2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
. -I am sorry to find it necessary to acquaint the Senate that the motion involving the fate of the Ministry is still undisposed of.
– Before the honorable and learned senator makes his statement will he permit me to ask a question without notice ?
– I shall answer any questions after I have made this intimation. I am assured that there is no probability of a division being taken, and the matter being finally disposed of before to-morrow night, and that possibly the debate may extend to Friday. Under those circumstances, and with great personal regret, it seems to be my duty - in fact, I have no alternative - to move -
That the Senate,at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
On that day I hope that we shall be able to proceed actively with the business of the country.
– It is extremely unfortunate that at the beginning of the debate on the motion of want of confidence in another Chamber some definite attitude other than that which was taken up was not resolved upon by the Senate.
– A number of honorable senators wished to go on with business, and the honorable senator was not here.
– Unfortunately for myself I was absent, but that does not make any great difference. I fail to see why, when a motion of no-confidence is being debated in the other House, all business should be suspended in this Chamber. If this precedent is to be followed it will simply mean that the Senate, which was by the Constitution made equal with the other Chamber, will be relegated to an inferior position. The Senate, as far as I understand it, was never intended to be a party.
Chamber. It was designed by the framers of the Constitution as a States’ House, having for all practical purposes equal power with the other House. It was quite competent for us to continue doing business even though a no-confidence motion was being discussed in tha other House. For instance, we might have gone on with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Possibly it will be answered by the Attorney-General that while the fate of the Government was trembling in the balance, it would not have been decent or profitable for the Senate to go on with business of that character. But looking at the matter broadly, I do not see why any difference ought to be made because a noconfidence motion is being debated in the other House. If the present Government did not take up the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, some other Government would, and if that other Government did not the Senate could assert itself by refusing to deal with any business from the other Chamber until its business had been finally dealt with elsewhere. The manner in which business has been hung up here from fortnight to fortnight will, I think, have the effect of belittling the Senate in the eyes of all Australia. It will detract, very largely from its influence, and, I might also say, from its usefulness, and elevate the House of Representatives to a position which was not contemplated under the Constitution. It is said that we have not the power of making and unmaking Governments. I never understood that the business of Parliament was primarily to make and unmake Governments. What we were sent here to do was to legislate, and if honorable members in another Chamber choose to engage in what I consider to be a mere scramble for office - and that is how it appears to me, one side being probably just as much to blame as the other - I do not see why the Senate, which is far removed from this party struggle, should suspend its sittings and allow its members to roam over the continent in a way that demoralizes them to a certain extent.
– Is the honorable senator demoralized?
– I feel that I have not the slightest desire to do anything or to engage in any legislative work.
– Does the honorable senator say that they are demoralizing the continent ?
– They are demoralizing the Senate by giving it almost a perpetual holiday, without, as far as I can see, any good reason. We might have utilized all this time in passing very necessary legislation, to be proceeded with when this wrangling between the two, three, or four parties in the other Chamber is ended. If /we had been doing our duty, there would have been plenty of work ready for the other House to go on with. The members of the other House have done nothing, and we have done nothing except draw our salaries, which I suppose we have all done with alacrity. There is a great amount of business to be transacted, and I do not see any good and valid reason why the Senate, because of a motion of no-confidence, should continue to suspend its sittings.
– Will the honorable senator call for a division an this motion?
– I suppose I ought to.
– I shall vote against the motion if the honorable senator does.
– As the honorable senator has asked the question, I shall call for a division, for it is never too late to mend. In my opinion, the Senate ought to proceed with business, and ignore what is going on in the other Chamber. The Senate is not a party House, and for that reason the business of the country ought to be proceeded with irrespective of what is being done in another place.
