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Wednesday, 23 November 1938

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - That is a point which should be taken before the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Prowse). I am following his list.

Mr James - While we await the arrival of the Chairman of Committees, injustice is being done to honorable members.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - There is no point of order. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has the call.

Mr James - If you are not capable of giving a ruling as Temporary Chairman of Committees, von have no right to accept the position. I move -

That the ruling be dissented from.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The point is covered by Standing Order No. 255-

When two or more members rise together to speak, the Speaker shall call upon the member who, inhis opinion, first rose in his place; ...

In carrying out the terms of this standing order, I am observing the list prepared by the Chairman of Committees.

He is the proper officer to decide who first rose and, according to the list prepared by him, the honorable member for Maribyrnong rose before the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). It is not for me to go beyond the decision of thu Chairman of Committees and I propose to follow his list.

Mr James - I claim that I rose before the honorable member for Maribyrnong and long before the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who last spoke. You informed me that I was placed second last on the list. Some honorable gentlemen who have precedence on that list over me did not rise before noon to-day, whereas I rose repeatedly, not only throughout the all-night sitting, but also last week. I remained in the House until 7.30 a.m. to-day, whereas the honorable member for Maribyrnong, whom you have just called, although he was here for a. part of the night, was not in attendance for the whole of the sitting. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who was called at 7.30 to-night, was home in bed at 9 o'clock last night.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - In the, circumstances which have now arisen, itis competent, under the Standing Orders, for any honorable member to move that another honorable member be now heard.

Mr James - Your statement, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the Standing Orders provide that the Chairman shall give the call to that honorable member who first catches his eye is in contradiction of your other statement that, in giving the call to the honorable member for Maribyrnong on this occasion, you have been guided by a list prepared by the Chairman of Committees. I take exception to the practice, which has been followed for some time by both the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, of compiling a list as a guide in giving the call, particularly when tinder that method an honorable member, who went home to bed, can be called before another honorable member who remained in attendance in the committee all through the night, I first endeavoured to get the call in this debateas early as last week, and I was in attendance all through the sitting last night, yet an honorable member who rose for the first time at 1 p.m. to-day is given preference before me.

Mr Bernard Corser - I am in a similar position.

Mr James - It is time that this practice of keeping a list was cut out by both the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees. About two years ago I objected to it, and I again take strong exception to it.

Mr Rosevear - I support the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). It cannot be said that, in doing so, I have any axe to grind, because I have not yet risen, to get the call although I have not missed any portion of this sitting. The honorable member for Hunter lias been treated most unfairly. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, have just read the relevant standing order, but I point out that it is not observed either in the spirit or in the letter. Because I was in the Chair for a time last night, I know that on the list which you have before you the names of some honorable members who went home to bed last night, appear before th:t of the honorable member for Hunter who was here throughout the night. When this practice of keeping a list is followed in connexion with a late sitting, honorable members on both sides go home when they know that there i.s no prospect of their getting a call within a reasonable time. The standing order which you h.;ve just read, Mr. Temporary Chairman, postulates that the first honorable member to catch the eye of the Chair, irrespective of the hour, must get the call. That standing order i.s not observed by the Chairman of Committees. In practically every debate of any duration in this House it has been ignored by the Chairman, who has, instead, operated on a list. The practice of keeping a list should be abolished, and the standing order strictly observed. If that were done, any honorable member who wanted to get the call would be obliged to stay here until he got it.

Mr Pollard - I support the honorable member for Hunter, not from any personal motive, but merely because I believe that the practice of keeping a list is open to considerable abuse. After all, the officers of the House are human, and it is possible that they may, perhaps unconsciously, do injustice to certain honorable members in giving the call. If the relevant standing order were strictly adhered to, all honorable members would know exactly where they stood.

Mr Lazzarini - The honorable member for Hunter first rose to get the call in this debate last week, and he was in attendance throughout the sitting last night, yet an honorable member, who rose for the first time this afternoon, has been given the call before him. How that honorable member's name was placed on the list before that of the honorable member for Hunter is beyond my understanding. The Chairman must have seen him in a dream, because he was not here previously to claim the call. In this instance the honorable member for Hunter has been deliberately singled out by the Chair for unfair treatment. He was rising in his place all last night, and if the name of an honorable member who was not present prior to this afternoon appears on the list before his, I can only conclude that the list has been manipulated. The practice of keeping a list should be abandoned, because once an honorable member gets his name on the list, he does not bother- to remain in the chamber but passes the time by playing billiards or doing something else.

