1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
The necessary information is being obtained, and answers will be furnished as soon as possible.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, regulation 41 under the Public Service Act should be amended.
It will be remembered that when the Public Service Bill was before the Senate an amendment was’ moved to give public servants absolute political freedom, and that both Ministers of the Crown gave definite ‘ promises that in the administration of the law no drastic step would be taken to prevent public servants from doing what ought to be recognised as their public duty. But regulation 41, in a very definite manner, completely gags or stifles any political aspirations on their part. It is as follows : -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote political movements. They are further forbidden to use for political purposes information gained by them in the course of duty.
I think that every one will agree with the latter part of the regulation, which says that no officer shall use any information which he has gained in the execution of his duty for the purpose of making political capital against probably the Minister in whose Department he is employed ; but a time may come when a very large proportion, of the population may be public servants. We have under consideration a proposal by Senator Pearce to make the tobacco industry a Commonwealth monopoly. If it is adopted, all persons engaged in the industry will become public servants, and the same regulation will apply to them. At this stage of the civilization of the world, are we justified in seeking to prevent men and women who probably have as much interest in the welfare of the country as have others from expressing their opinions and taking part in political movements so long as it does not interfere with the proper execution of their public duties 1 I do not think we are. I hold that the time has arrived when public servants should be put in exactly the same position as other citizens.- I dare say there are representatives of the people who would like a public servant to be a mere automaton, to be moved about at the will of his superior officer, and the Minister under whose direction he labours ; but I believe that those representatives of the people are very few, and I hope that they will become fewer until they entirely disappear. In face of the promises and protestations which were made in the Senate, it is -a very singular thing to me to find the words “ political movements “ in this regulation. Why, sir, a public servant must not join any association which in any way exercises an influence in politics. There was a time in the history of social and industrial associations when politics and religion were tabooed, but that time has passed away, and almost every institution, no matter what its character may be, now recognises’ that the constitutional way of bringing about such alterations as it considers are in the interests of the people, is through the medium of the ballot-box. Very often we hear those who advocate the maintenance of good order and good government state that everything should be done in a constitutional manner, and that everything that is not done in that way is tantamount to violence, rebellion, or revolution. If we require the people of the Commonwealth to 3 ii 2 carry out all reforms in a constitutional manner, we should give every citizen perfect liberty to associate himself with the social and political movements which have for their object the betterment of the people and the alteration of the laws in any direction which may be desired. But if a public officer is expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote a political movement, then he has no interest in the Commonwealth, and can in no way affect its legislation, and consequently has no constitutional power. He might have a son or a daughter or a wife possessing rights which he did not possess. I do not think that any man should be placed in a position in which he would possess less power to bring about constitutional reform than any member of his family. Under a regulation of this description a public officer cannot join the Freemasons, because in certain directions they take an interest in political movements. He has no right to join the Victorian Economic League, because it is of a political character. He has no right to join the Victorian Alliance or a Temperance Alliance in any State, because it takes an interest in political movements. He cannot join the Australian Natives Association which, to my mind, and justly so, is becoming one of the strongest political institutions in Australia. I may tell Senator Fraser that under this regulation a public ‘ officer has no right to join an Orange Lodge because it takes an active interest in politics. In fact, a public officer is placed in such a position that he cannot join any of these organizations. Although we had the distinct promise of two Ministers of the Crown that no action of that kind was ever intended, yet it is clearly contemplated. What will be the position of a public servant when he reads the regulation, which is as binding upon him as is the Act itself 1 He will at once close up like an oyster and become a dead member of society so far as the. politics of the Commonwealth are concerned. I have no intention to labour the question. I have endeavoured to state the matter as plainly as I could, and I hope that honorable senators will recognise the position in which the Commissioner is endeavouring to place public servants. It may be argued that it is not to the advantage of a public servant to take a practical interest in public questions, but that is a matter which should be left to his discretion. ‘ No impediment should be placed in his way. If he considers that it is his duty to discuss either political or municipal questions, then, so long as he does not violate the second portion, of this regulation, he ought to be allowed to express his opinions. Any regulation which debars a public officer from expressing his opinions as a citizen does an injustice to him. It is monstrous that, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it should be stated in a regulation of the Commonwealth that a public officer is expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way to promote a a political movement. I hope that the good sense of the Senate will be sufficiently strong to give public officers entire political liberty, subject always to the restriction which is imposed upon them by the second portion of the regulation.
– It is quite correct, as stated by Senator McGregor, that an amendment was moved on the Public Service Bill in the following terms : -
Nothing in this Act shall in any way prevent an officer becoming a member of any properlyconstituted society or political association.
That amendment was discussed, and was eventually defeated by a majority of one vote. In glancing through the debate I do not find that any promise whatever was given as to the regulation that would be made.
– Oh, yes.
– Perhaps the honorable senator can point out where a promise of the kind was given by the Government. I cannot find it. The regulation that has been framed accords with’ the view that was taken, at all events by myself, in the course of the debate. Senator McGregor, in proposing this motion, has given some instances which he considers may be regarded as the results of such a regulation as has been framed. He quotes, perhaps legitimately, extreme cases. But he did not adhere to the words of the regulation. He spoke of “taking an interest in politics.” There is nothing in the regulation to debar a public servant from taking an interest in politics, or even from becoming a member of a political association.
– Would he not be promoting an association by becoming a member of it ?
– That is extremely doubtful. I do not think that the honorable senator is justified in assuming always that there will be a stupid and perverse administration of the Act. He cannot point, to any facts whatever to lead the Senate to believe that the administration of any regulations made under the Public Service Act will be conducted in such a way. He referred to the national monopoly of tobacco in a State factory. Is there anything in the regulation that would affect employes in a factory of the kind, or prevent them becoming members of such an association as the Freemasons or the Economic Reform League alluded to by the honorable senator? Fairly read, the regulation must be taken to mean that a man who is occupying a position in the public service must not take a prominent part in politics.
– It does not say so.
– I have it .here, and will read it -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or iti any way promote political movements.
– That is emphatic enough.
– If it is fair for the honorable senator to take extreme instances of what might occur under a stupid and perverse administration, is it not justifiable for us to take into consideration what might happen if we had no regulations on the subject? What might occur in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department appeals more particularly to me because the circumstances are more familiar to my mind. We must look at it from both points of view. I am afraid that some honorable senators look at how a rule of this kind is likely to operate in one direction, forgetting that it will work impartially both ways. How would it be if a postmaster or a telegraph master in a country town were president, or secretary, or chairman of a conservative political association ? How would honorable senators like that ?
– He would have a perfect right to occupy such a position.
– Would honorable senators think it a satisfactory state of affairs to have such an officer, holding a confidential position of that character, taking an active part in political controversies at a general election 1
– The honorable senator says “Certainly.”
– He would not be compelled to do so.
– But what happens ? We will take the case of a justice of the peace. My Department is sometimes asked to allow an officer to be made a justice of the peace. In extreme cases, in remote parts of the country where there would be some difficulty in constituting a ben’ch otherwise, we have consented to this being done. But always with great reluctance - not because there is anything derogatory in a man occupythe position of a justice of the peace, or anything wrong in going upon a bench. What we say is that an officer occupying the position of a post and telelegraph master should not be forced into a situation where he might have to impose a check upon himself if he had information in his possession that had come to him confidentially. Is not that a correct view to take 1
– We do not object to that portion of the regulation.
– If it is desirable that we should not place postmasters in such positions for the reason I have given, it is desirable also that such officers should not be put in situations where there might be a conflict between their interests as members of a particular organization and their duty as confidential officers of a public Department.
– But this regulation debars the whole service.
– I am quoting admittedly extreme instances.
– We do not say that the regulation should be struck out, but that it should be amended.
– Amended in such a way as to allow an officer of a Department to be an active officer of political organization. And that is what I say would, in my opinion, be injurious to the public service. Take another aspect of the matter, -and one that will occur to the memories of some honorable senators. It is a constant occurrence for me, as Postmaster-General, to receive applications from people for the transfer of post-offices from the premises of persons who are in business. The reason is not that anything is alleged against the honour or integrity of the persons engaged in business, and having the post-offices upon their premises, but that it is not desirable that a man in business should have the handling of the correspondence of other persons, who, perhaps, are engaged in similar businesses in the same town.
– That is the case of a private shopkeeper being a postal official.
– Quite so. Perhaps this difficulty has been -brought home to Senator McGregor, as it has been brought home to nearly every member of Parliament. In cases of the kind there is nothing alleged against the person in question, but it is held that it is contrary to the public interest that a man who in a private ex-official occupation may become immersed in business should have his interest in business brought into conflict with his interest as an officer of the Department.
– That is a different case.
– It is a case which I am adducing to compare with those which Senator McGregor quoted in support of his motion for the alteration of this regulation. Honorable senators themselves would object to post and telegraph masters being engaged in a perfectly innocent occupation on the ground that it is undesirable that there should be a possible conflict of interests.
– The objection of a trader is that his debtor may be an officer of the Postal Department.
– No ; the objection is that it is not desirable in a township where there are a number of persons trading that the correspondence of those traders should pass through the hands of one of them. There is nothing alleged against the person in question, but it is said that the practice is undesirable. On exactly the same principle, we say that it is not desirable that a man who is placed in an official position, say, a post and telegraph master, should take an active part in politics. We say that if he is the secretary or president, or a prominent member of a political association, while he may be perfectly honest, and there may be no probable case in which he would improperly use any information that came into his possession, such things shake the public confidence in the administration. The first time a postmaster was seen taking an active part in politics, there would be a feeling that eventually matters that came within his knowledge in the course of his occupation were not as safe as they would be in the hands of a man who was taking no active part in politics. That is the reason why I object to doing away with a rule of this kind in the public service. I think there is hardly a public service in any civilized community that has not a similar regulation. I do not know whether a reference will be made to the United States, as furnishing a contrary instance where persons who occupy positions in the public service do interest themselves considerably in political movements. But what does the practice lead to? Officials identifying themselves with a particular party have to sink or swim with that party.
– Does tha honorable and learned senator say that that is the result of not having a regulation of this kind ? He cannot have read the political history of the United States.
– When one party goes out of office and another party comes in, wholesale changes are made in the Public Departments in theUnited States. I am not saying that the absence of a regulation of this kind requires that any such principle of administration should be adopted. But I do say that if officers of the public service interest themselves in political parties, and take sides in political controversies, it will be the beginning of a state of things leading up ultimatelyto the principle of the “ spoils to the victors.’1 In the interests of the public servants themselves it is desirable that they should not identify themselves either with one side or the other in party politics. This regulation, if not exactly word for word the same as the regulations that have existed in the States of the Commonwealth, is practically on tine same lines. Every State in the Commonwealth has had a regulation of a similar character ; that is to say, the general principle has been adopted that officers in the service of the Departments of the States shall not take a prominent part in politics. I shall just quote for the information of honorable senators the regulations in force in the public services of the various States -
New South Wales : In order that officers of all ranks may be enabled to render loyal and efficient service to the Government, they are expressly forbidden to take part in any political affairs otherwise than by recording their votes.
Victoria : In order that officers of all ranks may be enabled to render efficient and loyal service to the Government, they are expressly forbidden to take part in any political affairs, otherwise than by recording their votes for the election of Members of Parliament.
Queensland : Officers of all ranks are to refrain from taking any part in political affairs, otherwise than by the exercise of the franchise.
South Australia : Officers are hereby expressly required and enjoined not to take part in political affairs otherwise than by the exercise of the franchise.
Western Australia : Public servants are expressly forbidden from taking part in any political affairs otherwise than by the exercise of the franchise. Any public servant who uses for political purposes information gained by him in the course of duty shall be summarily dismissed.
– Has the honorable and learned senator any record of a ruling on the subject in connexion with the Railway Department of Victoria, or does he conclude that the Victorian regulation he has quoted applies to the whole of the public servants of that State ?
– I am not referring to the interpretaion of the rule. I have quoted it from the regulationsmadeunder the Public Service Act of Victoria.
– I remind the honorable and learned senator that that rule does not apply to the railway service of Victoria.
– I did not; say that it does.
– The Railway Department in Victoria comprises by far the greater number of State employes.
– How can that affect the question? We are now dealing with a regulation under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which certainly does not apply to railway employes.
– I desired to know whether the honorable and learned senator thought that the Victorian rule, as quoted, applied to the Victorian Railway Department?
– I presume not. Senator Styles knows better than I do what is the law in Victoria. Possibly the Public Service Act does not apply to railway officers in Victoria. It does not in Queensland, I know.
– The important question is : who are included under the term “ officers “ used in this regulation.
– All officers under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. Of course there are no railway employes included, because the Commonwealth has none. The officers concerned in this particular regulation under the Public Service Act of the Commonwealth are substantially persons occupying similar positions to those occupied by the officers affected by the regulations I have quoted under the Public Service Acts of the various States.
