5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10. 30 a.m., and. read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he is aware-
– No question*; at least, there will be no answers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the Age of Thursday last is a report of our proceedings of the preceding night, in which this passage occurs -
Probably, the fiercest outburst of Opposition rage was that heard at 9 o’clock, when Mr. W. H. Irvine was on his feet. He was replying to Mr. Hughes, who had moved an amendment. “We intend to put this motion through,” he said, in his iciest tones, “and if members are going to waste the time of the CommitteeThe rest of the sentence was drowned in the uproar that followed it. “Bully,” shouted some one on the Opposition front bench. “You are not in Ireland now,” roared Mr. Finlayson.
Whoever may have wished that the AttorneyGeneral was in Ireland, the remark was not made by me.
– It was I who made it.
– It did not occur to me to connect the action of the AttorneyGeneral with Ireland. I would not make any comparison between his action and what happened during even the worst days of coercion.
– The honorable member is not in order in going beyond a personal explanation.
– I desire to make a persona] explanation. I was not allowed during the turmoil on Wednesday night to do so, though I then endeavoured to put my complaint before the Chair, that Ministers had refused to carry out the promise that they had made to allow ample debate on the Postal Yoting Restoration Bill. When I found that, instead of that promise being carried out, the closure was applied, I made use of a certain expression, applying it to the statement of those . on the Ministerial bench. I used it when smarting under a sense of injustice, because a promise which had been made had not been kept.
– I should like to say, by way of personal explanation, that the action of the Government was taken because Ministers did not think that the condition which they had imposed on the debate was being conformed to by members of the Opposition.
– I ask you,
Mr. Speaker, when is a man in the House and when is be out? Yesterday I was here, but I did not come in here. If a man is in the House, and is not in when the House opens, does the day count?
– I do not rightly . understand the question. The honorable member asks me when is a member in the House and not in the House. He says that he was here yesterday. If he desires a reply, I hope that he will state his question more lucidly.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question. It does not relate to a matter of party importance, and is one which I think he will answer. I ask if he has noticed that1 the new President of China, to get rid of the Opposition, has ejected the whole crowd? Does he intend to follow that course 1
– I would again point out to the House that it is distinctly out of order, and has been ruled so many times, not only by. myself, but also by other occupants of the Chair, to ask questions of a frivolous or ironical character. Such questions are not in order.
– I ask the leave of the House to address a question to. the Leader of the Opposition before he begins his speech.
– I should like to know from the right honorable member whether there is any chance of soon putting a termination to the debate which he proposes to initiate ? There are two motions on the notice-paper, both of which are censure motions. Unless something is done in regard to them, there will be opened up an almost interminable debate, the end of which no one can foresee. We are nearly at the end of the year; our business is still uncompleted, and I’ do not think that we ought to tolerate much further debate on these matters.
– Is this a question or a threat? Do what you like.
– Close the debate to-day.
– Surely the Prime Minister will give us a few days?
– I am ‘ very much obliged to the honorable member for Gwydir for permission to do as I like. I want to say that unless we understand that there is to be a reasonable period put to this debate, the Government will not permit it to continue indefinitely.
– We do not ask any favours from you.
– Have you arranged the vote?
– I must insist on quiet being observed.
– I understand that the Prime Minister got the leave of the House to ask me a question. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, whether he asked the question ?
– I thought I did.
– He asked whether the debate might be expected to conclude to-day.
– Nothing of the sort.
Other honorable members interjecting,
– I want, honorable members clearly to understand at this early stage of the proceedings that I shall not permit the continuance of the disorder that has characterized our proceedings for some time past. If honorable members will not obey the call to order, I shall take steps under the standing order to enforce obedience to my directions.
– I thank you, sir, for protecting me from interruptions. I ask you whether you heard any question put to me by the Prime Minister? The AttorneyGeneral says that the honorable gentleman asked me if I would agree to conclude the debate to-day, but no such words were uttered by him.
– Then you heard what I said ?
– If the Prime Minister puts that question, I shall answer it.
– Why ask what I said, if the right honorable member knows?
– I heard threats and sundry statements. If the Prime Minister was prompted afterwards, that has nothing to do with me.
– Don’t be ridiculous.
– Speaking in my official capacity as Leader of the Opposition, I repeat to-day what I said yesterday, that the debate will be a reasonable one, and I think ought to conclude in the early days of next week. I think that a fair arrangement.
– I should like permission to address yet another question to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I presume that the statement of the right honorable member applies to the discussion of the first notice of motion ?
– To the discussion of the motion of which I gave notice.
– Does the right honorable member speak in regard to both discussions? Notice has been given by members of the Opposition of two censure motions.
– Only one censure motion on the Government.
– The other is a censure motion, too, and this is the point, that the discussion of it will also consume the time of the House. That is what I want to be clear about. It is the only thing that I care about.
– Although this conduct is extraordinary, it is nothing unusual in this Parliament. My reply to the Prime Minister is that the Opposition will afford him every facility for coming to a conclusion on this and all other motions without delay.
– What does that mean ?
– Does it mean that the debate will conclude on Tuesday or Wednesday?
– It means that there will be no waste of time. In a deliberative assembly matters will be discussed in a proper manner, and a decision will be arrived at without delay.
– All I have to say is this-
– The Prime Minister may not speak again except with the permission of the House. Is it the desire of honorable members that the honorable gentleman have leave to speak?
– We never “ gag.”
– Interpreting the notions of the right honorable member as to what reasonable time means in the light of what has already taken place this session, this Government will reserve its right to terminate this debate at any period it thinks fit.
.- I move -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
After these extraordinary preliminaries, members will not be surprised if there are some further surprises in store for this Parliament.
– We are getting accustomed to them.
– One might have expected the Prime Minister to know yesterday the policy of the Government and the course that he intended to pursue. When I gave notice of my motion, he asked me whether I thought the debate on it could be reasonably concluded today, and I said “ no.” He asked when it would be concluded, and I said that I thought it would be finished in the early sittings of next week. I adhere to that, because it is necessary that honorable members should be afforded an opportunity of being heard on important matters of concern to the people of this country. The Prime Minister stated then that the Government were most anxious to get on with public business. But immediately the House rose, his colleague in the Senate, Senator Millen, moved that the Senate, at its rising, should adjourn until the 19th inst.
– It does not say much for his intelligence.
– Does tilie honorable member for Grampians ask the House and the country to believe that Senator Millen acts on his own individual responsibility, and not upon instructions by his Prime Minister? Is that the way in which this Government carries on its business ‘! Does the reputed leader in another place act upon his own responsibility, while the Leader in this House takes action upon his individual responsibility, and then corrects it next day? We are beginning to learn something. We are securing information which we did not expect. There is no justification at all for the plea of urgency in this chamber whilst another place is not sitting. But whether that be so or not, the promise made by the Opposition in this House will be kept. We keep our promises.
– It was repudiated by the honorable member for Barrier.
– The honorable member for Kooyong knows that we keep our promises, whether they be for us or against us.
– And what is the promise 1
– It is only fair that the Prime Minister should know what it is. Apparently he has forgotten what I said yesterday. I then stated, and I repeat the statement, that we should conclude this debate iu the early sittings of next week.
– And the debate on the next matter ?
– I shall deal with that when it comes before the House. It is not before the House now, and it would be foolish for me to discuss that, or any subsequent business except the Government business, with which it is my duty to deal at present. I draw attention to the fact that the action of the Government has made this assembly no longer a deliberative one. It is just as well that the people should know that, unless this Parliament is restored to what it was, and must ever remain in a free community, the interests of the citizens of Australia will suffer. Corruption can, and will, creep in, unless honorable members are free to express their opinions in this House.
– Without any limit?
– The honorable member knows that the Standing Orders place a time limit on speeches in this Chamber, and that no honorable member can trespass beyond that limitation which is provided for by this Parliament. If the Government were honest and straightforward in the matter - if they thought that the time allowed was excessive - they ought to amend the Standing Orders, as other Governments have done. The excessive use of the closure has been in the interests, not of public business, but of the political views of the present Administration. Speaking recently in his own Legislature on the matter of closuring even great questions, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who is certainly an authority not to be lightly set aside, said that his Government, during his twenty years of leadership, had never once moved the closure, although it was provided for, and there was an occasion when the Opposition in the Canadian Parliament held up a measure for over six months without allowing a single line to pass.
– Would the right honorable gentleman mind telling us why his party brought in the closure standing order ?
– We did not bring it in.
– As the honorable member for Yarra says, we did not bring it in.
– The Labour party insisted on its being brought in.
– The Prime Minister asks why I supported the passing of the closure standing order. The closure, in my opinion, is a perfectly proper piece of machinery to prevent deliberate and wil- ful obstruction. But during our term of office we passed eighty odd measures without once applying the closure. One of those measures was passed only after the Opposition of that day had opposed it for twenty-three solid hours.
– For forty-two hours.
– Quite so. It was passed after a continuous sitting of fortytwo hours, during which the Leader of the present Government kept his party here to oppose us. We never even thought of applying the closure so long as we believed that honorable members had anything useful to say. We maintained the traditions of Parliament as a deliberative assembly. This Government has lost them. I believe it was at the suggestion of the present Prime Minister that the closure standing order was brought in.
– Was not the honorable gentleman a member of the Standing Orders Committee which suggested it?
– I opposed it all through. I will tell the right honorable member who suggested it. Let him look at an honorable member now sitting in the Opposition corner.
– I voted against it.
– As usual, the Prime Minister wants to talk while I am speaking.
– Order 1 1 remind the right honorable member that he put a question to the Prime Minister.
– I say again that I did not support the closure standing order, either in Committee or in the House.
– I ask, is it contended that a reasonable debate took place on the Loan Bill before the application of the closure? If there areany Government proposals which ought to be left open to full, free, and open discussion they are its financial measures. The Loan Bill, which was introduced by the Treasurer provides for an appropriation of £3,080,000. The right honorable member moved the second reading of the Bill one afternoon, and when he resumed his seat 1 replied to some statements made by him, which were likely to leave a false impression in the minds of the people, and which I thought should be at once refuted. Having made that part of my speech, I asked for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
The Minister of Trade and Customs was then the only member of the Government present. I subsequently asked the Prime Minister to be allowed to continue my speech in accordance with what has been the practice of this House from its inception. That request was refused. The question, “ that the debate be adjourned,” was then put, and it was carried against the Government. At the very next sitting the closure was applied. It must be said to the credit of the Prime Minister that it was not moved by him. He did not seem to desire to support the moving of the closure.
– I am responsible for it, all the same.
– Of course the honorable gentleman is. The Prime Minister of the day, whoever he is, must be responsible for what his Ministers do. The Prime Minister tells the world that he is responsible for the action of his Ministers.
– I do not want any credit for not having moved the closure. That is what I meant.
– It is the first principle of responsible government that the leader of a Government shall be responsible for everything his Ministers do. The AttorneyGeneral took the business out of the hands of the Prime Minister, and moved the application of the closure.
– Absolutely incorrect.
– It was interesting to notice the eagerness with which the Prime Minister, the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the Honorary Minister vied with each other subsequently to get in first with the motion “ that the question be now put.” Sometimes all three of them were on their feet at the same time trying to catch the eye of the Speaker or the Chairman, and to move “that the question be now put.” They seemed to think that there was honour attaching to’ it. They wanted to be in touch with the real leader of the party. I admit that the honorable member for Darling Downs, after making three or four unsuccessful attempts to get in with the motion, seemed to be very crestfallen until the following day, when he had the good fortune to catch the eye of the Speaker, and therefore, the privilege of moving for once the application of the closure.
– I would remind the right honorable member that it is not necessary for an honorable member to catch the eye of the Speaker in order to move the closure. An honorable member is not called, but can rise and interrupt a speech with such a motion.
– I am the last, as you know, sir, to come into conflict with an opinion expressed by the Chair - even if it be what I may call an extra opinion - but I understand that you can hear nothing unless you see something, and unless an honorable member catches your eye he cannot move even the closure. We shall, however, leave that matter, for it has nothing to do with this debate. The point that I wish to make is that the closure was moved by the AttorneyGeneral, and was moved to stifle discussion, and not to secure the passing of the Bill. There is in the Loan Bill an item which is new, and for supporting which not one honorable member opposite has any warrant. The elections of 1910 were fought largely on the question of the Financial Agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, and, secondly, on the question of the use of loan money for defence purposes. The country gave us a substantial, solid verdict on that question. Under this Loan Bill loan moneys are appropriated in respect of ordinary defence expenditure. Yet no honorable member of the Opposition was given an opportunity to discuss that particular item. When the matter came before us in Committee - a place of which you, sir, have no cognisance - I tried to catch the eye of the Chairman because I desired, by moving an amendment, to enable a discussion to take place upon the question. Even then, the question was at once put, so that I had no opportunity to discuss it. There has been introduced into the Loan Bill a proposal which may lead to unlimited expenditure on ordinary defence purposes, and may thus violate the principle that has been agreed to by a majority of the electors.
– What does the right honorable member call “ ordinary defence purposes” ?
– It is fair, I think, that I should explain. I have stated my position again and again, but I shall state it once more. A Government which pledges the credit of the country for ordinary annual defence services, except in time of emergency - o”f war or impending war - is a Government that should not be permitted to remain in office in a country such as this. Ordinary defenceexpenditure means equipment, the purchase of land for buildings, and even rifle ranges and manoeuvre areas - these are ordinary services of the country. If we pledge our credit in time of prosperity, when there has been left to theGovernment a surplus of £2,653,000, and when the Government are spending over £4,000,000 more than we did last year, how can any one expect the resources of the country to meet the demands in future years? The Government have gone back directly on theverdict of the people, and they have done this purposely, willingly, and determinedly; indeed, I believe if they had the opportunity they would do it again. At the last election the cry was raised that the previous Government had been extravagant, and that if honorable gentlemen opposite were returned they would reduce expenditure and conserve the people’smoney - that they would not go in for an expenditure of anything like £21,000,000 or £22,000,000, but would protect the interests of the people in this respect. Well, the present Government came into place - though not inter power - and they sit there to-day, not by virtueof a majority of the electors. They hold their places with a minority vote in thisHouse, and in the other House, so far as the electors are concerned; and from that point of view they have no warrant,, in my opinion, for carrying on the affairs of the country. They are quite entitled, being in office, to carry on thegovernment within the rules of this- House, and within administrative rules,, as they think best in the interests of the country; but beyond that they have nowarrant at all.
– Did the right honorable member know that when he suggested that we should try?
– My contention is that the Government have no warrant in carrying on the government to alter the policy of the country, and, in endeavouring todo so, to suppress debate. Their attempt to rouse the country against the alleged extravagant expenditure of the previous Government has absolutely failed. They are asking Parliament to expend over- £4,000,000 more than was even proposed on the Estimates last year, and the proportion set aside in the Loan Bill for defence expenditure is totally and absolutely unwarranted. I should like to- briefly refer to what the Treasurer said in introducing the Loan Bill. The right honorable gentleman certainly left the impression on the minds of honorable members and of the country that the late Government, during their term of office, had largely increased the loan indebtedness of the people of Australia. That is not so. According to the Constitution, the Commonwealth had to take over the transferred properties’ indebtedness, together with the Northern Territory expenditure, under an agreement, and all the loan expenditure, which it was undoubtedly due to the Commonwealth to take over. We expended out of revenue for loan purposes some millions of money, which, in my opinion, were properly expended in the services of the country. The Treasurer also said just enough to leave the impression that during our term of office we had added £637,000 to loan expenditure in the Northern Territory. We did nothing of the kind. That was an indebtedness incurred by South Australia, and we simply took it over as part of the indebtedness of the people of Australia. In these matters we did not add a single penny to the debt of the Commonwealth; so that that may pass. We expended £200,000 out of our annual income in reducing the transferred debt of the Northern Territory. The Treasurer stated that the indebtedness of the Commonwealth is now about £22,000,000; and that is quite true. I mention this to honorable members, and to the electors, for the reason that a large number of the supporters of honorable members opposite, and their press advocates, have paraded the fact that, during our term of office, we incurred a liability on behalf of the Commonwealth of some £20,000,000 odd. We have incurred no new liabilities; but the people of the Commonwealth, through this Parliament, have become responsible for that sum, instead of the various States remaining responsible to the money-lender. That is the absolute and known fact, although it lends itself very easily to misrepresentation.