– If I thought that by adjourning the Senate from week to week we were doing anything to detract from its importance, I should never agree to it. But Senator Stewart must recollect that no legislation can be passed without the concurrence of both Chambers. Seeing that the Senate has only half as many members as the other House to discuss matters, and seeing that we are not so long-winded as our friends in another place, is is absurd to say that we should sit so frequently as that House. It might have been well if at the commencement of the no-confidence debate we had cleared our notice-paper of private business.
– The honorable senator would not vote for that, or give us a chance to do so.
– It is too late in the day to depart from the course which has always been followed here. It is only a farce to pretend to make the people believe that the Senate can legislate apart from another place. If the business of the
Senate is carried on as expeditiously in the future as in the past, we shall very soon overtake all the work which may be done in another place, and have plenty of time to spare while the House is discussing our work.
– Why could Ave not initiate work for the other House to concur in?
– We have already initiated two Bills which have to be sent to the other House.
– We could initiate more if we had the time.
– It ought to be recognised that the work has to be done by each Chamber in a reasonable way. The most sensible thing for us to do is to adjourn until next Wednesday, and then if everything is settled, to carry on the business in an expeditious manner, and thus let the country see that we can do the work whenever it is required of us.
– It is a mistake to talk about refusing an adjournment. I regret as much as anybody can that the Federal Parliament has done so little work since the last election. I pointed out on a previous occasion one of the causes. We have misunderstood and are misunderstanding the meaning of “ responsible government.” We are giving far too narrow an interpretation to that term. Governments are responsible for too much in connexion with legislation, and unless there is a wider and different meaning given to the term, the position we are in now will become chronic. I have also risen in consequence of an expression used by Senator Stewart, which I think was erroneous. He said that the Constitution created the Senate equal in every particular with the other House. That is not so. If that position were taken up by the Senate it would lead to unnecessary friction. The Senate is clothed by the Constitution with special functions, which it is considered the other House does not possess. In that respect the Senate may be considered superior to the other House, but generally it must be understood that the Senate is the second Chamber, whose function is to revise, to review, and, if necessary, to reasonably delay measures, but ultimately-
– What privilege has the Senate which the other Chamber has not?
– The Senate represents the States as States, and that is a very strong reason why it would be undemocratic and unwise to claim for it equality. In the Senate 100..000 or 200,000 persons in one State have as much representation as 1,250,000 in another State. If, with that kind of representation, the claim were to be set up that the Senate is in every particular equal with the other House, it would be a bad position to take up, and it certainly was not intended by the framers of the Constitution.
– The principle of equal representation in the Senate lies at the basis of the Constitution.
– A difference of opinion may easily arise, and it is because I differ .most strongly on that point from Senator Millen, Senator Stewart,- and others that I have taken the liberty to call attention to an utterance which, I think, conveys an unconstitutional view, and which can only lead to unnecessary friction, and to retarding the passage of legislation which the mass of the people have at heart.
– I did not intend to rise, but I feel that I must enter a protest against the view held by Senator Trenwith. I look upon the Senate as co-ordinate with the other House in all respects except that it cannot initiate certain legislation. I object to the Senate being regarded as a mere Upper House. It is only fair that we should dissent from the expression of this view. Otherwise, it might be thought by the public that it was shared by the Senate. I am sure that I only voice the general feeling of the Senate when I say that it is a co-ordinate branch of the Parliament. I shall always be ready to maintain its privileges.
– Some points have been suggested which are extremely important, and some questions have been opened, particularly by my honorable friend Senator Trenwith, which raise very serious considerations in connexion with the position of the Senate. I have a very high opinion as to the func-tions of t’his Chamber, under the system of constitutional government by virtue of which we exist as a body politic. But those are matters which I think can scarcely be dealt with on such an occasion as this, and I am sure that my honorable friend will forgive me if I do not now enter into a discussion of the constitutional questions of great importance which he has raised.
– I did not discuss them except to dissent.
