1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Will he toko the necessary steps to lay upon the table of the Senate all correspondence that has passed between the Imperial und Commonwealth Governments relating to the proposed new mail contracts, especially Saving regard to the employment of coloured labour oh mail steamers ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The papers will be laid on the table of the Senate in due course
Will he take the necessary steps to lay upon the table of the Senate all papers relating to the erection of new post arid telegraph offices at Woollahra, New South Wales?
– The following is the answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The papers are very voluminous, and the cast of making copies to place upon the table of the Senate would be considerable. There is no objection to placing a precis on the table, and the whole of the papers can be perused by the honorable senator if lie desires to do so.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– I have to inform the members of the Senate that His Excellency the Governor-General has fixed three o’clock on Friday next at the Treasurybuilding to receive the address in reply to his opening speech.
In Committee (consideration resumed from 12th June, vide page 875) :
Standing Order 273
Motions - “That the Committee do now divide,” “ That the Chairman do report progress lUid ask leave to sit again,” and “ That the Chairman do now leave the choir, “ shall be moved without discussion, and be immediately put and determined, and nosneh 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 Staniford Smith had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “divide,” line 2, the following words be inserted : - “ which motion shall not be carried unless by a majority of four.”
– I think it necessary very briefly to state the circumstances which surround the proposal before the Committee, in order that honorable senators who were not present last Friday may know what we are about to do. The standing order under consideration enables the motion, “ That the Committee do now divide “ - which is a closure motion - to be applied to any debate. Those who oppose that standing order failed to carry a provision that there should be a two-thirds majority in favour, of such a motion, and it is now proposed by Senator Smith that the closure must be carried by a majority of not less than four. I submit that that is a just proposal. It would be in the power of a majority of four, if they so wished, to close the mouths of those senators who had not spoken to the question under consideration. I . learn that the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives have considered a proposal of this kind, and have rejected it absolutely. That House has not in its draft standing orders anything approaching the proposal now put forward by our Standing Orders Committee. Surely if the House of Representatives, consisting of 75 members, can get along without a standing order of this kind, a more limited House like the Senate, consisting of only 36 members, can do without it.
– - The House of Representatives has not tried it yet.
– I do not know the meaning of that interjection. The honorable senator is like a boy who throws a stone into a yard. He does not aim at anything, but hopes that he will hit something. No other legislative body in the world has such a standing order as this. Let us understand how it came to be- put into operation in the Legislature of South Australia. I understand that there was there a gentleman named Ash.
– The standing order was in operation long before Ash came into the House of Assembly.
– It was in operation before Ash was ever thought of.
– I learn from a member of- the House of Representatives that the only time that he saw this standing order used was when Mr. Ash conceived it to be his duty to “ stone- wall “ at great length a Factories Bill which was under consideration. I believe that he kept the House of Assembly up all one night, and that the members, with the exception of the Minister in charge of the Bill and the Chairman, left the chamber. Strangers were excluded from the gallery, and the affair became such a scandal that it was deemed absolutely necessary to put the standing order into operation. ‘ If I am mistaken on the point I have been wrongly informed, and some South Australian senator will be able to correct me. But I have had occasion to look at the debates of the South Australian Parliament, and, democratic and liberal as the people there -generally are, the majority did some autocratic and tyrannical things. They took up a very dictatorial attitude towards a small minority opposed to them.
– If this standing order has only been used once in South Australia, how can it be said that the majority was tyrannical on many occasions 1
– I said that the majority in the South Australian Parliament had been guilty of tyranny in several respects. I saw that in one debate when Senator Symon was speaking, though the matter was of extreme importance, somebody objected, and the debate was closed.
– That would have been on an informal motion.
– However, it did not prevent him from saying what he had to say later on. But under a rule’ of this kind Senator Downer will see that if a representative of Western Australia or any other State brings forward a motion, makes his observations, and sits down, another honorable senator can get up and say, “ I move that the Senate do now divide and if there is a majority against the mover of the motion, the Senate will divide, and an end will be put to further debate.
– The mover must be a bad lot, then.
– The honorable senator knows that if the Senate were in an excited state, the mover of the motion might not have a bad case and might yet be closed up. Take a state of feeling such as existed in Melbourne on what was called “Mafeking Night.” I believe that every individual who came into Melbourne that night had tq put on his colours, or submit to be buffeted about by the populace. I should not be surprised to hear that Senator Fraser was one of those who pulled a man out of a cart in Bourke-street because he did not wear his colours.
– I am getting too old for-that sort of thing now.
– The honorable senator would have done it when he was a younger man. There are times when people become intolerant. Their minds are made up j they think that the very last word has been said on a particular subject ; that they have all the wisdom, and that nobody need say anything else because there is no other side to be put. We want to give the minority an opportunity of being heard. I may not be in a minority always. I know that some, honorable senators think that I am looking after my own interests in this matter, but it is possible that I may be in a majority some day, and I might want to close up Senator Playford. I wish to be prevented from doing that sort of thing. I feel certain that honorable senators from New South Wales and other States, which have had no experience of such a standing order as this, will not tolerate anything of the kind, and will vote for Senator Smith’s amendment.
– The honorable senator who has just sat down says that, there is no such stringent provision as this in the standing orders of any Parliament in the world, except that of South Australia. He must have forgotten the closure rules of the British House of Commons, which are infinitely more stringent. Prevention is often considered better than cure.. In the House of Commons the rule provides that any member may move at any time “ That the question be now put,” and the Speaker rules. If there is a division on the question, the only qualification is that 100 members, out of a House consisting of 670 members, shall vote in favour of the closure motion. I venture to say that there is no danger in this provision. It has been proved to work well in the Senate, as well as for a great number of years in the Parliament to which I have been more accustomed. The standing order was not instituted in South Australia in consequence of the conduct of Mr. Ash. I went into the South Australian Parliament in 1878, and the rule had been in force a great many years before that j in fact, I believe it is as old as the original standing orders of that State. The informant of Senator Higgs told him two things which were utterly inconsistent with each other. One was that this standing order had only been used there in a case of very exceptional abuse, when a man kept members up all night wasting time. In the next breath he spoke of the dictatorial way in which the minority of South Australia were used by the majority. I appeal to all my honorable friends who come from South Australia to say with me that there has never been any dictation there any more than there has been here; and no one can assert that our proceedings in the Senate have not been conducted with great decorum. We have been conducting our proceedings with this standing order in force all the time, and no one can say that it has been abused. In South Australia it has never been complained of by anybody, and during the number of years I was there there was no party on either side of the House that wished to get rid of the rule. But I do not think the matter is of very much importance. We are not a very large body in the Senate. There are only 36 of us. But we do not want a set of circumstances to arise, under which we shall be kept here all night, supposing any honorable senator, becoming recalcitrant and troublesome, endeavours to delay business, rather than produce any result, or to delay producing results.We may pass the standing order with confidence, inasmuch as it has been in operation for many years in another Parliament, has never caused any trouble there, and has met with universal approbation. Now it is proposed that the closure motion shall be carried by a majority of at least four. When real obstruction has set in a large number of members go away. The attendance gets thinner and thinner, and it might be a matter of immense difficulty to get a majority of four at the very time when the closure motion was most wanted.
– Would it not be better to close up if the Senate gets into that condition?
– My honorable friend knows the emptying powers of a Member of Parliament who has got up to talk all night simply for the purpose of obstruction. We know that very well. I think it is a very wise standing order as it stands at present, and the amendment proposed ought certainly not to be agreed to.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I wish to say, in reply to the statement of Senator Downer, that this standing order has never been abused in South Australia, that we have in this Chamber two honorable senators representing that State, Senators Baker and McGregor, who have told us that it has been abused on occasions. Senator Baker said that it had hardly ever been abused, and Senator McGregor told us that there were exceptions to the general rule that it had not been abused.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move-
That the words “ Provided that a vote on the question, ‘That the Committee do now divide,’” shall require at least thirteen affirmative votes” be inserted after the word “ determined,” line 6. I shall not labour the matter. What I now propose is practically the New South Wales Legislative Assembly provision. It is a very fair proposal, and should need no words from me to commend it.
– I think we should have some intimation from Senator Drake and those who show so much enthusiasm in supporting the infamous gag, as to how they feel disposed to treat the new amendment. Many of the proposals we have made are exceedingly fair, and the least we have a right to expect from the representative of the Government is an intimation as to whether he is prepared to accept them or not. I believe Senator Higgs has already referred to the matter, but I take advantage of this opportunity to mention the remarkable fact that the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives, representing a House of 75 members, cut out every one of these closure standing orders. And yet we have the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate submitting an infamous standing order of this description, and the Government supporting it.
– Does not the Government invariably do in one Chamber what they oppose in the other ?
– I am not prepared to answer that question in general terms, but in this ease they are certainly doing one thing in the House of Representatives and quite another here. While I have nothing but commendation for the action of the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives, words fail me to describe the action taken by the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate in recommending the adoption of this standing order.
– I should like in this matter to be able to rely upon members of the Standing Orders Committee for a general support of the standing orders recommended in the report which they have submitted to the Senate, but I find that they do not agree amongst themselves. We have been told that, according to the practice adopted in South Australia, when this standing order is put into operation Ministers and those who ‘have already spoken do not vote for the motion.
– In Queensland they do quite the opposite.
– We have never had this standing order in Queensland, and therefore I am unable to see how cases quoted from Queensland history can apply. If there is to be a minimum vote of thirteen in favour of the motion “That the Committee do now divide,” and if Ministers and those who have already spoken are not to vote-
– Will the honorable and learned senator allow me to point out that he has laid down a different practice in this Chamber.
– I have not laid down any practice. We are told that it is the invariable practice in South Australia that Ministers, and those who have already spoken, do not vote for such a motion, and it seems to me that if we are to adopt the South Australian practice, and to require a minimum vote of thirteen to carry this motion, the whole thing will be rendered nugatory. If, on the other hand; we do not adopt that practice, by insisting upon a minimum vote of thirteen in support of this motion we make it more stringent than if we allow the standing order to remain as it is, with the understanding that the South Australian practice is to be followed. I hope Senator Pearce will not press his amendment.
– It is all very well for Senator Drake to speak of what has been the invariable rule in South Australia. The honorable and learned senator has become very credulous all of a sudden. He must know that the rule to which he referred was not followed in this Chamber. Honorable senators from South Australia ought to know that it has not always been followed in that State. There have been men in the South Australian Parliament who were prepared to vote when even the Constitution would prevent them, and it is within my knowledge that members of the South Australian Legislative Council who had already spoken upon a question voted when it was to their interest to have the motion put - That the House do now divide.” Senator Downer says that what we have proposed would make the standing order impracticable. But why would it make it impracticable? The honorable and learned senator has said that in the House of Commons, which honorable senators are so fond of quoting and following, it requires 100 to apply the “gag.” I cannot call it anything else. If 100 are required in the House of Commons where the attendance, unless in very exceptional cases, is’ never more than between 200 and 300, surely 13 in the Senate, where the attendance is very often up to 30, is not an excessive vote to require in favour of such’ a motion. It does not matter a great deal to me, but when there are honorable senators from other States who have suffered from the application of the closure I think some consideration should be given to their views.
– They have not suffered in this Chamber.
– I understand that Senator Zeal, when President of the Legislative Council of Victoria, used in this Chamber to put such a motion himself. I have been told that it was quite usual for the honorable senator to tell a member of the Legislative Council ofVictoria that he had said enough already. He had the closure in his own hands, and the honorable senator, while President of the Legislative Council, was a standing order unto himself, and, I believe, a very good one. Here we have a reasonable request that at least thirteen senators shall assent to any motion of this description. If there are not thirteen senators present prepared to vote for stopping a debate, no great harm can be done by allowing- the debate to continue, until the absentees had an opportunity to return. Therefore, I hope -that the Committee will support the amendment. I do not waste very much time in the Senate, and I hope the gag will not be applied to me here as it was applied to me in the Legislative Council of South Australia where, we are told, it has been the invariable rule for Ministers not to vote on a motion for the application of the closure.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).The Postmaster- General has addressed to the Committee an argument from which he has attempted to show that the practice ruling in one State Parliament will necessarily be adopted here. But why should the practice of the South Australian Parliament, more than that of any other State Legislature, be taken as necessarily indicating the practice which will be adopted here 1 In the New South Wales Legislature, where a provision somewhat similar to that proposed by Senator Pearce is in vogue, it has been the invariable practice of Ministers to vote, as I contend that they ought to vote, on such a question. No honorable senator, whether a Minister or otherwise should shirk his responsibility by retiring from the Chamber when a vote of this character -is submitted. Whatever may be the result of this amendment, I hope that no such practice as that which I am astonished to learn is countenanced in South Australia, will be adopted in the Senate. I think the suggested minimum of thirteen is most reasonable. We require that a quorum shall be present for the transaction of our business, and ii< it too much to ask that there shall be at least thirteen senators voting in the affirmative on a question involving a somewhat similar principle 1
– The application of the gag will stop the whole of the debate.
– The honorable senator reminds me that a very much more important question is involved than that of _ whether an individual senator shall be allowed to continue his speech. The whole debate upon what might be an important question might be terminated in this way ; and is it too much to ask that before such athing can take place, at least thirteen honorable senators shall have expressed their concurrence 1 I propose to vote for the amendment. If any alteration is to be made, it is far better that it should be in the direction of increasing the ‘ latitude of honorable senators rather than of restricting them in debate.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat did not hear the discussion which took place last week, or he would not have said that in South Australia Ministers invariably leave the .chamber when what has been called this “ infamous gag “ is applied. I have never known of an instance in which they failed to vote on the question. The rule is that they vote against the application of the gag. That wa!s the position taken up by Ministers in South Australia during my experience as a member of the State Legislature from 1S68 until I entered the Senate. There may have been one or two instances in which they did not follow that rule, but that was the practice. It is very singular that Senator Dawson should call this an “infamous gag.” He quite forgets that when the South Australian labour party was organized, they were thoroughly familiar with the standing orders governing the State Parliament : and they thought this such a wise provision that they adopted it in their own standing orders. Thus this “infamous gag” is the gag of the labour party in South Australia. The fear that this standing order will be unfairly applied is altogether without reason. Even Senator McGregor cannot say that the similar provision in the South Australian standing orders was unfairly applied to him on the occasion when he was speaking in the State Legislative Council. He was unmistakably “stone- walling” at the time, and the closure was rightly applied in that instance. He cannot bring forward any case in which it was not rightly applied there. It is much better that we should leave the standing order as it is, for I feel sure that in a Chamber like this it will never be applied unless it is richly deserved by the party against whom it is directed.
– I regret that I cannot share the enthusiasm that Senator Playford evidently entertains for all the doings of the South Australian Ministry. I am also unable to find myself in agreement with the Postmaster-General, who has indicated a ready willingness to submit himself, for all futurity, to the practice and precedents of the South Australian Parliament. That is an attitude of which I cannot approve, and which, I think, is utterly unworthy of the Postmaster-General. I have consistently voted for this standing order, believing that in doing so I was maintaining majority rule. I still propose to maintain majority rule. There are two ways in which a minority might carry out their desire. A minority might have their way in the Senate if they were allowed to continue a debate in spite of the wishes of the majority, and they might also have their way in preventing a debate. Unless at least thirteen vote for the application of a provision like this, we shall have practically minority rule. The reason why I support this amendment is because I believe ‘in majority rule, and because I object to a minority of less than thirteen deciding any question in the Senate. The amendment is a wise one, although I do not know whether those who are most anxious for its adoption know what it really means. It may be argued that thirteen is an arbitrary number. It is not, because we have to recognise that twelve form a quorum in this Chamber. It is because thirteen is one more than the number required to form a quorum that I am, going to vote for the amendment.