– When did any one misrepresent the right honorable member in this connexion ?
– lt is a sorry matter that these things have to be stated again and again for the protection of honorable members, and for the benefit of the people of the country who do not know the facts. I come now to the Electoral Bill. When the present Government came into office, the first statement they made to the country - as the honorable member for Ballarat, particularly, will remember - was that it was their business to purify the rolls, and then go to the country. The Honorary Minister alleged that the rolls contained an excessive number of names, and that many thousands of persons had abused their trust by voting doubly. However, since that time, the Government have not proved a single one of those allegations. They submitted a Bill, in which they made provision for an alteration in regard to the attestation of postal votes, to the extent of preventing the attestator getting possession of the ballot-paper. We were told that this was an essential part of the amendment of the Electoral Act ; but later we find the Government coming down with a Bill of one clause, in which they eliminate that proposal, though it was said to be essential, and thus leave the practice just as it was before. On this point, we did not have the slightest explanation - not the merest information on the point, or any reason was given; and, although they said the old provision was unworkable, or, rather, was not safe, we find it proposed to be restored by the use of the “gag.” There is another Bill that we are promised, which might have met the same fate as the Loan Bill and the Electoral Bill if this motion had not been submitted. That is the Bill to be called the “ Government Preference Prohibition Act 1913,” and its one clause is in these terms -
No preference or discrimination shall be made for or against any person in relation to any employment by the Commonwealth or by any Department or authority thereof, on account of his membership or non-membership of any political or industrial association.
As I read this proposal of the Government, it means-
– The right honorable member cannot anticipate that Bill in this debate.
– I think I can. I think the question is before the House. Perhaps it is just as well that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General should have time to confer.
– We have nothing to do with the right honorable member; let him get along with his speech.
– We do not know whether the consultation has to do with me and the House or not.
– Is the right honorable member in order in animadverting on the fact that I am having a little talk with my colleague ? Do not the rules of order in this House permit of my speaking to my colleague ?
– The Prime Minister is entitled to speak to his colleagues provided lie does not interrupt the course of the debate. I understand, however, that the honorable member for Wide Bay thought that the consultation had some reference to him, and that he, as a matter of courtesy, paused for a moment or two.
– I did not wish to interrupt the conversation. The AttorneyGeneral suggested that I was not in order in referring to the Bill in this debate, but you, sir, took no exception to my doing so; and I thought that, perhaps, the Attorney-General was going to raise a point of order. This important Bill, in my opinion, strikes at a principle by which the Labour party, at any rate, are prepared to stand.
– The right honorable member will not be in order in discussing’ the principle of a Bill already before the House, though he would be in order in referring to the question in general terms.
– It will be sufficient to point nut what I think the proposal and the policy of the Government mean. I take the Bill to provide that any employe of the Government, in any capacity whatever, may not, by any act of any person in the Commonwealth, whether he be a Judge, or any one else, have the rights and privileges and protection of the laws that are enjoyed by ordinary persons engaged by private employers.
– Apart from the Standing Orders, you are in an awkward position in trying to discuss the matter before it is introduced.
– On anything the AttorneyGeneral says I place the greatest weight; but, at the same time, this is an occasion when we must deal with the policy of the Government, and I can get ample warrant for what I am saying, not from what is in the Bill referred to, but from what was in the manifesto submitted by the Government at the beginning of the session, when they introduced their policy. So the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister need not be looking up authorities.
– The AttorneyGeneral and I are not discussing the honorable member, or what he has been saying. He can rest his mind as to that.
– I may be allowed to quote one or two things the Prime Minister has said about preference to unionists. I am sure he will forgive me for saying that, in his past, he has expressed many opinions, both personally and otherwise, with regard to preference to unionists. He is reported in the Argus of 16th July of this year to have said -
I want it to be understood that this Government is making no attack on unionism. That is the last thing we have in mind. We have every sympathy with industrial unionism. There never was, and there is not now, any intention to take steps to bring down wages or interfere with unionism in any way.
The Honorary Minister, Mr. Kelly, speaking two days earlier, said -
Unionists and non-unionists will be treated alike.
Colonel Ryrie. - That is what they are trying to get at.
– They are not. We find the Prime Minister saying further -
Every citizen who seeks public employment has an inalienable right to have his application decided solely on its merits.
Why, then, prohibit his right to go to the Arbitration Court, as any other man can do ? Why should not the casual employe, digging a drain for a conduit, have the right to go to the Arbitration Court, and get the protection of the Court, like any other employe?
– Who says that he haR not?
– The proposal of the Government is that they are prepared to penalize private employers - if it is a penalty for the Court to decide a matter - but they are not prepared, to guarantee to the workmen in the Government employ the same protection as workmen in private employ can secure. This proposal, with a pretended plea to make every one equal, is, apparently, a determination on the part of the Government to differentiate between Government employe’s and private employes, to the detriment of the private employer. Why should we put a burden on the private employer, a contractor, for instance, that we will not put on our own Government. I have often said that Parliament is the most incompetent Court to deal with industrial matters, and the transfer of the decision as regards wages and conditions of labour from Parliament to a Court is one of the best things that has ever happened. The Court can examine every trade and every industry, and determine what are fair and reasonable wages and conditions, and if it does so every reasonable Government and Parliament will see that the award of the Court is carried out. But the Prime Minister went a great deal further in his earlier days before he came into contact with the gentlemen now surrounding him. He said that when he was the secretary of a union he took good care that no unionists would work with non-unionists. They took most drastic action to see that that was carried out. He also said in the Chamber later on that if he were in the same position to-day he would do the very same thing. But he is not in that same position; he is to-day with other people, and so he does the very opposite. He is a veritable Vicar of Bray in the matter; he will do anything for the company he is in. As secretary for a union he would fight for that union, and speak for it in the most manly way; he declared that unionists were better than non-unionists; he quoted Gladstone and Thorold Rogers to show that the unionists had done more for the world than, perhaps, any other body the world had hitherto known, and that they were expected to do more in the future; and he said that the attempt to victimize unionists was an attempt by selfish employers to degrade unionists and destroy them, and keep from them that to which they were justly entitled. But now that he is in a position of trust and honour, he is prepared to go back on all that, and to declare that unionists may fight in their unions, that they may be victimized, and that they may secure the passage of legislation through Parliament; but that when he gets the opportunity he will wipe out that legislation and prevent unionists being treated even as fairly as others. His colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, is not in that position. He does not believe in any pandering or in any special legislation for the protection of unionists.
– Except for the protection of the legal fraternity.
– The legal profession, with which the honorable gentleman is associated, have ample protection. They take care that their preference will be ample and sufficient for them. The Prime
Minister, on the plea that preference to unionists is unjust, because public money is used to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists, has gone back on every profession he made when he was a unionist and until he took office on this occasion; and he does not seem to be in the slightest way ashamed of it. It is too late in the day for any Government or any Parliament to try to crush out unionism or unionists. The path of the progress of the world is strewn with the bodies of those who have been victimized - and their children too - in getting to the stage of industrial unionism that we have now reached, and I feel sure that whatever the attempt of the Government may be, the Democracy of Australia will take care that the rights of unionists are protected, not only as regards private employment, but also as regards public employment. The proposal of the Government is intended to prejudice the electors of the country, and to hit at the unionist and place him at a serious disadvantage. . I pledge myself to do all I can to make it absolutely impossible for the Government to carry out their policy in this regard.
– It is intended to protect public funds.
– Here we have a charge by the honorable member for Wimmera.
– And fancy; his father was the originator of trades unionism in Victoria.
– Order !
– The suggestion of the honorable member is that the proposal of the Government must be accepted in order to get honest work out of unionists. The charge is absolutely unwarranted, and it is one that the Prime Minister and his colleagues will not try to prove. In his earlier days, the Prime Minister said that unionists had to work harder than free labourers. I agree with him. The Prime Minister knows it is true to-day. Let any honorable member on the Ministerial side become a prominent unionist, and see whether he can get off with less work than the average free labourer. Let them experiment in that way, and see whether the Prime Minister was not right in what ha said in his earlier days. It seems to be a popular cry at present to denounce th’e unionists as loafers, and so on. We heard a great deal of that during the election. What proof have we since the present Government came into office that it was so? There is not the slightest proof that any abuse followed the recognition of unionistic principle, or that during our term of ofhce men were allowed to draw public money that they did not earn. As a matter of absolute fact the unionist has always to earn his money much harder than the privileged non-unionist. The Prime Minister at different times during the last fifteen years has said thathe was against unionists working with non-unionists, the reason being that non-unionists were used by employers to reduce the wages and conditions of labour of unionists; and now he is doing his utmost to compel unionists to work with non-unionists in the Public Service. What right has he to do that? If he believes in the principles he has hitherto enunciated, he ought not to be a party to this measure. I can only conclude that he has been driven into this position by those with whom he is now associated .
– Cannot a man change his mind - his opinions and his principles ?
– Nobody will object if the Prime Minister gets up and says honestly that he has changed his mind. He said - and I quoted, the statement because it was important - that the Government did not intend to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists. That was before this Bill was introduced; but now this Bill is before us as a declaration of policy, and the proposal, if it means anything, is to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists. At any rate, supposing that we brush that point to one side, what remains of his declaration that no unionist should be asked to work alongside of a non-unionist ? Underlying this proposal, I believe that more astute members of the Government than the Prime Minister himself have in view an industrial conflict by which they hope to gain politically. If the statement is true, that a unionist cannot honestly work with a non-unionist, there is bound to be trouble in the Public Service.
– Do vou say he can ?
– I think he can, in our fublic Service. A member of the honorable member’s profession may and does go on strike. Does the honorable member remember how, not long ago, in this State, a member of his high, honorable and learned profession, being retained to defend a person on a capital charge, went on strike just before the case was brought on?
– His “ screw “ was. not good enough.
– The honorable member for Balaclava, who is always fair in his interjections, has named the very reason given by the legal gentleman - that his fee was not large enough. If theunionist, who has only his hands between himself and the starvation of his wifeand children, protests, a great body of the press, and a great number of the representatives of the people here, howl him down as a striker, but if he happens to belong to a learned profession, or be in a good position in society, he can refuse to perform the services of his office, and still remain a gentleman. The other day we learned from the honorable member for Wentworth that the Government, since they came into office, had saved the country £126,000. Much has been made of this statement; but when the honorable member for Grey interrogated the Minister of External Affairs on the same point, the Minister said there was uo truth in that matter - that there was nosaving at all.
– Did he say that. there was no truth in it?
– He said that therewas no real saving at all - that the Minister of Home Affairs had made a mistake, and that it was a mere transfer of the work from the South Australian Government to the Commonwealth.
– Quote the statement. The honorable member is making a complete misrepresentation.
– I do not want to misrepresent anybody. I wish to deal with several of the Prime Minister’s statements, which I have had no opportunity to discuss. One is his statement, often, repeated, that, if the Opposition had been in office, they would have imposed extra taxation during this Parliament. That may be the Prime Minister’sopinion, but it is against the public policy of the party. No such proposal would have been made, and no fresh taxation would have been imposed. It is a cunning insinuatory suggestion to the public that Codlin is their friend, and not Short. I think they will be inclined to change their friends soon if they get an opportunity. Another extraordinary and unusual statement madepublicly by the Prime Minister was that* when he came into office he found a set of papers minuted by myself regarding the transfer of Admiralty House, and it was only by his strenuous action and careful consideration that the Commonwealth was not robbed of the value of that property. There is nothing in that file of papers to warrant the statement. It is another attempt to mislead the public as to the facts. I would ask the Prime Minister to put the papers on the table of the Library.
– I am prepared to do so.
– The question of the Commonwealth and State’s right to the property was negotiated for a considerable “time.
– You conceded the whole question. You proceeded to a valuation.
– A valuation is absolutely necessary in connexion with the transfer properties. For three or five years we were examining the values of the properties of the States for the purposes of transfer, and therefore, in this case, it was necessary to have a valuation, but there was no proposal with -the intention of coming to an agreement for the Commonwealth to pay for that property if it belonged to ourselves. The question at issue was whether the transfer was to the Commonwealth from the Imperial Government or to the State, and whether in the latter case it had to be transferred to the Commonwealth from the State as their property. I hope this debate will give the Government the opportunity they have been seeking for a long time to get to the country. If they have any honest intention to do so, I think they will get their opportunity. One cannot believe that they intend to suppress discussion in this House on the casting vote of the presiding officer. One cannot believe that it is the ambition of a party which claims to be a Liberal party to prevent free discussion here on matters of public finance. The Government have no policy. What they have is a mere tentative policy for the time being, and the spectacle that we have seen in this House lately must have been painful to most constitutionalists who have witnessed it. We have over thirty honorable members on the opposite side of the House representing various constituencies, holding divers opinions, sitting silent when important subjects are brought forward, being asked by the
Whips to say “Aye” or “No” at the direction or whim of the Government, and being led across the House to vote without any independent judgment whatever. Occasionally we hear a murmur of dissent from one member or another, but it never goes beyond that. That is not the attitude of men who desire to again visit their constituents. That is not the attitude of a Government who feel themselves embarrassed by the present situation, and wish to consult their masters again. This taunt by the Government of a desire to go to the country when they are ready is the merest pretence. Theirs is the responsibility, not ours. The weeping and whining of the Prime Minister to the press, that he will not be allowed to go to the country on his own terms is not in keeping with the dignity of the office that he holds. He has often referred to my dignity, and he will pardon me if I refer to it once in respect to his office. He is Prime Minister, and, I believe, he is proud of it. If the Government think that the electors should be again consulted, why do they not consult them ? The Opposition are prepared to give them every opportunity to do so. There has never been a Government in this Parliament who have bowed their necks so much to the press of the country as have the present Government. From the most important to the least important member of the present Ministry, not one of them says anything in this House which he considers smart criticism of the Opposition without looking up to the metropolitan press gallery to see whether the press are taking notice of what is being said. The Government have been entirely guided by the press. By looking at what appears in the press from time to time, the Opposition can tell what the policy of the Government is to be. We have seen them change their policy in a day, and in an hour, at the dictates of the great metropolitan press of this country. What happened only to-day? The Prime Minister, taken off his guard yesterday, moved the adjournment of the House. It was evident that that did not meet with the views of his Cabinet or the approval of his press supporters, and to-day we have witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a Prime Minister interrogating the Leader of the Opposition three or four times in order to cover his retreat and protect his position. Honorable members and the public should bear in mind that this humiliating spectacle has taken place in the National Parliament of Australia. It is a degradation to which I venture to say no previous possessors of the high offices held by Ministers have ever submitted to, and I trust none will ever submit to such a degradation in the future. It is due to Australia, and to the Federal Parliament, that those holding office as Ministers of the Crown should possess some sense of national responsibility.
– Like the right honorable gentleman himself, for instance ?
– No. I have never courted or. sought office in the way the honorable gentleman has sought it. I was never induced to desert an unpopular party by the hope of office. I have never recommended my political friends on any occasion to take part in a coalition. I should never willingly be a party to a coalition whilst the Labour party have a definite platform of social, industrial, and national legislation.I believed in the policy of the Labour party, and believe in it to-day. It is a policy that will live, and will continue to be an inspiration to many men and women. It says to the tyrant, ‘ 1 You shall not tyrannize over the weak.” It says to the sick, unfortunate, and afflicted, “It is the duty of society to protect and succour you in every possible way.” So far as has been practicable and possible we have put that policy before the people of Australia, and have given legislative expression to as much of it as we could during our term of office. Consideration as to the popularity or unpopularity of their policy would never influence members of this party to seek to attain office, which is a merely passing phase of public life. Th eir sole consideration is the promotion of legislation and administration which will lead to the improvement of the social conditions of the people, and will stand to the credit of the nation. I wish now to refer to a national phase of the Government policy. The Government propose to spend large sums of money from loan, as well as from revenue, on defence, but they have quite failed to grasp the national spirit of the defence policy of this country. Their policy on the naval side is absolutely flabby. They are shirking their responsibility in the most marked way. Fancy the Minister of Defence saying to our Admiral, “ Go and do as you like !” The Minister has no right to take up such a position. The responsibility for the defence of the country rests with the Government. It was, I suppose, a mere accident that the people of Melbourne desired that the Fleet should come here at Cup time. The Government shirked their Ministerial responsibilities in dealing with the matter. Bigger and more straightforward men would have said, “ If the Admiral advises that the men of the Fleet should undergo training, instead of coming here to play, that is the policy of the Government.” Instead of doing that Ministers shuffled out of their responsibilities in the most undignified way.
