3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator MILLEN laid upon the table the following papers: -
Invitation to Lord Kitchener to visit Australia and reply thereto, &c.
Defence Acts 1903-1904. - Regulation (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - New paragraph 482(a). - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 74. Regulation (Provisional) for the Commonwealth Military Cadet Corps. - Amendment of Regulation 13. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 75.
– I, unfortunately, am again under the necessity of asking the Senate to adjourn. I beg to move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
I take this step with considerable regret, because there is on the notice-paper business which undoubtedly will call for sympathetic and prompt action on the part of honorable senators when they are in a position to deal with it. From the best information which is available, there seems to be little prospect of the debate which is proceeding elsewhere terminating until the end of the week. While the Senate has shown by the appearance of the benches that it is prepared to deal with the business set down, it is not competent for the Government to invite it to do so. Having reluctantly arrived at that conclusion, we necessarily thought it desirable to consult, so far as we could without any detriment to public business, the convenience of honorable senators. With that object in view, and seeing that otherwise many senators would only be kept about Melbourne from day to clay until it was possible toresume the consideration of business, I submit the motion.
– I have no intention of opposing the motion.Like the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I have no desire to put honorable senators to any inconvenience. If we see our honorable friends on the other side in full force once a week that will satisfy the Opposition. We intend, if we possibly can, to get their society at least once a week, and consequently I do not think that themotion will receive any serious opposition. We hope that our honorable friends will remain in good health, and be able to come back on Wednesday next.
– Before the Senate adjourns for a week, I should like the Government, if possible, to indicate the matters which are likely to be taken in hand as soon as we re-assemble. If that information is supplied to-day, honorable senators will be able in the meantime to familiarize themselves with the subjects, and come back prepared to proceed with business as soon as it is submitted. If the Government will make a statement to-day, I think that the convenience of both the Opposition and their own supporters will be served. In the very long programme of the Government, one subject is mentioned which 1 should like to see proceeded with as soon as possible. I admit that the announcement is in a form of which I can make very little. I allude to the very fantastic reference to the unemployed question. I urge the Government, if they can see their way, to’ move in the matter, because it is quite evident that the unemployed question is becoming more aggravated every day, and that some step ought to be taken promptly to remedy, so far as Australia is concerned, what is an everpresent curse in every country. If the Government intend to propose a remedy, we ought to be told to-day what it is, and afforded an early opportunity of lessening the evil.
– Compulsory insurance is the only remedy, I think.
– Order ! It is not in order to discuss suggested remedies for the evil of unemployment.
-I think I can promise the Government that the Opposition will render any assistance they can to get legislation on the subject passed as soon as possible. I can also promise the Government that the loafer in the community will receive no consideration at our hands. We are all anxious to assist the genuine unemployed, but, so far to the loafer on society is concerned, the Government need not fear that any effort will be put forth on this side for his benefit. I am unable to grasp just what is intended by the Government’sproposal. and I know that the question is a difficult one to deal with.
– I point out that the honorable senator will not be in order in debating the matter, nor would the Minister be in order in replying to him.
– I wish only to say that because of the difficulty of the question it is well that any measure proposed by the Government to deal with it should be submitted to honorable senators at the earliest opportunity. I hope that the Government will see their way to place this amongst the first of the matters which we shall be called upon to consider, when we meet again.
.- I do not like the motion submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. We should come here to work, or stop away and play. After some of us have travelled hundreds of miles to attend here to-da.v. the Government tell us that we should adjourn until next Wednesday. From what I know of the proceedings elsewhere, where one honorable member occupied two days in making a speech, there is no possible hope that we shall be able to go on with business next Wednesday. I think that the Government should consider the convenience of honorable senators sitting behind them as well as that of honorable senators opposite, and propose an adjournment for a fortnight.
– Any shorter adjournment would be of no use.
– That is so. It is unreasonable of the Government to ask honorable senators to travel for four clays in order to spend two da.vs at their homes. Some honorable senators who are not present to-day could much more easily have attended than some who are here. I. for one, object to this mode of carrying on business. Honorable senators opposite cheer that statement, but I speak my mind. I do not care on which side I sit. I am not bound by a caucus or by any party. If the Government will not consider the convenience of honorable senators who are put to considerable trouble to attend the Senate they must find some one else to support them. I am not going to be dragged here for five minutes, and then told. “ Von r.-in go away now, and in. four or five days’ time you can come again.” It is well known that another place will not have disposed of the motion being discussed there during the week, and we ought not to be brought here again next Wednesday. The Hansard staff and other officials will have to be in attendance, the country will be put to the expense, and we shall again have to adjourn without doing any business. I hope that the Government will see their way to propose that the Senate adjourn until a date later than next Wednesday.
– Until Christmas.
– -I am sure that some honorable senators who interject desire that no (business at all should be done this session. I am not with them in. that. I think that the Government should let the country see that the people who are “ stone- walling* “ and ‘ obstructing business now are causing delay in the transaction of public business, not merely in another place, but in the Senate also.
– Is the honorable senator referring to Mr. Reid, who is now speaking in another place?
– I am referring to Senator Turley, for one. I do not care to move an amendment on the motion, but if an amendment is submitted for an adjournment for a fortnight, I shall support it.