– Under our Constitution twelve honorable senators are required to form a quorum, but the amendment practically proposes that when twelve honorable senators are present we should not transact any business if some honorable senator moves “ That the Committee do now divide.” In such circumstances some honorable senators might leave the chamber, just as we have seen them do before. If there were sixteen senators present, and twelve voted for ‘the motion, “ That the Committee do now divide,” while four voted against it, when there would be a majority of eight in favour of the question, it would still be impossible for the Committee to close the debate. In other words, four honorable senators would out-vote twelve, because the amendment is that at least thirteen shall vote for the application of the “ gag,” as the standing order has been called. It is true that in the House of Commons there must be 100 affirmative votes for the application of the closure. That is practically oneseventh of the total number of members. In the Senate a seventh would be a little over five, or say six senators, so that, by requiring that at least thirteen honorable senators shall vote in the affirmative, we shall make the rule quite as difficult of application as it is in the House of Commons.
– In the House of Commons 40 is sufficient to form a quorum.
– May sets forth that the rule in the House of Commons is as follows : -
Pursuant to the Standing Orders Nos. 25 and 26, whilst the Speaker, or the Chairman of Ways and Means, is in the chair, after a question lias been proposed, if a member rising in his place moves “ That the question be now put,” that question shall be put forthwith without amendment or debate, unless it appears to the Chair that the motion is an abuse of the rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority ; and if, when a division is taken, it appears by the numbers declared from the Chair that not less than a hundred members voted in the majority in support of the motion, it .is decided in the affirmative.
Thus, practically, one-seventh of the total number of members of the House of Commons must vote in the affirmative to allow the closure to be applied, and if we provide that there shall be at least six votes cast in the affirmative, we shall relatively carry out the practice of the House of Commons. The amendment proposed by Senator Pearce is really worse than that which was moved by Senator Smith. I shall vote against it.
– A7e have listened with very great pleasure to Senator Walker’s arithmetical calculations, but if we are to compare the House of Commons with this Chamber, we must make the comparison complete in every way. Twelve honorable senators, or one-third of the total strength of the Chamber form a quorum, and Senator Pearce proposes that the number of affirmative votes cast in favour of the motion, “ That the Committee do now divide,” shall be one more. Forty members form a quorum in the House of Commons, or slightly over one-sixteenth of the total number of members, and yet the number of affirmative votes necessary to impose the closure is- 100, or two and a half times the number of the quorum. If we followed that rule we should, m therefore, require 30 affirmative votes. It is only necessary to carry out the analogy to the full extent in order to see how ridiculous it is. I have often said that it is absurd to compare our procedure with that of the House of Commons. We are here representing a new country and a new Constitution. We are building from the foundations, and we should build according to our own ideas. I am very much surprised’ that, in a Chamber where so many of the foremost constitutionalists of Australia find a place, an attempt should be made to deprive the representatives of the people of the rights which are conferred upon them by the people. I have often seen, in connexion with legal procedure, the words “ ultra vires.” I do not know their exact meaning but I have a faint impression that they mean that some individual has done something which he has no right to do. In any case, it appears to ma that the Senate is attempting to do something which, under the Constitution, -it has no power to do. That is the position I take up. Senator Fraser is a great admirer of the Constitution, but by supporting this standing order, it appears to me that he is trampling it underfoot. Why are” we sent here ? Are we not elected for the purpose of representing the ideas and wishes and aspirations of our constituents ?
– Some of us do so very badly.
-The honorable senator has formed a very correct estimate of his own capacity, I regret to say. We are here sent by our constituents to represent their case here, and yet a majority of honorable senators desire in this standing order to usurp the power which belongs to only the constituencies. For instance, if my constituents sent me to Melbourne to support a certain proposal, the majority of the senators could deprive me of my right to speak. What is the object of this standing order’! Is it not to stifle discussion? If Senator Dobson had twenty witnesses to examine in a court who could each testify to a particular thing, what would he think if after the tenth witness had been examined the Judge quietly said, “Mr. Dobson,’ I do not want to hear any more evidence; my mind is made up 1”
– There is no analogy.
– Certainly there is. The honorable and learned senator would complain, and very fairly, that an injustice was being done to his client. The evil of the rule appeals to him immediately when it is applied to a case in a court, and it is intensified a hundredfold when it is applied to a question in the Senate, where the interests of the community are at stake. Seeing that nothing better can be done, I intend to support the amendment. It is, I think, a very fair compromise. It is not asking for very much. It places the power of stifling discussion in the hands of thirteen senators in a House of 25.. What more do the friends of the gag want? Surely that is quite sufficient for them 1 If they want anything more they must be epicures in the matter of gagging.
– I am surprised at the opposition which is shown to this very reasonable amendment. I do not believe in closure rules. I have always voted against their application in Queensland, and I shall always vote against their application in” the Senate. I am very anxious to ascertain the motives which actuate honorable senators to favour the adoption of the closure. During the last two years has there been any sound reason advanced why the closure should be applied ? It has been applied once or twice. To my regret it was applied once against the Government when I was very anxious that they should win. It seemed to me ‘ to act unfairly on that occasion. If there was no strong justification for the application of the rule during that long session, when most controversial measures were debated, why is it now desired that it should be embodied in our code of Standing orders ? It appears to be feared by some honorable senators that something serious may happen, and that it will be well to have this weapon available to silence those whom they do not wish to hear on a question. Supposing that, in a reasonably full Senate, we are discussing a question of very great moment, affecting, it may be, the welfare of the people of Australia - at any rate, the people of some State. What objection can there be to a rule requiring that thirteen honorable senators shall support a motion to close such a debate. Some honorable senators have found fault with the PostmasterGeneral because he supports the standing order. I presume that, as acting leader of the Senate, he is bound, in fairness, to take the course which he has taken. I know that he has smarted more than once under the very stringent rules of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. I have smarted there time and again, and I am not anxious to smart in the Senate. I am very much disappointed that honorable senators cannot see their way to support this very reasonable amendment.
– Any question relating to what is termed “the gag” is always received most unpopularly in a House, because honorable members do not like to interfere with the fair opportunity of every member to express his opinions in his own way, so long as he shows fair consideration for the opinions of others. In New South Wales I had experience of the application of “the gag,” and I believe that, like Senator Millen, I always voted against its application. The Standing Orders Committee prepared this code with the desire of meeting as many cases as might possibly arise in the future. We had to bear in mind that if we determined upon having a rule of this kind it could only be enforced by a majority of the senators present. The statement of Senator Clemons that he supports the provision because he believes in majority rule will be seen to have no weight at all. Supposing that we had a rule to the effect that no clause of a Bill should be passed unless at least thirteen senators voted in the affirmative; should we not be reducing our legislation to a farce? The Constitution says that twelve senators shall form a quorum, and shall be empowered to transact all. the business which may be presented. If we were to provide that no question should be decided in the affirmative” unless thirteen senators had so voted, we should be doing the very thing which Senator Pearce suggests with regard to the closure ? The strong sense of justice in the majority of the senators will always prevent any unfair use being made of “ the gag.”
– Cannot the honorable and learned senator see that the application of “the gag” does not silence one senator, but all discussion, and that the senator who offends is not punished ?
– If a question has not been discussed fairly and fully, there will probably be a number of honorable senators who will desire to speak, and who, if for no other reason than that, will oppose the application of the rule, unless they recognise that such gross abuse is being made of the privilege of speech that it is better to close the debate than to speak themselves. In Committee a senator can speak as often and as long as he likes, and if we had no closure rule, four or five determined meLL could prevent the Committee from coming to any decision within a reasonable time. We do not desire that sort of thing to happen. We wish to be in a position to say to honorable senators - “ You have debated this question for a long time. You know that you are defeated, but as you are determined to “stone- wall” and make it almost impossible to pass the clause under discussion, we will put an end to the debate at once.” I am not a believer in applying the gag where it can be avoided. But I do not think that we should be justified in introducing such an amendment as that proposed. If we have 25 senators present it would mean that the closure motion could be enforced, but if- there were only 16 or 17 senators present there would be no possibility of closing the debate, if there were a few who were determined that it should not be closed. Senator Higgs has been fighting this question very determinedly. On reference to the report of the Standing Orders Committee, however; I find that on the 4th July, amongstother senators present at a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee was Senator Higgs. The minutes of the committee for the day say -
Standing Orders 203 to 331 agreed to. They were agreed to without amendment or debate. Those standing orders embraced the one under consideration. So that Senator Higgs’ new-born zeal was not evinced at that meeting or the Standing Orders Committee. Although he was present when this rule was debated he directed no attention to it. He could have had a discussion upon it there and then, and might have caused the committee to come to a different decision, but he did not see fit to debate it.
– Would the honorable and learned senator have altered his view if I had then suggested’ an amendment ?
.- I do not know what arguments the honorable senator would have’ adduced. . As to the question of majority rule, I would point out that if a majority of thirteen be required to stop a debate, by the same parity of reasoning there should be thirteen to decide any question put to the Senate. To insist on that would be to reduce the whole business to an absurdity. I intend to vote against the amendment, although I have every objection to interfering with honorable senators’ speeches. But the majority have a right to some consideration when there is “ stone-walling” going on. Four or five men could effectually “stone-wall” in a Senate of sixteen senators, and it would be quite impossible if this amendment were carried to put an end to a debate of that kind unless a large number of those present walked out of the chamber.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - The principle of our Constitution is that every question before ‘ the Senate shall be decided by a majority; not an absolute majority, but a majority of those present. The number fixed by the Constitution as necessary to constitute a meeting of the Senate is twelve. That number being fixed as a quorum by the Constitution, the Act goes on distinctly to say, in section 23, that -
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and . each senator shall have one vote.
We do not depend on a standing order to say that the quorum shall consist of twelve. The Constitution says that the number of the senators shall be 36, and that the quorum shall be twelve. The jurisdiction intrusted to the Senate can be exercised by twelve senators.
– The Constitution did not contemplate the gag.
– The Constitution does not decide questions arising in the Senate, but in making standing orders controlling our proceedings we must be careful not to insert any provision that would be distinctly ‘ultra vires. Assuming the standing orders not to be ultra vires - and I think there can be no doubt about that - then comes the question : Is there any power to put in this limitation which is sought to be imposed ? The amendment, under cover of regulating proceedings iii the Senate, says that the quorum to determine acertain question shall not be twelve, butshall be at least fourteen. The amendment thus requires to cany amotionmore than thequorum settled by the Constitution for deciding the most solemn questions over which the Senate can exercise jurisdiction. Leaving out the question of the “gag,” about which Senator Stewart holds strong views, and assuming that it is a correct principle to prevent debate being stopped, the amendment before us at present is not only be- 3’ond our power to pass, but is, I submit, unreasonable, because it requires that, in order to exercise the power of necessary control over debate, the number of honorable senators present shall exceed the number, which the Statute has authoritativel)’ fixed as a quorum for conducting business.
– I find that theamendment is on allfours with a standing order which has been in force in the State from which I come, for nine years. Strangely enough I find that it was passed thereon the 11th July, 1894, so that it has actually been in force in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly - which is the largest deliberative body in Australia - for nine years. It has been found to work admirably there. Seeing that we have had an account given of the experience of another State where the Parliament is smaller than the New South Wales Parliament, and in view of the fact that in a Parliament, which at the time the standing Order was passed numbered 141 members and now numbers 125, it has been found to work admirably, and it has never been proposed to alter it- -I, for one, think I shall be justified in supporting this proposal.
– What about the constitutional point?
.- I do not think there is anything in the constitutional point. In fact, it is not a constitutional point, but merely a little legal sophistry. The amendment is not a proposal to alter the quorum of the Senate, which remains the same as laid down in the Constitution.
– It would prevent the Senate from determining a question by a majority of votes.
– There is no proposal to alter the Constitution in an amendment upon a standing order to the effect that a certain number of votes shall be required before the rule shall be effective. The question of the quorum has no more to do with it than the price of wax matches in Kamtschatka. It is a mere legal sophistry to say that the quorum fixed by the Constitution is interfered with by determining that a certain majority shall be required to carry a certain motion. I submit that the very eagerness displayed by a section of the Senate to obtain this power is the best possible evidence of the risk to which minorities will be subjected if this amendment is not adopted. I have listened attentively to the debate, and have heard senator after senator with a tine flavour of toryism - I am a bit of a tory myself, but not of this kind - making a dead set to do what? To destroy the right of free speeoh on the part of minorities. It is not the majority for whom standing orders of this kind are required. It is the minority who should be principally considered, because the majority have the power of voting, whilst the minority have nothing but the power of speech by means of which to advocate their opinions, and to seek to attain that for which the people sent them here to struggle. Eor these reasons I think that there should be a fixed number required to carry the motion of closure. I am not wedded to thirteen. Thirteen is a very unlucky number in the view of some people. I do not want to establish a “ Thirteen club “ or anything of that sort here. I do not mind if the number is fixed at eleven or twelve, and, if the present amendment is not passed, I shall be willing to make one to fix- the number at such a figure. If it were fixed at eleven or twelve, the point submitted by Senator Downer would be destroyed. But I am absolutely against placing the power of closure within the control of a bare majority, no matter how many are present. Are we going to say that when business is being conducted with a statutory quorum of twelve senators, seven are to have the power to shut up the other five, and not allow them to be heard, nor allow the views of those who sent them here to be represented by one word in the records of the Chamber ? Such a proposal is abhorrent to any one’s sense of constitutional rule and parliamentary methods.
– Should the seven be allowed to retard the business of the Senate ?
– Do honorable senators seriously suppose that it would be better to have the Senate counted out than to allow a senator to express the views he is sent here to represent. The matter is a great deal more serious than some honorable senators appear to think. It means that for fear one senator maymake his observations at undue length all other senators may be prevented from expressing their opinions. Such procedure strikes at the very base of all argument. There are people in the world who are afraid to hear discussion. If such people take advantage of this rule and move the closure, and it is carried, others will have to submit without one word of discussion. That is a very much more serious thing than that there should be a little prolixity on the part of onehonorable senator. To suggest that honorable senators who are sent here from the four winds of the Commonwealth are to have their mouths closed because there happens to be one more opposed to them than there, is on their own side, is a proposition that cannot possibly, upon reconsideration, meet with the support of a majority in this Chamber. I again repeat, that if this proposal for an. affirmative vote of thirteen be not assented tos I shall be prepared to vote for any less number. In New South Wales, the affirmative vote required is 40 out of a House of 125 members. Whether the number fixed here be 10, 11, 12, or 13, I care not, but there should be some specified affirmative, vote required before the right of free speech, which is supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution, is taken away from honorable senators.
– “ The right of free speech “ is a splendid sounding phrase, especially in the ears of the labour party. But what would be said if the minority were to permanently override and gag the majority 1 In plain English, what is desired now is that Parliament shall be controlled by the minority. We have had to listen to many grandiloquent phrases about “ gagging,” and all the rest of it, and while I admit that there are some very decent men amongst the labour party, I think they need to be educated, and that they did not get enough of the mother’s birch in their young days. Are we to conduct our business by minority or majority ? Honorable senators appeal to their constituents, forsooth, for sanction to defy the majority, but they have no such sanction, ind will never get it. The constituents are viser in their generation than to allow a small ninority to override the majority in Parlianent. The may at times not like what maoritiesdo, butthey come round inalittletime to the view that it is safer to trust the najority than to trust the minority. I rhink that our safest course will be to ppose the amendment, however simple it nay appear. I agree with Senator Downer nd others who say that the amendment is a contravention of section 23 of the Contention, which provides that the majority the Senate shall rule.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I think that legal members of the Senate should be very careful before getting up to make rash statements ‘about the meaning of the Constitution. There is just a possibility that some unsophisticated layman like myself may, perhaps, attempt to show that they have given a verdict upon the question without having looked into it very fully. That is one reason why we should have an Appeal Court. On this occasion I think that Senator Downer has been led astray by Senator Playford, his compatriot, presenting him with this wonderful mare’s nest when he had no time to closely examine it. Section 23 does not contain the final word in the Constitution upon this question’. If section 23 had stood alone, Senators Downer and Playford might jubilate ; but we have to turn to other sections. In section 49 I find the following : -
The powers, privileges, unci immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members of the Committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom and of its members and Committees at the establishment of the Commonwealth.
– That is subject to the general rule that we cannot go beyond what our Constitution provides.
– That does not get us one bit further.
