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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) - Apparently, some honorable members are anxious to decide this question - which is one of farreaching importance - without any debate whatever. It is with considerable diffidence that I address myself to the motion, and I can assure honorable members that they will not facilitate its early settlement if I am interrupted' at the outset. I think it is a pity that the members of the Government, who should be the constitutional guardians of the liberties of honorable members, have not addressed themselves to this question with a view to showing whether or not, in their opinion, the ruling of the Deputy Speaker, if upheld, would curtail those liberties.

Mr Deakin - I happened to rise when the honorable member did.

Mr KELLY - Then I shall make my' speech as brief as possible, in order that my honorable and learned friend may have an opportunity to deal with the question. Some references have been made to English' precedents in connexion, not with this ruling, but with rulings which you, Mr. Speaker, have given, and which, on the occasion in question, appear to have been followed under a misapprehension. I maintain, first of all, that in a House of this size, English precedents should not concern us.

Mr Page - I have heard the honorable member say, again and again,; that we ought to accept this and that "because it is English."

Mr KELLY - In this regard, at all events, I am a convert to, the views of the honorable member. I think that he will agree that in a Chamber so large as is the House of Commons it would be impossible to give that liberty of speech which should be extended to members of so small an assembly as this is. If we had 600 or 700 members of this House, each exercising his opportunities to speak, obviously no business could be transacted ; but we have only seventy-five members, and the difficulty of properly representing the sparselypopulated constituencies of this great continent are such that every honorable member should be given complete freedom to express the views of his constituents. While I. should be the first to admit that to repeat over and over again arguments used by previous speakers would be to take an undue liberty in a House of this character, I cannot agree with the ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker that to repeat an argument which has been used, it may be only once or twice, bv a previous speaker must necessarily be out of order. What would be the position if that ruling were upheld'? An1 honorable member, hostile to the question at issue, might easily forestall another who wished to put a certain question in a serious way before the House, and, having forestalled him, he might take a point of order that arguments already used by him were being repeated.

Mr Glynn - The second speaker could not even agree with him bv saying, "hear, hear."

Mr KELLY - That also would be out of order. It would be absurd if one honorable member could feebly state an argument in order to shut out its proper statement by another. That is one reason why

I feel that the House should dissent from this ruling. There is another consideration, and it is a constitutional ohe, which concerns all honorable members alike. Rulings from the Chair are designed not only to maintain order but to facilitate business, and all business in this House must be conducted upon a representative basis - the basis on which we hold our seats. That being so, it is clear that any ruling which aims at the root of the representative basis upon which we hold our seats in this Chamber should not be upheld. Let us consider the position which must arise if this ruling be accepted. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra has a large number of constituents who have entrusted' him with their representation in this House. Rightly or wrongly, they think that no other representative should be left to voice their views. The honorable member for Melbourne, for example, might be able to put the views of the electors of Illawarra with even greater forcefulness than could the honorable and learned member representing that constituency. But I hold that the electors of that constituency are the only people entitled to judge of that matter. If this ruling be upheld, it is clear that the rights of the constituencies will be interfered with. That is the principal ground upon which I support this motion. I trust that the Government will give us that assistance which we are entitled to expect from them in dealing with it. As this ruling must necessarily affect all parties, the House should endeavour to forget the rancour or feeling under which it has been labouring for some time, and deal with the question in a dispassionate way.

Mr Fisher - Mr. Speaker will deal with it.

Mr KELLY - Unfortunately he will not. If he would, I should be perfectly satisfied. The question will be put to the House, and I therefore ask honorable members to deal with it in a judicial manner. The question with which we are concerned relates not to the past, but to the future. Let us divest ourselves of any of those bitternesses which necessarily resulted from the all-night sittings on. the occasion on which this ruling was given. If that be done, honorable members will recognise that this ruling, if upheld, must seriously curtail the liberties of the House, and will therefore support the motion of the honorable and learned member for Illawarra.

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