6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– I have received the following letter from the honorable member for Parramatta : -
Parliament of the Commonwealth.
House of Representatives,
Melbourne, 18th December, 1914.
Dear Mr. Speaker, -
On reading my Hansard proof this morning I find I am reported as saying - “ I decline to take any further part in the proceedings of this House on account of the tyrannical way in which Mr. Speaker conducts them.”
While smarting under a very keen sense of injustice, 1 none the less realize that the expression used in the heat of debate is one which should not have been uttered, and 1 unreservedly withdraw it, and desire to make you an ample apology.
The Hon. C. McDonald, M.P.,
Personally, I regret very much - probably ,as much as the honorable member himself - the incident that took place last night. Whilst carrying out the duties that fall to my lot as faithfully as I can, I am, of course, not infallible; but I endeavour fairly and honestly to pay due regard to the preservation of the rights and privileges of honorable members, no matter where they may sit. I trust that a better understanding will exist between us in the future.
Dissent from Mr. Speaker’s Ruling.
– I desire to raise a matter of privilege, to have it decided by the House. It arises out of the incident to which you, Mr. Speaker, have just referred. There are really two points of privilege on which, with the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition and my friends on this side of the Chamber, I desire to take the opinion of the House. One point is, that every member who rises in his place, and says that he desires to raise a point of privilege, has the right to have that point heard.
– There and then?
– To have his statement heard and has point stated. As a matter of fact, he has the right also to have the point decided there and then.
– Did we get that treatment during last Parliament?
– We did not.
– I make a personal appeal to honorable members not to interject during the discussion that is now proceeding, so that I may thoroughly understand what is being said. A good deal of the trouble that arises now and again is due to the action of honorable members on one side or the other, who, becoming excited and heated, or for some other reason, exchange interjections, across the chamber. I appeal to honorable members to refrain from doing that now, and to allow me to deal with this matter.
– I bring this matter forward in a spirit which C hope will not provoke antagonism of any kind from either side. The first point that I raise is that, no matter what may have occurred, when an honorable member rises in his place, as the honorable member for Richmond did last night and addresses the Speaker, desiring to raise the question of privilege, it is his right to have the opportunity to state what the question of privilege is. My second point is one of equal importance to the members of the House, and with the concurrence of my honorable friends, I propose to place it in a motion which may be promptly dealt with by the House. I invite the House to decide a question which I submit is essential to its privileges. My motion is as follows : -
That the right to appeal to the House from any ruling of the Speaker by objection in writing and motion, under standing order 287, is the privilege of every member or the House, and that it is essential to the maintenance of that privilege that the Speaker should submit the motion in the form in which the member puts it, and should not refuse to put any such motion on the ground that, in his opinion, it does not correctly state the facts or the nature of the ruling, and that the House on such motion should determine all such questions.
What that motion is intended to convey is, that it is the inherent privilege of every member of the House, no matter what Mr. Speaker’s ruling may be, to take the mode prescribed by the Standing Orders for appealing from it. The full effect of that appeal would be seriously jeopardized if the Speaker were entitled to decide any question arising in connexion with the appeal. If there be a difference of opinion between the member who raises the point and the Speaker as to the facts on which he founds his objection, that is a difference of opinion which I submit ought not to be decided by the Speaker. The honorable member who raises the point of privilege should be able to submit a motion to the House in the language that he may choose, and it is for the House to decide all questions which arise. The recent occasion which gave rise to the motion was a motion moved by the honorable member for Richmond to disagree with a ruling which you, sir, had given. You ruled out of order certain remarks which the honorable member for Wimmera was addressing to an amendment which had been proposed by me on a Bill then before the House. It is quite unnecessary in this matter to express any opinion on the merits of that ruling, which may have been right or may have been wrong. My point is that the honorable member for Richmond, having used the opportunity given by standing order 287 to 3tate his objections in writing and to move a motion based upon them, those objections, as taken by him, and as expressed in the language used hy him, whether right or wrong, should be the appeal which should be put to the House. You, sir, on many occasions have very properly, if I may say so, refused to allow any discussion of your ruling in a debate that is proceeding, telling honorable members that they have their appeal Under the Standing Orders. This appeal being the appeal of the honorable member to be decided by the House, no part of it, and nothing connected with it, should be decided by the Speaker. It may be that the honorable member who takes the objection misheard the ruling, or did not understand what was actually said, or misapprehended the facts upon which the ruling was given. Any of these mistakes or differences of opinion may be involved ; but if the privilege of appealing is to be effective, it is for the House, and not for the Speaker, to decide these questions. With the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition I submit the motion which I have read, and hope to secure the formal expression of the opinion of the House as to whether the freedom to which I have referred is not necessary for the maintenance of one of our most important privileges.
– Suppose Mr. Speaker to rule the point taken not to be one of privilage ?
– He would have to hear it stated.
– Suppose one honorable member after another rose to move motions of privilege ? That would defeat the purpose of the Standing Orders.
– As they did in the last Parliament.
– Do not let us go into what occurred during the last Parliament.
– The questions chat I have asked are material.
– There is an inherent power in the Speaker of any assembly to see that its rules are not abused. If the Speaker is convinced that honorable members are using the Standing Orders to abuse the forms of the House, he has an inherent power to prevent it. If, as the Prime Minister suggests, honorable member after honorable member rose obviously merely to disturb the proceedings of the House, and for no other reason, Mr. Speaker has the power to restore order. But what actually took place was that the honorable member for Richmond lond fide submitted a motion to disagree with Mr. Speaker’s ruling. There was no obstruction. The honorable member wrote out his motion at the table and submitted it. You, Mr. Speaker, having read it, stated that it did not correctly represent your ruling. That, in substance, is what you said. The honorable member for Richmond proceeded to submit that an honorable member who sought to appeal to the House had the right to state in his own language what was his objection, and to leave it to the House to decide the matter against him if he were wrong.
– He had no right to misrepresent the Speaker’s ruling.
– It is for the House to decide whether an honorable member has misrepresented the Speaker’s ruling. No one has the right to misrepresent the ruling of the Speaker, or to make any other misrepresentation. The question is whether, under the Standing Orders, it is for the Speaker or for the House to decide the point. If the honorable member for Richmond misrepresented your ruling, Mr. Speaker, it was for the House, in its wisdom, to decide that by rejecting his motion; but the honorable member had the right to have his . motion put. He claimed the only mode of appeal that was open to him. When you stated that you would not put to the House the motion in the form in which the honorable member for Richmond wished to submit it, the honorable member rose, saying, “ On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker.” You required him to resume his seat, which he did. He rose again and said, “ On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker.” You would not hear him, but named him, and he was suspended for the remainder of the sitting. If lie had been permitted to state his question of privilege, he -would have stated the question which I now move on behalf of my honorable friends on this side, asking the House to decide the point. Honorable members will see that this is a substantive motion, which affects one of the most important rights of honorable members of this House.
.- Hitherto I have been able to listen to the proceedings of this House without any feelings of emotion, but when I remember the conduct of the honorable member for Flinders in the last Parliament - when I remember the unbridled savagery with which that honorable member and his colleagues dealt with the then Opposition
– I ask the honorable member for Cook to confine himself to the question before the Chair, and, in doing so, to avoid language that may cause irritation to other honorable members. The words the honorable member has just used are, I think, out of order, and I ask him to withdraw them.
– I submit that I am entitled to challenge the bona fides of the honorable member for Flinders in submitting this motion.
– Mr. Speaker asked the honorable member to withdraw some words.
– The Speaker did not do so.
– He did.
– I asked the honorable member to withdraw those words in which he said something about “ unbridled savagery.”
– If, sir, you rule that the words are unparliamentary I withdraw them, but I do not know of any language of a parliamentary character to adequately describe the conduct of honorable members opposite last session.
– I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to the motion before the Chair.
– I submit that I am entitled to discuss the bona fides of the honorable member who has submitted the motion. Judging from the conduct of those men last session I cannot believe that the motion is bona fide.
-The honorable member should not attribute unworthy motives to honorable members opposite, and must confine himself strictly to the motion, which has reference to something that occurred last night.
– I submit that, under the practice that is followed in this House in discussing motions of this kind, I am entitled to show that honorable gentlemen opposite, when in control of the Chamber, took all sorts of care that such a principle as they are now enunciating should not operate.
– That is not so.
– It is so. They bullied their own Speaker, and prevented him from giving effect to the Standing Orders. A motion of dissent, which I myself then submitted, was deliberately, by the action of the Government, put at the bottom of the notice-paper.
– The honorable member is now making a statement which affects you, Mr. Speaker, as well as honorable members on this side. I submit that he has used a very offensive expression in speaking of “ their own Speaker.”
-I ask the honorable member for Cook to avoid making any reflections on honorable members. This morning we are trying to clear up some misunderstanding, or point, that arose last night, and I ask him to, as far as possible, refrain from any language that may cause irritation.
