5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The honorable member for Capricornia yesterday referred to a statement made by the honorable member for Barrier in this House attributing to me certain remarks in connexion with the delivery of a speech at Murwillumbah. I have turned up the Hansard report of the speech of the honorable member for Barrier, and I find that the remarks which he has attributed to me, and which one or two other honorable members have repeated, are these: -
In speaking at Murwillumbah some time ago, Mr. Massey Greene said that the Cook Ministry, when it took office, did so with the deliberate intention of appealing to the country. They had made up their minds to secure a double dissolution, which would come this year, buthe could not say exactly when.
– I can show the honorable member thatpassage in a newspaper report, word for word.
– My reply is, in the first instance, that never at any time during the recess did I make a speech of any sort at Murwillumbah. I do not know from which of my various utterances in the electorate this passage is supposed to have been culled, but never at any time did I make the statement it contains, in the terms that are used. What I have said was that the Cook Ministry took office in very difficult circumstances, their opponents threatening from the housetops thatthey would not, on any consideration, allow the legislation of the Liberal party to go through the Senate. I said also, that if, under those circumstances, the Liberal party found that they could not translate to the statute-book the policy on which they had appealed to the electors, and were returned to power, they would take the earliest opportunity to appeal again to the country. I pointed out that when the “Upper Chamber, which is not elected on the same democratic basis as the Lower House, sets itself to deliberately obstruct the will of the people as expressed by their representatives in the Lower House, means are provided in the Constitution of sending the Upper Chamber to its masters in the country. I added that I believed it to be the intention of this Government, if the policy of the Senate was persisted in, to attempt to obtain a double dissolution, but that, although I considered that to be the duty of the Ministry, under no circumstances could they insure the granting of a double dissolution, because that was the responsibility of the GovernorGeneral, and of him alone.
– What I quoted in this House was extracted from a report published either in the Argus or in the
Age, and I read the passage word for word as it appeared in the newspaper. If the honorable member will be good enough to give me a pair, I shall run home and obtain the newspaper cutting which I have in my box, and read it to the House when the adjournment motion is moved this afternoon.
– We give the honorable member permission to go home, and to stay there, without a pair.
– I ask the Prime Minister if it is a fact, as stated in the press this morning, that a certain prominent union official in New South Wales-
– Questions founded on newspaper statements are not in order.
– Then I ask, is it a fact that a certain prominent union official in New South Wales has stated publicly that, although his union appealed to the Labour party when it was in office, it could get no satisfaction, but when it applied to the present Liberal Administration, it obtained redress for all its grievances.
– After downing took. Why do you not quote all?
– I have not seen the statement, though I am quite prepared to believe it, because it is in line with the general tenor of what has happened since the Government took office.
– I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he can make any communication to the House as to when there will be a report from the Inter-State Commission regarding Tariff matters, including existing anomalies? Can he give us any idea as to when these matters will be dealt with here?
– A question on the subject is on the notice-paper, and will be answered by the Prime Minister. A similar question was put to me by the honorable member for Ballarat when I was speaking a day or two ago, and, in reply, I pointed out that, so far, evidence on Tariff matters had been taken only in Victoria, and, obviously, before a progress report could be made by the Inter-State
Commission in respect to any industry, those affected in other parts of Australia should be given a chance to present evidence.
– Does that answer mean that no Tariff matter will be dealt with until the Inter-State Commission has taken evidence in every State of the Commonwealth?
– Certainly not. The conduct of the proceedings is entirely in the hands of the Commissioners.
– And is not going to be taken out.
– It would be improper for any one to interfere with the exercise of the discretion of the Commissioners, who are taking evidence judicially. I assure honorable members that, immediately reports are presented, the Government will deal with them as promptly as possible.
– Some six weeks ago I represented to the Minister that he should obtain from the Inter-State Commissioners fuller reports of the evidence tendered to them.
– We want the evidence.
– The Commission intends to give only a summary.
– We are not going to act on what they tell us.
– Will the Minister obtain from the Commissioners full reports of the evidence tendered to them by the various manufacturers who come before them?
– The honorable member has already communicated with me on the subject, and I have, as I promised, sent his request to the Inter-State Commission. The honorable member must know that the Commission is charged with the conduct of its own proceedings.
– It is not going to override Parliament.
– Parliament has endowed it with statutory powers of investigation, and has given it control of its procedure. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I shall endeavour to give him the exact words of the reply made to me on this subject by the Chief Commissioner. Speaking from memory, the effect of the communication was that a statement of the evidence would accompany the reports to be presented to this House.
– We want the evidence itself. We do not want their statements.
– Honorable members will get the Commissioners’ statement of the evidence.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question in relation to a statement made by him when speaking during the electoral campaign at Toowoomba, namely, that anomalies in the Tariff discovered in the Department would be rectified at once, before reports came in from any Board to which Tariff matters might be referred., I ask the honorable gentleman whether there are anomalies ; and, if there are any, what the Government propose to do in regard to them?
– A question dealing with this matter appears on the notice-paper, and will be replied to at a later stage.
– Does the Minister of Trade and Customs realize that the policy of the Government to get from the Inter-State Commission a statement of the evidence given, without presenting to Parliament the evidence itself, and to act on the report of that Commission, is a total abandonment of the discretion of this House in regard to the report of the Commission ?
– I shall answer the question, and deal with it generally. The Government do not propose to interfere in any way with the Inter-State Commission as to the manner in which they should conduct their business.
– Now that the Commonwealth Bank is paying a little over its working expenses, the Treasurer should try to arrange with the Governor not to charge the Government £8,000 a year in exchange on Government business. The other banks used not to make that charge.
– My honorable friend must know that the Governor of the Bank has sole control of its business, but, if he will put a question on the notice-paper, I shall be only too pleased to submit it to the Governor.
– Surely the Treasurer can attempt to make arrangements for the conduct of Government business by the Bank ?
– I should bo glad to make any saving that was possible.
– I ask the Prime Minister if he and his colleagues are conniving, with the Treasurer, to injure in every possible way the prospects and interests of the Commonwealth Bank while that Bank is in open competition with every other bank?
– That question should not be answered, because it conveys an imputation of improper conduct.
– Ministers are trying to damage the Bank as much as they can.
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that this atrocious statement has been repeated by a member of the Opposition.
– So they are.
– I ask honorable members to cease frominterjecting, and especially not to impute unworthy actions, because that is particularly disorderly. Honorable members should obey the Chair when order is called. If they will not do so, I must very reluctantly fall back on the Standing Orders to enforce the conduct of our proceedings in a regular and orderly manner.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the statement of the Prime Minister. Is his remark as to atrocious statements in order?
– I am willing to withdraw that description when the honorable member who made the statement to which I took exception has withdrawn his. It is more insulting than the statement I made.
– I remind the Prime Minister, and the House generally, of the fact that a disorderly statement which may have escaped the notice of the Chair is not sufficient justification for making further disorderly interjections. Not having heard the previous statement, I can only take immediate notice of that which has beenbrought under my attention, and ask for it to be withdrawn. If afterwards the Prime Minister draws my attention to the statement to which he takes exception, I shall call upon the honorable member who made it to withdraw it. At present I call upon the Prime Minister to withdraw his statement.
– I withdraw the statement I made. I shall not take the trouble to repeat what was said by the honorable member opposite.
Colonel RYRIE. - Can the Honorary Minister tell us why the erection of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney is proceeding so tardily under his Department?
– I rise to a point of order. Is it in order to put questions in this House relating to the control and government of the Commonwealth Bank?
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent questions being asked as long as Ministers are prepared to answer them. It is entirely in the discretion of Ministers whether they answer them.
– The honorable member for North Sydney is under a misapprehension in thinking that the erection of this building is under the control of the Department of Home Affairs. Certainly the foundation stone was laid before the old building was down during the late elections by a member of the then Government, but the work of erecting the new building is in the hands of the Bank itself. I understand that the builders have gone so far as to take out the foundations.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether there is anything which debars him from obtaining, or attempting to obtain, from the Commonwealth Bank as good terms as the Government can get from the Associated Banks?
– There is nothing to prevent that being done. The existing arrangement was made by the previous Ministers, and I have not interfered with it, although I am not at all satisfied with the fact that the Commonwealth Government have to pay exchanges within the Commonwealth, whereas previously we did not have to pay them.
– Is it a fact that the hours of the business of the Commonwealth Savings Bank are an hour and a half longer than those of the State Savings Bank? Could not this be construed as unfair competition between the Commonwealth and the State, and as sweating Commonwealth employes ?
– I was not aware of it, but I shall be glad to make inquiries.
– The honorable member for Grampians interjected just now that the Commonwealth Savings Bank branch would soon be closed up. I wish to askthe honorable member a question.
– It is not in order to ask a question of a private member who is not in charge of a measure before the House.
– I ask the Treasurer whether there is any foundation for the statement of the honorable member for Grampians that the Commonwealth Savings Bank branch will soon be closed up.
– I am not aware of any such intention.
– In view of the shortening of the days of sitting, will the Prime” Minister take into consideration the advisability of refusing to answer questions without notice?
– The thing was in my mind when the honorable member rose. I am afraid a great deal less time will have to be consumed so far as these formal questions are concerned.
– I would like to ask the Treasurer a question. Is he yet in a position to inform the House and the country why country borrowers have to pay 2 per cent. more in interest for their accommodation at the Commonwealth Bank than city borrowers’?
– I hope my friend will give notice of that question, and I should like to say, in regard to all other questions to-day, seeing that it is nearly 11 o’clock, and that we have been answering questions for . nearly halfanhour, that Ministers require notice of any further questions.
– I wish to ask the honorable member for Denison what he proposes to do with the motion he has on the business-paper with regard to an amendment of the Constitution to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to grant pensions to widows with young children.
– He will use it on the platform. That is what he intends to do with it.
– I hope that a daywill be set apart to deal with such an important motion, especially after the recent sad disasters at Bendigo and other parts of Australia.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice.
– The Prime Minister has already intimated that he does not propose to answer further questions without notice. I must again insist that when I call for order all noise and interruptions must at once cease. I shall be very loath to put another standing order into operation, but frequent appeals apparently fall on deaf ears, so far as some honorable members are concerned, and they will force me to have recourse very unwillingly to another standing order if they persist in disregarding the authority of the Chair. I do not propose to wear out my throat in calling for order. I give honorable members this timely warning.
– The Prime Minister has indicated that he has no objection to answering my question.
– That is preference to Ministerialists.
– I rise to a point of order. Once the Prime Minister has’ intimated that it is not his intention to answer further questions, is it possible for him to practically give preference to an honorable member of his own party, and to intimate to them that ‘if they ask certain questions he is prepared to give answers?
– I submit that if I feel so disposed I am as much entitled to give preference as my friends opposite. However, I do not propose to grant preference to any section of the community.
– On a point of order, I ask whether if any honorable member desires to ask a question, it is not for Ministers to say whether they will answer or not? I do not think that the House can prevent any honorable member from asking a question. It is purely within the discretion of Ministers to reply.
– It has been distinctly laid down that, when Ministers have intimated that they do not propose to answer questions without notice, it is only wasting the time of the House for questions without notice to be persisted in. With regard to the other point that has been raised, it is also laid down that it is in the discretion of Ministers to answer questions or not as they think fit. I would remind the Prime Minister that, having intimated that he did not propose to answer questions without notice, it puts the Speaker in an awkward position if he intimates, as the honorable member for Wannon has stated, that he is willing to answer a question which one honorable member may ask to the exclusion of others.
– As a personal explanation, I would like to suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, ascertain from the Prime Minister what he really has done before proceeding to deliver a little lecture, which was quite unnecessary.
-I remind the Prime Minister, and the House also, that after I intimated to the honorable member for Wannon that the Prime Minister had stated that it was not the intention of the Government to answer further questions without notice, the honorable member for Wannon informed the House that the Prime Minister had told him he would answer his question. Therefore, I was quite justified in directing the attention of the Prime Minister to the matter.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire this matter cleared up, because it is of importance to honorable members. You, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that, if a Minister has said that he will not answer a certain question, no member can ask that question. I maintain that honorable members can ask questions, but it is within the discretion of Ministers themselves to say whether they will answer them or not. It would be a most injudicious thing for this House to decide, that, merely because the Prime Minister said that he and other Ministers would not answer certain questions, honorable members should not be allowed to ask them. If a Minister decides not to answer questions he has a perfect right to decline, but surely, because a Minister declines to answer a question, that is not sufficient reason for preventing other honorable members from asking questions that may be vital to them and their constituents.
– I submit that a definite statement having been made that questions without notice would not be answered, it becomes a frivolous and wanton waste of time to continue asking those questions. Therefore, obstruction of that kind can be put down under other Standing Orders.
– I have a prior point of order. I contend that it is the duty of honorable members of the House to protect Mr. Speaker, and I regard the statement of the Prime Minister that you had lectured him as reflecting upon you, sir. The inference was that you had treated him unfairly, and had been acting in a very partial way, and I ask that the honorable member be requested to withdraw the remark?
– I withdraw everything I said, if that will please the honorable member.
– Does not May indicate clearly that there is a possibility, if the point argued by the honorable member for Kennedy is conceded, that the proceedings of Parliament can be reduced to an absurdity by members continuing to ask questions for a whole day?
