration of speeches? When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill of 1910 was discussed on its second reading, it was pointed out that some of its provisions were ultra vires, with the result that the AttorneyGeneral submitted new clauses in Committee. His action confutes the statement that second-reading speeches never have effect. But would it have been right on that occasion to confine honorable members to ten minutes discussion of the new proposals put before them? I defy any honorable member to discuss them adequately in that time. Of course, to attempt to discuss a serious matter in four broken intervals of ten minutes each would be farcical. In my opinion, the proposal for the limitation of speeches in Committee would seriously interfere with the proper consideration of measures, and we have to consider not so much the welfare of honorable members as the interests of the people. That a session might last three or four weeks longer than it might last were speeches curtailed is of less concern than the proper consideration of measures.
– What about the pernicious effect of all-night sittings ?
– The honorable member, in delivering his famous long speech, felt, no doubt, that he was doing his duty, and would concede to honorable members the right to do what they believe to be their duty.
– The Opposition knows that I did my duty on the occasion referred to.
– The Opposition knows that the honorable member has a peculiar conception of what constitutes duty. Let me give the experience of Canada in regard to the limitation of speeches. I quote from the last edition of Bourinot’s Parliamentary Practice, page 465 -
Mr. Milner Gibson proposed that members should be confined to speeches of an hour’s duration, excepting only the introducers of original motions, and the Ministers of the Crown; but the House negatived the proposed amendment by a large majority. Similar motions have sometimes passed in the old Parliament of Canada; but a short experience proved that it was not practicable, nor conducive to the public interests, to limit the time.
The time fixed, in 1851, was half-an-hour, and, .in 1854 and 1855, a limit of threequarters of an hour was adopted; but now members of the Canadian Parliament have no restriction .placed upon them, it being held to be impracticable and against the public interest to put a time limit on the discussion of public affairs. I agree with what the honorable member for Angas said regarding Committee work. Suppose we had before us a Bill containing four proposals for alterations of the Constitution, like one of the Referenda Bills. On the second reading, each member could devote an hour to those proposals and their separate and joint effect, but in Committee he would be restricted to ten minutes in regard to each one of them. Could any member do justice to a subject like the nationalization of monopolies, or the theory of Socialism, within ten minutes? Even the honorable member for Capricornia, who has a particular gift of condensation, would find that impossible. It must be noted that there is not the same limit upon the Minister who has charge of the business in Committee. He could “ stone- wall “ an amendment.
– Is that to be imagined?
– I have known Ministers to be compelled to explain matters very fully in order to enable an adequate following to be brought together to support his proposals. No provision is made for members moving amendments. On a very big Bill a member might wish to move an amendment of great importance, but within ten minutes he would be compelled to explain the nature of his amendment, its application, and its effect; and ten minutes would not be enough for that. The Prime Minister should consider the advisability of giving the mover of an amendment longer time than another member.
– Say, a quarter of an hour.
– Longer than that should be given. The moving of an amendment sometimes requires more speech than the explanation of a clause. Under the circumstances, we might well leave the Standing
Orders as they are. When there has been a gross abuse of privilege it will be soon enough to take action to prevent its recurrence.
– The House ought to be very careful, in a matter of this kind, not to be led away into something very similar to panic legislation. There was no doubt great force in the remark of the honorable member for Angas, who pointed out that, during the eleven or twelve years of the Commonwealth Parliament, members, past and present, had good reason to feel some degree of satisfaction that it had put up a record of dignity and of sound legislative work, comparing favorably with the labours of any legislative assembly in the world. I can quite understand, therefore, those who have had the honour of a seat in this Parliament for some time deciding to proceed very carefully on a motion of this kind, lest we impair in any way the efficiency of Parliament. I share that feeling to a very large degree; but, at the same time, it is essential to look facts fairly in the face. In regard to abuses which have, from time to time, entailed on Parliaments the necessity to alter their Standing Orders, some reference has been made to the British House of Commons. In making comparisons of the various Legislatures in the Empire, we ought to be very careful to take one or two facts into consideration. An urgent reform necessary in the British House of Commons is the reduction of the number of members by one-half. At present that House is too unwieldy, and such a reform as I just now suggested could not fail to have very beneficial results. But any one familiar with the history of the House of Commons must be struck by the change that has come over that assembly since the sixties. In the years 1865, 1866, and 1867 there were the Reform Bill debates; and it is worth while, on the part of any one who cares to study the question, to refer .to the speeches delivered by Robert Lowe, Orsman, Lord Robert Montague, and the late Marquis of Salisbury, who, as Lord Robert Cecil, sat for Stamford. There were also the speeches, on the Liberal side, by Mr. Bright, Mr. Forster, and others who have long since passed, away. A perusal of those speeches will show the marvellous efficiency in debating possessed by the House at that time. I admit that the House of Commons was then a rich man’s Parliament; and I doubt whether it is anything else to-day. What .is the reason that succeeding Parliaments have not kept up the high standard of debating, efficiency ? A party arose which used the Standing Orders for the purpose of altogether destroying debate. As a matter of fact, institutions of this character are exposed to the danger of being rendered less effective by those who form them. We are called upon practically to amend our Standing Orders for much the same reason that we are called upon/ to enact Acts of Parliament. Laws are not passed by this Parliament because a great number of Australians are bad- or wicked, but because some of them are bad and wicked ; and it is essential for the welfare of all that we should lay down such laws as will react beneficially on character and conduct. It was the abuse of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons by a section of its members that rendered it necessary to impose the closure, and so forth. No one can now say for a moment that the efficiency in debate of the present House of Commons can be compared to the efficiency shown in the days to which I have referred. We have been told of the shortness of the speeches delivered in the House of Commons at the present time. No doubt Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd-George, and Mr. Churchill can pack into a speech of two hours or an hour and a half - in the case of Mr. Asquith, less than an hour - an amount of information not to be found in the orations of men who cannot express themselves in less than five hours. Experience in the Old Country shows that, without any enforceable limitation in the Standing Orders, it is possible to secure comparative brevity. A British Minister, when he announces that he intends to allot five, six, or seven days to a question, and then take the vote, gives a plain intimation that speeches must be short; and it is to the honour of British Ministers that they do not set a bad example by themselves making unnecessarily long speeches. We have members opposite, and some on this side who do so. I admit that there is some danger of impairing the efficiency of the Parliament by imposing a time limit; and yet, as I. say, we must look the facts in the face, and realize that there is an equal danger of abuse in unlimited speech. The debate on the Address-in-Reply has shown that unless this abuse is curbed we shall undoubtedly have to face a repetition of our last week’s experience. It is simply monstrous for any honorable member to make a speech of four or five hours’ length, and expect Parliament to permit him to do so for the sole purpose of gratifying his vanity. Any man of the world, acquainted with belles-lettres, and with debating, and public speaking, knows full well that, either on the platform or in Parliament, the most able speeches are confined within two hours. Of course, there may be exceptions in cases of unusual ability or occasion; and yet I question whether any of the speeches delivered in. the British Parliament in the sixties extended over two hours and a half. It may be out of place for me to express an opinion; but I have no doubt that persons outside will not regard the four hours and five hours speeches we heard last week as an improvement on the speeches of former days.
– Robert Lowe used toread his speeches.
– I question very much whether that is so ; at any rate, there are a great many men who cannot make speeches unless they do write them, though I never do so myself. The fact that the speeches are written enables such men to remember them, and the document is only for the purpose of reference in case of failure of memory. Such a practice is not confined to politicians, but is followed by divines, university professors, and men in various walks of professional fife. I have seen instances, not on this side of the House, but on the part of those outside this House who share the opinions of’ honorable members opposite, and whose speeches have all been typewritten and handed in as a report. I hope that will never occur here.
– We have seen some Budget speeches so delivered in this House.
– I do not think there is any man in. Australia who could deal with the whole of the Budget figures without a great deal of assistance in the way of notes. Mr. Gladstone was worldfamed in that respect, but we do not find Gladstones every day in the week. The length of the speeches on the AddressinReply and no-confidence motion has created a scandal, and it is time the House put a stop to it.
– Of course, there never should be any motion of censure on the Government.
– I do not wish to argue ‘ that point ; we are now discussing what is not a party question, and I have no desire to say anything that may lead to recrimination. In my opinion, there has been a sufficient abuse of the Standing Orders to justify us in making an alteration. But I regard the proposal of the honorable member for Gwydir as simply ridiculousas a huge joke.
– It works in New Zealand.
– I have no desire to make any reference to the New Zealand Parliament, but I ask the honorable member to compare four or five years’ debates in that Parliament with four or five years’ debates in this Parliament. Whether the difference is due to the half -hour limitation or not - I believe it is - the work of the Parliament of the Commonwealth compares very favorably with that of New Zealand.
– The New Zealand Government have to pay ‘5 per cent. for borrowed money, which is an indication that they are not doing their work properly.
– I do not wish to go into that question. There is a danger in allowing parliamentary time to be unnecessarily occupied by a few men, but, on the other hand, there is a danger in tying our hands, and, by the restriction, degrading Parliament to about the level of a third-rate debating society. Is there a middle course? I think there is, and it is to be found in the report or memorandum that has been brought down by the Standing Orders Committee.
– Including the limitation on Committee speeches ?
– No; but, so far as debates in the House are concerned, an hour and a half, or an hour, as the case may be, is ample time in the ordinary course of things for the average member to take to put his case before the House and the country. I do not think that that would be a limitation such as would prevent him from putting the best he could into his speech. Certainly., unless we are prepared to give a member sufficient time to do that, there will be a tendency for this Parliament to get down to the level of a very ordinary debating club. It is simply ridiculous to assume that every honorable member will occupy his full hour or hour and a half. We are not always anxious to make long speeches, and if we had time to look up Hansard we could easily show that even now it is not at all uncommon in many debates for an honorable member to speak for only half or three-quarters of an hour. I do not think an alteration of the rules would have any tendency to induce members to speak for the love of speaking. However, I do not agree with the proposed limitation of Committee speeches. When you, sir, are in the Chair, I . am prepared to support the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee, to whom we have the right to look for a lead in these matters, but it is not worth while discussing a suggestion that an honorable member should be confined to ten minutes on a clause in Committee, and that proposal, which is embodied in the amendment, is simply a joke.
– A man. cannot get started in that time.
– He could not get a start, and if an honorable member did use the opportunity, I should say he was doing it out of pure cussedness, as the Americans say, because he could not possibly contribute anything to the debate, but an allowance of half-an-hour for each of two speeches in Committee would be a different matter. I admit that there are exceptional cases where half-an-hour would be too short a time, . but,- after all we are divided in this House into two parties, and, even when we are not, we are sometimes in groups, and if one honorable member occupied his hour, one of his colleagues, whose opinions were similar - the two of them perhaps thinking upon common lines - could use- his hour also, and thus there would be ample opportunity for discussion in Committee. The Standing Orders confine us in Committee strictly to the discussion of the clause before the Chair, and I certainly think thatif we allowed a member to make two’ speeches of half-an-hour each, on a clause in Committee, it would tend to good legislation. It would put a curb on members and prevent waste of time, and our procedure would be all the better for the alteration. There is a great tendency in argument in this Chamber to reduce every thing to an absurdity, and it has been suggested that if a member is given four opportunities of speaking of a quarter of an hour each, he would invariably embrace them all. I do not think the majority of us are so fond of speaking as that, so that there is no danger- in that direction.
– Does the honorable member mean that a member should be allowed to speak only twice on a clause in Committee for half-an-hour in -all ?
– I ‘ suggest that a member should be allowed, to speak twice for half-an-hour. The last clause of the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee is simply ridiculous. In it they provide that any honorable member may be allowed by the House to exceed his time limit. I should not refuse permission to any honorable member to do so, nor do I think any other’ honorable member would. Although sometimes party spirit may . run high, and we may say things that we afterwards regret, I am sure that, as a body of gentlemen, we would never refuse to act as one gentleman should always act towards another, and I, for one, would not refuse that permission to another member, nor do I believe any member would refuse it to me. The proposal is, therefore, a farce. It- is of no use to leave it in that form, because it would make the time limit a dead letter.
– I was refused permission three or four times in the Queensland Parliament.
– I am happy to say that we are not in the Queensland Parliament. If that is the standard they set up in Queensland, I hope it will never be adopted here. Some honorable members have said that they never saw a vote or opinion changed by a speech in Parliament. That has not been my experience. It is, of course, seldon, if ever, that a vote is changed on party questions during a second-reading debate, or any question of that character, but in Committee honorable members know that their opinions are often modified and changed over and over again by the debating that goes on. All the old parliamentarians know that the best work is done in Committee. Happy is the country whose Parliament can give a great amount of time to Committee work, because it is then that the best legislation for that country is passed. The honorable member for Darling Downs said just now that we ought not to worry ourselves about our own convenience, but ought to notice the effect of our legislation upon the country. One thing, however, that we ought to do is to establish an unwritten law, because there might be a difficulty in securing a written law, to prevent all-night sittings. What is the value of legislation passed under conditions such as prevail at those times ? The country laughs at it, and we make ourselves the laughing-stock of the whole of Australia. The people of this Commonwealth have too much common sense to believe that anything can be got out of all-night sittings but second or third rate legislation. I should never blame any Government for putting on the “ gag.” Rather than have all-night sittings, it would be a good deal better for the Government - and this applies to any Government - to say at a certain time - “ After the lapse of so many days, a division will be taken, and if the debate is not finished by then, the closure will be put on.”
– That is what we did in the last Parliament, and you ought to have heard your leader on it.
– The honorable member’s party allowed some of our side only fourminute speeches.
– I was not here, and do not know what happened ; but I know what has happened in this Parliament and elsewhere. “ Stone-walling “ is one of the most idiotic practices that sane men could engage in. There never was a Government that was worth its salt that would not make up its mind to sit for a week, if necessary, to break down a “ stone wall.” What then, is the value of it to those who carry it on? It simply injures” the health and spoils the efficiency of members of Parliament for the work they should be doing for the country ; and what do they get for their pains outside? One or two may say, “ You are making an heroic struggle to maintain your principles,” but ninety-nine out of every hundred would laugh at them for a body of fools unable to find a different way to do their work. I have been engaged in a “ stone wall “ myself, but never did it with any degree of relish, and did not believe in it. Reference has been made during the debate to the proposal to allow a Minister unlimited time to speak in Committee on a Bill, but I do not think any Minister would “ stone-wall “ his own measure.
– It is not a matter of “ stone- walling “ a measure; but when we get to the Referenda Bills the honorable member ought to hear how the AttorneyGeneral will talk in Committee to the country.
– Whatever his faults, I do not think the Attorney-General would “ stone- wall “ his own Bill. The charge I have invariably brought against Ministers is that they will not explain their measures sufficiently. I suppose they go on the old adage, voiced on one occasion by a leading British Cabinet Minister, that “ the less you say to the fellows the better, because it gives them less to talk about.”
– I think the reason is that there is only a certain amount of time available, and Ministers feel that if they take it up other members will follow their example.
– There may be other explanations, but I gave the more popularly accepted one. I shall be prepared to support the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee, if they will allow a member two speeches of halfanhour each on a clause in Committee. After all, we are not passing a law of the Medes and Persians, which we cannot alter. If, after a few months, we find the new standing order likely to injure the dignity of the House, or prevent its efficient working there is nothing to prevent our altering it. I shall have great difficulty in knowing how to vote on this matter, because I do not agree with the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir in any circumstances. I would a hundred times sooner- leave things as they are than vote for it, but, at the same time, I do not agree with the report of the Standing Orders Committee in its entirety.
– I can only describe the motion as one which, if carried, will aim a fatal blow at the rights, liberties, and privileges of minorities in this House. No matter which party may be in power, the most cursory examination of the proposal will show that it will give the majority an immense weapon to wield against the rights of minorities. No one will experience the irksomeness of these proposals more than will honorable members opposite when in the course of a few months they are translated to this side of the House.
– In the course of what?
– The honorable member, for example, who has seconded the motion, will not be able to occupy the time of the House for two days at a stretch, and no one will feel this restraint so keenly as he will. When honorable members are on the Government side of the House, and are anxious to push on with Government business, they view that business in a light altogether different from that in which it is seen by them when they are in opposition. This House has never been subjected to so great a trial as it was when the honorable member for Gwydir made a speech of some ten hours’ duration in several sections. I do not wish to do more than refer to the unfortunate and tragic occurrences of that time, but there is no doubt that there was a great deal of feeling in the House. The present Opposition were then occupying the Government benches, and notwithstanding that we felt that the honorable member’s speech was something in the nature of an outrage-
– The honorable member must not so describe the speech of another honorable member.