– It appears that honorable gentlemen, opposite, when they get themselves into a tangle, must be allowed to find a way out for themselves, while when they are in office they may absolutely ignore their opponents. I refuse to vote for a motion of this kind, though, as to its general terms, I believe in it. I refuse to vote for a motion which I know honorable members opposite desire shall be honoured while they are in opposition, but which they would put into the waste-paper basket and ignore if they were in power.
– I desire that the words that have just been uttered by the honorable member for Cook shall be taken down.
– What are the words complained ofl
– I confess that I cannot remember them exactly.
– What the honorable member for Cook said was that the Opposition desired the principle they are now advocating to operate while they are in opposition, but that they would put any such motion into the waste-paper basket if they were in power.
– It was not the honorable member for Robertson, but the honorable member for Hume, who made the complaint about the words. I must ask honorable members to endeavour to restrain themselves. Will the honorable member for Cook proceed ?
– I was pointing out why I propose to vote against this motion, although I believe in the terms of it.
-It is a matter of spite.
– Not at all. Honorable members opposite, in the last Parliament, when they were in power, ruthlessly brought into operation the “ gag “ provisions of the Standing Orders. They even applied the “gag” when an honorable member was in the middle of a sentence, and prevented honorable members expressing their opinions on legislation of a far-reaching character. Further, when as some of us submitted, the “ gag “ was applied in defiance of the Standing Orders, honorable members opposite would not sanction a motion dissenting from the Speaker’s ruling to be submitted, and when one was submitted, what did they do? They took the business out of the Speaker’s hands, and put the notice of motion at the bottom of the business-paper, with the result that, from that day to this, it has not been discussed.
– Is the honorable member in order in going into all these occurrences of last session 1 I submit that his remarks are entirely irrelevant to the question before the Chair. I desire a ruling on this question, Mr. Speaker, because, later on, we may desire to follow the same course.
– So far as the honorable member for Cook has proceeded in relating events that occurred in another session, I do not see that I have any power to stop him, but I have appealed to him, and to other honorable members, not to raise questions of the kind at the present time, if that can be avoided.
– With every respect, Mr. Speaker, I bow to your rulings on the Standing Orders, but, as to the terms of my own speech, I wish to exercise my own discretion. There is a little domain wherein, thank goodness, we have sole jurisdiction, and I propose to exercise mine.
– It is a very little domain.
– Honorable members opposite have raised quite a number of points of order this morning, and they have not been able to reduce it in any way. The Labour party, when in power, have never, so far as 1 am aware, used the “ gag” provisions of the Standing Orders, whereas honorable members opposite have used them without . rhyme or reason, and ruthlessly.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to a previous Government as having “ ruthlessly “ used the closure, when its application is strictly in accordance with the Standing Orders ?
– The language of the honorable member for Cook is not, perhaps, what the honorable member for Wimmera would desire, but I do not know that it is such as I can take exception to.
– I submit that, in the consideration of this particular motion, anything which any previous Government or previous Speaker may have done under the Standing Orders is irrelevant, and ought not to be referred to.
– The honorable member for Cook has his own method of laying his case before the House, and I see nothing to prevent him taking his present course.
– I submit that the whole of the Standing Orders provide for the privileges of honorable members, and I am pointing out how honorable members opposite wish to enjoy a. privilege under one standing order, while they are not prepared to recognise the privileges of honorable members under another standing order. In the last Parliament we, when in Opposition, had no privilege of any description.
– That is a reflection on theHouse.
– It is a reflection on a brutal majority.
– The honorable member must withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw the word. “ brutal “ at your instigation, sir. The general policy of honorable gentlemen opposite has been exhibited this morning, inasmuch as they would, if they could, prevent an honorable member from expressing his opinion on the very motion that they themselves have submitted. There have been eight or nine points of order in five minutes.
– That shows the difficulty the honorable member has in conforming to the Standing Orders.
– It shows the difficulty of inventing some new species of “gag” not in the Standing Orders. I submit that the “ gag “ provisions were abused in the last Parliament. But what was the position? When it was considered by some honorable members that the “ gag “ was being abused a notice of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling was submitted. It has been the universal practice that such a motion shall take precedence of all other business on the next sitting day, but honorable members opposite, who were then in power, although there was this challenge hanging over the Speaker’s head, took the matter out of that gentleman’s hands, and put the notice of motion at the bottom of the businesspaper in order to prevent its discussion. And what do honorable members opposite desire now? They are making an appeal to the fairness of the House, and they wish the House to decide matters of dispute with the Speaker. In the last Parliament, however, they did not desire that the House should have any such right. I was not allowed to give adequate expression to my views on the Speaker’s ruling then, and the session was closed’ without there being any discussion on the motion’. Last night the Leader of the Opposition, with his hotheadedness, got into a tangle with the Speaker.
– That matter is closed, and I cannot allow it to be discussed now.
– Then I shall say that an incident arose last night which has been closed this morning, but that, following on that incident, an honorable member, who says that he speaks for the Leader of the Opposition and on behalf of the Opposition, has moved a motion which is intended to give honorable members opposite certain privileges while they are in Opposition, and, as it appears to me, to cover a retreat from the incident that took place during the last sitting. As much as any honorable member, I object to. encroachments by the Speaker upon any privileges of individual members. It matters not to me whether those encroachments be made by a Speaker who comes from the party to which I belong, or a Speaker who comes from the other side.
– On a point of order. Is not the honorable member again reflecting on your position, Mr. Speaker ? I hope that you are not the Speaker of a party.
– I understood that the meaning that the honorable member for Cook desired to convey to the House was that, no matter from what side of the House a Speaker was selected, the honorable member would oppose him if he attempted to interfere with the privileges of honorable members.
– That was my meaning. This is the tenth point of order raised by Opposition members. The Leader of the Opposition is about the only honorable member who would twist my words and give them a different meaning from that intended.
– On a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in saying that 1 twist his meaning? It will be necessary for me to leave the House altogether if I am to be insulted in this way
– The honorable member for Cook should not attribute motives to any other honorable member, and as the honorable member for Parramatta considers the remarks offensive, I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– In deference to your ruling and to the Standing Orders, I withdraw the words to which the honorable member takes objection ; but I may be permitted to say that I object to my privileges as an individual member being curtailed by the Speaker, whether he comes from this side of the House or the other side, and as he must be a member of Parliament before he can be elected as Speaker, he must come from one side or the other. But at the same time I re fuse to be a party to the laying down of rules of conduct which will apply when one party is in power, but are not expected to apply when that party is not in power. Honorable members remember what occurred last session, an<l when I think of what occurred, and the way in which the Standing Orders were ignored’ to suit the exigencies of party governnent, when I remember that honorable members now opposite converted their position from that of having an accidental majority of one or the casting vote of the Speaker to that of having what was as good as a large majority in the House, and forced through business as if they did have a large majority returned by the country to enable them to do it - when men of that description, particularly active participants in this conduct-
– The party you support in New South Wales did it.
– I have not been in the New South Wales Parliament. At any rate, I do not wish to see the standard of conduct for the Federal Parliament set up by a State Parliament. The point I wish to arrive at is, that if this motion had come from a new member, say “the honorable member for Balaclava, it would have appealed to me, but because of the source from which it comes, it makes absolutely no appeal to me, because I know what the honorable member for Flinders did last session, when a man who. when he was on the Government benches, would not consider the rights of an Opposition member, and now because he finds himself a little bit cribbed, cabined, and confined by the action of a Government who will not resort to the “ gag,” but give unlimited scope for expressions of opinion, submits a motion such as this, I consider that it is an insult to my intelligence to ask me to vote for it.
.- I hope that honorable members on both sides will give their consideration to this motion, which affects the privileges of every honorable member, apart altogether from any display, such as we have just had, of petty spitefulness, which would be far more fittingly displayed on the roof than on the floor of this House. If honorable members would for a moment think well, they would see that the speech to which we have just listened will be a very difficult speech for any one to explain. The honorable member said that this motion was one for which he could vote if it had come from any other section of the House.
– Yes; if I thought that it was a bond fide motion.
– To the honorable member the principle was all right, in fact, the motion was all right, but the source from which it came was all wrong, and, therefore, although it affected the privileges and the daily usefulness of every honorable member, he would not vote for it because he did not like the source from which it came. Members of this Parliament, or any other similar body, cannot be too careful in regarding the Speaker, not only as their Chairman, but also as the custodian of their liberties and privileges.
– It was not so in the last Parliament.
– I do not wish to hear such littleness, though I cannot expect anything else from some quarters. Any man, with any length of view, must realize, not only that Mr. Speaker is the custodian of the liberties and privileges of honorable members, but also that, as custodian of those liberties and privileges, the Speaker is bound to see that there is given to every honorable member that appeal beyond him which is laid down by the Standing Orders. That is the point upon which the recent trouble originated, and unless we can get this matter cleared up satisfactorily, as the honorable member for Cook and all his colleagues believe that it should be cleared up, if they were not aware that we on the Oppositionbenches are asking for it, we shall find that in future, in this House, the Speaker will no longer be the custodian of our privileges and liberties as Chairman of our deliberations, but will become master of our deliberations and the absolute arbiter of our liberties and privileges. In saying this, I speak in no way as to your present occupancy of the Chair, Mr. Speaker; I speak to the position generally. As I do not believe that any member of the House desires that such a state of affairs should come about, I ask honorable members to vote upon the motion apart altogether from bitterness or pettiness arising from this or that sore memory, realizing only that every man with self-respect tries to do the right thing, irrespective of the person who has asked’ him to do it.