.- I intend to oppose the proposed adjournment. I have always opposed motions for the adjournment of the Senate when there has been business to be done. The Senate has, times out of number, been asked to adjourn when there lias been plenty of business for us to go on with. I do not think that we should take any notice of what occurs in another place. We have no official knowledge of it, and so long as there is business to be done, and the Senate has an opportunity to do it, we should be allowed to do it, no matter whether the Government be in danger or not. What are the facts in the present case? Honorable senators will remember that as long ago as April last there was a clamour by the party represented bv honorable senators opposite to call Parliament together in April, because pressing public business required to be done. It was said that it was necessary that Australia should show her loyalty to the Mother Country by presenting a Dreadnought to Great Britain, and that Parliament should be called together to deal with that proposal. In response to the clamour, Parliament was called together on the 26th May instead of at the end of June, as in the usual course. What happened as soon as Parliament met? Instead of trying to proceed with the country’s business about which there had been so much clamour, it at once became evident that the only thing the then Opposition were after was an opportunity, at any cost and at any sacrifice, to clamber on to the Treasury benches.
– The honorable senator does not think that the clamour was for an opportunity to transact public business.
– I was never deceived in that way for a moment. In spite of the clamour about the urgent need for carrying on the business of the country, the new party having succeeded in their main object, which was to get on to the Treasury benches, immediately asked both Houses to adjourn for three weeks. The Houses adjourned accordingly, because the fusion party had for the time being a sufficient majority to carry the proposal. The business of the country was allowed to take care of itself as best it could. There was no urgency at all about it then. When Parliament met again a motion of want of confidence in the Government was moved in another place, but I submit that that has nothing whatever to do with the Senate. We are not interested in the squabbles between parties in another place. Honorable senators laugh, but I ask what has the Senate to do with what takes place in another place ?
– Did not the honorable senator help to frame the-motion which was launched there?
– It is one of the simplest of motions, and no help was required to frame it. At any rate, the proceedings in another place have never come officially before the Senate, and I therefore say that the Senate, representing the States of the Commonwealth, should proceed with the business of the country, if any requires to be done. That there is business should be proved conclusively by the fact that honorable senators opposite clamoured for three or four months to have Parliament called together earlier than usual in order to proceed with it. Now that we are here the Government will not permit us to do that business. With Senator Sayers, I enter my protest against the manner in which these matters are arranged here. If I desire to return to the State I represent, a week’s adjournment is absolutely useless to me. Such an adjournment is, of course, useful to honorable senators who reside around Melbourne, but 1 ask why their convenience should be continually studied, when we know that they are placed at a great advantage as compared with honorable senators who represent distant States. For these reasons I am opposed to the adjournment proposed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I hold that, so long as we have business to transact, the Senate should proceed with its consideration, irrespective of what may be taking place elsewhere. The Government should proceed with the consideration of business upon the notice-paper, which is of a non-party character. There are dozens of measures awaiting our attention - measures which ought to be proceeded with by any Government which may be in office. For instance, there is the Navigation Bill, which is not a party measure, and the consideration of which is likely to occupy a whole session. Why should we not proceed with that measure to-day? It has absolutely nothing to do with any party squabble, or with the deposition of any Ministry, and it has already been before the Senate for the major part of a session. It is a very long and important Bill, and one that will require careful consideration at our hands.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government intend to pass that measure?
– I do not know. But I do know that it is a Bill which ought to be passed, that it is a non-party measure, and one which will have to be proceeded with by any Government which may be in power. Then there is the Oldage Pensions Bill - why cannot that be proceeded with? I repeat that the Senate should ignore what is taking- place elsewhere, and confine! its attention^ to the business of the country which” honorable senators were elected to perform.
– I have the greatest sympathy with the attitude taken up by Senator Sayers. I feel that at the present time the whole of our parliamentary institutions are under, I might almost say, censure by the people of Australia. The utter futility of our proceedings is making us a laughing-stock. But who are the persons responsible for this condition of affairs ? There can be only one reply to that question, and the. public know very well what it is. If any good would result from my action, I would move an amendment upon the motion which has been submitted, in favour of the Senate meeting again to-morrow. But I recognise that the proposal of the Government to adjourn until Wednesday next has been forced upon them by the necessities of the occasion - by the consequences which flow from the action of the Opposition in another Chamber.
– There can be no question about that. lt is idle for Senator Givens to read a list of the Bills which figure upon the business-paper, and to tell us that we have this and that to do He knows perfectly well that no Government ever, yet proceeded with public business whilst a debate upon a motion of censure- was in progress.
– We .did it last week.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. We did not. Last week there was a motion before this Chamber which, to a very large extent, was upon all-fours with the no-confidence motion which is being debated in another place, and the Government thought it would be a courteous act to the Opposition here, to afford its members an opportunity of speaking their minds. But how were they rewarded for their courtesy? By a count out. I was a party to that count out, inasmuch as f left the chamber and designedly remained absent from it. The members of the Opposition dug a pit for themselves, and fell into it. I wish them joy in their habitation of that pit. I do not see that we can do other than agree to the motion of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in favour of adjourning until next week. When we re-assemble we may reasonably expect that the debate upon the no-confidence motion in another chamber will have terminated. If I were certain that the motion would not then be disposed, I would support the suggestion of Senator Sayers that the Senate should adjourn for a. fortnight. But I think we may reasonably expect that the debate in another chamber will have terminated by Wednesday next. If it has not, the greater will be the disgrace attaching to those who have held up the business of the country for such a prolonged period. If the Senate re-assembles next Wednesday, and is not then in a position to go on with public business, we shall at least have entered one more protest against proceedings which are disgracing the parliamentary institutions of Australia.