– I did not say that it was an outrage, Mr. Speaker ; I simply said that many honorable members felt that it was something in the nature of an outrage. Notwithstanding that we felt strongly on the subject, however, not one of us proposed to impose any limitations on the rights and1 privileges of the then Opposition. I am surprised that an honorable member who is supposed to belong to a party that stands for equal liberty, and for the rights and privileges of popular representation - I refer to the honorable member- for Franklin - should by this means attempt to deprive our constituents outside of the right to the free expression of their opinions in this House. The effect of this motion must be to deprive our constituents outside of the right to have their opinions fairly expressed in Parliament. In that way this proposal means the placing of a limitation, not only upon the freedom of honorable members themselves, but upon the constitutional rights of their constituents, whom they are sent here to represent. We have no right to do that. Any limitation that is put upon the right of honorable members to give expression to their opinionsin this (House is a limitation upon the rights of people outside, who are the supreme masters of legislation, and whose servants we are. Exactly twelve years ago, onthe 18th July, 1900, Mr. Crick, then a member of the State Ministry, introduced a proposal couched in similar terms in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and Sir George Reid then characterized it as a disgrace’ to the House. I do not think he used too strong a term in so describing it. I can- well understand the alacrity with which the Prime Minister has seized upon this motion, and has feverishly put aside all Government business in order to allow it to be discussed. It is just the sort of proposal that a Government with the tyrannical and coercive ideas of the present one would avail themselves of if they desired to prevent a searching criticism of the measures which they intended to submit to the House. Any Government that wished to prevent -an exhaustive and proper criticism of its measures by a conscientious Opposition would hail with joy a motion of this kind. So far as the duration of speeches is concerned, it is unfair to attempt to draw any analogy between the British House of Commons and the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Under the Constitution the number of subjects upon which we may legislate is constitutionally limited, and so far as they are concerned we can easily exhaust them in the course of a few years at most, except to continue amending our Acts. Moreover, we have only some seventy working members of this House as against a membership of upwards of 600 in the House of Commons, which has to deal with a varied, diversified, and almost illimitable field of legislative action. That being so, any attempt to draw an analogy between the procedure cf the House of Commons with its wide powers and unlimited scope of legislation and this House with its limited powers and scope of legislative action is unreasonable. This is really a proposal to bring into operation a second “gag.” It is not designed to take the place of the instrument for which the Standing Orders already provide to bring a debate to a close when it is’ thought -that the ordinary limits of proper consideration have been reached. That instrument is ample for all purposes. As a matter of fact, I do not believe in it ; and 1 never voted for it. I spent a great deal of time in trying to prevent its introduction,’ as also did the honorable member for Franklin, the mover of this “ gag “ motion, who sat with me opposing the ” SaS “ being put into our Standing Orders for the greater part of a week’s continuous day and night sittings. I have always stood up for freedom, and propose still to do so. Sometimes we think that our freedom is being abused when such is really not the case. But notwithstanding that we may at times be irritated because some honorable members may seem to be more, discursive than is necessary, it is far better that we should put up with anything of the kind than that we should surrender one iota of liberty. There is nothing easier to surrender than is liberty; there is nothing harder to regain. We can in a moment surrender our liberties, barter away our freedom, and give away our privileges ; and it may take us years to regain the ground so lightly lost. I speak in this way, not as a member of the Opposition, but apart altogether from party considerations. Parliament is a place for debate, for discussion, for the exchange of opinions. Our dictionaries show that everywhere the idea of a Parliament is that it is primarily a place in which discussion can take place. Before the days of Parliamentary institutions - in Ireland and Scotland, for example - gatherings of the people of different districts used to take place on huge mounds or hills which were called “ Parley hills.” In many cases those hills were fortified, and upon them the people used to meet to debate, to thresh out local disputes, and to settle their differences.
– And if any man talked too much they chopped off his head.
– Perhaps so; and there may be in this House some honorable members who would be similarly disposed if they could give free rein to their wishes. We are here to exercise our rights as free citizens representing a free people, and we ought never to lose sight of that point. The very word “Parliament” is derived from “parley” - to talk, to speak, to discuss, to thresh out. The definition given in one of our dictionaries is “ the action of speaking ; a spell or bout of speaking ; a discussion or debate.” Discussion and debate are the primary purposes of a Parliament, and under this motion it is proposed practically to do away with the very first purpose for which Parliament was created. The proposal makes for an oligarchy ; it makes for doing away with the representation of the people, and for building up that very process of legislating which many honorable members on this side of the House have often denounced as the peculiar objection to the methods of the Labour party in power and as being contrary to the principles of a Democracy. I refer to the system in operation among honorable members opposite under which a policy is drawn up for them by an irresponsible outside body, and carried into effect by the Caucus inside. The Caucus directs the Government as to what they shall do, so that under such a system there is no need, so far as that party is concerned, for discussion in Parliament. Theirs is the secret Star chamber method of legislation which is the antithesis of Democracy and the Parliamentary government of a free and enfranchised people. Parliament under such a pernicious system becomes merely a place for recording votes, and all that is necessary is to have a few slot machines which can be manipulated by honorable members so as to do away altogether with the need for representation. That, however, is not the idea of a Parliament. It is the duty of a Parliament to discuss measures, to discuss the actions of the Government and its administration, to maintain the rights of the people, and to see that no injustice is imposed upon them. One of the. functions of an Opposition is to stand between the people and any injustice that the Government of the day may seek to impose. I am therefore surprised that the honorable member for Franklin, as a member of the Opposition, should aim this death-blow at the rights and privileges of the Opposition in its capacity as a party standing between the Government and the passing of laws that it believes to be detrimental to the interests of the community.
– Why did the honorable member vote for the “gag”?
– The honorable member knows I did not; but that I sat up night after night and day after day to oppose it. I am sure that the honorable member, if he were on this side of the House, would be one of the first to rise up against the injustice of a proposal of this kind. When he is sitting in opposition, as he probably will be next year, he will feel the irksomeness of this proposition, and will be surprised when he is informed, just as he is in the middle of his introductory remarks, that the time allotted to him under the Standing Orders has expired. An honorable member might rise with the intention of speaking for only a few minutes, but as the result of a fusillade of interjections his speech is frequently unduly prolonged. Honorable members are not always responsible for the length of their speeches, and when they speak too long it is often their opponents who are to blame through the interjections they have made. It is suggested that certain members should have the privilege of speaking an hour and a half, and that other members be confined to periods of half-an-hour. This is the first time in the history of British Parliaments that the principle of equality of rights among members has been proposed to be set aside.
– Say equality of opportunity !
– Equality of opportunity and of rights. Who is to say who are to be the favoured persons who shall have the right to speak longer than their fellows? And who are to be those favoured persons? The proposals under discussion are ludicrous, and bristle with difficulties.
– The honorable member for Franklin should have been dealt with in caucus.
– It is an illustration of the freedom of the members of the Liberal party that one of them can propose without restraint a motion having for its object a serious restriction upon freedom of debate of his own side. I do not feel inclined to regard myself as less important than any other honorable member. I regard myself as the equal of every other honorable member, and look upon every other honorable member as my own equal. I have no desire to be privileged to speak for an hour and a half when certain other members may speak for only half-an-hour, because I do not claim to be three times as important as my fellows ; but, on the other hand, I do not admit that I am only one-third as important, and would not consent to the more severe limitation of half-an-hour when others were allowed to speak for an hour and a half. When I was a boy at sea, sailing, vessels used to be given at times what was called a “ Parliament heel.” The manoeuvre was resorted to, either because cargo or ballast had shifted, giving a list, or purposely to expose the under parts for the purpose of examination and repairs. It was called a “ Parliament heel,” because it allowed of thorough examination and the removal of excrescences preventing fast sailing, and for repairs, re-coating, and a thorough renovation. The reason why it was called a “ Parliament heel “ was because Parliament was supposed to be an institution where the most minute and critical examination of things took place in order to secure perfection and safety in legislation. In my opinion, it would be a good thing to have now a Parliament heel of the Ship of State, alike for the ship’s own safety and so that a new composition of Ministers might be applied, with a view to the acceleration of the progress of the vessel through the troubled waters of commercial, industrial, and social advancement. May I point out the impracticability of the proposed limitations in certain cases? A short time ago the honorable member for Gwydir, in moving the adoption of the report of a Royal Commission which inquired into the working of the Post Office, made a speech lasting the whole of an afternoon and evening. Could he on that occasion have confined his remarks within the time allowed by the proposal before us and dealt as fully and comprehensively with the subject as its importance demanded ? He could not have done so, and he would have been one of the first to think that he was being prevented from doing justice to his subject by a limitation such as that now proposed. He, no doubt, will find himself again in a similar position in the future. Whenimportant matters like the revision of the Tariff are under discussion, and voluminous evidence has to be presented in favour of some particular case, a speaker’s remarks cannot be condensed within the limitations proposed. A subject like a defence policy, a proposed alteration of the Constitution, or any other large measure could not be debated within the limited time allowed by the proposals now under discussion. Both Ministers and private members would find themselves in serious difficulty in trying to condense their remarks. The House should have the advantage of hearing the fullest explanation and criticism of measures of legislation. The length of speeches in a free Parliament must depend on the nature of the subject under discussion, and the circumstances under which it .is being discussed. Any hard or fast limitation, irrespective of subject-matter, would redound to the discredit of Parliament, because debates would be much less informative and readable than they are now. Recently, at 3 o’clock in the morning, I listened1 to. a speech of two and a half hours’ duration, not one word of which would I have willingly missed. It was a speech teeming with information, and should have, been delivered to a full House. Fatigued as I was by the length of the sitting, which followed a sleepless night, I was still glad to have the opportunity of acquiring the information given by the speaker. . Such a speech would be impossible under the proposed new rules. Would Parliament think of applying these, or similar limitations to the addresses of counsel, and the decisions of Judges, notwithstanding that big cases often occupy the attention of the Courts for months at a time? What would be the effect of limiting the time of counsel’s addresses or Judges’ delivery of judgments involving many intricate questions of law and fact? Any such limitation would paralyze the Law Courts. It has been suggested that the proposal under discussion would prevent all-night sittings ; but, to my mind, it would not have any such effect. Its effect would be to encourage .laziness, slovenliness, inattention, and indifference on the part of honorable members, who, if charged by constituents with not having taken sufficient interest in a measure, could make the excuse that the rules of debate, prohibiting speeches of more .than ten minutes’ duration in Committee^, rendered criticism useless. It is not the quantity of legislation passed in a session that we must have regard to. Quantity is not a test of the efficiency of Parliament. It is, indeed, evidence of the insufficient consideration of legislative proposals. Measure after measure passed by this Parliament has no sooner come into force than serious flaws have been discovered, requiring the almost immediate amendment of the law. This has been due to lack of proper consideration and exhaustive and critical examination, and to the inattention of Ministers to the speeches of members who have pointed out defects and dwelt upon ill effects. Many measures have no sooner become law than vital defects requiring amendment have been discovered. These happenings evidence, not too much, but too little, debating. Therefore, in the interests of the people, we should be careful to see that no undue limitation is placed on the right of criticism and explanation. The honorable member for Melbourne stated that the best speeches that might be delivered, no matter how long, would have no effect in changing the opinion of honorable members opposite. I am glad to find that more than one honorable member behind the Government has denied that statement.
– The honorable member knows that it is not true.
– I do not say that it is, but the honorable member for Melbourne said that it was, and gave that as his reason for seconding the motion. It is a fatal admission if it be true, but I think that the honorable member is mistaken, as, indeed, some honorable members on his own side have admitted. If it were true that honorable members on one side are absolutely unamenable to reason - that they shut their ears to all argument, and vote on every question in a certain direction - the continuation of Parliament would be an absolute farce. If a lengthy speech, full of cogent argument, is not sufficient to convince honorable members opposite, a shorter speech would have less chance; and if the speeches were limited to one minute, the chance would be reduced to a minimum. The only logical outcome would be to have no speeches at all, and to regard Parliament as merely a place to record votes. But Parliament was never so intended; it is above all things, primarily, a place for talk and discussion, where opinions can be exchanged, and where every proposal is supposed to be examined in the light of day, in order that the general public may appreciate the pros and cons of any question submitted. And when it is proposed to limit the rights of some honorable members, and to give other honorable members greater rights, we are. establishing a dangerous innovation in parliamentary practice. I am sorry the motion has been submitted, because it is ill-considered and ill-conceived, and, in practice, can only lead to some very dangerous situations.
.- This, fortunately, is a subject which honor able members can approach without any feeling as party politicians. It is significant that the vague motion before us has been proposed by a member of the Opposition, and that two members of the Government side have expressed their intention to support it, although differing slightly in regard to particular features. I resent, however, the suggestion of the honorable member for Lang that the Prime Minister has brought this proposal down as in any sense a Government proposal,- especially when we remember that his proposal, though not yet tabled, is submitted by the Standing Orders Committee, consisting of the Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, the Prime Minister, the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and a member of the Independent party.
– It has several times been suggested that the Standing Orders Committee have brought down a motion to the House. What has been brought down is merely a report of the Committee, and it is for the House to decide what shall be done with it.
– I wish to emphasize the point that this is not in any sense a proposal emanating from one side of the House, and that it is securing , support in every part of the Chamber. This is a proposal the division on which will show, I think, some peculiar combinations, so far as parties are concerned. I may as well say straight out that I am opposed to every suggestion that has been made, except that submitted by the honorable member for Parkes to refer the recommendation back to the Standing Orders Committee. I wish for no stronger argument to oppose the motion than that put forward by the honorable member for Lang. There might bc a combination of circumstances taking honorable members from this side to the OP. position benches, and such a proposal as that now before us must therefore have my opposition. I am not going to assist in forging a bar to limit my own scope of operations should I ever be in opposition - to assist in framing a rule that will limit me as a member of the Opposition in my castigation of the Government. Honorable members must not forget that this motion will apply to every honorable member, whether on the Government side or in opposition, and will apply to every Bill, and under all circumstances. Such proposals have usually been made by Governments who have had the idea of stifling discussion and limitingthe privileges of the Opposition. In the present case, however, that is not so. I am utterly opposed in principle to the limitation of the privileges of honorable members, no matter by whom proposed or under what circumstances. It is somewhat significant that this proposal should emanate from the Opposition. I understand that this is not the first time such a motion has been before the House; but its arrival at the present stage is due, undoubtedly, to the recent debate on the censure motion. There was some reason for considerable dissatisfaction with the time occupied, and with the dreary reiteration of statements made by certain honorable members.
– It was not that debate which decided me to submit the motion ; I moved a similar motion eight years ago.
– It is rather significant that twenty-six members on this side, and twenty-three members opposite, spoke during the debate, while twenty-six showed commendable restraint in not speaking at all. The last figure, in itself, shows that there is really no need for such a motion as that before us. Out of the seventy-five members no fewer than twenty-six; or rather more than one-third, were prepared to sacrifice, or not make use of,, their opportunities; and. this shows that we have very little to fear from an abuse of privilege. Besides, may I point out the peculiar appropriateness of this motion coming from the Opposition. During the debate the twentysix honorable members who spoke from this side - including the honorable member for Gippsland, who spoke two hours and fortythree minutes - occupied altogether thirtyfive hours and fifty-nine minutes, or an average of one hour and twenty-three minutes.
– Does that include the last four who spoke?
– It includes every speaker during the debate.
– It is not a fair comparison.
– During the debate twenty-three members of the Opposition occupied forty-seven hours and eight minutes, or an average of two hours and three minutes.
– It was the Opposition’s “ funeral,” was it not?
– The interjection of the honorable member for Lang is peculiarly appropriate. It is fortunate that there are so few men so consumed with the “ exuberance of their own verbosity “ as is the honorable member for Lang.
– The honorable member must not forget his own speech on the Brisbane strike.
– I shall come to that speech in a moment, do not be alarmed. While there are some honorable members on both sides, of whom the honorable member for Lang is the conspicuous example, who, perhaps, abuse their privileges
– The honorable member has no right to say that an honorable member abuses his privileges.
– Well, sir, I shall say it in another way.
– The honorable member will be equally out of order.
– There are several honorable members, amongst whom the honorable member for Lang is the conspicuous example, who, by dreary reiteration-
– Order !
– Fortunately there are very few members who may be accused of being unfair in the use of the time of the House. We have to consider the number of Bills that have been passed during the last two sessions, to which my own experience is limited- During the first of these sessions we passed forty-four Bills, and, in the second session, twenty-nine Bills, of such first-class importance as those dealing with the alteration of the Constitution, defence, the Commonwealth Bank, and so forth. It seems to me that we have very little to fear from allowing honorable members , to make full use of their opportunities, without feeling that they are going to act unfairly towards other members. I have been careful to take the figures relating to the duration of the speeches from the Hansard reports on the debates of the censure motion, and the following table shows the time occupied by each member who spoke : -
The Age of 3rd July made a very unfair and untrue statement with regard to the time occupied by honorable members, and I take this opportunity to call attention to it. It instituted a comparison between the time occupied by the members of the House of Commons on a certain subject and by the members of this House during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. It put the Leader of the Opposition down as having, spoken for 4 hours, when he really spoke for 3 hours 46 minutes. It put down the Prime Minister as speaking for 3 hours, when he really spoke for 2 hours 41 minutes ; the Attorney-General as speaking for 2 hours 30 minutes, when he took 2 hours 46 minutes ; myself as speaking for 4 hours 19 minutes, when I spoke for 3hours 21 minutes ; the honorable member for Darling Downs as taking 3 hours, when he took 2 hours 18 minutes; and the honorable member for. Bendigo as taking 3 hours 42 minutes, when he took only 2 hours14 minutes. The only member whose time was given correctly was the honorable member for New England, who took 2 hours 18 minutes. Altogether, the Age debited the seven speakers I have mentioned with 3 hours 25 minutes more than they actually occupied. The errors arose, I believe, simply by the paper charging us with having spoken through the adjournments which took place during our speeches. The comparison with the House of Commons is not quite against us, in any case. A writer in the British Weekly, a few weeks ago, referred to the House of Commons in these terms -
Take the House of Commons or the body that corresponds to it in the United States. These are picked bodies, and they have been called the greatest deliberative assemblies in the world. That may be, but when a country visitor takes his seat in the gallery of the House of Commons for the first time, unless he happens on a war of the giants, he is apt to be most bitterly disappointed. The average member of the House of Commons is a most mediocre speaker. He does not know how to condense, he is not fluent, he cannot tell a story effectively, or bring in an illustration. He has no style whatever, and uses the most faded and jaded forms of speech with a murderous persistency. As a rule, he has no charm of voice or manner. You cannot hear him for two minutes without instantly placing him.
I am quite confirmed in my opinion that there is not such a misuse of time, or abuse of the privileges of the House, as to warrant, in any way, the imposition of a limit on the speeches of honorable members. Something may be necessary to save the House, and particularly to save a long-suffering country, from the reading of lengthy extracts from Hansard, or copious press cuttings, which are meant, not to influence a vote, or to have any bearing on the subject under discussion, but to make a readable speech for printing and circulating amongst a member’s constituents. I shall be prepared to support something in the nature of a limitation of the reading of extracts and extensive quotations from printed books, particularly Hansard. In fact, I must confess to some sympathy with the honorable member for Maranoa, who, on one occasion, suggested that Hansard should be burnt. I should suggest that a reduction in the number of speakers would assist matters. There are some members who may reasonably claim to be experts on certain subjects. To limit them on those subjects would be unfair, unreasonable, and improper. They should be allowed, on their particular subjects, ample opportunity and complete freedom to place their views before the House.
– Nearly every honorable member thinks he is an expert on every subject.
– There are certainly some honorable members in this House who seem to desire to air their eloquence on every conceivable subject that comes before us ; but if, when a Bill is before the House, the Government and the Opposition could arrange for so many members on each side to speak on the second reading, and avoid the general discussion of interminable length which we have at times, we should get well-prepared speeches, carefully arranged arguments, and a clear statement of the position; because the members selected to speak would prepare their speeches and qualify themselves to deal intelligently with the subject.