– Why did you not. try to do the right thing last session ?
– I do not desire to payany attention to the remarks of the honorable member. Most of his colleagues realize that the greater part of his remarks were utterly unworthy of him.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Min know that I can add very much to the debate. Indeed I think that the motion is one that should not be debated.
– Hear, hear.
– The motion seems to be an enlarged edition of the standing order it quotes, and if the honorable member for Flinders had dissociated it from the incident on which he has founded it, I should have said at once that it should be agreed to on the voices, subject, of course, to what Mr. Speaker might have to say.
– We cannot dissociate the occasion from the argument; the occasion was the negation of the privileges referred to in the motion.
– Unfortunately, having been absent from the chamber at the time, 1 have no personal knowledge of the circumstances, but, from information .1 have received, which, of course, is valueless as evidence, I understand that they do not coincide with what the honorable member indicated in the course of his speech. I have no hesitation in saying, on the abstract principle, that, if the offence of any honorable member were not disorderly, the House could proceed with its business without his suspension, and he should then have the right, as a matter of privilege, to table a motion for disagreement with Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– The occasion for this motion was Mr. Speaker’s refusal to put a motion of disagreement. There was trouble on that ground before the latter difficulty arose.
– We should be anxious to preserve to every member, even if every other honorable member and Mr. Speaker be against him, the opportunity to make a declaration as to facts. I think the honor - able member would be adopting the better course if he submitted a motion declaring that standing order 287 should give to each honorable member who is challenged by Mr. Speaker or about to be named by him, the right to appeal to the House.
– That is a totally different matter. The right honorable gentleman misunderstands the position through not having been in the chamber. The motion to disagree with Mr. Speaker’s ruling had nothing to do with the conduct for which the honorable member for
Parramatta was afterwards suspended, but arose solely on a ruling given by Mr.
Speaker that the honorable member for Wimmera was not in order in making certain remarks. Mr. Speaker, on the ground that the motion did not correctly represent his ruling, declined to accept it or allow it to be seconded or put.
– Then I think the honorable member’s explanation is against him. Surely Mr. Speaker is the arbiter as to facts. Mr. Speaker must be our arbiter, in fact, almost a tyrant, in regard to certain facts. Otherwise business could not proceed. One honorable member after another might embarrass the House.
– On all matters, except in regard to an appeal from his decision, he is the arbiter.
– I will take an illustrative case, not the incident that happened last night. Suppose that trouble did arise, and every member wanted to protect an offending member by tabling a motion to disagree with Mr. Speaker’s ruling. Each one of those members might give a different reason for disagreeing with the ruling, and the Speaker, in that case, in order to preserve the character of the House, as a deliberative assembly, presided over by a duly appointed officer, would intervene, and stop the whole proceedings. I do ask honorable members to preserve intact and unimpaired the privileges of members as representatives, and I ask them to dissociate from this motion any incident that has occurred, because the declaration the House may make will be more effective, more far-reaching, more flexible in its application, and a much better guide for future occasions, if the House can come to a decision that the rights and privileges of members under standing order 287 have not been affected by anything that has taken place.
– If the last suggestion of the right honorable gentleman, that we should dissociate from this motion anything that occurred in the House, is to be adopted, the motion will become absolutely meaningless. Under the Standing Orders a question of privilege must relate to something that has recently arisen. There is no justification for raising a question of privilege unless something has arisen. Therefore, it is impossible to apply this motion to a hypothetical case. Privilege must always relate itself to some concrete case. In this instance, it relates to something that occurred last night, and that happening is our justification for raising this question this morning. It was because Mr. Speaker prevented the honorable member for Richmond from dissenting from his ruling that the whole trouble arose. Not only did Mr. Speaker say that his decision was not that which the honorable member for Richmond alleged, but he would not permit the honorable member to state another motion. That much Hansard clearly shows. We were ordered down and out, and that is what the whole trouble is about. I should like to refresh the memory of the Prime Minister in regard to what really took place. I had risen to a point of order, and the Hansard report reads -
– On a point of order-
– The honorable member for Wimmera.
My point of order was altogether ignored.
– On a point of order, sir–
– The honorable member for Wimmera.
– Chair ! Chair !
– I rise to order.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for Parramatta is out of order for two reasons, firstly, he is discussing an incident which occurred last night, and which I was prevented from discussing; and, secondly, he is quoting from a debate of the present session.
– I would remind the honorable member that a question of privilege is now before the Chair in connexion with an incident that occurred last night, in relation to the honorable member for Richmond. The matter to which I prevented the honorable member for Cook from referring to was an incident which arose between the honorable member for Parramatta and myself, which I considered had been closed. I ask that that incident be not again mentioned.
– Is the honorable member in order in quoting from the Hansard report of last night’s debate ?
– A question of privilege is before the Chair, and the honorable member will see that it is necessary that the Leader of the Opposition should have an opportunity of discussing the matter, and quoting from Hansard, so that honorable members may get an idea of the correctness or otherwise of the statements that have been made.
– To continue my quotation from Hansard. At the point at which I was interrupted by the honorable member for Cook the report shows, that you, sir, ordered me to resume myseat, and you made an explanation. It. is only fair to you that I should quote what you said -
– For a considerable timethe honorable member for Wimmera has beendeprived of a portion of his time. A number of points of order have been taken,’ and the honorable member for Parramatta knows that it is not right to be continually asking the Speaker to give a ruling on a hypothetical case. I call upon the honorable member for Wimmera to proceed.
– I rise to a question of privilege. I submit, sir-
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Sir, I rise to a question of privilege.
– The honorable member for Wimmera.
Mr.GREENE. - I rise to a question of privilege.
– The honorable member will resume his seat. The honorable member for Wimmera.
Then follows the incident which occurred in regard to the honorable member for Richmond.
– Will the honorable member read what took place?
– Honorable, members may read it at their leisure in Hansard.
– But we desire to know what happened to the honorable member for Richmond.
– If the honorable member wishes me to read the rest of the report, I shall do so -
– I rise to privilege.
– I name the honorablemember for Richmond for disregarding the authority of the Chair.
That is the whole incident. The honorable member was thereupon suspended for the remainder of the sitting.
– Does the report state what the honorable member for Richmond said as he left the chamber ?
– There is no report of that in the proof I am reading. Honorable members have now heard the particulars of the incident that has caused all this trouble. The point was that the honorable member for Richmond thought, as I certainly thought, that the ruling given by Mr. Speaker unduly circumscribed our privileges under the Standing Orders. We wished to express dissent from that ruling, and were prevented from doing so on the ground that the terms of the motion of dissent were objected to by Mr. Speaker. If “Mr. Speaker is to be the sole arbiter of the terms of a motion challenging his position and authority in the House, honorable members will see that nothing whatever can be done except with Mr. Speaker’s permission. Those rights conferred by the Standing Orders are our rights and they are only in the keeping of Mr. Speaker so long as the House places them there. They are not his rights to arbitrarily dispose of as he pleases.
– And they include the right of the House to say what Mr. Speaker ruled.
– The point is that the Speaker is the servant of the House, and it is vital to the privileges of the House that honorable members should at any time be able to call his conduct in question.
– We must be guided by the Standing Orders.
– Yes; and the Standing Orders say that a member may give notice of dissent, but they say nothing about the quality of the motion in which the notice is given, so long as the terms of it be respectful.
– But the motion must be on that point of order.
– No. If that were so, all Mr. Speaker would require to say would be that the point raised by the dissenting member was not the point on which he had ruled, and then we would be impotent and helpless.
– Permit me to point out-
– I do not want to bother with the honorable member. He is really not worth it.
– But what happened last night?
– I desire to make no reference to that. But alluding to it for only one moment, I do say that whatever the Liberal Government did or did not do last session, we never put a motion to the House such as that proposed by the Prime Minister last night.
– No; you never put it to the House.
– We never submitted such a motion to the House.
– No; you put it in the basket.
– I would advise the honorable member to study the terms of the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. It is a record for this Parliament or any other that I know of.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I submit that these matters of privilege must be discussed whenever that is necessary in the opinion, of the member who feels that his privileges are being impugned. The question of privilege having been raised, it is for Mr. Speaker to explain his decision, and then after honorable members have expressed their points of view, it is for the House to finally determine whether the question is one of privilege or not. If an honorable member may not rise to a question of privilege or submit a point of order, all our privileges are gone. We lie helpless and limp under the absolutely autocratic ruling of any Speaker we happen to have in the chair at the time. This is a matter that, affects our privileges profoundly now and in the future.