– I understood you, sir, to decide last session, when a similar question arose, that any honorable member could, in the interests of his constituents or of public business, ask a question, but it remained in the discretion of Ministers whether they answered the question or. not ?
– In reply to the question just asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, it is true that I pointed out - and all parliamentary authorities agree - that it is in the discretion of Ministers themselves to say whether they will answer questions or not ; and it is also laid down that if Ministers have intimated that it is not their intention to answer questions, persistence in asking such questions can only be a waste of time of the House. Apart from all the authorities on the subject, obviously there can be no purpose served, other than to obstruct business, by persistently asking questions without notice, when Ministers have intimated that they will not answer them. Such questions cannot elicit the information they seek, and therefore to persist in asking questions under those circumstances would be clearly nothing but a waste of the time of the House. And so it is laid down in the parliamentary authorities I have before me.
– I rise to another point of order.
– More waste of time.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– I would like to know if the questions asked of Ministers without notice may be put on the businesspaper ?
– Undoubtedly. The Prime Minister has indicated that he will not answer questions that are asked without notice, but that does not preclude honorable members from putting them on the business-paper. It is, in fact, an intimation that if answers are desired the questions must be put on the business-paper.
– Providing they are in order.
– Order ! If questions are not proper, it is for the Speaker to decide.
– Does your ruling, Mr. Speaker, mean that Ministers can decline to answer any questions at all without notice ?
– Yes, they have that discretion. It is laid down in every parliamentary authority of which I have any knowledge that the answering of questions is entirely in the discretion of Ministers, and they may not consider it in the public interest to do so.
– On a point of order. It is abundantly clear to nearly all the members of this House that questions are being asked now for the purpose of wasting time.
– Order! I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that statement. It is laid down distinctly that to state that something is being done to waste the time of the House is not in order.
– I withdraw the statement. A number of questions have been addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. May I, too, now address you on a point of order, and inquire whether it is permissible for honorable members to continue asking questions as to matters on which they have already asked similar questions a number of times, and received answers from yourself ? How far is that kind of thing to go, because that is just as effective a way of occupying the time of Parliament as any other? I submit that the honorable member who put the last question was undoubtedly out of order, inasmuch as the same Question had been previously addressed to you half-a-dozen times this morning.
– The Prime Minister complains that the raising of points of order is delaying the business of the House. That may or may not be so; I am not going to argue that point. But I would like to point out that you, Mr. Speaker, are not called upon to deal with these matters; the Government have it entirely in their own hands, by virtue of the Standing Orders, to apply the closure or take other methods, which they may think proper, to prevent the obstruction of business. They have no right to shirk the responsibility themselves, and cast it upon the Speaker.
– With regard to the right of an honorable member to ask a question such as was addressed to me by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I point out that several interjections were made while I was giving a ruling, and the honorable member may not have understood what I was saying, or I may not have made myself clear. Therefore, the honorable member was in order in asking a further question to ascertain what my decision was. It is laid down in May -
An answer to a question cannot be insisted upon, if the answer be refused by a Minister on the ground of the public interest; nor can the question be replaced upon the notice-paper, or the refusal of the Minister to answer the question be raised as a matter of privilege.
Therefore, it is entirely within the discretion of Ministers to say whether they will answer questions or not.
– On a further point of order-
– Who is wasting time now?
– I am taking this action in the interests of the country. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, and ask your serious consideration of the fact that twenty-five minutes ago I asked that no further questions should be asked. I submit that this kind of thing can continue all day, and there must be some reserve power in the Standing Orders somewhere, so that, when a decision of both Ministers and yourself has been given to the House, the business of the country may proceed in proper and regular order.
– I would point out that the position is entirely within the control of Ministers themselves. If they do nob desire to answer questions without notice, then such questions can no longer be asked without notice. So that they have it in their own power to regulate the time that may be consumed in the asking of questions without notice. In regard to questions generally, there is no obligation under the Standing Orders on Ministers to answer them if they do not desire to do so. As to the time consumed since the Prime Minister intimated that it was not the intention of the Government to answer questions without notice, I would remind the Prime Minister that several points of order have arisen, and in that way the honorable member himself has taken up some portion of that time, and, to that extent, has been a contributor to the consumption of time.
– I agree’ with what you have said, sir, and I am not reflecting on your decision in any way, but I would like to ask if you observed the cabled information published in the press that, during one week, the Prime Minister of Great Britain answered, in the House of Commons, over 600 questions, without notice, on the one matter ?
– Did you observe, also, Mr. Speaker, that in a similar case the Prime Minister of Great Britain told the House-
– Order !
– May I not put a similar question to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition ?
– I did not know what the honorable member for Wide Baywas about to say. I would like to point out that these are not points of order, but are really a debate without any question being before the Chair. These proceedings are irregular.
– In the meantime, may I put the same question as the Leader of the Opposition has been allowed to put?
– Certainly, if the Prime Minister does not object to the further consumption of time, as he did in regard to other members.
– Even at the risk of wasting time, I must claim the same privileges as other honorable members are allowed. Therefore, I must ask you, sir, if you saw in the cables, on the same day or the day afterwards, that the Prime Minister of Great Britain had absolutely declined to answer any further questions?
– Questions founded on newspaper reports have been frequently ruled out of order, and I do not propose to reply to such questions.
.- I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance.
-Order! The honorable member yesterday handed to me the following notice : - “ I hereby indicate my intention to move the adjournment of the House to call attention to the following as an urgent matter of public importance, namely, the administration of the Elec toral Department, especially in connexion with the appointment of permanent Divisional Returning Officers.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– They are all in it.
– Of course they are, and so is the honorable member. I wish at the outset to remove from the minds of honorable members any idea that this motion has been submitted merely with a desire to occupy the time of the House. It involves the consideration of one of the most important questions that could’ be discussed. During the censure debate, the attention of honorable members was concentrated practically upon one specific matter, and I decided, therefore, to await another opportunity to deal with this subject. We have heard a great deal in regard to electoral reform and the purification of the rolls. The Prime Minister has said that he does not intend to make an appeal to the people until the rolls have been cleansed. My desire is to indicate what is being done under the guise of purifying the rolls, and to show how far the Government have gone. In the first place, there appear on the Commonwealth roll hundreds of names which long since should have been removed. For this the whole Department is responsible. It is useless for the Minister to say, “ Surely you are not going to blame the officers of the Department.” The blame must be located, and the head of the Department, whether it be the Minister or his leading officer, is charged with the responsibility of formulating a scheme that will enable the rolls to be purified. The result of the Department’s efforts in this direction, however, is that there are on the rolls in some cases the names of people who have been absent from the particular electorates in question for ten or twelve years. It is remarkable that the Department has not in force some system which would enable it to discover such cases. Owing, chiefly, I take it, to the activity of the Liberal organizers, the roll for my own electorate has been so closely scrutinized that some 4,000 objections have been lodged.
– Are they all genuine?
– I have not seen them all, and therefore cannot say ; but I shall quote a case to show how far they may or may not be genuine. Prior to the last State election, a Liberal organizer in my electorate was very active in his scrutiny of the State roll, and lodged nearly 300 objections. Under the State law, those objections had to come before a Revision Court, and some men who felt that there might be something wrong in connexion with them employed a solicitor to appear before the Court to test their legitimacy. He did so, and after the Liberal organizer had failed to substantiate some forty-eight or fifty objections this solicitor urged that in all future cases the penalty for which the law provided in respect of frivolous or unfounded objections should be imposed. The magistrate imposed a penalty in the next two cases in which the objections failed, and the organizer, finding that he would have to pay the penalty for lodging objections which he could not maintain, withdrew the remainder, and the names were allowed to remain on the roll. I do not say that there were not some duplications which he was justified in attempting to rectify. Duplications must inevitably occur, but only a very small number of the objections related to such cases. In some instances objection was taken to the appearance on the roll of the names of men who had not left the district for many years. One striking case was that of a constable and his wife, who, to my knowledge, had been in the district for thirteen or fourteen years. The constable had never been away, and yet this Liberal organizer sought to remove his name and that of his wife.
Colonel Ryrie. - He could not do that when the whole matter was subject to the decision of the RevisionCourt.
– Had no one appeared on the other side to test the legitimacy of these objections they would unquestionably have been allowed. In a number of cases objection was taken to the names of people who were still in the district, and those names would have been removed from the roll if the other side had not gone to the expense of employing a solicitor to appear before the Court. I ask the Honorary Minister in charge of this Department, who does not seem to be interested in this matter, or, indeed, anything else just now-
– The honorable member was so anxious to get a fair discussion that he did not even give the Minister notice of his intention to bring forward this matter.
– I gave Mr. Speaker notice yesterday of my intention to bring forward this question this morning, and I thought that that would be sufficient. I apologise to the Minister for the omission, and can assure him that it will not happen again. This Liberal organizer was placed in the witness box, but he dared not swear that all those to whose enrolment he objected had permanently left the district. He thought, no doubt, that he would be able to get his objections through without any one appearing to contest them.
Colonel Ryrie. - How is it that hundreds of Liberals have their names struck off the rolls?
– I cannot say; but names that are wrongly on the rolls ought to be’ objected to, whether they represent Liberal or Labour voters. I am just as strongly in favour of a clean roll as is the Prime Minister or any one else, and think it a scandal that we have not had, before now, something more closely approximating to a pure roll. Permanent Divisional Returning Officers have been appointed allegedly for the purpose of maintaining a pure roll, and I believe that instructions have been issued that the police shall be employed to revise the lists and to ascertain the names of those who are wrongly enrolled. It is not quite clear, however, that they have been instructed at the same time to place on the roll those who are entitled to enrolment. If the Minister is prepared to direct the” police to enroll those entitled to enrolment, as well as to remove names that should not be on the roll, there may be some justification for the claim of the Government that they want a pure roll. Just before Parliament met I, in company with some local residents, examined the second print of a subdivisional roll for 1913. On comparing it with the old Federal roll, and with a State roll of more recent date, we found that it embodied the names of many who had long left the district. I also found in the course of my scrutiny that the names of seventy-five persons, who had never left the division, had been removed from the roll, although they had voted at the election of 1913.
– By whom have the names been removed]
– I do not- know, but they have been removed without rhyme or reason.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the new Divisional Returning Officer is responsible?
– The new man was appointed after I made my investigation, which was about a month before the House met.
– Then the new man can have nothing to do with the matter?
– I am not blaming the new man.
– The other Divisional Returning Officer had been there for some time. I am trying to find out where the responsibility is.
– And so am I.
– Was the honorable member comparing the State rolls with the Federal rolls?
– We were comparing the State rolls- with the Federal rolls, and we discovered what I have stated. There were about 128 names out of 2,000 that ought not to have been there, while seventy-five names had been unjustifiably removed. I am speaking of the subdivision of Bingara, and the Divisional Returning Officer at the time was located at Narrabri, a long distance away. He was a relieving postmaster, who had been there for something like twelve months, and, so far as the conduct of the election was concerned, he did the work very well. But what I am speaking of now is the un satisfactory state of the rolls. Is it not strange that with all -the initiative - or even, as I would prefer to call it, the lack of initiative - in this great Department, neither officers nor Minister has hit upon the most effective method that could be devised for purifying the rolls? What I mean is that there has never been any attempt to enlist the services of the postmen and mailmen, who naturally, in the course of their duties, obtain an accurate knowledge of both arrivals and departures* in their several districts.
– Is that not done already?
– No, or the- rolls would never have got into their present state.
– It is done in the metropolitan area of Victoria.
– It is not done in New South Wales, and I suggest to the Prime Minister that this is a plan which ought to be adopted at once.
– Does the honorable member say that he found 128 names which ought to have been removed ?
– The honorable member is as bad as Senator McColl - you slanderer !
– This is too serious a matter for the Prime Minister to attempt to use it as political capital, and I am not here to help him in any such effort, but to point out a way in which our electoral rolls may be improved. Every postmanshould be a recorder of electors who arrive or depart from his particular district.
Colonel Ryrie. - It would be all right if we could depend on every postman being honest.
– We have to trust our public servants; even the honorable member and myself have to be trusted by the people, and we have no justification for. placing ourselves on a pedestal. A postman’s reputation and billet is at stake, and he would prove just as able to perform the duties as is any policeman.
Colonel Ryrie. - Then why not trust the ordinary organizers?
– The postman is a public officer with some responsibility, whereas the ordinary organizer is a derelict - an outcast.
Colonel Ryrie. - The Liberal organizer, of course.
– Sometimes the organizers on our own side are not all we should like them to be; but in the ordinary Liberal organizer we usually find a man who has been refused and discharged’ from almost every position in which he has been employed. Political cast-offs are gathered together to do the work of the Liberal party; indeed, no other class of men would stoop to do it. The postman or mailman, as I said, could report as to every man or woman who left or entered the district; and I» have in my mind a case in which, a Liberal organizer was said to have obtained information of the kind with a view to striking off the names of > Labour sympathisers.
Colonel Ryrie. - How many Liberals would you find amongst the postmen ?
– I never inquire as to a man’s politics; but if the honorable member infers that because a man is a postman he must be a Labour man, he pays a great compliment to that man’s judgment. If, on the other hand, the honorable member concludes that, because some men are not postmen, they, therefore, are Liberals, he belittles their intelligence to a degree that does neither himself nor them credit. If the plan I suggest were adopted, there would be no need for the appointment of permanent Divisional Returning Officers; and this constitutes my objection to the latter, proposal.