– Does the word “ officers “ include every public servant of the Commonwealth ?
– There are one or two trifling exemptions under the Public Service Act, but, generally speaking, the word as used here, includes all the employes of the Commonwealth, and the honorable and learned senator will find that a definition of the word “ officer “ is given in the Act. How do the State regulations which I have quoted compare with the regulation under consideration now? The regulation under the Commonwealth Public Service Act says -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote political movements.
The latter part of the regulation is not, I believe, in any way challenged. That regulation framed by the Public Service Commissioner of the Commonwealth is really a modification of the regulations existing in most of the States. That is to say that in some of the States the regulations in force have been of a more stringent character than the one which we are now discussing.
– No, they have not.
– That may be a matter of opinion, but I think they are, and this regulation appears to me to carry out the feeling expressed in the debate which took place in the Senate, that a man should not be debarred from being a member of a political association, but that he must not associate himself with politics in such a way as to interfere with the proper discharge of his duties as an officer of a Department. I have no desire to labour the matter, butI repeat that in considering a regulation of this kind we should consider it as one which is to be fairly administered, and it is no argument against such a regulation to suggest possible cases which might occur under stupid and perverse administration. The administration of every public Department is subject to the control of Parliament, and it is not to be assumed that any one would endeavour to put a strained interpretation upon a regulation to deprive any public servant of political rights and privileges which are justly his. I think that not only in the interests of the public, who are concerned in the efficient working of the public Departments, but in the interests of the public servants themselves, it is desirable that there should be a regulation which will prevent them from identifying themselves with party political movements.
– I intend to support the motion. When Senator Drake was referring to the regulations enforced in the various States I asked him, by interjection, if the Victorian regulation to which he referred applied to the Victorian Railway Department. The honorable and learned senator said he thought not. I knew it did not, but I desired to make it quite clear to honorable senators that it did not apply to the whole of the State servants of Victoria, and that the bulk of those State servants belong to the Railway Department, and were formerly under a Commissioner who allowed the officers and men of his Department, when off duty, to do just what they thought fit in the matter. The regulation of the Railway Department of Victoria is very similar to the regulation which has been quoted, and which reads -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in anyway promote political movements.
I waited upon Commissioner Mathieson, who at the time was the only officer having authority in such matters, to ask his interpretation of the regulation. His interpretation was that the officers of the Department were forbidden to publicly discuss or to in any way promote political movements, in their, working hours and on the railway premises
– That is not the present interpretation.
– Commissioner Mathieson said that outside of the railway premises, and in their own time, railway servants were at liberty to do what they thought fit.
– There was no railway strike as a result of that regulation.
– I wish to know whether Senator Drake believes that any regulations which he, the Senate, or any other body is able to frame, will prevent the public servants taking part in political matters.
– Of course it will not.
– It cannot possibly prevent them. What it may do is to prevent them taking part in political matters when on duty, and on Government premises.
– It may gag them, but it cannot keep them from thinking.
– It cannot prevent them from acting either, because there are many ways in which they can take action.
Of course, the superior civil servants will adjourn to the club to talk over political matters there with their friends.
– The regulation will never be put in force against them.
– It is being enforced against a superior civil servant now in Victoria.
– Senator Dobson refers to the case of a school teacher who is charged with publicly making a speech upon political matters, and not with going to a club to talk over such matters with his friends.
– Nobody objects to that.
– Of course, nobody objects to superior civil servants talking politics with their friends at a club. But the objection is taken to men getting up in public and making remarks upon political questions. I remind honorable senators that the State does not bu y a man’s political conscience and his soul. The State pays him for his labour, and, if it gets value for the wages paid him, why should it attempt to control him in other matters 1 If a man works eight hours a day for me for certain wages, it is of no consequence to me what he says about me so long as he does his work properly, and gives me value for the money which I pay him. It seems to me- that we should satisfy ourselves that -State employes earn the money they are paid, and if we desire to go further and. prevent them from interfering in politics, I think we can only do so by locking them all up. We cannot prevent them from interfering in politics.
– A Coercion Bill is the natural concomitant of such a regulation as this.
– There is scarcely a man amongst them who does not belong to some society, league, or association of some kind. I can understand that a Government officer should not be allowed to go on the public platform and deliver a long harangue against those who employ him, but I cannot -understand why we should attempt to influence his political opinions, or why, if he expresses himself in a proper manner as a man ought to do, we should interfere with him at all. In my opinion, the regulation should read in this way -
Officers are expressly forbidden to use for political purposes information gained by them in the course of duty.
It seems to me that if officers do that kind of thing, sacking is too good for them. They should not be permitted to use information gained in the course of official duty for any purpose other than that for which they are paid to use it. Where that offence is committed they should be dealt with severely, and if they are not so dealt with, the officer in charge of the Department in which the offence takes place fails in his duty.
– I think it should be laid down as a broad principle that the employes of the people collectively should not be placed in a different position politically from the employes of individuals. Logically, if we declare that the people collectively shall not allow their employes to take part in political movements, we must also declare that people employed by individuals shall not be allowed to take part in such movements. To do that would be practically to gag the whole community, and to substitute despotism for democracy. I think it should be laid down as a Commonwealth policy that the employes of the people collectively should be treated in the same way as the employes of individuals. In fact, I would go further, and say that the Commonwealth should be a model employer. I stated, during the debate upon the Public Service Bill, that in my opinion the Government should set an example as model employers. If we go so far as to say that Government employes shall not take part in any political meeting, or otherwise publicly discuss political affairs, we take from them a very great right and privilege which should be enjoyed by every man. Should that right or privilege be taken away, the next step might be to deprive them of their parliamentary vote, as already has been practically done in one of the States. We must be very careful before we reject the proposition of Senator McGregor, because the liberty of the subject ought to be the dearest possession of an Australian. It must be remembered that to prevent civil servants from publicly discussing political questions will not stop them from discussing such questions in private, thus probably giving rise to secret meetings and cabals, and tending to bring about a condition of affairs infinitely worse than that which the framers of the regulation are trying to avert. The Postmaster-General said that without this regulation we should find ourselves in the position of the United States, so far as the public servants are concerned. . My own opinion is that the regulation, so far from preventing, would create the conditions which are found in America. A regulation of the kind interferes with the liberty of a large body of people, and there is a danger that, as in America, we may go farther and deprive the civil servants not only of their right to vote but also of their positions. A very important principle is involved in this question. Shall we, as a Commonwealth representing the people collectively, give our employes treatment different from that meted out to employes of private individuals? If a private employe may take part in public political meetings, the people, that is, the Commonwealth, should allow their employes the same right. The Commonwealth, which represents the people banded together in a community, has no right to say to the public servants - “ You shall not have a political conscience, but shall be deprived of the liberty of expressing your political views in public places.” If the regulation be passed one brother, who happens to be in private employ, will be at perfect liberty to take part in .any political movement, while another brother, who is a servant of the State, will be deprived of his rights as a citizen. Senator McGregor is asking for the public servants the same right which we ourselves demand, and which every private employedemands j and to take away that right from any section of the community would be a blot on our legislation.
– I am pleased that so early in the session an opportunity is afforded of discussing what I cannot help regarding as a very unfair regulation under the Public Service Act. I express that opinion in the face of the explicit promises we had, not only from the Postmaster-General, but from Senator O’Connor, when the Public Service Bill was before the Senate. If it had not been for those clear promises it is probable there would not have been so much anxiety on the part of Senator McGregor to have this matter thoroughly thrashed out now. A great deal has happened since the question of the public service was last before the Senate. Recently there has been brought about in the public service of Victoria the very thing which it is now sought to prevent - that is, interference by the heads of Departments with men in their rights as citizens. Events have occurred in Victoria which I dare say very few honorable senators expected to witness when the subject was last discussed by us. A great deal has been said as to the part a civil servant may take in politics. I quite agree that it would be very unseemly for a civil servant to take any very prominent part in politics, such as that instanced by the Postmaster-General. It would disgust every man in the community if a public servant, in his position as president of a political association, revealed secrets or information obtained by him in the course of hisofficial duties. I am quite satisfied, however, that no public servant would ever think of doing anything of the sort.
– It has often been done.
– Then, it must have been done in secret.
– Human nature is human nature.
– If official information has been revealed under such circumstances I must grant that Senator Fraser knows a great deal more about the secrets of politics than I do. I am a mere apprentice in political life and, possibly the knowledge which has come to Senator Fraser was obtained in a way impossible to me. I am not in any way connected with secret societies, political, or otherwise. My object throughout has been to have all political or trades-union organizations conducted in a thoroughly open and public manner. As a trades-union leader, I have consistently opposed any proceedings of a secret character being introduced in Australia. In Western Australia I opposed the creation of a branch of the Knights of Labour, regarding all such private organizations as undesirable in the labour movement. We in Australia consider that we ar.e blessed with greater privileges and liberties under our Constitution than are enjoyed in the country which gave rise to the Knights of Labour. In order to fully appreciate the meaning of the proposed regulation, we must have regard to the position of the public servants in Victoria at the present time. Does any honorable senator think that, because the railway servants of that State were recently licked into submission, or, rather, surrendered the position they had taken up, everything is satisfactory in the Railway Department? I can assure honorable senators that quite an opposite state of affairs exists, and that the whole of the Railway Department is in a seething state of revolution and discontent.
– Does the honorable senator warrant the word “revolution”?
– I say that the Victorian railway employes are discontented with the present state of affairs, and that that discontent may break forth before very long in a way that will wake up some of the would-be political “josses” of Victoria. No logical argument has been adduced in favour of the regulation. We cannot prevent the public servants from thinking politics or from casting their votes.
– Nobody desires to do that.
– Then it is for nothing that we have to thank the f ramers of the regulation. Surely it is better to allow Government employes to form organizations and work in the open light than to drive them into secret combinations ? In my opinion we are now sitting on the safetyvalve, and we ought to regard as a sort of warning the sad state of affairs in Servia as announced in this morning’s press. It is all very well for honorable senators to laugh, but King Alexander and his Ministers, who this morning are shorter by their heads’ length, no doubt laughed a few months ago as the Postmaster-General is laughing now.
– Does the honorable senator know what the Servian regulation is on this subject ?
– I do not pretend to be intimate with the civil service regulations of Servia, but I know that the authorities there have been sitting on the safety-valve in the same way as the political heads in the State of Victoria are now doing. If events similar to those in Servia occurred in Victoria, need any one be surprised ?
SenatorFraser. - Does the honorable senator countenance that sort of thing ?
– I countenance nothing of the kind. Perhaps Senator Eraser countenances more of that sort of thing than I do. All I countenance is done in the open ; I go into no secret societies. I hold that the regulation is not only unfair and uncalled for, but isultra vires, there being nothing in the Public Service Act which gives the Commissioner or the Postmaster-General power to frame a regulation of the kind.
– I did not frame the regulation.
– I say that neither the Postmaster-General nor the Commissioner has a right to frame a regulation of the kind under the Act.
– Did anybody ever say I had a right to frame the regulation?
– No, but I say neither the Government’ nor the Commissioner has any such power ; and, that being so, I that hold the regulation ought to be omitted or improved in the direction indicated by Senator McGregor. No such regulation is needed, and there is no reason why it should be framed, or, at any rate, framed in such an objectionable manner. Recently, in Victoria, a policeman,in his own time and in his private clothes, attended a public meeting addressed by Mr. Tom Mann at Ballarat, and for this audacity he has been called to account by the precious head of the State Government. These are just the beginnings, of tyranny we wish to nip in the bud. Attention has already been called to the school teacher, who sinned in that he drew attention to the fact that farmers’ children, who have to get up at all hours of the morning in order to milk cows and do other work, attended school in such a state of physical weariness that they were practically unable to receive their lessons. This expression of opinion by a teacher, to which attention was called on the initiative of the supporters of the Kyabram movement in his locality, is used by the precious Irvine-Bent Government as an argument against the public servants. If this sort of thing is allowed to go on, we shall have the most ridiculous position evolved. In Western Australia, railway employes have even contested parliamentary seats, without any detriment to the service.
– The Western Australian railways pay better than those of Victoria.
– It is quite true that the Western Australian railways are superior to the Bent-ridden railways ofVictoria. When the regulation referred to by Senator Styles was in force under Commissioner Mathieson, no harm was done to the receipts of the Victorian Railway Department. It was not until a tyrant was placed at the head of the Railway Department that trouble arose; and some remedy is required in the direction indicated by Senator McGregor because the Government may increase the number of its employes, and by every such increase the citizen rights of the people would be further restricted. The whole tendency of the age is to increase the opportunities for using the franchise. But the tendency of this regulation is to restrict rather than to extend the opportunities for the exercise of the franchise. I hope that it will be amended so that public officers may be allowed that reasonable amount of political liberty to which they are justly entitled. I think it will be generally admitted that the Government merely buy the labour of an engine-driver or a carpenter or a blacksmith, and that when his work is finished he should be at liberty to dispose of his leisure as he pleases. No Public Service Commissioner should be allowed to exercise, any control over the actions of a public officer in his leisure. I wish to recall a few of the promises which were made by Ministers when this question was being considered in the Senate. When Senator Keating said that he was in favour of civil servants being allowed to join any association of either a political or trades union character, Senator Drake interjected these words -
Hear, hear : and they never have been debarred.