– I shall certainly oppose this motion, I cannot see any necessity for the Senate adjourning for a week. Only a few days ago the Vice-President’ of the Executive Council read a Ministerial statement to the Senate - a sort of second GovernorGeneral’s speech - in which were -outlined a list of measures which the Government have promised tq introduce.
These were grouped under three headings, viz., Industrial, Defence, and Finance. We discussed the pros and cons of the question for a few days, and then simply, because his own supporters would not remain in the chamber and keep a quorum-
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council was absent himself.
– Simply because he and his own supporters would not keep a quorum the discussion ceased?
– I got tired of looking at honorable members opposite.
– It is quite possible that members of the Opposition got tired of looking at the empty promises contained in the Ministerial statement of policy. There is one paragraph in that statement to which I should like to refer.
– Does the honorable senator think that this is the time to discuss that statement? He had his chance last week, and would not take advantage of it.
– I understand that Senator Millen is the Leader of the Senate, and not its President. If I am out of order I am sure that you, sir, will intervene. .But until you call me to order I intend to discuss this question in my own way. One paragraph in the Ministerial statement refers to a Bill relating to Compensation to Seamen. I remember that last session the present Minister of Trade and Customs promised Senator Guthrie that that Bill would be introduced as a necessary corollary to the Navigation Bill.
– So it was.
– Then why not proceed with its consideration?
– Give us a chance.
– We are not preventing the Government from proceeding with the consideration of that measure. But they wish to adjourn. There is no honorable member on this side of the Senate who desires an adjournment.
– What about the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition just now.
– My leader merely declared that he would not oppose the adjournment proposed. That does not necessarily mean that he desires to suspend the business of the Chamber. The Navigation Bill was accidentally placed upon the business-paper a day or two ago, and there is no reason why the consideration of that measure and of the Seamen’s Compensation Bill should not be proceeded - with independently of what may be transpiring in another place.
– It is the navigation of the Labour party that is the cause of the trouble.
– Senator Pulsford is jealous because Mr. Webster has spoken longer than he did.
– Accusations have been made against the party to which I belong of having been guilty of blocking public business.
– Perfectly true.
– It is an absolute falsehood.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not make use of such a remark.
– But Senator Walker said it was “perfectly true” that the party to which I belong had been guilty of blocking public business.
– It is very wrong for an honorable senator to state that what another honorable senator has uttered is false. Of course, the honorable senator may, if .he considers that Senator Walker’s statement was not correct, say so if he chooses.
- Senator Walker said that it was “ perfectly true “ that the Labour people were guilty of blocking business. I did not say that his statement was an absolute falsehood, but that the accusation against the Labour party was absolutely false.
– That is only a quibble. If an honorable senator makes a statement, and is told that that statement is a falsehood, it is equivalent to telling him that he has told a falsehood. I have already told Senator Needham that it would be in order for him to characterize the statement -as incorrect if he chooses.
– I had no intention of saying that the statement of Senator Walker was an absolute falsehood. 1 merely said that a statement which he said was true was absolutely false.
– The honorable senator made a statement which Senator Walker said was perfectly true. Then the honorable senator said “ It is a falsehood.” Such a term must not be applied to a statement made by an honorable senator in this chamber. The honorable senator must withdraw the word “ falsehood.”
– But, Mr. President
– I am not going to argue the matter. I have been compelled to rise several times with regard to it already. I have arrived at a decision, and must ask Senator Needham to accept it.
– Will you not accept my statement, as a member of this Senate, that I did not accuse Senator Walker of uttering a falsehood?
– I accept the hon- orable senator’s disclaimer that he did not mean to apply the word “falsehood” to Senator Walker. I ask the honorable senator, however, to accept the ruling of the Chair, and withdraw the expression which he has used.
– -I have no desire to run counter to your ruling in any way. I ask that Senator Walker shall be compelled to withdraw the statement that the charge against the Labour party was true. .
– I have asked the honorable senator to withdraw a word used by him. It should have been withdrawn at once. There must be some authority in the Senate, and that authority must be obeyed.
– I recognise that authority, sir, and am always prepared to tow to it. I simply say that Senator Walker’s statement was not correct.
– Is the honorable senator going to withdraw the expression that Senator Walker’s statement was false?
– I withdraw the word “ falsehood,” and substitute “ absolutely incorrect.” And now, sir, will you kindly ask Senator Walker to withdraw the statement that it was f< perfectly true “ that the Labour party was guilty of blocking public business?
– When Senator Needham made a certain statement, Senator Walker used an observation which did not seem to me to be of an offensive character.
– Surely, Mr. President, if any honorable senator considers that a statement made by another honorable senator is offensive and objectionable, that is sufficient ground for asking for the statement to be withdrawn. Senator Needham has taken, exception to a statement made by Senator Walker, and that is surely sufficient ground for asking for the withdrawal of it. I ask for your ruling on that point.