– It is one of the best things the Government have done.,
– -I am not so sure about that; though I think it might not have been a bad idea’ to appoint such officers for a period of two or three years, for, if ‘they do their duty, the rolls should be purified in twelve months; and, with compulsory enrolment and proper administration, the system ought to work automatically. The danger is that we are appointing permanent officers, and building up a new branch or Department, the very existence of which we depend on there being left something to be done from year to year.
– Its existence will depend on the provision of a pure roll.
– I do not mean to say that they will not give us proper rolls, but the officers will have to prove that they have something to do.
– Does the honorable member not think that permanent will give more satisfaction than temporary postmasters?
– As a matter of fact, the postmasters, in the great bulk of cases, have delegated the duties to their second-in-charge.
-Simply because the postmasters have not had time to give to the electoral work..
– I am not dealing with the reason, but with the fact; and the result was that if anything went wrong, the postmasters were able to blame their subordinates. In any case, we all know how a new branch or a Department flourishes like the bay tree; we are always assured that the Department will be only a small one, but before long we find it with a head, clerks, messengers and other understrappers, with complete offices and furniture. I cannot see that the expense of these new appointments will be limited by the salary of £310 to be paid to each man; because, no doubt, clerks, messengers, offices, and furniture will have to be provided, along with travelling expenses, and so forth. The Prime Minister ought to have laid before the House a clear statement of the amount involved, because we should then have found that, not £20,000, but many more thousands, will be required before long.
– It is worth it to get a fair fight.
– (We can get a fair fight without appointing another set of permanent officers. Every effort of this and other Governments seems to be to create new Departments, and increase expenditure; and the suggestion I have made as to. the services of postmen and mailmen would, I think, prove of value.
– In the General Post Office a’ register of all removals is kept.
– I am not speaking of such registers; and, in any case, I do not think that they would prove sufficient. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister can substantiate his statement as to the cost of this new departure.
– I substantiate it, on the authority of Mr. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer.
– We always have that kind of authority for the creation of a new branch or Department. The Minister shelters himself behind the officers of his Department, as though he had no responsibility and was not required to exercise his common sense. He acts as though he is not possessed of any power of control or initiation. Here is the rubber stamp again. The Minister simply does what his officer tells him to do.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I hope that there is not going to be a long debate on this motion.
– Is it not worth debating?
– I do not think 80.
– This discussion serves the purpose as well as anything else.
– Quite so, and the purpose is becoming quite plain to the public.
– I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the observation of the Prime Minister, which attributes to me an unworthy motive in moving the adjournment. I disclaim the imputation, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– If the Prime Minister has imputed an unworthy motive, I ask that the imputation be withdrawn.
– I was not aware that I imputed an unworthy motive in suggesting that the honorable member desires to block Government business.
– It is not true.
– Then the honorable member does not desire to block Government business?
– Decidedly not. I am doing my duty tothe country.
– The honorable member has already spoken twice for an hour and a half, and has made another long speech this morning. That is his way of facilitating the transaction of the business of the country. For whatever is wrong in the present electoral system, he and his party must take the full and sole responsibility. The Electoral Act was framed by them, and they will not allow us to alter it. Defective as it is, leading to overloaded rolls and inefficient local control-
– It does not. It is the administration, not the Act, that is to blame.
– It is the Act that is to blame, and I shall show the honorable member how.
– The Prime Minister does not propose to amend the Act.
– The honorable member and his party will not permit us to do so. If an amending Bill got through this House at the end of twelve months, it would still have to face the Senate, which would be waiting for it like a man with a bowie-knife standing at the end of a dark alley.
– There is no dark alley; everything is done in the daylight.
– The cleansing of the rolls, the removal of names, the adding of names, prosecutions for nonenrolment and non-removal of names - all these matters are absolutely at the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer. No Minister can interfere in the slightest degree to influence his action in respect to any one of these matters.
– Cannot the Government advise him?
– No. We are not entitled to discuss these matters with him, nor to influence him in any way in regard to them.
– What about the examination of the rolls? Did not the Government influence the Chief Electoral Officer in that matter?
– In regard to the matters which I have mentioned, the Act and its regulations make the Chief Electoral Officer independent of the Minister.
– What about the 5s. deposit for objections?
– I invite my honorable friend to see the Chief Electoral Officer, who, under the Act framed by his party, is given an absolute discretion to do what he likes in these matters without interference by the Minister. The honorable member and his party have consistently blocked our endeavours to rectify matters and to make the Act more effective.
– And to put the officer under political control.
– Honorable members opposite are complaining now that things are not being done properly. My reply is that the administration of the Act is at present under non-political control, and that, therefore, whatever is done cannot be laid at the door of this Government; it must be laid at the door of that party which will not permit the Act to be altered, and is now criticising the alterations which we wish to make to improve the system. Things are very far from being right; I hope that I am not slandering my country in again pointing out that they are wrong. Since I was first accused of slandering the country, statements have been made on this subject, not by politicians, but by the departmental officers. I hope that they are not slandering the country in giving evidence before a Royal Commission that is investigating the administration of the Electoral Act. This is what they say: In the nine months since the last election, 76,000 names have been removed from the rolls; there are 76,000 names less on the rolls now than there were on the 31st May last.
– The Prime Minister is misrepresenting the position. The Commonwealth Statistician has pointed out that 33 per cent. of the population change their address every year.
– i am not misrepresenting anything. Within the period that I have named 54,000 adults have qualified for enrolment.
– Have they been enrolled ?
– If they have not, it is their own fault, and they are liable to a penalty for the omission.
– Is the Government imposing a penalty ?
– That is a matter with which we have nothing to do. You have left it in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer. You have tied the hands of this Government as you tied the hands of our predecessors.
– Cannot you compel him to do what the Act says that he should do?
– What an outflow of criticism we are getting of all the Acts of the previous Administration. Ever since the Fisher Government left office its’ supporters have been saying in effect, “ What fools our Ministers were, and what’ fools our party were to pass these Acts, which have tied up the Government, and have led to all this disfranchisement of the people of Australia.”
– We have freed the electoral officers of Ministerial control. ‘
– There are 76,000 names less on the roll now than there were at the last election, and 54,000 persons have qualified in the nine months following the election, the bulk of them, presumably, having been enrolled. Thisshows that at the time of the election therolls were inflated to the extent of 130,000 names.
– How does the PrimeMinister make that out?
– Will honorablemembers cease from interjecting ? I shall name the next honorable member who interjects.
– The figures areplain, and my inference is quite correct.
– Should not the honorable gentleman say 20,000?
– The honorable member is out of order.
Mr. J. H. Catts. - I ask whether it isnot in order, when misstatements are being made by a speaker, for another honorable member to correct him by interjecting politely and in proper parliamentary language.
– It is distinctlylaid down in the Standing Orders that it’ is not in order to interject, and it hasbeen ruled by Sir Frederick Holder and other Speakers that an honorable member is not entitled to interject to correct what he conceives to be the misstatements of a speaker. A correction of suchmisstatements can be made later, after the speech has been finished.
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that, this is simply a device to take up my time.
– I willmove that you getan extension.
– I insist that honorable members shall maintain order.
– The Prime Minister hasmade a reflection on the honorable member for Cook, in suggesting that his pointof order was a deliberate attempt to takeup his time.
– I did not understand the Prime Minister to make that suggestion, but if he did, it was out of order, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will now be allowed toproceed without interruption.
– I have shown that on the figures given by the electoral officials the rolls were inflated at the time of the last elections by 130,000 names. The figures practically support a statement of Senator McColl, for making which he was accused of slandering the country.
– He has done so.
– Then these officers who have given evidence on oath before the Royal Commission have been slandering the country. The figures are worthy of record in view of the tirade of abuse distributed through the country by the Leader of the Opposition during the recess. I have no wish to weary the House ; 1 simply wish to say, with regard to the appointments, that the Government are not making them. Though Ministers take responsibility for the appointments, they are being made by the Public Service Commissioner. As to who have been appointed, and as to where they are appointed, I know nothing. All I know is that we are going to put men in these positions whose business it will be to attend to the rolls as to their constant cleansing, and to attend to the work of the division as to its efficiency, also to exercise continuous supervision over what is being done. That is the only way in which we believe we shall get clean rolls and keep the work continually efficient. We are going to -pay these men to devote the whole of their time, ability, and energy to the doing of this work, and we hope, in time, to make an alteration to that state of things which has been so roundly condemned, and which can only be traced, at the last, to. the inefficient and incompetent control of the Department under the inefficient and incompetent Act passed by our predecessors in office. I am sorry to have to say this, but those are the facts of the case, and that condemnation of their Act and its administration comes from the mouths of men who will not permit its alteration, and is the severest condemnation of their conduct and of that of their party.
– I think the Prime Minister will regret that he spoke. I cannot make out the policy of the Government in regard to purging the rolls, nor their arithmetic. I understand from the position just placed before us by the Prime Minister that the rolls were deflated between May and December to the extent of 76,000 names, and that there are about 50,000 names entitled to go on the roll in that period. I cannot make out the arithmetic of the honorable member.
– Though, presumably, 54,000 names have gone on the roll, notwithstanding, there was a deflation to the extent of 76,000.
– Order ! I must ask that honorable members be allowed to occupy their full time without undue interference. The Prime Minister has already addressed the Chamber.
– May I rise in explanation ?
– Then I rise to a point of order. I am sorry I am in trouble this morning. The honorable member asked me to give him information, and I did it by way of interjection, and in a courteous way, but I was immediately jumped on by the Chair. What am I to do?
– It is distinctly out of order for any honorable member, during the course of a debate, to put a question to another honorable member, Minister or otherwise, and it is not in order to interrupt the debate by answering any questions. Both asking and answering questions in the middle of a debate are disorderly.
– Can I move that the Prime Minister be granted leave of absence from the chamber for a quarter of an hour?
– Order !
– I shall take the leave of absence without the honorable member’s permission.
– As far as I understand the position, honorable members opposite are anxious to revise the rolls with the object of purging them of the names of any who are thought to hold Labour opinions, especially that section of workers who have to move about continually in order to get a living.
– You do not accuse us of that?
– Order !
– I accuse the Government of deliberately purging the rolls for party purposes.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has accused members on this side of unworthy motives in attempting to get a clean roll. I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member for Hindmarsh made such an accusation, it is certainly not in order, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it, and put it in another way, which I think should be according to the rules of the House. The action of the Government, and honorable members on the other side of the House, is with the object of getting a strictly attenuated roll.
– Order ! That is an imputation.
– It is absolutely untrue.
– I ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to withdraw that statement.
– Certainly; but I think so all the same.
– The honorable member must withdraw the statement without qualification.
– I withdraw it.
– I leave it to honorable members to draw their own conclusions. According to the Prime Minister, the fact that the rolls are not as they should be is due to the late Government so tying up the Chief Electoral Officer that he is practically independent of the Government of the day; and it is a very good thing that is the case, though possibly it might cause annoyance to the party to which honorable members belong. If the rolls are closed a month before the issue of the writ’, about 50,000 young people who are coming of age are prevented from getting their names on the rolls. What right has any one to prevent these young people securing votes? Honorable members can draw their own inference as to the object of so doing. It is utterly impossible to have a roll on which there are not duplicate names. It is impossible, in the case of a transfer, for a name to be removed from the one roll sufficiency promptly and the transferee entitled to vote in another district. I do not think the country will support the Government in depriving these young people of their votes, or in depriving those people who have to continually shift about to get a living of their votes. Do these people belong to the propertyowning class, or those with fixed incomes, or do they belong to what is generally known as the working classes ? I leave honorable members to answer the question. The recent appointment of Divisional Returning Officers was very significant, so far as South Australia was concerned, particularly in the case of Hindmarsh and Boothby. The Returning Officers in those two districts were men who had had experience of their work since the Commonwealth has been in existence, and in the natural order of things any one with brains, or any one outside a lunatic asylum, in appointing Divisional Returning Officers for those two districts would have appointed men who knew the whole of the work, and had lengthy experience of it. I leave it to any one to draw his own inference as to why men, without any experience, have been appointed by ihia czar, who is above Parliament and thepeople, and is practically supreme in doing as he likes. But I am trying to ascertain what prompted in these appointments the choice of inefficient officers as. against men intimately acquainted with the work to be performed. No man in business would do as has been done - discharge a man of experience out of pure cussedness - that is the only conclusion that can be drawn - or for other reasons. It may be said that those appointed topositions of this character should be in the Commonwealth or State Service. Later on we may be able to ascertain from the Attorney-General what is thelaw in the matter, but I ‘contend that the two Divisional Returning Officers to whom I have referred, having a retaining fee of £26 a year each for keeping the rolls, were Commonwealth officers; certainly they were on the day they weresuperseded. Can any one with the average amount of common sense, except a lawyer who can prove anything, explain the step that has been taken, unless it was from a desire, in purging the rolls, to have new and inexperienced men who must, in feeling their way,get hints from somewhere, and the feeling that there would be strong temptation on their part to consider the authorities with whom they happen to be associated ? It is of no use Ministers saying that the Public Service Commissioner makes the appointments. I have heard that said before. The Government shield themselves behind this czar, but that is no satisfaction to honorable members, and should not prevent us pointing out that an intolerable injustice has been served out to- men after years of faithful service. Is that all men are to get from the Commonwealth Government after faithful service, that they should be rewarded by this czar at the first opportunity he gets kicking them out and putting new men in their places, the Government in a sang froid way standing by and saying, “ It does not concern us “ ? However, straws indicate which way the wind is, and this is a very excellent manner of purging the rolls, eminently to the satisfaction of persons it is not worth while mentioning. I have no desire to prolong this matter this morning, as there will be ample opportunity on other occasions to discuss it, but certainly the Government should explain their conduct.