– Why not read the statement of Senator Keating to which I said “ Hear, hear.”
– It is as follows : -
I arn entirely in accord with the principle of the amendment, but there is nothing in the Bill which denies to civil servants the right to band themselves together, to associate as members of a civil service association, or to join one or the other of the many political or semi-political organizations, or the national or semi-national organizations, which permeate the length and breadth, of the Commonwealth.
– And I said “ Hear, hear,” to that.
– There is no provision in the Public Service Act to prevent a civil servant from joining an association of that kind, and therefore why should this regulation exist? When my amendment was before the Senate - and it was only defeated by fourteen to thirteen - some honorable senators who supported the Government declared that if any attempt had been made to prevent a public officer from having his full political rights they would have supported the attitude which
I assumed. On page 9367, Senator O’Connor said -
If a man is a member of a political association he may attend its meetings and take part in its work ; but undoubtedly he would not be allowed to take such a prominent part in its proceedings as to be identified with them as a high official of the association, in such a way as to cause the public to suspect his fairness in the carrying out of his public duty. That is the position at the present time, and is it to be continued?. At the present time the head of a Department would - not interfere with a mau who was merely a member of an association.
I hold that under this regulation the head of a Department can interfere with any officer who in any way promotes a political movement of any kind, and that, therefore, it is quite contrary to the promise which was given by the representatives of the Government here.
– I do not consider it is. If there was no regulation, what would the head of a Department have to do ?
– The faculty of speech is given to a man to express his thoughts, and I take it that Senator O’Connor expressed the thought of the Government when he used those words. I hope that the Government will stand by the promise which was given here by their representativ.es, and repeal the objectionable portion of the regulation. I consider that the prestige of the civil service will not suffer by taking that course, nor will the prestige of the Government suffer by standing to the promise which was given to the Senate in their name.
– Senator McGregor and the supporters of this motion seem to forget that every man knows exactly the conditions upon which he joins the civil service. A position in the civil service carries certain advantages and certain disadvantages. One disadvantage is that an officer is supposed not to take a prominent part in any party movement. The same rule exists in other institutions. I was in a banking institution for 26 years, and the servants were never supposed to take an active part in politics, nor did we. We merely exercised our vote. The moment we grumbled we were told, “ Very well, if you do not like the conditions you can resign.” It must be remembered that public officers are not the servants of one section of the community, but the servants of the whole community. If a man enters into an engagement with his eyes open, it is absurd for him afterwards to find . fault with the conditions of his employment. In all the States, I believe, public officers have full liberty to form civil service associations.
– Do not civil servants have to comply with conditions made after they joined the service ?
– Every man when he joins the civil service understands that he becomes the servant of the whole community, and that he must not ally himself with a section of the community for political purposes.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that they joined the service under- regulations then existing?
– The general condition is that civil servants are not supposed to take an active part in any public movement of a party character. A hospital movement is not a movement of a party character. Nor is an association to relieve distress a movement of a party character.
– What about a temperance society?
– It is not a party movement.
– Ask the licensed victuallers !
– I think all men ought to be temperate. With regard to the second portion of the regulation, Senator Drake has shown very clearly that if an officer took an active part in a political movement he might, perhaps quite unintentionally, use information which he had obtained in his official capacity. In the institution to which I had the honour to belong, we could not become justices of the peace without the approval of the board, and for the very good reason that we might be called upon to adjudicate on matters affecting our constituents. We only accepted the position on the distinct understanding that we should not be called upon to do more than witness the signing of deeds. I have been a justice of the peace for Queensland, for I do not like to say how many years. I have never sat on the bench, but I have often witnessed the signing of deeds for the convenience of the public. Now that we have adult suffrage, civil servants through their wives, sons, and daughters possess a considerable amount of indirect political influence. I regret that railway employes are not brought under the provisions of the Public Service Acts. I may be old fashioned in my views, but I think it is a monstrous thing that a whole community should be disturbed because a section of the Government employes wish to do something or other. I consider that Senator Drake made a very good point in his reference to the United States. Senator McGregor is trying to introduce the thin edge of the wedge, and, after a time, I suppose every one is to belong to the socialistic movement. I am not one of those who. think that everything should be owned by the State. I am in favour of individualism. A civil servant has many advantages. He has permanency of employment. In good or bad times he draws his salary. If he goes into a political movement outside his office hours it will probably interfere with his proper attention to duty during office hours. How can he serve two masters ? He had better serve one master faithfully. We have good instruction on that point, I am afraid that there is a tendency nowadays - I do not say especially in the Senate - merely to look to those whose votes we wish to get. In every State there are many Members of Parliament who when they address the House to which they belong, have in view the election which is to take place a few months later. I do not think that we are very much better than our neighbours in that respect ; I do not say that we are any worse. I have as strong an objection as Senator De Largie to secret societies. I have never belonged to a secret society, and I do not intend to do so. I am not one of those who think that secret societies should necessarily exist. Perhaps in the middle ages they did a certain amount of good, but in these days everything should be done in an open manner. We know that trades unionists will not allow men who do not belong to their associations to go peaceably to their work. That is an interference with the liberty of the subject. I believe that I speak the mind of the Senate when I say that we should do all we can legitimately to make public officers comfortable in their positions as long as they give faithful service. I do not believe in stinting pay. I believe in paying a man well if he does his work properly. I am in perfect sympathy with those who wish to get a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.
– The honorable member did not support the minimum wage clause.
– Certainly not, because it is really making the so-called rninimum the maximum in many cases. I hope that we shall very soon be able to come to a determination on this question.
– I intend to vote against the motion. I do not mean to suggest that the regulation might not well be slightly altered. I do not think that any objection can be taken to the wording of the regulation which is in force in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and even Western Australia. The corresponding regulation in New South Wales reads as follows : -
In order that officers of all ranks may be enabled to render loyal and efficient service to the Government, they are expressly forbidden to take part in any political affairs otherwise than by recording their votes.
No one, I think, would wish our regulation to be framed in stronger terms Practically the same regulation is in force in Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. The only ground on which honorable senators desire an amendment of this regulation is that it prohibits a civil servant from publicly discussing, or in any way promoting, political movements. I admit that that is capable of an extreme interpretation. It might be urged that a man, in joining an association, was promoting it. I will not say that a Minister of the Crown might not, at some time, take that view. But it is not a common-sense reading of the regulation.
– Oh, yes, it is.
– I say that it is not; but if it will please the labour corner to have the word “ promoting “ altered, I shall not object. I should prefer to substitute either the Victorian, the Queensland, or the South Australian regulation. But to allow the civil servants of the country to take an active part in politics is a most dangerous principle indeed. When persons join the civil service they know perfectly well that they ought not to take a_ prominent part in politics. Their own commonsense tells them that they ought not to take the pay of the public and at the same time dictate to the Government. A man is not compelled to join the civil service, but when he takes a position under the Crown it is perfectly well understood that it is not optional for him to take part in politics. I do not say that a railwaystationmaster o”ught not to be allowed to speak to two or three individuals and express his own opinion. But when a public servant gets on a platform and denounces in extreme language the Government which he is serving, expressing views highly derogatory to Ministers of the Crown, that public servant should be dismissed. There is the case of a school teacher who got upon a public platform and denounced Ministers in vile language.
– A grand speech - it was a lovely speech.
– If Senator Higgs had to face the Queensland electors within the next few months he might not be so brave. . When a teacher or any other officer gets on a public platform at a public meeting, and denounces his own Ministers, he is not fit to be a public servant.
– It was not at a public meeting, but at a teachers’ conference.
– It was at a public meeting, where the press was represented. I will admit, for the sake of argument - not that it is true - that there might be sweating in the public service, but would that justify an officer in denouncing Ministers of the Crown 1 What kind of a public service should we have if such conduct were tolerated ? We shall have open revolt, anarchy, revolution.
– That would be terrible, wouldn’t it ?
– It would be.
– It has done a lot of good in times gone by.
– We are speaking of a country where there is every possible toleration given to and allowance made for civil servants and others.
– Where is the toleration on the honorable senator’s part ?
– There is toleration to join any society any one likes so long as it is not anarchical or revolutionary. I joined a certain society some years ago, and will give a history of my action. I was a very innocent youth from Canada, and knew no more about the Orange institution than the man in the moon. But in the Legislative Assembly in Victoria ‘ some twenty years ago, or there abouts, I supported a very old political friend of mine, the late Sir James Patterson, by seconding his motion censuring members who signed a treasonable, address against my Queen and country. The words to which I took exception then, and as I would now, referred to the British Crown as “the hoof of foreign despotism.” Senator Higgs laughs. I want to put him in a hole if I can. I want to make him take sides, and then I will fix him. Let him not sit on a rail. A man. must either be for the King or against the King. I am for the King. I soon found what kind of opposition I had to face in this country. But I should take the same course again under the same circumstances. There is no objection to any man joining institutions or societies so long as they are not revolutionary.
– So long as they are secret.
– There is no harm in. secret meetings. There are numbers of secret meetings which do good service. But what we are now taking exception’ to is the open action of certain civil servants, not what they do in secret meetings. The regulations in force in some of the States cannot hz taken exception to. I cannot go to the length advised by Senator McGregor and others, who would have them struck out altogether. Objection has been taken to a policeman having been found fault with because he attended Tom Mann’s meetings. Does the labour corner support Tom Mann ?
– Certainly ; why not?
– He has openly stated that he wishes to drive all the capital out of Australia. Do they support that ? It does not suit them to say so. They will only take the parts of Tom Mann’s utterances that suit them.
– Did the honorable senator hear him say that ?
– Do the labour representatives denounce Tom Mann for using those expressions ? If they are not for Tom Mann, they must be against him. They cannot get the benefit of all the evil work he does without taking the responsibility.
– I thought they paid him.
– They pay him £600 a year for calling us all rascals, and for denouncing nearly everything that makes a country great - denouncing religion, I think, amongst other things.
– Oh, no.
– Oh, yes. I have not got his speeches by heart, but that is near enough.
– There is not a more religious man in Victoria than Tom Mann.
– It is very brave of the honorable senator to denounce Tom Mann here, where he can make no reply.
– It is time public men did speak out when the labour section are trying to force on matters to a point that will be ruinous to the country. If we support Tom Mann, we shall soon be driven back to the position of blackfellows, with not even an opossum rug around us.
– Does the honorable senator think that- the discussion of Mr. Tom Mann’s views is relevant ?
– I only wanted to better the opportunity. I am not afraid of my views,; I never was, and never shall be. If they secure the favour of the public I am pleased ; if they do not, I am quite as well pleased.
– If the honorable senator had to stand for election this year he would not say so.
– Will the honorable senator retire for Queensland if I retire for Victoria ? There is a challenge for him. It is said that a perfect corollary to this regulation would be a Coercion Bill. If any one goes down to the Police Court to-day he will find coercion institutions being carried on. Every police magistrate is a coercionist. Every Judge is a coercion Judge. The two men who are ‘to be hanged in New South Wales in a day or two will be coerced. There is a great difference, however, between coercing people and not allowing them to do wrong. We only want to coerce people who do wrong into doing what is right. Coercion is punishment. But my honorable friends in the labour corner want to say that if a civil servant is coerced into doing right, a wrong is done to him. They are fortunate in living in a time when there is a vast amount of freedom. If they look back a few centuries, they will be able to draw comparisons that make present times, seem very advantageous. I shall vote against the motion.
– I hope we shall return to a calm consideration of the question, apart from the violent controversial features which have been introduced in the course of the debate. When this question was originally before the Senate, in the consideration of the Public Service Bill, a clause was moved by Senator De Largie to the effect that nothing in ‘ the Act should prevent officers from becoming members of any properly-constituted society or political association. While that was rejected by one vote, it seemed to be the general consensus of opinion that there should be no administration of the Public Service Act which would prevent any public servant from being a member of such a society for the purpose of preserving his rights of citizenship. While there may have been a disinclination to place it in so many words upon the statute-book, the general idea certainly was that the administration of the Act should operate in that direction. That view has been confirmed by Senator Drake himself. The honorable and learned senator says that it would be an unreasonable administration of the Act to prevent a man being merely a private member of such an association.
– Ministers are only the creatures of a day.
