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Friday, 30 September 1927


Senator Givens - I rise to a point of order and a question of privilege. Yesterday I gave notice of motion concerning the privileges of honorable senators. It has relation to a matter which is very seriously and importantly connected with the business of the Senate. On to-day's notice paper it is placed under " Private Business." It is not private business in any shape or form because, as I have stated, it concerns the business of the Senate. Our Standing Orders provide and our practice always has been to recognize that any question of privilege is the business of the Senate and takes precedence over all other business. The Standing Orders also specifically state that any question of privilege arising since the last sitting of the Senate must take precedence of all other business. My notice of motion, as honorable senators will observe, concerns the manner in which the business of the Senate was conducted on 9th May last. The question of privilege did not arise, or at least it was not obvious, until the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on that occasion had been moved by the then Leader of the Senate, the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce, and when that motion was agreed to, the Senate of course adjourned. There was therefore no opportunity for me or any other senators then to raise the question of privilege. Our next meeting took place on Wednesday last, and again, owing to the lamentable death of Senator McHugh, there was no possibility of an honorable senator raising a question of privilege. The Senate passed a motion of sympathy with the relatives of the deceased gentleman and adjourned immediately. This, therefore, is the first opportunity any honorable senator has had to' raise the question of privilege concerning the conduct of ' the business of the Senate on the 9th May. I wish to know by what right my notice of motion, dealing as it does with a question of privilege,has been placed on the notice paper not only behind Government business but as private business. I am prepared if necessary to take drastic action to see that the Senate is afforded every opportunity to discuss such issues and to protect its privileges.


Senator Payne - Is the honorable senator aware that from where he is standing at the table no honorable sen- ator on this side of the chamber can hear him?


Senator Givens - I regret that the acoustics of this Chamber are not as satisfactory as we could wish. As I have said, our Standing Orders provide for, and our practice always has been to give, precedence over all other business to any question of privilege. That also is the practice of the House of Commons, the procedure of which is the foundation of all our parliamentary practice. I wish to know by what right my notice of motion has been placed behind Government business and included amongst private business. I have no intention of censuring anyone in connexion with the manner in which the business of the Senate was conducted on the 9th May last. All that I am concerned with is the protection of the privileges, the rights, the dignity, and the honour of the Senate. That obligation rests also upon every other member of this chamber. The order of business on the noticepaper for to-day is an intimation to us that a question of privilege may be regarded as private business. It is not private business in any shape or form. I was not consulted as to the positionit should occupy on the notice-paper, and I did not have an opportunity this morning to look the matter up because a noticepaper for the day was not placed in my box nor was it available in the Senate Club Room. I did not know where my notice of motion had been placed onthe notice-paper until I entered the chamber this morning. It would appear, therefore, that there is an attempt on the part of the Government to burk discussion on the issue raised in my notice of motion I claim, as a matter of privilege, that my motion should take precedence over all other business. If you, Mr. President, rule against me, I shall be obliged to take the only course open to me, namely, to move that your ruling be disagreed with.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - I can assure Senator Givens and other honorable senators that in arranging the order of business on the notice-paper for the day there was' no attempt to burk discussion on the notice of motion relating to the business of the Senate on the 9th of May last. Standing Order 118 provides : -

Whenever a matter or question directly concerning the privileges of the Senate, or of any committee or member thereof, has arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, a motion calling upon the Senate to take action thereon may bo moved, without notice, and shall, until decided, unless the debate be adjourned, suspend the consideration of other motions as well as orders of the day.

Standing Order 426 also deals with questions of privilege. It reads -

All questions of order and matters of privilege which have arisen since the last sitting of the Senate, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other question.

I submit that the issue raised by Senator Givens has not arisen " since the last sitting of the Senate," and that, therefore, a question of privilege, which must be decided before "the consideration and decision of every other question," is not involved. There is no intention on the part of the Government to prevent discussion on the motion.


Senator Givens - That was done most effectively on the 9th of May as the Minister knows, and he will hear about it.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - The honorable senator will remember, probably, that on that occasion I had nothing to do with the matter. The question was mentioned by the honorable senator, and I think also by Senator Kingsmill.


Senator Givens - But there was no opportunity to discuss it on any motion except that relating to the adjournment of the Senate.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I invite honorable senators to read carefully the notice of motion submitted by Senator Givens. It is as follows: -

That the manner in which the proceedings in the Senate were conducted at its meeting on 9th May, 1927, was a grave breach of the privileges of the House, and must not be regarded us a precedent.

Is there anything in that motion to show that it relates to a matter of urgency - to a question of privilege that has arisen since the last meeting of the Senate, and which therefore, under the Standing Orders, must take precedence of all other business? It conveys no intimation of the subject desired to be discussed under cover of it. The officers of the Senate who are my advisers in this matter, and I, also, after careful and thoughtful consideration of the notice of motion, and after consulting the authorities, came to the decision that it did not come within the provisions of Standing Order 426. This question was raised at the meeting of the Senate on the 9th May, and grave charges were levelled against me then, as they have been to-day, the allegation of the honorable senator being that, in my administration of the business of the Senate, I was deliberately attempting to deprive honorable senators of certain privileges. Nothing of the kind has been, or will be, attempted by me. I shall at all times do my very best to uphold the privileges of the Senate just as effectively as Senator Givens did when he was in the chair which I now have the honour to occupy. I shall not allow the privileges of honorable senators to be curtailed in any way. In my opinion, as well as in the opinion of the responsible officers who have considered this matter, it does not relate to a question of privilege that has arisen since the Senate last met. If any attempt was made at the meeting of the Seriate on the 9th May to curtail the privileges of honorable senators - and I do not admit that there was - it was referred .to at the time, and I hold that the notice of motion has been placed in its proper position on the notice-paper. If the honorable senator wishes, it is open to him to initiate a discussion in any way that he pleases. I have =a desire, however, to debar Senator Givens from taking such action as he is at liberty to take under the Standing Orders. The Senate is at present discussing the point of order and question of privilege raised this morning by the honorable senator - not the motion that stands in his name on the business-paper - and it is competent for either the Minister (Senator Glasgow) or the honorable senator himself to obtain the opinion of the Senate as to whether the question is one of privilege. It has been ruled that a question of privilege does not arise in circumstances such as these, and I intend to adhere to that decision. The Standing Orders make provision for my protection as well as for the protection of honorable senators generally. I rule that the motion is not one of privilege, and that it, therefore/ should take its place amongst the private business on the notice-paper.


Senator Givens - With all respect to you sir, I move -

That the Senate dissent from the ruling of the President. on the ground that it is contrary to the Standing Orders and the practice of the Senate. I desire to have discussed immediately the motion which stands in my name on the business-paper. It is for the Senate to decide whether that shall be done, or whether the discussion shall be held over for a future occasion.







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