Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Proposed Royal Commission
Mr.CHARLTON.- I ask the Prime Minister, in view of his statement yesterday regarding the Royal Commission that Sir Edward Mitchell will be charged generally to inquire into and report upon whether, in connexion with certain purchases of sugar by the Commonwealth through W. E. Davies, any gift or considerationwas offered or given to, or received by, any person or persons employed by the Commonwealth, is he aware of certain rumours in circulation that there are persons, other than those employed by the Commonwealth, involved in this matter? In the circumstances, will he, in order to clear up the whole matter, extend the scope of the Commission, and not restrict it to an inquiry whether any gift or consideration was offered, or given to, or received by, any person or persons employed by the Commonwealth ?
Mr BRUCE: Minister for External Affairs · FLINDERS, VICTORIA · NAT
– The Commissioner is being appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the purchase of a certain quantity of sugar through the agency of Mr. Davies, and to ascertain if any impropriety took place with regard to it. This means, of course, any impropriety which might concern the Government or its administration generally. The precise terms of the reference to the Commissioner have not yet been determined.
– Then, perhaps, the Prime Minister will make the terms of reference sufficiently wide to enable the Commissioner to make a full inquiry.
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Commission will be so framed that all the circumstances of this case may be fully considered by the Commissioner.
MR. BAMFORD, M.H.R
Leave of Absence
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave of absencefor one month be given to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) on the ground of ill-health.
Mr FENTON: MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA
– Will the Prime Minister, prior to his departure for the Imperial Conferences, or during his absence from Australia, communicate with the Governments of the United States, Canada, and Japan, and other nations fronting the Pacific, with a view to arranging a Pan-Pacific Conference, or interchange of delegates between those countries for the purpose of considering the best means of maintaining the harmony and peaoe of the Pacific generally?
Mr BRUCE: NAT
– As the honorable member is no doubt aware, some time ago I made the suggestion that possibly peace in the Pacific would be insured if some such action were taken. I am glad to say that the suggestion was taken up by the Pan-Pacific League. I saw one of the representatives of the League yesterday in regard to the matter; but I am not in a position, at present, to make any statement as to the action to be taken in furtherance of the object.
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
Mr E RILEY: SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways fixed the date for the turning of the first sod in connexion with the erection of the Provisional Houses of Parliament at Canberra, and, if so, will honorable members have an opportunity of attending the ceremony?
Mr STEWART: Minister for Works and Railways · WIMMERA, VICTORIA · CP
– The date fixed is Tuesday, 28th August. Any members who desire to attend will be very welcome.
Sir ELLIOT JOHNSON: LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether any decision has yet been arrived at by the Government in connexion with the matter of the Rowan Collection which has been under consideration by the present and the previous Governments for many months past?
Does he propose to make any recommendation to the House during tbe current session regarding the suggested acquisition by the Government of the Collection?
Mr BRUCE: for Dr. Earle Page · NAT
– This matter will be submitted to the House as soon as business permits.
Mr HILL: ECHUCA, VICTORIA
asked the Prime Minister, uponnotice -
Whetherhe will supply the following information : -
Since the work of repatriation was commenced, the number of returned soldiers only who have been settled on land in the Commonwealth, showing number in each State?
What is the average size of each holding?
Number in dry areas in each State, giving total dry area?
Number on irrigation areas in each State, giving total wet area?
Number engaged in each State growing lucerne, soft fruits, citrus, and vine fruits, giving total area in each State planted with lucerne, soft fruits, citrus, and vine fruits?
Mr BRUCE: NAT
– It will be necessary to communicate with the various State Governments to obtain the desired particulars. I am taking action accordingly, and will transmit the information to the honorable member as soon as possible.
PORT AUGUSTA TO CONDOBOLIN RAILWAY
Mr BLAKELEY: DARLING, NEW SOUTH WALES
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the report of the Conference between the different State Railways Commissioners and certain military experts held at Sydney, in 1915, shows that the consensus of opinion at that Conference favoured a Trans-Australian railway from Sydney to Port Augusta viâ Condobolin-Broken Hill, also that this line was regarded as an important connexion between the different States?
In view of the above, will the Prime Minister sympathetically consider the completion of the Broken Hill-Condobolin section, and the commencement of the Broken Hill-Port Augusta section ?
Mr BRUCE: NAT
– The report of the Conference referred to, after reviewing the Broken Hill and other routes, recommended the construction of the railway viâ Morgan, Wentworth, and Hay.
Industrial Tribunal at Canberra.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether the Industrial Tribunal has yet commenced its deliberations in connexion with the trouble at Canberra. If not, what is the reason for the delay?
Mr STEWART: CP
– The Federal Capital Industrial Board met last week, and it is understood the matter in dispute has been settled.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 11 of 1923- Australian Postal Assistants’ Union.
Iron and Steel Bounty Act - Return (New South Wales) for 1922-23
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return (New South Wales) for 1922-23
Shale Oil Bounty Act -Return (New South Wales) for 1922-23
BUSINESS AFTER 11P.M
Mr BRUCE: Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs · Flinders · NAT
.- I move-
That Standing Order No. 70 be suspended until the end of this month.
– The “gagging” Government!
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt: BALACLAVA, VICTORIA
– As honorable members who have been in this Parliament in previous sessions are aware, towards the end of a session it becomes necessary, in the ordinary course, for the Government to be in a position to bring on new business after 11 o’clock at night. While we desire, so far as possible, to avoid taking that course, or requesting honorable members to sit late at night, it may be necessary to enable the business of the House to be disposed of before the close of the session.
– The Government measures should be properly prepared before they are introduced.
– Why should the convenience of honorable members be subordinated to the wishes of the Prime Minister ?
– Order! I warn honorable members that if these interruptions continue I shall be obliged to take the course provided for in the Standing Orders.
– In order to avoid sitting late at night, the Government have allotted certain times for the passage of a number of measures on the businesssheet. This, we believe, will give honorable members on both sides a reasonable opportunity for debate, and should render unnecessary a number of all-night sittings when, as honorable members will agree, the best work cannot be done. Nevertheless, it is advisable to suspend standing order No. 70, so that, if necessary, new business may be introduced after 11 p.m.
Mr CHARLTON: HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP
.- We are getting surprise after surprise.
– And there will be more yet.
– Only last night the Government decided that the , House should meet this morning at 11 o’clock. I have never been in a Parliament in which members have been asked to sit so long. Members are working from Monday morning till Saturday, all day and at night, and now the Government propose to suspend the Standing Orders to allow of the introduction of new business after 11 o’clock at night.
– London at all costs!