– What I desire to point out is that while there has been an objection taken to Senator McGregor’s motion, the Minister himself largely admits that a fair administration of the Public Service Act, and of this particular regulation, would permit a public servant to belong to any reasonably-constituted political society or association. But what the Minister has most properly condemned is the active participation of public servants in public affairs of a political character. There appeal’s to be on the part of Senator McGregor, and those supporting him, an admission that it is not altogether desirable that public servants should on the public platform actively or prominently support political movements. Of course, if anything of that kind is done it strikes at the root of discipline, and necessarily involves most serious complications. We have to consider how we, can do what is reasonable and fair to the public servants of the Commonwealth. The public servants have to look to Parliament for redress of their grievances. We are therefore not justified in preventing them endeavouring amongst themselves to secure what is conceded to every other section of the community, namely, legitimate combination for the purpose of promoting legitimate rights. Having regard to the fact that Parliament is master of the public servants, and that they have to organize for the purpose of securing justice at the hands of Parliament, it is hardly reasonable for us to attempt to enforce a regulation which, on the face of it, would prevent any such action on their part. In my view, a reasonable interpretation of the desire of honorable senators would be given by an alteration of the motion submitted by Senator McGregor in this direction. The motion is to the effect -
That in the opinion of the Senate, regulation 41 under the Public Service Act should be amended.
I would add these words - by inserting after the word “ way “ the words “to publicly.”
So that the regulation would then read -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss, or in any way to publicly promote, political movements.
The latter part of the regulation we all approve. I certainly agree with those who have said that it is most undesirable that public servants should go upon a public platform possibly for the purpose of deliberately, actively, and prominently opposing principles of public policy submitted by the Ministers at the head of their Departments or by the Government generally.
– Or by the leader of the Opposition.
– Or by the leader of the Opposition, as the case may be. There can be no doubt that any public advocacy of particular political principles by public servants will necessarily involve serious complications, but while we should be opposed to any such active interference by public servants, we are not justified in depriving them of reasonable freedom in the exercise of their rights of citizenship. I suggest that in the exercise of those rights, and for the promotion of their own interests, they are justified in combining. The regulation in its present form is, I think, unduly extreme and drastic. While I agree that officers of the Public Service should be forbidden to publicly discuss political subjects, it is going very far to say, in the words of this regulation, “or in any way promote political movements.” That, in my opinion, would deprive them of their reasonable rights, and those rights must be considered, having due regard to their relationship to Parliament. It would prevent them uniting for the purpose of securing redress of grievances, and as Parliament is their master, organization is, I think, the way in which they should seek redress of grievances. We are not justified, therefore, in doing anything which will prevent such organization. I move -
That the following words be added to the motion : - “ by inserting after the word ‘ way’ in such regulation the words ‘ to publicly. “
– No one listening to the debate can complain that it has not been an animated one. In view of some of the statements made, I feel that, as a representative of the State of Victoria, I should clearly express my opinion of this motion. If the statement is true, as assumed by Senator Walker, that there is something looming in the distance which will perhaps prevent us freely expressing our opinions, it might be injudicious for me to express mine. But whether it be injudicious in that sense or not, I intend to publicly express what I think upon this matter, without fear, favour, ‘or affection. If my views are found not to be in accord with those of a majority of the people of this State, then so much the worse for me. Notwithstanding that, I shall on the floor of this chamber state what I believe to be the right course to adopt. This is a question upon which, as Senator Eraser has said, we ought to take sides, and I am going to take this side : I do not consider it just on any occasion to restrict the voting power or the citizen rights of any person whatever.
– We are not asked to do so.
– Holding that view, I say in the first place that I shall support the motion which has been moved by Senator McGregor. I think it is right that the honorable senator should have taken the earliest opportunity afforded him to initiate a discussion upon this question, in view of the statements made and promises implied during the discussion of the clause moved by Senator De Largie when we were discussing the Public Service Bill. This regulation seems to me to show the danger of regulations under any Act of Parliament. My mind is perfectly clear as to the discussion which took place on the Public Service Bill. The impression I formed at the time was distinctly that the Government would not in any way unduly restrict civil servants in claiming their political rights. I intend to direct the attention of honorable senators to what was said by Senator O’Connor on that occasion. I suppose that, in speaking at the time, the honorable and learned senator was in some way voicing the opinion of the Government as well as his own, though I find that, lawyer-like, the honorable and learned senator managed in some parts of the speech he made to introduce remarks which appear to confound some of the clearest statements he made in other parts of the same speech.
– Why lawyer-like?
-The honorable senator must know that lawyers very often use language for the purpose of concealing their ‘ real meaning, and I suppose that when the lawyer becomes the politician, as the result of his peculiar training, it is very often impossible for a layman to grasp what he really means. I advise honorable senators to study the whole of Senator O’Connor’s speech, but I quote only the first part of it. At page 9366 the honorable and learned senator is reported to have spoken as follows : -
Senator McGregor seems to me to have adopted a tone which, with all respect to him, is altogether extravagant upon this question. It is assumed that those opposing the introduction of this clause are opposed to the civil servants belonging to political associations, and exercising the right of combination for political purposes, or exercising their right as citizens to influence elections. But nobody dreams for one moment of placing any obstacle of that kind in their way. There were times when a man who was a member of the Public Service found it very difficult, if not impossible, to give effect to his political opinions. But that kind of administration has gone for ever. In any Government which is carried on under the control of Parliament, under the eye of the press and the influence of public opinion, such administration can no longer exist and can never return.
That is an emphatic statement by Senator O’Connor upon this question. I must be fair to the honorable and learned senator, and say that in later portions of the speech he seems to deny the clear position he takes up in the portion I have quoted. It seems to me that some members of the Commonwealth Parliament desire in this particular matter that we should promote what I may call panic regulations for the public service. I hold that no public servant should be under any restriction whatever so far as his political opinions are concerned, and that when he enters the service the whole of his political rightsshould bepreserved to him. The fact that a man is working for the State should not debar him from freely expressing his views or from exercising the franchise. There is, however, another phase of the question with which to some extent I sympathize. It would be wrong for a civil servant to stand on a public platform and take sides in a heated political controversy. At the same time I have no sympathy with regulations which deny political rights to any section of the community. I believe that when the people of Victoria realize what they have done, or what the State Government have done in their name, they will in a short time be ashamed of the position they have created, and that the laws recently enacted will be repealed. A few years ago similar restrictions were placed on the members of the police force in the same State, and these men were deprived of their vote on the ground that it would be dangerous to give them the political rights enjoyed by other sections of the community. For many years these policemen were deprived of the franchise, but the time came when a more enlightened public opinion declared in their favour, and to-day they stand in exactly the same position as their fellow citizens. The fact that a police officer went to a public meeting when off duty, to listen to a certain lecture, caused him to be called before a board to explain his conduct.
– The regulation has. nothing to do with the police.
– But the incident shows what the effect of the regulation might be. What has been the result of the panic legislation in Victoria 1 I read the other day that the Premier of Queensland is thinking of introducing similar legislation in that State, and if that be done the time may come when, even in this Parliament, it may be urged that these restrictions should be placed on Commonwealth officers. That is a proposal of a sort to which I could never agree, but which I should do my best to. defeat. Every senator ought to speak and also vote on the motion submitted by Senator McGregor. Taking the consensus of opinion registered on the previous occasion, and knowing that to some extent the Government have departed from the position they then took up, I believe a majority of the Senate will support the motion. The regulation is too drastic, and, in the interests of the Commonwealth, ought to be amended.
– I do not think any reasonable objection can be taken to the regulation as it stands. If it be found hereafter that it goes a little too far, or that we can more clearly define what we want, some amendment, such as that suggested by
Senator Best, may be accepted. What we do want is a loyal public service. Senator Smith says that he has always expressed the opinion that the State ought to be a model employer. My own opinion is that the State is and always has been a model employer.
– Only in some of the States.
– In all of the States, I believe, State employes have been treated with the utmost consideration. There are the Public Service Boards and Appeal Boards to give them justice, and then there are conciliation and other boards, the object of which is to put a stop to the unrest created by the Public Service and Appeal Boards. Then, under the Commonwealth there is a minimum wage of a far greater amount than is paid by any class of public institutions or public employers throughout Australia. The hours of work are short and the holidays long, and in every way the public servants have always been considered. If a question were to arise affecting the position of the public servantsI believe that every member of every Legislature would go to the end of his tether in order to do justice to them, and grant everything that could reasonably be asked; indeed, most of us would probably,. I am afraid, forget the taxpayers who have to “pay thepiper.” It is rather amusing to hear how some of the honorable senators who support the amendment give themselves away, and how Senator McGregor; and some who think with him, have tried by means of great exaggeration to impress upon us the importance of the amendment. Senator Styles had to admit that it would be objectionable for a public servant to mount the platform and make a long political speech.
– I said it would be objectional for a public servant to make a long harangue against the Government.
– What is the difference between a man who talks for an hour and perhaps says very little, and another man who talks for three minutes and, perhaps, utters sentences which are absolutely disloyal and unfair, and not in accordance with fact, and in which unconscious use may be made of confidential official knowledge? Senator Styles gives his whole case away when he admits that a public servant ought to be stopped under some circumstances from mounting a political platform and making a long harangue. If the honorable senator can frame a regulation which will permit a public servant to go on the platform and make a short harangue I shall be very glad to see it. Then Senator De Largie also gives himself away. The honorable senator, out of that conscientiousness of his, which is altogether against the capitalist and in favour of the working man, admits that he would not like a civil servant to take a very prominent part in politics. I should like Senator De Largie, with the help of the labour corner, tosuggest a regulation. Then Senator McGregor utterly gives himself away by dealing in the language of exaggeration. He has told the public through Hansard and the newspapers that we are taking away from the public servants all constitutional power.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I took down the words of the honorable senator, who led me to infer that if this regulation were allowed to stand it wouldpracticallydeny the public servants any constitutional power.
– No; I said we should be interfering with their constitutional rights.
– Senator McGregor then went on to illustrate’ his argument by picturing a household consisting of a public servant, his wife, and son and daughter, each one of whom had a vote ; and he contended that the family would, under this regulation, have absolutely more power than the head of the household. Does the honorable senator not see that the head of such a household would have very great power? Does the honorable senator not see that his illustration absolutely cuts the ground from under his feet ? The head of the household would have the right to vote, and to attend the private meetings of his fellow workers in the civil service association, if he liked, and discuss in every possible way any questions affecting the public service, and to approach his employers in a loyal and proper way.
– Not under this regulation.
– Yes; under the regulation. Then the wife, and the son, and the daughter, could join the head of the household in fighting for an increase in his salary, for decreasing his hours, or for anything he liked to demand, and the wife, son, and daughter could become agitators and mount the platform. It is absolutely idle for our friends in the labour corner to say that we are seeking to deprive any citizen of his just rights or his just liberties. As Senator Walker has pointed out, honorable senators seem to forget that while the State ought to be, and I contend is, a model employer, there ought to be obligations on the part of the employe. Is it not the very first obligation of the employe that his service should be loyal and efficient - that he should not play the traitor?
– Who suggested anything to the contrary ?
– The honorable senators are suggesting something very like what I indicate. The whole speech of Senator De Largie seemed to be inspired by the anger and resentment he feels because the. wicked strike which took place in Victoria utterly collapsed. It appears to me that honorable senators, in supporting that strike, were absolutely telling the railway employes that they had a right to practically rebel against the authority of the Government.
SenatorFraser. - Some honorable senators attended the meetings of the strikers.
– That is so, and I never felt more disgraced by any thing that has been done by honorable senators. Senator De Largie mistakes discipline for tyranny. He talks about our wanting to play the tyrant over men when we are simply applying that discipline which is necessary in this world if we are to be without revolutions such as have been hinted at. It appears to me that even in this twentieth century, such events as the shocking assassinations in Servia show that everything must be based on discipline. If a public servant is not ready to submit himself to the most reasonable discipline of this regulation, let him leave the service.