– Quite so. I rather regret that Senator Stewart has taken this occasion to raise the point which he has raised, and I think that he has been altogether answered by the constitutional - and if I may say so, the more dignified - view expressed by Senator McGregor with regard to the true position of the Senate under present circumstances. I regret it because I do not think that we are belittling the Senate in any way by declaring that whilst the constitutional stability and constitutional responsibility of the Government are challenged in another Chamber, the Senate will not proceed with business until that challenge has been settled in one way or the other. But it does appear to me - if I may say so with all deference to Senator Stewart - that it is rather belittling the Senate, after we have already determined this question twice, to raise it again now. It may appear to the outside public not only that we do not know our own mind’s, but that we are uncertain as to our constitutional course of action, which we settled after what I think was an excellent debate in 1901 in anticipation of a no-confidence motion in t’he other Chamber in connexion with the Tariff. Senator Higgs will recollect that he had given notice of a formal motion in anticipation of the possibility of such a thing taking place, During the discussion on that occasion our esteemed friend Senator O’Connor - now Mr. Justice O’Connor - expressed himself with great force and lucidity as to the position. It involves no inferiority as far as the Senate is concerned. It simply gives effect to the principles of responsible government, upon which, rightly or wrongly, our Federal system is founded, and in accordance with which the government of the country is supposed to be carried on, and the proceedings of Parliament conducted by a responsible Ministry, some of whose members are in the Senate, and some in the other House. We cannot differentiate between them, and say that we have confidence in the Ministry, as represented in this House, while the existence of the Ministry, as a whole, is challenged in the other House. These are questions which I do not desire again to raise, but I should like to read a few sentences from Senator O’Connor’s observations. They seem to have a bearing upon the course of action which was taken on that occasion, and which has already been pursued, and will continue to be followed on the present occasion. He said -
The Government is one Government. It is represented in the House of Representatives by certain Ministers, and it is represented iri the Senate by other Ministers. The business of Parliament is conducted by Ministers in this Senate exactly in the same way as in the other House, and when the existence of the Government and its right to rule is challenged in one House, how can it possibly continue to carry on its business in the other ‘House? . . . We differ from other second Chambers in many other respects. We have infinitely more power. The source of our strength and authority is altogether differentWe have very large powers of independent legislation. But with regard to this matter we are simply one of two Chambers which constitute the Legislature in which the business of the country must be initiated and carried on by the Government.
I have thought it right to make these observations, in view of the opinion which Senator Stewart has expressed, and in order to prevent the Senate- from stultifying itself by adopting a different course from that which has already been pursued on the present occasion. Perhaps at some time in the future we may have an opportunity to reconsider the subject from the constitutional aspect which the honorable senator has raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable senator asks the indulgence of the Senate. I presume that leave is given.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– Since the last sitting of this Chamber there have appeared in the press of Victoria, New South Wales, and, I have no doubt, in the press of other States, certain statements seriously reflecting upon the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and upon myself. As to the reflections upon the Prime Minister, of course. I have no reason to address theSenate by way of a personal explanation. But so far as the matter refers to myself, I ask the indulgence of my fellow senators while I make a statement regarding an allegation which, if true, would warrant the Senate in expelling me, notwithstanding my election by large votes on two occasions. If the matter were one that did not concern ‘the whole Commonwealth - because I take it that the honour of every member of the Commonwealth Legislature is of importance to the Commonwealth as a whole - I should take no notice of it; because in New South Wales, where I am known and respected, and where Sir William John Lyne, to whose statements in the press £ refer, is known and detested-
– Order. The honorable senator asked the indulgence of the Senate in order to make a personal explanation. No attacks ought to be made upon other persons in the course of a personal explanation. A personal explanation should be an explanation as to how the senator making it has been misrepresented or how any words of his have been misconstrued, but he ought not to attack Other persons. For this reason - no answer can be made ; no debate can take place. The honorable senator is the only person who can speak.