– What would you’ do with a member who was not selected, and still rose to speak ?
– There would have to be some mutual arrangement in the matter, because, if a member insists on rising, he cannot be kept down ; but there is a sense of loyalty and honour that I am certain is not wanting among members of the House. If the Opposition agreed amongst themselves that half-a-dozen speakers should be put forward to place their side of the case before the House, the other members of the Opposition are too honorable to refuse to abide by that decision, and I am certain that I can say, for this side of the House, that we are prepared to stand loyally to any agreement of that kind amongst ourselves.
– Who says so? What game are you up to now ?
– I say so.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– I am doing so. If any party agreed that a certain number should be chosen from each side. in order to reduce the time occupied on a measure, and, at the same time, to make sure that both sides of the case would be properly presented, I do not think there would be the slightest difficulty. One very strong objection is that the value and importance of the different measures that come before the House are too varied and diverse to allow a general proposal of this sort to be reasonably applicable to all. Compare, for instance, the Navigation Bill with the Designs or Copyright Bill; yet the same rule is to be applicable to all. To put a levelling-rule of that kind over the legislation of this Chamber would be destructive of criticism, paralyze the best work of this Parliament, and lead to legislation that would be detrimental to the best interests, and destructive of the best work, of this House.
.- I have not had the long parliamentary experience of a number of honorable members who have addressed themselves to the subject; but I think, with the honorable member for Brisbane, that it would be very unwise to limit indiscriminately the debate on the various subjects which come before this House for discussion. If there is one objection which weighs with me more than another to the proposals before the House, it is the absolute inelasticity of their action in regard to every class of subject that pomes before us. There is such a wide range of subjects, of so many different kinds and characters, that it is impossible, with a due regard to the country’s interests, and the interests of this Chamber, to lay down one common rule covering them all. After all, there seems to be no necessity for any limitation if there is no actual obstruction of the work. Taking the record pf this Parliament - and it has already been mentioned by one or two speakers that forty-four Bills were passed during its first session, and twenty-nine during the last very short session - honorable members, no matter on which side of the House they sit, must recognise that during this Parliament, at all events, whatever has happened in the past, there has been no obstruction, but the business has been done with reasonable speed, and nearly all measures that have come before the House have had due consideration. The honorable member for Brisbane suggested that some arrangement should be come to between the different parties as to which members should speak on each side during a debate. That would be a dangerous curtailment of the liberties and privileges of honorable members, and would not be a good expedient to adopt. At the same time, there is, I , think, a middle course. The honorable member for Hindmarsh suggested one, and I believe there is another, to which I ask honorable members to give their full consideration. I think it would be possible to have a set of Standing Orders somewhat similar to those which have been suggested by the Standing Orders Committee, and apply them from time to time if required. In exactly the same way as the closure can be moved now, they could be applied from time to time if the Ministry found it necessary, lt would be perfectly optional for the Government to apply them at any time. For instance, if it were perfectly obvious that the Opposition were endeavouring to “ stone-wall “ a Government measure and obstruct business, those Standing Orders could be moved as a modified form1 of the closure. I can well understand the objection of any Government to moving the closure at any time. It is a weapon which I am confident no Government likes to use, and which any Government is seldom justified in using. At the same time, it would be possible to have a set of Standing Orders somewhat on the lines put before us by the Standing Orders Committee, except that I would not limit debate in Committee quite in the way suggested. What has been already said about Committee discussions is very true. There are times when they are most important. However, if my suggestion were adopted, it would get over thedifficulty that does sometimes arise of inordinately long speeches being made oneafter the other; because members, knowing, that the Government of the day had thisparticular weapon ready to their hand, would curtail their speeches somewhat and avoid its use. My suggestion, if adopted, would provide, at all events, the necessary elasticity by enabling some subjects to be much more fully debated than others.
.- Although I do not care for limiting debate,, or the number of speakers, or the lengthof each of the speeches in this Chamber, I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that thetime for discussing that question has gone- by. Any Chamber that has upon its Standing Orders such a very drastic provision aswe have in the closure, need not talk about, limiting the length of time for which members may speak, because that closure can. be used to stop, not merely a member, but a whole debate, and to prevent honorablemembers from opening their mouths in theHouse, much less making a speech of an< hour’s duration.
– I should like to see aquorum present, Mr. Speaker. - [Quorumformed.’]
– Had I known that thehonorable member intended to call attention, to the state of the House, I should have refrained from speaking, and thus havesaved time. When I was interrupted I was referring to the provision already in theStanding Orders for the application of the closure. Personally, I would prefer to sit here for many nights rather than to votefor the application of the “ gag.” I recognise that it is an instrument for which our Standing Orders ought to provide, but, likethe military, it should be employed only in the last perilous necessity. As a matter of fact, the closure has been called into requisition during only one session, and it has. never been used in this House except in an-, arbitrary manner.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– Very well, let us see. I- find that the closure was first applied after a debate of five hours fifty-four minutes om a non-party measure, when the first memberto oppose the Bill in question from the Opposition side of the House was speaking. Shortly afterwards it was used after a debate of ten minutes’ duration, and on the;
Same night it was once more applied after thirty-five minutes had elapsed. The longest debate that took place before it was used occurred on 15th September, 1909, when it was applied after a debate extending over seven hours twenty-seven minutes. Later on, during the same day, it was used after a nine : minutes’ discussion ; and, for a third time, after a discussion extending over only six minutes. On the following day the closure was moved after a discussion extending over two hours twenty-two minutes, and later on in the day it was moved after a discussion of one hour and four minutes. It was called into requisition a third time that day after a four minutes’ discussion. On the 17th September the closure was applied after a discussion lasting one hour forty-two minutes ; on the 21st September, after a discussion lasting thirty-four minutes; on the 22nd September after a discussion extending -over two hours forty-two minutes ; and on 39th October, after a debate which had lasted one hour forty minutes. The most memorable occasion of all was its application on 12th November, 1909, when, after a. question of - the utmost importance had been discussed for three hours twenty minutes, the “ gag “ was applied. The -climax was reached when the Prime Minister of the day having moved, “ That the (House do now adjourn,” the then Leader of the Opposition rose and said, “ Mr. “Speaker,” and was immediately “ gagged.” That took place on a Friday afternoon, and probably the then Leader of the Opposition had risen only to inquire what business was to be proceeded with on the following Tuesday.
– Who moved the application of the closure on that occasion?
– The honorable member for Parramatta. It was next moved on 23rd November, 1909, after a discussion of six hours forty minutes ; on 24th November, after a discussion of one hour six minutes; and, on 3rd December, after a forty minurtes’ discussion.
– The honorable member’s statement does not bring in all the circumstances of the case, and what he says amounts, as 1 shall show, to misrepresentation.
– The facts I have stated show that the closure was not used to put a stop to systematic obstruction. The precedent thus created may be followed in the future by other parties, who, becoming angry with their opponents, may feel that they are justified in applying the “gag,” in view of what took place on the occasions to which I have just referred. I think the proposal now before us to limit the time during which members shall speak is infinitely preferable to the “gag.” This is not an attempt to prevent any individual member from speaking. In most cases an honorable member would be able to say, in an hour or an hour and a half, all that he desired to say during a second-reading debate. As to the proposal to limit speeches in Committee, I think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Hindmarsh is better than that made by the Standing Orders Committee. The honorable member suggests that every honorable member should be allowed, upon any question in Committee, to make two speeches, not exceeding half-an-hour on each occasion, rather than that he should be allowed to make four speeches of fifteen minutes’ duration each. We ought not to overlook the fact that a great deal of time is occupied by the repetition of arguments. Much of this repetition, more especially in connexion with second-reading debates and on motions before the House, is due to the fact that honorable members are speaking avowedly - I do it myself - to their constituents.
– Their constituents want to know what are their views.
– Yes; and that opens up another and a very important question. As an honorable member has said, this Parliament is called upon to deal with big Australian questions, and it is interesting to consider how much the people of Australia know of what we do or say here. Citizens of this State have a better opportunity of knowing what is being done and said by honorable members of this Parliament than have the citizens of other States. But, after all, how much do the people of Victoria really learn of our proceedings? I do not blame the newspapers, for they have now two Parliaments instead of one to report, whilst sporting and other matters make- so great a demand on their space that they cannot report parliamentary proceedings as fully as they used to do in preFederation days. Before Federation the daily newspapers of this State used to give a fairly full report of the speeches made by members of the State Parliament, but nowadays the reports are very much condensed. Sometimes the report of a day’s proceedings in this Parliament is cut down to a column, and consists only of a sort of running commentary. In the newspapers published in the other States even briefer reports of the proceedings of .this Parliament are given. They consist of a telegraphic summary from Melbourne, and the people of northern Queensland and Western Australia hardly know more of our doings than the fact that we are in session. It is for this reason that honorable members adopt what is known as the practice of “ talking to their constituents,” and when they are doing so they endeavour to make their speeches as complete and perfect as possible. They consequently repeat arguments which others have used, and which they certainly would not repeat if the people who saw the reports of their speeches were able to read the report of the whole debate. This explanation puts a different light altogther on what, at times, is considered a tedious repetition of arguments. The proposal made by the Standing Orders Committee is a very liberal one, r and few honorable members will be affected by it. Taking it altogether, I think it is well worth trying, and am, therefore, prepared to support it. If it does not work satisfactorily, I shall not hesitate to vote for its repeal. We ought not to lose sight of the fact that the adoption of such a standing order would do away altogether with any excuse for the application of the “gag-“
.- I have always been in favour of the speeches of honorable members being kept within reasonable bounds, and I believe that their curtailment, to some extent, would give a wider and more comprehensive representation of the views of members than is possible under existing conditions. I think it was the honorable member for Angas who pointed out that there was a tendency in the House of Commons for the British Executive to acquire greater power because of the fact that only a very small proportion of members are able to address themselves to the Chair. A limitation of speeches would tend to enable every honorable .member, if he wished to speak, within a-reasonable time to place his views before the House, and so would make for a wider representation of public opinion. I believe, also, that it would make for the efficiency of Parliament and for the passing of better laws. In these circumstances, it is the duty of the House to try to evolve some scheme that will give greater efficiency, afford every honorable member an opportunity to express his views, and give to the House that wide representation of opinion that is occasionally impossibleunder present circumstances. I approveof part of the proposal made by the Standing Orders Committee, but I take exception to the proposed limitation of speeches in Committee. A limitation of one hour or an hour and a half in connexion withspeeches during a second-reading debate isa very fair one, but I can see no reason for imposing any limitation on speeches inCommittee. I have observed very little waste of time during the consideration of measures in Committee. It is true that we sometimes have lengthy speeches on the Estimates, but in order that we may safeguard the interests of the people, and see that public money is properly expended, it is necessary that there should be the most searching criticism of the Budget! proposals, and the expenditure proposed by the Government of the day. I shall, therefore, vote against the proposal to restrict speeches in Committee, but would agree to the limitation of an hour or an hour and a . half in the case of second-reading speechesThere should be reserved to the Assembly generally the power of protesting effectively against measures believed by the Opposition of the day to be likely to do serious and lasting injury to the Commonwealth. So long as there are no limitations on speaking in Committee, such protests can be. registered. This reserve power is necessary for use, not only by the regular Opposition on questions like the Federal Capital expenditure, but also bybodies of members composed of represen*tatives of all political ‘.parties. Many honorable members think that expenditure onthe Federal Capital at the present time would be inopportune and wasteful, and’ would be ready to prevent progress for a night, or, if necessary, for forty-eight hours, to protest effectively against it. While I am willing to vote for the limitation of second-reading speeches in the manner proposed, I shall vote against any limitation of speeches in Committee.
– I largely concur with the remarks of the last speaker. Under the Standing Ordersof the Victorian Assembly the rights of minorities were conserved, and I remember that, many years ago, an Opposition composed of only five or six members, of whom, I think, the honorable member for Mernda was one, delayed .business for a week. A great many persons thought that they were wrong, but history has proved) that the Government of the day was wrong. Those men initiated reforms in more than one direction, and some of them are to-day prematurely beneath the sod because of the part they played in “ stone- walling “ then in the public interest. Many things take place in Parliament which we must all deplore. There is much vain repetition, and nothing is more irksome than . to have to listen to it. By placing a limitation on second-reading speeches, and similar debates, much repetition will be prevented. But in the interests of those who sent us here there must be reserved the right to insist on the fullest consideration of proposals. The interests which we represent are so diverse, and our legislation affects so large an area, that nothing but that complete consideration of measures will serve. I have great sympathy for representatives of other States who have to make long journeys to reach their homes each week end. No doubt this travelling must tend to wear them out before their time. But -although they are naturally inclined to hurry on business, it would, in my opinion, te better, instead of having night sittings, to sit in the day time, and, if necessary, on a greater number of days. In Parliament, as in other walks of life, the ten- dency is to make the pace too hot, to the “injury of our health, and to the detriment of the interests that we represent. I shall vote against the amendment, hoping -that something like the proposal of the honorable member for Cook will be adopted. I do not think that it would work well to -allow an extension of time to be granted on the passing of a motion. To my mind, -there should not be any limitation of Committee speeches. In Committee definite proposals are under consideration, and the fullest light should be thrown upon them. As to discussions in the House, I am prepared to vote for such limitation of debate ;as is consistent with adequate freedom of speech. I have listened to very long ^speeches containing much that I did not -agree with, which, nevertheless, threw great light on the subject under discussion. Some years ago the late Mr. Shiels spoke for more than three hours on banking and savings banks, and, though many who heard him, disagreed with parts of his argument, -they all said that they would not have -shortened the speech by ten minutes. Great good often results from absolute freedom »of debate, and certainly no limitation .should be placed on speaking in Com.mittee
.- The honorable member for Franklin is to be commended for introducing a motion which gives opportunity for the discussion of a very vexed question. I do not think that any one objects to a well-thought-put deliverance like that of the late Mr. Shiels, however long it may be; but no one is much interested in listening for hours to the reading of extracts from Hansard re - ports, perhaps twenty years old. The other day I saw a quotation that was to be used which was from a speech delivered twentyfive years ago. In this matter a little more discretion might be given to Mr. Speaker, and it might be a good thing if after six or seven years had passed Hansard were kept out of sight altogether. I do not see how speeches can be advantageously limited. A few men go wide of the mark, but many others speak very little. The limitation of speeches might increase the opportunities of those who seldom speak, and whose chances of speaking are now much reduced. It has been suggested that the speech of the honorable member for Mernda, in the recent debate on the AddressinReply, might have been reduced to an hour and a-half, but I enjoyed every word of it, and think that it would be a great pity to limit a great financier like him in the utterance of well-considered ideas on public questions. With a limit of half-an-hour a speaker could be prevented by frequent interjections from saying anything at all. On questions like the Tariff the limitation of speeches is impracticable, - ~ even though discussion takes place in Com/ ‘:mittee, because it is necessary to know fully’ “ the views of every honorable member, and to permit the proper representation of those of his constituents. The honorable member for Gwydir, having spoken on one occasion for nine and a-half hours, now sees, the error of his ways. Like a sensible man, having made a record he rests satisfied. As the honorable member for Wimmera pointed out, speeches on the Federal Capital question could not well be limited.
– What about the Navigation Bill?
– I think a wellinformed man like the honorable member must occupy a long time in criticising a measure like that. The discussion of proposals for further expenditure on the Federal Capital will occupy a very long time, and when it is finished honorable members will wish that the Yass-Canberra site had not been chosen. If I thought that, by speaking for four hours, I could bring about the choosing of another site, I would make the attempt, although I am not prone to long speaking. As a general rule, it is best to leave well alone. When speeches are not up to standard the closure can be applied. Unless somebody can suggest a better way of dealing with the difficulty than that which is set out in the motion, I am inclined to let well alone, though I should not be averse to giving the Speaker a little more power to deal with honorable members. who read, at undue length, outofdate newspaper extracts.
.- I am glad to hear honorable members saythat this is not a party question, and I hope it will not be treated as one. I shall probably be found voting side by side with honorable members whose opinions, generally speaking, I cannot approve. I regard the proposal for the limitation of speeches as the outcome of daily press criticism. For months past we have had newspaper leaders, particularly in the Age, characterizing debates on the AddressinReply as a great waste of time. Journalists come to this House now, as they have been coming for many years, in order to write leading articles about our proceedings. It would appear that their rich proprietors never give them a holiday, although a vacation would undoubtedly do some of a them good. For a decade they have attended this Parliament, and, probably, in the same House, have listened to the debates of the State Legislature; and they have evolved in their own minds a scheme, of governing the country which they’ think ought to be put into operation without any debate at all. They, therefore, condemn all speeches made on the Address-in-Reply ; but I may say at. once that I do not take the same view. It has been said that members repeat arguments used by others, and no doubt they do, because they feel that they must. The vocabulary of most of us is not so varied that we can clothe our ideas iri as many forms of language as can, for instance, the honorable member for Ballarat ; and, therefore, no doubt there seems to be a great sameness about the speeches. I take the view, however, that our constituents desire to know what are the ideas of their representatives.
– Why do they riot read the newspapers ?
– The honorable memberhas his views and I have mine; he may be prepared to be a mere talking and1 voting machine, but I am not. I am here to give expression to my views on behalf of my constituents, and I am prepared to stand by those views, believing, that I am thus better fulfilling my duty than by simply coming to the House, and,, so to speak, voting with the biggest crowd. I regard Hansard, as the protection of” members of Parliament, especially nowadays, when newspaper editors and their great proprietors consider themselves fit togovern the country - when they desire totake the power out of the hands of Parliament, and Show by their writings that generally speaking, they despise politicians and all connected with parliamentary institutions. We ought to protect ourselves by putting in Hansard our viewson the various questions before us, at whatever length we choose. Why should J. come 1,500 miles to speak for ten minutes on a question? I think it is an outrage to suggest such a thing. .
– But if certain honorable members will not stop speaking, what chance have other honorable members of expressing their views?
– I understand what the honorable member means. No doubt the Address-in-Reply debate occupied some three weeks; but the Leader of the House should have told the whips that the debate would have to close in that time. The whips, thereupon, should have ascertained from honorable members how long each’ proposed to speak, and so divided the time that the honorable member, for Ballarat should not occupy four hours and the honorable member for Capricornia only a> quarter of an hour.