– I desire to draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
.- I am pleased that the Prime Minister is in the chamber again, because the least he can do is to listen to honorable members when they are speaking in regard to the Electoral Department.
– I do not see any obligation on me to listen.
– If the Prime Minister does not think it worth his while to listen to members when they are speaking in regard to the administration of the Electoral Act, we must take steps to compel him to listen. The honorable member has made a most amazing speech, one which is filled with misrepresentations and inaccuracies. He quoted some figures received from the Chief Electoral Officer, declaring that there were on the rolls 76,000 names less than there were nine months ago, and that 54,000 electors have qualified for enrolment since then. Then the honorable member adds the two totals together, and says that there were 130,000 names on the rolls nine months ago that ought not to have been there. How the Prime Minister adduces that result from the figures I do not know. In the first place we have no proof that 54,000 people have enrolled; that is only assumption.. As a matter of fact, I know that in Ballarat hundreds of names have not been enrolled. Yet the Prime Minister assumes that the whole of them are enrolled, and says, “ There you are, Senator McColl is right; there were 130,000 names on the roll nine months ago that had no right to be there.” The honorable member forgets that many names are being removed to-day. Mr. Oldham only considers thosewho qualify for enrolment by coming of age or entering the country. He takes no cognisance of the thousands of people, who are continually changing their addresses, and whose names have in consequence been struck off the rolls and not again enrolled. The Commonwealth Statistician tells us that 33 per cent. of the population in the metropolitan area shift their addresses every year. That means that in three years the whole population shifts.
– Whose figures are those?
– They come from the Federal Statistician. I obtained them from the honorable member for Cook. Honorable members will see that if that percentage be correct, thousands of names are continually being struck off the roll, and there must have been many struck off during the last nine months and not placed on the rolls again. Therefore, there is nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement that the rolls at the last election were inflated to the extent of 130,000 names. As a matter of fact, I do not think there was much to complain of in regard to the rolls at the last election. There may have been a few names on the rolls which ought to have been removed on account of death or other causes, but that was not the fault of the Act or of those administering it. Rather was it caused by the economy that was practised, and the insufficient number of officials engaged. Had a sufficient number of officers been employed, the rolls at last election would probably have been the cleanest we have ever had. I would like to’ ask the Prime Minister if it is his intention to have an entirely new roll prepared when the police have handed in their reports ?
– You are asking a question, and Mr.. Speaker has sternly forbidden me to answer questions.
– It is not the Speaker, but the Standing Orders which forbid the honorable member to answer questions.
– If the Prime Min. ister can interject in that way, he could answer my question by a simple interjection. I also desire to know what is to be done with the names, which the police hand in, of people who are not enrolled ? Evidently the police have not been given instructions to carry cards with them on their canvass, and to secure the enrolment of those who are not enrolled; they simply hand in the names to the Divisional Returning Officers. There may be prosecutions or there may not, and the possibility is that those people will not be enrolled. If the Government desire a complete roll as well as a clean roll, it would be a good idea for the police to carry enrolment cards with them, and whenever they come to a family whose names are not on the rolls they should leave cards, and so facilitate enrolment.
– And tell the people that they will be conforming to the law by enrolling.
– The police could simply mention to such people that if they did not enroll they would be liable to be prosecuted under the Electoral Act. There is another aspect of the situation. In one electorate that I know of, the Divisional Returning Officer is refusing to take the names of those, who leave the district. I know of one political agent who handed in a list of 200 names, and the officer said, “ No, we cannot strike any names off until the police have completed their investigations.” My opinion is that if the Government do not intend to issue the new roll until the police have completed their canvass there will be no new roll prepared inside of twelve months. While we are waiting for the new rolls, is there to be no cleansing? Can we not have facilities for objecting as both parties have been doing up till the last few months? Yet that agent was told by a Divisional Returning Officer the other day that he could not receive any lists, and that no further names would be removed until the police had completed their canvass. I hope the Prime Minister will consider that aspect of the question. The honorable member has told us that the Electoral Department is not under the control of Ministers, that the officers are in control of it. Then, why do we have a Minister in charge of the Department ? If the Department is not under the control of the Government, we might just as well have only the officers, and no Cabinet Minister at all. That is something like the answer which the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs gave when he was attacked in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract; he said that the officers have control. Now we have the Prime Minister saying that Ministers can do nothing in the Electoral Department, that everything rests with the officers. That seems to me to be an absurdity. I cannot .conceive of responsible government being carried on in that manner. Surely a Minister can have a consultation with the Chief Electoral Officer, and the recommendations which come from both sides of the House could be conveyed to him. In connexion with the new appointments which have been made, I think the Government have made a mistake. They have incurred an unnecessary and unwarranted expense, and we do not know where it is going to lead us to. I have seen a statement that the cost will be something like £70,000, and probably £100,000. It is true that the postmasters, who were the Divisional Returning Officers previously, had a good deal of other work to do, and were not in a position to give all their time to. the electoral work; it is said that on that account the rolls were overloaded. I would point out that, to a large extent, the postmasters delegated their work to subordinate officers, and it was those subordinate officers who did the work . at the last election. I know that was so in one or two electorates in Victoria. The responsibility was with the postmaster, but the actual work was done by another officer acting under his instructions. All that was necessary for the Government to have done was to have provided at the most £5,000 ‘or £10,000 per annum for the purpose of providing the postmasters with further clerical assistance. There is a good deal in the argument put forward by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that owing to the Public Service Commissioner being the sole dictator as to who shall be appointed to these positions, many of the officers who did the work at the last election, and proved themselves to be qualified for the work, are regarded as ineligible for appointment as Divisional Returning Officers. I trust that the Prime Minister will take a note of this suggestion. The chief assistants to the Divisional Returning Officers have not been appointed yet. I know of cases where clerks are applying for these positions, and I understand that they are held to be disqualified because they are not in the clerical division of the Public Service. They are employed in the general division in the Postal Department, but be- cause they have not passed some clerical examination, they are held to he disqualified for appointment as clerks to the Divisional Returning Officers. I know of one young man - not a Labour man ; if he has any politics they are probably Liberal - who practically did the work in one electorate at last election. In fact, he has been doing the electoral work until within the last few days, and I am now informed that he is held to be disqualified from being appointed to the position of clerk to the Divisional Returning Officer. The appointment would not have been much of an increase on his present salary, it’ is true, but I should think the Electoral Department would welcome the opportunity of getting into the service to conduct elections those who have had experience, and by that experience proved themselves qualified to conduct an election as it should be conducted. I suppose there are many officers who will be similarly precluded from being appointed. That seems to me to be most unfair. Surely in making the appointments, it is not too late for the Cabinet to determine that the appointments shall not be only from amongst those qualified by having passed a clerical examination.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Debate resumed- from the 7th May (vide page 769), on motion by Mr. W. H. Irvine -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to prohibit, in relation to Commonwealth employment preferences and discriminations on account of membership or nonmembership of an association.
– Last evening I ‘submitted certain reasons which, in my opinion, were sufficient to justify opposition to this motion that leave be given to introduce a Bill to prohibit preference to unionists in Government employment.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.~
– I have already pointed out that one reason why leave should be refused is that the Bill is not what was promised. The Government promised an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; they now offer this substitute, which is unnecessary, since what the Bill proposes to do has already been done by administrative act. Another reason is that the Bill is not what it pretends to be. The Government say that they are opposed to the principle of preference to unionists; but this Bill in no sense assails the general application of that principle. Then, again, the Government cannot hope to pass the Bill. Although they may bludgeon it through this House, they know full well that it will be defeated once more in the Senate. Leave to introduce the Bill should also be refused because it is an obstruction to public business, and must delay urgent business which demands our attention. Another reason why it should not be introduced is that it cannot be enforced. There is no law by which the present, or any other Government, can compel preference to unionists or nonpreference, so long as the organizations maintain their solidarity. We had a remarkable illustration of that quite recently when the waterside workers, by the very strength of their union, compelled the Arbitration Court machine to get to work when, otherwise, they would have been unable to have their case heard. The Bill, further, is against the spirit of the existing law in relation to industrial matters; and until the Government are prepared to amend the law which recognises the right of the workers to have their unions, and gives the Court power to grant them preference in employment, this Bill should not be allowed to come before us. Still another objection to it ia that it will promote strife. The application of this prohibition of preference to unionists in the vague, general way proposed by the Government, will promote strife of the worst character. Nothing is more calculated to lead to more disorder, more unrest, and revolution in this or in any other community than is a proposal of this kind. Another reason for my opposition to the Bill is that it is opposed to modern tendencies. All over the world to-day the tendency is entirely in the opposite direction from that suggested by the Ministry. It may be suggested that the evidences offering from, say, New Zealand, South Africa, Dublin, and Colorado, disprove my statement. I contend, however, that they prove only that every attempt to deny the right of the men to form their union, or to deny them the power to protect themselves by means of unionism, is foredoomed to failure. The Prime Minister knows better than any one in this House that the campaign on which he has started - the campaign to smash up unionism, to deny to unionists the right to enjoy the results of their unionism - is necessarily and emphatically foredoomed to disaster, and that he will be crushed beneath the ruins of his own legislation. The Bill is being promoted for a selfish purpose. Behind this movement there stand ‘the serried ranks of the employers, who for deeply selfish and prejudiced purposes are urging the Government to this action. Another reason why I oppose the Bill is that it makes industrial conditions the football of party politics. This community, as well as those of other countries, is seeking a way out of the present system of party government. The present system has had Its day; it has outlived its usefulness. ?et the Government propose to make the bread and butter questions of the Community the football of party politics, they propose to degrade the industrial life of the community for a mere matter of which party shall be in and which shall be out. Party government is to be the deciding factor as to how, ‘ when, and where men shall engage in the ordinary avocations of life. Last evening I was seeking to point out that those who talk so glibly about liberty, and their desire that there shall be equal opportunities for all, have always a smug smile and a certain reserve of satisfaction in complimenting unionism. How kindly they talk about it! What they object to, they say, is political unionism. I ask honorable members to recall with me the experience of the trade union movement in regard to politics. Every one knows that from the very inception of the trade union movement trade unionists have been subjected to the most diabolical treatment by Acts of Parliament, political parties, and the machine of party politics. Let me make one or two small quotations in that connexion respecting the British Combination Laws of 1799. In the History of the Friendly Society of Ironmoulders, founded in 1809, we read -
The infamous Combination Laws were passed in 1799, and were not repealed until fifteen years after the formation of the society. During the whole of this time the proceedings of the society were illegal, and rendered nil its members liable to criminal prosecution. . . . Unfortunately, we have no documentary evi- dence of the society’s proceedings during the first twenty years of its existence. This is not Surprising when we consider the conditions under which the work of the society was carried on. We have of necessity to rely on tradition, and one well-authenticated tradition is that in the earlier period of its history the officers had to meet at night in a field for the purpose of receiving the contributions of its members, and had to bury the books to prevent them being seized by the authorities.
I could make further quotations which go to show that those who supported the trade union movement had to fight against iniquitous acts of .Parliament which rendered their unions illegal, and laid them under certain restrictions and unreasonable disadvantages. Here is another quotation, this time from the History of Trade Unionism, by Sidney Webb-
Almost any action taken by trade unionists to induce a man not to accept employment at a struck shop resulted, under the new .Act, in imprisonment with hard labour. The intolerable injustice of this state of things was made more glaring by the freedom allowed to the employers to make all possible use of “black lists “ and “ character notes,” by which obnoxious men were prevented from getting work. No prosecution ever took place for this form of molestation or obstruction. No employer was ever placed in the dock under the law which professedly applied to both parties. In short, boycotting by the employers was freely permitted; boycotting by the men was put down by the police.
Throughout the history of the movement there has been one law for the employer and another for the employe. The employer was protected by law; the employe was prosecuted by the law. While the employer could do what he chose under the sanction of the law, the employe dare not express his opinions, because that same law, made by those whose interests were opposed to his own, rendered it impossible for him to have any rights. The history of the Old Country reeks with stories of the infamous treatment of the workers - men who dare not stand up for their common law rights. Was not the Chartist movement based upon a recognition of that principle? Was not the whole trade union movement a fight, by political action, against the opponents of the workers? The descendants of those old time opponents - the Government and their supporters - say that unionism should not ally itself with political action, and they, propose to prohibit preference of employment to men because of their association with political organizations.
– No; that is not the proposition, and the honorable member knows that it is not.
– It is. Why the very title of the Bill is -
A Bill for an Act to prohibit in relation to Commonwealth employment preferences and discriminations on account ‘ of membership or non-membership of an association.
