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Thursday, 8 July 1926


The PRESIDENT - I point out to the honorable senator that the Senate is not dealingwith section 14 of the principal act, but with the amendment he has moved.

SenatorNeedham. - Clause 8 of the bill reads as follows : -

Section 14 of the principal act is amended by inserting in sub-section 1 thereof, after paragraph k, the following paragraphs : -

I contend that I am in order, therefore, in referring to section 14 of the principal act.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is referring to gas and other services.


Senator Needham - I was dealing with the powers of the commission. Clause 8 proposes to add to the existing powers the following - (ka) The construction of buildings for use as, or in connexion with, residences in the Territory.


Senator Pearce - Can the honorable senator quote any clause in which reference is made to the Public Works Committee ?


Senator Needham - I am trying to show the relevancy of my amendment. As the principal act did not give the commission the "power to construct buildings for use as or in connexionwith residences in the Territory, and as the bill proposes to extend the powers of the commission in that direction, I contend that my amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of the bill.


Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I could make the honorable senator's amendment relevant to the bill, but I do not propose to do so. In my opinion, it. is not relevant now.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator has ably filled very high positions in the government of this country, and may doso again, but he is not yet the President of the Senate. It will rest with the President to determine the relevancy or otherwise of my amendment. With all humility and modesty I contend that, as the bill proposes to extend the powers of the commission, my amendment is relevant to it.


The PRESIDENT - The point of order which has been raised by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce) must be sustained. It is not my function to interpret the relationship between a section of an act and any amendment thereof that may be proposed; that is a duty which properly falls upon the legal authorities. If anything has occurred that has given rise to a difference of opinion between the Federal Capital Commission and the Public Works Committee, which Senator Needham regards as improper, quite another method should be followed for the settlement of the matter than that which he has adopted. I find, on studying the bill fairly closely, that there is not in it any reference to the matter upon which the honorable senator has chiefly based his amendment; nor can I find in it anything affecting the obligation to refer to the Public Works Committee works the cost of which is estimated to exceed £25,000. 1 must, therefore, rule the amendment cut of order.


Senator Needham - I move -

That the ruling of the President be disagreed with.


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator must submit his disagreement in writing, and forthwith.


Senator Needham - I do so.


The PRESIDENT - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) has dissented from my ruling on the following grounds: -

I contend that clause 8 of the amending bill aims at inserting in paragraphk, of section 14 of the principal act, the power to deal with buildings for use as or in connexion with residences within the territory which power the principal act does not contain. I hold that the amendment is relevant.

The question of whether that dissent from my ruling shall be determined forthwith or held over until to-morrow rests with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce).


Senator Pearce - I shall not move that the matter should be determined forthwith.


The PRESIDENT - The question will then stand over until to-morrow. The question now is " That the bill be now read a second time."


Senator Findley - Do I understand, sir, that you have submitted the motion " That the bill be now read a second time" although the dissent from your ruling is not to be decided until tomorrow?


The PRESIDENT - Standing order 429 provides; -

If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the President, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, should be proposed to the Senate, and the debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.

My action is, therefore, in accordance with the standing orders.


Senator Duncan - Do I understand that in the meantime the amendment which you have ruled is relevant may be debated ?


The PRESIDENT - I have ruled that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) is out of order.


Senator Findley - For the moment I cannot understand the position. We are asked to agree to the second reading of a bill upon which an amendment has been moved, which you, sir, have ruled out of order, dissent from which ruling the Leader of the Opposition has moved. The Senate should not be asked to agree to the second reading of the bill until that motion has been disposed of, because the Senate may support the motion which the Leader of the Opposition has submitted. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) should move - " That the matter requires immediate determination." It is farcical to continue the second reading debate until a decision has been reached on the ruling of the Chamber.


The PRESIDENT - I am not in any way responsible for the position which has arisen. For the information of the Senate I quote the following ruling of an ex-President, Senator Sir Albert Gould-

It is for the Senate and not the Chair to decide whether a disputed ruling requires immediate determination. Otherwise the consideration of the point is adjourned automatically by standing order until the next sitting day, and the Speaker must either resume his speech on the main question subject to the observance of the ruling, or forego his right of speech thereon, unless a motion is submitted that the debate on such questions should be adjourned immediately, when he can ask leave to resume his speech after the point of order has been decided.

I therefore rule that the debate may continue.


Senator Pearce - Perhaps it will facilitate matters if I submit the customary motion at once. I therefore move -

That the matter be determined forthwith.

Question resolved in the affirmative.


The PRESIDENT - The question now is, " That my ruling be disagreed with."


Senator Payne - So far as I can understand the position, the bill provides for an extension of powers of the commission, and for making certain powers retrospective. Under the principal act, certain works have to be submitted to the

Public Works Committee for investigation, and notwithstanding the retrospective provision at the end of clause 8, the position is not affected in the slightest degree. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) fully appreciates the fact that, although clause 8 contains a retrospective provision, it does not prevent the Public Works Committee from conducting investigations.


Senator Pearce - The question of whether certain works shall or shall not be referred to the Public Works Committee has been raised by that committee, which has objected to certain works being undertaken by the commission before an investigation has been undertaken by the Public Works Committee. The Government has not taken sides with either the commission or the committee. It has referred the Public Works Committee's report and the commission's reply thereto to the Attorney-General's Department for a legal opinion on the point whether the commission has disregarded the act. As this measure has not any bearing whatever on the position, that phase of the question need not be discussed. It is a question of legal interpretation of the principal act, and when the opinion of the Crown law authorities has been obtained, it will be tabled in the Senate, and the Public Works Committee will be informed of the decision reached. No reference to that matter can support the motion to dissent from the ruling which has been given.


Senator Needham - Quite unconsciously the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce) is misleading the Senate as to the purport of the ruling of the Chair. I am not concerned with the question which the Crown Law authorities have been asked to determine, but with the contention of the Minister that my amendment is irrelevant to the subject-matter of the bill. Under this bill the powers of the commission are to be extended, as under clause 8 the commission has power to deal with residences which are not mentioned in the principal act.


Senator McLachlan - Is not the real point whether it extends the powers of the commission as against the Public Works Committee? Where does it do that?


Senator Needham - I maintain that, under clause 8, the powers of the commis sion are to be extended, inasmuch as paragraphka refers definitely and distinctly to the construction of buildings for use as or in connexion with residences in the Territory. Senator McLachlan must admit that the principal act does not contain the word " residences." Section 14 definitely and distinctly sets out the powers of the commission.


Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator say that sub-section 4 of section 14 does not apply to these new subclauses ?


Senator Needham - I am not disputing , that point now, but the Minister's contention that clause 8 does not extend the powers of the commission. If the Minister will compare section 14 of the principal act with clause 8 of the bill, he will see that the powers of the commission are to be extended. If the commission had power to construct buildings for use as, or in connexion with, residences in the Territory, why have these additional words been inserted in the amending bill? It is obvious that the commission does not at present possess the powers proposed to be conferred upon it. It possesses power to do certain other things, but does not give it the authority proposed to be given under this billFor that reason, I contend that my amendment is relevant. This clause extends the power of the commission to the construction of residences, and, in my opinion, the Public Works Committee should inquire into such proposals involving an expenditure exceeding £25,000.

Question resolved in the negative.







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