– Does the honorable member not think that a fair thing, having regard for the amount which he can get into a quarter of an hour?
– Having regard to the honorable member’s oratorical powers he himself may consider it a fair thing, but the position does not appeal to me in the same way.
– There were many members who had no chance whatever of speaking.
– No doubt some honorable members had to refrain, but we must remember that a member representing a constituency is here to represent that constituency. If constituents care to send a fool, the House has nothing to do with that, but must regard him as a representative; and, if he believes it is his duty to speak for four hours, the House must put up with him. What right has the House to ‘Curtail the speeches of honorable members in the way proposed, especially in view of our present standing order, under which a debate may be closed at any time if we think there has been sufficient discussion? I hold that Labour : members especially, knowing their own history, should not vote for a limitation of the kind. What have we to depend on to win our way but our speeches on the public platform? At one time we were never reported in the daily press, and : making speeches to our constituents was the only method to fight our way to the Treasury bench. Having got there, it would appear that the men, whose very existence is owing to their ability to make speeches, are desirous to curtail the speeches of honorable members of this House. I mentioned to-day what I regard as a very’ great criterion. In an interjection I quoted the case of New Zealand, where the Government have to pay 5 per cent, for their borrowed money. Honorable members may not see anything in that point, but I see a great deal. The New Zealand Parliament is carried on under a -standing order similar to that proposed by the honorable member for Gwydir; and I believe that the limited discussion has led to a class of legislation which has so -destroyed the credit of New Zealand that that country has to pa.y 5 per cent., while other countries obtain money at per cent. Without saying anything further, I express the hope that the motion and the amendment will be withdrawn.
– I had not intended to take part in -this debate, but, for several reasons, including the fact that I am not a frequent speaker, I may be permitted to say whether, in my opinion, the privileges now enjoyed “by honorable members should or should not be restricted. It appears somewhat strange -that a motion of this kind should be introduced in a last session of a Parliament ; and I am at a loss to understand whether it is a death-bed repentance or what it is. It is certainly singular that, in a last session, when we are within too easy a distance of a general election for the comfort of some of us, we should propose to set down how the business of the House ought to be conducted. It would be much more appropriate, I think, to reform the Standing Orders at the beginning of a new Parliament, when the members are here with a full programme of work, and fresh from their constituents. In looking for a reason for the wish to curtail speeches, we . may take it that one is a desire to secure economy. The only argument advanced on that score is by the honorable member for Franklin, who sets forth that the motion is intended to secure the despatch of business and the good government of the Commonwealth. Well, there is no man more anxious than myself for the despatch of business ; it should be the ambition of every person in every-day life to secure the immediate despatch of business. But if efficiency is to be sacrificed to despatch, it cannot be for the good government of the Commonwealth, and I am afraid that the two ideas are hardly in harmony. If the motion be carried, it will not, I think, tend to good government. I have been in this House for five or six years, and have listened attentively, and, I hope, with some judgment, to the speeches delivered, and I have failed to see that, generally speaking, the long speeches have not been in the best interests of the country. I have listened with the greatest pleasure to long speeches, some during the debate . on the censure motion; and in the speech of the honorable member for Mernda, which has been cited, there was a great deal more than, perhaps, the average man is aware of. If there had been a time limit, such as that proposed, the country would have lost a good deal by the curtailment of that utterance ; and the same may be said of other lengthy speeches. This Parliament represents the condensed opinions of the people of Australia, and the measures we pass concern not only Victoria and its capital, nor any particular State of Australia, but very often have far-reaching effects connected with immigration and commerce. We should, therefore, be very careful in curtailing the ventilation of any subject. I am in sympathy with any suggestion tending to the despatch of business, but we should not cripple ourselves by confining honorable members to, say, ten minutes at the Committee stage of a Bill. During the last session and previously, several important constitutional matters were discussed, and were treated by legal members in a brilliant and instructive way. It would be impossible for such men to deal with subjects of the kind in a period of ten minutes. Such a standing order would render the House an automaton, or, as an honorable member said, reduce it to little more than a rubber stamp. We ought, as representatives of the people, to give to the country our best thoughts in our best language ; and if that involves more than would be considered a reasonable time at a board of directors’ meeting, the country must not be allowed to suffer on that account ; we should be prepared to inconvenience ourselves, and even to take responsibility for the expense incurred in continuing our sittings at late hours. In my opinion, in one or two of the recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee a mistake has been made. In many .cases, an honorable member is able to deliver himself in an hour’s speech ; but it is altogether out of reason to provide that, in Committee, no one shall speak for more than fifteen minutes, or more than four times on any question. We cannot, in my opinion, afford to thus tie ourselves up. I also object ,to the proviso that the rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply. That means that special privileges are to be given to particular people. Although the Minister in charge of a Bill has a most important obligation to the House and the country, the Leader of the Opposition, or any other person who is expected to criticise the main features of the Bill, has an equal responsibility ; and I fail to see why he should not be given equal privileges. It is further provided that any member may speak for a longer period, or more frequently, with the ‘-leave of an ordinary majority of the House or Committee, as the case may be. That seems to hand over the whole of the privileges of the minority to the majority. In a House such as we have it constituted now, it would be quite competent for the Government at any time, although I do not say that they would do so, to direct that no member of the Opposition should be allowed to exceed the time limit. We should never agree to give up our privileges in such a manner. I am quite ready to insist that there should be some curtailment of speeches, and some way of getting the work ‘ of the House done under reasonable conditions, and in a reasonable time, not only for the despatch of business itself, but for the preservation of the health, and even the’ lives, of members and of the staffs of the House. The Federal Parliament has been putting up an unenviable record during its lifetime, and each session addsitS quota to the list of those who have passed away, their deaths being largely attributable to the long hours of sitting, the great responsibilities of membership, and theweariness entailed by sitting in thischamber and listening to long speeches. Even so, of course, there are certain sacrifices which public men are called -upon tomake. If we abuse our privileges and’ responsibilities, we must take the consequences ; but, so far, we have only been able to appeal to the good sense of honorable members not to speak at greater length than they think is absolutely necessary to discharge their duty to their constituents. I am unable to support the proposal before the House, although I regret that we have not some better means of conducting the business of the House withmore despatch.
.- Whilst I sympathize with the aim of themover of the motion, I do not think the object he has in view will be attained by any such mechanical device as the limitation of speeches. I want to know what has happened in connexion with the National Parliament of Australia that hasmade it necessary, at this stage of the present Parliament, to introduce a motion of this character ? It is not altogether a newdevice, for in 1900 and 1901 similar motions were brought before the Parliament of New South Wales, and another wastabled in the House of Commons on oneoccasion, when Mr. Balfour and Mr. Joseph Chamberlain spoke very strongly against it. Mr. Balfour said -
I think it is absolutely inconsistent with thevery elements of the life of a free debating assembly. We are going to set up a precedent which will for all time impair the efficiency and cloud the honour of this assembly. It will’ be the wreck of the liberties of Parliament.
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain spoke as follows ;
You are on a fatal incline. I would say that a Bill of this kind ought in no case, under nocircumstances, under no stress^ in no extremity, to be subjected to any curtailment of free debate.
Members themselves ought always to be the best judges of the conduct of the business of Parliament, and should not introduce into their Standing Orders a mechanical device which may prove detrimental to the interests of minorities. Thereare occasions, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong said, when a member is merely doing his duty to the people by putting up- ft long fight and a strong fight, and it would be very unfair to limit members’ speeches, more particularly in connexion with Committee work, in the way suggested by the Standing Orders Committee. I hope that both the motion and amendment will be rejected, and that members will retain in their own hands, and in the hands of members of future Parliaments, the right to govern themselves and their own procedure. I am sure that, if it is left to the good sense of members individually and collectively, and no limitation is imposed, the time of Parliament will not be wasted. I notice that Mr. Cann, who kept the statistics for the year 1900 in respect of the Parliament of New South Wales, found that the time was chiefly occupied, not by long speeches, but by the frequency of them. The danger of fixing a maximum is that at the same time you may fix a minimum, and that members may insist on having their pound of flesh. The net result of a standing order such as this may therefore be to place a limitation on members who ought to be subject only to the decision of their own electors as to whether or not they are abusing their rights. I am confident that this proposal will not result in the limitation of speeches, add to the despatch of business, or lead to the better government of the Commonwealth. I hope that members will refuse to place in the Standing Orders anything that will limit their privileges, or in any way lessen the rights of the electors who sent them here.
.- I do not intend to give a silent vote on this question. It is not a party issue, and, in supporting a proposition for the limitation of speeches, I am simply recording a vote for something in which I believed before I became a member of Parliament.
– That does not make it quite right, does it?
– That is so; but I was going to add that two years’ experience in Parliament has convinced me that my former opinion was justified, and the honorable member himself has assisted me considerably to arrive at that conclusion. It is said that we are doing something to take away our own liberties ; but is that not true of every resolution and every law passed by Parliament? Does not every measure restrain the liberties of certain individuals; but is not that done in order that we may have greater general liberty? We are told that an arrangement should be made whereby a debate should end on a certain date ; but it would be most unfair for the Government and the Opposition, by making such an arrangement, to close down on honorable members who have not spoken. It is all very well for members ta say that they have come so many miles, and must have so many hours to speak ; but it is the selfishness of members who speak for three or four hours that compels other honorable members to remain silent. I have refrained on several occasions from speaking on measures on which I should have liked to speak, and on which my constituents would have liked to hear my opinions ; but the time went on, with members occupying two and a-half and four hours to make remarks which they could easily have condensed into half .that time, and I was unable to speak. It is fair to members that a time limit should be set to speeches, and I shall sup-, port the proposition. Some members in Opposition may not like it; but, whether in Opposition or behind the Government, my view would be that we are here to carry out the business of the country, and that that can be done as effectively by limiting speeches as by giving members unlimited time. We shall be able by this means to do more work, with less expense to the people. I do not think we want anything more convincing than the time occupied during the last three weeks in the debate which has just closed. That ought to have satisfied anybody. I feel that, on any measure, if a man concentrates his mind upon the question and learns to condense his remarks, he will be able to put them into an hour and be more effective than are many men who string their speeches out for two or three hours. If we picked out from Hansard the speeches that occupied an hour in the last debate, we should find as much matter compressed into them, speaking generally, as is to be found in the speeches that took two, or even three, hours to deliver. I shall support the recommendations of the Standing . Orders Committee, which are very , liberal. If I were inclined to move any amendment, it would be to provide that there should be no speech longer than an hour, except those of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. There may be something in the arguments that have been put forward regarding speeches in Committee, but “even in that case the proposals of the Standing Orders Committee are fairly liberal. I did think of suggesting that the time allowed to a member in Committee on any clause should not exceed one hour in all, leaving it to the member himself to divide it up as he chose, but I recognised that there would be great difficulty in counting up the time.
.- I beg to move, as an amendment -
That the following words be added : - “ That the following be adopted as a standing order of this House : - ‘ No member, except a Minister introducing a Bill, and the Leader of the Opposition, shall speak for more than one hour at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of No Confidence, or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill, or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and a half.’ “
It will be seen that I am adopting to a large extent the proposal made by the Standing Orders Committee, but that I do away with the suggested limitation of speeches in Committee. The constructive work of our legislation is done in Committee, and I have never yet seen any great waste of time at that stage of our proceedings. It seems to me that it is when we are in Committee that honorable members proceed so to build up a measure that it will truly reflect their opinions, and I think, therefore, that every facility should be given them at that stage to express their views. It is at that stage, indeed, that we see the influence of the speeches of honorable members. While providing for a reasonable curtailment of speeches made on the motion for the second reading of a Bill, we shall, by the adoption of this amendment, still reserve to honorable members their present power to discuss at length in Committee any question which is considered to be opposed to the best interests of the people. I think that we shall be able to provide for the exercise of this privilege in Committee, without making possible any improper waste of the time of the House. I would remind honorable members that the financial work of this House is transacted in Committee, and that it is absolutely necessary, in order that the interests of the public may be safeguarded, and the finances of the country conserved, that we should be able to indulge in the most searching criticism of the Budget and the Estimates. By doing away with the proposal to place a limitation on speeches made in Committee, we shall give honorable members a reasonable opportunity to express their views on such questions, and to hold up a measure which they consider likely to be injurious to the people. After all, we usually have long speeches, not in Committee, but in the House. Lengthy second-reading speeches are often made, and to a large extent repeated in a number of cases when we come to deal in Committee with the Bill to which they relate. It is desirable, therefore, that there should be a reasonable curtailment of secondreading speeches. I submit this amendment with a view to testing the opinion of the House, and shall be glad to accept any suggestion for its improvement. Our desire is to secure a standing order that will be as near perfection as possible. If we could frame a standing order that would give unlimited time to a Minister moving the second reading of a Bill, and also to the Leader of the Opposition in replying to the motion for the second reading of a Bill, we should do well, and an exception might also be made, perhaps, in the case of an honorable member other than the Leader of the Opposition who was put forward by his party to reply to such a motion.’ Such a proposal as this must tend to reasonable brevity in the delivery of speeches in the House, while at the same time reserving to honorable members the right to debate questions that ought to be thoroughly discussed.
– The amendment meets with my approval, and I beg, therefore, to second it. This proposal to place a limitation on the speeches of honorable members probably arose out of the lengthy no-confidence debate that was disposed of last week. A number of honorable members would have liked to take part in that debate, but the inordinate length of some of the speeches made prevented them from doing so. Whilst I favour a limitation of the speeches made in the House, I do not believe in limiting the speeches of honorable members in Committee, because no waste of time occurs as a rule during the Committee stage of a Bill. Whilst I recognise that every honorable member should have an opportunity to address his constituents, I consider that it is unreasonable that the debate on a no-confidence motion should have extended over three weeks. The Opposition have wailed over the enormous expenditure of the Commonwealth, and I think they should be prepared to accept a proposal which will mean a reasonable curtailment of speeches in the House and a consequent reduction in the cost of Parliament. A man who cannot give expression to his opinions in a speech of an hour’s duration must be in a very bad way.
– It depends on how many opinions he has.
– In the case of a Bill, we have generally to deal with only one question at a time. It is in Committee that the most effective work of the Parliament is carried out, and I hope that this proposition will meet with the approval of the House.
.- The speech made by the honorable member for Wimmera illustrates our difficulty in dealing with this question. He began by cutting away half the original proposition, by claiming that there should be no restriction of speeches in Committee. He then went on to propose that although an hour should be the normal allowance for an honorable member when speaking on a motion for the second reading of a Bill, in certain cases he should be allowed an hour and a half. The honorable member next went on to express the opinion that an honorable member in certain circumstances ought to be allowed an even longer time in which to put his views before the House. For that, however, he has not even attempted to provide. Another honorable member has just remarked that he does not think any distinction should be made. It is unfortunate that we should be asked, just at the termination of a debate which the press seems to have made up its mind to condemn, to lay down any rule as to the time which honorable members should be allowed to put their views before the House. I quite agree with one honorable member who has said that what is practically the end of a Parliament is a very inopportune time to deal with a question of this kind. It would be much better to wait until the beginning of the next Parliament when we shall be a little cooler on this question, and a little less inclined to bow to the dicta of newspapers. I strongly appeal to the House again to allow this opportunity to pass. Many honorable members think that it is a good one, and that advantage should be taken of it. My own opinion is that the Standing Orders Committee acted only because the honorable member for Franklin had given notice of this motion. It would be far better for us to wait until the beginning of the next Parliament, and to allow the members of that Parliament to lay down rules of debate for themselves. It does not become us, in view of the fact that many of us may disappear from the political horizon a few months hence, to attempt to lay down rules for the body of men who will be here next year. As the honorable member for Wimmera’s amendment practically gives away half the original proposal made by the Standing Orders Committee I think it would be better to give away the other half and to remain for the present as we are.
.- We heard a good deal from the honorable member for Nepean about the occasion for this motion, which he declared found its rise in the recent no-confidence debate. We obtained from him the curious admission that it was not so much the length of the speeches made during that debate as the fact that others were shut out from addressing themselves to the motion that had caused this proposal to be made. If that is a statement of fact it is fortunate that we have had the utterance to which we have just listened, because it must be a curious party that can compel its members to be silent on such an important occasion.
– Order ! the honorable member’s remarks have nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– It seems to me that more time is wasted in this Chamber through the bad management of “the business before us than by the length of the speeches delivered. Let us take this debate as a case in point. It arose upon a private member’s motion, which, because it suited the exigencies of the position, was suddenly made Government business. The Standing Orders Committee was not convened with even ordinary decency, its members ‘being summoned by telegraph.
– I convened the Committee, and, it being a case of emergency, sent the summons by telegraph ; therefore the honorable member, in saying that the Committee was not convened with ordinary decency, reflects upon my action.
– I withdraw the phrase, but I cannot withdraw my objection.
– The honorable member has no right to object.
– Surely any honorable member may object to a Standing Orders Committee not transacting its business in the ordinary way.
– If the honorable member has a grievance, the rules of the House provide a remedy. The honorable member has no right to criticise the methods of the Standing Orders Committee in this debate. If he thinks that the members of the Committee are not fitted for their positions, or are acting irregularly, the honorable member may move a motion with a view to censuring them.
– I accept your ruling, sir. It is because of the improper conduct of public business that waste of time occurs, as in this case. A proposal from the Standing Orders Committee, which was hastily convened to consider it, has been placed before Parliament-
– There is no proposal from the Standing Orders Committee now before the House. The Committee made a certain report, which was laid on the table, and has been referred to in the debate, but there is no proposal from the Committee before the House.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir was adopted almost verbatim from the report of the Standing Orders Committee. It was discussed last night, and for part of this afternoon, and then defeated without a call for a division, neither the honorable member himself, nor the honorable member for Cook, who had a similar proposal to make, objecting to the amendment being negatived on the voices. We have,, now before us another amendment, which’ is a further refinement of the proposal of the Standing Orders Committee, and the unbusiness-like way in which our proceedings are being conducted will lead to a still greater waste of time. A proposed amendment of the Standing Orders should be dealt with at a sitting held for the purpose. Who knew that the honorable member for Gwydir would abandon his proposal ? It was debated at considerable length, and then allowed to go by default.It is in this way that time is wasted ; not by the making of long speeches. No doubt’ the honorable member for Gwydir saw the error of his ways, and, influenced by his innate desire to meet opponents half way, dropped a proposal the objections to which were too strong to be rebutted. The honorable member for Cook, who last night was in a revolutionary and almost wicked frame of mind, was also silent when the question was put from the Chair. We cannot expect fruitful results from this manner of conducting business. I suggest the adjournment of the debate until some time next week, when we can have definite proposals before us. The House has lost touch with the subject, and the proposal now before the Chair seems to me almost tantamount to asking us to again deal with a proposal which was negatived without a dissenting voice. No doubt it is less iniquitous than the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir, but I see no reason for treating Ministers differently from private members. The Honorary Minister, for instance, would not require an hour and ahalf to discuss a subject on which other members could speak only halfanhour. There is no reason for exemptions in favour of Ministers.