I desire now to submit some remarkable testimonies that have come to my notice within the last few days as to the modern aspect of this matter. I have here three copies of the Mildura Cultivator, in which there appears what is described as “ An Imaginary Story of the Dried Fruits Industry,” entitled “A Sign of the Times.” I visited Mildura about a fortnight ago, and heard the author of these articles, Mr. C. J. De Garis, give evidence before the Fruit Commission regarding the benefits of unionism. He expressed considerable satisfaction with the organization of the fruit pickers, but objected to their decision in regard to political action. These articles are rather cleverly written, and I propose to make one or two quotations from them so that honorable members may see what strength - I was rather inclined to say what stupidity - there is in the attempt to divorce legitimate unionism from political action. Telling how the Mildura fruit-growers were faced with certain difficulties, Mr. De Garis writes: -
The spirit of unrest amongst growers was, however, in the air. Grievances - some real, some imaginary - had been aired and subsequently exaggerated, and small knots of growers were always to be found earnestly discussing the fruit situation. Most of these groups had the common object of maintaining, but at the same time improving, the present organization in the common interest; but, unfortunately, others, impelled by short-sighted and selfish motives, looked for a way to immediately benefit their own pockets, regardless of the effect on their equally needy neighbours.
One would almost think he was talking about a subject not necessarily connected with fruit. The writer gives a conversation between a member of the association, Mr. Craig, and a Mr. Williamson, who had expressed a desire to work a deal outside the association. Mr. Craig said -
You cannot gain by it; you might for one season, but only then if the association fights you. But think further than that. Supposing you each gain & 100 or so for one season, or even two seasons, what happens after the climax? A panic in the market. The banks and other financial institutions call in over drafts and mortgages. Everybody selling, or trying to sell, their fruit at lower prices than their neighbours. Lands valueless. No buyers. Disaster on every side, the work of years gone in a moment.
That is a very interesting statement of the situation that unionists have to accept; and, in his second article, Mr. De Garis refers to certain growers who got dissatisfied with the work of the association, and says -
These growers got in touch with some large retailers in Melbourne, Ballarat, and Bendigo, and made sales for future deliveries at id. to Jd. “under association rates,” placing, the whole of their tonnage with ease. . . .
The necessity of a strong fight against these disloyal growers did not arise from a desire to fight, but because the executive officers were long-sighted enough to see that the continuation of such tactics would result in ruin - not to one or two individuals, but to every one dependent on the dried food industry.
The buying merchants had been so affected by those scabs, and the blacklegging members of the association that -
They issued an ultimatum to the association that unless these renegade sellers were controlled they (the buyers) would be compelled, in their own defence, and greatly to their regret, to buy wherever they could “ at best.” They _ pointed out the dangers of such disorganization to the growers as a mass, statins that they realized that it was only because of the “ loyalty of the many “ that “ the disloyalty of the few” could return any profit to the latter.
The president of the association is thus reported -
One was to fight the devil with fire, which would mean that they would all sell their fruit “ at best.” Another way was to preserve the present organization, and to reduce prices to such a low level that those who had sold “ under association prices “ could not continue their sales at such an unprofitable figure. He explained that this method would entail heavy ‘loss for at least one season, and perhaps two seasons, but it would preserve the continuity of trade against the time when the present greed of the “ insanely selfish “ men had run its course.
Then a disloyal member of the association speaks, and honorable members will notice that his words are a reflex and a fair statement of the argument that is in general circulation
For his part, he claimed the right to grow his fruit as he liked and to sell his fruit wherever he liked.
Now we have Mr. Craig again ; and honorable members’ will notice of how Mr. de Garis makes him express the ordinary sentiments of the Government and their supporters -
He likened these deserters to a band of men who had arranged to sell goods on every weekday in the year except one day. On that, one day all were to refrain from selling. The party contained some who, because of a difference of opinion on the management, decided all the same to sell on that day, relying on the knowledge that the others would be loyal to their agreement, and would not sell. After selling successfully, they came and prated of honour.
Craig finished as follows: - “These men are vermin, and must be exterminated.” There cannot be victory without bloodshed, and in this case it is likely that the innocent will suffer more than the guilty. Let us stand together and face this difficulty bravely.
These renegades are out for money; when they find they cannot get it they will gain dearly -bought wisdom from experience. This lesson has got to last. We have to teach not only these few, but any who might be tempted by their advantage. We’ll have a bad time for two or three years, but “ the means towards the end arc right.”
There is an interview between a loyal member of this association and a disloyal member, and the former says to the latter -
You can go and enjoy the hell-haunted conscience I predicted for you.
Go, you damned scoundrel, before I set the dogs on you.
I am now leading up to the most important part. A meeting of the association was held to consider what should be done with the disloyal men - with the scabs - and it was decided to take political action. Here is what was done, according to the Mildura Cultivator -
The next step was to interview’ the Cabinets of the three States, irrespective of whether they were Labour or Liberal, for we knew that the downfall of the dried fruits industry would be as great a calamity for the hosts of workers as for the fewer number of growers
Finally, we persuaded the three State Governments to our own point of view, and, armed with their influence and our own sense of right, we approached the Federal Government.
The proposition to the leaders of both parties in the Federal Houses, and certain suggestions, were made. This is the point of the whole thing -
If these were agreed to, the Federal Parliament were to amend the constitution of the A.D.F.A. where necessary and -
1 ) make it mandatory that all present and future growers of dried fruits should become members of the association.
that any violation of the regulations by any party should be treated as a misdemeanour, and be punishable by law accordingly.
This is unionism of the most atrocious kind, and political action of the most rigorous. Mr. De Garis was quite honest enough, when giving evidence before the Royal Commission a fortnight ago, to substantially repeat what I have read. Not only is it suggested that the growers shall be compelled to join the association, but that it shall be made a criminal act for any person to sell fruit past the association. Yet honorable members opposite and their supporters talk aboutpolitical unionism - tell us that unionism is all right if we will leave politics alone.
– It is fixing prices.
– I shall not deal with the matter of fixing prices just now, for probably I shall have an opportunity on the second reading of this Bill.
– Will the Bill get that far?
– I think so; in fact, I fancy it will go through this House. After the episode of this morning, when the Prime Minister was so repeatedly rebuked by the Speaker, I do not think that anything will happen; but that, as the Argus said a week ago in regard to the censure debate, there will be no defection from the Liberal ranks, and the question will be carried on the casting vote of the Speaker. Be that as it may, we ask the Government for industrial peace, and they offer war; we suggest conciliation, and they shout defiance; we advise arbitration, and their reply is victimization; we preach fraternity, and they advocate fratricide; we desire cooperation, and they insist on competition. It does not matter what the Government intend to do, they cannot build on any hope of either smashing the unions or preventing them taking part in politics. Of this we have had ample evidence from other parts of the world. The whole question turns on the recognition of the right of the men to act through their unions; and South Africa, New Zealand, Dublin, and Colorado have given the answer. It is idle for men like Rockefeller, with his millions behind him, to say that unionization of the mines will not be tolerated for an instant. Some of us will live to see the day, even, perhaps, in the lifetime of Rockefeller himself, when there will be complete acceptance of the unionization of the. mines, whether he likes it or not. Whether or not we shall live to see the day there will be the unionization, not only of the mines, but of every other industrial employment in the community, as certainly as tomorrow’s sun will rise. Honorable members opposite, and those who think with them, are like political Mrs. Partingtons, trying to sweep back the tide of Democracy, and to prevent men realizing what they are justly and honestly entitled to. All over the world to-day there are evidences of industrial unrest, due entirely, first of all, to the non-recognition of the unions, and, secondly, to the attempt to compel men to work with nonunionists.
– I beg to draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Honorable members may be tempted to delude themselves because a temporary advantage has been gained in the countries I have mentioned - by force of arms in New Zealand; by methods of deportation, illegal and in violation of every established principle, in South Africa, in Dublin by means of starvation. The wave may be defeated, but the tide is sure to win. There can be no doubt as to the ultimate end of the agitation; and I conclude with the following lines of Lewis Morris : -
There shall come from out this noise of strife and groaning
A broader and a juster brotherhood,
A deep equality of aim, postponing
All selfish seeking to the general good.
There shall come a time when each shall to another
Be as Christ would have him - brother unto brother.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I have just a few words to say in order to add to. the harmony and utility of the debate. I was sorry to see that, despite the nice and pleasant manner in which we commenced this morning, the Prime Minister conducted himself in a manner-
– Order ! The question is that leave be given to introduce a Bill.
– Yes, sir; thank you. It is said that to oppose leave to introduce a Bill is a very unusual procedure, but whatever may have been the custom here I understand that it is a very, old practice that has been exercised for some very useful public purposes. I understand that on one occasion it was used by Joseph Hume in connexion with one of the Castlereagh Coercion Bills - or the six “Gagging” Bills, as they were termed, which to some extent was identical with the proposal of the AttorneyGeneral. The introduction of measures has in the past been opposed on the grounds that they were against the public interest. That has been done again and again, and if there is any just ground for opposing the introduction of a measure it certainly seems to me that the present is the time and the occasion for such a step. We could understand the introduction of the Bill if it were to serve some useful purpose, or seek to achieve some public good, but if it is merely introduced in order to arouse party passion and divide the community into warring factions it will serve no public good, and Parliament should not allow any such Bill to be introduced or permit its time to be occupied in discussing its provisions. There is no Department of the Commonwealth in which preference to unionists exists; therefore we are asked to give leave to introduce a Bill which proposes to deal with something that is nonexistent, and which contains no provision to prohibit that which it professes to prohibit. Such a measure is not only a fraudulent proposition, but must be a sham and a delusion even to those who profess to believe in it.
– A Bill may not be described as a fraudulent proposition or a sham.
– Thank you, sir; I sinned through ignorance; I shall acquire knowledge as I proceed. It will probably also be unconstitutional if I say that the introduction of measures of this character, which serve no public good, is a prostitution of the functions of government, and therefore it is a perfectly legitimate and proper thing on an occasion of this character that the motion for leave to introduce the Bill should be opposed by all the available means at our disposal. I move an amendment -
That all the words after the word “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ as preference to unionists does not exist in any department of the Commonwealth service, the introduction of a Bill dealing with the non-existent, and containing no provision to prevent the practice it professes to prohibit, is a prostitution of the functions of government, serves no public good, and will occupy the time of Parliament to the exclusion of matters of national importance. Therefore, in the opinion of this House it is expedient and desirable, and is most fully in accord with the proper exercise of the powers of this House, that legislation to deal with the Beef Trust, the Tariff, and with social insurance against sickness and unemployment should take precedence over the Bill now sought to be introduced, and that His Majesty’s Ministers be requested to reconsider their decision in this regard.”
My proposition has every justification. Parliament when called together should spend its time in the discussion of those things which are of primary importance to the good of the country.
– Should not the honorable member, having moved his amendment, hand it to the Speaker ?
– The amendment has not been stated from the Chair. The honorable member can go on with his speech, and hand in the amendment at the close of his remarks.
– The function of Parliament is< to consider those things for which it. is called together, and not to divert public attention from them. Not only did the Government go to the country in denunciation of the previous Government, because of its extravagance and maladministration of the public funds, but it also put forward definite propositions. Among the propositions of the party led by the honorable member for Parramatta was one which provided for a scheme of insurance against sickness and unemployment. On platform after platform the Attorney-General announced that the method of giving aids and grants, whether they be in respect of maternity or old-age, was improper, because it undermined the moral and physical stamina of the people, and he said that the basis should be a contributory scheme, and that the Government proposed to put such a scheme before Parliament to apply to the maternity allowance. Some honorable members opposite also thought that the old-age pensions should be on a contributory basis, with contributions from workers and employers and a subsidy from the Government. However, nearly eighteen months have gone by, and no Bill has been prepared, or presented, dealing with this matter. At no stage have the Government shown any intention of bringing forward a measure dealing with this matter, which they declared was of such vast importance.
– They have had a lot of opportunities, have they not?
– There has been ample opportunity given to them for the consideration of questions of public importance.
– We have heard- that fifty times before.
– The honorable mem- ber will realize that the great art of getting people to believe a thing is reiteration. Like the effect of the constant dripping of water on stone, the constant re-statement of some information of value may possibly penetrate even the skullplates of the honorable member for Calare.
– Always provided it is true.
