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Wednesday, 21 July 1920

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Elliot Johnson (LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am afraid it would be somewhat difficult to restrain some honorable members from indulging in adverse criticism of the Government of the day. I would point out, however, that the specific motion before the Chair is merely one to diss.ent from my ruling, and advantage should not be taken of such a motion to make charges against Ministers or any one else. The honorable member should simply deal with what, in his opinion, are the merits or demerits of the ruling itself. I ask him to confine himself to that aspect of the. matter.

Mr RYAN - In building up my ar- gument, it is necessary that I should make my case clear to honorable members by-

Mr SPEAKER - I am afraid that the honorable member is going considerably beyond what, is necessary.

Mr RYAN - It is necessary to. show what would be the consequence of giving effect to the ruling from which we ask the House to dissent. I have quoted from a speech- made in the House of Commons in which Mr. Atherley-Jones was allowed to use some very strong language. He asked, when dealing with the case of Mr. Conybeare, why the police were allowed to go about taking notes of private conversations of a person who was to he tried ?' That surely was a reflection, and a very justifiable reflection, upon the action of the Executive Government of the day.

I am not going to detain the House any longer. I have set out what, in my opinion, are the considerations upon which honorable members ought to act in coming to a conclusion on this question. It is not, so far as you are concerned, Mr. Speaker, a personal matter. It is a matter not of upholding your rights OV authority as Speaker, but of upholding the rights and authority of this House. Every member has to shoulder . a personal responsibility for the vote he casts. The -responsibility for the ruling given by you when you called .me to order was yours, Mr Speaker; but every honorable member who, when we divide on this question, votes to say that you were right in not permitting me to make »i comment upon this Executive action on the part of the Government must accept the responsibility for your ruling. That responsibility, I am sure, honorable members are prepared to take. I am prepared to take my responsibility, and I have no doubt that every honorable member is prepared to shoulder his own. But I would remind honorable members who contend that they come here to stand for the upholding of the authority of Parliament, and for the restoration of constitutional government, that one of the first things they must do is to see that there shall be no curbing of the rights of honor-able members in this House to speak in public upon all matters, and to take the consequences of what they say. If I said something that was not in conformity with public opinion I should stiffer accordingly. After all the final arbiter, the final judge of us all, is .public opinion. We all know that during the years of the war the Executive Government were given extraordinary powers. It was said that because of the war it 'was necessary that they should have them. Those powers were used tyrannically. But in addition to v'est- ing them in the Government and to setting up a class of tin-pot tyrants in this country, are honorable members opposite going to allow us to be prevented from expressing in this House our views upon every action of the Executive? I repeat, sir, that the responsibility passes from you. -No doubt you came to your conclusion as the result of being misinformed by some responsible Minister. The responsibility passes from you to the shoulders of honorable .members generally, and I hope that they will do their duty.

Mr Mathews - I second the motion.

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