– This regulation opens up a very important question, which is a great deal more far-reaching than perhaps’ at first sight appears, and upon which a great deal of difference of opinion may exist. I agree with Senator Best that we may very well examine this matter without importing into the discussion any undue heat, or without travelling beyond the limits of what is admittedly necessary and proper in relation to the position of the public servants - that is, the servants of the public, and, in this case, of the Commonwealth - -whether their position be high or low. I am rather inclined to the view that although perhaps some of the words of the regulation to which attention has been called, might have been more fully or perhaps better expressed, they sufficiently convey what is intended to be prevented. They sufficiently negative, T think, the rather broad interpretation or prohibition which some honorable senators find .in them. I do not take the view they take as to the extensive application of the words “ political movement.” It is quite natural, as Senator Pearce said, that.the civil servants should take the view that the language used covers a wider field than was intended, and may be unnecessarily restrictive upon the exercise of their rights. Because they take that view we ought not at once to accept it. It is perfectly natural that all men in the civil service should seek to get, if they can, the same unrestricted right as others to further political movements, and ally themselves with whatever active political organization in the State they think fit. Undoubtedly, that is a natural thing, and no one has a right to reproach them and to remonstrate, with them. But it all proceeds on what I conceive to be an erroneous assumption. Senator Smith said, as though it concluded the whole subject, that there was no reason why the servants o? the whole of the people should be deprived of any right which the servants of any one of the people enjoyed. That struck me as a very taking but utterly fallacious argument to apply to this matter, and, whatever we may do as regards this regulation - and possibly some parts of the language may be improved upon - we shall be making a great mistake if we proceed on that assumption. That is not the position at all. The position is that public officers are the servants of the people represented by the Executive Government. My servants are the servants of an individual, but the civil servants have no more right to intrigue either privately or publicly against, or to denounce publicly the Government, whose servants they are, than my servants have a right publicty or privately to intrigue against me, or to publicly denounce me. That is the parallel. There must be a limit of course, but the parallel which my honorable friend drew is quite a mistake, because it eliminates a fact. Just as my servants are not allowed to join movements against me, so the- servants of the State must be under a certain disability, when they enter its service, to prevent them from intriguing privately against their masters, the public, or publicly denouncing them. That is the principle underlying the regulation. Otherwise it ought to be swept away.
– “Intriguing privately !” How can vou possibly define a thing like that ?
Senator -Sir JOSIAH SYMON”.- You cannot enter into the minds of men. You cannot pursue them into the innermost recesses of their closets or studies or club rooms. But still that is no reason why you should not, as far as possible try, whilst doing justice to their rights, to reach the principle as far as you can. That is what the regulation is intended to do. But what I wish ,to make clear is that an)’ legislation of this kind rests fundamently on that principle, that the civil servants must enjoy what are called their political rights subject to the disability that they are the servants of the people and of the Government of the people. We all admit that it would be absolutely outrageous to permit public servants to go on a platform and denounce the Executive Government, because if they were entitled to do the one they would be entitled to do the other. When my honorable friends talk in large language about the encroachment upon civil liberty and the rights of citizens, it is utterly inapplicable to this state of things, because we admit that there is a limit. Any member of the Senate, the humblest citizen who is not a Government servant, can get up a political agitation, mount a platform, and denounce the’ Ministry or a particular Minister. It would be a public scandal, it would be subversive of all the best principles of government if the public servants were permitted to do so.
– On the other hand the honorable and learned senator will admit that a public servant has some right to take an interest in the country’s affairs and to be allowed to express his opinions.
– The public servant has a right, and I ‘shall refer in a moment to what I consider to be the limits of that right. The regulation does three things. We are all anxious, I am sure, to conserve as far as possible and in every way consistent with their position the political rights of civil servants. No one wishes to encroach upon them one atom more than is necessary.
When we are told, and rightly told, that civil servants take the view that they are unnecessarily restricted, we must remember that they entered a service which gives them a great variety of privileges. They enjoy practically permanent employment during good behaviour ; they enjoy certainties which the ordinary employe of an individual does not enjoy, and in return for these privileges they give up, and are bound to give up, certain portions of that common freedom - certain portions of those rights in connexion with public affairs which other citizens enjoy. They enter the service with their eyes open, they to receive certain privileges, and in return they are subject to certain disabilities. The only question is how far those disabilities extend. This regulation points to three, and no one offers adverse criticism about the third one, by which -
They are further forbidden to use for political purposes information gained by them in the course of duty.
Every one, I understand, agrees with that portion of the regulation. But allow me to point out to Senator Best that it will be nearly as difficult to enforce that part of the regulation as it will be to enforce what he pointed out as a blot, and to remedy which he proposes to insert the word “ publicly” - to enforce their seclusion, so to speak, from all forms of private intrigue.
– It is only a question of degree.
– Yes. You can never reach a policy of perfection by a regulation of this kind. You have only to do the practical, and the impossibility of reaching the practical by putting in the word “publicly” is just as applicable to that part of the regulation as the other. If a man wishes fraudulently, or in violation of his duty to his employer, the State, or his duty to the Minister, to convey information from a public office to the leader of the Opposition, he will do it, and in nine times out of ten he will never be found out. You cannot pursue every man in whatever tortuous course or intrigue or anything of that kind he may adopt. You can only lay down a rule which will enable you to do it, if you can, when you can, and as far as you can. The first portion of this regulation is admittedly a good thing -
Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss ** * political movements.
But the part on which the discussion has hinged is -
Or in any way promote political movement’s.
We have to consider what is sought to be forbidden. I take entirely the view of the Government upon this matter. Looking at the position of the Government ; looking at the fact, as Senator Higgs said yesterday, that they have been unswervingly supported by my honorable friends on the left during the last two years ; looking at the fact that they would not be likely to frame a regulation which would unduly encroach or do a wrong to public servants ; then it is prima facie pretty plain that they used language which they believed hit at the mischief intended to be corrected, and would prevent injury to the Commonwealth. What is it that we want to prevent ? In the passage which Senator Barrett quoted, Senator O’Connor has declared what we all assent to - that there is not the slightest objection to civil servants forming associations, amongst themselves as they do, and advancing their own interests by an appeal to Parliament if they like, by swaying the election of a particular member, and assisting to secure the representation which they desire.
– Would not the formation of such an association be the promotion of a political movement?
– I think not. I do not think that that is what is meant by “political movements” in this regulation. It is not what the Government meant. It is for the purpose of defining the meaning more clearly that I intend to suggest the alteration of two or three words. I take the view that “promoting political movements” means, not movements amongst the civil servants for their own interests as civil servants, but political movements in the large sense, as ordinarily understood. This regulation would prevent them, I am sorry to say, from promoting that great cause of liberty and prosperity, free-trade. It would equally prevent them from promoting the interests of monopoly by associating themselves with a protectionist association. I am not going to discuss whether the Trades Hall Council is a political institution or not, but assuming that it is, the regulation would prevent them from joining a body such as that if organized, as has been alleged, for political purposes. Senator O’Connor in his speech showed that no one contemplated, and no administration in the face of Parliament would attempt to administer this regulation so as to prevent the civil servants having an association amongst themselves for the purpose of furthering their own interests, just as the servants in the employment of any of us are entitled to band themselves together with a view of representing their interests, and securing an improvement in the terms of their employment, by asking for higher wages, by making representations to their employer, or even by retiring if they like. The power of striking in that sense - I am not justifying striking - would be open, to them. The right of combination is sacred. Every body of men has a right to say whether they will work for particular wages or not. Therefore, the position of civil servants is absolutely analogous to that of the servants of a private individual in respect to the right to combine, to deputationize their employer, and to do everything they can for the improvement of the conditions of their service. But public servants, or the servants of a private individual, have no right to intrigue secretly against their employer, or secretly to promote a movement to his detriment, or to get up on a platform and denounce him. Dismissal would be the immediate result of that in the case of private employes, and so it should be in the other case. Therefore, the word “ publicly “ would not have the effect intended. It would not meet the case, because in point of fact it would emphasize the right to agitate secretly. I should infinitely prefer to allow public servants to associate publicly, for the reason that Senator Best gives, that you can follow them when they do things publicly ; rather than I would allow them to do it privately and secretly. It is rather unfair to the civil servants to encourage them to combine secretly, and to forbid them to do so in the open eye of day. If there were any doubt as to this regulation being intended to cover arrangements made amongst themselves for their interests, I would suggest an amendment - to add after the word “movement” the words, “except among themselves.” That would prevent them from joining outside political organizations.
– Has the honorable and learned senator thought about their position in joining the Australian Natives Association ?
– I am not considering that.
– The honorable senator only thinks about the Trades Hall.
– I am not thinking about that either. It is a doubtful institution, a little under a cloud at present. The insertion of the words I suggest would give the civil servants the most absolute freedom to associate publicly or privately. Why should they not have a newspaper if they please, and form a union among themselves to denounce their own grievances *!
Senator- Playford. - And denounce Ministers ?
– They can do as they like if they do it amongst themselves. If it is thought that there is a risk of their denouncing Ministers, all I can say is chat the only remedy is to stop them even from organizing amongst themselves. But I do not desire to do that.
– They might promote political movements among themselves.
– My honorable friend is of the same opinion as I am with regard to these words. I think that the words “ political movements “ do not contemplate or include civil service associations, or arrangements amongst themselves to further their own interests.
– The words Senator Symon suggests inserting do not carry out his idea.
– The words “ except among themselves “ would mean that they could carry on political associations amongst themselves.
– I, myself, do not wish’ to. add the words I have mentioned, but, at the same time, I think that the words “political movements “ do not include movements or agitations of civil servants among themselves for their own benefit. lam certain that they do not. The regulation is perfectly sufficient as it stands. All that I say is, that if any honorable senator thinks that the regulation would preclude civil servants - I do not think it would - from making these combinations amongst themselves in their own interests, let us add some words, if they can be suggested - I am not wedded to the words I have mentioned - to provide against such a contingency. My own view is that the regulation, as it stands, is perfectly sufficient, and, therefore, I shall support it.
– Does the honorable and learned senator move an amendment or not?
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). - I accept Senator Best’s amendment, which will carry out all we desire ; that is, to give civil servants the right to combine and carry on their own business in their own way. .
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 11th June, vide page 786) :
Motions - “ That the Committee do now divide,” “ That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sib again,” and “That the Chairman do now leave the chair,” shall be moved without discussion, and be immediately put and determined, and no such motion shall be repeated within fifteen minutes of any of these motions having been negatived. Provided that the senator! in charge of a Bill or resolution, or a Minister of the Crown may at any time move to report progress and ask leave ‘to sit again.
Upon which Senator Higgs had moved, by way of amendment -
That the word “ Motions :: be omitted, with a view to insert in lien thereof the words “A motion.”
– I anl in very great hope that after the intervening fifteen hours of cairn, honorable senators will this afternoon admit the justice of the arguments which we advanced last evening. I desire to address another appeal to the keystone of the- South Australian democratic arch, to act upon his own observation, that it does not matter very much whether a simple majority or a two-thirds majority is provided for. If at any time honorable senators are tired of a debate, and if there has been considerable iteration by an honorable senator, I am satisfied that we can get twelve out of eighteen, assuming that eighteen honorable senators are present, who will vote for the closure. And in a House of 24 senators 1 am sure we shall be able to get sixteen who will be willing to close up the other eight if it is necessary.
– They have no right to close up any but the offending member.
– I am presuming that the other eight will all be offending. I should like honorable senators not to keep in view any lengthy observations which may have been made during last session, but to consider a case in which an honorable senator may mo ve a motion which is distasteful to the majority of the members of the Senate. That majority may combine together to close up the debate as soon asthe mover of the motion has concluded his remarks, and thus prevent any discussion upon the subject. The instance which I arn about to relate, owing to the extraordinary advance of the spirit of militarism throughout the Commonwealth, and of what I may term the exaggerated idea of reverence on the part of the people for those whom we allow to be our Kings and Princes, may not be a very good one to quote just now, but I remind honorable senators of what Senator De Largie said in connexion with his motion dealing with the proprietors of the Argus, and the memory of King James. The honorable senator moved that the editor of the Argus should be brought to the Bar of the House for having been guilty of publishing in his paper certain disparaging statements regarding the memory of that King, who was held in such high esteem by his subjects. It will be remembered that Senator Stewart,, himself a descendant of the Stuarts, followed the mover of the motion.
– Some of the Stuarts were not much good.
– I ask the honorable senator not to be irreverent, because we have in this Parliament representatives of both the Tudors and the Stuarts. We have a Tudor in another place, and a Stewart in the Senate. Senator Stewart followed Senator De Largie, and honorablesenators at that time were horrified that anybody should make such a proposition as to call the editor of a modern newspaper to the Bar of the Senate for having expressed sentiments disloyal toa King who had been dead .for some time. An honorable senator rose and moved - “ That the Senate do now divide.”
– Senator Sargood.
– Senator Sargood did rise to move the motion, and made a brief speech in doing so, but he had to give way to somebody else, who moved the motion according to the standing orders. A similarmotion may be moved in years to come, when possibly three or four senators may desire to follow the mover of the original motion under consideration in order to give expression to their views. But if this motion is permitted they will not be allowed to say anything, They cannot get up and say - “Mr. Chairman,. I desire to speak,” because the Chairman will say - “ You have no right to debate this question, it must be put to the vote without debate.” The majority, having made up their minds, will close up the minority. I have no desire to be personal to any honorable senator, but I say that to vote for such a standing order as this is not in keeping with the reputation for liberality and the support of liberal principles which certain members of this Senate have borne in the past. I am sure that if they treat the matter seriously they will be prepared to concede the majority asked for by honorable senators in this corner. I speak of honorable senators in this corner, but I know that we have sympathizers on both the Ministerial and Opposition benches. Unfortunately they are not present, and an important matter of this kind is apparently to depend on one or two votes. J. remind honorable senators that we are laying down a practice for all time. If after an experience of eighteen months or two years in the Senate we carry such a standing order as is now proposed, the arguments used to carry it now will be advanced later on if any attempt is made to alter it, and it will be said that our experience in the past has shown that the standing order is a wise one, that we have never had any trouble in connexion with it, that its power has never been, and is never likely to be abused, and that therefore we should not alter it. briefly repeat what I think the most telling argument in favour of altering the standing order, apart from the consideration that the majority has no right at any time to stifle the voice of the minority, when the minority is giving expression to its views in a decent and orderly way.