– The Government are determined to bludgeon through the business whether measures are properly prepared or not. Whynot suspend all Standing Orders, and give us complete freedom in debate? That is about the only way in which our rights can be protected. But while you, sir, preside so wisely over this House, we must have regard for our Standing Orders. I protest against the suspension of this standing order in order to bludgeon Government measures through. In all my parliamentary experience I have never seen so much evidence of bad draftsmanship as in connexion with measures that have been brought before the House lately. The Minister must take the responsibility: An examination of the War Service Homes Bill will show honorable members that the draftsman was unfamiliar with his work. I shall probably be told that I am taking up the time allotted for the discussion of this measure, but we, on this side, are not as docile as are the Government supporters. We are the representatives of the people, and we insist that our rights shall not be infringed. At the last election, the majority of votes was cast for the Labour party. We have the confidence of the people, and must protest against the Government trampling upon their rights by rushing through measures without a proper consideration of them. Have honorable gentlemen opposite any conscience? Do you know the difference between right and wrong?
– I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– Through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask whether the Government are following the proper procedure, and whether they are acting in the interests of the people? It is quite possible that when the War Service Homes Bill is passed it will contain many defects, and l eave loopholes for further scandals. The Government threaten to proceed with new business after 11 o’clock to-night. If they intend to govern the country in this way, we might as well go home. What rights have we in this House ? What can we do for the country? It is time we proclaimed from every platform the Government’s inability to carry out their business. Throughout mypolitical history I have endeavoured to be fair and reasonable, but I have never yet known a session to be closed after ten or eleven weeks merely to suit the convenience of the Prime Minister. The Government do not consider this party. Their supporters ignore the proceedings of the House until the bells ring for a division. We are kept here at extraordinary hours to permit the right honorable gentleman to go abroad. This has never occurred in the history of any other country. Honorable gentlemen opposite probably think that they are exceptionally clever. They have the “gag” at their disposal, and they are using it to the utmost. No body of fair-minded men would attempt to do such a thing. If they had any spark of manhood in them, they would refuse to accept the dictation of the Prime Minister. Their attitude is a disgrace to the conduct of public affairs of this country, and it is time some one indulged in frank speaking. The righthonorable gentleman, in his desire to go overseas, is subordinating every interest to his will. He is a “ come-by-chance “ Prime Minister, the biggest fluke that ever occurred. I do not know but what there was a breach of faith in the formation of the Government.
– The honorable member is not discussing the question before the House.
– I am speaking as I feel. I am absolutely disgusted with the attitude of the supporters of the Government. This is the weakest Ministry in the history of Australia.
– Order ! With very great respect to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I suggest that, on reflection, he will see that his remarks are not apposite to the question before the House.
– Probably they are not; but, if I have transgressed at all, I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will forgive me. During my twenty years’ experience in the Federal Parliament and a State Parliament I have always endeavoured to. obey the Standing Orders, and I hope I shall not be caused to do otherwise. Why should we sit twelve hours a day, and allow legislation to be bludgeoned through this House merely to suit the convenience of the Prime Minister? What is taking place is no credit to the supporters of the Prime Minister, who are just as guilty as he. I hope the Prime Minister will have sufficient manhood to withdraw the motion. Under the Standing Orders, he can bludgeon legislation through this Chamber.I venture to say that, if this House adjourns on Thursday week for the purpose of giving a banquet to the Prime Minister, in view of the disgraceful methods of the Government in conducting the business of the country, and the treatment received by the Opposition, this party will refuse to attend the function.
Mr GREGORY: Swan
.- I am prepared to support the motion conditionally upon getting some information from the Prime Minister about the business likely to be brought before this House. If there is to be any vital alteration of the notice-paper, I shall oppose the motion.
– Under all conditions, the honorable member’s position will be the same.
– Certain business must be done to enable the Prime Minister to go abroad.
– Would the honorable member say that, while the Prime Minister is absent, the House should not sit?
– I can quite understand that, if the House were sitting, it might interfere with the work of the Prime Minister at the Imperial and Economic Conferences. I ask the Prime Minister to indicate to the House the nature of any new business.
Mr ANSTEY: Bourke
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) wanted to know whether the gentlemen who support the Government have any conscience. In forcing legislation through this Chamber the Government and their supporters have no need for such an encumbrance. They have set a limit on debate. There is one step further, and that is to suspend the Standing Orders, and prevent discussion altogether. I am reminded of the lines -
Might was rightwhenCaesarbled upon the stones ofRome;
Might was right when Joshua ledhis hordes o’er Jordan’sfoam;
Might was right when German odds swept down on Paris gay;
The maxim of the ancient world is the maxim of to-day.
The Government have used their might, and used the “ gag.” They do not know what is right. Without any analysis, Bills are rushed through this Chamber, though crudely and rudely drafted. It is evident that the Crown Law officers have not had sufficient time to consider them properly. The Government exercise their power by. brute force. Honorable members opposite are indorsing a policy of which, if opponents of the Government, they would bitterly complain. No information is volunteered by Ministers concerning their Bills, and honorable members have to rely upon their investigations outside this Chamber. One of the newspapers to-day, commenting on a certain measure, substituted for “ 2 “ the figure “7.” No explanation is made by the Minister. Owing to the short space of time at the disposal of Ministers, they, themselves, cannot give the necessary attention to the measures they in troduce. If the Prime Minister persists in his present attitude, he will leave Australia with a very bad taste in his mouth that will by no means be diminished when he returns.
Mr LAZZARINI: Werriwa
– I rise for the purpose of showing the muddle into which the business of the House is being brought by reason of the actions of the Government. On the businesspaper this morning fifteen important questions appeared, not one of which could be answered because, owing to the length of time honorable members are asked to sit, Ministers are unable to attend to the work of their Departments.I was astounded when I saw that the Prime Minister intended to move this motion. Do the Government intend to rush through legislation at high pressure from 11 o’clock in the morning until 11 o’clock at night, and then introduce new measures when honorable members are worn out and are not in a fit state mentally to give to those measures the consideration that is warranted? The time which honorable members have between sittings must be devoted to sleep. This is not responsible government - it is the rule of the jungle; it is brute force. There is also a good deal of stupidity in it. I strongly protest against this action of the Government. Those honorable members who support the motion will regret their action in the future. Parliament . might as well be closed up altogether. Why work this joke on. the people and endeavour to convince them that legislation is being properly considered by their representatives? The War Service Homes Bill contains provisions affecting the men who fought in the war. Honorable members are not able to anaylze that measure, or give proper consideration to it. Do the Government hope that by the use of these tactics honorable members on this side will become so worn out that it will be possible to slip through important legislation having as its object the giving of assistance to the big interests represented by honorable members opposite? If they do, they will be disappointed. The Opposition will continue to expose these tactics. I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in the remarks which he has made, and I assure honorable members that we on this side will not accept in the weak and spineless spirit evidenced by honorable members opposite this tyrannical imposition.