– I rise to a point of order. Is Senator Neild in order in making a personal explanation in regard to’ some vague, nebulous charges which have been made against him in certain newspapers? If he is, every honorable senator will, I presume, have the right, every time a newspaper makes an attack upon him, to make a personal explanation concerning it, and the Senate Chamber will become the scene of wrangling about newspaper statements.
– According to the Standing Orders, any senator can ask the indulgence of the Senate for the purpose of making a personal explanation as to any matter in which his actions or his words have been misrepresented. But he cannot go any further than that.
– Does that mean that he can make a personal explanation concerning anything that has happened in the Senate?
– It usually means concerning what has taken place in the Senate. Of course, I did not know what the honorable senator intended to refer to when he stated that he desired to make a personal explanation.
– He evidently desired to make a cowardly attack upon another man.
– He has no right to make any attack on another person whilst making a personal explanation. A personal explanation should be as short as possible, and the senator making it should confine himself to explaining in what re*spect he has been misrepresented.
– I ask, under standing order 404, that Senator Neild shall be requested to withdraw his statement concerning Sir William Lyne.
– I think he ought to withdraw that statement. He ought not to have made it. He might perhaps make it - I do not say whether he should or not - in speaking to a motion, but not on the present occasion.
– I withdraw the observation in deference to your ruling.
– I do not understand, sir, that you have definitely ruled upon the point of order which has been raised. I suggest that the standing order under which Senator Neild is making a personal explanation refers to the proceedings of the Senate, and the power to explain applies to something in connexion with the proceedings of the Senate. As Senator Givens has said, if honorable senators may rise to explain or to refute statements which have been made with reference to them outside, the business of the Senate will be considerably retarded. Every day there are statements made concerning honorable senators, some of them being extremely scandalous.
– I wish to raise a further point of order. The Senate has consented to Senator Neild making an explanation. Having given that consent, can the Senate withdraw it?
– The indulgence of the Senate was given to Senator Neild for the purpose of enabling him to make a personal explanation. Without that indulgence he could not make it. But the Senate did not know what the explanation was about. It might have been about matters arising in the Senate. That is what I concluded that it would be. Standing order 394 reads -
By the indulgence of the Senate a senator may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no question before the Senate; but such matters may not be debated.
The .point of order which I understand to be raised is this: Do the words “matters of a personal nature “ refer to attacks made upon a senator in the press, or do they simply refer to matters which have occurred in the Senate? In my opinion, they refer to matters which have occurred in the Senate, and I think that Senator Neild ought to confine himself to the indulgence which has been granted by the Senate.
– I have nothing, Mr. President, to say with reference to anything that has been said in the’
– Then I do not think that the honorable senator is in order. He can give notice of motion, if he wishes.
– I am sure that you will permit me - as there has been so much miscellaneous conversation - to say that, having been a Member of Parliament for about twenty years, I have never before been refused, nor have I heard of any member being refused-
– Order. If the honorable senator thinks that my ruling is wrong, there is a proper method of challenging it.
– I am not questioning your ruling, but pointing out that after a large experience the ruling is new to me. I bow to it.
– We have nothing before the Senate. I think the honorable senator ought to take his seat.
– I find myself placed in a very strange and very novel position.
– If the honorable senator wishes to bring the. matter before the Senate, he can easily do so by giving notice of motion.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper: -
Return to an order of the Senate of 15th September, 1904 : Minute by the late Minister of Defence in regard to the General Officer Commanding.
Motion (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Will not the putting of this motion prevent you, sir, calling over the businesspaper ?
– My desire was to move that the paper which has just been laid upon the table shall be printed.
– But another motion has intervened.
– It is for the Printing Committee to recommend whether or not the paper shall be printed.
– If the AttorneyGeneral were to withdraw the motion for the adjournment of the House, Senator Neild could submit his proposal. The motion before the Senate is that the Senate do now adjourn, and we cannot go back unless that motion is withdrawn.
– I regret I am unable to withdraw the motion, as that would involve going on with business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 October 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19041012_senate_2_22/>.