– Is the right honorable gentleman in favour of compulsory training for boys?
– Yes. Anything else? I am in favour of compulsory training for boys. If I had my way there would be no war at all. No money would be expended on the Navy if I thought such expenditure could be avoided. The experience of the world in this matter has only one lesson for us. The lamp of the past is our only guide for the future, and I ask honorable members to tell me of any country, poor or rich, that has escaped the ravages of war or invasion. Is Australia to be the only country in the world to escape the experience of war ?
– It is the only country to put the burden upon the children.
– If the fate to be engaged in war awaits Australia and New Zealand, the time to prepare for it is not when the enemy is at our gates. The time to prepare for the defence of this country is now, when there is peace in the world, and Great Britain is free from international complications. I say that in connexion with social and national legislation the present Government have since they came into power absolutely failed to carry out the mandate of the country. In my opinion, they have no warrant to retain office if they cannot give effect to the policy they announced to the electors. I hope that the Prime Minister will take his courage in both hands, and, instead of continuously whining and talking about what he is going to do, will seek the first opportunity to consult those to whom he owes his presence in thi3 House. It would take too long to enumerate the faults and failings of the Government, and as
I have promised that this debate will not be unduly prolonged, and that the speeches made from this side will be comparatively brief, I shall not further prolong the debate myself. If the Government are at all serious in their professed desire to consult the people, I hope they will lose no time in doing so.
– They will want better reasons than the right honorable gentleman has just given.
– Of course, they will.
– In all my long experience in Parliament I have never witnessed a more pitiful exhibition, by any Leader of the Opposition that I can remember, than that to which we have just been treated. Not a single new thing has been said, and not one old thing has been said with the slightest ability. I congratulate my honorable friends on the display of leadership we have witnessed to-day. I never in my life listened to an indictment so feeble, so personal, and, at the same time, containing so little that is new as the performance of the right honorable gentleman to-day.
– That is just what we expected the honorable gentleman to say.
– I am about to say something else which perhaps honorable members opposite did not expect me to say. It is, that I have not the slightest intention of attempting a serious reply to this indictment. There was not a statement in it that has not been replied to ad nauseam in this House.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman resign and go to the country?
– All I have to say to that is that the Government will go to the country when they think they ought to go. or, on the other hand, when my honorable friends opposite acquire the ability to drive them there. We have our own conceptions of public duty.
– Order ! I trust that there will be sufficient silence to enable the Prime Minister to make his speech.
– That’s it, . Kelly ; apply the “gag.”
-I am very sorry that J should have to reprove a member of this House who has had some experience in endeavouring to carry out the Standing Orders. It is distinctly disorderly to make an interjection the moment after the House has been called to order.
– The right honorable member for Wide Bay made some reference to another Chamber, and the conduct of business there. That, and perhaps another, are the only points I wish to clear up. In the first place, the Senate has been adjourned until the 19th of this month. It was adjourned on the motion of the Minister of Defence, who is the leader of the Senate. I believe a division was called for on the motion, and that fourteen members of the Opposition voted with the Government to close the Senate until the 19th of this month. Moreover, I believe that the motion was moved at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
– That only shows the weakness of the honorable gentleman’s Government.
– Of course, it does. We are weak up there. We are weak in the Chamber that does not represent the democratic vote of this country. It is quite true that we are weak there, and therefore those who are strong - the Opposition - must take the responsibility of determining the conduct of the business in that Chamber. Is it not idle, in the circumstances, to apply these taunts-
– You say that you are in office.
– Order !
– Every member of the Opposition somehow or another would appear to be a leader of thought and debate in this House.
– I only quoted the honorable gentleman’s own words.
– There is no distinction between honorable members opposite. Every one in turn takes a hand at the business. I shall leave that point. There will be no difficulty aboutthe business in the Senate. The difficulty at present is not in the Senate. It is here. My honorable friends have concentrated their attention throughout the present session upon preventing business being done in this House. Deliberate and wilful obstruction of the public business has characterized every action of my honorable friends since the session began.
– Order! I must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the expression, “ deliberate and wilful obstruction of the public busi- ness. * ‘
– Shall I put it in another way ?
– Certainly I withdraw the expression, since it is unparliamentary. May I put it in another way, and say that my honorable friends have done their best to help the Government to do nothing so far?
– We said that about the Prime Minister himself during the last Parliament.
– Reference has been made to the enormity of the crime of applying the closure in this House. I shall not debate that matter, because I do not attempt seriously to reply to the statements which have been made by the Leader of the Opposition. They do not deserve a serious reply, for the reason that they have already been replied to scores of times during this session. Not one single new question was suggested or propounded by the right honorable member. He simply gave us a re-hash of the same old “tripe” that we have heard during the past four months. I wish to say that whatever has been done in regard to the application of the closure has been done in an attempt to expedite the public business of this country. My right honorable friend said that his Government passed eighty-three Acts during the last Parliament without the imposition of the closure. We have scarcely been able to pass one Act this session without its application. Why? Simply because of the difference between the attitude of the Opposition towards his Government and the attitude of the Opposition towards this Government. There can be no other reason. We have not been blocking public business. We have been endeavouring to push it through. If the right honorable member was able to get eighty -three Acts through this Parliament without the application of the closure, the Opposition to his Government must have treated him infinitely better than the present Opposition is treating us. His statement, therefore, carries its own condemnation, and is the clearest of all imputations on the fair and reasonable conduct of the Opposition in this Chamber.
Now, with regard to the closure and its application. Under this heading T merely wish to utter a half-dozen sentences.
First, as to the gentleman who, of all others, is most responsible for the closure being brought into existence - I refer to Mr. Watson. Speaking in this House on the 16th November, 1905 - as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 5294 - he said -
Half-a-dozen honorable members mav be acting from the best possible motives, being thoroughly convinced that they are justified in using every weapon which presents itself for preventing certain legislation from going through. I make no charge against their bona fides. But representative . Government becomes impossible when it lies in the whim of a few individuals to say what legislation shall pass. That is a condition of things of which no honorable member who wishes well for the institutions of this country can look upon without foreboding and without trying to lake steps to alter.
We did take steps to alter and stop the dreary- drip of discussion which has proceeded in this Chamber for four months, and the application of the closure was made first of all on my suggestion. It was not, as my right honorable friend has suggested, applied without my consent, and in spite of me. Nothing of the kind. It was I who first suggested the application of the closure. I am responsible for its imposition, as any Prime Minister should be. I may tell the right honorable member something more - that the Attorney-General wished to be very much more gracious to the Opposition on that particular occasion. He was prepared to let them go for two or three hours longer. I thought they had gone long enough in the interests of the country, and I am responsible for the first application of the closure. Indeed, I am responsible for every application of it. I wish to say that the Government did but their duty. With these things cleared out of the way, while I had prepared a reply to an indictment of the Government had it been seriously made, I absolutely refuse to waste the time of the country in taking anv further part in a discussion of this kind.
– The Prime Minister, having nothing to say in answer to the charge made against him by the Leader of the Opposition, and being unable to trust himself to make the answer in which he usually indulges when charges are made to which he is unable to reply, has sat down. In doing so he is acting in harmony with the character which he has lately assumed of being furiously desirous of getting on with the business of the country. The most serious accusation which can be levelled against any man in public life is that he obstructs the transaction of the business of the people. I think, perhaps, that I may be permitted on this occasion to review the present position, so far as it affects the conduct of public business in this House. The Leader of the Opposition has reminded the Prime Minister that parties in this Chamber are evenly divided, but that, as a matter of fact, the aggregate votes recorded for members on this side of the House at the last election was greater than the aggregate vote recorded for honorable members upon the other side.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Happily this is a matter which is not susceptible to the closure, which is open to investigation, and which will stand all the investigation that the honorable member or anybody else can give to it. It is a fact that honorable members upon this side of the House did secure more votes than did honorable members upon the other side.
– It is not a fact.
– In this House parties are evenly divided. In the other Chamber the position is very well known. There are twenty-nine senators who belong to the Labour party, and seven who belong to the Liberal party. It is a fact that on the appeal to the country at the last election the returns show a clear and overwhelming majority in favour of the Labour party. I am not now speaking of the eighteen men who remained, but of the results of the last election, and I say that in the Senate Labour was returned with an overwhelming majority.
– The aggregate vote cast for Labour was 13,000 less than that cast for the Liberal candidates.
– The figures are, as I have represented, so far as the aggregate vote is concerned. The Liberal senators went to the country, and were decimated. The Government are in office. They have a majority of one. The situation is unique in this Parliament, and almost unique in Australia. The Government are carrying on the business of the country. They came into office on the 25th June, and they have been in office ever since. They have had as full control of the business of this House from the moment that it met at the beginning of the session as they have to-day. We are now told - and the whole show that we have seen played here for the last week or so has been intended to create the impression - that the business of the country is being ruthlessly and relentlessly obstructed by the Opposition. What are the actual facts ? For the state of public business to-day the Government are entirely responsible. They put their programme in the Governor-General’s Speech, and set it before the country. I ask honorable members to say what effort they have made to give effect to that programme? The most serious indictment I can level against the Government is that they have been absolutely treacherous to the constituencies of the Commonwealth. They were returned to power upon what I shall show to be false pretences. The greatest inducement which any party can offer to a man in these days is that it will - if returned to power - cost him less in taxation than he has been paying, and that it will reduce his cost of living. There is no argument known to man since first speech was given to him which is so effective as that which touches his pocket. The Government, headed by the honorable member for Parramatta, swept over the country on this one cry - that the Fisher Government had been guilty of reckless extravagance, and that if returned to power they would introduce economical and good ‘government, and that they would reduce the taxation of the people. They said that the cost of living, which was towering so high, was due to the Labour regime, and the legislation of the Labour party. Upon that cry they were returned, and in spite of their pretexts, and of the fact that they have at their back the press of this country, by which alone they are enabled to live, and without which they would not be here for twenty-four hours, they have utterly failed to even attempt to fulfil their solemn pledges. I ask them to say what attempt they have made since they came into office to reduce the cost of living, or to decrease taxation ? They have done nothing. There has never been a Government which, in such short time, so completely violated its pledges to the people. The position would have some tinge of humour were it not so tragic. An Administration returned to reduce public expenditure has increased it at a greater rate than any that has ever occupied the Treasury bench in this Chamber. So much for that. Now for the charge of obstruction of public business levelled against the Opposition by the Government. There never was a more baseless charge. Ministers, from the day on which they met Parliament, have been able to determine the order in which public business should be taken, what the hours of sitting should be, what business pressed through, and so on. What have they done? They have adjourned the House on every conceivable occasion; they have sat as few hours as possible; they have done nothing to push on public business, They have deliberately wasted the time of this House by futile attempts at legislation, which were never honestly pushed home; and by leaving high and dry on the shoals of time the measure on which they had staked their existence, declaring it to be the first necessary step in the direction of reform - I refer to the Electoral Bill - they have exposed to every man who is not purblind the insincerity of their professions and the hollowness of their actions. They have introduced in place of what they promised two quack measures, with which they hope to delude the people into thinking that they are honestly carrying out their pledges. The Prime Minister spoke of the weakness of the indictment of the Leader of the Opposition. The only weakness of the right honorable member’s indictment was this: that he spoke the truth, and was courteous, and, perhaps, too mild, in his language. He did not insult the Prime Minister. He did not remind him of the depth of the turpitude to which he has of late so frequently descended. The Prime Minister, confronted with his past, refuses to recognise ft. He has only one answer to every argument - I am wrong, he has two - his answers are, “ That the question be now put,” or “ The honorable member is insulting.” Upon those two answers he rests his case.
The Prime Minister pretends we have obstructed necessary legislation. Let us see. When the Labour Government took office in 1910, it had a programme of which it was not ashamed. Its measures having been put before the country, had received the indorsement of the people, and it came to Parliament to give effect to its mandate. The most important of these measures were those providing for land value taxation, defence, the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, and the establishment of a note issue. Ministers resolutely set to work to place those and other similar measures on the statute-book. They did not place a Bill on the table merely to deceive the people. They pushed on with their measures day after day, and had the satisfaction of closing the session of 1910 with the bulk of their programme on the statute-book. That was the record of men who were in earnest and faithful to their pledges. But on the other side there is not a man who is not perjured, so far as his electoral pledges are concerned. Honorable members opposite told the people what they would do, but they have not kept their promises. They have made no attempt to keep them. But, on the other hand, they have done that which stifled free speech in this Parliament. The honorable member for Werriwa, for example, stood for independence of thought and action. He would have nothing to do with Caucus chains and fetters, that prevent expression being given to a man’s inmost and best thoughts. He was for liberty of speech and action. He was for lightening the taxation of the people, and for reducing the cost of living. But to-day he sits behind his Government, manacled and fettered, and is not permitted to say that which he would give ten years of his life to be able to say, knowing that, if he said it, he would be blotted out from the political life of this country. What does the party opposite, that pretends to stand for freedom of thought and action, do when any of its members dares to say a word against the ukase or mere ipse dixit of its leaders ? What did it do to the honorable member for Flinders, the very apostle of liberty, when he made his famous speech at Korumburra ? It compelled him to eat his words. What did it do when the honorable member for Parkes stated that he was willing to follow Mr. Reid if he knew which way Mr. Reid was going? The press supporting the party at once said, “ This is not the time for independence,” and he was made to eat his words. What is being done now in New South Wales, where Sir William McMillan has declared that the Liberal leagues have been packed, and that there is no chance for independent thought and action? He is vehemently demanding freedom of speech and action, and is not tolerated by the Liberal party. Those of us who know the honorable member for Werriwa are aware that it is not his nature to sit quiet, and that he now does so because he dare not speak. For he cannot approve, yetdare not disapprove, the actions of this Government. What a position for a free man ! I would not do what he is doing even to stay in political life. The AttorneyGeneral poses as a man of bold,independent thought. He came into the House a little while ago and said, “ Here is the Electoral Bill ; help us to make it a better measure; we shall welcome improvements.” We know what happened the other night, and how the honorable member’s promises were carried into effect. With other men what has happened might be excusable; with him it is inexcusable
We are charged with obstruction. The Government have made no honest attempt to carry on the business of the country. It has wasted its own time and the time of the House. It has not done what the Labour Government did in 1910. That Government sat until its business was finished. That is the proper way of transacting business. When we met Parliament in 1910 we had a big programme of work before us, but we sat in the morning and transacted our business in a business-like way, remaining until it was finished . When I hear from the present Prime Minister the charge of obstruction, I say that it is as out of place on his lips as the devil would be in a Methodist chapel. There was never a more deliberate waster of time, never a more persistent obstructor than lie. If this Government had desired to press on with its programme it would have met in the morning at half-past 10, and, if necessary have sat late, as the Labour Government did, but it has never made any effort to press on with its business. What happened yesterday is an instance of its readiness to waste time. Why did the Prime Minister adjourn the House when the right honorable member for Wide Bay gave notice of his motion of no-confidence 1 The Prime Minister says that it was customary to do so. Good God 1 Is precedent to be thrown in our faces by such a man at such a time ? Are the rules that govern debate amongst decent men in deliberative assembles, and which he has trampled under foot, to be made an excuse for the honorable member’s action in wasting another day? After his action during the past week he should have some better excuse. Had he not been anxious to do what his friends wanted - to go to the races - he would have proceeded with the business of the country. He adjourned the House over Cup Day. That is to say, he has wasted two days this week. Yet he says we waste time !
This is the state of public business at the present time : The Government have deliberately refrained from pushing on with the legitimate business of the country, and at the tail-end of the session not one of the pledges that it gave to the people has been fulfilled. But it wishes to create in the minds of the public the impression that it is desperately anxious to keep its promises, and now poses as a strong, resolute Administration determined, in the face of the most relentless opposition, to force its measures through- Parliament. What an insult to the intelligence of the people. If those measures were of national importance, affecting the lives and interests of the people, and necessary to prevent some great disaster, the situation would be entirely different. If the Opposition were holding up proposals for lightening the burden of the people and reducing taxation; if we were trying to strike a deadly blow at the Tariff, the position would be different. But the bulk of the people are not the least concerned about the two measures that have been paraded before the country, and are being used by the Government as a stalking-horse.