– If a ruling such as Senator de Largie asks for were given, its effect might be to terminate all free discussion in the Senate, and all expression of opinion containing anything detrimental to the opinions uttered by other honorable senators. I submit that the position taken by Senator de Largie is utterly untenable.
– If Senator de Largie desires an expression of opinion from the Chair with regard to interjections, I have to say that they are all disorderly, and should not be indulged in. But if I were to rule that every honorable senator who makes an interjection has transgressed, I should have to apply that ruling, not to one honorable senator, but to thirty-five. Such interjections as Senator Walker made have been frequently used in the Senate, without exception being taken to them. I can only come to the conclusion that exception would not have been taken to Senator Walker’s remark on the present occasion, had it not been that I had to insist upon the withdrawal of a word which was disorderly.
– Before I was interrupted by the interjection of my honorable and genial friend. Senator Walker, I was pointing out that the Labour party in the Senate was not in any way responsible for the blocking of business; and I was about to refer to the fact that two honorable senators who occupy seats on the Ministerial side of the Chamber have between them occupied six hours by their speeches. Furthermore, I wish to point out that fourteen or fifteen honorable senators who sit on the Government side spoke in the debate that closed last week, whilst only eleven members of the Labour party spoke.
– The question now before the Chamber relates to the adjournment of the Senate for a certain period. It is not in order to enter into a general discussion as to who have blocked or facilitated business. It will be perfectly in .order to give reasons for or against the adoption of the motion. It will be in order to point out, as has already been done, that there is public business that should be taken up at once. But the question as to what party has occupied most time in relation to business that is not now before the Senate is not a subject that can be discussed at the present stage.
– I was following Senator Pulsford’s line of argument, when he accused us of blocking the business of the country. But it appears that, no matter how I proceed, there is a danger of my coming into collision with your authority. I will endeavour to confine myself to the exact terms of the motion. The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that, owing toa certain position in another place, we in the Senate could not proceed with business. But I fail to see why, because a difference of opinion exists in another branch of the Legislature, and because a member of that Chamber who supports the present Ministry is to-day prolonging the debate there, we should quietly refuse to go on with the business of the country. I see no reason why we should not at once enter upon the discussion of the Navigation Bill. A day or two ago I gave notice of a motion to alter the days of sitting, because I considered that if we continued to sit on Wednesday. Thursday, and Friday only, we would not have sufficient time in which to deal with the business before the Senate. The’ passing of the Navigation Bill, for instance, is awaited by the people of Australia, particularly by those who are engaged on coastal vessels. It is a controversial measure, and last year it took the Senate about seven weeks to dispose of eighteen clauses, leaving some 400 clauses to be dealt with.
– There is no hope of the Bill being passed this year.
– As it is agreed on each side of the Senate that it is not aparty measure, why should not its’ consideration be proceeded with at once ? : I see no reason why we should not deal- at once with that item of Government business. I repeat that the Labour Opposition, either in the Senate or in the other House, - are not responsible for the blocking of public business. I shall certainly oppose the motion.
.- - I regret that the Minister has seen fit to submit the motion. I agree with Senator Sayers that at very considerable inconvenience, many honorable senators “have travelled hundreds of miles merely to be asked to adjourn the Senate. Surely Ministers could have foreseen on Fridaylast whether it would be necessary for the Senate to meet to-day or not. The Government assisted the Opposition in getting the debate on the Ministerial statement out of the way. The notice-paper includes some matters which do not involve party issues at all. The Navigation Bill, for instance, is not a party measure. It was included in the policy of the Labour party and the late Deakin Government, and the present Deakin Government have announced their intention to ask the Senate to resume its -consideration at the point where it was dropped last session. Why should -we not go on with the consideration of the measure to-day ?- Unless this Bill of 470 clauses is dealt with by both Houses this session it will lapse, and its consideration will have to be begun afresh in the next Parliament. Is that the intention of the Government in submitting this motion for adjournment? Again, take the Seamen’s Compensation Bill. Every civilized country in the world, except Australia, has a Seamen’s Compensation Act. In 1906 the Imperial Parliament passed such a measure. But in Australia any seaman who meets with “an injury has absolutely no claim for compensation. Although in this regard Ave are in a worse position than any .other civilized country, vet the Government have declared that there is no reason for the Senate to hasten the consideration of Government business.
– They did not say anything of the kind.
– Virtually that is what they said when they invited the Senate to-day to postpone by one week the date for asking lea,ve to introduce a Seamen’s Compensation Bill.
– Go, and let them get a division in the other House, and then we will get on with all this business.
– What have we to do with the other House?
– Oh, a lot.
– In his speech today, the honorable senator said that we ought not to wait for the other House to dispose of the no-confidence motion, but should go on with our own business. If there has been any delay in considering the Ministerial statement, it has not been due to honorable senators on this side. By whom was the whole of last week taken up here? Not by a single senator on this side? If the Government desire the Senate to adjourn over to-day, I have no objection, but let us meet to-morrow, and go on with the business of the country.
– I feel disposed to oppose the motion, because I am satisfied that honorable senators on this side have done all they possibly could to hasten the progress of Government business.
– The honorable senator says that without a. blush.
– I do, and I see no reason for a display of hilarity by honorable senators on the Government benches. I think that they must recognise the absolute candour of my remarks, and also the truth of them. As a matter of fact, it was the determination of the Opposition not to permit Government supporters to “ stone-wall “ the Ministerial statement which cleared the way for the consideration of Government business.