.- Not having been a member of the last Parliament, and not having been present last night when the trouble out of which this motion has arisen occurred, I think I may be able to discuss the matter on the abstract motion, apart altogether from its surrounding circumstances. It is not the . privileges of honorable members that cause trouble; it is the abuse of them. We repeatedly find in Parliament honorable members rising at the wrong time on a point of order, and the Speaker is supposed to have to listen to those points. Very often we near Mr. Speaker saying, “ That is not a point of order,” and in nine cases out of ten the honorable member who has raised it knows that it is not a point of order. But he achieves his purpose by raising a fictitious point of order to express something he desires to say. When he is ruled out of order, it is a common occurrence for him to then raise a question of privilege. Mr. Speaker says that no question of privilege is involved, hut the honorable member who has raised it suffers no penalty for having abused his privilege.
– You assume that the honorable member for Richmond abused his privileges, though you were not present to hear what took place.
– That interjection shows how thoroughly biased the honorable member for Flinders is. I had not in mind last night’s incidents at all. I was referring to numberless instances that have occurred in this Chamber since I have been a member. This motion seems to me to be altogether wrong. The mover of it seems to confuse two things. First of all there is the ruling, and then the reasons for the dissent from that ruling. I do not think any one is going to say for a moment that an honorable member has not a right to express his reasons in his own language, but surely an honorable member’s only right of dissent is to dissent from the actual ruling that has been actually given by Mr. Speaker.
– Hear, hear ! And there is one tribunal to decide what that ruling is.
– We know that very often, particularly in the circumstances which I can imagine to have existed last night, a ruling is given by Mr. Speaker at a time when the House is in a state of excitement, aud many honorable members do not hear clearly what the ruling is. More than once I have heard Mr. Speaker contradict an honorable member, and say, “ That was not my ruling.”
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2. SO j).m.
– I shall conclude in a few words what I desire to say in regard to this matter. If the House were to approve of this motion it would place itself in a very dangerous position. The only right possessed by an honorable member under standing order 287 is the right to dissent from the ruling actually given by Mr. Speaker, and not from what he thinks was the ruling given. If an honorable member sets out incorrectly the ruling given it is open to Mr. Speaker to say, “ This is not my ruling.” If the notice of motion did not set out the ruling actually given, the result would be that we should spend a lot of time next day in discussing a ruling that had not been given. In answer to an interjection the honorable member for Flinders said that it would be for the House to say whether or not the ruling was correctly stated in the motion. Surely that is a most extraordinary position to take up. In other words, the honorable member says that the Appeal Court is to be asked to decide first of all what the decision of the lower court was, and then to say whether that decision was right or wrong.
– That is what it always does.
– The Appeal Court decides as a matter of interpretation what the decision was.
– That is another point. This is a matter, not of interpretation, but of fact. The honorable member, in reply to another interjection, said, I think, that if the terms of a ruling were wrongly stated in the motion of dissent, the House would reject the motion. But the effect of rejecting the motion would be to uphold the ruling set’ out in that motion, so that, if it were incorrect, we should have on the records of the House a ruling that might be ridiculous, and which was not given by Mr. Speaker. We find ourselves in this way beset with many difficulties. The only position open to us, I think, is to fall back upon the old rule that any honorable member may move a motion dissenting from a ruling given by Mr. Speaker. If we do that, all will be well. But if we depart from that rule, we shall open the door to endless obstruction by any party which thinks fit to obstruct the proceedings of the House by embodying in a notice of motion to dissent from a ruling by Mr. Speaker all sorts of statements as to what that ruling was. We might spend the whole of next day in discussing a ruling never given unless the Government thought fit to deny honorable members the privilege of dealing with the matter by putting the notice of motion at the bottom of the business-paper
– As was done during the last Parliament.
– I know nothing of that.
– Honorable members never obstruct.
– None of us are saints. We know perfectly well that there is any amount of obstruction, and that it is not confined to any one man.
– Most of us are confirmed sinners in that respect.
– That is so. The safest course to pursue is to reject this motion, and to stand strictly to the rule that a motion of dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling must set out the actual ruling given, and not an imaginary one.
– I have no desire to refer to last night’s incident except to say that I appreciate the loyalty of the Leader of the Opposition, and the honorable member for Richmond, who, whilst I was addressing the Chair, interposed to preserve my liberties and the privileges of the House generally. The motion submitted by the honorable member for Flinders, I submit, is well within the terms of standing order 287. If the effect of the standing order is to give to Mr. Speaker the absolute right to decide whether a motion to dissent from his ruling is in accordance with the ruling actually given by him, it seems- to me that it requires to be amended. If the motion submitted by the honorable member for Flinders is rejected, then it will be held that the whole matter is within the decision of the Speaker. I submit that the standing order simply lays upon any honorable member who objects to a ruling the obligation of presenting to the Chair the terms of his objection.
– The ruling must be identified in the motion.
– -There is something wrong about the position if Mr. Speaker is to be the sole judge as to whether or not a motion disagreeing with his ruling does or does not correctly state that ruling.
– Surely he should be the judge of what he said.
– The House ought also to be in a position to know, just as well as Mr. Speaker himself, what was the ruling given by him. As it is, the contention of some honorable members opposite seems to be that Mr. Speaker is the sole judge of the position, and may determine the question before the House itself, the supreme arbitrator, has had an opportunity to consider it. If this motion is to be rejected, then the Standing Orders should be narrowed down in the direction I have indicated.
.- I wish to debate this question without any reference to the regrettable proceedings connected with the last sitting of the House. The motion submitted is divided into three parts. With the first two divisions, every member, I think, will be in agreement. We are all agreed that every honorable member is entitled to dissent from a ruling by the Speaker. The honorable member for Flinders, however, goes on to lay down the principle that it is for the honorable member objecting to determine what shall be the terms of his motion of dissent. When a ruling is objected to, the notice of motion dissenting from it must be handed in in writing, and my experience extending over many years is that it is the invariable practice for the Speaker, if he considers that the notice of motion does not set out what his ruling actually was, to immediately call attention to that fact. The House has a knowledge of what actually transpired, and, when the notice of motion is read out, can say at once whether or not the ruling has been correctly stated. If an honorable member were permitted to set out what he thought to be the ruling given, we might have an abuse of the privilege.
– Suppose Mr. Speaker declined to tell the House what his ruling actually was, then an honorable member could submit ten notices of motion and have every one of them refused.
– I cannot recall one instance, either in this Parliament or in the Parliament of New South Wales, where the practice I have mentioned has been departed from. A motion dissenting from the ruling of the Speaker is different from one to dissent from a ruling by the Chairman of Committees, since it is not determined immediately. It is set down for consideration on the following day, when there may be present honorable members who were not in the House when the incident took place, and who consequently know nothing of the circumstances. If the Speaker were deprived of the right to have his ruling correctly stated in the notice of motion of dissent, then honorable members might be called upon next day to uphold or reject a ruling that had never taken place. In the interests of good order, is it not desirable that it should be decided, as soon as a notice of motion is handed in to dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling, what shall be the subject to be debated upon that motion next day?
– How are we to get to know that?
– Honorable members know exactly what has occurred.
– The honorable member for Richmond gave his interpretation of the ruling, and Mr. Speaker gave another.
– I do not wish to allude to the proceedings of the last sitting of the House, except to say that I was not present when the incident in question occurred, and that I sincerely regret that it should have taken place.
– The suggestion made by the honorable member that when a notice of motion to dissent from Mr. Speaker’s ruling is handed in the question of what was the correct ruling should be decided at once would not get over the difficulty mentioned by him as to the absence of certain honorable members. Several honorable members might not have been present when the incident occurred.
– But under this motion honorable members who were present when the ruling was given would be deprived of the opportunity of saying whether or not the ruling was correctly stated in the notice of motion. An entirely false version of the ruling’ might thus be put before them next day for their final decision. Surely that is not equitable or just. We have had a long line of illustrious gentlemen occupying the position of Speaker of this House. The late lumen ted Sir Frederick Holder, when the wording of such a notice of motion did not convey the ruling actually given, invariably called attention to that fact as soon as the notice of it was handed in, and required it to be amended before being placed on the notice-paper.
– -A very wise course to pursue.
– But under this motion that power would be taken from Mr. Speaker, and we might have an abuse of the privilege.
– Is this the honorable member’s point - that Mr. Speaker, when he considers that a notice of motion to dissent from his ruling does not convey what he said, should correct it.
– My contention is that as soon as the notice of motion is submitted Mr. Speaker should have the power to say whether or not it correctly states the ruling given. Honorable members having been present at the time know what the ruling actually was. I am speaking calmly and dispassionately, without any reference to the proceedings which gave rise to this motion. In the interests of the orderly conduct of the proceedings of the House, I urge that it would be exceedingly unwise to take away from us the power to determine really what took place, and what question should be debated when the notice of motion comes on for discussion.
– What has the honorable member to say with regard to the question of privilege?
– There can be no doubt that every honorable member is entitled to rise to a question of privilege, but it is the rule that when an honorable member is called to order he shall resume his seat until Mr. Speaker has stated his case, whatever it may be.