– As the Government were doing last session.
SenatorHIGGS. - I really did think that Senator Drake was one of those who are willing to “let the dead past bury its dead,” but every speaker who rises to support the alteration of this standing order is met by the honorable and learned senator with the interjection, “ I cannot forget what you did last session to the Government.” Now, where is the gratitude of the Barton Ministry, when they cherish remembrance of such a trifling matter as that was at the time ? I believe that the Ministry are treating Senator Fraser, who has often been in strong opposition to them, with greater consideration than they are treating honorable senators in this corner who supported them so handsomely, and so servilely as some persons would say, during last session. Senator Drake is apparently willing to avail himself of an opportunity to punish us by voting for a standing order of this kind. Let me say something which I have heard, and which I believe can be borne out by Senator Playford. Though this standing order has been in force for a very long time in the South Australian House of Assembly, no member of a Government in South Australia has ever been known to support it when the motion “That the House do now divide “ has been proposed.
– Not if anybody desired to speak. It was also an understood thing that, as a matter of honour, if a member had spoken, he would not vote for a motion which would shut up somebody else. That was an honorable understanding amongst us.
– I ask honorable senators to consider the limitations referred to by Senator Playford. We have no experience of the South Australian practice, but evidently a practice has grown up in the South Australian House of Assembly of respecting the rights of the minority, and not only has no member of the Government ever supported a motion of this kind, but no private member, who may already have spoken, has been found voting for a motion which will close the mouth of another member. There is no proposal to embody any such practice as that in the standing order now proposed. It is proposed that a motion that the Senate do now divide shall be put without debate, and may be carried by a bare majority. Is that a fair thing in a Senate constituted as this is ? I could understand a proposal of the kind in some other body but not in this, where, unlike the Legislative Assembly of a State, we represent States as States. I cannot see any good ground for the standing order ; on the other hand, I see a great deal of harm that may be done.
– It might be applied to representatives of Western Australia who wanted to discuss the question of a transcontinental railway.
– That might be so, and we know that by some senators, especially those who represent “Victoria, the proposed transcontinental railway is looked upon as a sort of “ wild-cat “ scheme. It is passible that the representatives of Western Australia might scarcely be able to think of anything else but this railway, owing to the pressure brought to bear upon them by their constituents.
– Do not say that !
– If representatives do not voice the requirements of their constituents, they are not true to their trust. The subject of a transcontinental railway might prove insufferably dry to the representatives of other States.
– Senator Styles is an expert, and’ no doubt would be interested, but to other senators the discussion of the question of cost of land, and of the passengers and products to be carried, might prove very dry.
– Did the honorable senator say “products”?
– No doubt Senator Fraser desires to make out that the railway will serve only a barren country.
– There is no objection to the mention of the transcontinental railway as an illustration, but I ask the honorable senator not to go into details.
– It is possible that six senators from another State might come here boiling over with indignation at what they consider the neglect of this Senate, and might give their arguments at great length, and in some Cases repeat them. In such case an unkind, I will not say brutal, majority might call for an immediate division, and thus, in their own way, enhance the beautiful Federal sentiment of which we have heard so much.
– And save the country.
– And save a few of the wealth)’ people of Victoria from a little taxation. Other subjects than that of the transcontinental railway might arise, but I do not wish to anticipate matters. Within a short period I might submit a motion, the discussion of which would be deprecated by some of the “right-thinking” persons in the Senate, and, as soon as I have made my observations, an honorable senator might rise and move an immediate division, and be supported by a majority. Is that the way to build up the great Australian nation ?
– Majority rule or nothing must build up the nation.
– Free speech is also going to build up the Australian nation. I should like to remind honorable senators of Senator Fraser’s observation in reference to revolution and so forth.
– There i3 not complete freedom of speech in Australia ; I could give many instances of where it has been stopped.
– What we wish to protect is that freedom of speech which does not infringe on the freedom of speech of others. If I, or any other honorable senator, make a lengthy speech, is there any infringement on the right of another honorable senator to do the same ?
– If it is not done for the purpose of wasting time, there is no infringement.
- Senator Playford knows that there is a limit to human endurance.
– On one occasion a Member of Parliament occupied nine hours in a speech.
– That may be so, and it would be possible for any one to make a niue hours’ speech under the standing orders if the Chairman permitted. I submit, however, that there is hardly a human being who can make a speech of such length, and keep strictly to the terms of any resolution. A member of the New South Wales Legislature once spoke for a period of eight or nine hours, but he was assisted by the fact that his attention was called to the entrance to the chamber of honorable members from time to time, and took the opportunity to comment on the circumstances.
– If the report of a select committee were under consideration, it would be open to an honorable member to read every word of the evidence. One Member of Parliament in New Zealand once spoke for seventeen hours.
– A man who makes a speech of that duration must inflict lasting injury on his physical constitution.
– There is an honorable senator who has earned a particular name for a performance of the kind.
– Yes ; “ Jawbone Jones,” or some name of that sort; but I am sure no one would endeavour to earn a reputation deserving an epithet of the kind. Each of us has a desire to establish a character in the public eye, and we are jealously careful in regard to our actions and conduct.
– We have listened to Senator Higgs with pleasure, but I do not think that gentleman always distinguishes between liberty and licence in speech. The address of nine hours to which reference has been made was, I consider, an example of undue licence. There is nothing more valuable than time, and nothing is more frequently wasted ; and I think that the standing order should be accepted. We heard from Senator Dawson a very interesting reference to the application of the closure in the Queensland Parliament, and my sympathies are very largely with him. At the same time, that gentleman did not give “the full particulars of the reasons for the : action then taken. He did not tell us that day after day a certain minority had wasted a great deal of time ; though no doubt the Chairman of Committees on that occasion was somewhat unscrupulous in his methods of rectifying what he thought a glaring and almost criminal course of conduct. From what Senator Higgs said, we may rely that in this Senate we are not likely to be inconsiderate to any minority who wish to express views, however fully, so long as they are relevant to the question before us. About two years ago I had the honour of moving “That the House do now divide,” and found the opinion of the Committee decidedly against me. However, in my ignorance, I pressed the matter to a division, and had the pleasure of being gloriously defeated. That shows that the Senate has, in itself, its own protection. I believe we can rely on the good sense of a House like this to give any honorable senator, however much they may differ from him, a full opportunity of enunciating his views. I hope we shall proceed to a decision without further delay.
– I am afraid that in the interval between last night and this afternoon some one has got hold of Senator Walker, and, in vulgar parlance, has been “ pulling his leg.” The honorable senator has just told us that, to a very large extent, he sympathized with what I said about the incident in the Queensland Legislature, but he suggested that I had omitted to mention the circumstances that underlay the particular injustice of which I complained. Senator Walker has led us to understand that the action taken by the majority in Queensland was only after days and days of waste of time and obstruction. But if anybodyhas so informed the honorable senator, he has been told an untruth, or, if he has looked up the records of the Queensland Parliament, he has misunderstood them. The action was taken on the very first sitting at which this particular Bill was considered ; and, now that the matter has been re-opened, I should like to point out to honorable senators what is possible with a biased and vindictive majority. It is absurd to think that we are to be a Senate for all time, and thatnever, at any particular juncture, we are to have a biased and vindictive majority. We have no guarantee that the class of individuals who now occupy positions in the Senate is going to be continued for ever - that at a time of trouble, when feelings are warm and discussion heated, the natural prejudices of one class against another will never find expression in a vindictive use of the power of a majority, as given under the standing order. This standing order in Queensland was put into operation not only to apply the closure, but in order to get the majority of two-thirds necessary to carry the Bill. To this end the majority deliberately corrupted and prostituted the office of Chairman, and used the power thus obtained to suspend a sufficient number of the Opposition to leave a favorable majority of two-thirds. That shows how far a majority may go in order to carry out their vindictive will. When we know these facts, to ask us to trust to the sense of fair play is to ask what is impossible. So far from days and days being wasted in obstruction, the authority of the majority was put in.to operation at the very first sitting against a member who had never opened his mouth during the discussion. It was as an indignant protest against this gross and foul injustice that not only did Mr. Brown, who is the present leader of the Opposition in Queensland, and a number of his followers, leave the House, but afterwards Her Majesty’s constitututional Opposition, led by the late Mr. Groom and his next in command, who is the present Postmaster-General in the Commonwealth, also retired, leaving the Govermnent faced with empty benches.
– At what hour in the morning ?
– That was done on the following afternoon.
– That was not done under a standing order of this kind.
– It was done by a deliberate and vicious use of standing orders of the closure description. The honorable and learned gentleman knows that he stood in the chamber hour after hour and protested against the vicious use which was being made of a similar rule, which led to all that trouble, disturbance, and to ill-feeling which has not yet died out. The ill-feeling it created amongst honorable members on either side is not dead. The action we . took created’ an ill-feeling against us. The action which was taken against us created an ill-feeling in myself. I feel so keenly the injustice which was then done that, if I live to be a centenarian, I shall never forgive the perpetrators of it. So long as I am able to crawl I shall use my strength in endeavouring to keep them out of any position of public honour, trust, or confidence. Such injustice makes men hesitate before they will consent to create a power which may be vindictively and viciously used. The least we are entitled to ask for and to receive is some reason from honorable senators which will appeal to any rational being why they desire this power to be granted. Is there any reason in the wide world why it should be granted? Have we had cited any case which would entitle the majority in the Chamber to exercise the power ? All we have heard from Senator Drake is that we applied the rule last session, and that his experience of its application was disastrous. As he said, it was used in a most unjust and grossly unfair manner. If- in his opinion its application has led to injustice or gross unfairness, surely that experience ought to be convincing proof to him that it ought to be eliminated from this code. If it is passed it will only mean a repetition of unfairness or injustice.
– It was the improper use of the standing order to which I referred.
-The honorable and learned senator has only quoted one instance where the Government have suffered from the use of the rule. I suppose it is not contemplated to have this standing order unless it is intended to be used.
– That time is determined by the majority of the senators present. It was determined by the majority of the senators present on the occasion which Senator Drake complainsabout.
– I did not agree with their judgment. I did not complain, I merely referred to a fact.
– The honorable and learned senator, said that the use of the rule was an injustice, and I think the words he used were “ grossly unfair.”
– No ; those are the honorable senator’s words.
– The honorable and learned senator said that the rule was used in a grossly unfair manner against the Government. He led us to understand that the only reason why he wishes to have a permanent rule of the kind is because, while we. had a temporary rule, he and his Government once suffered unfairness and injustice from its use.
– No. It was to show that the labour party abused it.
– We are fighting foithe abolition of the rule, because it is not likely to conduce to the maintenance of good relations among all sections in the Chamber. The more frequently it is used, the -more frequently will the harmony of the Chamberbe disturbed. On one occasion it may operate against us, and on a.nother occasion it may operate against the Government. Its operation against us is not likely to putus in a condition of sweet reasonableness, nor is its operation against the Governmentlikely to put them in that frame of mind- - - with the result that bad feeling will be engendered and maintained. It was first put in operation by the late Senator Sargood, because Senator De Largie, in the exercise of what he conceived to be his right, soughtto bring to book an offender in the person of the proprietor of the Arg’us. A baremajority, not desiring to have that question ventilated, was enabled, under cover of the standing order, to stop all discussion. If it is a- go«d thing for one side, it is a good tiling for the other, and as soon as we got an opportunity toexercise this power we followed suit, with a result that Senator Drake and his party did not like. The same feeling will operate again. ‘ The majority has no right to ruthlessly trample, not merely on the rights of the minority, but on the rights of an individual member. A senator is not sent in by the good-will of the majority here ; he does not stop here by the good-will or the friendship of any member or any body of the Chamber. He is sent in here by another body, whose interests he represents. Every time you infringe upon the individual rights of a senator you infringe upon the rights of those who sent him here.
– You must prevent him from interrupting the business.