Mr WEST: East Sydney
.- During my long political career there have not been circumstances which I regret so keenly as those that have existed during this session. The position is a serious one. My Leader (Mr. Charlton) has been “ gagged “ on,no fewer than 113 occasions when be has attempted to address this Chamber. What is the reason for it? Is it because the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) occupies a higher position socially? Is it because the Leader of the Opposition owns to humble parentage, and by his own efforts has raised himself to the position he now occupies, and has demonstrated his ability to assist intelligently the development of this country? There must be some reason underlying this action of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman is one of Australia’s fortunate “sons. He has possessed opportunities which enabled him to have a university education. He was enabled to go to the Middle Temple, in London, and obtain a legal training.
Mr SPEAKER (Et Hon W A Watt: BALACLAVA, VICTORIA
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is well aware that the matter to which the is now referring has nothing whatever to do with the motion. I asls him to confine himself to the terms of the motion.
– I feel confident that you, sir, like me-
– Order ! If the honorable member will not discuss / the motion, I shall put it to the House.
– I understand that the object oi the motion is to enable the House to proceed with new business after 11 o’clock at night. I do not believe there is a living soul who will contend that proper consideration can he given to legislation if this practice is adopted. Since I have been a member of this House I have always endeavoured to bc in my place from the beginning to the end of every ‘ sitting. I realize the responsibility and the duty which I owe to my constituents. When I went before the electors of East Sydney I told them that, if I were elected, I would faithfully carry out my duties. I challenge you, Mr. Speaker, I challenge the Prime Minister, and those supporting him, to say that those duties can be satisfactorily performed under the conditions proposed. I have had experience of parliamentary life in Australia, extending over a period of forty-five years, and I say, without hesitation, that every scandal that has occurred has been the result of legislation which has been passed at a late hour of the night. Does the Prime’ Minister, and those sitting Behind him, know that after 10 o’clock at night the press does not report the proceedings of this Chamber? Does he not realize that these conditions do not > make for a good report of our debates by the official staff? Will any honorable member. deny that there is some reason, which does not appear on the surface, that is’ actuating the Prime Minister in this course of action ? Has not the Prime Minister, during this session, used every power conferred upon him by the Standing Orders, to force through legislation. The rights and privileges of honorable members during recent years have been slipping away from them one by one. The men whose portraits hang in the Queen’s Hall would never have tolerated such action as this. They were men of ability, and they believed that it was necessary to conserve the privileges and the liberties of honorable members. This standing order was framed to prevent the victimiz-ing of those who happen to be in a minority in this Chamber. What is proposed is beyond human endurance. When Parliament agreed to increase the salaries of honorable members it did so in the belief that that> action would result in greater attention being paid to the affairs of the country. It was not intended that honorable members should be brought to an early grave. Members of the Labour party with whom I had been associated have gone to an early grave because of the efforts they put. forth to make Australia an example in the eyes of the *world in regard to its social legislation, and the improved conditions of the people. Good work cannot be done if Bills are to be brought in after 11 o’clock at night, after honorable members have been sitting continuously for twelve hours. Honorable members on this side have no opportunity to ascertain the contents of measures until they are laid upon the table of this House. They have then to exercise all their ingenuity in seeking methods hy which improvement can be affected to those measures. Does the Prime Minister think that all the brains in this Chamber arc possessed by those honorable members who support him, and that he is the only man who can conduct the business of the country? If the Prime Minister did not return from England Australia would not be the loser, judging by his conduct since he has been at the head of the Government of this country. I know that anything I may say will have no effect whatever on him. His environment has been entirely different from mine. My environment has been that of the humble section of the community, his has been that of those who desire to rob the poor.
– Order ! Will the honorable member deal with the motion.
– The passing of the motion will enable measures to be placed on the business-paper after 11 o’clock at night. It is peculiar that the Prime Minister did not attempt to justify this action. He moved the motion in a most callous, indifferent manner. There can be no justification for it. T feel indignant. The spectacle of my Leader appealing to the Prime Minister went to my heart. He could not have been more sincere in his appeal to the Prime Minister to allow the business of this House to be conducted in a proper manner. I feel confident that the people generally will indorse the action of the Opposition in protesting so vigorously against this proposal. I am the son of a Britisher who loved liberty dearly, and I feel constrained this morning to speak a word for the liberties of the people of my adopted country. It is a retrograde step that is proposed, and the country must suffer through it.
Mr E RILEY: SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP
.- Mr. Speaker-
– Give the returned soldiers a chance!
– Why do the Government and honorable members opposite occupy time with this motion if they have a desire to proceed with the War Service Homes Bill?
– “ Give the returned soldiers a chance!”
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:
– I appeal to honorable members to allow the debate to proceed in a decorous way.
– Lt is most unfair for honorable members opposite to charge us with taking up time that ought to be devoted to the War Service Homes Bill.
– This is sheer bullying on the part of the Government!
– The honorable member is out of order. I did not hear the interjection from the corner.
– The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) said, “Give the returned soldiers a chance!”
– That did not justify other interjections.
Mr E RILEY: SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP
– I appeal to the common sense of honorable members. We are getting towards the close of the session, and up to the present progress has been made according to the programme of the Prime Minister. The hour for meeting has already been changed from half-past 2 o’clock in the afternoon to 11 o’clock in the morning, and now the Government ask for power to introduce fresh business after 11 o’clock at night. Our Standing Orders were carefully drawn up by former members of this House, with a view to preventing business being brought on at an hour when members might be absent or tired ,out. Standing order No. 70 is a protection, not only to honorable members, but to the country at large ; nevertheless, the Prime Minister breezily moves its suspension. The right honorable gentleman has said that the Government does not desire to have all-night sittings, but the suspension of the standing order really encourages the evil. Surely it should be sufficient to devote twelve hours a day to the programme of the Government? It is a grave reflection on honorable members opposite to say that, in the absence of the Prime Minister, not one of his colleagues is capable of carrying on the business of Parliament for a week or so. I should be ashamed to be a supporter of a Government the leader of which had so bad an opinion of his colleagues and party. The members of the .Country party have almost an equal share of power in the Cabinet, with the ex-Leader (Dr. Earle Page) as Treasurer, and yet they allow that gentleman to be snubbed as he is when, the Prime Minister tells him that ho is not competent to conduct the business of this House for a time. The truth is that the Government is trying to do too much. An attempt is being made to establish a record, the only result of which must be ill-considered and ineffective legislation. I remind honorable members opposite that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has to examine every measure, so as to be able to intelligently and effectively criticise it. There are eight or ten Ministers who introduce Bills, and they have at their disposal all the machinery of government, with which to thoroughly inform themselves. The Leader of the Opposition enjoys no such advantages. In the name of common sense and fair play, I ask the Government to give the Opposition a chance. Are the Bills introduced by the Government not worth discussing? If they are not, they ought not to be on the noticepaper.Would the Prime Minister, if he were in opposition, like to be treated as we on this side are ? We have been working every day of the week from. Monday to Saturday, with extended hours, and, as I have already indicated, the rush and hurry can only result in ill-digested legislation, which will give rise to confusion, and possibly expensive litigation. Why, this morning we were told by Ministers that they had not had time to obtain answers to questions of which notice was given yesterday. I cannot blame Ministers for this under the circumstances, but it is a most extraordinary occurrence. If we cannot do all the work this session, let some of it stand over till next session. It ought to be remembered that the last election was fought largely on the question of the conduct of business by the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes), and I warn the present Government that they are making a great mistake. This is not a party question, but one to be settled by the entire House, and my own opinion is that a day of twelve hours is enough.
