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Monday, 9 May 1927

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - First of all, I desire to join with others who have spoken in congratulating Mr. President and the right honorable the Leader of the Senate on the honours which have been conferred upon them by His Majesty the King. I should not have risen but that it appears to me that this Parliament needs to be thoroughly on the alert to preserve its rights and privileges. You, Mr. President, are not merely the custodian of the rights and privileges of the Senate; by virtue of your position, you are also the guardian of them, and it is lamentable that you should have allowed to go unresented an attack which has been made upon those rights and privileges by the Government on the historic occasion of the first meeting of the Parliament at Canberra. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has told us that the Government deliberately arranged the business of this sitting so that the Joint Committee of Public Accounts should not have an opportunity to present a certain report to the Senate. I want to know from you, sir, what right the Government had to arrange the business of the Senate? It is distinctly laid down in our Standing Orders, of which you are the interpreter, that the first right of all is the right of the people to petition Parliament before it proceeds to the transaction of any business. The second is the right of honorable senators to ask questions without notice or to give notice of questions or notices of motion. N© opportunity was given by you, Mr. President, to any honorable senator to do any of these things to-day. It is your bounden duty as the guardian of the rights and privileges of the Senate to see that the Standing Orders of the Senate are strictly observed. We have now a lamentable situation. . A report, of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, for which the people have been clamouring, has not been presented to Parliament, and probably cannot be presented for another three months, because of the Government usurpation of your functions and the abrogation of the rights of the Senate under its own Standing Orders. It is, I repeat, lamentable that this precedent should be set up on the first day of our meeting in Canberra. It shall not be done without protest. Twenty-six years have elapsed since the first meeting of the Federal Parliament, and for exactly half that period I occupied the position which you now dignify. It was my constant care to preserve every right and privilege of honorable senators, and to afford every opportunity for debate .that was properly due to the Senate. It is deplorable that a violent attack should have been made to-day on the rights of the community and of the Senate in such an important respect as this. In matters of less concern also the same thing has occurred. To-day, when we entered this House, we found that honorable senators were locked out of the room sot apart for their own use. By whose authority that was done 1* do not know. The moment you, sir, and Mr. Speaker were banded the keys of this House which His Royal Highness the Duke of York had honoured us by opening, the control of this building passed into the hands of its presiding officers. You, sir, as chairman of the Joint House Committee, may reasonably be expected to explain some of the occurrences of to-day whereby we have been deprived of rights and privileges that we have hitherto enjoyed in the Senate. I protest against the attack' made by the Government on the rights of the Senate and on the right of a parliamentary committee to present a report, lt is a most lamentable precedent to establish on the first day of our meeting here.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [5.51]. - In reply to Senator Givens, I would say that nothing has been done to-day that is not in strict accordance with the Standing Orders.

Senator Givens - Nothing of the kind. The procedure was absolutely wrong. At the very outset, Mr. President should have asked if. any honorable senator had a petition to present.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - It is in strict accordance with the Standing

Orders that a Minister may ask leave to submit a motion without notice. That was done by me. Each motion that has been submitted to-day, save that relating to the date of meeting, I had the leave of the Senate to move, and the giving of leave is provided for in the Standing Orders. Mr. President had no choice in the matter. If the Senate gives a Minister leave to submit a motion, the presiding officer cannot disregard the decision of the Senate. Therefore, in my judgment, Senator Givens is quite wrong in saying that the Government has in any way usurped the powers of the Senate.

Senator Givens - The right honorable senator is wrong. I know more about the Standing Orders than he does.

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