Mr Lane - Does not the honorable member himself do that?

Mr Lazzarini - I plead guilty to that practice, but the system of keeping a list encourages honorable members on both sides to absent themselves from the chamber. It is time that that practice was stopped, and the relevant standing order strictly adhered 'to. I am convinced that the Chairman of Committees is deliberately treating the honorable member for Hunter unfairly in this instance.

Mr Holt - Do I understand, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you have ruled that the objection taken by the honorable member for Hunter does not involve a point of order ?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - I gave the call to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), and the honorable member for Hunter has moved that my ruling be dissented from. I have accepted his motion.

Mr Holt - As the honorable member for Hunter was at the table talking to you when the honorable member for Maribyrnong rose in his place, it cannot be contended that he rose first on this particular occasion. Consequently, your action in giving the call to the honorable member for Maribyrnong was perfectly in order. However, it appears to be distinctly unfair that honorable members whose names appear on the list, but who have been absent, for instance, during an all-night sitting, should on returning to the chamber be given preference over those who have been present throughout a long sitting. When a debate is likely to extend over a lengthy period during one clay it is convenient for honorable members to have a list showing the order in which they are to speak. Honorable members have various duties to perform, and cannot be in the chamber all the time. When a debate continues throughout the night or over a period of days, the practice of keeping a list should not extend beyond the day on which the list is prepared.

Mr Curtin - Where the Standing Orders specify what shall be done in certain circumstances there is no occasion for Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, to substitute what is regarded as the practice. The Chairman of Committees knows those who have risen and have not been called. Whether the Chairman does or does not adhere to the list is apparently left to his discretion. A list is productive of unfairness. Standing Order 255 is specific and there appears to be no justification for the use of a list. That standing order reads -

When two or more members rise together to speak, the Speaker shall call upon the member who, in his opinion first rose in his place.

It is left to the discretion of Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees in this case to decide who rose first. The standing order further provides -

But it shall be in order to move, that any member who has risen " bo now heard ", or " do now speak ".

The standing order, therefore, negatives the necessity for a list. It also pre-, serves the rights of the committee as a deliberative chamber because should a substantive motion be moved by some honorable member, the Chairman's decision can he varied. In this case the call was given to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), and it is open to any honorable member to move that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) "be now heard" or " do now speak ".

Mr Menzies - That would be the correct procedure.

Mr Curtin - Yes. I suggest that the honorable member for Hunter withdraw his motion of dissent. If he feels that be should have priority over the honorable member for Maribyrnong or any one else, the proper course is for him to move in accordance with the standing order which I have just cited. The Temporary Chairman has called upon the honorable member for Maribyrnong, but the honorable member for Hunter may, if he so desires, move that he, the honorable member for Hunter, " be now heard ".

Mr Archie Cameron - I do not think he could move that himself.

Mr Curtin - I think that he could. I am not advocating the claims of any particular honorable member. Standing Order No. 255 prescribes the procedure which safeguards the committee and enables it to vary the decision of the Chairman. In view of that standing order, there does not appear to bc any justification for keeping a list of those members who propose to speak. I am quite sure that that list has been productive of as much inconvenience as convenience. It destroys, to some extent, the deliberative competence of the committee. When an honorable member finds that bis name is low down on the list, he may absent himself from the chamber, in which case he does not hear the speeches of other honorable members, "and consequently is not in a position to debate the subjects raised. He is enabled to recite a prepared speech which he desires to circulate amongst his constituents. This committee should be a debating committee. When the second reading of a bill is under consideration, prepared speeches may be justified, but in committee consideration should be given to the points raised. A committee of the whole House is vastly - different from other committees. It should be a committee in which points raised are not only discussed by members of the committee, but are also heard by members.

Mr Holt - Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that speakers should not be selected alternately from each side of the chamber?