Mr FENTON: Maribyrnong
– I indorse the remarks of my Leader (Mr. Charlton). Even the Prime Minister will admit that when that honorable gentleman makes a request in this Chamber it comes from the most reasonable man here.
– The most patient, too.
– Yes, the most patient, courteous, and considerate. I do not know whether the fact is recorded in Hansard, but the Prime Minister has intimated that he is exceptionally thankful to the Opposition for the way in which they had met the Government up to, practically, the other day. Are we to fritter away the rights and privileges for which the Radicals of the old days fought ? The methods of the Government are enough to make some of these old political pioneers turn in their graves. We met on the 13th June, and to-day is the 15th August, almost two months to a day, and the Parliament has already done work that usually occupies six months. Even when a period of six months is allotted, mistakes are made in legislation ; and I can quite see that next session will be devoted to amending measures. If there is any spirit of fairness in the majority of honorable members opposite, they will give more consideration to the position of the Opposition. When I realize the work that faces us in the next few days, I feel inclined to ask the State authorities to send round a factory inspector to deal with the sweaters in this institution. I certainly think a prosecution would lie against the Prime Minister. . As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) has pointed out, we have the exhibition this morning of Ministers, one after the other, admitting their inability to answer questions on notice.
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– This indicates that the business of the country is absolutely neglected. The answers to some of these questions were required as early as possibletoday, but in the rush Ministers are unable to supply them. Last week, £62,000,000 was voted to the accompanying snores of tired members on the Ministerial side reclining on the seats. However, if we are denied the right to speak here, we still have the right of addressing public meetings. I hope that in the coming recess the platforms of the country will ring with denunciation of the disgraceful conduct of the Government and their supporters. I can well imagine Australian fellow passengers of the Prime Minister, on his way to England, asking him how he managed to get away, and I can also imagine the answering smile of the right honorable gentleman. What is meant by the taunt of honorable members opposite when they ask, “ Do you blame the Prime. Minister for shutting up Parliament ? “ The meaning simply is that there is no one competent to take his position. Could anything be more humiliating to Ministers and supporters of the Government? This is the time for plain speaking, and plain speaking there will be both here and outside. The step proposed by the Government is retrograde and disgraceful. Surely honorable members opposite have opinions of their own? However that may be, they now present a miserable spectacle as dumb dogs and tools of the Leader of the Government.
– The complaint has been made that honorable members on this side have spoken too frequently.
– We complained when charged with obstructing the business of the House that we were unable to retaliate. Honorable members opposite followed each other; but when an effort was made by members of the Opposition to express their views down came the guillotine.
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion.
– The proposal of the Government is to suspend standing order No. 70 to enable opposed business to be taken after 11 p.m. A Minister will probably present a measure at that hour, and after the second reading has been moved, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will probably be allowed a quarter of an hour in which to debate the Bill. It is mentally and physically impossible for honorable members to give proper consideration to important measures, in the early hours ofthe morning, in such a limited time. I have great respect for the institution of Parliament, and for the Standing Orders, which have been framed with a view to carrying out business in a reasonable and proper way. I have never supported the application of the closure, and I trust that I shall never be guilty of doing so, because, in Parliament, the freest possible discussion should be allowed. Although we are the largest party in this House, we are in a minority, but the day is not far distant when a Labour Ministry will occupy the Treasury bench, and when that time comes, I shall see that every honorable member has the right to freely discuss whatever measures may be submitted for consideration. I know that it will be said that a Leader of this party was once responsible for a procedure similar to that now proposed, but on that occasion I did not support him in amending the Standing Orders. The positionis different to-day. If the Labour party was in power, and there were only five honorable members in Opposition, I should extend to them the utmost courtesy, and allow the fullest possible opportunity to discuss Bills of national importance. It is a diabolical trick for any Government or party to deprive the representatives of the electors of their right to be heard. The guillotine will fall from time to time during the remaining days of the session, but, thank God, another guillotine will descend, not upon the representatives of the Opposition, but upon those who have debarred us from exercising the rights and privileges which were fought for and maintained by the fine old radical fighters in the early political history of Australia. I support the Leader of the Opposition, and shall resent every effort made to encroach upon the liberties, rights, and privileges of the people of the Commonwealth.
Mr BLAKELEY: Darling
.- No other Government would seekto restrict the debating of important matters in this House, as is now proposed by this Administration. I know perfectly well what the Labour party would do in similar circumstances. It would not impose restrictions of this character. A Labour Ministry would not dare to submit such a proposal, because it could not possibly expect the support of its followers. This matter has been discussed in the caucus room of the Nationalist party, and those who showed signs of resentment have been flattened by the party steam-roller. Even now the supporters of the Government do not seem to realize the enormity of what they are attempting. Before and since the establishment of the parliamentary system, the fight for free speech has proceeded, and immediately an attempt is made to tamper with the parliamentary machine trouble will be encountered. If any representative of the people, be he ever so humble, desires to speak on measures submitted by the Government, no one has a right to say him nay. In the opinion of some honorable members, he may speak without knowledge, but as a representative of the people he has the right to speak, and is entitled to the respect of other honorable members. This morning, a declaration was made by the Leader of the Opposition - I cannot recall similar action ever having been taken before - that this party refuses to be associated with the send-off to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). Do honorable members realize the seriousness of the position ? Surely to God the declaration of the Leader of the Opposition is sufficient to remind honorable members opposite of what the possible consequencesof their action may be?
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum, formed.]
– Questions such as this are, apparently, of no consequence to honorable members opposite, who are capable only of inane giggling and laughter.