– I have not said my final word yet. I say that one of the privileges of members of the Senate is the privilege of debating questions, and a privilege we acquire, I take it, from the House of Commons is that of speaking to a question, and it cannot be affected except upon the lines laid down by the practice of the House of Commons until we have fixed our own standing or-ders. I am very doubtful whether the word “ questions “ as appearing in section 23 would refer to a motion “ That the Senate do now divide,” because it seems to me that such a motion is merely part of the procedure of the Senate, or of a rule laid down to enable questions to be dealt with. We are discussing now the procedure for dealing with the questions referred to in section 23, and not one of those questions itself. Section 50 of the Constitution provides that -
Bach House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to - (1.) The mode in which its powers, privileges, and immunities may be exercised and upheld : (2) The order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the, other House.
– That does not take away the right to decide questions by a majority vote.
– That is a section of the Constitution giving us power to lay down rules for the order and conduct of our business. Section 23, to which Senators Downer and Playford have referred us, provides that -
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote.
I would ask Senator Downer whether all questions arising in the Senate are decided by a majority of votes I do not need to tell the honorable senator that they are not, and that there are some questions which have to be decided by an absolute majority , of the Senate. If honorable senators will turn to section 57 of the Constitution they will find that, after stating the provision made for a disagreement between the two Houses, the section provides -
The members present at the joint sitting may deliberate, and shall vote together upon the pro posed law as last proposed hy the House of Representatives, aiid upon amendments, if any, which have been made therein by one House and not agreed to by the other, and any such amendments which are affirmed by an absolute majority of the total number of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be taken to have been carried.
– That has nothing to do with it.
– That is not a question arising in the Senate.
– There is also a provision for the suspension of the standing orders, and it was determined again and again in this Chamber during last session, that to carry such a motion an absolute majority of the Senate was required. Section 23 of the Constitution deals with questions of laws - questions concerning Bills - and there must be a majority to carry those questions. It would, perhaps, be unconstitutional for us to say that they should be carried by a two-thirds majority, or by a majority of four. But when we come to deal with standing orders for the conduct of business in the Senate, I contend that we have unlimited power under section 50 to make such standing orders as we please for the purpose. If it were not so, will honorable senators contend that the framers of the Constitution were ignorant of what they were doing when they passed section 23 ?
If they were not, why did they not in section 49 insert the words “ subject to the limitation laid down in section 23 “ ? The reason is that they recognised fully that they had laid down no such limitation. I recognise that certain members of the Senate have made up their minds upon this amendment, not upon its merits, but simply because they intend to use the power given by the standing order “ willy-nilly,” and no argument will move them. I see nothing at all in the constitutional objection which has been raised to the amendment, and I ask honorable senators to support it.
– I think it is only fair that when an important question has been raised I should give some ruling upon it. I admit both the difficulty and the importance of this question.. Section 23 of the Constitution says -
Questions arising in the Senate shall be determined by a majority of votes, and each senator shall have one vote.
Under section 50 of the Constitution it is provided that -
Each . House of Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to . the order and conduct of its business and proceedings either separately or jointly with the other House.
In my opinion the word “ questions “ in section 23 refers to questions involving some principle or other which are to be dealt with by the Senate, and it does not include matters merely of procedure, as to how the Senate shall conduct its business. The matter immediately before us refers to what may be done in Committee, but in the Senate itself the same rule will apply. ‘ The amendment is taken from the New South Wales standing orders, and we have to look for guidance in regard to those standing orders to the New South Wales Constitution Act. The Constitution Act of New South Wales contains a provision similar to that in the Commonwealth Constitution. Section 23 provides that -
The presence of at least twenty members of the Legislative Assembly, exclusive 6f the Speaker, shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the said Legislative Assembly for the despatch of business, and ‘all questions, except as herein excepted-
That refers to questions as to absolute majorities - which shall arise in the said Assembly, shall be decided by the majority of votes of such members as shall be present, other than the Spenkejr, and when the votes shall be equal the Speaker shall have . the casting vote.
Having quoted the terms of the Constitution of New South Wales, which are somewhat similar to our own, I turn to the standing orders of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Standing Order 175 provides that -
At any time during the proceedings of theHouse, or during the proceedings of a committee of the whole, any member may move without notice or debate “ That the question be now put”; and such motion shall then be put without debate, but shall not be decided in the affirmative unless by a vote of a least 40 members in favour thereof, and if such motion be carried the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, shall forthwith put the question to the vote : Provided that whenever it is decided that any question shall be put, the mover of the matter pending shall be permitted to speak in reply (where any reply is allowed) for 30 minutes before the question be put.
I do not mean to say’ that the precedent I have quoted necessarily concludes the matter ; but it affords some guidance to the Senate. Having regard to the terms of our Constitution, and the specific power which is therein set forth that we are to make our own standing orders as to the regulation and conduct of our business, I think that the amendment is essentially one relating to the conduct of our business, and is therefore in order. Incidentally I may state that; in my opinion, the word “ questions “ in section 23 of the Constitution relates to questions involving practically some important matter of principle and not of procedure.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the words “and provided further that no such motion shall be put unless the Chairman be satisfied that the question has been sufficiently discussed “ be inserted after the word ‘ ‘ votes. “
Senator Downerhas mentioned the House of Commons practice in this regard, and my proposition is that we should adopt it. At page 212 of May, 10th edition, it is set forth that -
Pursuant to the Standing Orders Nos. 25 and 20 whilst the Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means is in the chair, after a question has been proposed, if a member rising in his place moves That the question be now put”
That is similar to our own- provision “ That the House do now divide “ - that question shall be gut forthwith without amendment or debate, unless it appears to the Chair that the motion is an abuse of the rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority ; “ and if, when a division is taken, it appears by the numbers declared from the Chair that not less than a hundred members voted in the majority in support of the motion, it is decided in the affirmative.
I propose to leave it to the Chairman of Committees or to the President, as the case may be, to decide whether the rights of the minority are being infringed on such occasions. I should even be prepared to leave the matter in the hands of Senator Zeal, who, when President of the Legislative Council of V ictoria, used to say to a member “ Tou sit down, you are only repeating what another honorable member has already said.”
– That is a fable.
-I saw the statement in the SydneyBulletin, and therefore it must be correct. I say that I . would be prepared to leave it “even” to Senator Zeal, because he has been such a strong opponent of an interference with the rights of a bare majority- to close the mouths of honorable senators. I am afraid that certain honorable senators forget that those who have not spent such a long series of years in political life as they have done, may occasionally have something to say These honorable senators have had a- long career -some of them have been in politics for half a life-time- and have made up their’ minds in regard to all political questions.
– They are- fossilized.
– I do not say that they are fossilized, but there are certain grooves along which their thoughts run, and it is very difficult to get them out of those grooves. I would urge them not to say. that this standing order should be passed without the addition of a provision such as I have proposed. I am sure that in such a crisis as that described the other day by Senator Playford, when honorable senators generally were thoroughly tired of the whole debate, the Chairman would be satisfied that the question had been sufficiently discussed. Unfortunately, the debate regarding this standing order has ranged almost completely round the case of honorable senators who might desire to obstruct business, and take up the time of the Senate by “interminably talking,” as Senator Zeal said just now. Those are the honorable senators whom the Senate is trying to get at. But we also want to protect honorable senators who may desire to speak to a question, but have not had an opportunity of doing so.
– I am perfectly satisfied that if thirteen honorable senators supported a motion That the Committee do now -divide,” it would be upon an occasion on which it was perfectly clear to the Chairman that the subject had been thoroughly discussed. I do not know that the amendment would have very great effect in view of the amendment just carried, but I have no objection to it, because I do not think thirteen honorable senators will be prepared to terminate a discussion in a case in which it is not apparent to the Chairman of Committees that the matter has been sufficiently discussed.
– It seems to me to be very singular that honorable senators of the labour party who have been fighting against majority rule in the Senate should now propose that the Chairman of Committees shall decide as to when any honorable senator has spoken too long or too frequentlyupon a particular subject. If this amendment be carried, a word from him will be sufficient to cause a division to be taken.
– There must be thirteen members of the Senate voting “Aye.”
– After the Chairman has said that the discussion has lasted long enough, a vote has to be taken, and thirteen senators must vote in the affirmative.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - Senator Charleston has got into a fog. In the first place, a senator has to move “ That the Committee do now divide.” The
Chairman cannot interrupt the debate and say - “We shall take a vote.” He has to decide whether, in the interests of the minority, that question should be put to the vote. I rose chiefly to express my astonishment that Senator Drake, after fighting us as he did, should be prepared on a question of minor importance to concede this right to one senator. Surely, if he is prepared to concede to the President or the Chairman the right to say - “I consider that this motion infringes the right of the minority, therefore I shall not put the question,” he ought to be prepared to concede that right to thirteen senators ? He is taking up a very inconsistent position.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I do not think that the proviso ought to be made, because it will prejudice the position df the minority who wish to continue the debate. In the first instance the Chairman would have to decide whether, in his opinion, the motion should be put. Any senator who had not been paying very much attention to the debate might be influenced by the opinion of the Chairman, who had heard all the discussion, and for that reason lie would probably vote for the motion. It would be a mistake to put the Chairman in that position. The motion does not involve debate. It has to be put at once, and the rights of the minority are protected by the provision that thirteen senators must vote in the affirmative. Almost the full strength of the Chamber is behind the senator whom any one is trying to stop. I feel sure that it will not be possible to get thirteen senators to vote unfairly to close any one’s mouth. But certainly the “Yes” or “No” of the Chairman will put the question before the Committee with added force. I do not wish to see such a power placed in the hands of one man.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - It seems to me that Senator Higgs has made a mistake. The first part of the standing order says that the motion shall be made without discussion, and immediately put and determined ; but it is now proposed in this amendment that -
No such motion shall be put unless the Chairman is satisfied -
In the interests of the Committee, as well as in the interests of the Chairman, I object to the amendment. I do not think it is fair to put him in the position of deciding the question whether, the motion shall be put.
I voted for a majority of thirteen being necessary to enforce the closure. But I shall not vote for allowing, practically, the Chairman alone, to decide the question.
– I suggest that this question ought to be looked at from the Chairman’s point of view as well as the member’s point of view. Is it not very unfair to ask the Chairman to unnecessarily place himself in possible antagonism to three or four senators who think that they ought to be allowed to continue the debate? It will bring the Chairman into unnecessary friction with senators, and that is not fair to him. Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I was very much surprised to hear such a speech from Senator Baker. When a senator accepts the position of President or Chairman of Committees he knows quite well ‘that at some time or other he will by reason of his decisions have against him certain senators. For instance, last session, because the President voted in Committee in a certain way, certain senators got an animus against him, and it still lives in their breasts and is likely to do so for years. Every presiding officer has to undertake that risk. Evidently in the interests of the minority, members of the House of Commons demand that their Speaker shall take the risk of incurring the animosity of individual members. It is only human nature for a senator to think that the Chairman is wrong when he rules against his own view. Since, apparently, honorable senators are determined that a majority of thirteen shall silence those who have not spoken, it is only fair that we should adopt the House of Commons practice, and let the Chairman, who sits there as an umpire, decide whether the question shall be put. If, as Senator Baker suggested, two or three senators .are likely to be actuated by animus against the Chairman, it- is quite possible that in a time of heated discussion thirteen or fifteen senators may be actuated by that feeling and try to stop a senator. The President or the Chairman is always more cool and collected than any other senator, and he can see whether there is an attempt on the part of a simple majority to infringe the rights of the minority. Surely it is not asking too much of the presiding officer to undertake that duty ? If at any time three or four senators are filled with animus against the Chairman, the majority will always see that he gets fair play, as they have done in the past. I do not like the standing order at all, but, since the majority demand that it shall be passed, they might give the minority the benefit of the House of Commons procedure in its entirety.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - I think it is very undesirable to put the Chairman or the President in the very invidious position of having to decide whether or not a subject has been sufficiently debated. To say that that decision will be received with equanimity at all times is to deny that knowledge of human nature which we all possess to some extent. Nothing is more necessary than that the presiding officer should be kept in a strictly impartial position, and should not be charged with the invidious duty of expressing opinions on subjects which we have to decide.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I am only anxious to see that a senator who has not spoken to the question and who desires to speak shall get an opportunity to address the Chamber before the gag is applied. I do not ask that he shall be allowed to . speak more than once to the question, but I do ask that he shall get an opportunity of speaking ‘once.
– Nine hours’ speeches.
– If a senator is likely to speak for nine hours, he will probably take the opportunity of speaking- before the time comes for the application of the closure. I shall make another attempt to insure that the minority shall get a chance. I move -
That the following words be added-“ Provided further that such motion shall not be put if any senator present who lias not spoken wishes to speak and rises in his place to do so.”
– I could not accept that amendment, because it seems to me to go dead against everything that the Committee has done up to the present time.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
And no motion mentioned in this standing order shall be repeated within fifteen minutes of any of these motions having been negatived.
Amendments (by Senator Drake) agreed to-
That the word “such,” line 6, be omitted; and that after the word “ motion,” line ‘.), the words “mentioned in this standing order” be inserted.
Motions- “ That the Committee do now divide” - “That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again ; “ and “ That the Chairman do now leave the chair,” shall be moved without discussion, and be immediately put and determined ; Provided that a vote on the question “ That the Committee do now divide” shall require at least thirteen affirmative votes, and no motion mentioned in this staudinoorder shall be repeated within fifteen minutes ot 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 agaiu.
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Order 274 agreed to.
Standing Order 275 -
An order for a call of the Senate shall be made for any day not earlier than fourteen days from the day on which such order shall have been made.
-I suggest that the term be made 21 days instead of fourteen. In the case of senators from the distant States fourteen days is insufficient notice.
Amendment (by Senator Drake) agreed to-
That the word “fourteen “. be omitted, and the words “twenty-one” inserted in lieu thereof.
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 276 to 279 agreed to.
Standing Order 2S0. (Senators not attending during the day).
– This refers to a call of the Senate. Should we not provide in this standing order for fining, or in some other way punishing, a senator who does not attend after receiving due notice? It is rather farcical to send out such a notice and .yet provide no punishment whatever for those who do not attend, though they may be able to do so. If there is no penalty the standing order is useless.
Standing Order agreed to.
Standing Order 281 agreed to. !
Standing Order 282 -
The senators to serve on a select committee may be nominated by the mover, but if three senators so demand they shall be selected byballot.
– This standing order should be amended in order to allow select committees tobe chosen by ballot in all cases. The method of selection by ballot is very properly provided for in Standing Order 347. I can anticipate no practical difficulty. It is wrong to cast upon any three senators, it might be the odium of demanding a ballot as against the mover of a motion for the appointment of a select committee. As it stands, the standing order requires that three senators shall im- .molate themselves by casting themselves into the breech, and doing something which may be unpleasant. I move -
That the words “may be nominated by the mover, but if three senators so demand they” be omitted.
– This standing order follows the practice which we have adopted ever since the Senate has been in existence. Every committee we have appointed has been chosen on the motion of the mover. That has been the case with the House Committee, the Library Committee, the Standing Orders Committee, and all other select committees. If there is no objection it seems to me that the course proposed in the standing order will facilitate business.
– It may expedite business, but when a senator wishes to get a particular person appointed to a committee he has to do a very unpleasant thing. He has to move that the matter be decided by ballot, and thus has to place himself in antagonism to the mover of the motion for the committee. There is no possible objection to the course proposed in this standing order applying to formal committees like the Library Committee and the House Committee’. In the South Australian Parliament the personnel of select committees is decided by ballot. That is the fairest way, and it avoids any unpleasantness. When an honorable senator moves the appointment of certain senators to form a select committee, other honorable senators do not like to oppose him, although they may feel that he has made a mistake in the composition of the committee which he proposes. It is a great deal better to have a ballot by which the Senate will be able to act freely in selecting the men to be appointed to a committee. When a member of the Senate, in moving, for instance, that a Bill be referred to a select committee, chooses the members of that committee, he will probably choose those who hold opinions similar to his own. I think it is far better to adopt the South Australian practice, under which all these committees are balloted for. I shall support the amendment.