– Not one member of the Opposition spoke on that day.
– No. The records of the Senate prove that the members of the Opposition did no more than their barest duty. They called the attention of the Governments-
– .To the absence of their colleagues.
– To a certain statement which had been made to the Senate. They certainly had the right to criticise certain features of that statement, but immediately the duty had been discharged the Government supporters presented the spectacle of a combined force to carry on a perpetual excuse for the Government to dawdle, and then we on this side determined to stop the mouths of Government supporters by counting out the Senate.
– But the honorable senator is not serious.
– I am not only serious, but stating an absolute fact. The honorable senator knows that what I am saying took place, so that no question as to my sincerity can possibly be raised. We ought to proceed with the consideration of Government business, but not for .the reason which has been advanced by some pf my colleagues. They have stated that the question of unemployment is not a party matter, and that, therefore, it could be dealt with by the Senate at once. In my opinion it is one of the most vital party matters which could be brought forward, and, therefore, it ought to be submitted by the Government, arid dealt’ with as a Government measure. The same remark applies to the two measures mentioned by Senator Guthrie. If he can satisfy himself that these have no party significance I cannot, though I wish I could. In fact, every line,” indeed every word, of the Ministerial programme bristles with party antagonism and party ingenuity.
– Order ! I ask the - honorable senator to point out “how he proposes to connect his present remarks, with’ the motion . that the Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next. Surely he must recognise that his recent remarks are not relevant to that question !
– I was trying to point out that the strong party complexion of the measures I mentioned affords the best reason why the Government ought to ask the Senate to proceed at once with their consideration. I shall oppose the motion.
– It is becoming painfully evident to me that the Government as represented here has already accomplished the only business which it desires to do during the session. That is a most unfortunate position, and one which tends, I have no doubt, to degrade Parliament in the eyes of the public. Let us look at the position. Parliament assembled in May. At that time honorable senators who now occupy the Treasury bench were sitting on the Opposition side. They jumped the Treasury bench, and immediately applied for an adjournment of three weeks, during which time they gave forth that they would be occupied in framing a policy. At the end of that term Parliament re-assembled. The Senate entered upon a debate on the policy Statement of the new Government. So anxious were the Opposition that the real business of the Government should be proseeded with that it actually stopped honorable senators on the Government side from “stone-walling” the Ministerial statement. Honorable senators on the other side were stringing along, one after the other, the debate on the Ministerial statement, while the members on the Opposition side were exceedingly anxious to see some of the measures foreshadowed by the Government. Evidently the intention of the Government was to stave off, as long as possible, the evil day of bringing its concrete measures before the Senate. That” is the history of the Government up to date. Having done nothing since Friday morning, we have assembled here this afternoon and we are calmly asked by the Government to adjourn for another week without doing any business. There is business to be done, the country is anxious that it should be done, we are here prepared to do it, and therefore I ask why this adjournment? I know that the reason which will be given is, that a certain motion is being discussed in another portion of the Legislature, and that therefore no business can be transacted in this Chamber. But why should we make ourselves the slaves of a precedent which has been set in another Parliament, and in connexion with a House that has no more resemblance to the Senate than chalk has to cheese. I need not remind honorable senators who are at considerable cost in money, physical energy, and anxiety, to secure their election that the Senate is an elective House. We know also that it is responsible to the people. If we do not do what they desire we shall forfeit their confidence and will lose our positions in this Chamber. This being so, the Senate cannot be placed in the same category with the British House of Lords, from which this foolish precedent has been handed down to us. The British House of Lords is a hybrid House, and is in that respect very like the present Government. It is neither fish, fowl, nor red herring. It is partly hereditary, partly nominee, and partly elected on a very restricted andselect franchise. It has no powers of legislation at all equal to the powers possessed by the Australian Senate. The Senate, as a branch of the Commonwealth Parliament, is on all fours with the House of Representatives. We have equal powers in every department of legislation.
– We cannot make and unmake Ministries.
- Senator Vardon has never thought out what the powers of the Senate are. I assure him that the Senate can make and unmake Ministries and Parliaments. If a particular relation exists between parties in the two Houses, the Senate has equal powers with the House of Representatives.
– What would happen if a motion of censure were carried here?
– A censure motion carried here would be like brushing an elephant’s trunk with a feather. It would be of no earthly value, but if the Senate persisted in returning measure after measure to the House of Representatives, with alterations to which the House of Representatives refused to’ agree, I should like to ask Senator Vardon what he thinks would happen then ?
– Such action would not have the effect of turning out the Ministry.
– Order ! I allowed some reference to it because of the interjection, but I ask the honorable senator not to pursue that subject.
– I wished to show that the Senate is not in any sense a House similar to the British House of Lords, from which the precedent on which we are now acting has been transmitted to us. Both Houses of this Parliament were called together by the Governor-General for the purpose of going on with the business of the country.
– Where now are all our friends who are so anxious to do the business of the country?
-That is a matter for the President.
– I have no doubt that my friends are anxious to do the business of the country, and when there is any business to be done they will be here.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to inform you, sir, that an honorable senator has just left the Chamber after having asked another honorable senator to call attention to the state of the Senate.
