5th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 11
A.m., and read prayers.
Senator MILLEN laid upon the table the following papers: -
Quarantine. - Report of the Commonwealth and States of Australia Quarantine Conference, 1913-
Public Service Act 1902-1911. - PostmasterGeneral’s Department. - Promotion of W. Herbert, as Postmaster, Grade IV., 3rd Class, Bega, New South Wales.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with the message that the House had disagreed to the amendment of the Senate.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.I desire, sir, to ask you a question. As a new senator, I should like to know, first, what has been the practice of the Senate when a no-confidence motion has been pending against the Government, and, second, what has been the practice of second Chambers throughout the British Dominions on similar occasions? If you are not prepared to answer on the spur of the moment, I shall repeat the questions or give notice of them.
– It must be obvious to the honorable senator that I cannot be expected to say what has been the procedure of the Senate until I have looked up the records. It must be equally obvious to him that I cannot be acquainted with what has been the practice in Houses of Parliament in various parts of the British Empire until I have looked up the records. I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the questions.
– I give notice, sir,- for the next day of sitting.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (11.3]. - In view of the invariable practice of the Senate since the inception ‘of the Commonwealth of adjourning when a no-confidence motion was pending, is it still the opinion of the Minister representing the Government here that we should go on with business?
– In the circumstances, I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent him moving that the Senate do now adjourn.
– Whether Ministers deem it their duty to protest or not, so long as I have the honour of a seat here, I shall protest against being subjected to the effects of the childish political lunacy which is being indulged in by honorable senators on the opposite side. It is degrading to the Senate.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in stating that any act of an honorable senator is an act of political lunacy.
– Is it in order, sir, for Senator Bakhap to say that the action of any honorable senator on this side is childish ?
– If any honorable senator deems the expression offensive to him, I ask Senator Bakhap to withdraw it.
– If honorable senators opposite consider that it is a reflection upon them to characterize any act of theirs as an act of political lunacy or as childish, and you, sir, deem it necessary on my part to withdraw the expression, I am sensible of what is owing to you, and I withdraw it. At the same time, I must’ remark that an honorable senator’s vocabulary will be very much limited in regard to the criticism of improper parliamentary actions. I will say now, in substitution of the remark I made, that I protest against the Chamber being made the arena for the indulgence in legislative sabotage, for that is exactly what has been done. The Chamber is being brought into contempt, and simply because honorable senators on the other side think that they have the right of interference in the affairs of another place. We, as a Chamber, are actually arrogating to ourselves the right, whether it is conceded to us or not, of dictating to another place how they shall arrange their notice-paper. If the affection of honorable members for the Chambers which they respectively represent was not altogether subordinated to the spirit of party, I would expect honorable members in another place, irrespective of the political opinions they hold, to protest in a body against the actions of the Senate.
– They are interfering with us.
– Because, undoubtedly, we are placing ourselves in antagonistic association with the proceedings of another place. I want the public to understand that honorable senators opposite are absolutely abrogating their functions. It may be denied, but it is notorious that this action is being dictated to them by members of the same party in another place.
– That is not true.
– That is wrong.
– You have no right to say it, even if it is true.
– That is a sensible objection.
– Senator Rae says that, even if the statement is true, I have no right to make it.
– It is an incorrect statement, anyhow.
– Unless our legislative proceedings are to be reduced to the level of the prattle of children, the honorable senator will not deny that it is true-
– Oh, yes, I would.
– The honorable senator will not deny that the proceedings of his party here are, to a very large extent, governed by the opinions of members of the same party in another place.
– You underrate the capacity of the honorable senator if you say that he will not deny it.
– With admirable generosity, I will pretend not to recognise the honorable senator’s efficiency in that respect.
– I highly appreciate it.
– This is the situation : The Senate is altogether abrogating its powers as a Chamber of review by placing itself in such association with members of another place. We are also dictating to them, by our action, what they shall do with the business on their notice-paper.
– No; what we do with our own.