– The argument appears to be that because some one may be destitute of sufficient moral courage to do that which he believes to be right, the Senate is to be burdened with the process of going through a ballot on a motion for the appointment of a select committee, when- in not one case in a dozen will there be any conflict of opinion. Senator Playford seems to think that the amendment proposes that the names of the members nominated to a select committee shall be submitted; and that we shall then go to a ballot, but Senator Clemons has not proposed that any names shall be submitted. If no names are submitted, how can a reasonable result be arrived at ? Someone moves for a select committee, and then, without any names being submitted or the Senate having any knowledge of the honorable senators who may be willing to serve on the committee, we go to a ballot. What kind of nonsense is that ? Last session the only select committee appointed on a private motion was one to take evidence with reference to steam-boat communication with Tasmania, and there was absolute difficulty in obtaining seven members of the Senate to serve on that committee. If we have a ballot without names being submitted, it may result in the selection of members of the Senate who will not serve. We shall have carried the motion for the committee, and will have failed to appoint them. This is an entirely new proposal. Apparently it is not new in South Australia, but what is proposed in the standing order is the practice of the Houseof Commons, theHouse of Lords, and I take it of the vast majority of Legislatures - that a senator proposing the appointment of a select committee shall name the senators whom he proposes shall serve on that committee, and then, if it is desired, a ballot is taken. Under the standing order it is proposed that three honorable senators may demand a ballot, and I should be willing to permit any one member of the Senate to demand a ballot, but certainly the names of those who are willing to serve should be submitted in order that honorable senators in balloting may know what they are doing. I take it that there is sufficient moral courage amongst members of the Senate to demand a ballot without such a demand being regarded as a reflection on the mover of the original motion for a committee. On the argument which has been used we should lack the moral courage to move an amendment to any question. If I were in order I should be prepared to move an amendment to provide that one voice should be sufficient to demand a ballot. I am willing to meet Senator Clemons to that extent, but I say that to have a ballot without having the names of honorable senators first submitted seems to me perfectly childish.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - It is not a question of moral courage at all, and there is no difficulty about the naming of the members of the committee under the practice which I suggest. It is found to be a very simple process indeed, because the mover of the select committee always issues his list, and those opposed to him issue their list. The question then goes to the ballot, and the majority decide. The mover of a committee would go round to ascertain whether certain members of the Senate would be willing to serve upon his committee, and those opposed to his views would probably do the same,, and there would then be the two lists upon which the majority would decide. That is certainly the best way in which to appoint all these committees.
– I do not think there is the slightest difference between the two propositions. As Senator Playford has pointed out, in our practice the names are not in the first instance mentioned, and there is simply a motion for a committee. If there is a motion for a ballot, and it is carried, the House proceeds to take a ballot. All the invidiousness arises when the mover of the motion for a committee submits his list of names. According to the argument which has been used, it would then be difficult for any one else to submit any names other than those already submitted. It is said that there would be a feeling of delicacy in doing anything of that kind. But under the South Australian practice, whenever either the Government or the Opposition have proposed a committee, there has never been the slightest delicacy or hesitation in opposing the list of names submitted. What difference does it make whether the mover of a motion for a select committee mentions in his motion the names of honorable senators whom he desires to serve on the committee, or, a motion having been carried for the appointment of a select committee, a list of names is submitted ?
– ‘That is not the point. Senator Playford. - There can only be a ballot under the standing order if three honorable senators demand it.
– I agree with Senator Neild that a demand for a ballot by one honorable senator should be sufficient. It may be that a ballot is not desired, and that when the names are mentioned there is no objection to them ; but if the standing order is altered in the way suggested there must be a ballot, and time will be wasted in voting upon a matter upon which everybody is agreed. I was referring merely to the question of invidiousness, and to submit a list of names in antagonism to one already submitted is certainly more invidious than to demand a ballot. From the point of view of convenience, I prefer the standing order as proposed, and if there is any invidiousness in the matter it exists in each case.
– I do not think that the amendment proposed will improve the standing order as submitted. I see no reason for departing from what is almost the invariable practice of the House of Commons, and the practice also of most of the States Legislatures, simply because in one State there happens to be the rule now proposed. We have it on the authority of two honorable senators that that rule is a perfect farce, the list handed round being in almost every case accepted. The ballot is taken and time is wasted in arriving at a conclusion in that way which could be arrived at upon a simple motion. If the time comes when the mover of a motion for a committee in connexion with a contentious matter has not selected his committee fairly, any three members of the Senate could protest and demand a ballot. I doubt whether one honorable senator should be allowed to demand a ballot. Let us adhere to the usual practice, unless it is shown to be wrong, and do not let us depart from the usual practice, when it is shown that the departure proposed works out in exactly the same way Us the rule ordinarily followed.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- The arguments of the last speaker seem to me to be very much confused. The honorable and learned senator started by saying that the whole thing would be a farce. What he intended to convey, I think, was that it would be a farce to have a list submitted and a ballot token, because . the whole thing would have been cut and dried. But my whole object is to secure a ballot in all cases, and that is what Senator Dobson has entirely overlooked. Under the standing order we could not get a ballot unless three honorable senators demanded it.
– We do not want a ballot unless three honorable senators demand it.
– I do. I say that this thing has become a farce under the present practice, because owing to the fact that three honorable senators must demand a ballot under our rules no ballot is asked for, and the nomination of the mover of the committee is accepted in nine cases out of ten. I think that there should be a ballot, and I think the means of securing a ballot should be made as simple as possible. Senator Playford has pointed out how this can be done. We have heard some ludicrous remarks about the difficulty of obtaining a I ballot unless somebody nominates certain senators, but there is no difficulty in the world in obtaining a ballot because a list is sent round, and Standing Order 347 prescribes the method of taking a ballot.
-It is no trouble, but it is a waste of time.
– I am glad the honorable and learned senator admits that it would be no trouble. If that is admitted I wonder that any honorable senator should object to a ballot. If it is worth our while to appoint a select committee, the personnel of that committee should not be determined merel) by the nomination of the honorable senator who moves for it. It should not be competent for any honorable senator to name the seven members of the committee to be appointed, and to find that in every case he had succeeded practically in obtaining their selection.
– It could be dealt with by ballot under Standing Order 347.
– It is my desire that we should deal with the matter by ballot. I am anxious that the appointment of select committees should not be a farce. If we allow them to be appointed merely on the nomination of the mover - and we have seen that practice adopted here - we shall allow their selection to become farcical. We should at least leave it open to any honorable senator to move that the matter be dealt with by ballot.
– !, strongly object to the adoption of the ballot in the Senate. Honorable senators should have sufficient courage to openly declare their intentions, not only in regard to the appointment of committees, but in reference to all matter’s that come before us. I do not believe in the ballot here.
SenatorFraser. - Does the honorable senator favour open voting at elections ?
– That is another matter. We are the representatives of the people, and to attempt to shield ourselves in any way by means of the ballot would be to display a kind of moral cowardice altogether unworthy of us.
– The adoption of the ballot system might save time.
– On the contrary, it would not save time ; but I do not object to the proposal from that stand-point, for it is not a very valid objection. I contend that inasmuch as honorable senators arechosen to serve the people they should be prepared to let the people see exactly how they vote in every capacity. If the appointment of a select committee were desired, and certain honorable senators were nominated to act upon it, it would be quite possible for an honorable senator having a distinct bias against anyone of them - but wanting the requisite courage to openly sa)* so - to shield himself by means of the ballot and to vote against that honorable senator whilst at the same time appearing to him to be a very nice fellow.- That kind of conduct should not be tolerated by us. J. always opposed the adoption of the ballot system in the State Legislature of Queensland, and I shall vote against its adoption here.
SenatorFRASER (Victoria). - I think honorable senators will agree that I sometimes display a good deal of courage, but I must confess that I should not care to rise as one of three honorable senators to oppose the nomination of five or six others named for appointment on a select committee. To do so would be to give the honorable senator objected to a direct slap in the face. Such a course should be unnecessary.
– Should werather hit him on the sly ?
SenatorFRASER. - No ; but we should conduct our proceedings in a decorous manner. We might think that some better nomination could be made, and by means of the ballot we should be able to record outvote without creating any disturbance or unpleasantness.
– The honorable senator does not like to unnecessarily . hurt people’s feelings.
– Exactly. Why should we do so when there is no necessity for anything of the kind. When there is a necessity to speak out we should not hesitate to show our courage. Courage is sometimes a very high attribute, but there are many occasions in which its display is out of place. I see no greatobjection to theoriginal proposal, except that under it three honorable senators would have to rise in their places to demand a ballot. The selection of a committee is sometimes a very serious matter. A committee may be appointed to deal with questions to which the Senate attaches great importance, and it may involve a great deal of expenditure. Therefore, the best way of making a selection would be by the corporate vote of the Senate as proposed by the amendment.
– I have not heard of any great objection to the practice which has been followed in the case of sessional committees, which are appointed at the beginning of each session. We have endeavoured to secure the separate representation of each of the States upon those committees, and to see that honorable senators are so distributed over them that as far as possible each shall have something to do. That is a matter requiring careful arrangement and much consideration, and I do not think that result would be obtained by the adoption of the ballot system. If that system were followed, we should probably have the same names recurring in the list of members of all the committees, while a number of honorable senators would not be asked to perform any duty in connexion with them. Some select committees are of very great importance. An honorable senator who is deeply interested in some particular subject and moves for the appointment of a committee to consider it, has generally taken care to ascertain who will be willing to serve on that committee’.
– And whose views are similar to hisown.
– Perhaps so. No doubt he seeks to have the different States represented on the committee, and to a very great extent he may also desire to insure the presentation of a report in a particular direction. Surely if it were a contentious matter of that kind, and if the object of the honorable senator were to obtain a committee which would bring up a report of a particular character, three honorable senators could be found ready to move that the committee be appointed by ballot. I think, therefore, that the standing order provides fairly for these two cases. So far as the sessional committees are concerned, I have not heard a single complaint with regard to their composition. I have not heard the slightest whisper of any dissatisfaction. In nominating them I endeavoured to meet the general desire of the Senate.
SenatorFraser. - Sessional committees might be excepted.
– They are excepted.
– If it refers to select committees other than sessional committees there can be no difficulty.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - I should like to point out that no reference is made in chapter 5 to the way in which committees to be created under that chapter shall be appointed. It is simply set forth that a Standing Orders Committee “shall be appointed”; that a Library Committee “shall be appointed,” and so forth. It was not intended that the mode of appointment should be set out there ; the matter was left to the particular chapter with which we are now dealing. On behalf of the Standing Orders Committee, I may say that it was intended that the most convenient practice - the practice which would take up as little time as possible - should be adopted. I do not think it would make any material difference whether we required three or only one honorable senator to demand a ballot. If there is any desire for a ballot it should be granted, but if there is not, why should not the mover be allowed to propose that the committee be appointed.
– The honorable and learned senator is right ; sessional committees are not excepted.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). I should like the Committee to consider whether it would not be well to adopt a provision similar to that which exists in the standing orders of the House of Representatives of the United States, which provide that -
Unless otherwise specially ordered the Speaker shall- appoint certain committees. We have followed very much the same wording in providing that -
Unless otherwise ordered all select committees shall consist. of seven honorable senators.
If the words “ Unless otherwise ordered” were inserted at the beginning of Standing Order 282 the matter would be left in the hands of the Senate. Surely, in the case of sessional committees we do not need to follow the course which has been indicated by Senator Clemons. The Senate represents the States, and it is desirable that each State should have a representative on every committee. It should not be made possible for the representative of two States to compose a select committee to report upon any subject.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - All committees which are not committees of the whole Senate are select committees. They may be standing committees or committees appointed to inquire into a Bill, but they are selected. A committee of the whole Senate is not selected because it consists of every Senator. Any committee which is selected out of the Senate is a select committee.
– I hope that the Committee will not adopt the proposal of Senator Clemons. It has been pointed out very clearly that the object of allowing the mover to nominate the committee is to save time when there is no objection to the personnel. In other cases it may be better that the committee should be selected by ballot. The Senate has first to determine whether it will appoint a committee and incur all the incidental expense. The mover generally takes good care to nominate those men who he thinks are generally in accord with his views, but who nevertheless are prepared to see that a fair inquiry shall be made into the subject-matter. All the proceedings are reported, and if any undue bias is shown there is the corrective which comes afterwards when the Senate has to deal with the report. If a ballot be taken, it will be quite impossible to insure that a committee shall be composed of a representative from each State, and the probability is that more senators will be chosen from one State than from another. I am not, however, carried away with that argument, because I wish the fact to become recognised that it is the duty of a senator, no matter what State he represents, to do what is fair to all the States. Take an ordinary case where a senator moves for a select committee, and nominates three or five men from one State, and two -from another State. If I recognised that the subject-matter of the inquiry was one of general importance, and that the nominees were generally fair men, and the Senate seemed to think it was desirable to hold an inquiry, I should not object, because I believe that the committee would act straightforwardly. We represent the Commonwealth as a whole, and the sooner senators recognise the fact that they represent all the States, the better it will be. I think that the balance of advantage is in favour of leaving the standing order as it is. I am under the impression that the standing committees of the House of Commons are appointed under similar circumstances. In New South Wales it has been the invariable practice for the mover to nominate those whom he desired to serve on any select committee, but it was open to any member to demand a ballot, and, if he did, his action was not regarded in an unfriendly light.
– I quite agree with the spirit of the remarks qf Senator Gould, but I think he has rather misunderstood me as to the reason why I have tried to put a senator from each State on each of the standing committees.
– That is all right for sessional committees.
– If, for instance, a question as to the best course to adopt with regard to printing arises, there will be on the Printing- Committee a representative from each State, who will be able to state the local practice. ‘In the case of ordinary select committees, it should not count for much that one senator is from one State and another senator is from another State. It is desirable to do away with that distinction as much as possible.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- When I moved the amendment I had in my mind the cases of select committees, which are obtained by a private senator on his own nomination. I have no desire to interfere with the proper right of the Ministry to nominate certain committees at the beginning of each session, nor do I wish to interfere with the right of “ the President to nominate a particular committee under chapter 5. I do not desire to interfere with the chapter that deals with standing committees, which are totally different from select committees. What I desire to secure is that no select committee shall be granted to a private senator without a ballot being taken. I am prepared to alter my amendment. I can see no way of securing that object except by moving to insert this proviso -
Provided that in the case of a select committee, other than any ordinary standing committee, the senators to serve on the committee shall be selected by ballot.
– I thought that we had followed the House of Commons practice, and distinguished between select committees and standing committees. Clearly there is n difference between standing committees and select committees in the House of Commons practice. If it is desired that that alteration should be made, it will be necessary to insert a new standing order in chapter 5 when it is reached. The only thing we can do is to remodel No. 282 with that object, and a portion of No. 283 will certainly have to be transferred to chapter 5.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - We had better make it clear at once that a select committee “shall” be nominated by the mover. If no senator makes a nominar tion, what is to take place? The word “ shall “ should be substituted for the word “may.” It will be well to distinguish between sessional committees and select committees. I am quite willing to allow ordinary committees to be nominated by the movers, and, if necessary, to leave out the concluding words of the standing order.
– Seeing that we are dealing with all these committees in this chapter, the standing order might be amended to read in this way -
The senators to serve on the Standing Orders Committee, Library Committee, House Committee, Refreshment Committee, and Printing Committee may be nominated by the mover, but if three senators so demand other select committees shall be selected by ballot.
We all agree that the standing order should remain as it is with regard to the standing committees.
– There might be a necessity for appointing some other sessional committee.
– We might use the term “ sessional committee” if it is clearly understood to cover all committees appointed for that purpose.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South AVales). - Would it not be advisable in the first place to deal with the proposal of Senator Clemons to omit certain words? If we take that course we shall get a test division and know exactly where we are. If it is in favour of his contention it will be easy to frame a proper standing order to meet his case.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - I should like Senator Clemons to withdraw his amendment to enable me to move the substitution of “shall” for “ may.”
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - May I suggest that it will save time if we take a test division, and that if Senator Clemons succeeds in carrying his amendment, the matter be referred back to the Standing Orders Committee to redraft this standing order?