– I rise to order. I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to standing order 119, which provides that -
If all motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House the debate thereon shall be interrupted and unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation; but if there should be no Order of the Day, the discussions on motions may be continued. …
I ask that that standing order be now put in operation.
– In the circumstances, my attention having been called to standing order 119, effect will have to be given to it.
– Throwing the responsibility on the Speaker.
The Clerk. ; Government business.
– I intend to move that the debate be continued.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? I cannot take such a motion after the two hours fixed by the Standing Orders have expired. It is the practice of this House that, before the expiration of the two hours, the honorable member speaking may move for leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed, and, by order of the House, a date can then be fixed for the resumption of the debate. That has always been done, and it must of necessity be done before, and not after, the ex- piration of the two hours. That has not been done, in this case, before the expiration of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, when, as provided by standing order 119, the debate shall be interrupted.
– Very clever!
– The standing order provides that the debate upon a motion shall be interrupted at the end of two hours after the time of the meeting of the House, and that, unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation. But after the Orders of the Day have been disposed of, the debate on the interrupted motion may be resumed.
– I rise to a point of order. According to the traditions and practices of this Parliament, a motion of want of confidence in the Government takes precedence of all business on the businesspaper. The Prime Minister seems to have anticipated that cotirse, because the moment the Leader of the Opposition gave notice of his motion yesterday, the honorable gentleman moved the adiournment of the House. If the Prime Minister wishes to avoid discussion on the motion, he ought to avoid it in the way in which the Standing Orders provide.
– In an honorable way.
– la a straightforward way; and it seems to me that the course now being pursued is not a straightforward one.
– Is that a point of order ?
– I think the AttorneyGeneral might have given us some little warning. I am satisfied that if he had done so, we should have been able to fortify ourselves to meet this point. I ought to have known when I saw the AttorneyGeneral moving about the Chamber with the Standing Orders in his hands this morning that he was up to something. I submit, sir, that a motion of censure ought to be dealt with in accordance with the practice of Parliament. Having re gard to our own traditions, as well as those of the House of Commons-
– What is the honorable member’s point of order ?
– Cutting short the debate.
– Order !
– The adoption of the traditions and practice of the House of Commons was rendered necessary by the fact that we had no traditions or practice of our own, but I submit, sir, that, according: to our own practice, a motion of no confidence in the Government takes precedence of other business on the notice-paper. On no occasion has an attempt been made upon a motion of want of confidence to> raise a point of this kind. There have probably been fifteen motions of want of confidence submitted in this House since the inception of Federation, and I ask the Attorney-General to notice this point. The hum of conversation, Mr. Speaker, is rather embarrassing.
– Order! I would inform the honorable member that I am, prepared to decide the point of order, and do not need any assistance.
– I hope you will not decide it, sir, before you have allowed me to state my views upon the question.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, . that the honorable member for Capricornia is not in order in raising a point of order respecting a decision which has been given by you. The usual method of challenging a ruling by the Speaker is to move that it be disagreed with.
– I rise to a point of order.
– This cannot be the subject of a point of order.
– Order ! Will honorable members be seated? I again emphasize the request that I have already made several times that when the Speaker is on his feet there must be absolute silence. If honorable members will not observe that standing order, I shall have to take serious notice of their conduct. I am not going to call attention, every time I rise, to the existence of the standing order in question. I have done so several times, and out of consideration for honorable members I have refrained from taking action, but there is a point at which forbearance becomes no longer possible.
– Will you hear me for one moment, sir?
– No. .
– There is nothing like having an umpire on your side.
– The honorable member for Barrier must not reflect on the Chair, or interrupt the Speaker when he is on his feet. The honorable member for Capricornia has raised a point of order. I ask him to state it as briefly as possible, as I have already intimated that I am prepared to give a ruling upon it.
– I shall endeavour, as briefly as possible, to state my point of order. There have probably been fifteen motions of want of confidence moved since the inception of this Parliament some twelve years ago. Whenever notice of such a motion has been given, the Prime Minister of the day has immediately moved the adjournment of the House, and the motion has been placed first on the business-paper for consideration on the following day. That motion has always been taken as soon as the House has met, not even a question being put to Ministers. That is now, in fact, an established practice of the House of Representatives, and, having become the custom, has it not developed into the law? The Attorney-General will know-
– If the honorable member asks me, I say that it has not. ‘
– The Attorney-General knows that custom is, in certain cases, law, and it seems to me that the practice with regard to motions of censure must overrule the Standing Orders, which, in other respects, would be carried out in the way that you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled. I urge respectfully for your consideration that the motion of censure should be allowed to be discussed.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I have no desire to hear any further discussion on the point of order.
– Surely we can get a hearing.
– The discussion is quite irregular. Points of order should, properly, be decided at once, and I am prepared to decide the point.
– Surely we can get a hearing on a point of order.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barrier is out of order.
– Let us put our side.
– I name the honorable member for Barrier.
– This is a display of temper; it is all done in temper.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is again out of order. I call upon the Prime Minister to take action. At the beginning of these proceedings, I gave honorable members fair warning that I would have order preserved in this House, and they knew what to expect if they would not regard the authority of the Chair. I have several times called honorable members to order, but, in spite of my repeated requests, they have persisted in disorder. I shall certainly see that the Standing Orders are enforced, in order to preserve the decency and dignity of our proceedings. Before calling upon the Prime Minister to take action, I shall ask the honorable member for Barrier to apologize for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I call upon the honorable member for Barrier-
– Mr. Speaker-
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? I ask the honorable member for Barrier to withdraw and apologize.
– For what?
– For disregarding the authority of the Chair.
– How did I do so?
– I have repeatedly called for order. I called the honorable member to order in particular for interrupting me while I was on my feet calling for order, to enable myself to be heard, but he immediately again interjected; and, as I intimated previously
– The honorable member had better withdraw.
– And, as I intimated previously my intention of doing, I have put the standing order into effect. I call upon the Prime Minister to take the usual course.
.- I hope that the honorable member will withdraw.
– You have a motion in hand, Thomas.
– Order !
– I hope that the honorable member for Barrier will do the right thing.
– What am I to do? What did I say
– Do what Mr. Speaker has directed. The honorable member should withdraw and apologize.
– What did he say?
– I move -
That the honorable member for Barrier be suspended from the service of the House.
– Is the motion seconded t
– I appeal to my honorable friend-
– The motion cannot be debated.
– Do you not want to hear me?
– There is a great deal of feeling in this matter. If you do not want to hear me, I will sit down.
– Order ! This matter, under the Standing Orders, cannot be debated.
– Why do not you put them all out?
– The motion is that the honorable member for Barrier be suspended from the service of the House. Several members have shouted insulting interjections. If these insulting expressions are again used I shall call upon the Clerk of the House to take down the words used and the names of honorable members giving utterance to them, and ask the House to take action regarding them.
The bells being rung for a division,
- Mr Speaker-
– There is such a state of disorder that it is absolutely impossible for me to hear the Leader of the Opposition.
– Under the extraordinary circumstances, I am sure honorable members will not object to my standing, instead of retaining my seat.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to address the Chair standing?
– I desire to suggest that, under the extreme and extraordinary circumstances, and in view of the tense feeling that prevails, the honorable member for Barrier might very well withdraw the words, as he has been requested to do. There is a great deal to be said in apology for anything that the honorable member may . have uttered. His language was not excessive, but the rules and practice of Parliament must be complied with. Only the Speaker can determine on whom he calls and when, and for that reason I ask my honorable friend, the honorable member for Barrier, to withdraw the statement he has made.
– I do not know what it is that I am called upon to withdraw, but, whatever it may . be, I withdraw it. I have not the faintest idea what I have said or done, but I withdraw and apologize, whatever it is.
– The honorable member for Barrier has just said that he does not know what he is called upon to apologize for. I distinctly stated to him that I had several times called him to order, but that he disregarded the call and defied the authority of the Chair. I had no option, though much against my inclination, after calling on the honorable member to apologize, and his failure to do so, but to name him, under the circumstances.
– I do not dispute the fact, Mr. Speaker, that you called me to order two or three times, but I never heard you on one single occasion until you named me. I do not say that you did not call me to order, but I never heard you do so.
– I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I desire to call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the meaning of standing order 119.
– The point has been ruled on.
– The honorable member for Capricornia pointed out what has been the practice of the House, and I think, Mr. Speaker, that you ought to take notice of what he said.
– The honorable member is traversing the decision of Mr. Speaker.
– I must ask the Prime Minister not to be in such a hurry. If you, Mr. Speaker, are going to rule against the custom, well and good; but I come to another point. ‘ Standing order 119 cannot refer to motions of censure, because it refers to motions ; a motion of censure always stands by itself, and has no relation, in any way, to any other motion.
– Mr. Speaker has decided the point.
– Allow me to say what I have to say; the Attorney-General can move his own little motion in a minute. If the standing order did refer to motions of censure, then the closure provisions would be quite unnecessary in such cases. Since the honorable member for Barrier has been called to order, I might at least have silence.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member cannot make a personal explanation at this juncture.
– I must have absolute silence.
– Order ! Will honorable members maintain silence ?
– The closure provisions follow standing order 119, and were inserted subsequently thereto; therefore, if there is any conflict, the closure provisions must override that standing order. The closure provisions must, and do, have relation to motions of censure, because in the discussion on the closure provisions reference was made to this very point. It is very evident that the closure provisions were introduced because there was need to limit debate. You, Mr. Speaker, when discussing the proposed new standing order for the limitation of debate, on 23rd November, 1905, said -
It is only when matters of a highly contenti ons character are under consideration that honorable members of the party to which I belong, at any rate, exhibit any desire to speak at unusual length. I think it will be generally admitted that a no-confidence motion should be the subject of the fullest and freest discussion. How can an honorable member compress all his reasons for objecting to the policy of a Government, as well as to its acts of administration, within the comparatively brief period of one hour? I can readily conceive of cases arising when more than two hours would be necessary to enable a speaker to even enumerate, without discussing in detail, the misdeeds of a Ministry.
These, Mr. Speaker, are your own words, and I quote them with a certain degree of assurance that they will carry weight. They have relation to the closure; and the closure provisions were adopted as part of our Standing Orders subsequently to standing order 119, and, therefore, they override that standing order.
– But Mr. Speaker has already-
– The Attorney-General is not in the Chair yet. Standing order 119, whatever scope it had before the closure provisions were carried, is now limited by those provisions, which give the power to restrict debate. The closure provisions were evidently intended to apply to motions of censure, because you, yourself, sir, instanced that as one of the reasons why they should not be adopted. Before the closure provisions were adopted, there was no means of closing a censure debate within two hours, as is shown by the fact that you, yourself, said it would, under some circumstances, take a man at least two hours to express his views. You are to interpret these rules strictly, especially when it is suggested that there ‘ should be taken away from any member that right which is fundamental to his position in a deliberative assembly. When it is suggested that an honorable member’s mouth shall be closed, you ought to ask yourself whether standing order 119, which has never been enforced in this way, can, and ought to, be so applied; and I submit that, in the circumstances, an honorable member’s mouth ought not to be closed.
– On a point of order-
– I desire to hear no more speeches on the point of order. I am prepared to decide the point of order now before me. The honorable member for West Sydney said in his concluding words that I have to interpret the Standing Orders strictly; and standing order 119 makes no exception in any case. The nature of the motion is immaterial to the point. The standing order makes no exception, but distinctly says all motions. When a private member submits a motion, whether it be one of no-confidence or not, it is for the Government to say how they will regard it, and for the House to determine what they will do with that motion when it is put from the Chair for decision. All I am concerned about is the standing order as it is. It has nothing to do with the closure provisions, as argued by the honorable member for West Sydney; it was adopted long before the closure provisions were dealt with, and has been acted on many times in the procedure of this House.
– Never on a noconfidence motion.
– Order ! The fact that this is a no-confidence motion does not alter the principle at all. If it had been intended to specially exempt noconfidence motions from the operation of the closure provisions, it would have been so stated in those provisions. The standing order makes no limitations. It says -
If nil motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and unless the House otherwise order, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation. . . .
In the past, the debate on no-confidence motions has been continued by general concurrence of the House, and the decision of the Government to proceed with no business until the question was determined by tlie House. But, in the present instance, the Prime Minister has intimated that he intends to proceed with business, and has called attention to the expiration of the time allowed for motions under standing order 119. My attention having been called to the matter, and an objection having been taken by the Prime Minister to the continuance of the debate after the time named, I have no option but to’ putthe standing order in force.
– I ask leave to submit a motion.
– What is the motion ?
– The motion is that the honorable member for West Sydney be further heard.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– I have risen to a point of order.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat when the Speaker is on his feet 1 The honorable member for Wide Bay has asked the House for leave to submit a motion. Is it the pleasure of the House that leave be granted ?
– I object, Mr. Speaker.
– There being aa objection, a motion cannot be submitted.
Sit tin ff suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I rise to a point of order. The proceedings of the House to-day are unusual. They have been interrupted in an unusual way. In my experience it is without parallel in any British Parliament that the debate on a motion of want of confidence has been interrupted by the procedure adopted by the Leader of the Government. I wish to direct attention to May, which is considered an authority on practice and procedure in all difficult and unusual cases, and which we follow in the absence of any direct instructions in our own Standing Orders.
– I acted under our own Standing Orders.
– Order ! Allow the honorable member to state his point of order.
– The Prime Minister says that he acted under our own Standing Orders, but only in violation of a promise he made to me yesterday.
– I am not aware of any.
– The Prime Minister asked me yesterday whether this business, meaning the debate on my motion, would continue until early next week. It was a distinct agreement between the two sides of the House. However, I am not arguing that point now, and I should not have intervened to touch on that subject but for the Prime Minister’s interjection.
– I deny it.
– Order ! The honorable member must be allowed to state hia point of order.
– The denial of the Prime Minister cannot alter the fact.
– It is not a fact.
– I wish to direct attention to page 214 of the eleventh edition of May and to the paragraph headed “ Interruption of business under the Standing Orders.” First of all, I claim that if today’s incident was anything, it was an interruption of business under the Standing Orders. The Prime Minister admits it, and so do all honorable members, and Mr. Speaker held that he was imperatively bound to strictly read the wording of the standing order under which he acted. Therefore, this was an interruption of business under the Standing Orders. May says, in the paragraph to which I have referred -
On every day of the week, except Saturday and Sunday, the working hours of the House are subject to the following regulations :- Business is interrupted on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at eleven o’clock, when, if the House be not engaged on exempted business (see p. a«6), the Speaker rises from the chair and interrupts the business then under consideration ; or if the House be in Committee, the Chairman leaves the chair to make his report to the House. On Friday the moment of interruption is five o’clock.
Then comes the following sentence: -
The business under consideration at the moment of interruption stands over until the next sitting, or such other sitting as the member in charge thereof may appoint.
I hold that this leaves me, as the mover and the member in charge of the motion, to fix when the discussion of it shall be resumed by the House. That is definite and distinct.
– What is the standing order?
– Our Standing Orders lay it down that where they are silent on any particular point the procedure of the House of Commons, as laid down by May, shall be followed.
– But they are not silent on the point.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that because we have no distinct standing order the right of the person in charge of the motion is abrogated ? I certainly hold that where there is no direct standing order to the contrary, then, without doubt, I have the right referred to in May dealing with the practice of the House of Commons.
– If you are right, this question can only arise at the next sitting .
– The honorable member is in error, because unless some action is taken now the Government may not put the motion at the head of the notice-paper for Tuesday.
– Then you can complain on Tuesday.