– Nor in favour of the Leader of the Opposition.
– That is so. Members should be on an equality. Who is in a more favorable position for condensing his remarks than the Minister, whose officials have prepared the matter for his speech, and who comes with his’ facts and figures effectively marshalled, and knows exactly what is to be said? The debate began with a discussion of general principles, but now we are being asked to make a new standing order.
– The passing of the amendment will not create a’ new standing order.
– We are asked to affirm that the proposition of the honorable member for Wimmera “ shall be a standing order.” We are asked to amend the Standing Orders without reference to the Standing Orders Committee, over which you, Mr. Speaker, so fittingly preside. It is a parliamentary principle that every member shall have the same opportunities and rights in the matter of speaking. The mere fact that a number of gentlemen collect together in a room and elect one man ought not to debar any particular body of electors from the same right of representation in this Chamber as is enjoyed by the favoured elect of this secret tribunal. After all, we hold our places here, not by virtue of any peculiar attainments or outstanding abilities of our own, but more by virtue of the confidence and indorsement of the great Australian electorates. Surely we are not going to penalize those electorates by making those extraordinary exemptions in the way suggested so offhandedly by member after member ! We owe some duty to the Australian public. We occasionally pretend that we are elected in their interest; do not let us deliberately damage certain constituencies for the benefit of any constituency which happens to be fortunate enough to have so popular a man at a secret meeting of the Caucus that he becomesa Minister of the Crown.
There is also the important feature that Parliament used to be very zealous of the privileges of Ministers as representing the Crown. Things seem to have entirely swept round ; we are now anxious to give the King’s representatives more powers than are possessed by’ the humble representatives of the people. This is a very serious constitutional change that has been gradually going on, not only in this Parliament, but in all Parliaments. Instead of the King’s power, which is the power of the Executive, being religiously watched by Parliament, we have the curious spectacle of Ministers, who, after all, are the King-
– Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair? .
– I am speaking of the exemption which places further power in the hands of the Crown, through the King’s advisers, who are given a latitude of speech twice that enjoyed by an ordinary representative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
– Before the dinner adjournment I was referring to the constitutional effects of this proposal, and I would now point out that constitutional amendments are treated as of less importance than Bills or the Address-in-Reply. In my opinion, a constitutional amendment is about the most important step that this House could consider; “and I humbly suggest that it is not wise to “ gag “ a proposal to that end. When all is said and done, this House has already “ gagged “ its procedure so far as the outside public are concerned. Honorable members are placed in serious difficulties in their propaganda work, especially in the case of new representatives in any constituency; and, further, we have “ gagged “ and prevented the press from dealing with the discussion of political subjects during elections.
– Order ; the honorable member must confine himself to the question.
– And now we have a proposal to “ gag “ the Federal Parliament, and prevent it educating the public of Australia on public questions.
– I rise to support the amendment of the honorable member for Wimmera. I have always been in favour of short speeches.
This House is almost, I may say, degraded in the eyes of the country by the terrible waste of time that goes on. My experience of Parliament, which now extends over ten years, is that the work of the session is pretty well done in the last few days. Prior to that we make long speeches which weary not only honorable members, but everbody in the country; the people get perfectly sick of the whole thing. That is the reason why I have always maintained on the platform that there ought to be some curtailment of speeches. Nowadays we have short sermons; no one is expected to listen in church for longer than twentyfive minutes, and it needs a most excellent clergyman - and clergymen realize the fact - to rivet the attention of a congregation for any longer time, notwithstanding the fact that the subject is much wider than any we deal with here. In the old days sermons used to last for an hour and a half ; we all know the story of Dean Ramsay about the occasion when every member of the congregation was asleep but the idiot - in every Scots church there is an idiot. The Dean called the attention of the congregation to the fact that the idiot was setting a good example by keeping awake, but the idiot called out, “ If I hadna’ been an idiot I’d ha’ been asleep too.” That is the way I often feel in Parliament; that if I were not an idiot I would go to sleep. Indeed, I often wish I could sleep through some of the lengthened “ sweetness long drawn out,” because it would be a great relief, and the debate would get on just as well as if I . were awake. The main theoretical argument against the motion is that of freedom ; ‘ but do we get freedom by unrestricted liberty to talk at any length on any subject? In every other walk of life we realize that unrestricted liberty is impossible, and we ought also to realize that in debate, unrestricted liberty degenerates into licence. In every other walk of life we are subject to restrictions ; and’ in this House, in the matter of debate, members ought to be restricted in acertain way. I like the suggestion of the honorable member for Wimmera, because it affords an opportunity to try a plan. On the second-reading debates the amendment gives absolute freedom; and we might see how it works, in view of the fact that it has been tried in other parts of the world. During the first few months of the session we have to fill in time, and we rake up from Hansard speeches of twenty years ago to prove that some one or other is not a consistent politician.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the question.
– I thought I was illustrating my argument ; at any rate, honorable members seem to agree with me. I only desire to point out that the consistent politician can scarcely be said to exist, or to be possible. Sir Julius Vogel described the consistent politician as either an inspired prophet, or an unspeakable idiot. Nobody here is an unspeakable idiot, and I do not think that any one, with the exception, perhaps, of the Minister of Home Affairs, is a prophet. I feel quite sure that we shall have greater freedom if we have a limited restriction of the sort proposed, which applies as we may term it, only to the “ first round.” Members will have the opportunity to put their views clearly ; and I believe the outside public will take far more interest in what we are doing.
. -Inmy opinion the House posseses sufficient powers now to deal with abuses of the Standing Orders in regard to debate.
– If the Government will not take the responsibility of using those powers, why make the House do so?
– The Opposition, when in power, were not. squeamish on the point, and I think they went too far.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter now.
– As I say, the Government have full powers now, powers that I should have used if I had a majority behind me. For instance, I think that the Leader of the Opposition might have been stopped when he had been speaking two hours on a particular point ; and the same may be said of the honorable member for Mernda.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter now.
– My opposition to the proposal is a matter of selfpreservation in the future. I am looking forward to a time, in the next tenyears, when all the members of the Opposition are reposing in the earth, and I am a crusted old Conservative over there, facing Treasury benches filled with full-blown Socialists. That is what we shall undoubtedly see about that time, and I feel that, sitting in Opposition, I should not like to be “gagged,”as I am afraid the then Go vernment might “ gag “ me. I hope that, although the Ministry have taken this matter up, it is not to be made a party question. I shall vote against both motion and amendment reserving to myself the right, if at any stage the question be made a party one, to vote with my party.. We have heard a good deal up to the present about the debate on the AddressinReply, and on the want-of -confidence motion, being a waste of time. I deny it. I recognised the necessity of debates of that character when I was in Opposition, and took full advantage of them. I believe it is essential, in the interests of good legislation and of the public generally, that such opportunities should be given for. debate, even though some people may consider them a waste of time.
Question - That the words proposed tobe added be so added (Mr. Sampson’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority …… 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I desire now to move what is, in effect, the proposal of the Standing Orders Committee, with the exception of the concluding paragraph - I refer to the one providing that the House may extend the time of any speaker.. I move -
That the following words be added - “ That the following be adopted as a standing order of this House :
In a debate in the House, a member shall not speak’ for more than one hour at a time :
Provided that in moving the second reading of a Bill, or in the debate on the second reading of the Appropriation Bill, or in the debate on the Address-in-Reply or on a motion of ‘ No Confidence,’ a member may speak for :an hour and a half.
In Committee of the House, a member shall -not speak for more than fifteen minutes at a time, or more than four times on any one question :
Provided that this rule shall not apply in Com.mittee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or (in regard to the number of speeches) -to a Minister in charge of a Division of the Estimates in Committee of Supply :
Provided further that in the debate in Committee on the Financial Statement, a member may speak once for an hour and a half.”
– I rise to a point of order. I- submit that the House has already decided in the negative the first part of the honorable member’s proposal, and that, therefore, so much of it must be ruled out of order. The House has declared against any limitation of ‘speeches in the House.
– How can it, when the original motion still stands on the businesspaper ?
– The House has just decided the first part of the honorable -member’s proposal in the negative.
– The House voted on the amendment of the honorable member for “Wimmera.
– That was in substance the same, and the House cannot stultify itself by voting again upon a ques.tion that has already been decided.
– The objection taken by the honorable member for Parramatta is fatal to that portion of the amendment of the honorable member for Cook with which the House has already dealt. The House has just decided against that proposal by an overwhelming majority, and there must be finality somewhere. There is nothing definite to guide me in this matter, but that is the ruling which I give. If, of course, the House likes to decide otherwise, that is another matter ; it is the business of the House to make its procedure what it thinks proper. I rule the first portion of the amendment of the honorable member for Cook out of order.
– On a point of order, may I ask you to amplify the position in which you have now placed the House?
– The honorable member, sir, is attempting to discuss your ruling.
– I wish- to ascertain whether I am taking the correct view of the position in which the House is placed?
– That is not a point of order.
– May I be permitted to ask a question?
– I think that we are desirous of ridding ourselves of an apparent tangle.
– Is there anything before the Chair, Mr. Speaker?
– The PostmasterGeneral has intimated that he desires to ask me a question.
– The honorable member for Franklin has submitted a motion to which an amendment was proposed by the honorable member for Gwydir, and was rejected by the House-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the asking of a question.
– Then I should like to know how we are to proceed at this stage?
– It is not for Mr. Speaker to tell the Government.
– We are not going to allow the honorable member, at all events, to tell us what to do.
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have taken into consideration the fact that some words have been added by the honorable member for Cook to that portion of the amendment which has been rejected?
– I took that point into consideration, and was careful to explain the position to the House. In regard to this matter we have to follow the procedure adopted in dealing with the clauses of a Bill in Committee. The Standing Orders, as well as parliamentary procedure, fortify me in the position I have taken up, and, in the circumstances, the only course open to honorable members is to move, if they so desire, that my ruling be disagreed with.
– Shall I be in order, sir, in moving now that your ruling be disagreed with?
– The honorable member must give notice in writing of his intention to move that my ruling be disagreed with, and the motion will be taken into consideration to-morrow.
– Very well, sir, I shall do so.
– I beg to suggest a way out of the difficulty.
– I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, if there is any question before the Chair.
– The question before the Chair is the original motion proposed by the honorable member for Franklin.
.- I move, as a further amendment -
That the following words be added - “ That the following be adopted as a standing order of this House : - ‘ No member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of No Confidence, or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill or on the Financial Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and thirty-five minutes. In Committee of the House no member shall speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one time, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee : Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.’ “
– On a point of order I submit that standing order 125 covers a case of the kind now before us. It provides that -
No question or amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question which during the same session has been resolved in the affirmative or negative.
I submit that a variation to the extent of five minutes, in the proposed time allowance, does not make the amendment now proposed, by the honorable member for Grey, different in substance from that which has just been negatived, and that it is, therefore, out of order.
– On the point of order, sir, I wish to direct attention to the fact that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera was practically the same as that moved by the honorable member for Gwydir and rejected; by the House, the only difference being; in regard to the question of time. In substance it was precisely the same.
– The principle was the same.
– The principle was the same, but there was a difference in the matter of time.
– The question of time is the, whole substance of the proposal.
– The question of limiting the speeches of honorable members to a particular time was identical > in both, cases, and I submit that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grey is in order, in view of the fact that in the matter of the time limit which is proposed it is different from that of the honorable member for Wimmera.
– The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grey is -
That the following be added as a standing order of this House : - “ No member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes at a time in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or in a debate on a motion of No Confidence, or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the debate on the Appropriation Bill, or on the Financiaf Statement in Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and thirtyfive minutes. In Committee of the House no member shall speak for more than fifteen minutes at any one time, or more than four times on any one question before the Committee; provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when delivering the Financial Statement, or, in regard to the number of his. speeches, to a Minister in charge of a Class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.
It will be seen . that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grey is entirely different from that with which the House has just dealt. It is different,, not only in regard to the time allowance proposed, but in the fact that it adds; another paragraph, placing a time limit on speeches made in. Committee. It .proposes a time limit applying to speeches made in Committee, as well as in the House, so that it is different entirely from the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wimmera.
– It is not different from the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Cook.
– It differs from that proposal in regard to the time limit proposed. The honorable member for Parramatta has taken the objection that, under standing order 125, this amendment cannot be proposed, since it is substantially the same as that which has already been negatived. It differs, however, as I have already shown, from that amendment.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The honorable member must remain silent while the Speaker is addressing the House. In these circumstances, I must rule-
– Before you give your ruling, sir, I should like to ask whether you are quite sure that the latter portion of the proposed amendment is different
– I understand the position exactly. My original ruling was in respect of the former, and not the latter, portion of the proposal. The question now submitted by the honorable member for Grey is different from that which was previously before the Chair, and I rule that it is in order.
– I rise to a further point of order. A Committee has been constituted for the purpose of dealing with the Standing Orders under which this House is governed, and that Committee has presented a report to this House. The usual procedure in regard to the report of a Select Committee is to give notice of intention to move that it be agreed to, and the Standing Orders have been amended in that way on different occasions. In 1905, for instance, a proposed new standing order in regard to lapsed Bills was made the subject of a report to the House by the Standing Orders Committee, and some little time later, upon notice of motion, the consideration of that report was proceeded with, and a specific motion submitted. On another occasion the closure resolutions were framed, and notice of motion was given that the Standing Orders be so amended as to embody them. On the present oc casion we have before us a motion by the honorable member for Franklin -
That in order to secure the despatch of business and the good government of the Commonwealth, the Standing Orders of this House should be immediately amended in the direction of placing a time ‘limit on the speeches delivered by honorable members in the House and in Committee.
That motion, if carried, would not of itself amend the Standing Orders; it would simply be a direction to the Standing Orders Committee to take the matter into consideration. The amendment now proposed by the honorable member for Grey, however, would have the effect of amending the Standing Orders, although it has been introduced without notice of any kind. 1 submit that it is irrelevant to the motion itself, and that it is, in effect, an evasion of the procedure of the House, inasmuch as it seeks to secure, without notice of motion, an amendment of the Standing Orders.
– Is it not rather late to raise such an objection ?
– I submit that, if the amendment will have the effect of a standing order, it is irrelevant to the motion, and, therefore, should not be accepted.
– As a point of order, I submit that the latter part of the amendment, from the words “ in Committee of the House,” was embraced in the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir.
– That objection has nothing to do with the point raised by the honorable member for Darling Downs.
– Do I understand’ that if the amendment be rejected it will be open to an honorable member to move that the time be one hour and thirty-six minutes,, and so on, ad infinitum ?
– I shall answer that question when the occasion to do so arises. The point of the honorable member for Darling Downs is that the amendment is out of order because notice of the intentionto amend the Standing Orders has not been given, and the motion, if amended as proposed, and carried, would have the force of a standing order. I am of opinion that if the motion be amended as proposed, and. carried, it will have the full force of a standing order ; but the amendment is none the less relevant to the motion. The honorable member for Franklin asks the Houseto affirm the desirability of placing a time limit upon speeches, and the amendment provides for a time limit. The House is-
Asked to say that this proposal shall be a standing order.
– No notice has been given of an intention to amend the Standing Orders.
– That is not necessary. By the decision of an absolute majority of the House, such a motion could have been moved without notice. In this case, an absolute majority is not required. The motion is in order, and the amendment is relevant to it, carrying into effect what the motion affirms to be desirable. I rule that the amendment is in order, and that, if carried, it will have the full force of a standing order.
– I submit another point. The Standing Orders provide clearly that they cannot be suspended or set aside except on a specific motion, and I submit, therefore, that they cannot be set aside, in this indirect way. . They are the Orders of the House until suspended or set aside or amended by a specific motion. No such motion has been moved. Until there is a specific, motion to amend the Standing Orders, they must continue in force as they are. If the amendment, when carried, is also to have the force of a standing order, we shall have two rules for the conduct of business that are contradictory. Clearly a formal motion for the amendment of the Standing Orders is required in this case.
– I have ruled that the amendment is in order.
– On a point of order, I would mention a matter that has apparently been overlooked, and that is that the latter part of the proposed amendment has been -negatived by the House.
– I have ruled on that point. If the honorable member disagrees -with the ruling, he may move to dissent from it.
– I believe, sir, that your decision is not a correct one, and therefore :give the following notice -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey is in order, be disagreed to, on the ground that the said amendment is the same in substance as the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir, and defeated on the voices.
– I point out that I “have not ruled on the point dealt with in this notice of motion to dissent. The motion itself will be dealt with to-morrow.
– I rose to ask your ruling on that point, sir, a few moments ago.
– I intend to submit a notice of a motion to dissent from your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– I shall not occupy much time, as this question has been pretty well threshed out. My desire in moving the amendment is to have a test division on a proposal which is practically the same as that of the honorable member for Wimmera. I have no wish to repeat what has been said in the many speeches that have been made this afternoon or were made last night. If honorable members would only practise a little self-denial, and show more consideration to each other, it would not be necessary to occupy time in the consideration of a proposal of this kind. It is notorious that some honorable members make very long speeches, and the practice is a growing one, the same members offending on nearly every occasion. In this way other members who would like to speak are prevented from doing so.
.- I cannot help thinking that the time has come for the Prime Minister to seriously ask himself whether the present conduct of business is in accordance with the dignity of the Chamber. If the amendment be carried, we shall have a standing order declaring that a member may not speak for more than one hour and five minutes, or one hour and thirty-five minutes, and every person who reads our Standing Orders will ask how we came to adopt such extraordinary times. This decision, if come to, will advertise our bungling and juggling wherever parliamentary government is known. The right method of procedure is laid down in the Standing Orders. It is by the action of the Prime Minister in giving Government time for the discussion of the motion of the honorable member for Franklin that we have got into this position, and I suggest that it would be better to proceed with Government business.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question before the Chair?
