Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 15 May 1970


Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - 1 think this amendment is clearly out of order for 2 quite distinct reasons. The first reason has already been indicated by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) when he argued that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson) was a direct negative to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I think one has only to refer to the words in each amendment to see that this is true. The significant proposition in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson is: '. . . that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States

.   .'. That is what we are asking the House to vote about. Then, along came the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson), the significant paragraph of which-


Sir John Cramer - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member is indulging in tedious repetition. I have heard this over and over again.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no substance in the point of order.


Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - The significant proposition in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is: 'that this House does not believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments'. It is clearly and distinctly an opposing and contrary proposition. If the House is to vote on a proposition the simplest and most effective way to do that is to vote for or against the proposition, not to vote for or against a proposition that is put up as an amendment and presented to the House as an alternative to that. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey is quite clearly a proposition which is a direct contradiction of what we have been asked to vote for in the first place. Why complicate the procedure? What conceivable argument can there be that we should proceed to consider an amendment to get exactly the same result as we can get if we vote for or against the original motion? This is wasting the time of the House; it is confusing the issue. It is an unnecessary procedure and the House should obviouly agree to those propositions.

The second reason why this amendment is out of order is a much more fundamental and significant reason than that one amendment is contradictory of the other. The tradition of the House of Commons, which is the tradition of this House as is indicated by the judgment given by Mr Speaker Bell in 1936, has been that when a motion of no confidence is moved in a government that question has to be decided yes or no. lt must be decided. There should be no manoeuvre undertaken to avoid a decision being taken on this. It goes to the very root of the Government's confidence in the House. The procedure in the House of Commons and the procedure here until recently has been in every case that that is so. The amendment procedure has been now twice adopted, although in the first case it involved only a motton of censure. This took place a couple of weeks ago when this amendment procedure was wrongly, in my view, adopted. We now have a motion of want of confidence. It is a much more significant motion than the one a couple of weeks ago. If we are to establish as a precedent that whenever a motion of want of confidence is moved the Government can come up with an amendment which avoids the issues on which that motion is based and diverts consideration to something else, this defeats the whole purpose of the basic motion of want of confidence - the most important one that can be moved in this House. The Government's action is designed to avoid the question, not to decide it. Because it is designed to avoid the question it defeats the purpose of the House, it prevents a decision and that, of course, is precisely why the Government, in a desperate situation, has moved this procedure. It does not allow this subject to be adequately discussed.

The amendment moved by the honourable member for Casey has a number of points about it which have not been discussed so far and which in all probability the House will never have an opportunity to discuss. For instance, the amendment says:

It is of the opinion that it is this fact which has led to the honourable member for Farrer feeling justified in believing that an undertaking that there would be further consultations, which he gave to the States, has be:n dishonoured.

How do we know what the honourable member for Farrer feels about this? How do we know that this is his reason? It probably is not his reason anyway for feeling this way. If the Government has changed its policy, what was its policy before? Was that not a commitment? Was that not a commitment to the States? Was not the previous policy a commitment to the States? Now the Government says: 'We did not break any commitment; we merely changed our policy'. But if your policy is not a commitment what is it? If you have changed your policy you must have changed a commitment; you must have broken a commitment.

It seems to me that the whole purpose of this jargon that has been designed somewhere in the Prime Minister's office or in the Cabinet room during the course of a very desperate afternoon to try to get the Government out of difficulty avoids the whole question. Mr Speaker, when I say it avoids the question, this is a particular and special responsibility for you. If the position of Speaker is to appear to be in any way a partisan position, if the Speaker is to behave in such a way that it can be reasonably deduced that he is favouring one side or the other, then that puts the office you are occupying in question, Mr Speaker. It is most regrettable that this is so. It is most regrettable that for the second time in a few weeks we have had to move a motion of dissent from your ruling on this matter. I say that this is a much more important matter than the one we were discussing several weeks ago. Reference to May's 'Parliamentary Practice' remains completely uncontradicted from the other side of the House. A case has been put by the honourable member for Wills and myself that the procedure in the House of Commons and the procedure here - cases have been quoted to exhibit the truth of this - is that the House of Commons and this House have not been prepared to accept an amendment to a no confidence motion. As the Speaker in 1936 put it very vividly, the vote has to be aye or nay.

Mr Speaker,on this vote of no confidence the vote cannot be aye or nay. The amendment is going to be put first and honourable members can vote for or against the amendment. If the amendment is carried there will be no vote at all on the vote of no confidence. I submit, for you to give a ruling which allows this to happen is completely contrary to practice. Not only does it appear now to be contrary to practice but no-one on the Government side has been able or has seen fit to put a case to oppose this view. In the absence of any case to oppose this view I submit, Mr Speaker, that you have no alternative but to accept the case that has been put from this side of the House.







Suggest corrections