– No. There would be no right to complain on Tuesday. If by inadvertence, or wilfully, as suggested by the honorable member, I give up my right to-day to have the resumption of the debate fixed for Tuesday, I shall be unable to complain of losing that right on Tuesday, and had I not intervened before any other business was called on to-day I would probably have lost my right altogether. With all due respect to the AttorneyGeneral, I would fail in my duty if I did not strive to protect the rights of minorities, when the law is, as it seems to be, according to the procedure laid down in May. I call the attention of honorable members to the fact that today’s procedure is not only new, but has no parallel in any Parliament. I do not question Mr. Speaker’s reading of the direct standing order under which he has given his decision, but it is incumbent upon the Opposition, when the Government are not inclined to protect minorities, to see that every opportunity is availed of within our Standing Orders to protect the rights of not only the present Opposition, but of any Opposition that may follow. It is a mere statement of fact that Oppositions have a habit of becoming Governments, and Governments have, regrettably to them, the habit of becoming Oppositions all too soon. The principal purpose of standing orders, rules, practices, and usages of free Parliaments is not to protect majorities, but to protect minorities. I think it was Mr. Speaker Brand who, when charged by some honorable members of great influence in the House of Commons with having leaned in his decisions towards the Opposition, said, ‘ ‘ I feel it to be my duty to give the benefit of the doubt to Oppositions or to minorities, for the reason that the majority can protect itself.” The basic principle of that decision has immortalized that Speaker. But if things go on here as are indicated, there is a tendency that only one party shall be heard in the House, and that is not the minority, and not the Opposition. The decision on this matter will affect not only the present, but the future, and I hope it will not be treated as a party matter.
– What is your point 1
– The Government were within their rights in asking Mr. Speaker whether, under the Standing Orders, the want of confidence motion could continue more than two hours, treating it as a private member’s motion, and the Speaker decided that the Standing Orders forbade the continuance of the debate more than two hours; but my point is that, according to May, the member in charge of the motion has the right to fix the date on which the resumption of the debate upon it shall take place. That is my point as to the Standing Orders, but I buttress it bv the statement from May, that the business under consideration at the moment of interruption stands over until the next sitting or such other sitting as the member in charge thereof may appoint.
– Does that apply toany motion ?
– It applies to motions interrupted by Standing Orders. It is not- contended that my motion was not interrupted by the standing order. The closure was not moved; no other action was taken; the Speaker simply held that there was an automatic close of the debate after the lapse of two hours.
– Is not the position that you talked out the motion?
– The position was that, notwithstanding my many experiences, I relied upon the honour of the Prime Minister to carry out his promise.
– There was no promise.
– The honorable member made a distinct and definite promise that my motion would be taken as a want of confidence motion. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on the point I have raised.
– But the standing order says it must be done before the expiry of the two hours.
– If the standing order says that, I presume Mr. Speaker will be able to say so; but, in my opinion, the standing order is silent on the point. I think I may reasonably assume that I have every right to fix a date for the resumption of the debate, and, therefore, move -
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday next.
– On a point of order, I am not sure whether the question is now put by the Leader of the Opposition as a point of order, or a substantive motion, but in either case there is a point of order raised by it.
– I rise to a point of order. Let us have this matter clear. The Leader of the Opposition rose to a point of order, but concluded by moving a motion.
– The practice of the House is that no motion can be debated unless it is stated from the Chair. I have not yet stated any question to the House.
– I propose to take a point of order as to whether the motion can be put. The honorable member for Wide Bay is perfectly familiar with the practice universally adopted, and always adhered to, that before the time expires for dealing with matters of this sort the honorable member in charge of it has the right to move that the business be made an Order of the Day for some other date. That was not done, and I submit that it cannot be done now. There is in the Standing Orders a clear, sure, and explicit answer to the question of order raised by the honorable member. The honorable member has read a passage from May to the effect that on every day of the week, except Saturday and Sunday, the working hours of the House are subject to the following regulations : Business is interrupted on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at H o’clock, when if the House be not engaged on exempted business the Speaker rises from the chair. Then this is the passage on which the honorable member relies -
The business under consideration at the moment of interruption stands over until the next sitting, or such other sitting as the member in charge thereof may appoint.
May is merely a text-book, and we must naturally look for the authority for that statement. That is to be found in the margin which apparently the honorable member overlooked. The reference there is to standing order 1, appendix 1. In the same volume of May we find that standing order 1, rule 3, is as follows: -
At it o’clock on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and at 5 o’clock on Fridays, the proceedings on any business then under consideration shall be interrupted, and if the House be in Committee the Chairman shall leave the chair and make his report to the House, and if a motion has been proposed for the adjournment of the House, or of the debate, or in Committee, that the Chairman do report progress, or do leave the chair, every such dilatory motion shall lapse without question put.
Rule 6, the particular authority for the passage upon which my honorable friend relies, is as follows: -
All business appointed for any sitting and not disposed of before the termination of the sitting shall stand over until the next sitting, or until such other sitting on any day on which the House ordinarily sits, as the member in charge of the business may appoint.
– The practice of the Senate here is exactly as I have stated.
– I do not think we are concerned with the practice of the Senate, because we have our own Standing Orders. The passage in May on which the honorable member relies is merely a transcript of Standing Orders in force in the Imperial House of Commons. We have not those Standing Orders in our own Standing Orders at all; but we have one specific standing order which prescribes that, “ If all business shall not be disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, and, unless the House otherwise orders, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation, but if there is no Order of the Day, the discussion of motions may be continued. “ It happens that there are several Orders of the Day at present before the House.
– That standing order is silent on the very point I have raised.
– It is not silent. It is explicit that, as soon as the Orders of the Day have been disposed qf, the consideration of motions may be resumed. That is the simple and clear answer to the honorable member’s speech, so far as it related to a point of order. So far as it related to a motion, I submit that the time for moving that motion has passed.
– It is contended that the point of order taken by the Leader of the Opposition is invalid, in that it was not taken within the period set forth in standing order 119. That standing order obviously relates to motions which are treated in the usual way; but it was impossible for the Leader of the Opposition to have interrupted the proceedings in this case within the two-hour period, because he had the assurance, so he says, of the Prime Minister, that it was intended to carry the debate on until next week. In those circumstances, the honorable member is robbed of a real right by a technicality which is only operative by reason of the fact that an understanding between the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition was not observed.
– I. rise to order. The statement that I arrived at an understanding this morning with the Leader of the Opposition has been continually repeated .
– Order ! This is not a point of order. It is distinctly against the Standing Orders for an honorable member to interrupt another honorable member who is speaking to contradict something he has said.
– I assure you, sir, that that is not the point.
Honorable members interjecting,
– This is another illustration of the confusion that is likely to arise owing to a number of honorable members shouting across the Chamber and making it absolutely impossible for the Speaker to know what is going on. I have also complaints from the Hansard staff that they are unable properly to carry out their work because they cannot hear what is going on, and cannot be responsible for the accuracy of reports made under such disturbing conditions.
– My point of order is that, after repeated denials on my part of a statement attributed to me, the honorable member has no right to reiterate it.
– It is customary for an honorable member to accept another honorable member’s denial, and not refer to the matter again.
– I simply said that the Leader of the Opposition had stated that, there was an understanding. I am not responsible for the statement. I accept it, and the Prime Minister may contradict it afterwards.
– That is not a point of order.
– I only hope that, whatever treatment is meted out to me, will be meted out to the honorable member.
– The honorable member may be assured that it will.
– It is not denied that the Leader of the Opposition’s point of order would have been sustained had it been taken within the time. The whole question, then, is that, had he or some other person, before the expiry of the two hours, moved that the resumption of the debate be fixed for such-and-such a day, there would have been an end of it. You must take cognisance of the circumstances, which are these : The Leader of the Opposition on Thursday gave notice of his intention to move a motion of want of confidence. The Prime Minister then moved the adjournment of the House, accepting it as a want of confidence motion. Again to-day he put the question to the right honorable member, as he did on Thursday, as to what were to be the limits of the debate. The honorable member cannot deny that. Clearly, the last thing he contemplated was a proposal to apply standing order 119. The honorable gentleman has been in this House, as I have, since its inception, and he knows that standing order 119 has never been used in this connexion before. Therefore, the right honorable member for Wide Bay could not have anticipated that the standing order would be brought into force, and it was not enforced until the expiry of the time allowed under the standing order for the discussion of the motion. I submit that if justice is to be done, having regard to all the circumstances and to the practice which here lias the force of law-
– What does the honorable gentleman call the practice?
– I hope the honorable gentleman, will permit me to proceed. 1 cannot move that little motion of his. I say that the practice has the force of law. Prom time immemorial the right of the Leader of an Opposition to move a motion of want of confidence has been recognised and honored. In this case it has been recognised by the Government, since the Prime Minister upon notice of the motion given moved the adjournment of the House and adjourned the consideration of public business, which, it is admitted, it is urgently necessary should be gone on with. This being so, and the motion having been recognised in the way in which all such motions are recognised, how can the Attorney-General contend that the practice of the House has been abrogated because the right honorable member for Wide Bay did not submit a motion for the resumption of the debate on his motion in time? He could not have done so. Standing order 119 has never previously been enforced in connexion with such motions, and he was told that this motion was to be treated as a vote of censure. As a matter of fact the standing order was not enforced against it until the expiry of the time. I call your attention, sir, to our own standing order 257a, under which it is provided that no member shall speak in a debate on a motion of “no confidence “ for more than one hour and thirty-five minutes. I wish to look at the matter fairly, and ask whether that standing order can have any relation to a motion, the debate upon which must be begun and concluded within the space of two hours?
– But it need not be begun and concluded within that space.
– Here we have a House of seventy-five members, every one of whom has a right to be heard, and if they occupied only five minutes they would more than exhaust treble the time allowed under standing order 119. If standing order 257a has any relation to the facts as we know them, it must exclude from the operation of standing order 119 a motion of censure. The right honorable member for Wide Bay had, therefore, the best of reasons for believing that his motion was not one which would be affected by standing order 119. Since he could not have known that it was intended to apply standing order 119 to the motion and set aside standing order 257a, I ask you to give him the right that belongs to him as a representative of the people - a right which he could have exercised had he known it was intended to resort to such practices as have been resorted to in this case - and permit him to fix a time for the resumption of the debate on his motion of censure. If that is not done the position of the Ministry will be unique. A motion of censure suspends all legislative and administrative operations.
– Order. The honorable gentleman will not be in order in proceeding on those lines.
– There is no doubt about it. I ask you, sir, to look at this point: If the debate on this motion is postponed it must come on at some time. If not the position will be most extraordinary. The motion being postponed, it must eventually be decided, and until it is decided the Government will be unable to carry on the administrative and legislative business of the country.
– Order !
– I ask you, sir, in all the circumstances, to decide in favour of the point raised by the right honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I am prepared to give my decision now.
– I hope, sir, you will not refuse to permit me to speak.
– Order ! If every member of the House claimed the right to debate every point of order that was raised by another honorable member, there would be no end to the proceedings. There is no such right given under standing order No. 286, which requires the Speaker to give his decision after the member rising to order has stated his point. The Speaker does sometimes out of courtesy, or if there is a doubt in his mind, allow a limited debate, but in such cases it is usual for the Speaker to intimate when he is prepared to decide a point of order raised.
– You allowed others to speak on the point, and I think you should allow me.
– Order ! I have been prepared to give my decision from the moment the point of order was raised.
– Has it been prepared beforehand ?
– Order ! Once more I call attention to the fact that the Speaker is on his feet: and has three times called for order. I hope that order will be preserved. The honorable member for Wide Bay has raised a point of order, and the House is entitled to hear the point of order decided in silence. I am prepared to decide it. With regard to the point raised, first as to the honorable member’s right to move a motion fixing the time when the debate on his motion may be resumed, the honorable member is relying upon a reference to the practice of the House of Commons given at page 214 of the 11th edition of May, dealing with the interruption of business under the standing order. Our own standing order No. 1 reads -
In all cases not provided for hereinafter, or by sessional or other orders, resort shall be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament.
In this case specific standing orders have been adopted by this House. This, therefore, is not a case in which we need have recourse to the rules, forms, and practice of the House of Commons relied upon by the honorable member in the reference quoted from page 214 of May, but which I had looked up during the luncheon hour, and before the honorable member referred to it.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Order ! I hope that honorable members do not take exception to the Speaker trying to inform himself upon points of procedure.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– It is, I take it, a part of the Speaker’s duty to inform himself, as far as possible, of the proper practice and procedure. In pursuance of my duty, I have done so. I hope that honorable members will not make that duty more difficult than it ordinarily is. Every one will admit that I have to carry out my duties under most extraordinarily trying conditions.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I wish to point out that the reference which the right honorable member for Wide Bay quoted from page 214 of the 11th edition of May, dealt, not with our Standing Orders or practice, but with Standing Orders and practice of the House of Commons.
-i said so.
– That is so; the honorable member did say so. I point out that they do not apply in this case. This is a case in which provision is made under our Standing Orders to govern our procedure in connexion with motions. I call attention once more to the fact that the nature of a motion has nothing to do with the application of the Standing Orders. With regard to the point raised by the honorable member for West Sydney, directing my attention to the limitation put upon debate on a motion of censure, I remind the honorable member that standing order No. 119 existed before any limitation at all was put upon debate, and when a motion might have been debated for practically as long as the honorable member on his feet was physically able to continue debate. Standing order No. 119 says -
If all motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted, unless the House otherwise orders.
– That is the point, and you will not allow the honorable member for Wide Bay to ask for an order.
– The standing order continues^- and unless the House otherwise orders, the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation.
– Finish, finish.
– Order ! The rest of the standing order is immaterial to the immediate point at issue.
– Is it ?
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie was, perhaps, not in the Chamber when the matter was previously dealt with. I do not wish to traverse a ruling already given, but only to deal with the new point of order raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay. I have looked into our own proceedings in the past, and the practice has always been that whenever motions were liable to interruption by the expiration of two hours from the time of the meeting of the House, the honorable member then speaking, a few minutes prior to the expiration of the time, has asked leave to continue his speech, and that the debate on the motion be resumed or made an Order of the Day for a future sitting.
– Not a no-confidence motion.
– I have already pointed out that the question whether the motion is or is not a motion of noconfidence does not affect the point, because the standing order distinctly applies to all motions, and makes no exception in favour of any motion, even if moved by a Minister. May I remind honorable members that no later than the closing days of last session a motion was on the business-paper in the name of a Minister of the Crown, relating to the electoral divisions of Queensland. The motion was moved, and I see by the report that, it being two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House in accordance with standing order 119, Orders of the Day were called on, and debate was interrupted on that motion. I mention that one case as being typical of many others, some of which I have marked in the volume of our records of *Votes mid Proceedings before me. It is within the knowledge of honorable members that in the case of private members’ motions debated on Thursday afternoons, the debate automatically ceases at the expiration of two hours, and it is the usual practice, if honorable members desire the debate upon a motion to be continued, to ask that it be made an Order of the Day for another day before the expiration of the two hours. If that is not done before the expiration of the two hours, it is too late to do it afterwards.
– Do you distinctly rule that all action must be taken within the two hours?
– I was just about to say that it seems to me to be imperative under the standing order that, if any action is to be taken to secure the continuance of debate upon a motion, it must be taken within the two hours specified under the standing order. That is my ruling. Mr. Speaker McDonald dealt with this very point in October of 1911, in connexion with standing order 119. It will be found on pages 1947-8.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to deal with something entirely new. We have created a certain situation as the result of an unprecedented use of the Standing Orders. At the present moment I take no exception to your ruling, sir, or to the ruling just given to the effect that, the two hours having elapsed, the honorable member in charge of a motion cannot now say when that motion shall come on again. I desire to draw your attention to standing order 119, which provides that, after the expiration of two hours, the debate upon a motion, not having been completed, shall be interrupted, and then the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation. That is as clear as it is possible for language to be; but I ask you to note the intervening words “ and unless the House otherwise orders.” First of all, the standing order interrupts the debate upon a motion, and that, in this case, has occurred. After the interruption, if nothing intervenes, the Orders of the Day are to be taken in rotation. But there is a possibility of something intervening after the interruption, and before the taking of the Orders of the Day in rotation, because the standing order specifically provides that the Orders of the Day shall not be taken in rotation if the House otherwise orders. It is therefore competent for the House to otherwise order.
– Before the operation of the standing order.
– I am’ afraid that the Attorney-General’s desire and prejudice are leading his thoughts. The standing order is as clear as it can possibly be. In the first place, at the expiration of two hours, if the debate upon a motion has not concluded, it is interrupted; and, secondly, the Orders of the Day must then be taken in rotation, unless something intervenes. I repeat that the standing order specifically provides for something else intervening, namely, for the House otherwise ordering. It is therefore possible for the House to intervene at the present juncture, because the debate upon the motion of censure submitted by the Leader of the Opposition has been interrupted. Subsequently, the Orders of the Day must be taken in rotation. I submit that it is competent for the House at this stage to otherwise order, so far as taking the Orders of the Day in rotation is concerned.