– The members of the honorable member’s party have left the Chamber.
– If the Government is going to adopt sharp practices, their supporters will be compelled to remain in their places instead of loafing in the corridors, as they are doing to-day. Honorable members opposite do not appear to possess a spark of manliness, and it is damnable and diabolical to have to submit to inane giggling and laughter. The position is too serious for that.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we are political puppets?
– Yes. The honorable member and his party are interfering with the rights and privileges of honorable members.
– We are not as bad as-
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:
– Order! I cannot allow-
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) should go back to his “ pirating “ days - go back to his “ black-birding “ days.
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling was aware that the Chair had risen.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I did not know that you were about to speak.
– The honorable member, even in passion, must obey the order of the Chair. The debate cannot proceed in this disorderly way, and I ask honorable members on both sides to restrain their natural inclination to interject.
– It is physically impossible to restrain one’s indignation when there are indications of such imbecility.
– If the honorable member intended to apply that term to honorable members, I tell him at once that it will not be permitted, and must be withdrawn.
– I shall most certainly withdraw; but when one is greeted with inane, empty laughter-
– Their imbecility is apparent.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has just said that the imbecility of honorable members on this side is apparent, and I desire to ask if such a statement is in order.
– I did not hear the remark ; but if it was made in this Chamber, it must be withdrawn.
– I used the expression, and I believe it to be true; but I withdraw.
– The honorable member must withdraw unreservedly.
– The remark was not directed to any particular honorable member, but I withdraw.
– Would it be in order to say that they were mental paralytics?
– That would not be in order.
– The Leader of the Opposition has announced, on behalf of the Labour party, that its members do not intend to be present at the send-off to the Prime Minister. Honorable members opposite can take time off when they so desire to attend social functions - we do not intend to join them on such occasions - but cannot devote sufficient time to the transaction of public business. While this is being perpetrated, with, rare exceptions the newspapers of Australia are carrying on a Conspiracy of silence and withholding from the people accounts of what is actually being done in this House. Bills are being forced through at such a rate that Royal Commissions and Committees of Inquiry will have to be appointed to correct the mistakes made. There is hardly a word in the press about it; but that will not prevent us explaining the position to the people in our electorates after the House rises.
– And in their electorates, too.
– Yes ; we shall give the people an opportunity of knowing what is being done.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion.
– I shall do so. I appeal to honorable members opposite to be at least fair and honorable to honorable members on this side. The action of the Government is dishonorable, and those who are supporting it are acting dishonorably towards the representatives of the people.
– The honorable member is not in order in imputing dishonorable motives or procedure to any honorable member.
– Then I shall substitute for that remark the statement that the action of the Government is most unfair and reprehensible; That the Prime Minister is new to his job is palpable; if he were not, he would not attempt what he is doing. He is actuated more by the desire to leave for London than to conserve the welfare of Australia. In that desire he is ably helped by his docile followers, who have not the courage and probably not the ability, to speak on the Bill, but sit like so many dumb-driven cattle, and vote as they are told.
Mr NELSON: Northern Territory
– As a new member, I am beginning to realize why the Northern Territory has been neglected for so long. The explanation is that honorable members are not allowed an opportunity of intelligently discussing matters of national importance that come before the ‘House. As this is a silent Parliament, the thought has occurred to me that the Government would be wise to replace this pretence of legislation by a picture show. There is an excellent place for hanging a screen, the pictures could be projected from the Strangers’ Gallery, and from time time the Prime Minister during his travels abroad could send back a film to add to the programme. The Sergeant-at-Arms might stand on the steps outside the building, and act as spruiker, to advise the public that a good show was to be seen inside. Responsible government has been reduced to a farce. The War Service Homes Bill, a measure of vital importance to Australia, is to come before the House,, and members will have no opportunity of discussing it. We have received invitations to a dinner to the Prime Minister on Thursday week, and I understand that it is proposed that the House shall adjourn to enable us to attend. In ordinary circumstances I should be pleased to attend such a function; but, whilst I have no desire to show disrespect to the Prime Minister, I think the business of the country is of paramount importance. Therefore, if an official dinner must be given, it should take place during the ordinary dinner adjournment. If it is impossible for the Parliament to dispose of a certain programme of business before the 24th August, surely the proper course’ is to either postpone the business or prolong the session. Every honorable member has a perfect right to discuss each measure, but last night we witnessed the spectacle of three soldier members desiring to speak on the second reading of an important Bill, with only twelve minutes remaining before the guillotine would fall. That is a state of affairs that no honest member can condone. Responsible government is being abrogated, for honorable members cannot get an opportunity to express the opinions of the people whom -they represent. I enter my emphatic protest against the policy that the Government are adopting.
Mr MARR: Parkes
.- Honorable members opposite have protested against the stirling of discussion, and have made some . extraordinary statements about the application of the guillotine and the closure. The honorable member for Maribyrnong . (Mr. Penton) said that he would never vote for the application of the “gag” or to curtail the rights of the Opposition, even if it comprised only five members. I remind the honorable member that, on the 18th June, 1915, he voted twenty-six times for the application of the closure.
– I rise to a point of order. The remarks of the honorable member are not revelant to the motion before the Chair.
Mr SPEAKER (Et Hon W A Watt:
– The honorable member for Parkes would not be in order in dwelling at length upon the past actions of honorable members, but he is at liberty to make a brief reply to a remark made by another honorable member. .
– If honorable members had devoted themselves to the discussion of the War Service Homes Bill, it could have been dealt with comfortably in the time allotted by the Government. Every honorable member on both sides of the House is in favour of that measure, and I believe that honorable members of the Opposition equally with honorable members on this side of the House, will agree to every clause in the measure, when it has been explained. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) said that last night three soldier members of the Labour party desired to speak on the second reading of the War Service Homes Bill, but were “gagged.” There were not three members of the Labour party, let alone three soldier members, in the chamber when the guillotine fell. One soldier member of the Opposition was in Sydney. Last night, the debate was carried on for nine-tenths of the time without one member of the Labour party being in the chamber. Honorable members opposite should discuss this motion fairly. They must not attempt to throw all the blame on this side of the House.
– Honorable members opposite will have to accept the responsibility. Does the honorable member indorse the Prime Minister’s action in proposing this motion during the time that he had allotted for the discussion of the War Service Homes Bill?
– The Prime Minister has taken that action only because members of the Labour party have stated emphatically in this House during the last few days that they intend to prevent any business being done.
– That- is absolutely untrue.
– That statement was made to me as Government Whip.