– If a statement is not true it would not be uttered by me. Truth is my special perquisite and my exclusive property. I exhibit the love of truth to a greater extent than any other honorable member. Anything in the shape of obstruction, as it has been designated, on the part of honorable members on this side of the Chamber has been put up by them against measures of the character of that proposed to be introduced, but the Government have not brought forward a single measure, outside controversial subjects, which they have not been able to get passed. Even measures to which this party was opposed the Government have been able to push through another place, and the means they had at their disposal last session to enable them to do so are again at their disposal this session. If Ministers bring all their batteries to bear, and bring forward their proposal for social insurance against sickness and unemployment, they can take it that we, as a party, dare not put1 up any hostility towards it. If we opposed that class of legislation we should be presented to the country in a most unfavorable light. Our attitude would be held to be highly objectionable. Bub the mere fact that the Government do not bring forward such a proposition is clear evidence that they do not possess such a policy, and that they have no intention of presenting it, so that their platform utterances as to social insurance schemes were utterly valueless, and worth no more than the breath with which they were uttered. Another statement on the platforms at the last election was that for three years the Labour party had done nothing in connexion with the Tariff, and we were told that once the party led by the honorable member for Parramatta were in power they would utilize their first session to make up for the delinquencies of the Labour Government, and introduce measures to rectify anomalies in the Tariff. On the day following the election the Age said that every Liberal member was pledged to the rectification of anomalies in the Tariff, and that the people would have the assurance of the honorable member for Indi, and the honorable member for Wannon, and other Liberals elected in Victoria, that the Government would be compelled by the necessities of its existence to immediately proceed with the rectification of anomalies in the Tariff. The only Ministerial statement we have had in regard to a matter of such vast public importance is that made by the Prime Minister to-day that nothing will be done until the Inter-State Commission present their report. If this Commission make no efforts to present a report within twelve months, or two years or three years, nothing is to be done. Yet Ministers know, as every one knows full well, that when the report of the Inter-State Commission does come to hand no honorable member is going to take any notice of it. Each honorable member will exercise his own judgment, and select from the evidence that portion that will suit his own constituents, and turn down anything against the interests of his constituents. -As the honorable member for West Sydney has said, what troubles the Government now is the matter of revenue, yet Ministers are not prepared to do anything in the direction of making an alteration in the Tariff that will bring about an increase of revenue. Another statement we have heard is . that the Labour party were doing a senseless thing in asking for an amendment of the Constitution. It was said that we were denouncing something that did not exist when we spoke of the Beef Trust and the absolute necessity for an alteration of the Constitution to enable us to effectively deal with such bodies. And now the Government, in spite of the facts which confront them in regard to the operations of the trust in Queensland and elsewhere, say that the only way they propose to deal with the evil is by the appointment of another Royal Commission. Every time they put off their pro blems in this way. They put off the consideration of every question of public importance by the suggestion that there will be further consideration at some later date, or by the remission of the question to a Royal Commission for investigation. In that way their whole business is wrapped up. They hide their lack of policy, their differences amongst themselves, and their chaotic minds, by remitting their responsibilities to a Royal Commission, so a3 to shelve their troubles and in order that they may not be troubled by them. This proposed Royal Commission will be of absolutely no use. It will be merely a waste of public money. And will the honorable member for Henty support the Government in this matter ? What has the honorable member done to support his attitude and all that he has said on the public platform against the trust? He degrades his manhood by supporting a Government who will do nothing, and have no intention of doing anything. I am ashamed of him. This gentleman, who has voiced strong criticism from time to time, sits there silent and ashamed of himself, knowing that it is better to hide his shame in silence, because he fears to speak-. In regard to the Meat Trust, the whole question is to be shelved by referring the matter to a Royal Commission, after which, we are told, it will be dealt with by legislation. But, as the Age points out-
– I would ask the honorable member not to proceed with a discussion of the trust legislation. The proposed Bill has nothing to do with the Beef Trust.
– In moving the amendment, I pointed out that this House ought to deal with more important proposals than that which is contained in this Bill, and I mentioned in my amendment some of the subjects which I considered of great importance, and which the Government ought to deal with. Amongst those subjects I included this matter, and stated that the Government ought to take immediate action in connexion with theMeat Trust, because it is of considerablymore importance to the general body of consumers than the question of theabolition of preference to unionists in the Government service. It has been clearly admitted by the Government, from time to time, on the platform and in this Parliament, that an immediate amendment of the Constitution should take place, in, order to deal with, some of the evils which confront this country. And we have been promised that those matters will be introduced when these other subjects, which they know will mean endless controversy, have been got out of the way. No effort has been made to introduce the legislation that this country urgently needs, but Parliament is to be asked to occupy its time, from week to week, in a discussion of measures of this character that will not make for one more crust of bread or augment the happiness of a single human being in the country. In those circumstances it is the duty of Parliament to prohibit the Government introducing and discussing measures that can achieve no possible good. Of the uselessness of this measure we had an instance last session, when the Bill was previously introduced. The Attorney-General, in introducing the Bill on that occasion, said that it had always been a feature of Governments in this community that, once they took their position on the Treasury bench, they were there to administer the law for all sections of the people equally. The honorable member ignores the fact that it has been the custom of all Governments, in all countries, and at all times, to administer the law in the exclusive interests of a particular party. Just as long as Governments were controlled by Kings, they governed in the interests of the King’s party; so long as they were controlled by the Land party, all legislation was constructed in the interests of land monopoly; so long as Governments were formed in the interests of the manufacturers, so long was all legislation framed in the interests of the manufacturing classes and the great capitalists; and sweating was permitted to exist untrammelled and unrestricted, labour was ill paid, industrial combination amongst the workers was prohibited, and their political rights were destroyed. I repeat that in all ages and in all countries Governments have been controlled wholly and solely by, and have made their laws exclusively in the interests of, the classes they represented. Then we come to a period in our history when the Government must stand for the great bulk of the community. And when we recognise as a sound principle that man has only risen from the dens of savagery to the position he occupies to-day by associative effort with his fellow-men, and that organization and combination are essentials to the progress of the working class, we must also recognise that it is the duty of the Government to give their assistance to such associative efforts which so elevate men in the scale of civilization.’ Therefore preference becomes a fundamental principle, and must be recognised as part and parcel of the laws of the country. This Commonwealth Parliament has accepted that principle as part and parcel of the laws of this country. Preference is not a policy to be denounced or prohibited by any Government; it is not a thing to begin here and end there, but has been accepted as a sound principle and enacted in the laws of our Parliament. It stands in the Arbitration Act, and in innumerable forms prefer^ence has been given and accepted throughout the Commonwealth jurisdiction. Organized effort on the part of the workers is recognised in the laws of the country, and it has never been shown that preference to unionists as an aid to that legislation is injurious to the public.
– But it is not an accepted principle.
– The honorable member for Hume says it is not an accepted principle. It is not only an accepted principle, but it is part of the law of this country, and was made part of the law, not by a Labour Government, but by others.
– Not for the Civil Service.
– The principle was accepted for good or evil. If it is good, then there can be no wrong in its extension. If it is a sound principle, and good in its effects, then the more extensive it is, and the wider its operation, the better for the general community.
– Not for the Civil Service.
– And if it be a bad principle, it is bad no matter where it stands. Whether in law or in administration, whether administered by the officer of a Department or by a Judge of the High Court, it has been recognised as essential; it has been held to be good in principle, no matter by whom applied. Hardly a man who occupied a position in this Chamber at the time of the enactment of the Arbitration Act failed to recognise that the principle was essential if we were to have the substitution of industrial peace for industrial strife ; and, because it was recognised that preference was essential to these corporate powers of organized workers on the one hand, and organized employers on the other, going into the Court and laying their complaints before a Judge for him to give his decision upon - because it was recognised that these two things could not exist unless preference was given to those who worked and strove, preference became one of the features of that law. If a body of men sent from all parts of Australia can meet in this chamber and lay it down that a Judge of the High Court may impose preference on any body of private employers, it becomes the bounden duty of Parliament, in its own position as an employer, to give that preference in its own organization.
– Not if Parliament thinks otherwise.
– Of -course, not if Parliament thinks otherwise. All depends on who hold the predominant power in this Parliament. If one section of Parliament thinks it should be so, it is so, and rightly ; because it is only applying to the Government service that principle of law which Parliament has laid down for private employers. And the very class .of men who say they believe it to be sound in law, but not in administration, are the men who gave sufficient power to do by the law itself, through the Arbitration Court, that which they will not do in their own administration. There is nobody who can point in an*y direction to any man who has been deprived of his position by any preference given to unionists. Recognising that great organizations are essential to the workmen’s well-being, and that his labour is as valuable to him as the property of any exclusive Jew, Parliament gives its sanction to such organizations and builds them up. If there be anything good in such organizations, it is the bounden duty of Parliament to give every assistance to them. When past Governments, controlled by kings and landlords, took from the people their commons, deprived them of access to the land, and made them slaves in the country, they served their own class; and even, in the Old Country to-day, where the wealth is still in the hands of the minority, the power of landlordism is still so predominant that they have been able to maintain laws for their own exclusive benefit. But in this newer country, where there has been, an increase in the power of the working people, it is inevitable that a democratic Government should make laws and operate them for the class to which they belong. And this particular form of class government stands on a higher plane than any other form of class government, because it is in the interests of those who compose the great mass of the working population of the country. All other forms of class legislation have been in. the interests of a comparative few, but for the first time in the history of the world, we have seen in Australia Governments, composed of working men, legislating in the interests of the common good,, and to the extent that they build up their organizations they build up instrumentalities for the common weal, just as in the United States of America and other countries, where the wealthy hold power, they make laws to maintain the interests of the moneyed classes. TheGovernment hope, by means of this Bill,, to appeal to the prejudices of a particularfaction. A new principle, whenever applied, appeals at once to the timid - to those who are scared by new forms of administration and legislation. ‘ New proposals, whatever their character, howeverbeneficial they may be - whether they be for the enlargement of the franchise on the one hand or for the extension of social legislation on the other - are often opposed by the very people whom they are designed to benefit, because they believe that they will work to their injury. We have seen this occur in connexion with the extension of the franchise. It has been said,, time after time, that to extend the franchise to the common people would be todo injury to the country. Lord Brougham,, in the Reform Parliament of 1832, said, that, when speaking to the people of England, he referred, not to the mob, not tothe scum and dregs of the population, but to the respectable middle classes! Therespectable middle classes, and the greatbulk of the starving multitude had novoice in the affairs of the country. It was said, indeed, that to endow thesepeople with votes would be to cause theBritish Empire to fall to pieces. Did’ not Judge McQueen, in the Scottish Courts, say that to suggest that theBritish Government and the British Courts could be made better was in itself absolute sedition, and it was for such things that men in the days of the Chartists were transported to this country. Every measure to alleviate the condition of the working classes - factory legislation in all its forms - has been misrepresented by its opponents, who have sought to intimidate those whom it was designed to benefit by alleging that such measures, if carried, would lead to injustice, would be partial in their operation, and would work to the injury of the great bulk of the people. It is upon the same old effete argument that the Government rely, and upon which they desire to appeal to the country, if they can. They hope, by appealing to the prejudices of a section of the people on the one hand-, and to the fears of the timid on the other, to secure a victory. It is not for the public good that they propose this legislation. This Bill creates nothing, destroys nothing, prevents nothing. There is nothing which it professes to stop that could not be stopped the day after its rejection. If preference to unionists be an evil to the country - if it deprives any one of bread, if it injures any woman or child, then there ought to be enacted strict legislation to prevent it. If preference to unionists be an iniquity, then any Bill to deal with it should be something more than a mere pious affirmation of a principle. An honest Government, believing preference to unionists to be injurious to the country, would provide for the imposition of penalties on those who offended against a law declaring that preference should not be granted. If, by reason of preference to unionists, liberty lay bleeding in the dust, an honest Government would seek to protect that liberty by providing for the imposition of penalties for any violation of it. If they believed that preference to unionists deprived men of the right to live, they would protect their lives by providing for the imposition of penalties on those who sought to deprive men of their living. But if this Bill be passed to-morrow, it will not prevent any Minister orany Government official from granting preference to any person or party. At what point does this prohibition of preference to unionists stop short ? Only at the preference which we gave, not to any particular individual, but to all within the fold of organization; so that it might be said, “Come within the fold. Take your part in the common battle. If you are going to be participants in the benefits of organization, pay your share and take your part in the common sacrifice.” This prohibition is aimed merely at working-class organization. Some honorable member said yesterday that it applied to the legal profession. But does it? I say that it does not, in any shape or form.
– The Attorney-General said that it did.
– He takes care that it will not apply either to himself or to his profession. The law of this State declares that there shall be an amalgamation of the legal professions. It provides that a solicitor may undertake the business of a barrister, and that a barrister may practise as a solicitor. It enlarges the liberty of those who enter the legal profession. The organization to which the Attorney-General belongs narrows down that liberty. It is not merely a combination to preserve the rights of its members. It acts in deliberate defiance of the law. The members of the Bar Association maintain a combination to nullify the law; to make it a dead letter; to frustrate it. It pursues practices of boycotting which, if followed by the members of an ordinary working-class organization, would land the great bulk of them in gaol for fraud. The essential fact, so far as this Bill is concerned, is that it is the mere affirmation of a principle on the part of the Government, and that the Government have no real belief in that principle. They do not propose to apply it to all sections of the community. These men, who say that it is the duty of the Government to apply the law fairly, extend it to only a particular section when they come to apply it. A principle which is an iniquity when practised by others is a virtue when practised by themselves. Let any man who, having obeyed the law of his country, having passed the requisite examinations, walk into the Courts of this State and attempt to pursue the practice of his profession as a barrister and solicitor in accordance with the law of the land. What is his experience? The members of the Bar Association to which the Attorney-General belongs, boycott him, not only in his every-day occupation, but pursue him with their boycott into his social life. They will not associate with him privately. They impose upon him the penalty of social ostracism. That industrial boycott, which the Attorney-General and his friends denounce as iniquitous when pursued by the working classes, is something altogether different when applied by themselves to all outside their rank and file. This Bill which the Government ask for leave to introduce is a meaningless thing. It can avail them nothing. Why is it brought forward? It is not designed to achieve the common good. It is designed merely to enable honorable members to arrange themselves in rival camps; to make war with each other concerning matters that mean nothing, and to carry that war into the country. The Bill is of no more value than is the mere affirmation of a principle by a debating society or a church literary organization. That being so, why do we discuss it? Why do we debate it? The Attorney-General says it is but the affirmation of a principle. He knows full well that every one who believes in the principle of preference to unionists is bound to oppose the Bill, and to affirm his belief in the principle of preference. In like manner, honorable members opposite know full well that the Bill is not worth the paper it is printed on ; but they are driven, in the circumstances into which they have been pushed by their Government, to vote for it, and to refrain from making any statement. They know that, in their hearts, they are opposed to this principle. We have, therefore, the spectacle of a House of seventy-five members discussing a measure that is not worth the paper it is printed on. Every honorable member knows that it effects no good, does no evil, creates nothing, prevents nothing, prohibits nothing, destroys nothing. Yet we are bound to debate it, and to say to what extent we believe or disbelieve in the principle. We are bound, not only to vote against this Bill, but to debate it, because the great bulk of the people outside will not understand our attitude unless we do so. And so with honorable members opposite. If they allow it to pass, they have to affirm their hostility to preference, and to declare that this Bill will abolish preference. As a matter of fact, it abolishes nothing, because whatever preference to unionists existed while the late Government were in office disappeared the day the present Government came into power. The Government and their supporters, however, have to vote for the affirmation of this principle. Vital issues, such as the amendment of the Constitution, which the AttorneyGeneral has declared to be absolutely essential for the good government of the country, have, meantime, to remain in abeyance. Measures to provide for insurance against sickness and unemployment, to deal with the question of the Tariff, the operations of the great Beef Trust, and the financial situation, are meantime held back. Is not the situation of this country critical ? We have been told by the Government that it is. We have been told that it is imperative that legislation should be immediately introduced to deal with it, and that it will be introduced as soon as this measure has been got out of the way.