– All the time we are holding up the business of the coun try. What particularly concerns me at this juncture - and I appeal to my colleagues in the representation of Tasmania - is that, by adopting this action, we are* holding up measures for an indefinite period. We are holding up one measure in particular for which the people of Tasmania long. They are waiting for money, which they are already mortgaging, so to speak, to assist them in prosecuting a policy of internal development which is dear to both parties in the State. I ask my colleagues, if they retain any legislative independence at all, to come over here, or to assist the members of the Liberal party in protesting against an action that may indefinitely prolong the passage of a measure which is absolutely essential to the development of the resources of the little State. It is quite patent that the prolongation of this action will absolutely defeat the intention of the Administration to give to the State what is its due.
– We are here.
– I will come over and give you a hand.
– I hope that our association may be a permanent one, in respect to this matter. I certainly call upon the honorable senators who have crossed to this side to dissociate themselves from the action of the Labour party in dragging the proceedings of the Senate, so to speak, in the political mire.
– Is the honorable senator in order, sir, in saying that the action taken by any honorable senators is dragging the Senate in the mire?
– No. I ask the honorable senator to refrain from the use of such terms.
– Again, in deference to you, sir, I must limit my already somewhat limited vocabulary. It is apparent that if action of this kind is continued - and I suppose honorable senators opposite find themselves in a cul de sac, and must continue it or b© humiliated in the eyes of their own party - matters of material import to the people of Australia will be relegated to quite a secondary position, and the effort of the Government to place legislative enactments affecting them on the statutebook of this National Parliament will be defeated. I do earnestly and sincerely protest against action by this Chamber which, I feel sure, will materially impair its usefulness in the future.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) pro posed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– A very few words will be sufficient for me on this occasion. I repeat the request which I submitted to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, inviting him to state, for the guidance of the Senate and the Government, and for the information of the country, whether it is his intention, speaking for his party, that the procedure repeated for the third time today is to be continued indefinitely until the Government and the other branch of this Legislature are willing to accept direction from this Chamber as to the methods by which they shall conduct their business. I have told the Senate, and I repeat the statement to-day, that the Government, having adopted their course of action, and that course of action having been approved by the other branch of the Legislature, refuse to be coerced by any resolution adopted at the instance of my honorable friends opposite. There is a clear statement of the position the Government take up. We are entitled, in return, to ask the Opposition an equally clear statement as to their intention. I should like to say, in addition, that if , the course taken so far by my honorable friends opposite has been taken with a view to make a protest against what they consider an irregularity in the conduct of public business, there was a very simple method by which such a protest might have been placed on record without bringing public business to a standstill. The protest would have been equally effective, but much less destructive of the public interest, if a motion had been passed here expressing the views of my honorable friends’ opposite. Instead of adopting that course, which I venture to say would have met the requirements of their case, as stated by themselves, they have thought fit to adopt an entirely different course, which means that the whole of the public business for which this Chamber has been brought together, and for which the Parliament exists, is to be brought to a standstill. Why? Simply because the Government, acting with the authority of a majority in another place, will not arrange their businessaccording to the ideas of my honorable friends opposite. I venture to saythat no more preposterous and outrageous proposition was ever put forward in any other second Chamber anywhere. It would be impossible for men having any idea of what is implied in the term “ responsible government “ to listen to such a suggestion, much less to be influenced by such a threat.
– Responsible government!
– Yes, responsible to the other House. Let me repeat that. With a full understanding of what the Senate stands for, and a due recognition and appreciation of the responsibilities intrusted to it, I say that responsible government, as I understand it, means that the Government are responsible to one branch of the Legislature, and in our case that must be to the House of Representatives. The attempt made by the dominant party in this Chamber is a stretching out to take control, not merely of the Executive, but of the other House as well. I should like very much indeed to hear Mr. Fisher and other leaders of the party opposite stand up before the country as those who justify a Government taking their orders and instructions from this branch of the Legislature rather than from the other. That is the position with which we are faced to-day. So far as the present Government are concerned, they will be no party to it, nor will they depart in the slightest degree from the course which they have mapped out for themselves, and which has the approval of a majority in another, place, by any action of the kind proposed to be taken here to-day.
– I have been asked a direct question as to the intentions of the Opposition in the Senate in connexion with the future. When manna came down from heaven it was not supposed to be safe to take more than one day’s supply. “ Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.”
– You are quite right; it is the evil thereof.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.25 a.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 November 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1913/19131121_senate_5_72/>.