SenatorLt.-Col.NEILD (New South Wales). - I support the amendment suggested by Senator Playford. I am delighted that at last he has come to see the. force of the argument which I put forward, that it is positively necessary that the mover of a motion for the appointment of a select committee shall nominate the members of it. Otherwise the Senate will be balloting in the dark. All sorts of observations were made as to the wisdom of what I said, but my point of view is put in a concrete form by Senator Playford, whose suggested amendment I have muchpleasure in supporting.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - I wish to point out to Senator Neild that I suggested the amendment because I thought it was the wish of the Senate to make a distinction between ordinary standing committees - which it is right and proper that the Government should nominate - and select committees appointed at the instance of an individual senator.
– The shortest way of expressing the opinion of the Committee would be to vote on a proposal to omit the words “ select committees,” with a view of substituting the words “ sessional committees.”
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - All committees are sessional, and last merely for the term of the session. I think that it would be better for honorable senators to leave the standing order alone.
– Perhaps we can test the feeling of the Committee by voting on a proposal to strike out the words “ a select committee.” If those words are omitted the standing order will go back to the Standing Orders Committee to be redrafted.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - If the words mentioned are struck out is it to be understood that the Committee of the whole Senate desires that the StandingOrders Committee shall re-draft these standing orders so as to provide that standing committees shall be appointed on the motion of the mover, and that all other committees shall be appointed by ballot?
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - My desire is to provide that in the selection of all committees, except those prescribed by chapter 5, and other committees that may be appointed under similar conditions to those, a ballot shall be taken. Senator Baker will see that a certain number of committees are specified in chapter 5 - the Standing Orders Committee, the House Committee, the Printing Committee, and the Committee of Disputed Returns and
Qualifications. The practice, even if it be not prescribed . by our standing orders, is that the Government nominates the standing committees, and the President nominates the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications. It is quite conceivable that there may be other committees similar in character to those which ought to be similarly appointed. I do not propose to deal with any committees that have an official stamp upon them. The committees that I am aiming at are those which are nominated by a private senator. I wish the members of such committees to be balloted for.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia).- When we were disous’sing this matter in the Standing Orders Committee we took a great deal of trouble about it. We had the South Australian Standing Orders before us, and also the standing orders of other legislative bodies, including those of the Imperial Parliament. We came to the conclusion that what we propose is the shortest possible way of getting through the business. The suggestion of invidiousness never occurred to us, and after having heard the discussion : that has taken place it does not appeal to me now. There will be no secrecy in voting by ballot in the Senate. It will practically be open voting. At present the practice is that the names of the senators who are to be members of a select committee are handed round. The list of various parties are submitted for the consideration of honorable senators, and there is no more secresy about it than if the names were nominated openly. The first thing that a mover for theappointment of a standing committee does is to pass round the names of the members he suggests. What does it matter whether the names are chosen in that way, or whether they are balloted for 1 If the names suggested by the mover commend themselves to the Senate, why waste time in having a ballot % If they do not suggest themselves to the Senate, another list can be passed round.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia). - We are told by Senator Downer that the Standing Orders Committee gave a considerable amount of attention to this standing order, and that they had under consideration the South Australian Standing Orders, those of the House of Commons, and of other legislative bodies. I turn to the part of the committee’s report dealing with the consideration of this standing order, and I find that Senator Downer was not present on that occasion, and that the standing order was passed without comment.
– Could I not work at the standing orders when I was not there?
– It seems to me that there was no discussion of the question ; there certainly was no division. I believe that what Senator Clemons has suggested will meet the wishes of the majority of the Senate, and that ib would bo advisable to make an alteration in the direction indicated.
– A great deal of impatience was shown when I was discussing a certain proposal this afternoon, and I now feel inclined to move - “That the Committee do now divide.”
– The Committee can test the question at issue by voting on a proposal to strike out the words “ a select committee.”
Amendment (by Senator Clemons) proposed -
That the words “a select committee” be omitted.
Question - That the words, “a select committee,” proposed to be omitted, stand part of the standing order - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendments (by Senator Playford) agreed to -
That the word “ may,” line 2, be omitted, with a view to insert in lien thereof the word “shall.”
That the word “ three,” line 2, be omitted, with a view to insert in lien thereof the word “ one.”
Senator Lt.-Col. NEILD (New South Wales).- I move -
That- the following words be added - “ A senator proposing a select committee shall be a member thereof. “
That is the standing order in New South Wales and in other States, and it is certainly the rule in the Imperial Parliament.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - It is undoubtedly the rule and the practice, but the Standing Orders Committee, in considering this matter, thought it was not wise to bind the Senate. It might happen that in the opinion of the Senate the particular honorable senator moving for the appointment of a select committee might not be a proper person to be a member of it. The matter is of small importance, because in 99 cases out of 100 an honorable senator moving for a committee would be appointed a member of it. I desire merely to point out that the standing order has not been submitted in the form in which it is before the Committee, inadvertently. The Standing Orders Committee considered the point, and came to the conclusion to which I have referred. I might add that in one instance in’ South Australia the mover of a select committee was not appointed a member of it.
– If an honorable senator moves for the appointment of a select committee, and is desirous of serving upon it, having the power to nominate the members of the committee, he will nominate himself.
– He should not be allowed a committee unless he is prepared to sit upon it himself.
– If afterwards an honorable senator who, while agreeing that the inquiry proposed should take place, believes that the honorable senator who has moved for the committee should not take part in it, he can demand a ballot, and the senator who is objected to may be left off the committee if the majority think that desirable.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I intend to oppose the amendment for the very good reasons which Senator Baker has told us guided the Standing Orders Committee. It by no means follows that an honorable senator who asks for the appointment of a select committee should be a member of it, or will be a desirable person to appoint as a member of it. I see no reason why, because an honorable senator chooses to move for the appointment of a select committee, he should be exempted from the ordinary rule of ballot. Senator Gould has suggested that an honorable senator moving for the appointment of a select committee should be prepared to do his work by acting upon the committee. In nine cases out of ten a committee is . moved for by an honorable senator because he desires to secure a certain position. I do not agree that because the Senate consents to the appointment of a select committee, it is to be assumed that the honorable senator who moved for it is better fitted than any other honorable senator to take part in its proceedings.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - Senator Neild in proposing his amendment is following the invariable practice adopted in appointing select committees. When an honorable senator moves for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into a certain matter, he will have seized himself of the particulars connected with it, and will be in a position to take the lead in the inquiry proposed. He does not invite a number of his fellow senators to form a committee to inquire into a matter to which he has given no special consideration. I think it is necessary that the mover of a motion for the appointment of a select committee should be a member of that committee, and he should recognise that if he asks for a select committee, it is a duty cast upon him that he shall be in a position to advise the committee on the subject of their inquiry, and to point out the sources from’ which evidence is available.
– Why should he funk the ballot?
– It is not a question of his funking the ballot, but the honorable senator moving for a committee will probably be better qualified than most other honorable senators to deal with the subject of inquiry. If an honorable senator is strongly imbued with the necessity for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into any matter, and moves its appointment, it will be a very extraordinary thing for the Senate to decide that the matter shall be inquired into, but that the honorable senator who moved for the committee shall take no part in it.
– Suppose he jumps some other honorable senator’s claim?
.- Whose claim is it but that of the honorable senator who first puts the business on the paper ? I think it would be very much better to follow the practice which has existed for so long. It is all very well to say that we should make new precedents, but most of the new precedents suggested are proposed by honorable senators who have had no previous parliamentary experience. It “may be that they are better qualified to suggest the way in which business should be conducted than those who have had parliamentary experience ; but when we can point, as in this matter, to the practice of the Imperial Parliament, we have a very good authority for following a practice which has already been adopted in all the States, and which I hope will be adopted b)r the Senate.
– I intend to oppose the motion for the reason actuating Senator Gould in supporting it. At present the honorable and learned senator is anxious that we should follow the Imperial practice, but a little time ago he did not care so much about it. Senator Gould must be very innocent in matters political, or they must be a very fine people in New South Wales, if it has never happened there, even to the honorable and learned senator himself, that after he has taken a very great deal of interest in discussing a question and is just on the point of moving for a select committee to inquire into it, some other member jumps up and does it before him. In such a case Senator Gould might be just the man to appoint to the committee, and might be qualified to act as chairman of it, and yet, under the amendment which the honorable and learned senator is prepared to support, there may be no room for him on the committee because some one else, merely for the sake of being on a select committee, and for the sake of taking the wind out of Senator Gould’s sails, moves for its appointment, and under the amendment must be a member of it. If the appointment of a select committee is left to the good sense of the Senate, and anything of the kind I have suggested occurs, the other members of the Senate will, I think, have grace enough left to see through a dodge of that description, will appoint senators who are entitled to be members of the committee, and may even leave off the man who has jumped another fellow’s claim. I hope that the amendment will be negatived, and that the selection of these committees will be left entirely to the Senate.
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 283 to 299 agreed to.
Standing Order 300-
The evidence token by any select committee shall not be disclosed or published by. any member of such committee, or by any other person.
– I think it would be well to add the words “ unless the Senate otherwise orders “ at the end of this standing order. The Senate would thus have power under the standing orders to make public the evidence of committees. No doubt it would do so in any event, but I think the alteration is desirable.
– This standing order refers only to evidence which has not been reported to the Senate, and I was under the impression that it was designed to prevent any disclosure during the inquiries of a committee.
– But the Senate might desire to say that the proceedings should be reported.
.- I think this standing order is designed to render it impossible for a member of a select committee to go behind the backs of his fellow committeemen and make a disclosure to an outside person. For example, a special inquiry might be proceeding in regard to which it was undesirable to give any information until its close ; but some one might make a disclosure, and the facts would then become public property. If the Senate ordered a report to be given, it could be obtained at any time.
– Perhaps the amendment is not necessary. I shall not move it.
Standing Order agreed to.
Standing Orders 301 and 302 agreed to.
Standing Order 303 -
The chairman shall read to the committee convened for the purpose the whole of his draft report. . A senator objecting to any portion of the report shall propose his amendment at the time the paragraph he wishes to amend shall be under consideration, but no protest or dissent shall be added to the report.
– This standing order contains something new, and I think some consideration should be given to it before it is agreed to. I refer to the words contained in the last two lines, “ but no protest or dissent shall be added to the report.” It is usual for a minority to be asked to embody their views, as a rejoinder, to the report, and although I have no fixed opinion in regard to this matter, I should like to hear some argument before agreeing to the standing order.
– I move -
That the words “ but no,” line 6, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ a.”
This amendment will test the question. I think it is most desirable that an honorable senator should have power to add a protest or dissent to a report. I do not know whether the Senate has agreed upon the principle involved, but as one who has been a member of a select committee, I think it would be a distinct advantage, both to the Senate and to the committee concerned, if a minority report could1 be presented.
Senator WALKER (New South Wales). I desire to confirm the view which has just been put forward by Senator Pearce. During last session I was a member of a committee in which the minority held a fairly strong view, but had no power to explain them in the report. I believe even now that the view held by that minority was the right one.
– I wish to point out to honorable senators that this standing order follows the practice adopted, so far as I know, in every Parliament.
– In the Queensland Legislature1?
– I am not prepared to say that the practice is followed in the Queensland Parliament, but I know that it is in the House of Commons and in the South Australian Legislature. It may not necessarily be right because that is so, but the theory of all parliamentary proceedings is that the majority rules. Undoubtedly protests and minority reports are brought up sometimes by Royal Commissions. They are also presented in the case of select committees, but they appear in the proceedings. The theory upon which this is done is that the chairman of a select committee prepares a report and submits it to the members clause by clause. When that is done any member of the committee may move to strike out any clause, and to insert some fresh provision.
Thus every member is in a position to make his protest known. The votes and proceedings of a committee, which are brought in with the report, set forth how many members support it, so that the same object is effected, although in a manner different from that suggested by Senator Pearce. If it is the desire of the Committee that power shall be given to a select committee to bring up a minority report, just as a minority report may be brought up by a Royal Commission, it will be necessary to alter the whole of this standing order. The procedure would have to be different, otherwise minority reports would be presented twice. We should have them in the Votes and Proceedings, and also as an addendum to the committee’s report. It is not a matter of substance where the report of the minority appears, because not only the minority report but the opinion of every individual member of a select committee who differs from the chairman appears in the Votes and Proceedings. It is only a question of procedure.
– There is no provision in the South Australian Standing Order as to the addition of any memorandum of dissent to a report. It leaves the matter an open one. There is a great deal of force in Senator Baker’s statement that when a report drawn up by the chairman is discussed clause by clause, and when the committee has the fullest power to move amendments, the members are able to give full publicity to their views, and therefore .that there is not the necessity that exists possibly in the case of Royal Commissions to provide for minority reports. . Very likely the reports of Royal Commissions would not be agreed to in the way prescribed in this standing order. There is no standing order regulating the way in which they shall work. They work as they please. I have been a member of various Royal Commissions, and I have had occasion, sometimes, to dissent from what has been done. In some of these cases, perhaps, one or two other members of the commission have shared my views : while others have dissented from the report of the majority on different grounds. It often happens that, by being able to state the grounds on which he dissents from a report, a member is able to bring before the people views which he holds upon particular questions which would otherwise not be put before them owing to the fact that no regular procedure is followed by the commissioners. Under this standing order, however, a regular procedure is provided. Amendments can be moved in the draft report, new clauses can be proposed and added, and the Senate, as well as the public, are able to see what are the views held by those forming the committee. I think we might adopt the South Australian Standing Order, and refrain from providing that honorable senators shall not be allowed to append protests. An instance might occur in which they might wish to append a protest. Owing to reasons over which they had no control, they might have been absent when the report was being prepared ; and, therefore, they might desire to embody their views in the form of a protest of some kind. Perhaps it would be as well to strike out the latter part of the standing order.
– It appears to me that the amendment is somewhat unnecessary, and I am inclined to think that it would be mischievous. There is the fullest opportunity for every member of a select committee to express his views as to the adoption of the report or otherwise. It is generally brought up by the chairman, but it may be drafted by another member of the committee, and to every clause amendments can be moved, and frequently are moved. If any members do not think a matter of sufficient importance to move an amendment of course their views do not get so amply recorded in the proceedings as they otherwise might do. But any man who has or thinks he has good reasons to differ from the report can move an amendment to every line, and in that way he has the fullest opportunity to record his protest. Therefore, it appears to me that it is unnecessary to alter the rule which is in accordance with the practice. I am inclined to think that the amendment will work out in a mischievous manner. Suppose that a select committee is inquiring into some subject of intense feeling or of party politics. To gain time in expressing your opinion may be of great advantage. A member who did not exactly consent to the report adopted might give some hints as to making a protest. He might go outside the premises and hear of some telegram or public feeling in some part of his State, and then intimate to the chairman that he did intend after all to enter a protest. He might then set to work to compile a protest based upon evidence and opinions of electors which he had heard practically after the report had been adopted. In that way, in one case out of a hundred or a thousand the amendment might absolutely work a mischief. Even if it is adopted, I think it ought to be provided that any such report or protest ought to be handed in immediately after the report has been adopted. I hope that the standing order will be passed as it is.
– I cannot understand the position which is taken up by Senator Dobson and others with respect to the reports of select committees. 1 have been on Royal Commissions and select committees.When the report of a Royal Commission is drawn up, eveiy commissioner has the right to move amendments, and the Senate, if necessary, has just the same opportunity of seeing the evidence of a Royal Commission as it has of seeing the evidence of a select committee. Because it has been the practice in some Parliaments to allow no dissent from the report of a select committee, is that any reason why it should be adopted here? If any members of a select committee differ from the majority, they have the right to embody the difference in a protest or dissent. Supposing that a member of a select committee endeavours to amend the report and his amendments are defeated, does Senator Dobson imagine that in the Senate any senatorswill look through the record of proceedings to ascertain what positions different senators took up ? They generally look to the report of the select committee, and leave the record of proceedings alone. It would be much to the advantage of the senators who disagreed from the report, and of other senators who might like to discuss the report to see in a concise form the reason for such difference.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - I am afraid that this matter is not properly understood. Senator McGregor, says that a member of a select committee who dissents from the report cannot make a protest. He can make a protest. Certainly it is not called by that name but it is just as effective. I have been on a great many select committees, and when I have disagreed with the chairman or the majority, I have always put my protest on record. On one occasion the chairman brought up a draft, and I moved that clause 1 be struck out and that another clause be inserted in lieu thereof, as the report of the committee. What was that but a protest ? My protest appeared, not in the report, but in the proceedings.