– I rise to a point of order. I take exception to the remark of the honorable member that members of the Opposition have said that they intend to obstruct business. The statement is absolutely untrue, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
Mr SPEAKER (Et Hon W A Watt:
– The Leader of the Opposition must realize that he may not raise a point of order for the purpose of contradicting some statement that has been made. If any honorable member feels that he has been misrepresented by another honorable member, he can, at the conclusion of the honorable member’s speech, make a personal explanation, and thus put himself right.
– The remark I mentioned was made, not by the Leader of the Opposition, but by the Secretary of the Labour party.
– The honorable member’s remarks are not strictly relevant to. the motion.
– The House has plenty of time in which to deal with the War Service Homes Bill, if it will apply itself seriously to the matter. I hope that we shall be able to proceed without resort to the guillotine. Nobody wants that standing order to be put in operation. It certainly causes more trouble to me as Whip than to anybody else. If honorable members would discuss the business before the House, instead of the actions of the Government, we would have plenty of time to deal with the various measures.
Mr GABB: Angas
– I oppose the suspension of standing order 70. The introduction of new business after 11 o’clock at night has proved, in the past, to be not in the best interests of the country. That course is also distinctly unfair to the Leader of the Opposition. He sits in the Chamber from 11 a.m. till 11 p.m., and’ then, after he has done twelve hours’ work, members opposite, whom I am required to designate “honorable,” and who consider themselves sportsmen, will introduce new business. They know that our Leader has recently suffered a serious illness, yet they expect him to sit in his place day and night and be ready to debate every measure in opposition to seven or eight Ministers. If honorable members opposite think that that is fair and bonny play they have forgotten the meaning of the term. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) said that there were not three returned soldier members of the Labour party in the Chamber last night ready to speak on the War Service Homes Bill. The paid hireling of the Government-
– The honorable member knows that it is unparliamentary to apply the word “hireling” to any honorable member. I ask that it be withdrawn.
Mr.G ABB. - Then I shall call him the paid servant of the Government, which means the same. His duty is to get his docile flock to stand behind the Government through thick and thin, and when he finds that honorable members on this side are putting up a fight, he makes a statement which he hopes will encourage the Ministerialists in their docility. The statement he made was contrary to fact. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) was on his feet when the guillotine fell last night, and two other soldier members - the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), and the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) - were in the chamber at the time.
– They were not.
– If the Government Whip has any sense of decency he will withdraw his incorrect statement, and apologize for having made it. He also said that honorable members of the Opposition had declared that they intended to obstruct business. We are not doing so. If we had attempted to unreasonably obstruct business I could understand severe measures being taken by the Government against us, but our attitude throughout the session has been reasonable, and on various occasions the Prime Minister has admitted that the Opposition has helped the Government in the transaction of business. I say frankly that our Leader has treated the Government too kindly, and my experience in life has been that if one is too lenient to one’s opponents, they interpret that forbearance as weak ness and proceed to abuse it. The Leader of the Opposition has very onerous duties to discharge, and his task becomes heavier when the House sits for such long hours. The Prime Minister is quite prepared to undergo the ordeal of continuous sittings because he has the prospect of a six-weeks sea trip, which will enable him to recuperate. No such prospect is before the Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members opposite should, in fairness, consider these facts. Thesole reason for all this bustle and hurry is the desire of the Prime Minister to go to London. In the last eighteen months this House, honorable members of which are paid £1,000 per annum to attend to the country’s business and legislate for the benefit . of the people, has been in session for only three months. I challenge any honorable member on the other side of the House to accompany me into his own district and fight a campaign for a month on the attitude the Government have adopted, and on his attitude of sitting silently behind the Government. I make bold to say that no honorable member could face his district in such a campaign and justify himself. I do not care which district it is or who the member is. The fact of the matter is that many honorable members opposite have two or three jobs, and they want to get back to their farms, their offices, or their gardens as soon as possible. But when honorable members accept membership in this House, the business of the country should be their first consideration. They cannot justly excuse their action in assisting to close Parliament by saying that they wish to get back to their ordinary business. I feel very strongly on this matter, although this is the first speech I have made in protest against the action of the Government. I admit that I have thrown some strong interjections across the chamber, but no honorable member can say that my attitude is unjustifiable. Honorable members were elected to represent the people and to do certain work, and they should do it. I can understand the desire of the Prime Minister to go back to Great Britain. He left that country a few years ago, as a private citizen, and he desires to go back now as the Prime Minister ofa great Commonwealth. I have no objection to his doing that, but I do object to him Keeping honorable members in this House such long hours, and refusing them the opportunity to give proper consideration to the various matters that are brought before us. Some honorable members have said that this action is an illustration of the Prime Minister’s strength. I reply that it is the action of a despot, and despotism can only become possible with the “permission of weaklings. Honorable members opposite can take that statement as they like. I believe that the Prime Minister is trading on the inexperience of the new members he has behind him. I was once a new member, and I freely admit that for the first three years I was in this Chamber I did not know the ropes, and I felt strange. That is the position of a number of honorable members behind the Government at present. In the party room they are told that certain things happened iu other sessions, and that the Government proposals are quite a!ll right. I have been a fairly close student of Hansard, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that at no period .during our twenty odd years of Federal parliamentary history has Parliament met for only three months in eighteen months, and in that period had the “ gag “ and the guillotine applied as the Government is now applying it. T],e thing that galls me more than anything else is the remembrance of the attitude adopted in the last Parliament by some honorable members who are now sitting behind the Government. I refer to the representatives of the ; Country party. I have great respect for many of those honorable members, and I like to chat with them and obtain their advice on certain matters ; but I cannot comprehend how they can sit behind the Government and assist to restrict the. rights of the people, when only last year they were so emphatic that Parliament should be free and untrammelled. In the last election campaign, as well as in the last Parliament, their Leader boasted of their desire to restore proper parliamentary government. We find, however, that although twenty-five measures axe on the business-paper, honorable members are not to be permitted sufficient time to deal properly with any of them. The Government has given us less than a fortnight to complete the programme. The
Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) is a party to this.
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:
– The honorable member will realize that he has had more than reasonable latitude. The general procedure of the Government is not before the House. The question is whether a certain standing order shall be suspended. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to that subject.
– I admit, Mr. Speaker, that I have had latitude, but so have others who have preceded me in this discussion. “I am opposed to the suspension of this standing order unless the Government is prepared to suspend all the Standing Orders. If, however, the Government is going to do this by brute force - if it intends to adopt the policy of “might is right,” let it throw aside all the Standing Orders, and let us go out into the Queen’s Hall, and settle matters there. I confess that I should find a good deal more enjoyment in that than I find in sitting in this chamber, and seeing the guillotine operating. Honorable members on this side are compelled to sit here fuming and smarting under the indignities that are heaped upon them, while honorable members opposite sit in their places with a bland Chinese smile upon their faces and permit the Government to do what it pleases. If the Government wants brute strength to prevail, let it suspend all the Standing Orders, and let us go outside, or else let the Speaker leave the chair, and let us remain here and fight (he business through.