– I can take no notice of communications passing from one honorable senator to another. An honorable senator has the right to ask that a quorum should be present.
– I raise another point of order. Senator Givens said a little time ago that we ought to have a quorum to listen to Senator Stewart. You, sir, did not hear the honorable senator, but I understood his remark to be a request that the Senate should be counted. The honorable senator has now left the chamber.
– As the honorable senator has called my attention to the absence of a quorum, I must order the bells to be rung. [Quorum formed.]
– In the British
Parliament there is probably a good reason why, when a Government is attacked in the responsible and representative chamber, the House of Lords should suspend its operations ; but in the Commonwealth Parliament, where the Senate stands upon an equal footing with the House of Representatives, there is no reason why we should suspend our operations because a motion of want of confidence in the Government has been moved in another place. We are living in a new and a live country, under what has been termed one of the freest and most democratic constitutions in the world, and. therefore, instead of taking advantage of every little point for the suspension of our business, we should brush aside precedents and come down in our parliamen tary procedure to the region of common sense. I know that the Government, with tongue in cheek, are never tired of telling us in both Houses, and through their press reports, that there is a large amount of business to be done, and that it is being blocked by the Opposition. In the Senate the Opposition are extremely anxious that business should be gone on with.
– They are extremely anxious to count out the Senate.
– It is not the business of the Opposition to keep a quorum. That is the business of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and if his supporters are not sufficiently loyal to do that for himself and his Government, his posi tion is a very perilous one.
– Will the honorable senator tell his constituents when he is seeking their suffrages that he does not regard it as a part of his duty to be present in this chamber except when his own friends are in office?
– When I am seeking their suffrages I will tell my constituents just what I please. I shall not tell them anything at the request of the honorable senator. I may tell them that he has found it exceedingly difficult to keep his supporters together, so difficult in fact that during the few weeks in which he has occupied his present position there have been more counts out than there were in the seven or eight years during which the present Opposition were supporting the last and previous Governments. To show that there is business to be done by the Senate, I refer honorable senators to the business paper. I see a motion for leave to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys. Surely that might be proceeded with, and the Bill introduced and debated by the Senate. Then there is a motion in the name of Senator Best for leave to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Industries Preservation Act. That is another Bill which could be gone on with by the Senate, if the Government would only give honorable senators an opportunity to do business. There are one or two other measures claiming our attention, amongst which I might mention “ a. Bill for an Act relating to compensation to seamen for injuries suffered in the course of their employment.” I suppose that if, in the near future, any seaman should unfortunately be injured and receive no compensation for his injuries, the Labour party will be blamed, notwithstanding that that party is not’ only willing, but anxious, that theBill in question should be proceeded with. Why can we not proceed with its consideration at once? There is only one reason under heaven that I know of, namely, that the Government are disinclined to do any work which can possibly be avoided.
– What a grossly inaccurate statement.
– Like the bill of costs which the honorable senator presented to the Tasmanian Government.
– Perhaps we might get the statement taxed. In any caseI think that my assertion describes without exaggeration the position occupied bythe Government at the present moment. Then we have the Post and Telegraph Bill in Committee. Why is not that measure proceeded with ?
– The honorable senator knows.
– I know the reason which Senator Dobson would assign, but I maintain that that is an inadequate reason. I need not traverse the old argument again. The honorable senator knows it just as well as I do, only he is up to his neck in the conspiracy on the part of the Government to do no business at all. Then there is the Navigation Bill. If I were a seaman, or a person interested in navigation in any shape or form, I should be inclined to imitate an historical person, who upon one occasion attempted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament. I should say, “ Out upon your Parliament ; out uponyour Government and representative men.” This measure has been before Parliament, to my knowledge, for several sessions.
– Why did not honorable senators pass it when they were upon this side of the chamber ?
– How long were we upon that side?
– Seven or eight years.
– We were not the Government then. When we were supporting the late Deakin Government we had a very lazy man to push along. He was very slow, and not very sure either. We did our best, but we did not accomplish much. Now that Senator Chataway is behind the Government, I hope that he will ply his whip round their shoulders and show us what he can do in the way of pushing forward this measure. It is one of the most important Bills which can occupy the attention of the Senate.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that he will not be in order in discussing its merits.
– I have no desire to discuss either its merits or demerits. All I wish to say is that the measure has been before Parliament for several sessions. Indeed, it seems to have become a perpetual tenant of the business paper, and I think that the men who are engaged in seafaring occupations have a very good right to ask if Parliament is not trifling with the whole subject. The present occasion, instead of giving the Senate an opportunity to adjourn, affords a chance ‘ which may not again occur during the session to transact business. Then why should we not take advantage of it? Why should we not entirely ignore what is taking place in another chamber ? We have no official knowledge of anything that is transpiring there, and, even if we had, it does not affect us. The Navigation Bill does not belong to the Government. It is the property of the Senate, and its consideration ought to be proceeded with by this Chamber now, irrespective of anything that may be happening elsewhere. I repeat that the sooner we abandon the old world precedent under which the Senate suspends all legislative work when a motion of no-confidence is being discussed in another place, the better will it be for us and for the people of the Commonwealth. I wish honorable senatorsdistinctly to understand that the remarks which I am now making are being made in the public interest. I am as anxious as is anybody that legislation should be proceeded with. I know that the country is hungering and thirsting for the enactment of a number of measures, some of which I do not see upon the business paper.