– But when Mr. Speaker, instead of explaining what is his ruling, calls on another honorable member and refuses to hear the honorable member who has risen to a question of privilege, what is the position?
– May, Bourinot and other authorities will support my contention that this power has been held by the Speaker from time immemorial. If a Speaker abused his rights and privileges, then the House concerned would deal with him, and protect the rights and privileges of honorable members generally.
– This is the only appeal that honorable members have from Mr. Speaker.
– That is so; but we have to consider the method of the appeal, and to see that it is based on just premises, whether it shall be on what really took place.
– The question is who is to judge?
– I am not in disagreement with the honorable and learned member in regard to the other point. I do not think it would be wise that a motion of this kind should be carried, because it would lead to the abuse of privilege rather than to the maintenance of order.
.- I have hesitated a good deal about speaking on this motion, but having decided to speak, it is my intention not to vote if the question goes to a division, because the present proceedings arose out of action that I deemed it my duty to take last night, and my feelings have, to a certain extent, been disturbed by what then occurred. As there is a certain amount of misapprehension in the minds of the last speaker and of others who have addressed themselves to the motion as to exactly what transpired, most of them not being in the Chamber at the time, I shall, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, having expressed my deep regret at what occurred, state exactly how I viewed the position at the time, and why I wish to support the motion now under discussion. It will be remembered that last night the honorable and learned member for Flinders moved an amendment on the motion for the second reading of the Commonwealth Bank Bill. That amendment was in very wide terms, indeed in wider terms than the motion before the House. The honorable member for “Wimmera was proceeding to address himself to that amendment. The proof of the Hansard record of his speech shows that every sentence he uttered was in some way related to the Committee of inquiry which it was proposed by the amendment to appoint. You, sir, ruled the honorable member out of order, and I rose to a point of order, which I stated sis follows: -
I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member for Wimmera is perfectly Sn order in covering the whole subject of the amendment, and in speaking upon each of its three divisions, provided that he addresses his remarks to them. I submit that, notwithstanding what the honorable member may have covered in his speech on the second reading of the Bill, he is permitted under our Standing Orders to speak at length on the “ control and development of the Commonwealth Bank,” and to adduce reasons in connexion therewith to support the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee. The honorable member is also at perfect liberty to refer at length to “ the transfer to the Bank of the management of the note issue,” and to show how that would affect the note issue. Then with respect to “the relations of the Bank to the State and other financial institutions,” the honorable member may refer to the relations of the Bank in any way he pleases.
– -Will the honorable member state his point of order?
– My point of order is that the honorable member for Wimmera is quite in order in discussing at length the different sections of the amendment, and it is not possible for you, sir, under the Standing Orders, to limit debate on those three sections.
That was the point against which Mr. Speaker ruled. I dissented from the ruling in these terms: -
I desire to disagree with Mr. Speaker’s ruling that the honorable member for Wimmera is out of order in referring to the control and development of the Commonwealth Bank, the transfer to the Bank of the management of the note issue, and the relations of the Bank to the State and other financial institutions, when speaking to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Flinders on the second reading of the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
I admit willingly that there was a technical flaw in the phraseology, but it appeared to me then, as it does now, that I was at liberty to state the terms of the point of order which I had raised, and against which Mr. Speaker had ruled. I do not remember exactly what transpired immediately afterwards, but the Ilansard report shows that there were several interjections, and that Mr. Speaker made an explanation. I then rose to a point of order, which Mr. Speaker heard. I stated the opinion that I was at liberty to set down in my own language the terms of ray dissent from the ruling which I understood that he had given ou the point of order that I had raised. Mr. Speaker then said -
The honorable member will discover after he has been in the House a little longer, though he has been here long enough to know it now, that he is not the sole judge in this matter, hut somebody else is. I did not give a ruling similar to that which he has stated.
-That is a matter of argument.
– In those circumstances, I cannot accept the motion; but if the honorable member desires to amend it he is at perfect liberty to do so.
I rose to follow Mr. Speaker’s direction. I said, “Mr. Speaker.” Mr. Speaker replied, “I cannot allow the honorable member.” I said that I rose to order, and Mr. Speaker said, “ Will the honorable member resume his seat? The honorable . member for Wimmera.” There the portion of the Hansard report with which I have been furnished ends. What happened immediately afterwards was that the Leader of the Opposition rose to a point of order. Mr. Speaker, if I remember rightly, declined to hear him, and I rose then to a question of privilege, to state the question which is stated in the motion before the House. 7. thought at the time, and if I may be permitted to say so, I still think, that
I was at liberty to say what my motion of privilege was. Mr. Speaker asked me to resume my seat. I obeyed the direction of the Chair. I rose to a point of privilege again, and Mr. Speaker asked me to resume my seat, and I obeyed the direction of the Chair. I rose to a question of privilege a third time, and the third time I was asked to resume my seat, and obeyed the direction of the Chair. I rose to a question of privilege the fourth time, understanding that under the Standing Orders I had a right to raise a question of privilege at any time, and to be heard on it, when Mr. Speaker named me, and the House suspended me. I do not wish to say more.
– One cannot help feeling a little sympathy for the honorable member for Richmond in the circumstances in which he found himself last night, and in which he remains today. But his chronological recital of the facts, though interesting, did not embrace the main features of the episode which has been brought under review by the motion now before the House. He did not grapple with what I regard as the essential point. That is, has an honorable member the right, in appealing from the Speaker’s decision, to misinterpret it, and to place before the House an issue which that ruling did not raise ? If an honorable member “was entitled to attempt to obtain the decision of the House on a misinterpretation of a ruling, our proceedings would eventually become chaotic. On that point the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland were convincing. The proposition of the honorable and learned member for Flinders is that a member has the right to place his own construction upon a ruling, and to ask the House to give its decision on that construction.
– Yes; if it is an honest construction.
– Although misstating the ruling, an honorable member might, and no doubt would be perfectly honest. It is not insinuated that the honorable member for Richmond did not give his honest version of the Speaker’s decision. Still, the honorable and learned member for Flinders will scarcely say that a Speaker would be justified in allowing to be put before the House what he knew to be a misrepresentation of his ruling.
– In speaking of the honorable member’s statement of the ruling as a misrepresentation of it, the Minister prejudges the question which it is for the House to decide.
– Surely not. The Speaker is entitled to have his ruling accurately stated. In cases of this kind the House has to decide whether the ruling of the Speaker was in accordance with the Standing Orders and practice of Parliament, not whether a member’s statement of that ruling was or was not correct.
– That is the main purpose, but the House must determine the question, of fact. No doubt the House will accept, and pay respect to, even if it does not accept, the Speaker’s statement as to what he did rule.
– Does the honorable member say that the Speaker is bound to allow an issue, which is not correct, to go before the House?
– If it is honestly put, yes. It is for the House to determine if it is correct or not.
– But the question may be determined by honorable members who were not here at the time, if the question should go to a vote; the jury is to decide without hearing the evidence.
– I dare say the House would pay great respect to what the Speaker said, as to what he intended to decide, or did decide.
– Honorable members who were not present would become the judges between the Speaker as a witness and the honorable member for Richmond as a witness - would decide as to the credibility of the Speaker on the one hand and the credibility of the honorable member for Richmond on the other.
– Certainly; but in this case there is no dispute.
– Oh, but there is.
– There is no question as to what the opinion of the Speaker was.
– The Speaker said that the point which the honorable member for Richmond was putting was not in accordance with his ruling. I was here all the time, and I have a distinct recollection of what took place. I remember the Speaker stating that the honorable member for Richmond was attempting to place before the House a ruling different from that which the Speaker had given. There is another point raised by the honorable member for Flinders, and I should like him to review it on the principle that sometimes second thoughts are best. I understood the honorable member to contend, and I believe he is right in contending, that when an honorable member rises to a question of privilege, he is bound to be heard at any stage of the proceedings. That, I believe, has been the practice of this Parliament so far; and in this regard I am quite at one with the honorable member for Flinders. But the honorable member went further, and admitted that the Speaker eventually had to be the judge whether the point raised was a matter of privilege or not.
– As to whether an honorable member was abusing his power.
-The honorable and learned member evidently foresaw the possibility of the whole proceedings of Parliament being thrown into a state of chaos by a number of honorable members, ona after another, raising a question of privilege.
– I have always admitted that.
– That being so, does not (.he admission vitiate, if not wholly destroy, the honorable member’s argument on a previous point!
– It ought not.
– Let us assume that an honorable member rises to a question of privilege, and that the House decided it : that a second honorable member rises to a question of privilege bearing on the same matter, and that the question is disposed of by the House; and that, then, a third member rises, and also raises the question of privilege, thus suspending the proper deliberations of Parliament. Apparently the honorable find learned member contends that the Speaker has no right to say whether or not the first honorable member is dealing with a question of privilege, but that, when the third or fourth or fifth member rises-
– The Speaker would have a perfect right to decide in regard to the first honorable member, if lie feels convinced. If the Speaker has grounds for believing that even only one honorable member is abusing his rights under the Standing Orders, he is entitled to stop him; but there was no suggestion of such a thing in this case.