– I am not claiming that he should be allowed to interrupt the business. I do not urge that any senator or any body of men should be allowed to interrupt the business. We have standing orders to punish any senator who deliberately wastes time or obstructs business. The standing order which I am denouncing deals with quite a different position. If a senator deliberately sets, himself to waste time and prevent business from being done, a motion may be moved that he be no further heard, and he can claim the protection of the Senate : and if it says “no,” then he is punished. Under this rule, however, the guilty party escapes scot-free, and those who have not contributed to the offence are punished. If Senator Charleston can reconcile his ideas of fair play and justice with a proceeding of that kind, then God help his ideas and the people whose idea’s he represents here.
– I have followed very closely the discussion on this standing order. I also think that relatively speaking there can be no standing order more important than this one. At the same time I cannot forget that wherever it has been applied it has created a good deal of disturbance, and frequently the minority against whom it has been exercised have proved to represent the majority of the people, and their action has been indorsed at the ballot-box. In the Victorian Parliament many years ago we had some experience of a standing order of this description. In the later seventies the McCulloch Government, who, I believe, held the record for occupancy of office, brought in a standing order to suppress the freedom of speech of certain members who believed that they were fighting in the interests of the country, and they were partly successful. Mr., now Sir, Graham Berry was leading the Opposition. They were fighting for liberal land laws, for protection, for all those libera] statutes which have made Victoria what it is ; but they were crushed for the time by the McCulloch Government under a standing order of a similar nature. When the Government appealed to thecountry, their forces, although they had commanded a big majority in the Parliament, were scattered in all directions, and Mr. Berry was returned to power with the greatest majority that has ever been given to a Premier in our State. We ought to be extremely careful to make this rule as elastic as possible. I am not prepared to accept the statement of what has happened in South Australia as a reason why therule should be adopted in the Senate. We have heard too much of South Australia in connexion with our standing orders. Simply because South Australia has done this and that, we are told that the Commonwealth Parliament must follow upon the same lines. The testimony is that this standing order has never been put into operation in that State except under extreme and exceptional circumstances. For that reason let us err upon the other side, and give freedom of speech wherever we can.
– Freedom to kill time?
– No ; because that cannot be done. There is another standing order dealing with that.
– It is very difficult to enforce.
– No. If a senator is guilty of tedious repetition the Chairman, who is constituted the judge of tedious repetition, can pull him up. But this standing order would close the whole debate. Senator Drake complains to some extent that this power was used against the Government last session. Senator Higgs admits that it should not have been used, but he says that as the standing order was used against his party, he was justified in using it against the Government.
– Bad reasoning.
– If this power was used unfairly against anybody last session, why give any party power to use it again ? Would it not be better to err on the other side rather than restrict free speech ? Let our standing orders be elastic. If it be shown that there is a desire to obstruct, let the Standing orders we already have be put into operation. I shall vote for the amendment.
– I cannot refrain from saying a word or two in reply to Senator Dawson. The people of Queensland, who were the best judges of what took place in the Parliament of that State, have repeatedly, at general elections, returned the Governments who did what has been complained of.
– The honorable senators in the corner in which the labour party generally sits seem to think that this standing order is levelled at them. It was not intended to apply to any party or group of senators.
– We say that it only operates against a minority.
– I do not see why they should assume that they are always going to be in a minority.
– We are generally.
– Senator Dawson said I think that a biased and vindictive majority would take advantage of the standing order. If there is a biased and vindictive majority it does not matter what standing orders we have. The majority can suspend the standing orders and do anything they like. The whole system under which we live requires that the majority shall rule. The terms of this standing order do not help a biased and vindictive majority, because they can do what they like without it.
– It takes an absolute majority of the Senate to suspend a ‘ standing order.
– It can be done upon notice by a majority of those present. Therefore, sooner or later, by some means or other, if there is a majority which is biased, or vindictive, or both, or neither, they can do what they like.
– No they cannot.
– They can suspend the standing orders if any standing orders are in their way.
– Any one senator can object to the suspension.
– Oh, no! Standing Order 439, which is the one under which we are working, says -
When a motion for the suspension of any standing or sessional order or orders appears on the notice-piper such motion may be carried by a majority of voices.
The whole system of government under which we live is based on the supposition that the depositary of power, whether the Governor-General, or Ministers, or the
Parliament, or individual members, will exercise that power in a fair manner, with proper consideration. If it were not so all government under our system would be impossible. That has been pointed out by Mr. Gladstone in most eloquent words, and undoubtedly it is the fact. I have lived under this standing order for the 36 or 37 years of my parliamentary life. During about 25 years I was a private member, and for ten or eleven years I was President of the Legislative Council of South Australia. During the whole of that period this standing order has hardly ever been abused. A practice has arisen - and I am sure that if we have this standing order a practice will arise in the Senate - which has been very properly described by Senator Higgs. The Government never vote for closing debate, and members who have spoken never vote for it. The rule* is only used in those very rare instances when a number of members combine together to stop the whole conduct of public business. It is quite true that there is another Standing Order, No. 412, which enables the President or Chairman to prevent a member who is obviously “stonewalling “ from continuing his speech. But that does not apply until there are five or six or half - a - dozen members who are anxious for some reason or another to block all business. It is all a matter of convenience. All these standing orders are matters of convenience. What is most convenient for the ordinary conduct of business 1 That is all- we have to ask. If I thought for one moment that this standing order was going to lead to any injustice towards any party or group of senators, undoubtedly I should not vote for it. But I do not think so. It will have no such effect. I believe that it will, generally, be conducive to the good conduct of public business. There were two occasions during last session on which this standing order was carried into effect. I am sure that honorable senators, generally, regard those events as danger points to be avoided in the future, and not as precedents to be followed. It must be recollected that we were gathered from different States, had been used to different parliamentary practices, and that, perhaps, senators who’ have not been used to this standing order did not fully appreciate the effect of carrying certain motions. But this debate has shown by the speeches of honorable senators that in future they will not put this standing order into operation unless very grave circumstances require it.
– Suppose we are turned out and new senators come in ?
– The new senators will be leavened by the old.
– And the standing order can be altered if necessary
– It can be altered if it is found that it does not work well. If new senators come in they will, I feel sure, acquire that regard for the orderly conduct of the business and for minorities, and that forbearance towards others, which is so characteristic of this Senate, and I hope always will be. I am certain that those honorable senators who regard this standing order with such apprehension, are fighting a shadow. They have no real reason to be solicitous about it. If I agreed with them, undoubtedly I should vote for some modification of the standing order, but I feel sure that it has worked well in the past, that it will in the future, and that it is utterly impossible to provide by any standing order that the majority shall not ultimately rule.
Senator DAWSON (Queensland). - Senator Fraser has mentioned by way of reply to myself that the majority in Queensland, which I complained about as acting in a certain manner, had their action indorsed by the electors of that State.
– Several times over.
– Let me draw attention to the fact that the only opportunity which the electors of Queensland have had of expressing their opinion one way or the other as between the other party and ourselves, was at the time of the Federal election, when we were returned triumphantly, and the others, including the Speaker who lent himself to the action taken against us on the occasion mentioned, were at the bottom of the poll. I have no intention of pitting my knowledge of these standing orders against that of Senator Baker, but I must differ from his interpretation of them, particularly when he attempts to draw a contrast between the meaning of one standing order and of another. Let me point out one significant remark that dropped from Senator Baker’s lips. He spoke of his experience, extending over a number of years, of this standing order, and said that he had hardly ever known it to be abused. In the first place I emphasize what has already been pointed out, that a practice has grown up in South Australia which has rendered this standing order perfectly innocent, and has robbed it of all its sting. . There the Government never supports a. motion under the standing order, and it is an understood thing that any member who has spoken in the debate does not vote for it. The matter is left to the determination of the other members of the House. But that is the practice only in South Australia, and this Senate is composed of members from the other States as well. Further, Senator Baker said that the power was hardly everabused, but I say that if it was ever abused, that is a reason why it should not be given. We should not provide standing orders which will allow of abuse or injustice. On the contrary, our standing orders should be framed to prevent injustice and abuse.
– This standing order may stop a greater abuse.
– That may be so. But surely there, should be some sign that a greater abuse is likely to arise before we proceed to make provision against it? Surely the honorable senator is not anticipating that the Senate is going to be a disorderly House, and that it is therefore necessary to put drastic coercive powers in the hands of the majority? I direct attention to the fact that it is only in extraordinary emergencies that any Parliament seeks for drastic coercive powers. When the trouble arising has been dealt with, these drastic powers are dropped, and the ordinary powers of Parliament are held to be sufficient. What we are being asked to do now is to provide for drastic powers before there is even the suspicion that an offence will be committed. Even the Premier of Victoria, the other day when asking for the most extraordinary powers which a Premier in any British community has ever asked for, explained that he desired to pass them only during the continuance of a particular trouble, and that when that trouble had disappeared, he desired that the drastic powers for which he asked should also disappear. Senator Baker reminded us that a biased and vindictive majority could apply all the standing orders and could move their suspension.
– And make new ones.
– I shall consider that also. There is here either a misconception of the true position or an evasion of it, because & motion to suspend the standing orders must be carried by an absolute majority of the whole Senate or two-thirds of the senators present. That is what Senator Higgs is now asking for. Again, notice of a motion for the suspension of the standing orders is given at one sitting, and the motion is moved at another. But under this standing order the objectionable motion may be moved at any moment during the discussion of any subject, and honorable senators may be away who would not think of granting a power of this description. Another important difference is that a motion for the suspension of the standing orders may be debated, whilst no discussion is allowed upon the motion moved under this standing order. A division is to be taken upon it without opportunity either for protest or approval. Surely there is a very great difference in the power given to a biased and vindictive majority in this case, as compared with the cases cited by Senators Baker and Playford. It is true that the majority can make new standing orders, but that cannot be done without opportunity for ample discussion, or without honorable senators having ample notice of what is proposed. If honorable senators cannot see the difference in these cases, I cannot waste my strength and my brains in an endeavour to point out what should be obvious.
Senator FERGUSON (Queensland).A good deal has been said with regard to what has taken place in the Queensland Parliament, but my experience in Queensland leads me to say that if such a standing order as this was not in force, there, the business of the country could not be carried on. If a two-thirds majority were required in the Queensland Parliament to carry such a motion as may be proposed under this standing order, the Parliament would be as badly off as if it had no such standing order, because at the present time there are about 24 members of the labour party in a House of 72 members. However, the standing order has never been used since the occasion to which reference has been made. The reason for that is that the members who were obstructors then are now out of the State Parliament, and we have them here. That is the strongest reason why we should be very careful to leave the proposed standing order as it is. If we do not, we may have here the same obstruction as they had in the Queensland Parliament.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I am uncertain whether Senator Ferguson’s remarks apply to Senator Drake or Senator Dawson. I am satisfied they do not apply to me. I should like Senator Playford, after having heard the observations made by Senator Ferguson, to ask himself whether what I said last evening is not proved - that some of the drastic provisions in these standing orders to be considered later may have been prepared for our special benefit. Here an honorable senator says that the men who obstructed in Queeusland are now out of the State Parliament, and we have them here. Senator Fraser has endeavoured to prove to the Senate that the majority who did an unkind thing in Queensland ‘have been before the electors on two occasions, and that their action has been indorsed. If there is any weight in that argument there should be some weight in the argument which we use. I was not in the Queensland House at the time the eight members were suspended - I probably would have been suspended also if I had been present - but I can say that the men who voted against the gag and the closure in Queensland were returned at the- top of the poll for the Senate, and the members of the party who applied the gag were left at the bottom. This discussion has been somewhat extended, because it has been necessary to bring under the notice of the Senate the practice prevailing in other Houses than the House of Assembly in South Australia. We shall commence to get tired of the continual mention of the South Australian House.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that we shall not behave ourselves as well here as members do in the House of Assembly in South Australia 1
– I consider such a question superfluous. The honorable senator has never seen anything in my conduct - and I say it with fill modesty - that should bring me into trouble with any deliberative body. The standing order here proposed is in force in no other Parliament in the world. Senator Ferguson is mistaken in supposing that they have a standing order of this kind in the Queensland Parliament.
– I said a similar one.
– There may be there a standing order limiting discussion. Notice may be given there of a motion that a Bill must be through by ten o’clock on a certain night, and if that is carried, though several hours may be spent in discussing the first clause, when ten o’clock is reached all the clauses of the Bill must go through without debate. I am satisfied that there are some members of the Senate who think that drastic standing orders are required.
– Was not the honor-
Able senator a member of the Standing Orders Committee?
– I was ; but I was a “pelican crying in the wilderness.” I remind honorable senators that in these standing orders there is ample provision made for dealing with honorable senators who are disposed to obstruct. I refer to Standing Order 410, under which it is provided that no senator shall digress from the subject under discussion, and to Standing Order 412, under which the President or Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the Senate or of the Committee,* as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition on the part of any honorable senator, and may direct that such senator shall discontinue his speech. I can see what some honorable senators are driving at. They desire to have a standing order of this kind to deal with honorable senators when they try to obstruct, but the standing orders to which I have referred will meet such a case most fully.
