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Tuesday, 22 November 1910


The CHAIRMAN - I understand that the practice hitherto observed has been that all decisions from the Chair which have been accepted have the force of standing orders. A decision has already been given by a past President, and accepted by this Chamber, to the effect that -

Arequest to increase the amount of a bounty is in order, but a proposition to alter the destination of a bounty, or to include a new tax, cannot be received, either as an amendment or as a request.


Senator Millen - I would direct your attention, sir, to what occurred very early in the history of the Senate, when Sir Richard Baker was President. An effort was then made by way of request to increase the duties upon certain items in the Tariff schedule, and, I believe, to include fresh items. Sir Richard Baker then held that it was quite competent for an honorable senator to do that. What recalls the circumstance so clearly to my mind is that it created this anomaly : that, whilst honorable senators were in a position to act in that way, the members of another place were not at liberty to move for an increased duty upon any item.


Senator Lynch - But that was not to happen again.


Senator Millen - The position was never raised or disputed. Nor did the other Chamber agree to the practice which was then adopted in order to overcome, a passing difficulty. That is one point which I desired to make. The other point is as to whether or not Senator Stewart is entitled to move, even by way of request, an amendment of this nature to an amending Bill. Under a decision which has_ been given in this Chamber, I think he is entitled to move any amendment in that portion of the main Act which the amending Bill seeks to amend.


Senator de Largie - Is the Leader of the Opposition quite sure that the increased duty proposed was not challenged in another place?


Senator Millen - I know that the other Chamber did not agree to it as an act of grace. It may have taken notice of it. But the Senate held to the view that it was entitled to make those requests, and that it was for the other branch of the Legislature to say whether or not it would assent to them. The question of whether it is competent for Senator Stewart to move an amendment to a Bill which is, in itself, an amending Bill, was decided by SiT Richard Baker when he filled the office of President. He affirmed that any amendment was in order which sought to touch only that por-tion of the main Act which the amending Bill sought to amend. Senator Stewart seeks to insert an amendment in the schedule of this Bill, and it is the schedule of the main Act which it is proposed to amend. Therefore, I contend that his proposal is in order.


Senator Findley - I wish to point out that if it be competent for an honorable senator to move for an increase or for a reduction of duty upon any item, the whole Tariff may be reopened for consideration from A to Z.


Senator Givens - That has been done in another place.


Senator Findley - Was it ever contemplated that such an opportunity should be afforded to honorable senators in respect of an amending Bill?


Senator St Ledger - The question is whether we have power to reopen the Tariff.


Senator Findley - The question is whether we have power to do so from a taxation point of view, and whether we have power to amend an amending Bill' except in so far as it amends the original Aci Without; any desire to show disrespect for the opinions which have been expressed, it does not seem to be common sense to permit any honorable senator to move for the addition of items to the schedule, or to move either for an increase or a reduction of duties. Personally, I shall be very much surprised if such an opportunity be given.


Senator de Largie - Irrespective of what may be our opinion upon the merits of this proposal, I think that honorable senators upon both sides of the Chamber are %'ery much in earnest in their desire to uphold our rights and privileges. If we cast our minds back to the time when the first Tariff battle was being waged here, we shall recollect that upon that occasion the Senate took up a very decided stand, and emerged triumphantly from a trying ordeal. We differed from another place, and, if my memory serves me accurately, we determined that certain duties should be increased. The other branch of the Legislature would not agree to our requests. They were sent back to us, and we returned them to another place, where they were finally accepted. Having established our position, it would be a mistake to forego any of our rights. I make this statement without any consideration as to the side of the Chamber upon which I sit. I view it purely from the stand-point of the Senate. 1 hope that you, sir, will stand by the decision which was given on that occasion, and which was arrived at after prolonged consideration. In my judgment, the proposal of Senator Stewart is perfectly in order.


Senator St Ledger - The introductory words to the schedule of this Bill are -

That Schedule A to the Customs Tariff 1908 be amended as hereunder set out, and that on and after the seventeenth day of November, one thousand nine hundred and ten, duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff as so amended.

That is a proposal which governs every item in the schedule. What the Government are now saying to us is this - that the Customs Tariff pf 1908 shall be amended in certain particulars; but that it shall not be amended in respect to any item which they themselves have not proposed to amend. Senator Stewart contends that we have a right to request an amendment in any other item, if we please. That, of course, does not involve the assertion that we have a right to compel the House of Representatives to accept our request. But we surely have a right to request another place to insert another item in the schedule. For that reason, 1 hope that Senator Stewart will press his proposal.


The CHAIRMAN - In the first place, I ^direct attention to standing order 327, which reads as follows: -

An. instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole on a Bill to amend an existing Act, to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill, but are- relevant to- the subject-matter of the Act it is proposed to amend, provided that such motion shall be carried by at least fifteen affirmative votes.