– I welcome this admission. It gives away the whole case. For, when the honorable member for Richmond raised the question of privilege, he was in such an obviously agitated condition
– Not at all; the honorable member was very clear and definite.
– The honorable member for Richmond is always clear, I admit, but he was obviously in a most agitated frame of mind at that moment.
– Suppose he was?
– Then, according to the dictum of the honorable and learned member for Flinders, the Speaker was justified in assuming, from the agitated condition of the honorable member, that he was in a disorderly manner endeavouring to interfere with the proceedings of Parliament.
– Was the honorable member for Richmond as agitated, as you were when you said we were getting a dose of our own physic ?
– That was- quite halfanhour afterwards; and surely a remark made in a jocular spirit-
– Jocular? You hissed it across the table 1
– I did not hiss, as does the honorable member, who is always “ tub-thumping,” and simulating an indignation he does not feel.
– It is a gross reflection on Mr. Speaker.
– I do not think that the Speaker then suggested, or would now suggest, that the honorable member for Richmond was desiring to obstruct or abuse his privileges.
– I would not say intentional obstruction, because the honorable member for Richmond acted under strong emotion. But no one except the Speaker himself can say what was passing through his mind. He may have thought that the honorable member intended to interrupt the proceedings of the House; and, if so, he would be justified, according to the honorable and learned member for Flinders, in refusing to allow him to ventilate the question of privilege. From ocular demonstration, I should say that the honorable member for Richmond was in that frame of mind that the Speaker was warranted in assuming that he was really not desirous to ventilate a question of privilege, but was merely using another means to take points of order which the Speaker had previously refused to listen to.
– You would judge a man before he speaks?
– I am not doing that, because I like to avoid the honorable member’s example. My votes in this House have always been cast to give the utmost freedom of speech to the people’s representatives. I do not wish to refer to the last Parliament, or what may have occurred there, but I think honorable members will admit that nothing occurred last evening which was not paralleled, if not considerably outdistanced , by what has occurred on previous occasions. I do not see that any good can come of pressing this motion to a division, and I hope it will not be pressed that far. Apart altogether from the merits of the matter, we are now approaching a season of peace and good will, and I think that the usual good feelings entertained at this time of the year would be considerably promoted by the honorable and learned member withdrawing the motion.
.- One word as to how this trouble arose - a point that, so far as I know, has not yet been touched on. I understand that, in the first instance, the ruling of the Speaker was that the honorable member for Wimmera could not enter into the details of the Banking Bill, but that, so long as he confined himself to the terms of the amendment, he would be perfectly in order.
– If the honorable member is going into that question, I shall have to read the Hansard proof of my speech.
– Does the honorable member for Flinders desire to say anything further?
– No, sir.
– I heartily approve of that portion of the motion which declares^ -
That the right to appeal to the House from any ruling of the Speaker by objection in writing and motion, under standing order 2S7, is the privilege of every member of the House.
This is merely carrying out standing order 287; and, of course, we have to follow the standing order. But the motion goes much further. It seeks to compel the Speaker, whoever he may be, to always accept such a motion when it is presented. That cannot be done, for the reasons which have been pointed out by the honorable member for Gippsland, and I may say that this is not the first, occasion on which the point has arisen in the Federal Parliament. Without mentioning the names of any of my predecessors concerned, I may say that, on several occasions, it has been ruled that such a. motion was not in accordance with theruling given, and, therefore, could not be accepted. This has been done by myself before now, and also, as I say, by my predecessors. Further, the Speakerhas, on similar occasions, reminded themover of the motion that it could be amended. I do not intend to read the quotations from previous rulings that I have here, but I can assure honorable members that what I have stated is the effect of them. Perhaps the most trying duty that devolves on the occupant of the position I now fill is that of maintaining order, more particularly when feeling is. running high on both sides of the House. Of course, when honorable members are in a good humour, much latitude may be allowed, the Speaker knowing that he has complete control; but when, as I say, feeling is running high, it becomes necessary on his part to be very careful. When, points of order are taken, not once or twice, but a dozen times, it becomes evident to the Speaker that a strong hand is; required ; but, unfortunately, the Standing Orders do not set forth exactly what he must do under the circumstances. The Speaker is thus compelled to use his common sense in carrying out his most important duty of maintaining order within the Chamber. Without desiring to cast any reflections in reference to what took place last night, there seemed to me to be no. finality as to the number of points of order likely to be submitted. To such an extent was that the case that I, as head of the. House, desirous, of conducting the business in a proper way, came to the conclusion that it must be stopped. No doubt, honorable members who were affected by my exercise of control felt more or less, aggrieved, but my duty, however painful it might be, was obvious. The honorable member for Richmond on four separate occasions tried to press a question of privilege, and, of course, if there is one matter more than another deserving of the fullest consideration it is a question affecting: the privileges of honorable members. But when quite a number of points of order had been raised, and further points of order were still coming, with an evident desire to get behind the ruling of the Speaker by raising the question of privilege, it became my bounden duty to take strong steps, and I did so. I took the course which I believe to be the correct one under the circumstances, and it is now for the House to decide whether I am right or wrong.
– May I ask that this question be treated as a complicated motion and divided ?
– To do that the consent of the House would be necessary.
– I ask that my motion be put as it is.
– I could vote for the first portion of the motion, but not for the second.
– I have already said that the first portion of the motion is merely a repetition of the Standing Orders, with which we all agree, and that it is the second portion to which honorable members may not agree. The honorable member is in order in asking that a complicated question be divided, but as the honorable member for Flinders objects to that course being pursued the motion as submitted must be voted upon.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In my Hansard proof, the following appears: -
– The honorable member is too late. The question has been put, and passed.
I had risen to speak to the second reading of the Bill. Then, following upon the few remarks that I made, the proof says, “ Bill read a second time.” I ask whether the amendment of the honorable member for Flinders was put? My recollection is that there was only one question put to the House. I understood that it was the amendment, and not the second reading, that had been put, and that you, Mr. Speaker, having come from a sick bed, and having been performing your duties in the House for many hours, the scene that had just occurred having overstrained your nerves, were being relieved by the Deputy Speaker. On this account I was rather slow in starting, and I venture to say that, through my having been ruled out of order, honorable members lost the opportunity of hearing a brilliant and forensic effort.
– I must candidly admit that I did not put the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Flinders. The question I put was that this Bill be read a second time, and that question was resolved in the affirmative, after which the honorable member rose to speak. I regret the omission, but, nevertheless, those are the facts.
– May I ask what is now the position with regard to the Bill and the amendment moved by me?
– I am not in a position, as” the honorable member knows, to decide that question; but the second reading of the Bill was carried.
– In view of the march of the unemployed, which is so unusual at this time of the year, will the Prime Minister request the various Ministers to instruct the heads of the Departments to push on with works, so that men, women, and children can, before Christmas, obtain relief through the breadwinners obtaining work?
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs, who is today representing the Minister of Defence, if he is aware of the facts contained in a letter, extracts from which I shall read to him -
You will have seen by the press that the Cairns water supply was poisoned by cyanide the other day….. It is only a bit of luck that half tile population is not killed by poison.
If the Minister has no knowledge of the facts, will he make inquiries to see if they are correct; and if he finds them to be correct, will he endeavour to ascertain who has been responsible for poisoning the water ?
– So far as I am aware, the Defence Department have no information on the matter; but I shall urge the Minister to cause inquiries to be made, so that, if there has been any criminal act on the part of any person in that district, we may endeavour to sheet the offence home.
– I rise to a matter of privilege. I regret to say that it has to deal with the terms of the motion relating to myself carried in the House at the last sitting. The terms of that motion are unprecedented.
– I understood that there was to be an end to this matter. The honorable member sent me a letter this morning, which I acknowledged as graciously as I possibly could. I trust that the honorable member will not attempt to revive the question. I think that we all desire that it should be entirely terminated. The motion which was carried by the House, whatever its terms were, had nothing to do with me.
– I feel that it is my duty to refer to this matter.
– The honorable member may make a personal explanation.
– No. I raise this as a matter of privilege. For the first time in its history the House has transferred to the hands of Mr. Speaker the penal power which always resides in it. The incident is closed, so far as Mr. Speaker and I are concerned; but my point is that Mr. Speaker does not exercise the penal power of the House. Quite properly, when anything offending his dignity occurs, he makes his appeal to the House, and the duty then lies with the Prime Minister to take action; but whatever is done has to be done by the House, and whatever apologies have to be made, have to be made to the House. That has been the invariable practice. For the first time in our records the right honorable gentleman, the Prime Minister, framed a motion which transferred back to you, sir, that penal power which, under the Standing Orders, resides in the House. That is my point, and it is a very serious one. Under the terms of this motion, as any one can see, instead of exercising the penal powers of the House when appealed to by you to do so, the Prime Minister simply transfers the unfortunate culprit back to an offended Speaker to do with him what he chooses, when he chooses, and how he chooses. And this motion, if you care to exercise it, sir, would permit you to compel me to remain out of the House for the whole of the Parliament, irrespective altogether of what the attitude of the House towards me might be.
