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Friday, 19 July 1946

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr; Martens) - 'Order! The amendment is entirely out of order. The bill o is founded on a resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means, and that resolution was adopted by the House. The terms of the resolution may not be varied at this stage in the manner proposed by the amendment.

Mr McEwen - I rise to order. For the benefit of honorable members, will the Chair explain why the proposed amendment does not comply with the Standing Orders, because the substantive proposals of the amendment, I have no ; doubt, can be discussed? I should like the Chair to assist honorable members on this nice point of procedure, by explaining whether, by some alteration, the amendment can be made to conform to the Standing Orders.

Mr Archie Cameron - When the resolution upon which this bill was founded was agreed to, no specific sum of money was mentioned. The decision of the committee was that it was desirable to introduce a bill to impose a charge upon the export of wheat and wheat products. Tt did not specify what charge; it dimply said " a charge "-. The argument that, because the committee resolved that it was desirable to impose a charge,, no charge other than that provided for in. the bill which the Parliament had not seen can be discussed is Gilbertian. It would be condemned in a political kindergarten, and even in' a legal kindergarten. The right of the Executive under section- 56 of the Constitution has been referred to the Standing Orders Committee, and the decisions we get are utterly ridiculous.. They are not even consistent.

Mr Dedman - The honorable member is reflecting on the Chair.

Mr Archie Cameron - I am not: Las:, night a statement was made on theadvice of the Crown law authorities, who,. I contend, should not step in at all in a matter of this kind. The Parliament conducts its own. business, and if therebe any dispute on this matter it should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. If you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, persist in this ruling, I shall have no alternative but to seek a seconder to a motion that the whole matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. Last night I spoke of certain amendments moved in committee. Some were declared out of order because they would impose on the community a charge greater than that recommended by 'the Executive. Others were not challenged on that ground at all. If a ruling were consistent, then, wrong as it might be, one could understand the reason for it. After a message from the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation, has been reported, Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair, the Chairman of Committees takes his seat and the Minister submits to the committee a proposition without any explanation whatever. It is agreed that it is desirable to do so and so, but the reasons for doing that are not explained. That is a matter of form on which a hill is founded. A Minister moves that he and a colleague do prepare and bring down the bill. .The Minister's explanation, as justification for presenting the bill, is made after its introduction, and not at the stage when the Governor-General'-s recommendation is reported. If I tried to discuss the matter in committee at that, stage- the Minister would immediately point out that he wa« merely asking for authority to bring down the bill, and that at. that stage he did not propose to disclose its contents. That is an impossible procedure to impose on the Parliament.

Mr Dedman - It is exactly the same procedure as that observed when the honorable member was a Minister.

Mr ARCHIE Cameron - No Speaker associated with the Opposition parties has ever ruled that we could not discuss a proposal which would involve an increase of an appropriation. A ruling of that kind may have been given when a bill providing for the payment of a certain pension was under consideration. I can well recall that when the Opposition desired to increase a defence vote, Mr. Speaker ruled that the motion was obviously one which would increase the charge recommended by the GovernorGeneral; but the amendment which has been ruled out of order asks, not that the charge be increased, but that the bill be withdrawn in order that consideration may be given to certain matters. The present position is intolerable, because it is wrong, and in conflict with common sense and well-established parliamentary procedure. If the ruling be founded upon advice given by the Crown law authorities, they appear to know no more about parliamentary procedure than my Persian cat knows about astronomy.

Mr Barnard - The position that has arisen as the result of this ruling is rather amusing. Indignation is expressed, by members of the Opposition, although the ruling is in conformity with those given in similar circumstances ever since the honorable .member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), the honorable member for indi (Mr. McEwen) and I have been members of this Parliament. That is a period of about twelve years. When those honorable members were in office precisely the same procedure was followed. If the La.bour party, when in Opposition, attempted to circumvent, measures, the government of the day followed the procedure laid clown in the Standing Orders. In these r'ays the Standing Orders were satisfactory to the present Opposition. But now we find honorable gentlemen opposite anxious to stage a fight on the assistance proposed to be granted to the wheat-growers, and they are indignant because they are prevented by the Standing Orders from doing so. The honorable member for Barker remarked that the position is Gilbertian, but after all, the Parliament itself is the master of its own business. Under the present Standing Orders the conduct of the business has never been hampered, and the reflections that have been cast on the Chair are unworthy of the Opposition. The Standing Orders in operation to-day are those which operated when the Opposition was in power. The object of the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Barker is to hamper legislation proposed by the Government with regard to. the wheat industry. This bill is designed to assist the primary producers, whom members of the Australian Country party claim to represent but merely misrepresent.

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