– The honorable senator must not discuss that question upon this motion.
– I have no intention of doing so. I merely wish to say that a great amount of work has to be done by this Parliament, and that every available hour should be occupied in doing it. There ought to be no adjournment of the Senate, and for the reasons which I have given I intend to oppose the motion submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
Senator MILLEN (New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council) able senators very long in discussing what has really become a sort of formal programme in the Senate whenever, under similar circumstances, a Government is under an obligation to submit such a motion as that which I have moved. So far as Senators Givens and Stewart are concerned, we expect from them just the sort of speeches which they have delivered. Senator Givens always comes forward with two complaints. The first is that the Senate ought not to adjourn merely because something of which he says we have no official knowledge is taking place elsewhere. His second complaint is that Queensland is a long way off. I sympathize with him in regard to his second complaint, and during the period that will elapse between) now and next Wednesday, I shall invite my colleagues to see if we cannot bring Queensland a little nearer to Melbourne, so that in future he may take full advantage of our short adjournments. It is all very well for honorable senators to urge that there is no necessity for the Senate to adjourn when the Government are under challenge. But the real reason why we propose to take this course has already been furnished by Senator Henderson. Some honorable senators opposite enumerated a number of measures which they declared are of a non-party character, and urged that we should proceed with their consideration. But Senator Henderson turned round upon them, and correctly affirmed that all those measures are of a party character. If I required any better reason in support of the action which the Government are taking, it has been furnished by Senator Stewart himself when he spoke of the undoubted powers of this Chamber. Yet what does he ask? In the same breath, he invites us to write down those powers as nil - to absolutely abrogate them. Is the Senate prepared to accept the initiative from a Government which is under challenge? Is it willing to declare that it has absolutely no concern in the question of whether or not a Government can justify its right to the Treasury benches ? If so, the sooner Senator Stewart ceases to talk as he does the better it will he for his claim to be a consistent legislator. Before concluding my remarks, I should like to mention one or two other matters. This afternoon, there has been a systematic effort on the part of mv honorable friends opposite to attribute to the Government a desire to adjourn, and to postpone the consideration of business. We, who are inside the parliamentary fence, know how little value is to be attached to that statement, and how much it is intended for consumption outside. But, lest it should go abroad without the lie being nailed to its coffin, I propose to state the exact facts of the case. Senators Guthrie, de Largie, Givens, Needham, and Henderson all spoke upon this motion, and having done so - I will not say in accordance with some arrangement amongst themselves, but moved by some psychological impulse - the whole of the Opposition, with the exception of Senator Stewart, who could not leave because he was speaking, disappeared from the chamber, with the result that a further deliberate attempt was made by the Labour Party to count out the Senate.
– Senator Findley also absented himself, although only two minutes before he was present, and engaged in interjecting.
– I want the VicePresident of the Executive Council to be correct. I was on my way to this chamber when the bells ceased ringing.
– Upon a point of order, I should like to give an emphatic denial to the statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council that a systematic and deliberate attempt was made by the Labour party to count out the Senate. I had occasion to leave the Senate for a few minutes, because I had written a letter, and I desired to place it in the basket outside for the post.
– So far as Senator Findley is concerned, and any other unfortunate senator who may have had to leave the chamber to post a letter, I withdraw my statement. But I would point out that it is significant that, upon such occasions, there is always a letter to post. Do honorable senators opposite suppose that the business of the country is to stand still whilst they post letters, when all they have to do is to hand over their correspondence to a messenger, who will post it for them? Senator Findley has objected to the charge which I levelled against my honorable friends opposite. Then let me advise his colleagues to take different action in the future. The honorable senator was not present to witness the final act in the little comedy which was played this afternoon. After he had left this chamber to post his letter, and after all his colleagues, with the exception of Senators Stewart and Givens, had retired, Senator Givens, rising from his seat to follow their example, distinctly turned round and said to Senator Stewart and the Senate at large, that it was necessary to have a quorum.
– He asked Senator Stewart to call attention to the state of the Senate.
– Does his action make the whole of the Opposition responsible?
– I would ask Senator Findley whether the letter which caused his retirement from the chamber this afternoon was the same letter which was responsible for his absence from the chamber on Thursday last? Honorable senators opposite need not pretend to be endeavouring to assist in transacting the business of the country. They have said over and over again that, so far as they possibly can, they will prevent the Government from getting on with that business.
– Hear, hear !
– Senator Findley applauds that remark. Let me tell him that we will get on with the business of the country.
– The Government are a long time in starting.
– When we do start we shall go a little faster than my honorable friend will like. The action taken by the Government this afternoon is similar to that which has been taken by every Government which has held office since the inauguration of the Commonwealth Parliament. _ It is the proper constitutional course under the circumstances. It is significant that none of the objections urged bv Senators Givens and Stewart have yet emanated from the recognised Leader of the Opposition. That gentleman, who has had to undertake the responsibilities of office, knows that it is the correct course for the Government to follow. I come now to the request of Senator de Largie that the Government should intimate the order in which they propose to deal with business when the ten-hour farces of which we have no official knowledge come to an end.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council referring to Mr. Reid’s speech in another place?