– I rise to a point of order.* The right honorable member for Parramatta is reflecting upon a decision of the House. In my opinion, this matter is not one of privilege. The right honorable member will have an opportunity on some other occasion of challenging the action of the House last night, but he cannot intervene at this stage.
– In what way will I have an opportunity?
– By giving notice of a motion that the resolution agreed to by the House be rescinded.
– In my opinion, the honorable member for Capricornia is right, but I thought that the right honorable member for Parramatta desired merely to make a personal explanation, and I allowed that course to be followed in order to get this incident closed. I now ask the right honorable gentleman not to pursue the matter any further. If the right honorable member wishes to take exception to any action of this House it must be taken by direct motion.
– The fact remains that the Prime Minister, in moving this motion last night, took a course which to me is purely offensive, and I do not think that I deserve such treatment at his hands.
– Hear, hear ! I ask the leave of the House to make a statement.
– Through you, Mr. Speaker, I desire to say to the Leader of the Opposition that in submitting the motion which has been referred to, I put it before the House verbally, and on the spur of the moment, with a view to modifying rather than accentuating any reflection on the right honorable member. The motion was moved in answer to the call from the Chair, and I assure the Leader of the Opposition that the idea of offending him was never in my mind. On the contrary, I regarded that form of motion as a simple and easy way of enabling the right honorable member to return to the chamber during the closing hours of the sitting.
– I should like to ask the Attorney-General if he has any statement to make to the House in regard to raids that were made in Adelaide,, and particularly in regard to the case of Messrs. Phillips, Ormonde, and Company. The Attorney-General yesterday promised the honorable member for Balaclava that he would make inquiries?
– In reply to the questions raised by the honorable member for Balaclava yesterday, I desire to state that the only firms engaged in the metal industry that have been raided in Adelaide are: F. H. Snow, the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining and Smelting Company, of whom no adverse evidence has been disclosed; W. Steele - a former partner of Air. Snow - of whom no evidence was disclosed; and the Wallaroo and Mount Lyell Fertilizer Company, of which Mr. Snow is chairman. That company was placed under surveillance, but no evidence against it was discovered. In fact, Mr. Steele’s business was not raided, but he was placed under surveillance. In regard to the position of Messrs. Phillips, Ormonde, and Com pany, and particularly in regard to the complaint which has been made to me about the suppression of the resolution passed by the Employers’ Federation, which the company desired to appear in the public press, I am sorry that that resolution should have been suppressed. Apparently that is accounted for by the censor interpreting in a Draconian way the instructions given to him that there was to’ be no publicity in regard to the raids until evidence had been found justifying them. In order that Messrs. Phillips, Ormonde, and Company may be exonerated, and in the hope that the press will now publish the resolution, together with the assurance of the Government that no evidence whatever against this firm, affecting in any way their loyalty, has been disclosed, I shall read to the House the following motion which was moved and carried by the Employers’ Federation -
That this Employers’ Federation, while recognising that it is the duty of the Federal Government to take all necessary precautionary steps for defence purposes, regrets that so much publicity should have been given to the fact that well-known business men, against whom nothing has been proved, should have had their premises visited by the military. In this connexion, this Federation desires to extend its sympathy to its members, Mr. Edwin Phillips (Phillips, Ormonde, and Co.), Mr. H. L. Holden (Needham Carton Pierre Company Limited), and Mr. H. Goldman (Bernard Art Galleries), in whose loyalty as subjects of Bis Majesty the King this Federation has entire confidence.
Canberra Water Supply and Sewerage Scheme
– In reference to the questions which I asked the Prime Minister yesterday in regard to referring to the Public Works Committee the water and sewerage scheme for the Federal Capital, will the Prime Minister now promise to refer at least the sewerage scheme to the Committee?
– The Minister of Home Affairs will submit that work to the Committee, and the reference will have this advantage - that some work incidental to it mav be in progress at the same time as the investigation.
, - I am not prepared to take any further part in any business this session, and the sooner the House goes into recess the- better for itself, the better for the country, and the better for the business of the country. That is my attitude. I do not think it is of the slightest use discussing anything in this Parliament as it is conducted at the present time.
Senate’s amendments agreed to.
Senate’s amendments agreed to.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday, 14th April, 1915, unless Mr. Speaker shall, prior to that date, by telegram addressed to each member of the House, fix an earlier day of meeting.
In these difficult and uncertain, if not dangerous, times, Parliament ought not to be out of session for any longer than is necessary, and whilst our intention is that Parliament shall not meet till 14th April, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of this House may, if it be necessary, convene both Houses at an earlier date by notices sent to members individually.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of the last sitting of the House in the year 1914 to the date of its first sitting in the year 1915.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session be given to the honorable member for North Sydney, ColonelRyrie, absent on public service.
– Am I at liberty, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ask a question without notice?
– Owing to the urgency of certain business, the Orders of the Day were called on, so that questions without notice cannot now beasked without the leave of the House. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that leave be granted ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to a matter that was raised in the debate regarding the Australian Note Issue a few days ago when, at my request, the right honorable gentleman placed on the table of the House what was stated to be the agreement made between the Commonwealth and the Associated Banks.
– The draft agreement.
– I have been asked by the representatives of the Associated Banks - one of the parties to the agreement - to request the Prime Minister to be good enough to place the actual agreement - that is to say, the actual copy forwarded, in the form of a letter to them, and their reply to that document, the two constituting the actual agreement - on the table of the House.
– Not only shall I be prepared to do so, but I shall be glad to make the whole file available to the parties concerned, if it is so desired. We wish to act in perfect good faith.
– Quite so. It is not so much a matter of making the whole file available to the parties concerned as of whether the right honorable gentleman will place these two documents on the table of the House.
– The first draft had relation to a proposal on different lines, as the honorable member is aware, but it was revised. It was a matter of supreme moment to us that we should raise the £18,000,000 loan in London. We could not obtain if for the States, but we secured it in another way, which served the same purpose. I shall be glad to lay the agreement on the table of the House.
– Will the Prime Minister and Treasurer negotiate with America, Britain, Canada, . South Africa, France, and other friendly nations for the creation of an international gold-clearing house, with safe depositories at the capital of each country to issue interchangeable certificates, so that’ international balances may be settled in gold at specific periods, thus doing away with the present system of transporting across seas the gross sums iu gold, at the cost of heavy freight and of considerable loss of gold by abrasion?
– A big order.
– The honorable member for Flinders interjects that this is a big order. As one who has had a long and intimate acquaintance with the honorable member for Darwin, I know that he is accustomed to deal with big things. In this proposal he is not far away from what is actually taking place. It was at our own suggestion that the Bank of England accepted bullion and gold deposited here, and gave a credit of 97 per cent, in London during a period of the war when they were not at all anxious to ship it. The question of a great International clearing house is an important one. I hope that such an institution is going to be established somewhere convenient to us, and the possibility is one that should not be left out of account. The matter will be investigated, and we shall be glad of the co-operation of all those who arp interested in it.
The following paper was presented: - Conciliation and Arbitration, &c. - Report of proceedings taken under the Conciliation and
Arbitration Act 1904-1011, and Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1911, for the year 1913, and up to 1st May, 1914.
Ordered to be printed.
– We were afforded yesterday the privilege of viewing - and I am sure we did so with intense pride and admiration - the members of the second Expeditionary Force; but some of us could not look with much satisfaction at the horses. I have no hesitation in describing very many of the horses which took part in yesterday’s parade as mere scrubbers. They do not reflect any credit on the Australian horse, and, in my judgment, they will not do justice to the men who are going away, possibly to face death upon them. Will the Prime Minister - and I address this question to him in the absence of the Assistant Minister of Defence - take into consideration the desirability of doing something to make an improvement in this respect ?
– In regard to equipment of every kind, including the supply of horses, it has been the aim of the Government, and expense has not been spared, to supply the very best to our Expeditionary Forces. Horses, however, have been a source of trouble from the beginning of time, and are likely to be. We have all read the story of the two deacons who deceived each other in the matter of a horse.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a further question relating to the very important matter of the horses supplied to the Expeditionary Forces. Among the horses in the parade yesterday, there were some really firstclass animals and a lot that were moderately good ; but there were some which, to any man who has an eye for a bit of good horse flesh, are a positive menace to those whose lives will depend upon them. These are just the class of horses that are sure to be a positive danger to tho men when they get into difficulties. Very little judgment could have been displayed in selecting them. One would naturally think that the best horses would be picked out for yesterday’s parade. If that course was adopted, then’ I can only say that -our soldiers must be very badly horsed. I want to impress upon the Prime Minister the absolute necessity of weeding out some of these animals.
– The honorable member is now proceeding to debate the question.
– Does not the Prime Minister think that some of the horses that we saw in yesterday’s parade are just the class of animals that are likely to land the men in a difficulty?