– I suggest that the amendment could be better considered on another occasion, when we shall be free to adopt a more sensible limit than one hour and five minutes. Can the right honorable member give a reason why the period fixed should be one hour and five minutes rather than one hour and six minutes, or one hour and seven minutes? I am sorry that a member so well versed in the Standing Orders has used his talent to frame an amendment in the carrying of which the House will stultify itself. After two days’ discussion, we have before us a proposal for a limitation of one hour and five minutes, a period exactly five minutes longer than one which was rejected on the voices ! Not only is the amendment foolish in itself, but it will give the House an advertisement which we should be very loth to accept. We shall be judged by our Standing Orders, and that now proposed will make us the laughingstock of British parliamentary institutions throughout the world. I ask whether it is not the bad management of business, rather than the length of the speeches, that wastes time in this House.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has handed me the following notice of motion -
That Mr. Speaker’s ruling that the amendment of the honorable member for Grey is in order be disagreed to, on the ground that the said amendment is the same in substance as the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir, and defeated on the voices.
In view of the notices of motion to dissent from my ruling which have been handed in by the honorable members for Capricornia and Parramatta, I think that it would be well to adjourn this debate until to-morrow.
– I sympathize very much with the effort to curtail unnecessarily long speeches. A member must be very diffuse, or have a great many ideas, if he is unable to compress those ideas into an hour’s speech. It is quite obvious that if one or two honorable members take up four or five hours of a sitting they will have said nearly everything there is to be said on a subject ; while others who do not wish to repeat arguments already used are shut out of the debate. But while favorable to reform, I think we are not going quite in the right direction. The Government, when moving the second reading of a Bill, ought to say that the debate will be allowed to continue for a certain length of time. A. similar step might be taken in Committee, an intimation being given that the discussion on the various clauses up to a certain clause, shall cease at a specified time. That, I believe, is the practice in the House of Commons when the whole business is very often closured at the time appointed. Personally, I am out of sympathy with any proposal which gives one member any advantage, privilege, or right over any other honorable member
– Does not the closure do that?
– I do not think so. The essence of democratic government is that every man comes into the House with equal privileges and rights. While it may be necessary to give some predominance to a member occupying a Ministerial position, there should be no striking departure from fundamental principles. If that were done, look at the position in which constituencies would be placed. A constituency represented by a Minister would have a great advantage over one represented by a private member, and who may have a good case to make out- ‘
– And, perhaps, represents a larger constituency.
– The constituency may be larger or smaller, but he is absolutely suppressed. We ought not to enlarge the privileges or rights of any section of honorable members over another section. I have a suggestion to make which I think will get over the difficulty of a majority suppressing a minority at any time. It was very truly said last night that if a Minister desired an extension of time he always had a majority behind him to grant the request, whereas an honorable member on the Opposition benches might, for party reasons, be deprived of a similar extension. My suggestion is that whenever an honorable member desires an extension of time the Prime Minister, or other Minister in charge, shall move to that effect, and the Leader of the Opposition, or some one deputed by him for that purpose, shall second the motion. That will deprive the proposal of .anything in the nature of a party character, and enable everybody to get fair play. This suggestion might very fairly be taken into consideration. It will prevent a majority from silencing a member on the other side, as it is now in the power of a majority to do, and as a majority would be able to do to a greater extent under the proposed standing order.
. - I hope the House will not adopt the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Grey- I do not wish to reflect on the Standing Orders Committee ; but I feel that the proposed amendment of the Standing Orders has been rushed before us. The framing of a standing order requires a good deal of careful consideration not only in itself, but in connexion with all the other standing orders. I regret to say that there is one serious defect in the proposed standing order; and1
I mention the matter now because, according to the ruling of Mr. Speaker, this amendment, if passed, becomes a standing order. There is a difficulty in the proposed standing order which is very serious. If the House decided to review the Customs Tariff of Australia, the Minister of Trade and Customs, in introducing it would, ‘ according to the proposed standing order, be limited to fifteen minutes. Does the honorable member for Grey intend that ? When we were dealing with the last Tariff, and discussing the important question of the sugar industry, can it be imagined that the honorable member for Capricornia, or the honorable member for Herbert, could have dealt with any proposed amendment in fifteen minutes? Such a thing is utterly hopeless and impossible.
– An honorable member may speak . four times in Committee, and fifteen minutes each time.
– Then we should have the position that the Prime Minister, in Committee, would deal for fifteen minutes with the question from the producer’s point of view, and be followed by several other speakers each for a similar period; then, in order to deal with another aspect, he would occupy a second fifteen minutes, followed by other honorable members as before, and so on right through the debate. If it were a question vital to the existence of the sugar industry of Queensland, I defy the Prime Minister or any other honorable member to do justice to the subject in four periods of fifteen minutes each. Could the honorable member for Melbourne, when dealing with the important question of piece-goods, exhaustively, have treated it in fifteen minutes? Could the Postmaster-General deal with the effect of the Tariff on mining machinery in so limited a time? It is frequently in Committee on the Financial Statement that Governments are challenged. In the Old Country, it was on an individual item of the Estimates that a Government went out.
– It was on one clause of a Bill that a Government went out of office in this House.
– Exactly; I am glad the honorable member recognises the seriousness of the position in view of what occurred when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was before us. The only point then, discussed was whether State public servants should be included within the operation of the Bill. That involved most serious legal arguments, and the matter was be fore the High Court for some days. In the Court they had to deal only with the legal question, whereas we here have to consider policy as well. It would be hopeless to attempt to deal with such questions in the Committee stage in the limited time proposed. I hope this is the last time we shall attempt to amend the Standing Orders in this way, but that, in the future, instead of an amendment being tacked on to a private member’s motion, those in charge of the House will give due notice by placing a motion on the business-paper. On the whole, I regard the proposed amendment of the Standing Orders as likely to utterly miscarry,- and reduce the utility and efficiency of this Parliament ; and I hope it will be rejected.
– There is a humourous side to all this little bit of fury, and not the least humourous is the suggestion of the honorable member for Darling Downs. The honorable member hopes that no such proposal in the future will be tacked on to a motion by a private member. What is the private member’s motion ? The honorable member for Franklin in his motion declares -
That in order to secure the despatch of business and the good government of the Commonwealth, the Standing Orders of this House should be immediately amended in the direction of placing a time limit on the speeches delivered by honorable members in the House and in Committee.
Honorable members on both sides apparently seem to be in a mood to demand a restriction of the liberty that each individual member has to discuss at large any question. This motion was on the noticepaper, and a convenient opportunity was afforded by the Government to have it brought forward - not as a party matter at all.
– But as soon as the Government saw the motion they went for it like a shark at a piece of pork !
– The elegant language of the honorable member is overwhelming on occasions. An opportunity was taken by the Government to convene the Standing Orders Committee, hurriedly I admit. The Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition attended, as I did myself, with a colleague. The Committee arrived, again rather hurriedly, at a draft amendment, hoping it would meet the situation, and would be carried into effect immediately as declared by the motion. The urgency of the matter was in the mind of the Committee; and, in my opinion, we discerned the mind of honorable members generally when we submitted the recommendation.
– Where is the urgency?
– The urgency was shown by the extreme length of speeches in the debate just closed.
– Thankyou for that !
– There isa general necessity for putting some limit on speeches, so as to enable all honorable members to have an opportunity to address themselves to the House, just as do honorable members who are called upon earlier. As to the merits of the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee, and the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grey, I think these fairly cover the ground. I fully admit the accuracy of the point taken by the honorable member for Darling Downs, so far as concerns discussions in Committee of Ways and Means. There is, undoubtedly, an oversight in the proposal in that regard ; but oversights will arise from time to time. This, however, was only a proposal laying down a general basic principle, and the desire was that, so far as concerns speeches in the House, and general speeches in Committee, we should try to impose some limitation in an immediate way, so as’ to get more control over the speeches of honorable members than we have at the present time. I should like to commend to the House your suggestion, sir, that, owing to your ruling being challenged in a proper way-
– If you pull out now you have got no backbone.
– You, Mr. Speaker, have made a suggestion, and no one in my position could do otherwise than listen to, and give full weight to it.
– Mr. Speaker does not rule the House; you are the Leader of the House.
– Rather than have the debate adjourned and time wasted, I ask the leave of the House to withdraw the motion.
– The difficulty is that there is still a motion moved by the honorable member for Capricornia. Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member for Parramatta have leave to withdraw his motion ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Leave is granted.
– It seems to me that the Standing Orders are for the protection, of the minority. You have given a ruling, in which you may be right or wrong. An amendment was before the Chamber earlier in the evening, and was defeated on the voices.
– The honorable member must do one thing or the other - allow the motion to stand or withdraw it.
– I suggest that the Prime Minister should ask the House to pass on to the next business. The House is not in a humour to deal with this question.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the question.
– I was only anxious to pour a little oil on the troubled waters.
– I am not sure now whether or not the honorable member for Capricornia withdrew his motion.
– As the’ House does not seem very anxious to stick to its Standing Orders, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
– Has the honorable member leave to withdraw his motion?
Honorable Members. - No !
– As the honorable member for Darling Downs pointed out, the proposed standing order is incomplete, but it is not beyond amendment. Indeed, the honorable member was good enough to draft an amendment which could be incorporated in it without any difficulty, if honorable members desire to pass any restrictive rule at all. So far as regards the position taken up by the honorable member for Parramatta, as to the Government bringing down a standing order and passing it through the House, the Government, will not hesitate to do so if the occasion requires it. It has, however, been suggested that the Government, with the knowledge of the honorable member for Franklin, connived at the honorable member’s motion being brought forward. The honorable member for Franklin knows that that is not so.
– Who suggested that?
– It has been suggested by innuendo three or four times from the Opposition side of the House, that a private member had been made a vehicle to do the business that ought to have been done by the Government.
– May I say here that I consulted no one?
– I cannot say the same of myself, because I consulted the Standing Orders Committee. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Parramatta were present, and the honorable member for Parramatta knows exactly what his views were then and now. It is not for me to say what took place there. There are some honorable members, notwithstanding all that has been said, who are not in favour of any restriction at all. We must respect the opinions of those who hold that view. I do not, generally, favour any restriction on discussion.
– We have been too hasty about the whole matter.
– May I remind the honorable member for Angas that the honorable member for Franklin proposed that action should be taken immediately ; and the only way to take it immediately was to bring on the motion at the first opportune time. Further discussion has developed the idea that an attempt has been made on the part of the Government party to restrict the opportunities of members in Opposition. That is not so; and I shall be no party, either in my present position, or in any Other, to any attempt to restrict the rights of representatives in this Chamber.
– Then why this motion ?
-Because I believe it will give greater liberty to the representatives of the people here. Under the present Standing Orders your power, Mr. Speaker, to regulate the length of a speech is practically nil. I do not know that you could prevent any member speaking for a whole week on end. The question is : Should there be any limit to the length of speeches? If so,- what time should be allowed? I showed last night that the New Zealand Parliament worked extremely well with limits of half-an-hour, and one hour, respectively.
– New Zealand does wot possess the closure standing orders as well.
– The question of the existence of the closure, in addition to this proposal, is quite outside the scope of this discussion. Moreover, in New Zealand the motion for the third reading of a Bill is put without debate. Here we have ample opportunity for full discussion on the third reading, and this affords the Opposition an opportunity to bring the whole of the salient facts regarding a measure before ihe public in a manner in which they could not possibly be put forward at any other stage of the Bill. We, therefore, have much greater privileges than have New Zealand members. There are other reasons why one hour and one hour and a half respectively should be ample. I am not at all wedded to the last paragraph, which permits a majority of the House to direct that a member may be further heard.
– That is not included in my amendment.
– The House might, before this sitting concludes, come to some definite conclusion on this question. Ample discussion to enable every one to make up his mind has taken place. Let us, therefore, test the question now, and if it is necessary later on, whoever has control of the House will have to submit certain propositions to meet the case.
– Will the Prime Minister tell us whether he is of the same opinion now as he was at the beginning of his speech - that it would be advisable to adjourn the debate in deference to the wishes of Mr. Speaker?
– That question does not call for any answer. The answer to it was given by the honorable member for Parramatta, who withdrew his motion, and from the honorable member for Capricornia. I said, and say again, that any one in my position who would disregard the slightest hint from you, Mr. Speaker, would be quite unworthy of that position, and I am quite sure that I have the Opposition generally with me in that attitude. At any rate, it is not a matter that can be canvassed at all. I trust that before the close of the sitting the House will determine this subject, one way or the other.
– 1 move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the word “ fifteen,” and inserting in lieu thereof the word “ thirty.”
I shall afterwards move to insert in lieu of the words “four times” the word “twice.” I explained the advantages of this proposal when speaking earlier in the evening. It relates to the number and length of speeches in Committee. It will be in the interests of the proper discussion of measures in Committee to confine members to two speeches of not more than thirty minutes each, instead of four speeches of fifteen minutes each. It is unreasonable to ask any honorable member who has made a special study of a clause of a Bill, or is fairly well informed on it, to confine himself to fifteen minutes. Half-an-hour would give him a reasonable opportunity to put his views before the Committee. If we shorten the time of speeches in. an unreasonable manner - and I think a quarterofanhour is unreasonable - it will have a tendency to lower the tone of the debating in this House, and that is what I am most anxious to guard against. I believe in a reasonable limit. I certainly think that some members of the Standing Orders Committee ought to be prepared to defend the proposals of the Committee on the floor of the House. I do not say that the Standing Orders Committee ought necessarily to fight for the adoption of their proposals, but they certainly ought to be prepared to give the House a lead on a subject’ of this kind. They should say : ‘ ‘ These are our proposals ; if you do not like them, throw them out.”
– Is not that what I suggested last night?
– I do not know, but it has occurred to me during this debate that there should be in this House some one to speak on behalf of the Standing Orders Committee. We should then be in a better position than we are to deal with a matter of this kind. Honorable members have been chosen to sit on the Standing Orders Committee because of their long experience, and it is only natural that we should pay great deference to their opinions, although we should not be prepared to be bound by their decisions any more than we should be ready to allow ourselves to be bound by the decision of any other body. The want of a spokesman in the House on behalf of the Standing Orders Committee has certainly had something to do with the state of semi-chaos into which we have been driven.
.- I rise only to suggest that, perhaps, it would be well to refrain from passing any specific motion to accomplish that which seems now to be the general desire of the House. We have scarcely had time to consider the effect of the several proposals that have been made, and I think it would be well, at this stage, not to do more than agree to the motion submitted by the honorable member for Franklin. If that motion were carried, it would serve as a general direction to the Standing Orders Committee, and by means of a conference honorable members could arrive at a determination which could be embodied in a motion and adopted. Do honorable members seriously think that we have discussed each of these propositions ontheir merits ?
– I think that halfanhour ought to be long enough for any honorable member to give expression to hisviews.
– My candid opinion is that the chastening influence of this debate upon the tempers of honorable members will be perceptible later on. We should be careful how we act in regard to a proposal of this sort, which, if adopted, will tell very seriously against the liberty of private members. If my suggestion were agreed1 to, we should be able to arrive at some moderate way of imposing a check uponthe loquacity of honorable members,, although I, personally, do not think it will be necessary to do so.
.- I support the honorable member for Hindmarsh in his desire that an honorable member should be allowed to speak to a question in Committee for thirty minutes at a time, but I do not agree with his proposal that a member shall be allowed to speak only twice on any one question. In Committee members have not the same opportunity to roam all over a proposal, so to» speak, that they have during a secondreading debate in the House. They have to keep to the particular question before the Chair, and in speaking to that question are not likely to waste time. If this further amendment were agreed to, an honorable member who had spoken for five minutes on a certain clause of a Bill, and whofound it necessary a quarter of an hour later to speak for another five minutes,, would thereafter have to remain silent, although he might desire to make an important proposal to the Committee.
– Some of his colleaguescould take up the running on his behalf.
– Picture the spectacle of an honorable member rushing about the chamber, in such circumstances, to findsome one to ventilate his opinions on a certain question. I hope that the honorable member will not persist in his proposal that a member shall not be allowed to speak more than twice on any one question in. Committee.
.- I amnot one of those upon whom the proposed’ standing order is likely to have any effect, since I have not thai eloquence that taxes, honorable members in the matter of endurance. T cannot help thinking, however, that just as a lawyer is able to drive the proverbial coach and four through any Act of Parliament, so an astute Parliamentarian can circumvent any standing order that is framed. I doubt very much whether this proposed standing order will be as efficacious as some expect it will be. I am pleased that those who have preceded me have insisted that there should be more freedom with regard to the work done in Committee than is suggested by the propositions put before us. There is no doubt that the real work of Parliament is done in Committee, and, as the honorable member for Capricornia has just indicated, the rules of debate give the Chairman of Committees a power which you, Mr. Speaker, cannot very well exercise in connexion with the wider issues that are discussed in the House. It is the duty of the Chairman of Committees to keep honorable members to the point immediately under discussion, and if any honorable member does not unduly repeat himself in discussing any clause in a Bill, it is reasonable to assume that he is entitled, in the interests of the country, to speak without any limitation whatever. Even halfanhour would not be sufficient in some cases to enable honorable members in Committee to deal with certain subjects. I have listened in Committee to speeches extending over half-an-hour, not one word of which was superfluous, every sentence being of value to the country. We have coming before us this session measures which, at the Committee stage, will necessarily involve speeches extending over more than halfanhour. In the Navigation Bill, for instance, there are some clauses of a very sweeping and far-reaching character - clauses which could not be dealt with by any one specially interested within the half-hour limit proposed. In view of the fact that the work of Parliament is really done in Committee, and that there is very little tendency, so far as my experience goes, to make unnecessarily long speeches at that stage of our proceedings, I think the least we can do is to leave honorable members absolutely free in that respect. The practice of the Imperial Parliament has been quoted, but I should be very sorry to see it introduced in this Legislature. We all know that a private member in the House of Commons is becoming a mere cypher, and that an absolutely autocratic power is exercised by the Executive - a feature which is deplored by all who have given attention to the state of affairs prevailing in connexion with the Mother of Parliaments. I do not wish to see such a condition of affairs arising in this House. I do not desire that a member of this Parliament shall be reduced to the insignificant proportions of his colleague at Westminster, and in view of the genuineness of the work which is done in Committee, I shall oppose any proposal to impose any limitation upon speeches made at that stage of our proceedings.