– That would be very ungenerous.
– I consider that it would be a mild proceeding compared with closing the mouths of every other honorable senator because one had been guilty of tedious repetition or irrelevancy. While I do not agree with the methods provided for dealing with cases of disorder, I contend that Standing Order 428 gives ample power to punish the offender, and the offender alone. It has been stated that the standing order under discussion has not been abused during the term of the Federal Parliament ; but that is the contention of men who, like the Postmaster-General, are suffering from a spirit of revenge, and have sworn a kind of political vendetta, and cannot see things in their proper light. Senator Baker has a knowledge of constitutional history, and of the struggle there has been for freedom of speech, and he tells us deliberately that the two occasions on which this standing order was used last session are danger points which show us what is to be avoided in the future. Senator De Largie and Senator Stewart, when they submitted a motion under the standing order last session, however wrong they may have been - though I do not admit for a moment that they were wrong - took the responsibility for their utterances, and if the electors of Queensland or Western Australia like to take exception to their conduct, they can do so at the proper time. This is not a domestic Legislature like -that of Victoria or Queeusland, where each member is known to the people of those constituencies. This is a Senate composed of representatives of States which .may be absolutely opposed to each other. What love is there between Victoria and New South Wales ? What love is there between the leading morning newspapers of Melbourne and the leading morning newspapers of Sydney, which so largely guide public opinion ? Members of a State Legislature know that their, actions will be criticised by the whole people of the particular State. In this Senate, however, representatives of New South Wales care very little for the public opinion of Queensland ; and I, and others who come from Queensland, freely- criticise the two great newspapers, the Age and the Argus, for the reason, I suppose, that we do not care for the opinions expressed by those organs. Representatives of a State are liable to come into this Chamber and commit an injustice under such a standing order, whereas in a State Legislature the fact that the people are watching closely tends to prevent any such attempt. There is no standing order of the kind in force in the House of Representatives, and its presence amongst our rules I regard as a reflection on the Senate.
– Many senators on the public platform speak admiringly of freedom of speech, but from the tone of some of their remarks this afternoon, they are not very ardent admirers of the doctrine. Senator Fraser has made use of an argument which I cannot allow to go unchallenged. That honorable senator stated that the Queensland Government, which applied the closure under circumstances already described, have since been returned again and again by the people.
– It was the people who turned the members out of the House on that occasion.
– I dispute that assertion, because the people never got an opportunity, owing to the questionable electoral laws, of expressing their opinion at the ballot-box until the Federal elections. The fact that in Queensland only one supporter of the State Government was elected amongst the six senators is one of the best refutations of the statement that that,Government was supported by the people. It must be borne in mind that this is a very small Chamber, and the likelihood of anyvery heated discussions or turmoil is remote. For my own part, I think that a little warmth imparted into our debates would prevent our degenerating into what Mr. King O’Malley would call a dead house,” and do us all a lot of good. My contention is that until necessity arises, no standing order of this kind should be passed, because it is a reflection on honorable senators, and on the. character of the Senate. We .can all understand the anxiety to catch the Speaker’s eye in the limited time given to discussion in the House of Commons where there are nearly 700 members, but it was not until a few years ago that a standing order of the kind was introduced there : and comparing the two Houses, I have no anticipation of any necessity for a similar rule here. I am sure every one regrets that any action was ever taken under this standing order in this Senate during last session, and I dare say that those who voted for the closure then felt ashamed. But when the standing order had been used against the representatives of the labour party we did not see why we should be scrupulous about using the same weapon. We ‘ resented the use of the standing order, and at the first opportunity gave the other side an experience of its operation. A similar set of circumstances may arise at at any time, and it would be better to have.no such standing order, but to allow the fullest possible freedom of debate.
– Perhaps the strongest argument in favour of the amendment was that used by Senator Baker, who, in effect, said that the two occasions on which the standing order was used last session point out the dangers which are to be avoided in the future. At all events, Senator Baker left the impression that he would not like to see similar instances of the use of the standing order in the future. Personally, I care very little whether we fix a bare majority or a majority of twothirds, because I have sufficient confidence in the good sense of senators tobelieve that the standing order will not be put into operation too frequently. It is my belief that those whovoted for the application of this standingorder last year regretted it afterwards ; but here I would call attention to the fact that had a two-thirds majority been then provided for, the danger which Senator Baker says ought to be avoided would not have arisen, because there would not have been the required majority to vote in favour of the closure. Still, we cannot forget that this Senate is composed of 36 members, with an attendance ranging from 20 to 28 ; and if any senator madehimself obnoxious by flagrant obstruction, a majority of two-thirds would befound to apply the closure. I shall support the amendment, because I believe we shall always be able to find the required majority when a case of real obstruction arises. The amendment is a reasonable one, and will bring this standing order into conformity with other standing orders.
– I dare say there are some senators whoconsider that the action of those whosupport this amendment is objectionable. I, with others who come from South Aus-“ tralia, have worked under a similar rule. I confess that it was not applied except in. very few cases. For many years the Parliament was a very happy family, with very few serious difficulties to contend with, and,, consequently, the rule, although it is an objectionable one anywhere, might ‘not havebeen very disastrous to public debate. In the Senate, however, there are conflicting interests to be represented - interestswhich affect different States. A time may come when a senator may speak at considerable length, and with great earnestness, in his endeavour to advance the interests of his State. The discussion may be wearisome to certain senators, who are opposed tothe interests of that State, and may wish to take a -vote. Although some representatives of that State, and some representatives of other States may be waiting for an opportunity to submit new . points, yet a tired senator is enabled by this standing order to rise and move “ That the Senate do now divide.” If the motion is. carried, it closes the mouths of those senators who were prepared to submit fresh. considerations. I think it would meet the views of all those who wish to have a standing order of this kind, if we said that the closure shall not be applied except by the vote of a majority of two-thirds of the senators present. It is not nearly so difficult to get a two-thirds majority here as it is to get an absolute majority. How could we get an absolute majority this afternoon? How are we to get an absolute majority at any time, seeing that a large number of senators never come in at all - or, if they do, stay for only five minutes? I have seen benches empty for hours. I am prepared to adopt the standing order with that modification, which I submit ought to be conceded in the interests of those senators who have suffered from the use of a similar rule in other places. The representatives of South Australia are getting their way in having a portion of their rule adopted, while the representatives of other States are getting their way in the rule not being made so drastic as the one which has operated against them in the past. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
Question - That the word “Motions” proposed to be omitted stand part of the standing order - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, after the word “divide,” line 1, the following words be inserted - “which motion shall not be curried unless by a majority of four.”
In the recent discussion it was doubted by certain honorable senators whether it was right to require the vote of a two-thirds majority; whether in certain circumstances it might not lead to a waste of time in discussing a motion. The amendment I now propose is a compromise which, I think, every one should be willing to accept. It will not be creditable to us if we say that it is necessary, in order to control business, to have as drastic a rule in relation to debate as is in force in any Parliament in the world. It is just as drastic a rule for curbing free discussion as is to be found in the code of any Parliament where there are racial feuds and religious differences. Let me give one illustration of its drastic nature. Supposing that at the next election, and this a very improbable eventuality, the people of Queensland should give a mandate to their three representatives to re-open the question of the kanaka traffic, to demand that kanakas shall be allowed to remain in the State, and to be imported. A majority of the senators are opposed to the introduction of any more kanakas into Queensland. Would it be right directly the first speech had been delivered for the majority to decide that the question be now put, and thus stifle the expression of the views of the Queensland people on an important subject? It has always been assumed that it will be the discussion of a motion by a member of the labour party which will have to be stifled. But the rule may operate quite the other way. If, as the result of the next election Queensland should send down three representatives in favour of the views which Senator Fraser holds, he may see the very rule for which he has voted being used to stifle discussion on such animportant question as the employment of kanakas, and he may find himself absolutely debarred from expressing his own opinions. This rule is not in force in the Parliament of any State except South Australia. It does not follow that because it has worked well in that State it will work well in the Senate. There will be greater divergences of opinion on subjects in the Senate than in a State Parliament. Seeing that the rule is not in force in the House of Representatives, is it necessary to retain such a drastic rule in our standing orders ? I hope that honorable senators will see their way to vote for my amendment, which, I repeat, is a very fair compromise.
– I cannot accept this amendment. Throughout the whole of the discussion no one has expressed an opinion in favour of a proposal of the kind. A majority of four would work very inequitably. In a full House, when an opportunity might be sought of using improperly the standing order, a majority of four might represent a number that would hardly be a check ; whereas, when the numbers present were few, four would represent a considerable number. However, the matter has been fully discussed.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - Senator Smith’s amendment is so reasonable that it is difficult to understand why the PostmasterGeneral does not accept it. What does it mean ? In a Senate of 24, 14’ senators could carry the motion against 10 ; in a Senate of 20, 12 could carry it against 8 ; and in a Senate of 16, 10 could carry it against 6. If it is necessary to have a standing order of this kind, and honorable senators are satisfied that no case of injustice is likely to occur, why are they afraid of the amendment? If honorable senators will not take notice of arguments coming from this corner, surely they will give way to the remarks of Senator Baker and of Senator McGregor. Senator McGregor tells us that his experience was that there were some exceptional cases in the South Australian Parliament when the standing order was used unjustly. Senator Baker stated that the standing order “ was hardly ever abused “ im South Australia. We have two witnesses telling us that there were instances of its abuse. We have also the striking observation of Senator Baker that the two instances in the Senate when the closure motion was carried, were “danger points” showing what ought to to be avoided in the future. I hope that honorable senators- will pay attention to that view. I do not like to make myself objectionable by rising so repeatedly, and I plead in excuse that I view the proposal as it stands as one that is likely to be used in a very unjust manner. The orderly conduct of our debates is sufficiently provided for by a dozen or more standing orders that we have adopted. We can imagine a case affecting senators from Queensland. There was, as honorable senators know, prior to the establishment of Federation, a strong agitation in Central and Northern Queensland for separation from the South. If that
State progresses as it is likely to do, before many years are passed we shall have there a very large population. The resources are so great that we may have at any time in Queensland a population approaching that of New South Wales or Victoria in numbers., I do not say that we shall have half-a-million in the north or in the centre, but we shall almost certainly have a sufficient number of people there to persuade the Commonwealth to grant them the rights and privileges of a new State - by which I mean representation in the Senate and House of Representatives. Possibly the representation here may only amount to three senators. What will the senators from Victoria or Western Australia^ - and there is a pretty liberal sort of representation from that State - care about the three senators from Central and Northern Queensland if they are modest and retiring members like those who already come from that great State? It is an unfortunate circumstance that there should be such opposition to this reasonable amendment. I thought that the good sense and justice of the Senate, which have been so much lauded, were keen enough to give way on the point, but I find that the “ keen sense of justice,” of which we have heard so much, is of a limited quantity this afternoon. I am sorry that some of those who voted in the last division have retired from the Chamber. I should have liked to make some remarks in their presence expressing my opinion of their conduct. L should have expressed it pretty clearly.
– Let us have the benefit of it.
– I do not care to attack a man behind his back, but I should have liked to express my opinion about one of them - a senator who should come into this Chamber with bowed head and humble voice - coming amongst respectable men - men who have not been convicted of any crime - and voting in favour of the “gag.” I am not going to allow that kind of thing to pass without the freest discussion. If honorable senators object to what I am saying, it is extremely bad taste on their part, particularly as they pay no attention to the highest constitutional authority in this Chamber.
– It may be very good judgment, though.
– The honorable senator is a good judge of many things - of station properties and so forth.
– A fairly good judge of men.
– He was, I suppose, when he took an interest in the Victorian railway strike, and helped to bring it to a close. This is an important proposal that ought to be considered without heat. It is most astonishing to find a member of the Government supporting this standing order -especially a man whose past experience of the injustices which Senator Dawson has described, should have led him to take a different line. Where is the democracy of this Chamber and of the Government - a Government which professes to represent the democratic instincts of the people better than, any other Government that has ever held office in Australia 1 I believe that as a whole the Government does so, and that the majority of its members will not be found supporting a proposal like this. Is this the way we are going to “build up a great nation,” to use the phrase which the Prime Minister has employed so frequently^ Is it by stifling discussion, and by refusing to note what the President of the Senate has said, that the two instances in which this standing order was applied are “danger points “ showing what ought to be avoided ? I ask Senator Drake to forgive this corner, and those honorable senators who were responsible for ruffling his feathers, if I may so express myself. We plead guilty and apologize, and having apologized, we ask the honorable and learned senator to abandon his vendetta, and give way. It is possible that I shall have a few more remarks to make when I have heard what is to be said in reply to those I have just made.
Senate adjourned at 4.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 June 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030612_senate_1_13/>.