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Thursday, 15 April 1915

The PRESIDENT - It is quite true that the Standing Orders provide no facilities for asking questions without notice after the time for giving notice of motions and questions has passed. However, it has almost invariably been the practice of the Senate, where a reply to a question is not considered sufficiently lucid-

Senator Millen - Questions on notice ?

The PRESIDENT__ Yes. It has been the practice to allow a further question arising out of the answer to elucidate the matter, and within reasonable limits I see no objection to that practice. It is the course I have hitherto pursued, an;i shall continue to pursue. It would not be possible to continually pound Ministers with questions, as Senator Millen suggests, so long as only questions legitimately arising out of the Ministerial answers were allowed to be put. I shall allow further questions to be put if they are strictly legitimate, and arise definitely out of the answer already given to a question.

Senator LONG - After the very interesting instruction that Senator Millen has given you, sir, as to the manner in which you ought to conduct the business of the Senate--

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must not debate that matter.

Senator LONG - I desire to ask the Minister of Defence a question arising out of his statement that the wireless station at 'King Island was dismantled in accordance with the policy of the Government to dismantle all private wireless stations not under Government control. Will the Minister say that that policy has been carried out throughout Australia, and that all private stations have beendemolished ?

Senator PEARCE - I am not in a position to say that all private stations have been demolished, but if the honorable senator will give notice of the question for to-morrow I shall endeavour to ascertain.

Senator LONG - Is it proper, sir, for a Minister to make, in reply to a question upon notice, a statement that is not in accordance with fact?

The PRESIDENT - So far as I was able to follow the Minister's answer, he said, not that all private wireless stations were dismantled, but that it was the policy of the Government, acting on the advice of the naval and military authorities, to dismantle them.

Senator Long - He implied that they had all been dismantled.

The PRESIDENT - I cannot say what was implied by the Minister's answer. I can only say what his actual answer was. I would ask the honorable senator now to observe my ruling that no debate can be allowed on answers to questions, and that the practice of asking questions arising out of such answers cannot be pursued further at this stage.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator's question was -

What was the object in destroying the only means of communication that the settlers on King Island had with the mainland and Tasmania? and my answer was -

The action taken in this case is in accordance with the general instructions issued, for defence reasons, to dismantle all wireless stations not under official control.

Senator LONG - I rise for the purpose of saying that I had no intention of insinuating that the Minister had made the statement with the object of misleading the Senate. But I did say - and I repeat-

The PRESIDENT - Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to make any statement. If this practice be allowed to continue, it will certainly give rise to all the evilsto which Senator Millen referred a little while ago. Our Standing Orders strictly provide that questions put to Ministers must not be argued. I must ask the honorable senator to conform as closely as possible to that standing order.

Senator LONG - I merely wanted to add that the instruction given by the Government has not been carried out.

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator LONG - I was unable to follow the reply of the Minister to the question relating to the matter of compensation, and I shall be very glad if he will repeat it.

Senator PEARCE - The answer to that question was " No."

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