– Order ! That is absolutely the point of order which I have just decided. Before giving my decision I read the words which the honorable member has stressed several times, and I pointed out that the House must otherwise order before the expiration of two hours.
– The standing order does not say so.
– I hold that it does. And previous Speakers have determined the matter in the same way. That has also been the practice, and on every occasion when it has been desired to continue a debate, before the expiration of two hours, a motion for adjourning the debate has been moved, and the House has ordered what was to be done in regard to it.
– I hope, sir, that you will allow me to complete my remarks. There is not in my mind any desire to dispute your ruling.
– The honorable member is doing that.
– In respect of the motion submitted by the honorable member for Wide Bay, I admit that it was necessary for him to take action within two hours, otherwise he lost his opportunity of doing so. But the words, “ and unless the House otherwise order,” I submit are connected with the subsequent words, “ the Orders of the Day shall be taken in rotation.”
– I am sorry to interrupt the honorable member, but the words “ unless the House otherwise order,” clearly relate to the preceding words and to all motions which have not been disposed of two hours after the meeting of the House. I have already ruled that unless the House otherwise order in regard to those motions before the expiration of two hours from the meeting of the House, immediately after the expiration of those two hours, the Orders of the Day must be called on.
.- I rise with great regret-
– I rise to a point of order.
– I hope that if I give way to the Prime Minister I shall not be prevented from submitting a motion in regard to your ruling.
– Will the Prime Minister resume his seat? Do I understand that the honorable member for Wide Bay now proposes to disagree with my ruling ?
– Yes. My difficulty is that I might have allowed the Prime Minister to intervene, and subsequently you, sir, might have ruled that new business had been called on, and thus I might have been deprived of my right-
– i rise to a point of order.
– Order ! The honorable member must see that the Standing Orders provide that notice of a motion to dissent from the Speaker’s ruling must be given immediately his decision has been announced. If the honorable member for Wide Bay is now going to submit a motion of dissent from my ruling, he is too late. I understood him to say at the time he accepted the ruling. The honorable member for Adelaide rose and addressed the House on what he assured me was a new point of order, and he further assured me he was not going to deal with my ruling previously given.
– It will serve my purpose if it is the same point.
– The honorable member will not be in order in challenging my ruling now. He should have taken exception to it at the time, not after a member had spoken to what he declared was a new point of order.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Order ! Here is another illustration of the way in which a situation may arise which may place the Speaker in a difficulty through his endeavouring to be more than fair to honorable members, and through his not strictly enforcing the Standing Orders. Since I gave my ruling, points of order have been raised, and I was assured that they were new points of order, and that there was no intention on the part of those honorable members who raised them to traverse my previous ruling. Yet they proved to be merely the same point of order, as I discovered afterwards. Speeches have been made since my ruling, and the time for the honorable member for Wide Bay to have dissented from my ruling was when that ruling was given before the luncheon hour. However, I do not personally wish at this stage to interfere with what an honorable member regards as his right, and. if there is no objection, I will waive that consideration on this occasion. But in future I will not allow my rulings to be traversed irregularly by permitting debate upon them under an assurance that a new point of order is to be raised. I shall not allow a motion for dissent from my ruling in future to follow upon further speeches.
– I presume that I have a right-
– I rise to a point of order.
Several members interrupting.
-Order! I do not know what the Prime Minister’s point of order is.
– My point of order-
– How can the Prime Minister raise a point of order on business which has not been stated? A point of order on nothing.
Several members interrupting,
-Order ! ‘ Will the Prime Minister resume his seat?
– It seems to me the Prime Minister is to be howled down every time.
-The Prime Minister has no more right to interrupt than has any other honorable member. It is by the courtesy of the House that he receives the first call when he rises, and that he is given a little more latitude. But the honorable member for Wide Bay, I understand, has risen to give notice of a motion to dissent from my ruling. If order is not maintained, other honorable members will probably take exception to my correcting statements made when my mind is so disturbed that I, in the din of conflicting voices, do not make my meaning clear. But I will hear the Prime Minister’s point of order.
– May I suggest-
– I have already stated that, in the exceptional circumstances - though, strictly speaking, notice of motion to dissent from my ruling should be given immediately that ruling is announced - personally, as a matter of courtesy, I am willing to waive that consideration. I do so because honorable members apparently rose to what they assured me, were new points of order, under an apparent misapprehension. Those points of order were really the same point of order, but debate ensued on them.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit-
– A point of order on nothing.
– My point of order is that Mr. Speaker may not waive anything for which provision is made in our Standing Orders. I submit this point in the interests of the public business.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay has given notice of his intention to move a motion of dissent from my ruling.
– Under our Standing Orders provision is made for the submission of a motion that the member speaking be not further heard. I move -
That the Prime Minister be not further heard.
– With a good deal of regret I desire to give notice of my intention to submit a motion of dissent from your ruling on the question which I raised.
– I rise to a point of order. Did I understand, when the Prime Minister rose to a point of order, that you, sir, ruled that he could not take it owing to another honorable member being in possession of the Chair? I always understood that it was the practice’ of Parliament, for the protection of the’ House, to allow aquestion of order tobe raised at any time, even when an honorable member is speaking. . I would like to have the position made clear.
– May I call attention to standing order 286, which reads -
Upon a question of order being raised, the member called to order shall resume his seat, and after the question of order has been stated to the Speaker by the member rising to the question of order, the Speaker shall give his ruling or decision thereon.
I have not done so, and I acknowledge my remissness in this matter owing to the fact that I extended a courtesy to several honorable members by allowing them todebate a point of order after it had been decided. I acknowledge with regret that I am. to blame in this matter through not insisting upon the observance of the Standing Orders from the beginning.
– I ask your ruling, sir, in connexion with the point of orderraised by the Prime Minister.
– He has given it.
– No; he has given hisruling upon an entirely different matter.
– I have wanted toget in a point of order for a long time, but I am not permitted to speak.
– The point . which I desire to have cleared up is whether it is. competent for an honorable member to rise at any time, and take a point of order ?
– Except in regard to the previous question.
– The Prime Minister rose to a point of order, and I understood you, sir, to rule’ that he could not do sothen owing to the fact that the right.- honorable member for Wide Bay had a matter before the Chair.
– No, I did not.
– “According to my memory of what occurred in the babel of raised voices, the Prime Minister did rise on two or three occasions after I had called the honorable member for Wide Bay, and proceeded to speak, after stating that he desired to raise a point of order. The point of order that he has raised is that I have no right to make a concession to any honorable member which conflicts with the standing order. I have no right to make a concession . to any honorable member, except by leave of the House, and it is only by leave of the House that I can do it. I said that, as a matter of courtesy, I would overlook the fact that several points of order had been raised, and allow the honorable member to give notice of his motion, because it affected myself, but if an objection is taken to his doing so, I cannot allow him to proceed, because the standing order says that objection to the Speaker’s ruling must be taken at once, and notice of dissent given. If there is an objection to the honorable member giving notice of his motion at this stage, I cannot accept it.
– I object, and rise to a point of order.
Mr.Fisher. - I rise to a point of order. With the greatest respect, may I ask you, sir, whether I did not ask that I should have the right to do what you speak of, and whether you did not reply, “ Yes,” no exception being taken by honorable members at the time to what was proposed ? You had just decided what I considered to be a point dealing with the same standing order. I shall be sorry if the matter cannot be adjusted, but I do not wish to press things any further. You having said “Yes,” I thought that I had the right to move my motion, but if that is not so, I have nothing more to say.
– I accept all the blame for what has occurred. What has happened is my fault, because I have allowed honorable members too much latitude and to proceed in an irregular way. I express my regret for what has occurred, but objection having been taken ‘ to the giving of notice of a motion of dissent after debate has ensued, which the honorable member desires to move, I cannot do what, personally, I was willing to do in the matter.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire you, Mr. Speaker, to settle a point which is of . the utmost consequence to the conduct of public business in this House. At half -past twelve o’clock to-day, a decision was given by you, and now, at nearly half-past three o’clock, points of order are still being debated arising out of that very decision.
– There was a breach of faith on your part.
– I submit that it is not in order, and not in accordance with the practice of the House, for points of order to be raised in connexion with a decision which has been given. It is a well-known parliamentary practice-
Mr.Fenton. - I rise to a point of order. *
– I can hear only one point of order at a time.
– I rise to a point of order.
– I can hear only one point of order at a time. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I am intervening only in the interests of the business of the country.
– That is not a point of order.
– My point of order is that no point of order can be taken on the decision of Mr. Speaker. There is only one way of dealing with a decision to which objection is taken, and that is by giving notice of dissent from it.
– With regard to the point of order which has been raised, I understood, when honorable members rose, that they were not proposing to deal with my decision.
– I have not finished stating my point of order. I wish to say, in the interests of the country, and only in those interests, that if this course of conduct is to continue, the Government cannot do business.
– What is the point of order?
– The point of order is that no point of order on a decision should be accepted, otherwise nothing is gained by any decision, and the business of the country is unduly delayed.
– I am going to carry out the Standing Orders and decide the point straight away without delay.It is, I take it, that I have no right to allow points of order to be raised after I have given a decision?
– Points of order on that decision.
– The Prime Minister is perfectly right; but, as I have previously stated, when the points of order were raised, those who raised them distinctly said that it was not their intention to traverse any ruling that I had given, but to raise new points. The Prime Minister himself has taken part in the raising of points of order, and therefore he is doing what he is now complaining of others doing.
– As a personal explanation, I wish to say that I have not attempted to take, any point of order on any decision of yours, Mr. Speaker, either to-day or at any other time.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask whether you will be good enough to say whether the motion which I moved at the beginning of the sitting, affirming that this House has no confidence in the present Government, will, under your ruling, become an Order of the Day, and, if so, when it will come on for discussion again? Can you assist the House in this matter ?
– A motion cannot become an Order of the Day except on the order of the House, which must be made within the time specified in the standing order, but the discussion of the motion can be resumed after the Orders of the Day have been dealt with. The motion will take its place after the Orders of the Day and other business. It goes to the bottom of the paper, as decided by practice already established.
.- I desire, with” your permission, Mr. Speaker, to ask the Prime Minister whether he will be good enough to say whether, with a want of confidence motion hanging over him-
– I cannot, without consent of the House, permit a question to be put to the Prime Minister now. The Orders of the Day must be called on.
– I desire the leave of the House to ask a question.
– Is it the desire of the House that the honorable member for Wide Bay shall be permitted to ask a question of the Prime Minister ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Leave granted.
– It will facilitate business, I think, if I address a question to the Prime Minister, through you, Mr. Speaker, to ascertain whether the Government propose to continue to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth or to take other business until the want of confidence motion now before the House and partially debated has been dealt with. The procedure is most unusual, and I shall be very glad to know whether the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, and those behind him, proposes to deal with that motion straightforwardly to-day, or when, and what attitude he is going to assume with such a motion hanging over the heads of the Government ?
– Have I permission to answer that question, Mr. Speaker?
-Is it the pleasure of the House that leave be given to the Prime Minister to reply.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– My answer is that in view of the fact that we have already had two motions of censure, that the Opposition have tried on three distinct occasions to take the business out of the hands of the Government, and have succeeded twice - that in view of the exceptional circumstances, and having regard to the late stage of the session we have reached, I decline absolutely to afford any further Government time for the discussion of motions of censure.
– Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in moving that all the Orders of the Day-
– The honorable member cannot move a motion at this stage. Orders of the Day must be called on.
– I desire to ask the Minister a question.
– The honorable member cannot ask questions at this stage.
.- I move -
That Order of the Day No.1 be postponed until after the consideration of the want of confidence motion.
– Orders of the Day have been called on. I have called on the Minister in charge of the first Order of the Day, and the right honorable member cannot submit his motion until the Order of the Day has been moved. He” will then be in order in doing so as an amendment.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Is there a question now before the Chair?
– Yes, Order of the Day No. 1.
.- Then I move -
That the Order of the Day be postponed until after consideration of the want of confidence motion.
– I think that the honorable member is within his rights in moving that the Order of the Day be postponed. Is the motion seconded ?
– This is a matter to be decided not by the Speaker, but by the House. The question is that Order of the Day No. 1 be postponed until after the consideration of the no confidence motion.
– I rise to order. I submit, sir, that it is not open to an honorable member of the Opposition at this stage to move any such motion.
– Is the honorable member questioning Mr. Speaker’s ruling?
– Order ! This is a point of order.
– If it is open to an honorable member to do so, where is the value of the Government placing its business on the notice-paper? I urge, moreover, that the Minister in charge of the Order of the Day has priority in any case. The Leader of the Opposition, therefore, has no right to intervene, and has no right to be permitted to intervene, to prevent priority being given to the Minister in charge of this measure. I submit that the Minister is entitled to proceed with this motion which has been made an order of the day, especially as he has been called on. The Attorney-General, technically speaking, is on his feet at this moment in charge of this motion.
– Let Mr. Speaker decide.
– I am reminding Mr. Speaker of a fact which he has forgotten, that he has already called on the Minister in charge of this Bill.
– That is so.
– Mr. Speaker has already called on the Attorney-General to proceed with the motion for the second reading of the Bill. It is, therefore, not open to any honorable member to intervene with a motion of this kind until the Minister in charge of the Bill has resumed his seat.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The Prime Minister’s point of order is sustained
– I ask honorable members how it is possible for the Speaker, or the Presiding Officer of any Assembly, to keep his mind in such a clear condition as to follow the proper order of business whilst a volley of interruptions is going on without intermission. Ever since I took the chair this morning I have been subjected to an almost continuous series of interruptions. May states -
When an Order of the Day has been read, it must thereupon be proceeded with, appointed for a future day, or discharged. The Speaker, therefore, calls upon the member in charge thereof, no other member being allowed to interpose unless with his consent. . . .
I had momentarily overlooked the fact that I had called upon the AttorneyGeneral, who was in possession of the floor, when the honorable member for Wide Bay rose. The mistake is mine. I admit it, but plead extenuating circumstances. The Attorney-General had the first call, but the honorable member for Wide Bay intervened, and, through inadvertence, I called upon him instead of on the Attorney-General.
– Mr. Speaker–
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable the Attorney-General.
– I wish to move -
That the Attorney-General be no longer heard.
– A motion of that kind cannot be moved until the question has been stated from the Chair.
– Now that the-
– I rise to a point of order. Did I understand you to say, sir, that a motion that the honorable member be no longer heard cannot be proposed until the question has been put?
– Until it has been stated from the Chair.
– I presume that such a motion can be moved at any time.
– You said the opposite the other day.
– This point was raised a few days ago, and it was then decided that the motion that an honorable member be no longer heard could not be put unless there was a question or matter before the House to which he was addressing himself. The Attorney-General has not yet moved his motion, and, therefore, has not been heard. The motion that he be no longer heard cannot be moved until he has submitted his motion.
– Now (hat the House has resumed its normal condition of placid equanimity, I shall proceed with my little non-contentious measure. I feel sure that a few words from me on the subject of preference to unionists will act as a soothing syrup to honorable members opposite.
– Should not the honorable member move his motion?
– I propose to give reasons for my motion; but I think that honorable members will be in a better condition to listen to them next Tuesday. I shall, therefore, ask leave io continue my speech on Tuesday next.
– There is nothing before the Chair until the Attorney-General has submitted his motion.
– I beg to move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I should like to hear from you, Mr. Speaker, what is the business before the House. I heard you say just now that it is incompetent for an honorable member to move that the AttorneyGeneral be no longer heard before there is a question before the House; and I should like to know what, business is before us ?
– The AttorneyGeneral is now submitting his motion, and the honorable member, who has interrupted him, cannot discuss the matter now.
– May I move that the consideration of this Bill be postponed until after we have disposed of the no-confidence motion 9
– Not at this stage. No question has been stated from the Chair.
– In consideration of the reasons I have mentioned shortly, I ask leave to continue my speech at the next sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I desire to move -
That the ‘House do now adjourn.
– No; there is another question before that.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister has just moved that the House do now adjourn, and no other question can be proceeded with.
– It has not yet been stated from the Chair. I have reminded the Prime Minister that there is another motion which must precede the motion for the adjournment of the House. If honorable members would only keep quiet, and observe decorum and order, this confusion would not arise.
Motion (by Mr. W. H. Irvine) proposed -
That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday next.
– I desire to move that the no-confidence motion take precedence of the debate on the second reading of the Bill in charge of the Attorney-General.