In this instance,- no instruction has been given to the Committee to discuss an item with reference to bananas. It appears to me that standing order 337 to some extent affects what is proposed, because, while an item with reference to bananas would be relevant to the subject-matter of the original Act, it is not relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill, in the- schedule to which it. is not mentioned.


Senator Givens - The whole of the schedule to the original Act is before us.


The CHAIRMAN - Precedents have been established for our guidance by decisions given by past Presidents of the Senate, which have been confirmed by the Senate itself. I may quote a decision from page 6 of Decisions of the President of the Senate for the Years 1903 to 1908. It is as follows: -

Where the schedule to an Excise Tariff Bill includes glucose, but not paraffine wax and plaster of Paris, a senator may submit a re quest for the insertion of an item dealing with confectionery containing glucose, but not for confectionery containing paraffine wax or plaster of Paris.

That seems to me to have a bearing on the question now raised. If the Committee wishes to act consistently with decisions which have been previously given and confirmed by the whole Senate, I must hold that Senator Stewart's request cannot be received.


Senator Stewart - I do not see that standing order 327 has any bearing upon the present situation. No matter what the Government may say, the whole Tariff has now been thrown upon the table, and I contend that we have full power to deal with it as a whole. The Tariff contains a number of anomalies which we desire to see removed. The Chairman rules that our discussion cannot go beyond the lines laid down by the Government. If that ruling be assented to, we are placed in this position - that the Senate, as a whole, is inferior to the members of the Government, and can only deal with such business as the Government submit, with the limitations which they choose to impose. Here we have a Bill laid before the Senate. It proposes to amend a number of items in the existing Tariff. We may desire to see a number of other amendments made.


Senator Long - Hundreds of others !


Senator Stewart - That does not matter. I submit that when "this schedule of amendments is laid upon the table, it becomes the property of the Senate, and passes out of the hands of the Government. The Senate has a right to do what it thinks right and proper with the schedule. If, however, the Chairman's ruling be upheld, we can only deal with such amendments as the Government place before us. That is a position which we ought not to agree to take up. Standing order 327 simply says that -

An instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole on a Bill to amend an existing Act to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill.

The request which I have submitted cannot be said to be irrelevant, to the subjectmatter of the Bill.


Senator Givens - The subject-matter of the Bill is schedule A of the. original Act.


Senator Stewart - That is so. .My request proposes to deal with a portion of that schedule. The request ought to be dealt with, because the treatment of bananas under the Tariff is, I think, clearly an anomaly. For these reasons, I move -

That the ruling of the Chairman be disagreed with.


The CHAIRMAN - It will be necessary for the honorable senator to submit his motion in writing, together with his reasons for dissenting from my ruling.

In the Senate -

The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that Senator Stewart has dissented from my ruling that it was not in order to move a request for the insertion of an item relating to bananas, after item 4 in the schedule to the Bill amending the Customs Tariff of 1908. Under previous decisions of the President, which have the force of Standing Orders if they have been accepted by the Senate, it seemed to me that I should not be in order in accepting his proposal. My ruling was obviously not based on the merits or demerits of the case. I was simply carrying out, as far as I could, the procedure of the Senate, as it has been laid down from the Chair, on questions which seemed to me to relate to this issue. On page 6 of The Decisions of the President, 1903 to 1908, you will find a decision which appears to have a very close relation to the question under consideration, and which obviously, has been accepted by the Senate, otherwise it would not appear in this book.


Senator Vardon - I challenge the honorable senator's statement that the President's decisions have the force of Standing Orders.

The Chairman of Committees. - I submit that the decisions of the President, if they have not been . questioned or overruled,' obtain the force of Standing Orders.


Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - It is your duty 10 uphold them.

The Chairman of Committees. - Yes. If I think that a proposal conflicts with a previous decision of the President, I take it that it is my duty to rule that it cannot be received. The decision to which I desire to call your attention reads -

Where the Schedule to an Excise Tariff Bill includes glucose but not paraffine wax and plaster of Paris, a senator may submit a request for the insertion of an item dealing with confectionery containing glucose, but not for confectionery containing paraffine wax or plaster of Paris.

The item bananas is included in the schedule to the Customs Tariff Act, but there is no reference to that item in the amending schedule. While it may be competent, of course, for Senator Stewart to move that the other House be requested to increase the duty on any item relevant to the schedule, I take it that it is not competent for him to propose the insertion of a new item in the schedule. I am not concerned with the merits or demerits of his proposal, but only with the procedure of the Senate. If,' as is suggested by certain interjections, the Senate restricts its procedure and upholds my ruling, that will not be my fault, but its own fault in having decided that decisions given from the Chair shall have the force of Standing Orders if not disagreed with.


Senator Vardon - We can disagree now.

The . Chairman of Committees. - Undoubtedly. It is not my place to give a new decision. I take it that if I had accepted the request it would have been tantamount to annulling the decision of a previous President. It is for you, sir, to say whether I am right in contending that this is similar to the case in which a certain decision was given, and, if so, whether or not that decision shall stand.







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