– Youcando the same in a Royal Commission.
– In a Royal Commission the practice is different, though I admit that the result is just the same. After all, we are really fighting a question of practice, not a question of principle. Either on a Royal Commission or on a select committee any one who disagrees can put his dissent on record, and it is brought up and is considered by the appointing body. Supposing that a select committee is appointed, and a senator is in opposition but is in a minority, all he has to do when the draft report is considered is to say - “ I object to this clause, and I move another clause in lieu thereof,” or, “ I object to the whole of the report, and I move another report in lieu thereof.” The whole of the protest or objection in both cases is put on record. I can see no difference in substance between them. If honorable senators wish to call the dissent of a member of a select committee a protest, I have not the slightest objection to their doing so. I do not see that there is very much objection to their putting it in as a protest, but I say that they ought to amend the whole of Standing Order 303 and adopt a new procedure. I have the standing orders of the Legislative Council of Victoria, the House of Assembly of South Australia., and the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and they are fill identical.
– And Queensland ?
– And Queensland, too, I have no doubt.
– In the Queensland Standing Orders is there any statement to the effect that a protest can be added ?
– Protests are always added.
– In practice is any protest ever added ?
– I think the honorable and learned gentleman is mistaken. I believe he is confusing the practice of Royal Commissions with the practice of select committees.
– It is done in connexion with select committees of the Legislative Council of Queensland.
– Will the honorable gentleman show me any standing order in Queensland which says that a protest can be added 1
– No ; the standing order of the Legislative Council is silent.
– Then the practice of the House of Commons prevails according to their standing orders, and no protest can be added. I may be mistaken ; but I do not think that any protest has ever been added to the report of a select committee; it appears in the record of the proceedings. What difference in substance is there between the two things 1 None that I can see. It is only a question whether a dissenting senator shall enter his protest in the ordinary manner in which it has been done, in my opinion, not only in the House of Commons, but in every Legislative Assembly in Australia. The practice has been that no such protest shall be added to the report.
– I withdraw my statement that in Queensland the standing order is silent. It says -
A member disagreeing with a report may require a statement of the reasons of his disagreement to be appended to the report.
– There is no doubt that they always are. Where I have dissented from the majority I have brought up a report of my own with my reasons, too. I have said - “ For the following reasons I dissent from so and so,” and my report was absolutely as complete as the report of the chairman.
– What happened toit ? Was it ever read to the House 1
– The same thing happened as if there had been a protest. The dissent with the reasons came before the House in the report of the select committee. If honorable senators will refer to the report of the Standing Orders Committee, they will see that every proceeding, including the divisions, is recorded, and that is done in the case of- every select committee. However, I am not going to labour the question, as I do not think it is of much importance whether the dissent is called a protest or an objection. I can see no reason for departing from the ordinary practice of legislative bodies, which comes to ‘ exactly the same thing in effect as the practice of Royal Commissions.
– The standing order of the Queensland Legislative Assembly is very clear -
A member objecting to any portion of the report shall propose his amendment when the paragraph which he wishes to amend is under consideration.
Then it goes on to say -
A member disagreeing with a report may require a statement of the reasons for his disagreement to be appended to the report.
That undoubtedly is the rider. During the last session I was in the Queensland Legislative Council quite a number of select committees were appointed, and riders were, I think, appended to the reports in a great many cases. It is clear that the standing order of the Legislative Assembly provides for a protest being appended to the report, and, unless my memory is quite wrong, the practice of the Legislative Council agrees with that standing order.
– The value of a minority report is shown in the case of the Royal Commission that inquired into the sugar works and black labour question in Queensland. The majority of the members of that com mission were in favour of black labour. If there is any advantage in the case of a Royal Commission, the same must apply to a select committee, because select committees are often appointed to avoid the expense attached to Royal Commissions. There was a minority report in connexion with the commission to which I have alluded, and also in connexion with the Mining Commission. The great value of a minority report lies in the fact that very often when people look at the report of a commission and see a minority report they may be- led by the observations contained in it to regard matters in a somewhat different light than would be the case if they only read the report of the majority. If we refuse to allow a minority to make a report, we convey the impression that the report of the committee was unanimously agreed to. To ascertain whether there was a minority of a different opinion, the reader would have to look through the volumes of Hansard or the Reports and Proceedings. As the publishing of a minority report would only cost a few pounds extra - or it may be a few shillings - there is no reason why it should not be permitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the word “shall,” line 7, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “may.”
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 304 to 309 agreed to.
Standing Order 310 verbally amended and agreed to.
Standing Orders 311 to 318 agreed to.
Standing Order 319-
If the above-mentioned conditions have been complied with, the Clerk shall so certify on the petition, and the President shall lay the petition on the table.
– It has always seemed to me, although these standing orders are practically a . copy of what appears in the Electoral Acts of the States, that they are unfinished to a certain extent. When a petition is laid upon the table, what happens?
– There is a standing order, No. 91, under the head of “Petitions” that provides what is to happen.
– The point is - who is to move that the petition be ‘referred to the committee ? Whose duty is it ? If no one moves that the petition be referred, how long is it to lie on the table before it is out of court? Suppose the petitioner cannot get a senator to move that his petition be referred, there is no provision as to the length of time during which it shall lie on the table before it becomes null and void. It may be hanging over the head of the sitting senator for the whole of his term. The Clerk lays the petition on the table, but if neither a member of the Government, nor the President, nor a private senator takes action, there is nothing to provide what is to become of it. We should add some such words as the following : - “Unless some senator moves in connexion with the said petition to refer the same to the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications before the expiration of fourteen sitting days, the petition shall be void, and the deposit shall be returned.”
– That is rather severe, is it not ?
– Something of the sort is necessary. It may be invidious to ask the Government to take action, and the petition may be a frivolous one with which no private senator would care to connect himself.
– Would not the petition automatically go to the committee in the same way as the Senate automatically goes into Committee after the second reading of a Bill?
– Why can we not provide that the petition shall go on to the committee ? We might insert some such words as - “ and the President shall lay it on the table and shall forthwith refer it to the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.” If we say that the petition shall be referred, some one would have to move to that effect. I think the President should refer it as a matter of course.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That the following words be added: - “and shall forthwith refer the same to the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications.”
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 320 to 324 agreed to.
Standing Order 325-
Every message from the Senate to the House of Representatives shall be in writing, or partly in writing, or partly in print, signed by the President and delivered by the Clerk or Clerk Assistant during the sitting of the Senate.
– This standing order will have to be altered. Since it was drafted an arrangement has been made between the two Houses by which messages may be passed from one to the other, although both may not be sitting. That practice has been found to be most convenient. Therefore it will be better to strike out the words “ during the sitting of the Senate.” The effect will be that messages will be received by the House of Representatives while the Senate is not sitting, and vice versa ; a practice which has been conducive to the prompt discharge of public business.- I move -
That the words “during the sitting of the Senate,” line 5, be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 326 to 330 agreed to.
Standing Order 331 -
If upon such motion any three senators shall so require, the managers for the Senate shall be selected by ballot.
– - I think that, having decided that in the appointment of a select committee one member of the Senate may demand a ballot, to be consistent we should omit the word “ three” in this standing order. I move -
That the word “three,” line 1, be omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Standing Order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 332 to 339 agreed to.
Standing Order 340-
There shall be only one conference on any Bill or other matter.
– I should like to know the reason which influenced the Standing Orders Committee in coming to this conclusion.
– I shall state the reason. There must be some stage of finality in reference to all matters. Whether that is reached after one, two, three, or half-a-dozen conferences does not appear to me to be a matter of very much importance, because both Houses will be looking forward to the final stage for the settlement of a difference. Conferences have been found in England to be so unsatisfactory that they have been altogether abandoned, and they have not had a conference between the two Houses there for a great number of years - I think for . 100 years. We must have some stage of the proceedings at which we shall finally agree or disagree. I am loth to mention the South Australian practice, because it has been so often referred to, but I may be permitted to say that in South Australia we found that a number ofconferencesservednogood purposes, because the representatives of both Houses always put off coming to a final conclusion until the last conference The object appeared to be for one side to hang on as long as possible in the hope that the other side might give way, and that resulted merely in a waste of time. That is the reason why the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate arrived at this conclusion, and I believe that the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives arrived at a similar conclusion.
SenatorWalker. - How about Money Bills?
– This standing order has nothing to do with Money Bills. I doubt very much whether we shall ever have a conference upon Money Bills. Probably the points in dispute in connexion with Money Rills will be settled by messages between the two Houses. I am doubtful if we shall ever get to the conference stage in dealing with such matters, and, even if we do, there will be no good purpose served in providing for too many conferences.
– Besides, a conference may adjourn from time to time.
Standing Order agreed to.
Standing Orders 341 to 353 agreed to.
Standing Order 354 - (Document quoted may be ordered to be laid upon the table. )
– This is a new standing order. A senator may be reading from a newspaper, or from some equally bulky document. Is it intended that he shall be required to lay that upon the table of the Senate immediately 1
– If he quotes from it, why not 1
Standing Order agreed to.
Standing Orders 355 to 366 agreed to.
Standing Order 367-
The President only shall have the privilege of admitting strangers into that portion of the chamber below the Bar. The members of the House of Representatives shall have the privilege of admission there without orders. The President may admit distinguished strangers to a seat on the floor of the Senate.
– This standing order departs from the practice adopted in the Senate since this Parliament opened. It has never so far been necessary 1 for an honorable senator to obtain the permission of the President to take his friends into the gallery. I fail to see why we should adopt this standing order, and I intend to . move an amendment which will leave to honorable senators the right which they enjoy at the present time. There is always plenty of room, and I do not see why we should have to ask the permission of the President to invite strangers to the gallery. I draw the attention of the Committee to the last portion of the standing order -
The President may admit distinguished strangers to a seat on the floor of the Senate.
That is a privilege which should be exercised by the Senate itself. I think we should reserve to ourselves the right to determine who are distinguished strangers. I move -
That the words “ The President only,” line 1, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “‘Every senator.”
– This standing order is in accordance with our present standing order, and with the practice we have so far followed. It is quite true that I have not asked the officials to bother me by asking my leave, and strangers are always admitted on the order of any honorable senator to that portion of the chamber outside the Bar. But supposing that in connexion with some question there is a great desire on the part of strangers to attend the Senate, how is the difficulty to be arranged? If every honorable senator may give orders for admission, which honorable senator must give way? So far as I am concerned, I have taken no trouble about the matter, and honorable senators have had the right in practice under a similar standing order to secure the admission of any of their friends. They will continue to have that right, but I think that we should provide for some proper procedure in case of a crush.
– I hope that Senator Clemons will withdraw his amendment. ‘The honorable and learned senator must know that some one must have control of that portion of the Senate which is outside the Bar, and on certain special occasions, which may not arise once in five years, if the amendment proposed is accepted each honorable senator may desire the admission of three of his friends, and we may have 30 or 40 people trying to get into seats which will accommodate only half that number. In a case of that kind, surely the President of the Senate should be given the power of control which has been vested in him in the past, and which, in most Legislative Chambers, is vested in the Speaker or the President. The fact that the President has not interfered so far, shows that the standing order will not be made use of unless upon some special occasion when the traffic - if I may use the expression - requires regulating, and then its regulation should be left in the hands of our presiding officer.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- It is, of course, very easy for honorable senators to raise a bogy of this kind, and by the aid of imagination to picture a state of things which will. never happen. It is easy to say that the standing order is framed to provide for something which none of us will live long enough to see. We shall never see the time when this chamber will be so crowded that it will be necessary for the President to interfere to keep order. If we do, I have no doubt that the President will be found equal to the occasion. It is argued that we should leave the standing order -as proposed because it will be nugatory. Senator Baker has informed me that we have been working under a similar standing order, and I was not previously aware of that, but I do not believe in passing standing orders which are never to be enforced. Without any disrespect to the present occupant of the chair, I may be permitted to say that we might have a President of this Chamber who would exercise the power given to him under this standing order arbitrarily against some particular senator or a section of honorable senators. I shall persist in my amendment, as I am not alarmed by the bogy. Outside of that absurd fear, I see no reason why honorable senators should not exercise the privilege which has been so far conceded to them.
– I think the bogy in this matter is started by the other side. A standing order of this character is in the interests of the Senate itself. We have seating capacity here for perhaps 20 or 25 people. Members of the other House are supposed to come here sometimes, and there are 36 members of the Senate. If some very interesting subject were on for discussion, and each of the 36 senators desired to introduce two or three of his friends to listen to the debate, we could not accommodate that number of people. There must, therefore, be some authority to regulate the number to be admitted. If it is proposed that the rule shall be first come first served there will, of course, be an end of it. In the New South Wales Legislative Assembly a member goes to the Speaker and says, “ I wish to introduce a friend to the gallery.” The Speaker, as a matter of course, gives the member a card, and looks upon him as sponsor for the suitability of the person admitted. If the gallery is full he intimates that fact, and there is an end to the matter. It would be better to leave the power in the hands of the President. If it -were left in the hands of honorable senators generally I might, for example, think that I could squeeze another stranger into an already overcrowded gallery, and endeavour to do so, to the great ‘ inconvenience of others present. At any time some very important matter might come before the Senate, the discussion on which very many people would desire to hear.
– Those who took the most interest in it would come early.
– There is no bogy about this standing order. It does not mean that any honorable senator will be under an obligation to the President. If there is room the President will invariably admit strangers ; on the other hand, if there is no room, an honorable senator will be saved a great deal of trouble by being able to say to his friends, “ The President will not issue any more cards.” I think some objection might very well be taken to the latter part of the clause; but, as Senator Clemons has indicated that he intends to move an amendment in regard to it, I shall content myself by saying that I trust the Committee will not adopt the amendment now before the Chair.
– I hope that Senator Clemons will not press this amendment, because we have been working under a precisely similar standing order up to the present time. I understand that the Speaker of the House of Representatives enjoys the privilege which it is proposed to confer upon the President. At the opening of Parliament, from time to time, the galleries will probably be crowded, and without this standing order some honorable senators might bring in so many friends that others would not be able to find room for any. Although, like Senator Playford, I. hesitate to mention the South Australian precedent, I would point out that it is the practice in the South Australian Legislative Council to leave this matter in the hands of the President, and that the practice has never been’ abused. For example, it is difficult to estimate how many ladies will desire to be present when Senator Dobson’s Divorce Bill is under discussion, and it is absolutely necessary in our own interests that the President should have some control over the number of persons who will then be pressing for admission.
– I intend to support the amendment.
– The honorable senator is always in a minority.
-The honorable senator is surprised to find me supporting anything hailing from the quarter from which this amendment has come. No doubt we do not get much common sense from that point of the compass; but on this occasion the honorable and learned senator seems to have struck the right chord, - and I am going to assist him. I was always under the impression that honorable senators were permitted to introduce their friends into the seats at the rear of the Bar, but this standing order says that the President alone shall have the privilege of ‘ introducing strangers to that portion of tlie chamber.
– The President has always had that power, but never enforces it.
– We might have a martinet in the position of President, and if the power is not used and not intended to be used, why should it be given? The’ first to come should be the first served. If people are extremely anxious to witness the proceedings in this Chamber, they will come early, and those who do so deserve to obtain seats. The galleries may sometimes be nearly full, and if this power is retained in the hands of the President, influential honorable senators, or perhaps those who are not members of the Chamber, will obtain the use of the seating accomodation behind the Bar, with the result that there will be no room for any one else.
– That is very unlikely.
– I think it is extremely likely, an’d that it is better to leave this matter in tlie hands of honorable senators themselves. I shall support the amendment.
