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Wednesday, 21 July 1920

Mr TUDOR - Take a vote before 6.30.

Ordered(on motion by Sir Joseph Cook) -

That the debate be continued until 6.15 p.m. if a division be not taken before that time.

Mr SPEAKER - In our own Parliament Mr. Speaker McDonald ruled -

Our Standing Orders do not provide directly for this matter, but it is, I believe, a universal rule of the British Parliament, as laid down in May, pages 278 and 332, 11th edition, that matters awaiting the adjudication of a Court of law should not be brought forward in debate. In accordance with that principle I rule that it would not be in order to refer specifically in the debate to the .Australian Workers Union.

That is reported in Hansard at page 1126, volume 75, 1914. On referring to the division-list I find that the Speaker's ruling

Mr Ryan - I, too, would have supported that ruling.

Mr SPEAKER - My ruling has been given in accordance with that and other decisions of this House, apart from the precedents established by the British House of Commons. The only question

I had to decide on Thursday was whether or not it would be in order for an honorable member to refer to a case that wa3 still pending before the Law Courts, not having been finally dealt with. If it was still pending before the Courts, it must be regarded as sub judice. I pointed that out when the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was speaking and referring at considerable length to a particular case - the merits of which do not concern me - which I understood had been disposed of by the Court on Thursday morning. While the honorable member was speaking, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) raised a point of order as to whether the honorable member was in order in referring to a matter that was still sul) judice. I replied that I understood that the in question had been decided by the Court that morning. I spoke in accordance with an intimation that I had received from the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), but the Minister for the Navy assured me that the case had not been finally decided, as notice of appeal had been given. I then asked the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) if he could give me an assurance that the matter had been finally disposed of by the Court. The honorable member said something to the effect that the matter would not, be allowed to rest where it was, and I concluded from that statement, in the absence of a definite assurance to the contrary, that the case was still pending before the Courts. Then the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who is a member of the legal profession, entered the chamber and definitely assured me that the case was still sub judice.

Mr GROOM - I stated that counsel had announced in Court their intention to lodge an appeal.

Mr SPEAKER - That is so, and, so far as I could learn the case was still before the Courts. Accordingly I ruled that the matter, being still sub judice, matters relating to the case which might form the subject of evidence to be submitted to or inquired into by the Court could not be debated.

Mr Ryan - In the face of my assurance that this matter was not sub judice, will you still hold that we could not discuss it?

Mr SPEAKER - A Minister of tha Crown had assured me that the ease was sub judice, and I could not be expected to decide between two legal gentlemen regarding the legal facts of t!;e. matter? When a responsible Minister of the Crown, who is a member of the legal profession, assures me that a case is sub judice, I must take his assurance; but when another honorable member, also a legal gentleman of recognised status and legal attainments, tells .me that the case is not sub judice, I am on the .horns of a dilemma. But that is not the point. What I had to decide, and the point on which I gave my. ruling, was that while the matter was sub judice it could not be discussed. Beyond that I could not go. I did not profess to decide whether it was or was not sub judice, but acted on the assurance of the Minister that it was.

I might draw attention to another fact, and that is that the point of order was not raised for the first time when the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) gave notice of his intention to move to dissent from. my ruling. Altogether, it was raised no fewer than four times during last Thursday's discussion. I was temporarily called from the Chamber to attend to some urgent business, and the Deputy Speaker, who relieved me, informed me that during my temporary absence he had ruled that the matter could not be discussed. Then, when the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was speaking, my attention was called to his remarks by the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook). I ruled that if the matter he was discussing was sub judice, he could not continue to discuss it. The honorable member for West Sydney raised a point of order affecting another phase of the question, and I ruled that my original decision still stood. Later in the evening, when the honorable member for West Sydney was speaking on the censure motion, he attempted to argue this particular case.

Mr J H Catts - No; another matter altogether.

Mr SPEAKER - I understood, and I still believe, that what he was arguing formed part and parcel of proceedings connected with this case.

Mr J H Catts - That is the point in dispute.

Mr SPEAKER - There were certain proceedings of a judicial character - an inquiry before Sir Robert Garran - which seemed tq me part and parcel of the matter, and which could not be separated from it, because they .might very well come up, and probably would come up in any case submitted by way of appeal. I ruled that the honorable member for West Sydney could not discuss the subject with which he was dealing. That was the fourth ruling on the point during that day, and it was not until my ruling had been repeated four times that notice ofthe motion to dissent from it was given.

I feel sure that the House will see the unwisdom of discussing matters which are pending before the Courts. Had this matter been finished with by the Courts, there would have been no objection to a full and thorough discussion of it, and I should not have attempted in any way to interfere with such a discussion of it. It was only because, in my judgment, it was not right to discuss it, and not in accordance with our own practice and the traditions of the British House of Commons, and the decision of the House on a previous occasion, that I ruled that the discussion could not continue. My ruling was grounded on the practice of the House of Commons as I understood it, on the practice of this House, and on an actual decision of this House on a previous occasion, to which I have already made reference.

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