– The suggestion made by the honorable member for Angas is a wise one, and ought to be ‘adopted. We ought to affirm the proposal in its baldest form, and leave the Standing Orders Committee, after it has gone through the Standing Orders, to bring down a full and complete proposition for regulation as well as closure. I am afraid that honorable members do not know for what the Standing Orders already provide. Many of them have never been put into force, and they are certainly very stringent. Our liberties are already curtailed in a way that is not common to other Houses of Parliament to which reference has been made. In the New Zealand Parliament, for instance, the motion that an honorable member shall discontinue his speech cannot be moved, nor can a question be closured. Members of that Parliament also have privileges in connexion with the first reading of a Bill which we do not possess. Under our Standing Orders no discussion is permissible on a motion “ That the debate be now adjourned,” on a motion in Committee “ That the Chairman report progress,” or “ That the Chairman do now leave the chair “ ; nor is it permissible to discuss a motion to reinstate on the notice-paper any business that has lapsed. Honorable members are not aware of the way in which their privileges have already been cut down, and we have now a further attack upon them. If this amendment be carried, we shall have the severest set of closure Standing Orders that exists.
– How do they manage in the Parliament of Switzerland, where three different languages are spoken?
– I am talking about the closure and the limitation of debate, and I contend that if this amendment be carried we shall have the severest set of closure Standing Orders in the world.
– That is the honorable member’s opinion.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member can confute what I have said. That would be much better than a mere denial. We are told, on the authority of the Prime Minister, that the proposed system works well in New Zealand. It certainly works very well for the Government of the Dominion, which, until its recent defeat, had been in office for twenty-one years. The Opposition had been, so to speak, in the wilderness during the whole of that time, squelched, stifled, and prevented from seriously discussing questions. For the last ten or twelve years the New Zealand Government has used its powers autocratically. I do not call that working well. I wish to reply to what the honorable member for Gippsland has said in regard to the application of the ‘ ‘ gag. ‘ ‘ He gave the dates on which the “ gag “ was put into operation during last Parliament, mentioning the length of the preceding debates, but he did not say anything about the wilful and deliberate obstruction that took place.
– The honorable member must not enter upon the discussion of that matter. It has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I am entitled to correct the statements which have been made
– The honorable member for Gippsland gave the dates on which the closure was applied.
– And the length of the debates which preceded its application.
– The honorable member for Gippsland did not comment on the facts, and the honorable member for Parramatta may not do so.
– The honorable member’s statement was a misrepresentation of the facts.
– If I allowed the honorable member for Parramatta to discuss the matter, another honorable member might desire to reply to him, and a debate would arise concerning things that happened two or three years ago, while the question before the Chair would be lost sight of altogether.
– Am I not allowed to state facts? Has it come to this, that a series of statements may be made by one member, and cannot be put right by another?
– The honorable member for Gippsland, so far as my recollection serves, did not comment ; he merely gave dates, and mentioned the length of debates. The honorable member for Par ramatta desires to go further. He can deal with these matters only so far as they are relevant to the question before the Chair.
– 1 am amazed to hear your statement, sir, as to what the honorable member for Gippsland said.
– Chair !
– I wish to claim my rights from the Chair. I hope I may do that. We are not in caucus now. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to me personally, and declared that I had closured a member after he had uttered only two words. May I not put the circumstances before the House?
– The honorable member must address the Chair courteously. I ask him to do so. I did not understand the honorable member for Gippsland to refer to him.
– He mentioned me by name.
– I did not hear him do so, but if he did he was distinctly out of order. Under the circumstances, the proper course for the honorable member for Parramatta to follow is to make a personal explanation. I cannot allow him to discuss the matter now.
– I do not wish to discuss the matter, but I claim-
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question before the Chair?
– I am going to do it so far as you will permit me. May I hope that you will treat me a little respectfully, as I hope to treat you.
– I do not like to have a personal altercation with an honorable member, but I have allowed the honorable member for Parramatta to go as far as he can be permitted to go under the Standing Orders. He must not continue the course that he is following. If the honorable member for Gippsland did what the honorable member for Parramatta says he did he was out’ of order, and the honorable member for Parramatta may make a personal explanation, though not now.
– It comes to this, that a member may-
– The honorable member is about to reflect on the Chair. If he does so, I must take another course.
– If you, sir, would listen , to me, you would not be so hasty as you are.
– The honorable member is now departing from the ordinary rules of conduct. I have given him every latitude, and if he persists in following this course I shall have to take steps to protect the Chair.
– Do I understand you to rule that I may make no reference whatever to what has been said?
– I do not know what reference the honorable member wishes to make.
– The honorable member for Gippsland referred in detail to nearly every case in which the closure was applied last Parliament, mentioning instances in which I moved its application, and other instances in which the Prime Minister did likewise, giving details of the debates which preceded such action. I claim that he misrepresented the facts. Is there no way of replying to such a misrepresentation? I ask your ruling upon the point. I do not wish to comment ; I wish only to state facts.
– I must confess that I did not hear the honorable member for Gippsland make the statements to which the honorable member for Parramatta refers. If he did make them, he was distinctly out of order. There has been so much conversation to-night that I may not have heard him. The honorable member for Parramatta will be in order in making an explanation to show that he was misrepresented in some ‘ way, but were I to allow him to proceed now as he wishes to proceed, some other honorable member might wish to reply to him, and I should be unable to control the debate.
– I do not wish to do more than refer in two sentences to the facts to show how they should be stated. However, I bow to your ruling, and shall proceed with my speech. The next time that the honorable member for Gippsland produces his drawer full of papers, and quotes cases in detail, I shall be prepared for him. He has already done the same thing on three or four occasions. He rushes to his papers in every debate of this kind. His statement was a complete misrepresentation, and I hope that at the close of my speech I shall be permitted to make a personal explanation. There must be some rule under which a reply can be made to such statements as his.
– Since the honorable member for Gippsland spoke, two amendments have been moved. In any case, the honorable member for Parramatta would be out of order.
– There is in force a set of Standing Orders drastic in the extreme which has never been put into operation. What is now proposed is to throw upon you and the Chairman of Committees a responsibility which the Government refuses to take. A Government that will not use the forms of the House to get business through in a reasonable way is not worthy of the position it holds. In saying that, I speak with a knowledge of the practice of Governments in all civilized’ countries. The pressure ofbusiness causes the curtailment of speeches and of debate, but it is for the Government of the day, not for the officers of the House, to say what action shall be taken. It would throw the debates into confusion for them to intervene.
– Should it be a party question ?
– Should not the conduct of business be a party question?
– Should the length of time that a member may speak be made a party question?
– I am referring to the passing of Government business. Elsewhere the. length of speeches is largely regulated by party discipline. That is so in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister has referred to the practice of the New Zealand Parliament, which deals with the local affairs of a small State, and whose debates and functions furnish no parallel to ours. Members opposite would be the first to suffer if the proposed standing order were agreed to. When the last Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was under consideration, the honorable member for Newcastle on one Friday afternoon rose half-a-dozen times to furnish information, and suggest improvements. That he could not have done under the proposed new standing order. If the proposal before us be carried, honorable members opposite will be the first to rebel against it. They were responsible for the closure motions, but the moment the closure was imposed there was a great outcry. This proposal will fall upon their own heads, and will curtail the usefulness of Parliament. Many of the most important House of Commons debates take place in Committee. The celebrated cordite motion which displaced the Rosebery Government Was carried in Committee.
– Without debate.
– That particular motion may not have been debated, but there had been a general discussion on the Defence Estimates for two or three days previously.
– It was all arranged.
– There had been some days of hard-hitting debate prior to the carrying of the motion. Honorable members will recollect the Committee debate in this Chamber upon the inclusion of the» railway servants in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill some years ago. It caused the displacement of the Government. The question was debated, I think, .for some days in Committee. The proposal really means that many of our measures which affect profoundly the interests of the States, will be impossible of reasonable discussion in Committee. I am quite sure that such a standing order if passed will not last; honorable members opposite will be the first to- repeal it later on when they find how it cripples their powers. The referenda proposals will be before us ; and’ a nice prospect is here presented. The Attorney-General, who will be in charge, will be able to talk for ten hours if he so desires.
– There is no exemption under this particular proposal.
– The proposal provides that the rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill; so that the Attorney-General will be able to make speech after speech to the country, while nobody will be permitted to reply, except in a speech of a quarter of an hour. That is reducing matters to a ridiculous farce.
– The periods to be allowed in Committee will be two half -hours.
– That is a little better; but if there is to be any restriction, why should an honorable member not be permitted to utilize the whole hour at once on important questions such as that I have referred to? Very often the clause of a Bill contains the whole principle of a Bill, and many a time measures are taken into Committee, almost fro forma, because they are essentially Committee Bills. I am against legislating in this very hasty way. The proposal is not necessary ; and, at any rate, if we are to limit debate, the present closure rules ought to be revised. In no other country in the world are there such stringent closure rules, as well as the restriction of debate now contemplated. It is nothing to say that this sort of thing is done in New Zealand, and the other sort of thing is done in South Australia or Queensland ; we have the affairs of the nation to discuss, and if a man has an important speech to deliver in Committee, he ought not to have it cut into three or four snippets. There ought to be a well-considered proposal brought down. As I say, the closure provision should be revised’ by the Standing Orders Committee, and a general set of rules introduced to reasonably limit debate, while not preventing full discussion of important measures in Committee from time to time.
.- 1 hope we shall speedily come to a division. As to the honorable member for Parramatta, it is not what he says, but the nasty way he says it.
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them. The honorable member for Parramatta does not appear to know much about the proposal before us when he talks of four periods of fifteen minutes being allowed in Committee. In the Navigation Bill, there are 424 clauses, and I point out to the honorable member that, if he so desired, he could speak for two half-hours on each one of the clauses, and on every amendment that could be proposed on each clause. If the people outside had the power, they would speedily settle this question, in spite of a hundred members for Parramatta. If honorable members cannot say what they have to say on each clause of the Navigation Bill in half-an-hour, it will be hopeless to try to pass that measure. The honorable member for Parramatta has told us that there are no rules elsewhere to equal those proposed. But we know that in the Swiss Parliament three languages are spoken. If an honorable member there speaks, say, in German, the member who follows him, and who may speak French, has the right to have the speech of the German member translated ; and so with other members who may address themselves to the House in different languages. . If speeches in that House were of the same length as those delivered in this House, no business could possibly be done. I am quite willing to learn; but I may say that I have never known any speech change the determined intention of any honorable member in this House.
– Surely that has happened frequently in Committee?
– It has never happened to my knowledge on any big question of principle ; and my parliamentary experience is longer than that of the honorable member for Perth.
.- The proposal to extend the period in Committee to half-an-hour will work in an undesirable direction with regard to one of the most important phases of business, and of the responsibility of this Chamber. In the consideration of the Government’s finances, it occasionally becomes necessary to ask the Government for inconvenient information, and some Government - not the present Government - may have something to hide in regard to its administration. The only opportunity honorable members , have to force the hand of a Government to disclose such information is on the discussion of the Estimates ; and if a member has only the chance to make two protests, the Government have merely to keep quiet.
– Does the honorable member think that grievances of that kind would be confined to one honorable member?
– But each honorable member can rise only twice ; and I think that the consideration of the Estimatesand the finances ought to be excluded from this proposed standing order. Otherwise, we shall play into the hands of some Government of the future who may be corruptly managing the finances.
– In the last two years, the Estimates have been passed at an all-night sitting.
– That is perfectly true; but the fact that we have done wrong in the past does not make it any more excusable in us to render it more difficult to do right in the future. So far as the Estimates are concerned, it would, I think, be much better to have . four periods of fifteen minutes. The honorable member for Melbourne has referred to the Navigation Bill, with its 400 odd clauses; but it is merely “ pulling the leg “ of the public to suggest that every one of these clauses is equal in importance. There are a few clauses of vital importance, not from a party point of view, but from a national and possibly an international, point of view, that ought to be discussed. Our determinations upon these clause may not only affect the local interests of Australia, but may give rise to international complications, involving breaches of the treaty obligations of the Mother Country and of the
Empire. There are, as I say, only a few clauses of this world-wide scope; but on these, surely, we might look to the guidance of honorable members specially qualified to deal with them, instead of being restricted to the Minister in charge of the Bill. This is not a question affecting merely ourselves, though I have heard nothing during this discussion except references to the rights of members. Surely the country has the right to know the reasoned opinions of the few persons ‘in this House who can give opinions worth having ? Is every man to be put on the same dead level in the matter of wisdom, and every one of us expected to express an opinion in a quarter of an hour on matters of international importance? The idea is ridiculous. We might for a moment remember the persons who send us here, and the interests we are supposed to guard. If it were merely a matter of personal convenience, it might suit us very much- better, especially honorable members opposite, to have the duration of speeches limited. Such a step, however, so far from- being in the country’s interest, is directly against it. If it is to be applied to a very important measure like the Navigation Bill, it will be a very unfortunate thing for the Commonwealth. No one knows better than the Prime Minister the opportunity presented in such a measure for international complication.
– That measure will not be dealt with on the same basis as other measures ?
– But it is going to be.
– I do not know that yet.
– The Standing Orders apply to all measures.
– Yes, unless they are excepted.
– There is no proposal made to except them. Here is a measure of such importance that, as the Prime Minister knows, it may affect the relations of this country and the great Empire to which we belong: with other countries. Yet we are to treat this proposal as if it was merely a matter affecting the personal convenience of the distinguished gentlemen who occupy certain positions. We are all deserving of a little consideration, but I think we should give a little consideration in return to the country which sends us here. If we pass a proposal of this kind in the way proposed, we shall be doing something which will be very much to the detriment of the people whom we are sent here to represent, and whom we have proved we do not represent whenever our personal interests are involved. I wish to offer a protest against the adoption of this proposal. The amendment to allow two speeches of half-an-hour each in Committee is, in my humble judgment, worse than the proposal to allow four speeches of fifteen minutes each. It is not the length of time which an honorable member occupies in Committee which ought to be considered. An honorable member may get up now to utter one sentence, simply to ask a question, but in the future he will be very careful indeed not to seek information at the Committee stage, lest it might prevent him from exercising his right of speech later.
– A host of clerks will be needed to watch honorable members and to carry out the regulation.
– Yes; the whole thing will be supremely absurd.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the amendment ?
– I thought I was doing so, sir. I was pointing out that if an honorable member were allowed to speak four times in Committee, he might get up and ask a question freely in honest search of information with less fear of the hampering effect it might have on his subsequent action than he would do if he were allowed only two opportunities to address himself to the. Chamber. In the latter case he would never ask a question in Committee, and that would be in the direction of preventing a proper discussion of measures at that stage. This Parliament is singularly unfortunate in its procedure as contrasted with, say, the House of Commons. In the Old Country a Bill is very carefully considered before it is submitted to the House of Commons. It is very carefully considered by sectional Committees representing both sides in politics, so that, by the time it is taken into Committee it has been thoroughly well threshed out. Here, however, a Bill is thrown into the Chamber, and, under these proposals, every honorable member will have so much chance pf chopping at it, and every one will feel called upon to speak for his full time of an hour or an hour and a half, as the case may be. That will be a great deal longer than the average member occupies at present. In Committee every honorable member will know that he has two chances of speaking for half-an-hour. We shall have a whole series of second-reading speeches made in
Committee, instead of our using that stage to find out what is behind each other’s mind in an informal way, and arriving at the truth in th’e interests of the country. An attempt is being made to change the whole condition and purpose of the Committee stage, and in future it will be found to be a second-reading stage. I do not think that that will be in the interests of careful legislation. 1 address myself to this proposal not as one who is in the habit of making long speeches. During the ten years I have been here I have only made, to the best of my recollection, two speeches which have exceeded an hour and a half - the limit which is now being imposed.
– I remember that one night the honorable member spoke for five hours.
– No; the honorable member thought it was so, but it really was not.
– Well, I thought it was five hours.
– There are very few of us who are so frank ; and I would suggest to my honorable friend that he might be “ Frank “ in more ways than one. I. suggest to the Prime Minister that, in view of the considerations which I and others have put before him in connexion with Committee proceedings, it will be wise not to rush this business through. I think that, if we give the Minister in charge of Bills - for instance, measures dealing with questions like the referenda - greater latitude than is enjoyed by ordinary members ; if we give him absolutely full and free opportunities of speech, such as is enjoyed to-day, and deny that privilege to the rest of the House, it will be a fraud upon free speech, and a thing which the people of Australia will reprobate at the very first opportunity they get.
– The honorable member for Gippsland referred to-night to a case in which I moved the closure on the honorable member for Wide Bay after he had uttered two words. The case occurred on the 12th November, 1909. I did move “ That the question be now put “ ona Friday afternoon at half-past 3 o’clock. After a motion had been moved for the adjournment of the House, and honorable members wanted to rush off for their trains, the honorable gentleman was proceeding to debate the question. He had already made a speech of over an hour in length on that day.
– Order. The honorable member must not discuss this matter.
– I am stating a fact, sir, that is all. My object is to put the matter right.
– I was out of the chair for three minutes while the honorable member for Gippsland was speaking, and as it is quite possible that I may have misunderstood him, I sent for a proof of his Speech. I find that he referred to the honorable member for Parramatta having moved the closure - but merely as a question of fact - he did not make any comment. If the honorable member for Parramatta feels aggrieved at the mentioning of the matter, he can make a personal explanation, confining himself strictly to that portion which concerns himself.
– All I want to say is that my closuring of the honorable member for Wide Bay was only done after he had spoken for an hour, in order to prevent honorable members from missing their trains, and to bring the sitting to a close in that way.
– He had finished his hour’s speech some time before.
– As I am reminded, the ‘ honorable member had finished his speech some time before, and it was only when he rose to speak again on the motion for the adjournment that I moved the closure. If honorable members are interested, I would like them to read at their leisure this debate - the things which the honorable member for Gippsland left out - and then they will see why the closure was moved. Over the leaf it says -
Mr. Deakin, Mr. Hughes, and. Mr. Agar Wynne simultaneously addressing the chair-
– Order !
– Will you, sir, allow me to say one word in reference to this matter?
– Do I understand that the honorable member wishes to make a personal explanation?