– The honorable member must not incite to disorder within the precincts of the House.
– Perhaps I am saying something that I should not say; but I am amazed that honorable members opposite can sit quietly and calmly in their places, and permit this kind of thing to go on. I ask them whether.it is fair to the Leader of the Opposition that new business should be introduced after 11 p.m. After the Leader of the Opposition hassat in this House for twelve hours, which surely is a good day’s work, is it reasonable to oblige him at any hour of the night to face any matter of business on the notice-paper, which the Government cares to bring forward? Such is the docility of members opposite that, apparently, the Government can do as it pleases. A measure may be brought forward at any time, and honorable members opposite will pass it through. I have much respect for some of the members on the Government side of the House; but I am astonished at their attitude on this matter. The only excuse I can offer for the new members is that they do not understand parliamentary procedure. If we had members of the last Parliament like Messrs. Fleming, Lamond, Massy Greene, Rodgers, and Wise here, they would not tolerate this procedure. They would have opposed it had they been in the Cabinet, or had they been private members. I trust that the Government will not persist in this policy.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) disputed my statement with respect to returned soldiers speaking on the War Service Homes Bill, and said that three soldier members were “gagged “ whilst the vote on the second reading of the measure was being taken. That is not so. They were not here. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) was paired with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) in that division.
– But he was here during the discussion.
– He was paired when the division was taken.
– And he was prevented from speaking because the division was taken.
– I do not wish to do the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) an injustice. I did not say that he was not in the House during the discussion.
– The honorable member said he was not in the chamber when the vote was taken.
– Neither was he, because he was paired with the honorable member for Martin.
– That is a gross misrepresentation of the position.
Mr MAKIN: Hindmarsh
.- We have reached the limit of our endurance of the extraordinary way the Government is conducting the business of this House. Before honorable members support this motion, I ask them to consider for a moment the unfortunate history of some of the best statesmen who have been elected to membership of this Parliament. A heavy mortality has occurred amongst members of the Federal Parliament. The severe strain that has been placed upon some of the ablest men whohave entered this Chamber has resulted in their early death. Those men, however, were not obliged to submit to such procedure as the Government has been following during the last two or three weeks. The strain that is now being put upon honorable members is almost beyond physical endurance. Honorable members are unable properly to discharge their duties or to stand up under the heavy load of work that the Government is heaping uponthem. An extraordinary course is now proposed to which honorable members should not consent. We should consider, not only our own health, but also the health pf those who are engaged in other duties within the precincts of the Parliament. I ask them whether they think that they are doing a fair thing to our officers and, in particular, to the Hansard staff. We know that we have a highly competent Hansard staff, but it is not reasonable to expect the members of that staff to follow as closely as they should the debates in this Chamber when they are called upon to continue their work for unduly protracted periods. When a sitting extends beyond a certain period they cannot possibly endure the strain and do their work as it should be done. I appeal, not onlyon behalf of the Hansard staff, but also on behalf of those who are engaged in the more menial duties of this Parliament. Such heavy claims are being made upon them that they have about reached the limit of their strength. It is not fair to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) or to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) that they should be compelled to sit in this House for such long hours. Those gentlemen are expected to acquaint themselves with all the measures that are introduced by the
Government. If this motion is agreed to a Minister on the front bench may bring forward any Bill, and put his view to the House, and the Leader of the Opposition or his deputy is expected to follow him in the discussion. His position is not similar to that of the Minister. When the Minister comes forward, says his lesson, and finishes his part of the work, he can go away for a rest. It is not so with the Leader of the Opposition. He must remain in the House the whole time, and closely follow the measures introduced by other Ministers. If honorable members agree to this motion they will place upon the Leader of the Opposition an impossible task. Why are they asked to do this? It is simply to suit the convenience, and in some measure, the vanity of the right honorable the Prime Minister. I trust that we shall not agree to any further proceedings of this character. I have not forgotten our experience of Friday last, when we were required to vote millions of pounds in connexion with the Estimates without being afforded a reasonable opportunity for debate. We have already had an illustration of the futility of passing, in accordance with a time schedule, ill-considered legislation. As far as I am concerned, I intend henceforward, to show the most uncompromising hostility to the Government, and I shall exhaust to the limit the opportunities afforded by our Standing Orders to challenge the position taken up by them. Honorable members should not be expected to conduct the business of the country in this way. Already, within a period of two months, we have passed legislation which, in ordinary circumstances, might well occupy the attention of this Parliament for twelve months. The people of Australia are not unmindful of what is happening. They are watching this autocratic Administration, and I am confident that, at the first opportunity, they will express their disapproval in no unmistakable way. I trust that the Government will realize that a continuation of this procedure must result in a breaking down of the health of honorable members, as well as the officers connected with the Parliament. The Government should not be so indifferent to the welfare of honorable members as to persist in their present unreasonable attitude. We should have reasonable opportunity for debating the measures that come before us. I hope that the House will reject the motion, and that, although the Prime Minister may have to leave Australia by the 1st September, we shall be able to continue with our legislative duties.
Mr BRUCE: Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs · Flinders · NAT
– I regret that the debate has occupied the attention of the House for so long.
– Is the Prime Minister closing the debate?
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon W A Watt:
– Order! It is not usual, if honorable members desire to speak, for the Leader of the Government to close the debate, if that is the intention of’ the right honorable gentleman.
– If the debate on the motion is continued until 1 o’clock, the motion must lapse. I think it probable, therefore, that honorable members would prefer that I should say a few words. I regret that the discussion has gone on for so long. The motion is usually submitted towards the end of a session.
Motion (by Mr. Anstey) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
WAR SERVICE HOMES BILL
Mr McGRATH: BALLAARAT, VICTORIA
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to say that last night I was denied the opportunity of sayinga few words in the debate on the motion for the second reading of the War Service Homes Bill. I understand that the Government Whip (Mr. Marr) has denied a statement by the honorable member for Angas(Mr. Gabb) that three returned soldier members on this side of the House were present and desired to speak. It is quite true that I was not present when the division was taken, but I sat in the chamber till a quarter to 11 o’clock, waiting for a chance to speak. I knew that the guillotine was to fall at 11 o’clock, and as another honorable member received the call at a quarter to 11, I realized that there would be no opportunity for me. Therefore I left the chamber, and I understand that my name was paired with that of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten). I can promise the Government that, for the future, nobody will pair my name against that of another honorable member so long as the present Ministry occupy the Treasury bench.
