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Friday, 9 July 1920

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson (LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the honorable member state his point of order?

Mr Tudor - Yes. My point of order is that, as my notice of motion is at the top of to-day's business-paper, the Government should allow it to be dealt with as the first item of business for to-day, or else adopt such other course as would permit honorable members to express their views on the merits of the motion, even if it only be by voting upon it. I contend that, as Mr. Speaker has placed the motion at the head of the businesspaper, I should have been called on to move it, and thus given the opportunity of putting my case before Parliament and the country, as far as the newspapers which oppose us would permit. If the Government had been desirous of having any other course adopted, it was their place to move that the notice of motion be removed from its place at the head of the business-paper, where, according to the answer given to the honorable member for Capricornia this morning, it had been placed by you, Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the usual practice and the ruling laid down by Mr. Speaker Holder. Finding my motion at the head of the businesspaper, which the Government always arrange, I naturally assumed that it would be the first business called on to-day. The Government, who admit they are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, have not been courteous enough to intimate that they had no intention of allowing me to submit it to the House or discuss its merits. I spoke to you, Mr. Speaker, this morning, and from what you told me I assumed that my motion would be called on as the first item of business to-day. I do not know what has transpired since. By not treating my motion as a censure motion, the Ministry are doing something which hasnever been done previously in the case of no-confidence motions. I can call to mind many instances in which motions of dissent from the rulingsof the Chair have been placed at the bottom of the business-paper, and honorable members thereby deprived of the opportunity of debating them, but the Government have not intimated to me, nor to any honorable member of the Labour party, as they should have done, that they intended to take similar action in regard to my motion. When I gave notice of the motion yesterday, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) said that it smacked too much of Ballarat, and that the Ministry would take no notice of it.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I did not say that we would take no notice of it.

Mr Tudor - I could draw no other conclusion from the Minister's remarks. When the Prime Minister entered the chamber a few moments later, I asked him what action the Government intended to take in regard to the notice of motion, and he said that he would treat it in the ordinary way. The ordinary way in regard to no-confidence motions is to allow them to be called on for discussion. My point of order is that while my notice of motion stands on the business-paper, and at the head of the sheet, Orders of the Day should not have been called on; that is to say, the censure motion should be disposed of before any other business is transacted.

Mr Riley - Mr. Speaker realized that by placing the notice of motion at the top of the business-paper.

Mr Hector Lamond - Under what standing order was that done?

Mr Tudor - The Government arrange the business-paper.

Mr Hector Lamond - But they cannot override the Standing Orders.

Mr Tudor - The usual practice is for no-confidence motions to take precedence. If the Prime Minister or any member of the Ministry desiresto burke the discussion of this or any other notice of motion, and prevent the Opposition from having the opportunity of telling the people what the Ministry have done, or have failed to do, we shall not have that harmony in the House which is necessary for the transaction of business. If the Government intended to treat the Opposition in this fashion, they should have intimated, either publicly across the table, or privately, that they had no intention of treating my motion as a noconfidence motion, and would place it at the bottom of the business-paper; but, in view of the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, or the Government, or you and the Government, have placed my notice of motion at the top of the business-paper, it cannot be removed from that position except by a vote of the House. Let a Minister move to postpone it until Doomsday, or until the Day of Judgment. That, at least, would be an honest course, and would be treating the House with courtesy;but this method of burking the question and preventing honorable members from speaking on or voting upon it is absolutely unfair.

Mr Hughes - I was not in the chamber when the honorable member took his point of order, but I have heard sufficient of what he has said to enable me to follow his argument.

He charges the Government with discourtesy. He claims that we should have notified him thatwe intended to act other than as provided by the customs of parliamentary procedure and the Standing Orders of the House. The Standing Orders are perfectly clear. The procedure to be followed is set out in standing order 119, of which the honorable member cannot plead ignorance, because on one occasion, when I had the honour of being a colleague of his, I was pulled up in the middle of a very spirited harangue on a motion which had been moved by my right honorable colleague, Mr. AndrewFisher, although I had not been going five minutes by the clock. I was pulled up because the operation of standing order 119 interrupted all further debate on the motion. As its effect was quite new to us all, this sank into our minds, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) knows perfectly well how the standing order applies. As to the question of courtesy, it has always been the practice, from time immemorial, for the Leader of the Opposition intending to move a motion of censure to give the Prime Minister : notice of it.

Mr Tudor - I tried to find the honorable gentleman, but he was not here. He was in Ballarat.

Mr Hughes - As a matter of fact, I was here before the. House met.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I spoke to the Leader of the Opposition an hour before the House met.

Mr Hughes - The Leader of the Opposition notified neither myself nor the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who would, in my absence, act in my place. Instead, he waited until the House met, and then passed across the table his " bolt from the blue " - a most discourteous act, and, so far as I know, without precedent. The relations between the honorable member and myself are, indeed, as they have been through all our parliamentary lives, most friendly, and therefore it cannot be suggested that he took' this course of action owing to lack of harmony between ourselves. Nor do I think the Minister for the Navy is one whom the honorable member is afraid to approach. I think I know what happened. As is the custom of the party which the honorable member leads - a custom of which I am, of course, not ignorant - it held a meeting-

Mr.Tudor. - I said that we held a meeting, and that we were deciding this matter at the very moment you in Ballarat said that the Government were hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

Mr Hughes - That is absolutely untrue.

Mr Tudor - It was in the Herald last night.

Mr Hughes - It is absolutely untrue.

Mr Tudor - It was reported that you had stated that the Government's majority was very slender.

Mr Hughes - I repeat that the statement is untrue.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson -Order !

Mr Hughes - I do not care what is reported in the paper; the honorable member for Yarra is not going to get that in.

Mr Tudor - I have already stated it tw ice.

Mr Hughes - Then it will have to be taken out twice.

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