– The only question now is, when the resumption of the debate on the second reading of the Bill shall be made an Order of the Day. It has been decided that the debate shall be adjourned, and it must be an Order of the Day for some day.
.- I wish to move that the debate on the second reading of the Bill be made an Order of the Day to follow the debate on the no-confidence motion.
– I rise to a point of order. The no-confidence motion, under the Standing Orders, is not on the noticepaper. I submit that it has lapsed, and that it is not an Order of the Day.
– It will be made an Order of the Day if he moves that it be made an Order of the Day for Wednesday next.
– But the Leader of the Opposition has not done that. I think the right honorable member can adopt a course, but not the one he seeks to adopt.
He might move that the no-confidence motion, which is somewhere amongst the private members’ business, be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday, with precedence.
– He may move that the second-reading debate be made an Order of the Day to follow the no-confidence motion.
– But, first of all, it must be made an Order of the Day.
Amendment (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the word “ Tuesday “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “Wednesday.”
– I presume that this is the right honorable gentleman’s attempt to censure the Government in another way.
– We can get nothing out of the Government.
Motion (by Mr. Webster) negatived -
That the question be now put.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that he cannot get anything out of the Government. I am sorry I am not able to return the compliment. The Government can ‘get out of the right honorable gentleman plenty of attempts to usurp the position of the Government, and take the conduct of the business out of their hands. . If the right honorable gentleman is able to do that, very well ; but does he propose to keep on doing it until the year has expired!
– Until we can discuss the no-confidence motion
– Discuss the same old “gags” again? Honorable members opposite have been obstructing business all the session, and are at it again.
– I must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the accusation that honorable members have been obstructing business all the session.
– Yes; I withdraw the words, Mr. Speaker.
Question - That the word’ proposed to be left out stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday next - resolved in the affirmative.
Want of Confidence Motion - Conduct of Business - Small-pox in Sydney: Quarantine - Creation of New States : Queensland - Cost of Living - Citizen Forces : Officers’ Uniforms.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I anticipated that the Prime Minister would make some statement as to thebusiness for Tuesday.
– Good life! Have not we just fixed it? What more do you. want ?
– What the House has declared is that a certain measure shall be an Order of the Day for Tuesday ; but I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to go on with public business while an undischarged want of confidence motion is on the notice-paper? It is on the notice-paper according to the ruling of Mr. Speaker. Therefore, there is a charge against the Government that they do not possess the confidence of the House.
– We have just decided the want of confidence motion.
– The decision just given is with regard to the time at which a certain proposal shall be discussed, and has nothing to do with the motion of censure, that includes charges of maladministration, as well as condemnation of the political proposals brought before Parliament. The Government have failed in their administration. They have intentionally and wilfully misrepresented the country in their administration of postal and other matters, and this has been brought home to the people of Australia clearly and distinctly by the many illustrations that I have given in the House. They came in ostensiblydeclaring that they would have pure rolls; but the only evidence of their intention in that direction is to strike off the names of people who are entitled to be on the roll, showing clearly that their administration is even worse than their proposed legislation. If the Ministry can go on with a motion of this kind hanging over them, the people of Australia are being represented by a Government with less conscientious scruples than any that has yet held office in any of the States of Australia.
.- A most extraordinary state of affairs has arisen to-day. Never has it happened in any Parliament with any Government.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member cannot, upon this motion, traverse what has taken place in a previous debate in the House to-day.
– The point of order is quite correct. Nothing that has transpired in connexion with the proceedings of the House can be debated on the motion “That the House do now adjourn.”
– We were informed by you earlier in the day that the resumption of the debate on the motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay had not been made an Order of the Day for any day, and that it had practically lapsed, and was off the notice-paper. Here we have a Government with a vote of want of confidence-
– That has lapsed.
– Then if it has lapsed, I am in order in discussing it; but if it has not lapsed the Government have no. right to carry on the administration of their Departments.
– The point is-
– You keep quiet.
– I submit that the honorable member is discussing what took place to-day, and that he has no right to refer to it.
– It is a well-known practice that, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, although a number of matters may be dealt with, matters which have formed the subject of business before the adjournment of the House was moved, cannot again be dealt with.
– Even if the business has lapsed ?
– Yes; even if it has lapsed.
– I shall try to get in a word or two.
– There is not a member on this side who is allowed to say a word or two.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement, as a reflection on the Chair.
– In deference to you, sir, I withdraw it.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate yesterday moved the adjournment of the Senate for a fortnight, for the purpose of holding up public business.
– Order ! Matters that have taken place in another Chamber cannot be made the subject of debate here.
– We have to keep to a pretty close line. It will be very handy to remember this, because many honorable members on the other side to-day are heartily ashamed of the action they have had to take during this week-
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in proceeding on those lines.
– In voting for the “gag,” as has been done in this House - I do not know whether 1 am in order in referring to that.
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to proceedings which have taken place in this House.
– Apparently, an honorable member is to be “ gagged “ all the time. He is nut allowed to say a word if he rises on the adjournment, although honorable members on the other side, and the previous honorable member for Lang, used to discuss all sorts of subjects on the adjournment, and were not prevented.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in trying to get behind my ruling, or reflecting upon it. I have no desire to interfere with the honorable member’s remarks. I simply want him to conform to the practice and the Standing Orders of the House.
– I regret that we are prevented from referring to incidents that have happened in the House.
– I desire to raise the point of order that the honorable member for Yarra is entirely out of order in referring to anything that has ever happened or ever may happen.
– It has several times been ruled, by others in office before me, that frivolous points of order are not in keeping with the reputation of honorable members, or the dignity of the House, and should not be taken.
– The honorable member for Werriwa, for instance, goes about the country blathering upon the platform about freedom, and comes into the House to deny it to other honorable members. I have been prevented from speaking for over a week; but this House is no longer a deliberative assembly, and, judging by the actions of the Government, it will never become one until we have an opportunity of appealing to the people.
.- I am sorry that, under your ruling, one is not able to refer to some of the things that took place to-day. I shall content myself by a reference to Rasselas, the Prince of Abyssinia - a work written by that greatest of Englishmen, Dr. Johnson. Abyssinia is a country which, in many respects, resembles this. It has had its ups and downs, and its waves of democratic government and autocracy. It has had men who fought and achieved liberty and progress, and it has had its petty and contemptible tyrants who have trampled the liberties of the people underfoot. Time does not permit me to quote more than one of the incidents in the history of that nation. After the rise of Prince Aboutiin the sixteenth and seventeenth century, a wave of Democracy spread over the country, accompanied by happiness, peace, and prosperity. But there arose a man who appealed to the people under the most specious pretexts, and brought about the country’s downfall and the destruction of the people’s liberties. The foundations of representative government were established in Abyssinia, and from that place we derive all those excellent institutions which distinguish our present era; but this alleged reformer, under a pretext of establishing freedom, denied even the right of free speech. On one memorable occasion, even a meek and orderly protest made against his intolerable tyranny was stifled under a blanket of technicalities, which were gathered up by his subservient tools. Although the story of the manner in which free speech had been stifled was a long time in finding its way outside the walls of the Parliament of Abyssinia, eventually it did find its way to the people, and the people were amazed and indignant. They then rose up and put an end to that Government and its subservient instruments. That is a brief episode from the history of an interesting period of Abyssinia, which I hope may have some bearing upon the present situation. I hope that when we meet again, wiser counsels will have prevailed, and that, at any rate, those who now masquerade as the friends of freedom and liberty will at least have the decency to show themselves as they are.
– Hear, hear.
– As for the AttorneyGeneral, nothing that I could say would paint the honorable gentleman as he is. There are plenty of men whom I can excuse, but the honorable gentleman is past excuse. I do hope that when we meet on Tuesday, we shall remember that this is a deliberative assembly, that free speech will once more be permitted, and that we shall not be mere pawns on the chess-board, moved about at the will of an intolerable tyrant.
Mr. WEST (East Sydney) T4.7].- I wish to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister a matter of very great importance. I refer to the continuance of the quarantine embargo upon Sydney. Last week the honorable gentleman stated that a Commission was to be appointed to consider the matter. I have my own views as to the object of the Commission, and I believe it is not creditable to those who have moved in the matter. Since the Commission was suggested, I understand that the State Government of New South Wales has decided not to be represented upon it, and’ as it cannot, in the circumstances, represent the whole of the State, I ask the Prime Minister not to appoint the Commission. I ask the honorable gentleman, on the contrary, to follow the precedent set in America. In 1900, the State of California was declared under quarantine owing to an outbreak of bubonic plague. The health authorities of California represented that there was nothing in the conditions then existing to warrant the quarantine of the State, and the President of the United States removed the quarantine within forty-eight hours. That is a precedent which I ask the Prime Minister to follow in this case. He must know, as well as any one else, that the epidemic at present existing in Sydney does not warrant the flying of the yellow flag over that city. I believe there is not a medical man in the whole of New South Wales who would advise the continuance of the embargo. Many persons occupying high and honorable positions in the State, and who have the interests of New South Wales at heart, are agreed that there is no warrant for the quarantining of Sydney. The embargo has been continued now for a sufficient length of time to justify the Government in removing it. I hope that other honorable members, who. like myself, have the honour to represent a portion of Sydney, will take action in this matter. Owing to ill-health, I recently spent a week in Sydney, and devoted my time to interviewing commercial, professional and industrial residents of that city. I found that they were all agreed that the quarantine should not be continued. The commercial houses there are having their Christmas trade absolutely blocked. Shop-keepers in certain towns outside Sydney are displaying cards in their windows notifying the public that their goods have come from Melbourne, and not from Sydney. When we find people taking such an advantage of the unfortunate condition of Sydney under the quarantine proclamation, I make an appeal to the Prime Minister, as a Christian, if he has any Christian spirit, and if there is a soft spot at all about him, to put an end to such a condition of things. From a sanitary point of view,. Sydney is one of the most advanced citiesin the civilized world, and the yellow flag should not continue to fly over it. The cases of disease which are occurring there are not small-pox, but a form of German pox well known to the medical profession. I need not say that I have no great opinion of the members of thepresent Ministry. I consider them incompetent, but if there is one member of the Government who, more than another, deserves to be spoken of in thatway, it is the Minister of Trade and Customs. I do not think any other Minister would have been so callous or would have so disregarded the advice tendered him in connexion with this matter. At the instigation of one official and a doctor in Melbourne, the honorablegentleman has done something which I feel sure he is now sorry for. We know the old saying, that “the King can do no wrong.” Ministers who represent Sydney and suburban constituencies have certainly remained extremely quiet in regard to this embargo. They have not discharged theirduty, because the quarantining of an area within a radius of 15 miles of the General Post Office in that city not only affectsthe people who reside within that area, but casts a stigma upon the whole of Australia. Their action tends to create an impression that a portion of this continent is so dirty - that it is so far removed from the ideal of cleanliness which is next to godliness - that it is necessary to have the yellow flag flying over it. If you, sir, had not had such a difficult task to discharge to-day, I should have used stronger language in condemnation of the action of the Government, and probably would have provided you with an opportunity of calling me to order. I trust that I have made some impression on the Prime Minister. I have known him for a long time, and I never thought, when I met him in the coal mines, and when helooked as thin as a slate, that I would have to appeal to him in this way. I trust that even at the eleventh hour he will acknowledge that there is no necessity to continue the embargo which has been placed upon residents within an area of 15 miles of the Sydney General Post Office.
.- I desire to place upon record my anxiety,. and that of a number of my honorable friends, to do business. We are prepared to go right on now. Why should we adjourn? I object to adjourning at this early hour, because we have done so little business to-day. I have been very disappointed. When we came here this morning I thought that, before we adjourned, we would have got well on with the censure motion, but I find that the AttorneyGeneral succeeded in holding up the business of the country with the aid of the Standing Orders. Yesterday the Prime Minister led us to believe that he was prepared to take a certain course-
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to the proceedings of the House. He distinctly referred to something which occurred yesterday.
– I apprehend that I shall not be out of order in referring to the proceedings of to-day.
– Under the Standing Orders the honorable member must not do that.
– I recognise, sir, that you occupy a very difficult position, and I would like to let you get away, but my sense of public duty will not permit of that.
-The honorable member need not consider me.
– I have come to the conclusion that this Parliament, as at present constituted, has not yet realized its responsibilities to the people of Australia.
– The honorable member will not be in order in reflecting upon the Parliament.
– There are some persons who must speak or die. I do not include myself in that category, but really I have been so “ cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d “ by the methods adopted by certain honorable members, that I must say something this afternoon. I wish to direct attention to the very great necessity which exists for consulting our Constitution. It is very seldom that we get an opportunity of putting Ministerialists in a corner. But we have them now. We challenge the Prime Minister to move “ That the question be now put.”
– Do not do that. I have some important business to bring forward.
– The honorable member need not be afraid. The Prime Minister is now at our mercy.
– Let me go out for a cup of tea, so as to brace myself to face the ordeal.
– I shall reserve my remarks on the Prime Minister until hia return. I was about to refer to the habit which Ministers have developed of going round Victoria and making speeches to the Women’s National League. I would direct the attention of our friends, who come from all parts of the State at this festive season, to the fact that the Government cannot carry on business. They prate about their desire to pass legislation, but their protestations are mostly sham. They are mere theatricalism, because there are plenty of measures which could be brought forward and discussed. But Ministers do not bring forward any measures to be discussed. They ought to bring forward some Bills which are practically of a non-party character, and which could be discussed in a cool way. But, instead, they bring forward measures which are calculated to excite the anger of honorable members on this side of the House.
I have come to the conclusion that honorable members upon both sides of the Chamber ought to turn their attention to the necessity which exists for the creation of new States. That is an important matter. I ask them to realize that Australia is nearly as large as the United States, that it is larger than. Europe, and that it has a population of less than 5,000,000, most of it congregated in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and the other capitals of the States.
– There are twenty persons living in a four-roomed house in some places.
– The population is overcrowded in the slums of the cities, living there under dreadfully insanitary conditions, and, in some cases, half starved. We should, therefore, turn our attention to such great national questions as the creation of new States. The Constitution gives us full power to do that. It says that the Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of the Parliament of a State, create a new State,
I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, and that of the Ministerial supporters, who, apparently, have no desire to do business, or, if they have the desire, are not permitted to give effect to it - I direct their attention to these matters. They talk about secret Caucus meetings and the “ gag.” What have they been doing for the past three months but holding secret Caucus meetings, and determining to apply the ‘ ‘ gag ‘ 1 to the rank and file of the party, including some-of those budding orators who came here to make a name for themselves? They are like the dumb-driven cattle that they accuse us of being - people who cannot give expression to their opinions.
The great State of Queensland, comprising an area of some 666,000 square miles, is governed from its south-eastern corner. The people of my electoral division, which covers a great part of the central district of Queensland, do not get fair treatment from the Administration which holds the reins of power in the State. We say that we should have a new State, taking in the central portion of Queensland, and the people of North Queensland are anxious that there should be created another new State there
Instead of wasting its time in wrangling over questions such as those which have been prominently brought before us by the Government, we ought to deal with great national questions like the creation of new States. The Queensland Government, and the majority of the members of the Queensland Parliament who have been returned by the southern electorates of the State, object to the creation of new States there, and I have come to the conclusion that one of the next amendments which should be proposed in the Constitution should be to permit a given number of persons, within any given area of the Commonwealth, to petition this Parliament to create a new State there.
– The honorable member might have the Labour majority in the State destroyed if effect were given to his suggestion.
– I hope that my honorable friend will not draw me off the track. What has occurred in another place is most irritating to me at the present moment. The Prime Minister, who professes to be anxious to do business, has caused that Chamber to be adjourned for a month at a time when it could be transacting business. If there were any sincerity in his professions - if he meant what he says when he goes through the country announcing his desire to pass legislation - why does he not allow business to be transacted in the Senate? Our party is perfectly willing to permit him to carry all the non-contentious, nonparty measures that the country is crying out for.
– Such as the Postal Voting Restoration Bill !
– Why is that Bill not now being dealt with by the Senate? Why has the Senate adjourned for a fortnight? I do not generally agree with the honorable member for Grampians, but I appreciated the force of his remark that the Leader of the Government in another place is unintelligent. The Senate might have got through the Postal Voting Restoration Bill during the fortnight for which it has been adjourned, and it could then have proceeded with other business. The Prime Minister, and those pretenders who are supporting him, have no desire to do business; and it will be found, when we reach the end of the year, that this great Parliament, socalled, has done nothing but wrangle and apply the “ gag “ when the majority could do so. But I defy the Government to apply the “gag” now.