– No. sir. I only wish to read what I said did take place-
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. joseph cook) proposed -
That the question be now put.
That is the whole of what took place, and that is exactly what I said. It is usual for the Leader of the Opposition to ask on Friday .afternoon what business is to be taken on the following Tuesday.
– Order !
– I had no intention to speak on this question, but, as there is an unlimited supply of language ready to flow on the question of limiting speeches, it will not matter much. I presume, if I add a little more to what has flown. The honorable member for Wentworth was very much interested on the point as to whether all honorable members are to be reduced to one dead level. What is the dead level? It is, apparently, the capacity of honorable members to measure the length of their speeches. The honorable member denies that he speaks for any length of time. I venture to say that at last we find an illustration of the truth of the maxim that “ many mickles make a muckle. ‘ ‘ The honorable member says that there are experts here on certain questions. I would like to know to what question his expertness is to be limited, since I know of no question on which we have not had the benefit of his knowledge. He says that this is a most outrageous proposal, that it is quite possible that there might be a Government which had something to hide, and that, under this proposal there would be no opportunity of discussing the matter. But if it were true that a Government had something to hide, it would have ample means at its disposal to burke discussion, and would probably not be backward in using the instruments of the Government that had preceded it. There is already in the Standing Orders sufficient power to enable any Government -that desires to burke discussion to do so. The desire of the present Government, as I understand it, is to give every member an equal opportunity to speak. Under the present system members have not an equal opportunity, because there are a few who take part in every discussion, while others have to close their mouths, in order to set a decent limit to the debate. The session is of so many weeks duration, and the weekly sitting consists of so many hours. If we wish to be fair to both sides, why not divide up the session, allowing so many hours, on’ the average, per member, and letting each member take out his share, either in one speech or in twenty ? Certainly, after the honorable member for Wentworth had taken out his twelve or fifteen hours, we should have for the rest of the session the inestimable benefit of his silence. Then some of us would be able to show that we were equally expert upon other matters of which we know nothing. Certainly we should have an opportunity of letting our constituents know that we are here ; whereas, under present conditions, certain members take an unlimited number of hours to express their ideas upon subject after subject, and so prevent others from speaking. If a motion of this character were carried, we should be able to acquire in this Chamber the art of condensation, and men who now use a multiplicity of words in order to hide their meaning would either have to say nothing at all, or give the public a definite understanding of what they really meant. If they were limited to a certain time, they would inevitably be compelled to use so few words that they would not be able to wrap them round with all sorts of provisos and limitations. To that extent the motion would be very useful. I therefore suggest to the Government that they should force it through. We are, apparently, here for an all-night sitting, although we were told a week ago that there was a consensus of opinion in this Chamber in favour of the proposal.
– Who told you that?
– The honorable member for Wentworth, for one, is of opinion that everybody but himself is unquestionably guilty of loquacity, and that what he has to say is of great importance to the country at large. He told us before he resumed his seat that great questions, involving international complications, were raised by the Navigation Bill.
– The trouble is, evidently, that you are poaching on his preserves now.
– Probably upon that question I shall be as silent as I am upon many others ; not because I may not know something upon the subject, but because I am quite prepared to believe that the man who has presented that Bill to the House will have said all I have to say. My mission will be to vote upon it.
– Hear, hear ! You are an automaton.
– Upon all those things that enable me to secure what I want with the fewest possible words, I am prepared to be that. On this question of international complications, we have in the House at least one authority who has advertised to us his own qualifications for dealing with it. He is a gentleman who has flown abroad, visited Europe, spent a few brief days amongst the delights of Paris, put in part of his time in an aviation school, viewed the conditions of the other hemisphere generally, and basked in the sunshine of the Courts. He, indeed, may tell us, who have not had that happy experience, what should be done in Australia on the question of navigation. 1 am in favour of the proposition of the Government, and whether the time limit fixed is one hour five minutes, or one hour three and a half minutes, if it allows all members a fair deal and tends to the limitation of speeches in this Chamber, I am prepared to support it.
.- Without derogating from the importance of the considerations put forward by honorable members, may I venture again to recur to a matter which I brought under the special notice of the Prime Minister last night, which requires to be taken into account? However important the other issues are, the most pressing appear to centre in the question of whether there is to be any attempt to apply these or similar rules to the debate either on the Navigation Bill or on the Referenda Bills when they are submitted. If so, it will surely be fatal to any reasonable discussion on either of those measures, or of any of their parts. Such an unfair method of dealing with them would be received throughout the whole of Australia with great disapproval.
– Would not the rules allow us to move that those particular measures be exempted from this standing order?
– That is one mode of doing it. I am indifferent as to the mode, but those two Bills so transcend our ordinary measures in their scope, their international bearings, and their importance, that we cannot afford to see either crushed or crippled by being forced into a mould that may possibly fit the ordinary legislation of a session.
– Mr. Speaker tells me that it is an ordinary procedure to move to suspend part of the Standing Orders when the necessity arises.
– Am I to understand that the Government are prepared to take that course in those two cases?
– I should not like to give such an undertaking; but I should be glad to meet’ the Opposition in the ordinary way when the question arose.
– I think that will mean an absolute “ Yes “ when the matter does come forward.
– The honorable member for Melbourne has repeated the statement which he made yesterday, that arguments used in this House do not change a single vote.
If so,’ there is no sense in proposing any limitation of debate, and the only logical course for the honorable member to take is to move to do away with debate altogether. If this Parliament is merely to be a voting machine, or a recording chamber, a few automatic slot machines will answer the purpose; indeed, if the functions of this Parliament are entirely abrogated in the way the honorable member suggests, there is no need for the Parliament to remain. Parliament is a deliberative institution, or it is not. It is intended to represent the view’s of the people, or it is not. If the Parliament is a place where the views of the people, through their constitutionally elected representatives, are to be expressed fully and freely, as certainly was the original intention, we shall be adopting a dangerous procedure if we accept the limitations embodied in the various proposals that have been put before us tonight. We must remember that in limiting the speeches of honorable members of this House we shall be limiting, not only the personal liberty of members, but of the thousands of electors whom they have been sent here to represent.
– I point out to the honorable member that there is now an amendment before the ‘House, involving the difference between fifteen minutes and half-an-hour.
– I am sneaking on the question of any limitation of debate.
– The honorable member is going beyond the amendment, and he has already spoken on the general question.
– I may as well sit down if we are not to be allowed to discuss the matter.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– If you, sir, consider it a reflection upon you I do withdraw it. But I should like to ask you whether an honorable member is not entitled to adopt his own method of making a speech, provided he confines his remarks reasonably within the scope of the matter before the Chair?
– The honorable member has already spoken on this matter at some length. There is now before the House a distinct amendment, and it is one of the few occasions on which I can confine honorable members to the matter immediatelv before the Chair. If the honorable member had not already spoken on the general question I might have permitted him greater latitude in discussing the amendment.
– The honorable member who preceded me never once addressed himself to the amendment.
Question- That the word “fifteen” stand part of the amendment - resolved in the negative.
Question- That the word “ thirty “ proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr.
Archibald’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Archibald) proposed -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ four times,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ twice.”
– I desire, sir, to move a further amendment to insert the words “ three times “ instead of the word “twice.”
– A blank must first of all be created in order that the honorable member may submit his further amendment. I shall therefore put the question -
That the words “ four times “ proposed to be left out stand part of the amendment.
Question - that the words stand - resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment (by Mr.
Joseph Cook) put -
That the words “three times” be inserted.
The House divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment (by Mr.
Archibald) put -
That the word “ twice “ be inserted.
The House divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- Under this -proposal as it stands, a Minister introducing a Tariff would be restricted to thirty minutes. That would be impossible. A Tariff, as honorable members know, is always introduced by resolution. Taxation is the most important matter with which we can deal, and it might be necessary to obtain from a Minister bringing down a whole series of proposals a very comprehensive statement as to what they imply. I suggest that the same latitude should be allowed to a Minister introducing a Tariff, or to proposals imposing burdens on the people, as- is allowed on a motion for the second reading of the Bill. There ought, at all events, to be something very much, wider than is here proposed. Half-an-hour is altogether inadequate.
– The point raised by the honorable member for Darling Downs was previously mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat. I do not think that ordinary taxation measures should be exempt from the proposed restriction; but I agree that Tariff proposals should be dealt with differently. In reference to such projects, I think that honorable members should be perfectly free to state their ideas. I therefore move -
That the amendment be further amended by inserting after the word “statement” the words “or to any member during the proceedingsin the Committee on the Tariff.” »
– I should like to hear a reason from the Prime Minister as to why this exemption regarding taxation proposals should be limited to a Tariff. I suppose it does not matter twopence how many millions of taxation are laid upon the backs of the people without adequate discussion, and with the aid of this “ gag.” The Prime Minister, when it comes to putting duties upon the statute-book of the country for the purposes of the manufacturers of the country, for the purposes of those engaged in the production of goods, is prepared to exempt speeches from these limitations. But when it comes to imposing direct taxes upon the people to the extent of no matter how many millions, the Prime Minister says that the proposals must not be discussed at length, but must be subject to these limitations. Why that distinction? If there is one thing more than another upon which there ought to be the widest debate, it is a question concerning the taxation of the people. I am not complaining of what is being done, but I want to know why this exemption should be made in the case of a Tariff, and not as to other taxation proposals. Why the discussion of a proposal to levy a burden of ^2,000,000 upon the people of this country should be subject to limitations, and why the debate upon a Tariff, which does not necessarily raise revenue, should be exempt from them, I cannot understand. I move -
That the further amendment of the amendment be amended by adding the words “ and other taxation measures.”
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the concessions which he has already made to the Opposition, and if not, how much further he is prepared to go? In the first place, he submitted proposals to the House which, after mature consideration, the Government deemed to be in the interests of the country. Then, in order to placate certain members opposite, he made concessions to them. But will any concession placate them?
– We do not want placating at all.
– I draw attention to what actually transpired in the chamber during the last few minutes. The honorable member for Parramatta has objected to every proposal that has been brought forward. The .honorable member for Darling Downs asked the Prime Minister to make a concession, and the latter, in that gentlemanly manner which is natural to him, at once agreed to do so. But, no sooner had he done that, than the honorable member for Parramatta rose to complain that he had not gone far enough. Then the honorable member for Darling Downs whispered something to the honorable member.
– There is not a word of truth in the statement.
– To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear-
– The honorable member did not hear anything.
– I venture to say that I did.
– And I say that the honorable member did not.
– There are other honorable members who distinctly heard what transpired. When the Prime Minister has made a further concession, honorable members opposite will proceed to ask for more. If the right honorable gentleman goes any further, the whole of yesterday and to-day will have been absolutely wasted in a profitless discussion.
– Trample on liberty. <>
– Trample on liberty indeed! When has liberty been more mutilated than it has been by honorable members opposite? How do they- use liberty? I ask the Prime Minister to make no further concessions to them.
– We do not want concessions ; all we want is justice.
– Then honorable members opposite are getting it. If I were in the position of the Prime Minister they would get it with a bludgeon.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in indulging in this threatening language?
– There is no point of order involved.
– The honorable member for Cook has been good enough to prime me in the same way as the honorable member for Darling Downs primed the honorable member for Parramatta. He has just reminded me that the Leader of the Opposition also asked the Prime Minister to make a concession, and the latter promised to consider it. Now he is about to make a concession to the honorable member, for Darling Downs. In his kindness of heart, he is endeavouring to please my honorable friends opposite. I ask him to make no further concessions to them, but to remain loyal to his own followers upon this matter.
– What about being loyal to the people?
– I ask him to be sufficiently loyal to his own followers to adhere to the decision at which he has arrived, and not to persistently give way.
– Is this a party question?
– I again ask the Prime Minister to make up his mind what he desires his supporters to back him. up in.
– It is a party question, then?
– Yes, if the honorable member chooses to so regard it. It is honorable members upon this side of the chamber whom the Prime Minister has to please, and not members of the Opposition. He has made a concession to the honorable member for Ballarat, and another one to the honorable member for Darling Downs; and if he accedes to the request of the honorable member for Parramatta, he will be called upon to continue making concessions until his patience is exhausted. To my mind, all of merit in this question was contained in the original proposition.
– I . am very sorry that an exemption has been proposed in the case of the Tariff. From my experience, if there is one subject the discussion of which requires to be limited, it is that of the Tariff. I would very much prefer to see an exemption made in respect of any other matter. I recollect that when the Tariff was under review upon the last occasion, honorable member after honorable member rose and retailed every little anecdote and fairy tale that had been poured into their ears by every person who was interested in a little tin-pot factory. The discussion of the first Tariff occupied fifteen or sixteen months of the time of this Parliament. Upon every Tariff which has since been submitted for our consideration, more time has been wasted in Committee than has been wasted upon any other subject. I shall certainly vote against any exemption being made in favour of the discussion of the Tariff. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Bourke speak of concessions having been made to the Opposition. I am sorry that the party cry has been raised. It has been suggested, probably jocularly, that my motion was moved at the instigation of the Ministry; but, for fear that the suggestion may be misunderstood and believed, I wish to say that I did not discuss the matter with any one, and when I moved the motion, I had not even asked any one to second it. I have only to add, in view of the way in which time has been wasted, that I find myself much in the position of the gentleman who was “ very sorry he had ever seen the adjective ducks.”
.- I wish to say, in reply to the address of the honorable member for Bourke, that he seems to have missed the purport of the remarks of the honorable members for Darling Downs and Parramatta, who did not seek any personal con- cession from him, and were not treating the question as a party one. Until now, the right honorable gentleman has refused responsibility for the standing order, and we have been led to understand that the honorable member for Franklin is wholly responsible, and is leading the House in the matter. Now we find that, unless the Prime Minister takes a certain course, those to whom he is responsible will make him suffer ! I regret the attitude towards the Standing Orders, which affect the liberty of every member of the House; and Ministers should not forget that they will some day become private members again. I cannot understand why it should have escaped the acute perception of the author of the Sedan phrase, that those who bear the burden of taxation are entitled to representation here. The imposition of taxes amounting to millions is not a personal matter between the Prime Minister and others. It is astonishing that the Prime Minister, who properly acknowledges the impossibility of limiting debates on a Tariff, fails to see how important it is that debates on proposals for the imposition of direct taxation, should not be limited. The immediate effect of a Tariff is, no doubt, felt by traders; but its taxation is soon passed on to the general public. We are led to believe, however, by honorable members opposite that the trading community should receive more consideration than the ordinary taxpayer. I cannot see the logic of that. The occasion, is not one for contemptuous references to the Opposition, and every man who calls himself a Democrat should give the subject his serious consideration. There was a time when honorable gentlemen opposite thought of nothing but the people’s interest, but circumstances have changed.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question?
– The British Parliament - and all others that have followed its example - did right in straining the Standing Orders to provide as many opportunities as possible for the discussion of taxation proposals. Not only must such proposals be preceded by a message, but a number of other safeguards are provided for their proper discussion. The object of honorable members on this side has been the protection of the interests of- the people ; but that has been scouted as a matter of indifference by honorable members opposite, who. pretend to represent the people.
Question - That the words “ and other taxation measures “ be added to the amendment (Mr. Joseph Cook’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in- the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment of the amendment (Mr. Fisher’s) agreed to.
– I move -
That the amendment be further amended by addons; the words : - “ Provided that the foregoing provisions shall apply only on the motion of the Minister or member in’ charge of any Bill or motion.”
This is intended to give elasticity to an otherwise rigid provision, and to enable the Minister or member in charge of an important Bill to move that the restrictive proposals shall be applied if he thinks fit. The limitation will not apply in the absence of such motion, but will be there as a reserve power without any hard-and-fast rule.
– I am sorry I am unable to accept the amendment.
– What has the Prime Minister to do with it? Why does he say “I”? Has this degenerated into a party, squabble ?
– The amendment would nullify the whole effort made to-night. Ashonorable members have made up their minds, I think we ought to come to a vote.
.- It has frequently been said by honorable members opposite that this is a party question, and they ought to know whether or not they have made it so.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter.
– The charge of making it a party matter is more at home on the other side. I hope the Prime Minister will not agree to the amendment, as the honorable member for Parramatta seeks to do what honorable members opposite have been trying to do all day, namely, to nullify the whole effect of this motion. If we carry the amendment, it may gratify the ambitions of the party opposite, but it will defeat the object in view.
Question - That the words proposed to be added to the amendment be so added - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment of the amendment negatived.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
– As we have now come to the last question on this proposal, I only desire to make a few remarks. We- are having today a repetition of what took place- some : years ago, when this same party fiercely insisted that the Government they were supporting should bring down- the closure proposals which are embodied in oar Standing Orders. These rules were never put into operation while they were on that side of the House, but, later, when another Government attempted to apply them, no matter in what circumstances, we saw scenes of disorder such as I hope we shall never see again.
– That was only “ gammon.”
– I am afraid, however, that they wilt be seen- again, and I predict that a party which resorts to this kind of trick and stratagem–
– Order !
– To stifle the voice of the people of this country both inside and outside this chamber, cannot long remain in occupation of the Government benches.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That, in order to secure the despatch of business and the good government of the Commonwealth, the Standing Orders of this House should be immediately amended in the direction of placing a time limit on the speeches delivered by honorable members in the House and in Committee.
That the following be adopted as a Standing Order of this House : -
No member shall speak for more than one hour and five minutes at a time. in any debate in the House, except in the debate on the AddressinReply, or in a debate on a motion of No Confidence, or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or on the , debate on the Appropriation Bill or on. the Financial Statement in -Committee, when a member shall be at liberty to speak for one hour and thirty-five minutes. In Committee of the ‘House no member shall speak for more than thirty minutes at any one -time, or more than twice on any one question before the Committee: Provided that this rule shall not apply in Committee to a member in charge of a Bill, or to a Minister when’ delivering the Financial Statement, or to any memberduring the proceedings in the Committee, on the Tariff, or, in regard to the number of his speeches, to a Minister in charge of a class of the Estimates in Committee of Supply.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The firstGovernment business to-morrow, after formal matters have been dealt with/ will be the submission of the Victorian- redistribution scheme.
.- Can the Minister of Home Affairs let us know before the House adjourns- when the New South Wales redistribution- scheme will be put through?
– It has not come in- yet.
– Is it anticipated that it will be received very shortly?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120717_reps_4_64/>.