– I should like to ask the President whether he interprets this standing order as an inter,ference with the arrangement that has previously existed, or whether we are to understand that, even if the standing order be passed, we shall still have a kind of preemptive right to introduce our friends to the gallery ? If that right is to continue,- 1 shall have no objection to the standing order.
– I do not intend to alter the practice in the slightest degree.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- There are two reasons which actuate me in asking leave to withdraw the amendment. One is, that I have learnt for the first time during this discussion that we have been working under a precisely similar standing order. The other, which I need hardly indicate, is the allpowerful one - Senator Stewart.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I move -
That the word “ President,” line 5, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “Senate.”
The Committee will agree that thife is a more serious question. I think we should place the President, whoever he might be, in a somewhat invidious position if we were to ask him to say what stranger is so distinguished as to justify the Senate in affording him a seat on the floor of the Chamber. Such a question should be decided by the Senate itself. From the point of view of the distinguished stranger himself, I think the amendment is also desirable. It would be a greater mark of respect to him if the whole Senate conferred upon him the right to a seat on the floor of the Chamber.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - The universal practice in representative Houses is to follow this rule. I would call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives have adopted these identical words ; but if the Committee chooses to amend the standing order by inserting the words “by leave of the Senate “ after the word “ may “ line C, I shall have not the slightest objection.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I have no objection to that suggestion, and I ask leave to amend my amendment accordingly.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly
Senator HIGGS (Queensland).- The objection to the original proposal made . by Senator Clemons lies in the fact that when it was desired that a distinguished visitor should be given a seat on the floor of the Senate, we should have to go through the procedure of carrying a motion before the courtesy could be extended to him. The stranger himself might not care to see the conduct of the debate disturbed in that way. It would be far better to allow the President to permit a distinguished stranger to take a seat on the floor of the Senate. If the President declined to allow such a stranger to take a seat on the floor of the Chamber, it would be optional for any honorable senator to move that that courtesy
– I hope that the Committee will adopt Senator Baker’s suggestion. I have seen a newspaper paragraph stating that an attempt was recently made in the Victorian Legislative Assembly to extend this courtesy to two members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, who were by no means distinguished, and that the House objected to the proposal. It would have been simply monstrous if either of those men had been allowed a seat on the floor of the House on the ground that they were distinguished strangers.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I object to this statement.
– I have not mentioned any names.
– No ; but it is well known to whom the honorable senator is referring. Mr. John Norton, who is one of the gentlemen mentioned, is sufficiently well able to defend himself through the medium of his newspapers. Mr. Hollis, who is the other, has no such means of defence, and, as one who has known him for a long time, I may say that he is as respectable and distinguished -as are some other gentlemen I could name.
– This matter is quite irrelevant.
– Senator Walker’s remarks were quite uncalled for.
– They were certainly not in keeping with Senator Walker’s good nature.
– Very well, I. shall withdraw them.
– I think we should adopt Senator Baker’s suggestion, which conforms to the jjractice of the Legislature of the model State which he so ably represents. In the South Australian House of Assembly the Speaker simply says - “ By the leave of the House, I wish to. introduce Mr. So-and-so to a seat on the floor of the Chamber.” . Honorable members say “Hear, hear”; and, if there is no objection, the introduction takes place. It is simply a matter of form, and if the honorable member who is speaking at the time is interrupted at all, the interruption is only of momentary duration.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Standing order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 368 to 387 agreed to.
Standing Order 388-
Whenever the President rises during a debate, any senator then speaking or offering to speak shall sit down, and the Senate shall be silent so that the President may be heard without interruption.
– I think that a slight alteration of the standing
Order is necessai-y. It is quite obvious that the occasion is intended to be one when the President is occupying the chair. When he takes part in the debates in Committee we are prepared to give him most diligent attention, but he can hardly expect us to remain absolutely silent or to do everything which is mentioned in the standing order. I suggest that it should begin with the words “ Whenever the President whilst presiding.” That is obviously what is meant, and if it is meant it ought to be expressed. In the standing orders there has been a confusion in more than one instance in dealing with the President when he is in the chair and when he is not in the chair.
– The standing order can only be read to refer to an occasion when Senator Baker rises in his character as President. When he speaks from any place but the chair, he does not speak as the President, but as a senator.
Standing order agreed to.
Standing Order 389 agreed to.
Standing Order 390 -
Every senator shall be uncovered when he enters or leaves the Chamber, or moves to any other part of the Chamber, during the debate, and shall make obeisance to the Chair in passing to or from his seat.
– I do not . think that any one in the Committee thinks it is necessary or desirable that any senator should make obeisance to the Chair when passing to or from his seat. Of course we make obeisance to the Chair when entering and leaving the Chamber, but surely it is carrying this formality a little too far to have a rigid standing order which says that every time a senator leaves his seat he shall make obeisance to the Chair. I submit that the words to which
I have referred should be omitted.
– I agree with Senator Clemons that it would be a very good thing to strike out the words. They appear in the standing order because we followed, as far as possible, the language of the standing orders of all the States. I think it will be sufficient if senators are required to bow to the Chair when they enter and leave the Chamber, and not on any Other occasion.
– I think it will meet every purpose that is required if we use the language of the corresponding standing order of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales -
And shall make obeisance to the Chair on entering or leaving the Chamber.
Amendment (by Senator Clemons) agreed to -
That the words “in passing to or from his seat” be omitted, with a view to insert in lien thereof the words “on entering or leaving the Chamber. “
Standing order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 391 and 392 agreed to.
Standing Order 393 -
No senator shall turn his back to the Chair when speaking, or shall unnecessarily stand or sit with his back to the Chair.
– I should be glad if the standing order could be modified. I am afraid that I have committed more breaches of order in this respect than ever I committed before. On account of the position which the representative of the Government or the leader of the Opposition occupies at the table, he can hardly address himself to a subject without sometimes turning his back to the Chair. It is a thing which I never do out of any disrespect to the Chair. I move -
That the word “unnecessarily” be inserted after the word “shall,” line 1.
– In the marginal note we are told that the standing order is new, but that it is the practice of most States. I think it will be generally admitted that this matter in any other deliberative body has been decided purely by courtesy ; no standing order has been passed to read to the members a lesson in courtesy. It has been invariably regarded as a courteous thing for a member to speak with his face to the Chair so far as he can. Originally, I intended to move that the ‘ standing order be omitted, but if that were done I should perhaps miss the opportunity of doing something which I think is very desirable. I believe that, unwittingly, Senator Baker has shown discourtesy to the Chairman in addressing the Committee time after time from a point behind the Chair at the table. From my point of view, it would be more courteous to the Chairman for Senator Baker to face the Chair when he is speaking in Committee. It is extremely difficult for the Chairman to know when Senator
Baker wishes to speak. I suppose it would not be tolerated if any other senator were to occupy any part of the dais or to speak from a position so far back on the bench as that in which Senator Saunders is sitting. I cannot concede that any honorable senator would consider it courteous to the Chairman to speak from a place so far behind the Chair. I hope to have Senator Baker’s support presently for this amendment* -
No senator shall unnecessarily turn his back to the Chili r, nor shall he stand behind or at the back of the Chair when speaking.
– The universal practice is that a member shall address himself to the Chair. He cannot address himself to the President’ or the Chairman, and then turn his back to theChair. If the standing order is amended as proposed, what is to prevent me, if I desire to address the gallery, from turning my back to the Chairman? Supposing that I were to turn round in my place in order to have an altercation with Senator Barrett, I might prevent other senators from hearing what I had to say. I think that allowance will be made for the representative of the Government and the leader of the Opposition on account of the position which they occupy at the table. Inasmuch as there are so many senators who cannot make up their minds to support either the Government or the Opposition, and sit on the cross benches, it is necessary for the leaders, who speak at the table, to turn their backs slightly to the Chair. I think that in that respect the standing order might be allowed to remain as it is. I am inclined to agree with SenatorClemons, but a senator should not address the Committee from behind the Chair. I would much prefer Senator Baker to take his seat as a democrat amongst us in the body of the Chamber. I believe that it would lead to better feeling, and that we should come to look upon him more as one of ourselves than as a person who is np in the clouds and quite beyond us.
– Senators are supposed to speak from their places in the Chamber - that is, from the benches. . For instance, the place of Senator Saunders is where he is sitting now. Senator Ewing always spoke from that place last session, and always, therefore, had the Chairman’s back towards him. A senator has the right to speak from his place in the Senate, and from nowhere else. If
Senator Baker sat on the corresponding seat to the right of the Chair, he would be in identically the same position. His place in the Senate is in the Chair, and no place is allotted to him when he is out of the Chair. I think it is to be regretted that this matter was mentioned at all, particularly in view of the arrangement of the seats, making it, in some instances, impossible for any senator on either side to speak from his place, without having the Chairman’s back more or less towards him. I agree with the insertion of the word “unnecessarily,” and I hope that the standing order will be earned with that word in it.
– I hope that the Senate will reject the whole standing order. We might leave it to the discretion of the President or Chairman of Committees to call to order any senator who is behaving improperly. We have not had this provision during the last two years, and it seems to me to be rather beneath the dignity of the Senate to have it. I shall vote against it.
– I should regret the use of the word “ unnecessarily “ in this standing order. We worked under a standing order similar to this for a long time last session, and I do not think that any Minister of the Crown was subjected to indignity in any shape or form by reason of the position from which he addressed the Chamber.
– I was called to order several times.
– When an honorable senator had his back to the Chair for a considerable time it was perhaps quietly hinted to him that he might change his position. Who is to say what is “ unnecessarily 1” It is only adding further complications. I venture to say that the Postmaster-General may at all events rely that so far as I am concerned the standing order will be reasonably exercised, as I am sure it was during last session. I think it would complicate the standing order to insert such a word as that suggested in it.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I wish to say, in answer to Senator Downer, that in the House of Lords the gentleman who corresponds in official position to the President of this Senate does not consider it to be beneath his dignity to come down and speak from the floor of the House, where every other member of the House expresses his views.’ We have in this Senate the sole’ instance in -which, in any Legislative Chamber in the English-speaking world, this practice prevails. I do not wish to speak offensively, but I submit to Senator Baker that, as a matter of courtesy, it would obviously be better if he himself spoke in Committee from a place upon the floor, of the Chamber. He must surely see that it is, to n certain extent, discourteous to the Chairman of Committees to speak from the place where he now sits-. The argument that Senator Ewing, or any one else, sat at the far end of the front bench in a seat behind the Chairman, and addressed the Chair from that point, is no argument at all that could justify Senator Baker in being discourteous, even if the other honorable senators referred to had been so.
– I say that there has been no discourtesy.
– For any honorable senator, even though he may be President of the Senate, to address the Chairman of Committees from some point entirely behind the Chair is discourteous. I do not say that Senator Baker has been wittingly discourteous ; I should say so frankly if I thought so ; but it is fairly arguable that to address the Chair from such a position is discourteous to the Chairman. Senator Baiter may have hurt the Chairman’s feelings without knowing it. I put it to him that in the House of -Lords, which is at least equal, in dignity to this Senate, the Lord Chancellor, when he addresses the Committee, does so from the floor of the Chamber, and that it would be more courteous if Senator Baker, when addressing , the Committee, would do so from the bench upon which I sit or from the opposite bench. I should not have mentioned this subject at all had not a standing order been inserted in this document, which was directed principally towards Ministers ; because it is only Ministers - and Senator Symon, when he has spoken from the table in his position of the leader of the’ Opposition - who hitherto have been hauled up under the standing order. Surely when a matter of courtesy is in question, there should be no one more willing to set an example than Senator Baker himself.
– The matter of courtesy is not in question. It is to be regretted that Senator Clemons should have taken up the time of the
Senate with such a trivial matter. It has already been pointed out that there are two seats on the front benches of the Chamberwhich are absolutely behind the seat occu-pied by the Chairman of Committees ; and my honorable and learned friend, Senator Clemons, who litis got this question of courtesy on the brain, absolutely went on to assume that, because Senator Ewing invariably spoke from the extreme corner seat onthe left of the Chairman, he was guilty of discourtesy. I am sure that no one else will be of that opnion.
– I deny that Senator Ewing habitually spoke from that place.
– But I have seen him speak from that place. I should like to know if there is to be no such thing as. respect for our President, and regard for the dignity of his position ? Would Senator Clemons think it better that the two seatson either side of the President’s chair should be taken away, and that Senator Baker,, when not presiding over the Senate, should sit on a form without a back to it, or in a. chair with no arms 1 What can be gained by trying to detract from the dignity of our presiding officer, and by taking up the time of the Committee in attempting to undo a practice that prevailed during last session % Why take up time over such a trivial matter If Senator Baker sits in one of the corners seats at the extreme end of one of the front benches he will still be behind the Chairman of Committees. It is no use raising the question that he is discourteous to the Chairman. If he were, the Chairman and the President would soon be able to” settle the matter between them.
– I am quite’ sure that the Chairman of Committees will not imagine for a moment that I have been discourteous tohim. He has never intimated any such idea to me and I do not think he entertains it. This is a matter which is personal to myself and therefore I do not intend to argue .it. I shall not vote. But I wish to point out one error which has been made. It has been said that the Lord Chancellor in theHouse of Lords, in addressing that House, leaves the woolsack.
– I said that in Committee the Lord Chancellor addresses the House of Lords from the floor of the chamber itself.
– He has to, because the woolsack is not in the-
House proper, and naturally he has to go into the House before he can address it. If there is any analogy between the Senate and the House of Lords - and I entirely deny that there is any ; we are not governed by the procedure of the House of Lords ; but if there is any analogy - it certainly does not apply in reference to the woolsack, which is outside the House of Lords itself. I hope that the Senate will accord to nae the same position as they have done in the past. I do not see any reason whatever why the standing order should be altered. At the present time, where I am now standing, I am just as much in view of the Chairman of Committees, and just as courteous to him, as any honorable senator who sits down there. And is it not rather peculiar . that those same honorable senators who object to a standing order which says that honorable senators shall not stand with their backs to the Chair, at the same time want to bring in a standing order to the effect that a senator - because I am only a senator when I speak in Committee - shall not address the Chairman when he is looking straight towards him, although the Chairman only sees those other honorable senators side-face ? I have no more to say.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania).- With regard to the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords, I never said what Senator Baker has attributed tome ; but I did say what he is unable to deny, that when the Lord Chancellor addresses the House of Lords in Committee, he does so from ‘the same position on the floor as does any other member of the House. I point out again that there is no other Chamber of legislation where the practice we have adopted obtains. I have heard the Speaker in the House of Representatives address that Chamber in Committee, and I know what his practice is. It is not the practice which has been adopted by Senator Baker here. I venture to say that Mr. Speaker Holder would never for a moment think - though he has the same sort of sitting accommodation in that House as the President has here - of addressing the House of Representatives in Committee of the whole except from a seat on the one side or the other. It remains for Senator Baker to set an example of dignity - of his sense of dignity - that no other President or Speaker in any British Parliament has ever attempted to do. I say that he does not enhance that dignity by addressing the
Chairman of Committees from a place behind the Chair instead of from a place upon the floor. Senator Baker has tried to show that it is not as discourteous to stand behind the Chair and address the Committee from that position as to stand sidewise. I submit that that sort of argument is ludicrous and absurd. There is no objection to his speaking from one side or the other upon the floor of the chamber, but it is a false sense of dignity - it is even spurious - as well as being discourteous, to speak from his present position.
– ! confess that I have very considerable sympathy with Senator Clemons in this matter. I think he is on the right track once again. I do not see any reason why the President, when addressing the Committee, should not come into the body of the chamber, just as other members of the Senate have to. do. In Queensland, when the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly speaks in Committee, he comes into the body of the chamber, and speaks from one of the ordinary benches. He does not take up a position behind the Chairman of Committees. There is another point. We have a standing order which says that when two or more honorable senators rise to speak, the Chairman shall call, upon the senator who first rose in his place. Suppose that Senator .Baker and Senator Clemons wished to address the Committee at the same time, and Senator Baker rose first. The Chairman not having eyes in the back of his head could not possibly see Senator Baker, and would, therefore, naturally call upon Senator Clemons. I think it absolutely necessary that every member of the Senate who desires to address the Chair should be in full view of the Chair. I do not know what reason Senator Baker has for persisting in seating himself behind the Chair, or in speaking from a place behind it. But I think that, as a mere matter of convenience, it would be very much better for him to speak from a place on the floor of the chamber just as other honorable senators do.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - This is not the trivial matter that Senator Dobson would have us believe it to be.