– I wish also to make a personal explanation. During the debate that preceded the division that has just been taken, I made a statement to the effect that I had never voted for a motion or an amendment for the purpose of limiting debate; and, further, that I did not believe in curtailing the rights of minorities. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has turned up Hansard, and has pointed out that, on 18th June, 1915, I voted with the Government on a number of occasions for the motion “ That the question be now put.” I may point out, however, that the questions referred to were motions for leave to introduce Bills and present them for the first reading. According to our Standing Orders there can be no debate on the first reading of a Bill, but there may be a discussion on the motion for leave to introduce a Bill. I may add, further, that after the divisions were taken on the occasion referred to, ample time was allowed members of the Opposition to discuss the various Bills which had relation to certain proposed amendments of the Constitution to give the Federal Parliament power to deal with exploiters during the war.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
WITHDRAWAL OF PAIRS
Mr CHARLTON: Hunter
.- (By leave.)- I desire to state, for the information of honorable members, that, in consequence of the manner in which the proceedings of this House are being conducted, all pairs, with one exception, must be considered “ off.” No further pairs will be allowed by honorable members on this side this session. The one exception is that which I promised the Prime Minister would be given for the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), because he is a delegate to the League of Nations.
WAR SERVICE HOMES BILL
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 14th August, vide page 2724) :
Clause 1 (Short title).
Mr CHARLTON: Hunter
.- Although the clause refers only to the short title, I should like to be allowed to say that I very much regret that the time at our disposal will not permit of the proper discussion of this Bill. It has been decided that the Bill must go through all its stages by half-past 4 or a quarter to 5 o’clock this afternoon, and, owing to the Prime Minister bringing forward the motion for taking fresh business after 11 o’clock at night, practically half the time set apart for the consideration of this Bill has been occupied in the discussion of that motion. In the circumstances, we must make the best of the matter, hoping that, perhaps, in another place justice may be done. I am not in favour of the Bill as it stands, but I am aware that I cannot discuss it generally upon this clause. I believe that the title, as printed, is a very unsatisfactory one, and that the clause should read, “ This Act may be cited as the War Service Homes Breach of Promise Act,” because the Bill is really a distinct breach of promise to the returned soldiers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 4 of the principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the definition of “ Dwellinghouse” and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “ ‘ Dwelling-house ‘ includes -
a house or building used or to be used by a person, who is includedin paragraph (b) or (d) of the definition of ‘ Australian soldier,’ as a hospital, sanatorium, or nursing home; and
the appurtenances, outbuildings, fences, and permanent provision for lighting, water supply, drainage, and sewerage provided in connexion with a dwellinghouse, but does not include any land; “.
Section proposed to be amended - “ Dwelling-house “ includes a house, or a building used or to be used, by a person who is included in paragraph (b) or (d) of the definition of “Australian soldier,” as a hospital, sanatorium, or nursing home, and the appurtenances, necessary outbuildings, fences, and permanent provision for lighting, water supply, drainage, and sewerage of the house or building, but does not include any land.
Mr CHARLTON: Hunter
.- I do not know why the definition of “dwelling-house” has been altered, and should like some explanation from the Minister in charge of the Bill. The object may be to liberalize the definition, but there appears to me to be very little difference between the definition in the existing Act and that proposed in this Bill. The existing definition includes appurtenances, necessary outbuildings, and so on. The alteration proposed may be in the interests of the returned soldiers, but it should be explained by the Minister. We cannot permit the clause to pass when it may ultimately be shown that its effect is not what we anticipated. When the Minister in charge of the Bill proposes alterations of this kind, he should give reasons for them.
Mr STEWART: Minister for Works and Railways · Wimmera · CP
– There is really nothing in this amendment. The definition of “dwellinghouse” in the present Act is faulty.
– I move -
That the Minister be no further heard.
– The honorable member had better permit the Minister to answer me.
– No, why should we?
– The honorable member’s Leader asked me for an explanation.
– Yes, and another time the Minister would move the gag on the Leader of the Opposition.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Bayley: OXLEY, QUEENSLAND
– Order! There can be no discussion on the motion moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). I should like to point out that under the standing order for the application of the guillotine, no such motion as the honorable member has submitted can be moved.
– I rise to a point of order. Only as late as yesterday the very same motion was moved whilst the discussion of the measure under consideration was subject to the provisions of the guillotine. With all respect, I submit, sir, that you have fallen into error. The motion “That the question be now put” cannot be moved when the guillotine provisions have been applied to a debate, but the question “ That a member be no further heard “ is a totally different question. You will, I think, see, upon reflection, that, probably unwittingly, you have fallen into error in the ruling you have given, because the motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was “ That the Minister be no further heard “ and not “ That the question be now put.”
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
– In reply to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), the standing order is as he has stated, but I am of the opinion that the effect of the two motions is the same.
– A liberal translation of the Standing Orders!
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
– For the benefit of the Committee, I shall read the standing order.
– How long is it since you put yourself up as a translator of our laws?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
– Standing order 262a, section vii, which was adopted by the House on the 16th October, 1918, and applies to the limitation of debate, says -
The closure adopted by the House on the 23rd November, 1905, shall not apply to any proceedings in respect of which time has been allotted in pursuance of this standing order.
I rule that as a certain time has been allotted for the consideration of the measure under discussion, under section vii of standing order 262a, providing that the closure shall not apply to any proceedings in respect of which time has been allotted in pursuance of that standing order, the motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, whilst not the closure in precise terms, is the same in effect.
– I propose to move dissent from your ruling. I am reluctantly compelled to do so. The standing order, as quoted by you, is without ambiguity. It says that the closure shall not apply to any proceedings in respect of which time has been allotted to the consideration of a particular matter under the guillotine provisions - that is to say, the closure is not to apply to discussions generally on any question, but it may be applied to any individual member. For instance, it is quite competent for the Committee to decide that certain members shall not be heard at all, and that one or two honorable members shall be allowed to occupy the whole of the time allotted under the guillotine provisions. The object in preventing the moving of the closure when the guillotine provisions have been applied is to prevent the time allowed for the consideration of the particular matter being further restricted, than the House has decided that they shall be. That is obviously the intention of the standing order. The House deliberately allots a certain time for the discussion of a matter.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– I am moving dissent from your ruling, sir.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN:
– I have recognised that.
– Do you agree with my dissent ?
– Do you want to alter your ruling?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I wish to inform the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that there is a way under the Standing Orders by which he or any other honorable member may dissent from my ruling. Dissent may only be given expression to in writing, and I ask the honorable member to express his dissent in writing.
– I am entitled, in moving dissent from the ruling, to give my reasons.