– No. I have not the slightest doubt that my honorable friend would like to make it appear that Mr. Reid has no right to speak for ten minutes, notwithstanding that one of their colleagues spoke for ten hours.
– Eleven Ministerial supporters spoke in this Chamber as against eight members of the Opposition.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has made that interjection, because it shows how incorrect statements may be made under the guise of truth. I invite honorable senators to check my statement by reference to Hansard, in order that they may see that it is perfectly accurate. The time taken ,up last week by honorable senators who are not members of the Government party was over 100 per cent, more than the time occupied by those who are supporters of the Government!’ programme.
– Senator St. Ledger was ready to deliver a seven hours’ speech, but the Government supporters would not keep a quorum for him.
– I cannot say definitely that we shall resume business next week. That! will depend upon the friends of my honorable friends opposite. But assuming that we meet for the transaction of business on Wednesday next, the Government propose to introduce the Bills with regard to which motions now stand upon the notice-paper. Further, in order to expedite business, the Government propose to ask the Senate to suspend the Standing Orders so as to enable us nol; merely to submit the motions standing on the businesspaper, but also to make second-reading speeches in relation to the several measures. That course, honorable senators will see, will enable the Government to put those measures before the Senate for their second reading on the one day. The measures that will then be submitted will be, first, that relating to light-houses and lightships, and, secondly, that relating to compensation to seamen. With regard to the suggestion of Senator Sayers, I think the honorable senator must see that the paramount consideration cannot be the convenience of honorable senators.
– What do the Government propose to do in regard to the unemployed question?
– I was considering the unemployed question just now when I thought I saw an opportunity of enabling honorable senators belonging to Senator de Largie’ s own party to have more time for posting letters. I venture to say that Senator Findley’s letter will become historic before it is delivered. Senator Sayers’ request for an adjournment over next week cannot, unfortunately, be entertained. It is evident that one of two courses must be present to the minds of all of us. If it is to be a question of the coun- . try waiting for honorable senators, or honorable senators waiting for the country, there can be only one answer. The inconvenience of honorable senators cannot be considered in comparison with the transaction of the country’s business.. If honorable senators attend next Wednesday, and we still find that the debate in another place has not terminated, the Senate will, in spite of the inconvenience to its members, be asked to adjourn again. I am hoping that the debate to which I allude will be concluded by Tuesday next. In that case, we shall go on with the business which I am sure that honorable senators - especially those opposite - are extremely anxious to proceed with.
– I am told that there are twelve more speakers,- and that each of them is capable of occupying two days.
-. - The Government are not responsible for that. We have taken what appears to us to be a fair and reasonable course;There does not appear to be any prospect of the debate elsewhere terminating this week, but there is a prospect of it terminating before next Wednesday. If it has not! terminated then, all I can say is that it is far better that we should be waiting to transact business than that the country should be waiting for business to be transacted by us with no sena- - tors in attendance. Ministers themselves do not appreciate coming here merely to ask the Senate to adjourn again. It is not a convenience to them to attend when there is no business to do. I trust that, in view -of the considerations which I have submitted, the motion will be carried in the form in which I have movedit.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I desire to make an explanation with regard to a paragraph referring to me, which’ appears in the Age newspaper. It is headed, ‘ ‘ Misrepresenting a speaker ; Mr. Membrey in explanation.” The paragraph’ reads -
Mr. Membrey, the member for Jika Jika, yesterday in the Legislative Assembly rose to make a personal explanation. He proceeded to read from the notice-paper of the Senate a question by Senator Givens calling attention to a statement made by Mr. Membrey that it was the intention of the Victorian Government to proceed with the policy of “settling poor people on the poor lands of the State,” and asking . if the Commonwealth Government approved of this policy, and if it considered the settlement of people on the land should be left to the State Governments. . :
In reply to this misrepresentation of his statement, Mr. Membrey read from Hansard what he actually had said. In . dealing with the Government policy of making advances to settlers with limited means to settle on Crown lands, he said: - “ In the past we have been pandering to the independent men of the State, but it is now proposed that men without means shall be helped by the Government, and the people will be able to settle on the poorer lands of the State.”
Mr. Warde then interjected “They are going to put the poor men on the land, and let them starve.”
The Premier said the honorable member for Jika Jika had drawn his attention to what was really a misrepresentation of what was said in his speech on the Address-in-RepIy. If any blame attached to any one it attached to the honorable member for Essendon, who put the incorrect construction upon it. No one desired to put poor people on land, on which they would be unable to make a living. The Crown lands that were left were not the best. At the same time there were Crown lands on which people with proper assistance could make a good living.
I desire to say that if any misrepresentation of Mr. Membrey has occurred, the fault is not mine. Mr. Membrey was reported to have used the words that I imputed to him in the question, which appears upon the notice-paper, by the Age of the day following his speech. I merely quoted the words verbatim from the Age report. Further, I desire to say that after all,’ Mr. Membrey ‘s explanation does not amount to very much. What appears in Hansard has been published, probably, after he has carefully corrected the report, but the statement still remains that Mr. Membrey thought that people without means “should be helped by the Government,” and that they would be able to “ settle on the poorer lands of the State,” I have nothing further to say, except to. repeat that Mr. Membrey has not been misrepresented by me, but, if by any one, by the Age newspaper; and the Age ought to take the blame of it instead of its being saddled upon any member of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090714_senate_3_49/>.