– Then why not let this measure be got out of the way in order that we may get on with the other legislation ?
– I have already told the honorable member that the Government are proposing to introduce, in this Bill, a measure that means nothing. If I struck out the word “prohibition,” and made this a Bill to provide for preference to unionists, what would the honorable member say if I invited him to let it go through ? Would he not reply at once, “ How can I vote for a Bill by which you ask me to affirm my belief in preference to unionists? The country would not understand me if I merely voted upon it without explaining my attitude. I am bound, therefore, to affirm the- principle in which I believe, just as I would have to do if this were a debating society. I must give my affirmation or denial to something which really means nothing.” It is admitted that the financial situation is serious; that our revenues are declining, and our responsibilities increasing. Our defence expenditure is growing, and the Government are being driven to close down Government works in all directions. The expenditure on the Federal Capital and the Northern Territory has been- cut down. Public works are either stagnating, or being carried on so feebly and intermittently that all that can be said of them is that life still remains in them. In every possible direction, in every Commonwealth factory, the Government are cutting down expenditure. We find day by day that the services of men and women employed by the Government are being dispensed with. This is so in the Post Office; and at Mount Garnbier we had the Prime Minister declaring that that Department absorbs more and more money - that the more money there is poured into it, the more is demanded. That is the helpless situation in which the Prime Minister confesses he finds himself in this connexion; and similar conditions prevail in other directions of Commonwealth activity. The responsibilities of the Government increase year by year, and Ministers do not know how to meet them. All they can say is, not ‘ Let us deal with them now, ‘ ‘ but ‘ ‘ We will deal with them later on.” That is not a very encouraging attitude on the part of the Government. The stability of the country depends on whether it is able to retain its credit; and we must ask ourselves by what means our responsibilities can be met, and in what directions we are to look for the necessary money. Are these not the vital questions of to-day? It is our imperative duty to repel this Bill - to, if possible, prevent its introduction - and to affirm it as a fraud, a sham, and a delusion, to which no Parliament should consent. It is something which we should not permit for a moment; and we have a right to demand that the Government shall proceed to deal with the things that really count. For those reasons, I beg leave to submit the amendment.
– Properly speaking, all amendments under our Standing Orders should be signed by the proposer and seconder, in the same way as are motions, but it has not been our practice to always follow that rule.
– I submit that this amendment is out of order. It is clearly out of order so far as the first portion of it is concerned, where it merely amounts to negativing the motion before the House, with a statement of the reasons why the motion should be negatived. The second part asks the House to affirm that certain other matters, such as the Tariff, the Beef Trust, and social assurance against sickness and unemployment, should be legislated on in priority; and this, I submit, is irrelevant to the subjectmatter of the motion. Since the honorable member for Bourke announced his intention to submit the amendment, I have looked over the authorities, and I beg to draw attention to the fact that, though it is undoubtedly true that, on a motion either for leave to introduce a Bill or for the second reading, it is quite competent to move an amendment by leaving out all the words after “ That,” and introducing others, the amendment must be relevant to the subject-matter of the motion or Bill.
– Words may be added.
– Provided the words deal with the same subject-matter as does the motion.
– Not necessarily.
– That is what I venture to submit the authorities support. If it were not so, the result would be to throw the whole operation and proceedings of the House into absolute confusion, because it would be competent for any member, on a motion, to introduce any other matters which he thought ought to take precedence. A passage in May, 11th edition, page 4.62, deals with the motion for leave to introduce a Bill of the same kind as that before us -
Debate on the merits of the Bill is not allowed on such an occasion. Instructions may be given to these gentlemen-
That refers to the practice of nominating members in the House to join with other members to bring in a Bill - to make such provision in the Bill as has been agreed to by the House on the reports from Committees of the Whole House which relate to charges upon the people. Amendments have been made or proposed to a question for leave to bring in a Bill, either hostile to the motion, or to effect an alteration thereof. On the 20th February, 1852, the motion for leave to bring in a Militia Bill, as proposed by Lord John Russell, was amended, on division. The Ministers resigned, and a Bill was afterwards brought in by the new Administration, in conformity with the amended order.
The cases referred to in support of the power to move an amendment to a motion for leave to introduce a Bill are set out in the note to that statement, and those cases are that relating to church rates in 1853, the county franchise in 1861, and other cases referred to in 70 Commons
Journal, 71 Commons Journal, and 106 Commons Journal. In the last mentioned, at page 205, we find -
A motion was made and the question being proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill for appointing Commissioners to inquire into the existence of Bribery in the Borough of St. Albans ;
And the House, having continued to sit till after Twelve of the clock on Wednesday morning ;
An amendment was proposed to be made to the question by adding at the end thereof the words “ and of bribery, treating and corruption in the Falkirk District of Burghs.”
It will be seen that in regard to a Bill dealing with electoral bribery and corruption, the amendment was to add another district to the one included in the motion.
– Was that ruled out of order?
– What were the terms of the order of leave?
– The terms were -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for appointing Commissioners to inquire into the existence of bribery in the Borough of St. Albans.
The next case is that referred to in 71
Commons Journal, page 430 -
A motion was made, and the question being proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to consolidate, amend, and reduce into one Act of Parliament, certain Acts now in force in Ireland, relating to the powers of Grand Juries at Assizes in presenting money for public purposes within their respective counties ;
An amendment was proposed to be made to the question, by leaving out the word “ consolidate.”
I need not say anything in regard to this case, because honorable members will see that the amendment was clearly relevant to the subject-matter. I ask honorable members to have a little patience with me, because this is a matter of very great importance, and I wish to refer to all the authorities cited in May. In the matter of the church rates -
A motion was made, and the question being proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to alter and amend the law respecting Church Rates;
An amendment was proposed to be made to the question, by leaving out, from the word “ That “ to the end of the question, in order to add the words, “ this House do resolve itself into a Committee to consider whether Church Rates should not be abolished, and provision made for the charges to which such rates are at present applicable - from Pew Rents, and from the increased value which inquiries instituted by authority of the Crown have shown may be derived, under better management, from Church Lands and Properties,” instead thereof.
This case goes further than any of the others. It is undoubtedly true that the motion was to bring in a Bill relating to church rates, and, technically speaking, it might be said that to abolish such rates and raise the money for the same purposes from pew rents, would not be relevant to the abolition of the rates. Honorable members will see, however, that in substance the amendment dealt with exactly the same thing - with the making of monetary provision.
– It recast the whole proposal.
– Of course, and that is precisely what can be done. We may recast the whole proposal, or make any alteration, so long as it is relevant to the subject-matter with which Parliament is asked to deal. There is one more note cited by May in 70 Commons Journal, page 62 -
The House was moved, That the’Act 54, Geo. III.c., 183, to impose a countervailing duty of Excise on bleaching powder imported from Ireland, might be read; and the same being read;
And a motion being made, and the question being proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the said Act;
An amendment was proposed to be made to the question by leaving out from the word “ That “ to the end of the question, and adding the words “ a Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of the law regarding the duties imposed upon articles used in the manufacture of oxygenated muriatic acid in Great Britain and Ireland and upon the importation and exportation of oxygenated muriatic acid or oxymuriate of lime from each county respectively,’’’ instead thereof.
The date of that case is 1814, and it is the oldest amongst those I have cited. The question was a countervailing duty of Excise on bleaching powder imported from Ireland; and honorable members know that oxygenated muriatic acid is a chemical which was at that time very largely used for bleaching. Here was an important matter which the House might reasonably regard as directly relevant to the question they were asked to determine ; it was not a matter of technical words, language, or form, but a matter of reality and substance. Whether that is so in this case can be shown by looking at the language of the proposed amendment, which reads -
As preference to unionists does not exist in any Department of the Commonwealth Service the introduction of a Bill dealing with the non-existent and containing no provision to prevent the practice it professes to prohibit is a prostitution of the functions of government, serves no public good, and will occupy the time of Parliament to the exclusion of matters of national importance.
That portion is merely negativing the proposition before the House; it is stating reasons why the motion should be negatived, and clearly, therefore, is out of order. But when we come to the substantive part of the proposed amendment, what does it amount to? It says -
Therefore, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient and desirable, and is most fully in accord with the proper exercise of the powers of this House, that legislation to deal with the Beef Trust, Tariff, and with social insurance against sickness and unemployment should take precedence over the Bill now sought to be introduced, and His Majesty’s Ministers be requested to reconsider their decision in this regard.
We could not have an amendment that more closely illustrates my point than that. If the amendment is allowed, discussion upon it will permit argument relating to the Beef Trust, the Tariff, and social insurance, subjects of immense width, which can have no direct relevance to the motion for leave to introduce the Government Preference Prohibition Bill.
– You could not discuss details.
– Honorable members could discuss the whole subject of the necessity for introducing legislation to deal with the Beef Trust. That means that honorable members could discuss, as the honorable member last night was discussing, all the circumstances and alleged circumstances that exist, creating the nenessity for a Bill. Under the heading of social insurance, honorable members could discuss the existing conditions that render necessary the introduction of a Bill. Certainly they could not discuss the detailed merits of a Bill, seeing that it would not be before the House, but they could discuss the whole of the subject necessitating the Bill. This has never been done, and certainly should not be permitted in this case, being entirely irrelevant to the motion I submitted to the House.
– The Attorney-General commenced by saying that the amendment was out of order, because any amendment to the motion must be relevant to it; but he did not read a single line from any parliamentary authority in support of his contention that an amendment must be relevant to the motion; he merely proceeded to give some illustrations, and those illustrations - not from May, but from parliamentary records - were noteworthy by their antiquity.
– Will you permit me to add one authority?
– If the honorable member for Bourke resumes his seat he will lose his opportunity to speak. The honorable member should be permitted to say what he has to say, and then the AttorneyGeneral, by leave of the House, may say what- he wishes to add.
– The illustrations used by the Attorney-General were noteworthy by reason of the dust that had accumulated on them. He only selected those which suited his desires, but there are some more recent illustrations. Not only does May say it, but in all parliamentary procedure it is laid down that there are two unmistakable things honorable members can do on a motion for leave to introduce a Bill. An amendment to add words with a view of condemning the proposed legislation is permitted, and the House may proceed to alter the time for the introduction of the Bill. That is a common practice in the House of Commons and in the Canadian Parliament. But not to take too ancient examples, I can quote the Government of Ireland Bill of 1886 and 1893, the Independence of Parliament Bill of 1884, and a Bill dealing with the criminal law in 18S7. Whatever may be wrong about the first part of my amendment, according to common practice the latter part of it cannot be questioned, seeing that it is framed in almost similar language to that employed in an amendment moved in the House of Commons on the 24th January, 1881, the debate upon which lasted until 2nd February, 1881. Mr. Forster moved for leave to introduce a Bill for the protection of life and property, and upon that motion Dr. Lyons moved an amendment as follows: -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient and desirable, and is most fully in accord with the wise and generous exercise of the unquestionable powers of this House, that remedial legislation on the land question in Ireland should take precedence over the coercive measures designed by the Government, and that Her Majesty’s Ministers be requested to reconsider their decision in this regard.
There we have the Government bringing in a criminal law, and an amendment is permitted dealing with a matter in no way relating to crime, but relating to a social and economic question. By no stretch of imagination can laws dealing with the land question be said to have any relation to criminal law, such as that proposed by Mr. Forster. Therefore, I submit that the latter part of my amend- ment is valid, and that it is in accord with common practice, and also that there is nothing in May or any authorities laying it down that an amendment upon the motion for leave to introduce a Bill shall be in any way relevant to the motion. When Ministers come down with a proposition that is odious to honorable members Parliament is left with absolute power to say what in its opinion are the measures that should take precedence over what the Government propose to introduce.
– The honorable member for Bourke has stated that the AttorneyGeneral cited no authority in support of the view he put to the House.