– I have been daring enough to express an opinion on various subjects, but I certainly decline to express any opinion with regard to a horse. I shall take care to bring the honorable member’s question before the Minister of Defence and the Assistant Minister, because I believe that the policy of those who Have brought this matter forward is that the equipment in the matter of horses should be particularly good.
– Some of the horses are excellent.
– No inferior animal should be sent to the front. To say the least, it would be bad business to incur transport and other charges in sending useless animals to the front.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral give the House any further information in reply to a question that I put to him two days ago respecting the action of an officer of the New South Wales Government in removing a barrage on the Murray River, near Nyah ?
– In pursuance of the promise that I gave the honorable member, I have made inquiries and have been supplied with the following information from the State Rivers Commission: The secretary of the State Rivers Commission informs me that the affair at Nyah has been made to appear unnecessarily alarming, that, as a matter of fact, there were a few sandbags there, but that the whole matter has been amicably arranged between New South Wales and Victoria, and that the Victorian Commissioners have been granted authority to erect a temporary weir at Nyah.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from Senate, with a message intimating that the Senate had disagreed with the amendment made by the House of Representatives in clause 14, and had made a consequential amendment in such clause, in which it requested the concurrence of the House.
Senate’s amendment agreed to, and House of Representatives’ amendment not pressed.
– I desire, in the absence of the Assistant Minister of Defence, to put a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that for economic reasons the Department has had to reduce the distribution of ammunition amongst rifle clubs, will the Government consider the advisableness of assisting miniature rifle clubs, not only with ammunition, but to some extent with grants such as have been given to ordinary rifle clubs,, since that would probably have a tendency to encourage rifle practice ?
– The policy underlying the honorable member’s remarks is the policy of the Government. I shall have great pleasure in bringing -the matter before the Minister, and shall send his official reply to the honorable member.
– Is it the desire of the House that all business preceding notice of motion No. 15 be postponed ?
– I object.
– ThenI ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to call on the private members’ business in its order.
– I cannot do that, because the Orders of the Day are still before the House.
– In that case I withdraw my motion, and give notice of it for Thursday, 15th April, 1915.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Min
That the House do now adjourn.
This has been in many respects an eventful session, and, to those on this side of the House, a tragic one. This, unfortunately, is no new thing with us. I speak on behalf of every member of the Parliament when I say that we deeply deplore the death of the late Minister of External Affairs. In him the Commonwealth lost a distinguished citizen, but his memory will remain with us. I thank honorable members on both sides for the great courtesy which they have shown to Ministers and to myself in the consideration of the business of a very difficult session. The session has been an unusual one, financial measures of the gravest importance having been dealt with, and dealt with speedily. I express the hope that certain transactions which have taken place during the past few months will greatly tend to a closer association between the Commonwealth and the States, in matters material and financial, and that this association will greatly improve our credit, both here and elsewhere. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition is not now in his place, because I wish to thank the Opposition for the assistance which it gave in the passing of measures which the Government thought it their duty to bring forward in the interests of the country. I express regret for an untoward occurrence which arose last night, but I assure honorable members opposite, one and all, that I am far from harboring animus or personal feeling against them. We on this side recognise the honest endeavour of the Opposition to give effect to its political views, as we on this side of the House do the best we can to give effect to our views. To you, Mr. Speaker, we owe a debt of gratitude, because yours is at all times a difficult position to fill. The Speakership of a representative assembly is an office of high honour, and at times circumstances must arise which make it most difficult to hold the balance even. When two parties look at a question from different points of view, and feeling runs high, it is easy to think that a presiding officer is not doing his best, but it has become the tradition of this Parliament to make ready and willing acknowledgment of the impartiality and ability of your services. To the Chairman of Committees I make similar reference. He has fulfilled our highest expectations, both as Chairman and as Deputy Speaker. In the officers of the
House we have a body of men who know no politics. They are always ready to supply us with information, and to give us what help they can in all our difficulties, without regard to our political views. To the Clerk, the Assistant Clerk, and all the officers that attend on members, we are very much indebted. Some may say that they only perform the duties for which they are paid, but they perform those duties in such a way that it makes it a pleasure to have transactions with them. Long may this state of things continue. Then we have Hansard. One fails to realize what we should do without Hansard/ It must astonish many honorable members to discover from Hansard how much clearer they are in their speeches than they themselves imagine. Be that as it may, we have in the Hansard Staff a perfectly impartial body of men, without political or party ties of any kind, to make a record of our proceedings; and although some of us may, perhaps, be inclined to say hard things sometimes of
– Whatever we may sometimes say about Hansard, it is an invaluable record, and also a help to new members and others who desire to know something about the history of our country. This Parliament is the only place in the world where Australian interests as a whole are discussed - a point that it is well to remember - and the history of the country is largely embedded in the Hansard volumes, though I must confess it might prove difficult to extract it in its proper order and sequence. Australia is a great country, destined to become still greater, and, from a national point of view, its national history can only be discovered in our record here; it is all the more important, therefore, that we should have the able staff at present at our disposal to make that record.
I take this opportunity to say, in reference to the unfortunate episode of last night, that in the action I then took there was no intention to humiliate any man - far from it. My desire iu wording the motion as I did, and as it was accepted by Mr. Speaker, was to make it as easy as possible for the Leader of the Opposition to be with us again; and I am only sorry that the right honorable gentleman is not here to hear me say so.
I wish every honorable member and every officer of the House an enjoyable recess; and I trust we shall return refreshed and vigorous to our work - the Opposition fully primed with facts and figures to show how unsound the present Administration is, and the Government equally primed with facts and figures, to prove that any change in the Administration could lead only to mischief and disaster.
– In the unavoidable absence of the honorable member for Parramatta, I have to express, on behalf of the Opposition, appreciation of the remarks of the Prime Minister on the occasion of the adjournment over the Christmas -season. The right honorable gentleman has referred to the assistance given to the Government by the Opposition, and I can only say that this session has been unique in the history of this and most other Parliaments. We met immediately after the outbreak of a war which has embroiled practically the whole civilized world; and those charged with the administration had the right to rely on the whole-souled support of the Opposition in all the many important measures rendered necessary by this great crisis. At such a time, there should be no such thing as party; we should all be imbued with the one object of doing everything that we consider necessary for the protection of the lives and property of the people, and the best interests of the country generally. I am quite certain that, were the positions reversed, the members of the Labour party, as an Opposition, would be equally willing and anxious to render the Government of the day every assistance in their power. Of course, the Opposition, in reference to other measures which have been before us, have exercised their right of criticism, and we should have been wanting in public spirit and in appreciation of our duties as representatives had we not been prepared to resist proposals which we have for a long time opposed, both inside and outside Parliament. The opposing parties, however, have carried on their controversies without loss of dignity to the Chamber as a whole, and there is no reason why we should not now part with the best of feeling towards one another. We shall, of course, continue to have differences of opinion on certain measures, but I am sure we all have in view the one object, namely, the ultimate betterment of the people. I indorse all that has been said in regard to the valuable services rendered by the officers of the House. It is unfortunate that at almost every recess we have to regret the loss of one or more of our members. I hope that the great strain, mental and physical, imposed upon honorable members is not a contributory cause to this loss. I sympathize with you personally, Mr. Speaker, in the onerous duties that you are called upon to perform, and regret that during the session you have not been in the fullest enjoyment of good health. On behalf of the Opposition, I express the hope that when Ave resume after the recess we shall find that you have greatly benefited by the holiday. In Mr. Chanter, the Chairman of Committees, we have one of the oldest parliamentarians in the House, and, with his knowledge of procedure, he has proved his capacity for the position he now holds. We all, I am sure, appreciate the impartial and skilful services rendered to Parliament by the clerks, the Hansard Staff, and others, and I hope they, too. will benefit by the recess. I observe that, as time goes on, there seems a tendency to make the recesses somewhat shorter, and last year, having regard to the election, we had practically no holiday at all. It is not, however, with the idea of holiday only that I speak, but now that the Commonwealth is enlarging its sphere of usefulness, it is becoming more than ever necessary that honorable members should make themselves conversant with the country, and that, of course, can only be done when Parliament is not sitting. I trust that it may be possible for representatives of the Government to visit my own district, which has been somewhat neglected, in my opinion, and if they do, I shall be glad to offer them what hospitality 1 can, and assist them in gaining some knowledge of the resources of thai; part of Australia.
– I have to thank the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Cowper for the kindly remarks they have made regarding the officers of the House, Mr. Chanter, and myself. During my term of office, nothing has been more gratifying to me than the way in which the officers have performed their duties, which are of such a nature that only those who come into actual contact with those gentlemen know what knowledge, skill, care, and precision are required for their proper performance. I have to thank the Clerks and others for much assistance rendered to me in the performance of my duties as Speaker, ‘ and Mr. Chanter has requested me to express his thanks for what has been said regarding himself, and his hope that he may be able, as I am sure be will be, to continue to fill his position with credit to himself and Parliament. In conclusion, I have only to wish every honorable member, and all the officers in the House, so far as the conditions of the times permit, a Merry Christmas and a Happy NewYear.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 December 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141218_reps_6_76/>.