– I never heard a trivial matter if this, is not one.
– I disclaim at once, as emphatically as I can, any intention to wound the feelings of the President. In his absence, I also desire to say that I think he is a good President. I have had occasion to think so over and over again. I know that he has pulled me up sometimes, but I have had no reason to find fault with his decisions. I say again, in one of my calm moments - when I am not “ stone- walling” or doing anything of that kind - that he is a good President. I affirm that in what I am saying, I am influenced by no personal objection to the conduct of the President, but as time passes the position of the President of the Senate mli carry much greater influence than it does now, and 1 say that, when the Senate is in Committee, the President should come down and take his seat with us, if it be only to show that he is of the same common clay as ourselves. The honorable and learned senator appears before us in wig and gown, and I can well imagine that a few years hence some young politicians entering this Chamber may be disposed to pay more attention to the words spoken by the President on account of the traditions attaching to his office, than the importance of those words entitle them to.
– They will not if they are Australians.
– I am aware that there is a great want of reverence in Australians, but there is no knowing what is likely to happen, and when we become an older community the sturdy independence which characterizes the Australians of to-day may, in our newer civilization, . be absolutely weeded out of them. I desire, so far as I.” can, to protect innocent young politicians coming into thi.1: Chamber. I should feel it to be a compliment if the President were to take his seat upon these benches as we do ourselves when the Senate is in committee. I am glad to learn from the encouraging cheers of Senator Playford that what is now proposed is the practice in South Australia, and I think it is one which we might very well follow.
– I personally take the opportunity of saying that I am perfectly satisfied that, in speaking from the position which he usually occupies, the President has never at any time intended any disrespect to the Chair or to honorable senators. I am sure that Senator Clemons will not attribute to him any such intention. I urge the’ honorable and learned senator to withdraw his amendment. While I admit that it has been the practice in the Victorian Parliament, and in several other Legislative Chambers, for the President or the Speaker to take his place in the body of the Chamber when the House is in committee, yet, by reason of the fact that the Senate has acquiesced, so to speak, in the practice of allowing Senator Baker to sit where he does sit, I think that the amendment will be assumed to have been directed against him personally. Senator Pearce. - Possibly, if the question had been raised at any other time.
– This is the first opportunity we have had of raising it.
– In all the circumstances, Senator Baker must himself necessarily take notice of what has been said during the debate, and I think it may be left to his judgment in the future to do as he thinks proper. I cannot but feel that it would be regarded as a personal reflection on the President if the amendment were agreed- to.
– In the circumstances, it would be better if this standing order, which is new, were struck out altogether.
– The amendment at present before the Chair is that the word “ unnecessarily” shall be inserted after theword “ shall,” line 1.
– I propose to move that the standing order be amended so as to read -
No senator shall, when speaking, turn his back to the Chair, nor shall he stand behind the Chair, or unnecessarily stand or sit with his back to theChair.
I therefore, in the first place, move -
That the words “when speaking’.’ be inserted after the word “shall,” line 1.
– I think that the standing order had better be allowed to remain as it is. One cannot get away from the feeling that this amendment will be regarded as directed at the President in consequence of the practice that has grown up. He is the only honorable senator who does sit behind the Chair, he has been referred to pointedly in tlie remarks which have been made, and if such an amendment upon the standing order were agreed to, people could not helpregarding it as being directly aimed at the President. Is it worth while to do anything of that kind? No honorable senator goes behind the Chairman when speakings though some of us may turn our backs partially to him. I have known honorable senators to be called to order for turning their backs to tha Chair, when it has appeared to me to be unnecessary, because, though theoretically while speaking we are supposed to be addressing the Chair, we are in reality addressing honorable senators. I think it would be very much better not to accept the amendment suggested, because it has the very unpleasant and invidious attribute to which I have referred. I should be quite willing to have the whole standing order eliminated, because it deals purely with a matter of courtesy, and no honorable senator would willingly be discourteous to the President or Chairman of Committees. I think we may very well leave it to the good sense of honorable senators to act courteously.
– I am inclined now to think that it would be better to negative the standing order altogether. I should be very sorry indeed to see it carried in the amended form proposed by Senator Clemons, because I can quite imagine that ‘it would be regarded as a slight upon the President. T arn inclined to think that it would be a slight upon the honorable and learned senator, and I should so regard it myself. We have acquiesced in the practice up to the present time, and I cannot see that it has led to any bad results. I do not think that any necessity whatever has been shown for making such a rule as Senator Clemons now proposes.
– T should like to draw the attention of the Committee to a point which I think has been entirely overlooked in the discussion, not only of Standing Order 393, but of every standing order referring to the President. I am under the impression that when we elected our President, we did so in the belief that he would exercise his privileges in every way impartially. If that be clearly understood by honorable senators, we have put the President in a place in the chamber where he stands by himself, and simply because he leaves the Chair when £he Senate goes into Committee, I see no reason why we should divest him of the attribute of impartiality with which we have surrounded him. If we forced the President away from his position behind the Chair, and compelled him to speak in Committee from one side or other of the chamber, we should do that. So far from there being any discourtesy in the President addressing honorable senators from the position which it has been his custom to occupy when speaking, I hold that that is the only place from which he can address honorable senators and maintain the impartiality of his office. Those are my views for what they are worth.
Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania). - I desire to point out calmly to Senator Cameron that I think he misunderstands the position. When the Senate is in Committee there is no President, and the President becomes Senator Raker.
– Senator Clemons will pardon me. He becomes Senator Baker, and must take either one side or the other, according to the honorable- and learned senator’s views.
– Undoubtedly. The President is President in the Senate, and in the Senate only. As soon as the Senate resolves itself into Committee we have no President, and the President becomes Senator Raker. This is especially important in this Senate, because, as Senator Cameron will remember, the Constitution Contains many provisions dealing with the votes and actions of honorable senators having regard to the fact that each State is equally represented in the Senate. When the Senate is in Committee Senator Baker is one of six senators from South Australia, enabled by the Constitution and by our standing orders to speak, and enabled by the Constitution, although President, to exercise a deliberative vote and not a casting vote. So that in every respect his function as President ceases as soon as the Senate goes into Committee. That is the essential point in the whole of our arguments, and I am afraid Senator Cameron has entirely overlooked it. I desire to say a word with regard to my personal attitude in moving this amendment. It has been said that it will be taken as a direct slight or a direct blow aimed at Senator Baker. I have heard it said by way of interjection that this question should have been raised long ago, but I remind honorable senators that there was no previous opportunity to raise it. I do not suppose that anyhonorable senator will say that I have been personally afraid to move in this matter. I can assure honorable senators that there has been no fear on my part, but I have had no other opportunity of raising the question. How could I, under the standing orders under which we are working at the present time, challenge Senator Baker’s right to stand behind the Chair while speaking ? The standing orders would not have supported me if I had done so, and I could only have appealed to the honorable and learned senator’s sense of courtesy to the Chair. I preferred to wait until the proper opportunity arose, and if these standing orders had come before us for consideration last session I should have raised the point then, in order that the practice for the future might be decided. Because neither I nor any other honorable senator has ‘had an opportunity of drawing attention to this practice, we are told that we allowed it to grow. That argument is erroneous and unfair, because no opportunity previously arose to check what has been called a practice, and no member of the Senate could have prevented Senator Baker speaking from behind the Chair under the standing orders at present in force. I have taken the first opportunity of trying to prevent a practice which is not in accordance with the practice of any other Parliament in the world. where English is spoken. I am told that I should withdraw this amendment because it will hurt Senator Baker’s feelings. I have no desire to hurt Senator Baker’s feelings, but I do desire that we shall adopt the practice which obtains everywhere else, or that we shall be given some reason why that practice should be departed from. I feel that I am justified in taking advantage of the earliest opportunity to check a practice which should never have been allowed to grow up, arid of trying to prevent the establishment of a practice which has no warranty anywhere else. “
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I hope that honorable senators will not agree to strike out this standing order, simply because some of them, and apparently the majority, think that the President will be annoyed about it, and that he will take offence at this proposal if it is carried. They should consider whether the amendment proposed is right or wrong. Senator Cameron has supplied us with proof of the correctness of our arguments. The honorable senator has said that if we make the President sit upon the benches on either side of the Chamber, we take away from him his impartiality or his appearance of impartiality. That is the very thing I desire to take away from him.
I desire that the President when out of the chair shall be recognised simply as a member of the Senate, and that honorable senators shall not pay any more attention to his arguments, owing to the weight and added influence of his position as President, than they would give to the arguments of any other honorable senator. That is the sole cause of our action’ in- this matter. We desire that the President, when he leaves the chair, shall take his place with us without any of the added influence of wigs and gowns. There is no desire whatever to inflict a slight upon the President. We must remember that what we do now will probably constitute the practice for all time. When Senator Baker is dead and gone and others take his place this practice will be followed, and the President of the day will sit behind the Chair. If we strike out this standing order that practice will never be altered. We should not allow any consideration for the feelings of the. President in regard to this particular matter to influence us in any way. The objection offered on that score is absolutely groundless.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I listened with pleasure to your remarks, Mr. Chairman ; but it occurred to me when you were speaking that you considered that in Committee Senator Baker ought to speak from the floor of the chamber, and that hitherto he had not done so. I am sure that Senator Clemons remarks were based upon the contention that Senator Baker should speak from the floor of the chamber.
– My contention is that the honorable and learned senator has always done so. He speaks from the floor on which Senator Downer and I sit, although there is a higher floor on both sides of him. Can the Chairman properly rule that when Senator Baker speaks from his accustomed place, he is not addressing himself to the Chair from the floor of the chamber.
– Would the honorable and learned senator speak from the same place?
– I have a right to speak from the same point. I have a right to sit there, or stand there ; and I defy any honorable senator to say that it is not the floor of the chamber. It is because of that opinion I think that this is a trumpery, stupid piece of business.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted, be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … …8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the standing order be Agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Standing order negatived.
Standing Orders 394 to 396 agreed to.
Standing Order 397 -
No senator shall read his speech.
-! see no reason why an honorable senator should not be - permitted to read his speech if he desires to do so. We wish to hear the views of an honorable senator, and if he can give utterance to those views more satisfactorily by having previously committed them to paper, surely it is to the advantage of the Senate, as well as to the advantage of the honorable senator himself, that he should be permitted to do so. I see no reason for this prejudice against written speeches. We hear a great deal for and against written sermons ; but I believe that written sermons are very often, very much better than those that’ are delivered extempore. I shall vote against this standing order.
– The true reason for the existence of this standing order is that the Senate should have some guarantee that the speech delivered by an honorable senator has been prepared by himself.
– For the information of Senator Stewart, I may perhaps be allowed to relate an anecdote. In America, at one time, Congress had no such standing order as this. The consequence was that there grew up in W ashington a class of gentlemen who lived by writing speeches for members of both Houses. While this practice prevailed, a practical joker, who had been offended in some way, wrote the same speech for no less than three honorable senators, who deli vered or attempted to deliver it. I think the incident supplies a sufficient reason for the retention of this standing order.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).- The explanation given by the President is a very interesting one. If we could only carry this provision a step further, I think it would be eminently desirable. It struck me, when Senator Baker was giving his explanation, that the application of a somewhat similar rule to the courts of justice might perhaps be a very good thing if it did away with the lawyers. We have in the courts a class of men who monopolize the business, but no one seems to find any fault with them. Some persons are so fortunate as to be able to commit to memory a speech and deliver it. What guarantee, therefore, have we that any senator’s speech is his own ? None whatever. If a senator can express his thoughts better in writing than in speech he ought to be permitted to read his written thoughts to the Senate.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). I hope that Senator Stewart’s view will “not be taken seriously, although I believe that he is in earnest. If we had no such standing order, what an advantage it would be to a senator with a fertile imagination if he wished to do a little “ stone- walling.” He could write or type a speech to last for a week, and all that he would have to do would be to stand in his place and deliver it. Although we may find it necessary sometimes to do a little “ stone- walling “ in the interests of the community, yet I hope that we shall never become professional “stonewallers.” For that reason I should like every senator to deliver his speech unwritten.
Standing order agreed to.
Standing Orders 398 to 404 agreed to.
Standing Order 405 -
Sfo senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents referring to debates in the Semite during the same session.
– I think that Hansard should be excepted from the operation of the standing order. We have a Hansard which costs us a great deal of money, in order to obtain an accurate report of our debates, and if a senator wishes to quote from a speech delivered by another senator he ought to be able to quote from Hansard. That has been the practice, and it might as well be embodied in the standing order. . I move -
That the words “except Hwnawil” be inserted after the word “documents,” line 2.
– I do not think that the standing order is wanted. In South Australia we had a practice by which we overcame the prohibition against the reading of extracts from newspapers. We quietly folded the extract within a paper and made out that we had memorized the matter. We read the extract and no one called attention to the breach of the rule. I expect that a similar practice will grow up in the Senate even if we adopt this standing order. It might as well be omitted for any good that it will do. I agree with Senator Baker that we should be allowed to quote from Hansard, and to carry his idea a little further, we might as well be allowed to quote from papers or reports of debates, even if we had not Hnnsard. A clever speaker can evade the rule with the greatest ease, but it takes a new member a little time to learn the art of reading extracts from papers referring to debates of the same session.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).If it is intended to amend the standing order in the direction which has been indicated by Senator Baker, it will be necessary to review the previous one, which says -
No Senator shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not beingthen under discussion, nor to any speech madein Committee except by indulgence of the Senate for personal explanation.
– The standing orderrefers to a debate of the same session upon a question or Bill not being then under discussion. If the same question or Bill is under discussion Hansard can be quoted.
– If that is the interpretation placed upon the standing order - a rather narrow one - my remark does not apply.
Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER (South Australia). - There are debates and debates. The parliamentary rule, which is followed in these standing orders, is that a membermust not refer to a debate of the same session on some subject not then under discussion. Technically speaking the discussionson a Bill are regarded as one debate, and if a senator wishes to refer to what j another senator has said on the Bill, or on the matter then under discussion, surely Hansard is the best authority to which hecan go? That is all I wish to do by my amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Standing order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 406 and 407 agreed to.
Standing Order 408-
No senator shall use the name of His Majesty,, or of his representati ve in this Common wealth, irreverently in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the Senate in its deliberations.
– It is wrong to use the word “ irreverently,” which is defined in every dictionary as referring to the Supreme Being. For instance, in Davidson’s Dictionary, “ irreverence “ isdefined as -
Want of due regard for the character and authority of the Supreme Being.
In the standing order we are speaking of a human being. I move -
Thattheword “irreverently,” line 3, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ disrespectfully.”
Amendment agreed to.
Standing order, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders 409 to 417 agreed to.
Standing Order 41 8 -
Complaints against newspapers.
– I rise, not to move an amendment, but to coll the attention of the Committee to the standing order. I do so because of my experience in the Parliament of Nev South Wales, which it must be said did not emerge with any credit from its conflicts with the press. The standing order says that -
Any senator complaining to the Senate of a statement in a newspaper as a breach of privilege shall produce a copy of the piper containing the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a substantive motion declaring the person in question to have been guilty of contempt.
What happens when the person has been declared guilty of contempt? He maybe summoned if you like, and he can come or stay away if he likes. It seems to me that the standing order lays down a procedure which will land the Senate in a ridiculous position. I hope that it will be negatived.
Standing order agreed to.
Standing Orders 419 and 420 agreed to.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Sen or Drake) read a first time. /
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Drake) read a first time.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table
Correspondence between the Minister for External Affairs and the Agent-General of Queensland ve certificate of exemption under the Immigration Restriction Act.
Senate adjourned at 10.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 June 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030617_senate_1_13/>.