– He said they were musty authorities.
– The honorable member said that the Attorney-General cited no authority from May.
– That is correct.
– May, on page 293 of the 11th edition, summarizes his conclusions after an examination of the whole of the leading cases relative to this matter, including those to which the AttorneyGeneral has referred, and he proceeds as follows -
It is an imperative rule that every amendment must be relevant to the question on which the amendment is proposed.
– There is no mention in that of leave to introduce.
– The honorable member says that this does not refer to leave to introduce, and the honorable member for Cook, echoes him, no doubt without having examined the authorities as May has done.
– And you are saying what has been put into your mouth by another man.
– There are some honorable members who pose as eminent authorities on this as well as any other matter that may come before the House. May is dealing, on page 293, with amendments to questions and the mode of proposing amendments, including those on motions for leave to introduce Bills. As a matter of fact, he examined those very authorities the AttorneyGeneral has cited, and states his definite conclusion on an examination of those authorities. In support of his contention, the honorable member for Bourke mentioned that a debate took place for five days in the House of Commons on a matter which he considers to be analogous to his own amendment. The honorable member’s amendment is in the nature of a negation, and in so far as it is not a negation, it refers to all sorts of matters, such as the Beef Trust, the Tariff, and National Insurance, which can have no reference whatever to the subject of preference to unionists. The very case that he cited in support of his contention proves the very contrary to what the honorable member claims. The leave of the House of Commons was being sought to introduce a measure relating to certain coercive measures which were taken in Ireland. Then a debate ensued on the protection of life and property in Ireland. That was something relevant to the Bill.
– It was suggesting an alternative method of dealing with the same matter.
– Exactly ; and May, referring to that matter, clearly distinguishes between such a proposition as that put forward by the honorable member for Bourke and the’ true conditions applicable to this case. May says -
In making a motion for leave Ito bring in a Bill, he may explain the object of the Bill, and give reasons for its introduction; but unless the motion be opposed, this is not the proper time for any lengthened debate upon its merits. When an important measure is offered by a Minister or other member, this opportunity is frequently taken for a full exposition of its character and objects; but otherwise, debate should be avoided at this stage, unless it be expected that the motion will be negatived, and that no future occasion will arise for discussion.
I do not know whether it is now contended that this is in the nature of a motion of want of confidence.
– Let the Speaker decide the question.
– I did not intend to take up the time of the House; but the authorities are conclusive on this point, and I would not have risen except for the statement of the honorable member for Bourke that no definite authority could be cited.
– I do not propose to detain the House at any length on this point, which you, Mr. Speaker, must realize is important. What the honorable member for Indi has stated, and cited in May, has nothing to do with this particular point. This is a motion, first of all, for leave to introduce a Bill.
Then is it possible to say that any amendment of that motion must be relevant to the subject-matter?
– The subject-matter of the motion.
– The subject-matter of the Bill which is the subject of the motion ? The motion is for leave to introduce a Bill, and any reason which may seem good to this House why this Bill should not be introduced is relevant. And if one likes to assert that this Bill is introduced for ulterior purposes, for the purpose of working a section of the Constitution in the way in which it should not be worked, I submit that that ground may be made the subject-matter of an amendment.
– You are forced to that conclusion.
– That is the plain and logical conclusion. I agree with May, if I may say so, that every amendment must be relative to the motion, but one must first appreciate what the motion is. The motion is not for the first or second reading of the Bill, but is to decide whether the Bill will be received at all. May does not state that not only must an amendment be relative to a motion, but relative also to the Bill which is the subject-matter of the motion. I submit that is not the position at all, and this particular right of Parliament has been asserted time and again in the most emphatic manner in the instances which the honorable -member for Bourke has brought before the House. To move that certain proposed legislation ought to be put on one side in order that other legislation may be introduced - is that a motion or an amendment which is relevant to the Bill which is sought to be introduced ?
– Both proposals are relevant.
– The only test is whether the amendment is relative to the motion. The amendment in the English case referred to was that certain land legislation should take precedence over certain other legislation.
– For the same object. It was an alternative scheme.
– It was not for the same object. The question is whether a certain class of legislation is to take precedence over certain other legislation.
– I submit that is so, and the emphatic negations on the other side do not decide the matter. The honorable member for Indi has stated that the land legislation which was mentioned in the particular amendment sought in that case was cognate with, or relative to, the matter of the Protection to Life and Property Bill which was sought to. be introduced. That argument cannot stand for one moment. If the honorable member had not used it I should have said that it was absurd. But one cannot use such language in regard to the honorable member for Indi. Mr. Forster, in introducing the motion for leave to introduce that Bill, clearly set out that the object of that Bill was the protection of life and property. It had nothing to do with land laws at all.
– The two objects were associated with one another.
– If that argument will pass on an important question of this kind, any argument will pass. This is what Mr. Forster said -
On the second night of the debate upon the Address I ventured to state the necessity of this measure on my being able to show that persons and property are unprotected, and that liberty is unsecured in Ireland; and I am aware that I must show both the extent of the evil and the efficiency of the remedy which we propose - that, with our present powers, we cannot give this protection, but that with the powers we ask for we hope to be able to do so.
Then he dealt with the existence of the evil, the alarming condition of Ireland, the agrarian trouble, and shooting from behind hedges, which I am sorry to say was not unknown in that country at one period.
– All due to the land laws.
– And firing into dwellinghouses - was that also due to the land laws ? I do not care whether or not those troubles arose out of the atrocious agrarian laws or the crimes that were committed. The question is whether the land laws had any “ relation to criminal laws for the protection of life and property.
– Were not the two directly related?
– The two were related to this extent, that the land laws of Ireland were in such an atrocious condition that the evils attendant on them gave rise to crimes of various kinds. That is not a condition of relevancy which would bring in the authority which the honorable member stated. Firing into dwellinghouses meant this, said Mr. Forster -
A farmer might be sitting with his wife and children around afire, or he might be in bed, and shots would be fired into the house, windows were broken, and damage was done to the furniture. Although the shots were not fired at the farmer he might be hit.
That was the sort of crime that was referred to. Would the Attorney-General argue in any Court of Law that the introduction of a land law was in any way relevant to the introduction of a law for the protection of life and property against such crime. The proposed Bill is not yet introduced, and it may be a considerable time before the Attorney-General is enabled to introduce a Bill of this miserable character. The question to be decided is not the relevancy to the subject-matter of the Bill, but the relevancy to the question as to whether the Bill should be introduced or kept out. In Canada, exactly the same principles are laid down. An instance is given in Bourinot’s Parlia mentary Procedure and Practice, in which this matter was dealt with. On page 590 of the second edition, this passage occurs -
Sometimes, however, a short discussion may Arise on some features of the Bill on the motion for its introduction, as there is no rule to prevent a debate. At this stage, it is within the right of any member to submit an amendment to the motion for leave, and even to alter the title of the proposed Bill, though such a course is very seldom followed. As in England, it is now a very rare thing for the House to refuse leave, . though, of course, it rests entirely in the discretion of the majority to do so.
It may be useful to you, sir, to know that that statement is made on the evidence of Sir T. E. May before a Committee on Public Business on the 22nd March, 1878. These further instances also are plain. In volume, 107 of the Journals of the House of Commons (1852), page 68, it is reported that the question of an amendment of the Militia Bill was before the House -
And a motion being made and the question being proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the laws respecting local militia; an amendment was proposed to be made to the Question by inserting after the word “ amend “ the words “ and consolidate.”
And the Question being put, That the words “ and consolidate “ be there inserted : - It was resolved in the affirmative.
That is an instance of what may be done; even the title to the Bill might be amended. I submit thatthe restrictions
Bought to be introduced by the Attorney-
General are such as have never been recognised by any British Parliament I know; that on the motion for leave to introduce a Bill any reason why it should not be introduced may be put forward by way of an amendment, and that an amendment to bring in any other legislation with which the Parliament should more urgently deal is permissible.
– I would like to say a few words.
– I was prepared before the debate took place to give my decision.
– May we not debate the point of order?
– The Speaker may give ‘ his decision, under the Standing Orders, as soon as a point of order has been raised, or he may allow the question to be debated as long as he has any doubt as to what his decision should be. The point involved is extremely important and I thought that by allowing some debate I might cause to be thrown upon it some additional light. I had already familiarized myself with almost every one of the quotations that were made this afternoon, and, as a matter of fact, I have a typed precis of them before me, but I thought some new ground might be broken. I had no doubt from the moment the amendment was moved as to whether or not it was in order. I call the attention of honorable members to the question before the House. The question as stated from the Chair is -
That the Attorney-General have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to prohibit in relation to Commonwealth employment preferences and discriminations on account of membership or non-membership of an association.
Apart from all the authorities that have been cited, we have our own Standing Ordersbearing on the question. Standorder 130 provides that -
Every amendment must be relevant to the question to which it is proposed to be made.
The question to which this amendment is proposed to be made is a question of whether the Attorney-General shall have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to prohibit in relation to Commonwealth employment preference and discrimination, and so forth. Any proposed amendment must be relevant to that question. I am only concerned as to the relevancy or otherwise of the amendment. That proposed by the honorable member for
Bourke, however, is of such a drag-net character that it would practically obliterate the original question, and substitute for it a number of other questions in no way relevant to it”. So far as the House of Commons practice is concerned, there is one other precedent that has not yet been cited, and which relates, I think, to the last occasion upon which a question of the kind arose. It was sought, in this case, to amend a motion -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to declare and define the respective rights of Her Majesty and of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall to the mines and minerals in orunder land lying below high-water mark within and adjacent to the county of Cornwall and for other purposes.
The amendment proposed that leave should be given that day three months, but Mr. Speaker ruled that the motion must be met by a direct negative, and that the only question that he could put was that leave be given to bring in the Bill. My decision is that the amendment in its present form is not in order.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to give notice of the following motion : -
That the ruling of the Speaker on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke, on the motion for leave to bring in the Government Preference Prohibition Bill, be disagreed with.
– The debate on the motion to dissent from my ruling will be adjourned until next sitting day.
– I move -
That the debate on the main question be now adjourned.
– The Prime Minister has already spoken, so that he cannot move the adjournment of the debate.
– I have not,
– The Prime Minister has already spoken.
– The honorable member has spoken so often that he does not know what he has done.
-I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to these continuous insults. I ask you to stop them.
– Personal references are very disorderly, and I ask honorable members to desist from the practice of making them.
– I move the adjournment of the debate.
– I understand that the Prime Minister had already moved such a motion.
– So he has. He moved the adjournment of this debate on a previous occasion.
– On a point of order the Prime Minister has said that he is being insulted. I desire to know in what way he is being insulted.
– That is not a point of order.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.
Speech by. the Honorable Member for Richmond - Personal Explanation - Railway Carriage of Cadets.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The honorable member for Richmond-
– This is not playing the political game. Honorable members want to catch their trains.
– I shall occupy the attention of the House for only two minutes. The honorable member for Richmond this morning, referring to a quotation that I had made from a speech delivered by him, said that he had not spoken at Murwillumbah, as quoted by me. I desire to explain that I quoted from a report which appeared in the Argus of 10th February last, and which read as follows: -
In responding to the toast of the Federal
Parliament at a banquet in connexion with the opening of the Uki Rifle Range, Mr. Massey Greene, M.H.R., dealt with Federal political prospects. He said that the Cook . Ministry when it took office did so with the deliberate intention of appealing to the country. They had made up their minds to secure a double dissolution which would come this year, but he could not say exactly when. I do not say that these were the exact words which the honorable member used. The honorable member may have been misreported.
– I have made this explanation merely to let it be seen that the quotation was made by me in good faith.
– I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable member for Barrier made the quotation in good faith, but it is obvious that a short telegraphic report of a speech which probably took halfanhour to deliver could not possibly be considered a fair report of what I said. The report consists of only two sentences, which were torn away from the surrounding matter that I gave to the House this morning.
.- I desire to ask the Prime Minister what action the Government are taking in connexion with the free carriage of cadets?
– Is this playing the game? You are now punishing individuals, and compelling some members to remain in Melbourne until to-morrow.
– When I put this question to the Honorary Minister he’ invited me to place it on the notice-paper.
– If an intimation has been given that a question is to be placed on the business paper, that question cannob now be asked.
– I did not say that. This is a very important matter. Many cadets have either to pay their fares on the railways or walk some distance in order to attend drill. The drilling is unpopular enough, without calling upon parents to pay railway fares. Last yearthe Prime Minister promised that the Cabinet would consider the matter, and I should like to know what has been done.
– I decline to answer that question at this time on a Friday. While on my feet, I desire to enter my formal protest against the practice that is growing’ up here of trying to prevent honorable members from catching their trains.
Mr.fenton. - I ask that the speaker be called upon to withdraw a remark in which he imputes motives to- honorable members, when they merely ask for information in the interests of the people.
.- Mr. Speaker–
– There can be no debate now. The Prime Minister is replying on the motion for adjournment;and a point of order has been raised. I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the imputation to which’ exception is taken.
– I merely made an observation, and cast no imputation; but, if desired to do so, I withdraw the words. I only desire to say that the practice of . keeping the House, on the motion for adjournment on Fridays, prevents honorable members from getting totheir homes, and the practice, in my opinion, is not playing the fair, parliamentary game.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140508_reps_5_73/>.