Under the Constitution, new States cannot be created in Queensland without the consent of the Parliament of that State, and it will not give its consent. But State Parliaments and Governments cannot be allowed to retard the progress of Australia. We should alter the Constitution to permit a given number of persons in Northern Queensland or in Central Queensland, to approach this Parliament, asking for the creation of new States. How can Australia be developed if it is to continue to be divided up into only half-a-dozen States, with its population mostly living in the State capitals?
I invite the attention of honorable members to the progress that America has made, which has been due largely to the fact that there are there forty-nine States, each with its Parliament. I would not propose bicameral Parliaments for the new States, because I think that there should not be Legislative Councils like that curious excrescence which we have in Victoria, which is opposed to every proposal for democratic legislation, and objected to women’s suffrage on thirteen or more occasions. We shall be quite satisfied in Central Queensland with a Parliament of one Chamber.
– With local government.
– I am glad of the interjection, because it permits me to remind my honorable friend that he will have an opportunity this afternoon to deal with that extraordinary state of affairs at the heart of the Empire, created by the fact that there is there one law for the rich and another for the poor; he can speak of the treatment meted out to Sir Edward Carson, on the one hand, and to Mr. Larkin, on the other. I observe that there are no Ministers present.
– There is one - the most genial of them all.
– There are members of the Ministry whom we are glad to know. If the Postmaster-General held office as Prime Minister, we should get along swimmingly. Having regard to the present state of the House, he would say, “ We have just a majority of one, and, therefore, we are not going to introduce legislation that will make the Opposition angry. We shall try to map out a commonsense programme of legislation which will be for the benefit of Australia.” But the Prime Minister, and his colleagues, bring forward everything that is calculated to .annoy us.
Returning to the question of the creation of new States, let me point out that, in Queensland, we have lands from which ten crops of lucerne are obtained in ihe year, as well as magnificent sugar country - vast areas of fertile soil. - What is wanted is local government. The honorable member for Lilley will bear me out when I say that, in southern Queensland, there is also very beautiful country - the rich lands of the Darling Downs, ^Nanango, Kilkivan, Maryborough, Gympie, and other centres, and all these lands have to be settled. In the south, we have a population of about 400,000; about 70,000 in central Queensland, and about 115,000 in the north. The 400,000 people of southern Queensland, however, have the majority of the representatives iu the State Parliament.
– What have we done to deserve this?
– The honorable gentleman has so little appreciation of his responsibility, and of the extent of the country’s resources that, when I raise a great national question of this kind, he asks, “What have we done to deserve this?” Apparently, all he wants to do is to register his attendance here, and then leave to address an afternoon-tea meeting of the Women’s National League, or some other Liberal Association in Victoria. I was saying, when interrupted, that southern Queensland has what is vulgarly known as the “ biggest pull “ in the State Parliament, if I may use that expression. It probably comes from the Prime Minister, who uses so many vulgar expressions.
– Order ! The honorable member is distinctly out of order in attributing vulgar expressions to any honorable member.
– The Prime Minister, today, spoke of a speech as “ tripe.” I desire to use words that will be acceptable in the very best society. We do not wish to hear any honorable member referring to another honorable member’s speech as “ tripe.”
– We heard that reference to-day.
– I thought that I heard the Prime Minister use that expression. The people of central and northern Queensland are not getting fair treatment in the matter of government. For instance, in central Queensland, in the Longreach and Springsure districts, there are lands which grow tho very best wool in the world; but they are leased in large areas, for thirty or forty years, to big squatting companies, when they ought to be subdivided and thrown open to the small men. That is one of the great disadvantages under which the people of central and northern Queensland labour, and which is preventing the progress of this great country.
What is the use of encouraging immigration if we do not- provide immigrants with land when they come here; and what is the good of giving them land unless we provide them with local government? If the Rockhampton Post-office requires a broom at the present time, it has to send to Brisbane for an order to obtain it; but I am pleased to say that the Postmaster-General has decided, so I understand, to create three divisions of the Postal Department in Queensland, showing that he appreciates the vast extent of that great State.
– What would be the chief centres of population in the three divisions of Queensland which the honorable member suggests?
– In all probability, they would be Townsville for the north, Rockhampton for the centre, and Brisbane for the south. But I would urge any one who is advocating the creation of new States not to give too much attention to a detail of that kind. I would rather leave it to the people to settle by referendum where the capitals should be.
– What about Cloncurry ?
– It might be desirable to have an inland capital for the north. I hope that the House will, at an early date, take into consideration the creation of new States.
I shall deal now with another question, which, -perhaps, concerns the greatest number of people in the community. I refer to the high cost of living. The Postmaster-General will not mind if I say that I think his efforts to reduce the cost of living have, so far, not shown any appreciable result. He has, I believe, introduced a reform in the postage stamp, hoping thereby to reduce the cost of flour, butter and bread; but the price of butter is fixed by the price in the London market. I have come to the conclusion that if we desire to reduce the cost of living, we ought to do so bv means of the States and the municipalities, because I do not see that we can do much in the matter federally. I am in favour of increasing the powers of the municipalities, and would advocate the payment of aldermen, in order to induce them to give greater attention to their business, and to have the choice of the people enlarged. I have no desire to reflect on any individual council or councillor, because, as a rule, the majority of aldermen are actuated by the highest public motives and patriotic spirit.
– As the honorable member is, when he is wasting time!
– I am endeavouring to enlighten the few Ministerialists who remain. The Government and their supporters, having placed the hall-mark of respectability on themselves by gaining their seats, are satisfied; and doubtlessthey will afterwards try to gull the public into the belief that the Labour party haveprevented them passing a lot of legislation.
I have been an alderman myself, and I never worked harder, though i do not think my work was appreciated as it ought to have been. I always seem to get into Parliaments or assemblieswhere there is trouble. I do not know why this should be, but when I becamea member of the Brisbane City Council, three aldermen - Alderman McMaster,. Alderman Fraser, and Alderman Raymond - resigned as a protest against the conduct of Alderman Higgs; and I can only say that if I could do anything tobring about a similar result with my honorable friends opposite, I would most assuredly do it.
Contractors, landlords, and others sometimes secure election to city councils, and then devote the whole of their effortsto keeping down the taxes on the landlord, or getting work done “ ag’in their own door,” so to speak. They have no desire to improve the cities, because that might mean that they would have tospend a little more on their own properties.
– Does the honorablemember belong to the Town party or tothe Country party!
– Both town and country - the National party. I deem it my” duty to endeavour to prevent slums in the towns, and in the country my desire is that the people there shall have all the comforts of civilization. It is often a great privilege for a boy or a girl to bebrought up in the country, but I should like to give country people every facility in the way of education, improvement, and enjoyment. On all sides we hear cries about increased rents, and the increased cost of food and clothing. As to the rents, I submit that the municipalities ought to endeavour to get the ratepayersto consent to the expenditure of publicmoney in the erection of cottages, and’ thus enter into competition with thelandlord. As to the price of food, I direct attention to what is taking placein Europe. The American Meat Trust has control, pretty well, of the whole production of the world, and various causes contribute to keep up. the price of meat in Europe. Certain municipalities in Berlin, Charlottenburg, and elsewhere, I saw from a cable a few months ago, have decided to import Australian mutton in large quantities in order to meet the prevailing scarcity, and to reduce the present high prices. In -order to meet the trusts and combines, which, at the present time, are levying taxation on thepublic of Australia and elsewhere, I believe it will be necessary for municipalities to establish shops and distributing houses so that goods may he obtained at reasonable rates.
The Western Australian Government have made an attempt by opening a butcher’s shop in Perth, and, though I believe they did succeed in reducing the price by 3d. per lb., the combine has been able to interfere and prevent their getting supplies. . However, we must not be in any way disheartened in the good work of municipalization by the action of a few trusts or combines; and before very long it will be necessary to adopt some method of dealing with the American trusts. There is not so much cheering now amongst the pastoralists at the introduction of American methods into Australia. We cannot keep down the price of foodstuffs unless we act as I have suggested. Could not the municipalities distribute pure milk ? At present we see the spectacle of a dozen carts crossing one another fifty times in the morning, doing work that could be done regularly by two carts distributing from a municipal dairy, and thus avoiding the great waste of effort that now exists in the distribution of the commodity. The same would apply in regard to the distribution from butchers’ and bakers’ shops. Though honorable members opposite think these matters most heterodox, they must realize that what I suggest is bound to come.
– We put those ideas into our own businesses.
– The honorable member is correct. In their businesses, honorable members avoid waste of effort and competition. Instead of having a dozen boards of directors and a dozen companies dealing in the same concerns, they have -one board of directors and one company, thus avoiding the former waste in canvassing, in advertising, and in a dozen -different directions.
Mr.Fleming.-Then you call that a trust.
– Trusts are all right up to a point. So long as they confine their operations to economy of effort in production and distribution, they are all right; but, as soon as they succeed in eliminating competition, and start to charge high prices and bleed the public, they must be dealt with; but all our laws trying to prevent trusts getting in their fine work will go for nothing unless we start in opposition to them, either through the States or through the municipalities. I am glad to see that the right honorable member for Swan is trying to keep a House for me.
– I think you are about done. It is scandalous to allow you to talk so long when every one is anxious to get away.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Treasurer in order in saying that the proceedings of the Chamber are scandalous, considering that he is in the Ministry?
– The Treasurer must withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it, and apologize.
– That is very graceful on the part of the honorable member.
– If only the House were led by him, we could get through our business.
– Order !
– The right honorable gentleman can go away to his garden party.
– Order ! I trust honorable members will take notice of the call of the Chair to order, and not interject afterwards.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– I was dealing with the creation of new States. If the Treasurer had been in the Chamber, I would have drawn attention to great areas in Western Australia which have no local government. The time must come when Western Australia will be cut up into several States.
– And we shall make you the Governor of the central part.
– I am afraid I would not be as happy in that position as I am here. If the right honorable gentleman had only been elected leader of the Ministerial party, when he was beaten by ons vote only, I am sure we would get on very nicely, and we would not be subject to the virulent abuse we receive from the Prime Minister. There are items with which the Ministry could deal at a very early date which would not cause a great deal of trouble. All the chambers of commerce and business people in Australia are crying out for a Bankruptcy Bill. There would be no opposition to that measure. There would be no need to “ gag “ it through. There would be no opposition to any real, earnest attempt on the part of the Government to deal with the question of unemployment. I heard the Prime Minister tell the unemployed the other day that he believed it was the duty of the employing class to take a share in the burden of this question of unemployment. Why do not the Government deal with that point? Their scheme of insurance is a non-party question, and could easily be brought on, but, possibly, it is only an electioneering placard. Whatever it is, if they bring it down, we shall discuss it. Why do they not bring forward a Bill to establish a Federal Bureau of Agriculture, the Norfolk Island Bill, and a number of other measures? They would do so if they wanted to do any business; but they do not want to do any - they are anxious only to mark time. They want, if possible, to stop the progress of Democracy. I hope the people who come to watch the so-called deliberations of this House-
– They must «feel proud if they do.
– I do not know that the honorable member has much to be proud of in his share. He dare not speak. He is muzzled, and yet he will go back to his constituents and tell them that he is a free and independent representative. I think I have sufficiently emphasized the fact that the Government have no desire to do business. The only Minister present is the Treasurer, and he is only here as a protest.
– I want to get away to a garden party.
– The right honorable member’s interjection bears out my assertion that all the ambition of Ministers is to attend banquets and garden parties. The Treasurer practically says, “ Stop the business of the country, so that I may get away to a garden party.” It will not be very long before the public realize how shallow are the promises made by honorable members opposite, and how little they must expect from a Tory Government. Honorable members opposite are, for the most part, decent fellows personally, but they have to do the bidding of the capitalists of Australia and elsewhere. Of course, they will, therefore, do nothing, because the capitalists say, “Do not pass any more legislation; we do not want any; we prefer things as they are.” Apparently, therefore, all the ideas we offer from this side will be unwelcome, and all we can do is to protest against their action, in the hope that we will force them to the country. If the Treasurer is earnest in his desire to go to the country, why does he not take steps to do so? The Government could do so at any time. If they had let two men stay away to-day the thing would have been done; but they whipped up every man, in order to prevent an appeal to the electors. Honorable members opposite are afraid to go to the country, and come here better drilled than ever we were - thirty-seven of them, Caucusbound, and all but the Prime Minister unable to say a word.
– I regret that this is the only opportunity I have of expressing the wishes of my constituents. The National Parliament has reached a deplorable stage, when members who desire to bring under the notice of Ministers and the country the grievances of some of their electors have to wait for the motion to adjourn the House before they can be heard. All I regret is that I am keeping the officers of the House here by speaking at this late hour. Had the right honorable member for Swan been Prime Minister the trouble to which I wish to refer would not have happened, because he would have risen to the occasion like the big man he has always been in politics, and prevented it. During the regime of the Fisher Government it was decided that any man, no matter how poor or humble his parents were, capable of passing a stiff examination, could become a commissioned officer from the ranks. Many young men who are becoming officers in our Army to-day are the sons of poor parents; but since the present Government have been in power I am informed, on reliable authority - namely, the father of one of these boys - that a lad, who passed an examination, and became a lieutenant, paid for his own uniform, on the understanding that the money would be refunded to him; but month after month goes by, and he cannot get a refund. The father, poor as he is, put his hand in his pocket to clothe this young man, who is taking his share in protecting the country. The reason this matter is not rectified appears to be that the Minister of Defence thinks more of adjourning the Senate and trotting away to garden parties, or elsewhere. Consequently, important defence matters no longer receive the personal attention of the Minister, with the result that people cannot get that to which they are justly entitled. I hope the day is not far distant when the Minister will bring his Department up to date, and not allow these unfair things to happen. I regret very much that the honorable member for Indi, the honorable member for Wannon, and other young members who have interested themselves in rifle ranges - something that suits their own class of people - do not say a word on . behalf of these young men, who are not getting a fair deal at the hands of the Minister of Defence.
– Let the honorable member look at the clock.
– I have to speak. I was hurried back from my own State to be “ gagged “ in order to suit the convenience of the Prime Minister.
– Who fetched the honorable member!
– The Government “Whip. Would not the honorable gentleman like me to be away? I know that my place is in this House just now, and it is most unfair for the honorable gentleman to twit me with keeping him here when I am ventilating a real grievance that many persons are suffering in the Commonwealth. The matter to which I have referred was brought under my notice by one of my constituents. He complained bitterly of his treatment. He says that he is a poor man, and cannot afford to pay a considerable sum to provide his son with a uniform, and that when he has done so the Government should refund the money. Honorable members opposite have now a Government in power that suits them, and they will not say a word. They are ruled by the iron hand of the Attorney-General. I never hear the honorable member speak or see him come into the House but in imagination I hear the clink, clink, clink of the leg-irons, which in the past were worn by people who lived in some countries. I am reminded also of the play in which Nell Gwynne and Judge Jeffries appear. I hope the Prime Minister will convey to the Minister of Defence my protest against the way in which young men who are willing to give up their time to the Defence Department are being treated. Some honorable members desire that only the sons of the rich should hold positions in our Army, but in these enlightened days, and in this country, we have done away with the class distinctions that used to prevail, and now the only way to secure promotion in the Army is by passing the necessary examinations. I hope we shall never have a return to the class distinctions of the past, but I cannot forget that there are members supporting the Government who would probably like to have a law adopted here like the law in force in Germany, where a young man is not allowed to become an officer unless he can prove that he has blue blood in his veins, and is not allowed to marry until the name of the lady he wishes to marry is submitted for the approval of a committee of the Army. In that country the officers are kept distinct from the rank and file, but, thank God, we have done away with such class distinctions in Australia. There are Conservative members of this House who would have things otherwise if they could. I have the greatest respect for the AttorneyGeneral, who is true to himself. Being true to himself he cannot bo false to any man. He is true to the Employers’ Federation and the Argus. We know that immediately upon the appearance of a particular article in the Argus dictating to the Government what they should do, the policy of honorable members opposite was changed.
Motion (by Mr. Palmer) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative
House adjourned at 5.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131107_reps_5_71/>.