Mr.Curtin. - No. I am merely showing that the Standing Orders specify the way in which the Chairman of Committees shall decide who has the call. The Chairman, having decided who ought to be heard, it is still open for any member of the committee to move that some other honorable member be heard.

Mr Prowse - I rise in consequence of the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), which are quite unworthy of the honorable member. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has stated the position correctly. The practice of keeping a list of speakers was not introduced by me. The system was in operation before I was appointed Chairman of Committees, but I have used it to enable me to carry out my duties impartially. Although a list is prepared for my own use, it has been made available to honorable members, and that has created difficulties. Honorable members are expected to speak extemporaneously. Some do, but many use notes. When the budget debate commenced I think that over 50 per cent. of honorable members on both side rose for the call. I called the first speaker who caught my eye, then for my own information and to ensure complete impartiality prepared a list. If honorable gentlemen will examine it they will see that the calls given have been very fair. I did not deliberately exclude the honorable member for Hunter, but last night it, did not appear that he was anxious for a call.

Mr James - What?

Mr Prowse - At all events, I did not see the honorable gentleman rise. I think he knew that I had a list, so he could have suggested earlier that his name be placed on it. The Chair is quite impartial. It has no knowledge of the member who goes to bed or the member who remains in the committee throughout the sitting. But it does try to identify honorable members rising for the call and endeavours to deal fairly with all honorable members. However, I can tell them that in future they will not see the list. I shall keep it for my own guidance.

Mr James - I ask leave to withdraw my motion.

Mr Drakeford - I have noticed that on the occasions when matters of importance were under discussion, although I might have risen simultaneously with other honorable members, I was unfortunate enough to be the last to get the call. I say this quite frankly and without feeling, because I know that this apparent discrimination has not been personal. It appears to arise from the practice which has grown up. It is, however, annoying to rise and fail to get the call even if no one rises onthe ministerial bench. On many occasions, members who have come in afterwards have received the call ahead of me although I may have been sitting in my place for hours waiting for the opportunity to speak. To-night I rose before the honorable member for Hunter, and I claim that I was entitled to the call. I do not dispute that the honorable gentleman remained in the chamber until four o'clock this morning in anticipation of being able to participate in this debate. For the first time in the four years since I have been a member of this Parliament, I left shortly after midnight. I did so only after I had ascertained that on the Chairman's list there were 21 members ahead of me. and as each was entitled to speak for three-quarters of an hour, I knew that Ihad no chance of getting the call before eight o'clock or nine o'clock this morning. For many years it has been the practice of the Chair to prepare a list of intending speakers, and it so happens that I have become the victim in a controversy that has arisen in connexion with it. I understand the awkward predicament in which the committee is placed, and I concede that it is necessary to have some order in the calls from the Chair. I have never sought toinfringe the rights of any other honorable member, and I hope to be able to relieve the existing situation. I assure the honorable member for Hunter that I have no desire to deprive him of the opportunity to speak to-night, or to be given any precedence over him in this debate; but the committee should decide whether it will adhere to the procedure laid clown under Standing Order 255, which directs the Chairman to call upon the member who first rises in his place. If this is to be the procedure, I claim the right to the call because I rose before the honorable member for Hunter. The honorable gentleman may have remained in the chamber until a late hour this morning, and he may feel that he is entitled to speak ahead of me, but I have been here since the morning sitting opened, and have been waiting for the call. Those who remain in the chamber to listen to the debate, and rise repeatedly when an honorable member has finished his speech, should have preference over others who may wander in and out but expect to catch the Speaker's eye when first they rise. However, as a decision on that matter may prevent the honorable member for Hunter from speaking to-night, I desire to withdraw in his favour.

Mr Blackburn - Before the motion of dissent is withdrawn the committee should have an oportunity to determine whether or not it approves of the Temporary Chairman's ruling. The only member who rose to get the call was the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). As the honorable member for Hunter did not rise in competition with him, I submit that the Temporary Chairman was right in giving the call to the only honorable member who rose.

Mr James - How could the Temporary Chairman see the honorable member for Maribyrnong? I was in front of him. But as the matter has been ventilated, I am quite satisfied, and I desire to withdraw my motion. I hope that in the future the list will be dispensed with.

Motion - by have - withdrawn.

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