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Thursday, 6 October 1927

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - It has been obvious during this debate that many honorable senators who feel that the procedure adopted on the historic occasion to which reference has already been made, was not what it ought to have been - a fact admitted by the Government - are unwilling to vote for the motion in its present form because it carries with it some condemnation, inferred, if not actually expressed, of the President of the Senate, as well as of the Government. If, however, we fail to declare that the procedure adopted on the 9th May last must not be regarded as a precedent, we, in fact, agree that it must be so regarded.

Senator J B Hayes - No.

Senator DUNCAN - If we refuse to say that it must not be regarded as a precedent the only inference that can be drawn is that it can be regarded as a precedent, to be used as such by any one who in the future is in charge of the business of the Senate. We may not always have on the Government bench the highly estimable type of men who now occupy it. The day may come when a Leader of the Government in this chamber will seek to rob honorable senators of their rights and privileges by quoting the vote of the Senate on this motion as a precedent - as he would be entitled to do - and acting upon it with the support of the majority of honorable senators. It would not be wise for the Senate to run a risk of that kind. It is our duty, in the interests of the Senate, both now and in the future, to maintain all the rights and privileges which we enjoy to-day. But we can do that without in any way inferring condemnation of your action, Mr. President, and that of the Minister who was in charge of the Senate on the historic occasion in question. I, therefore, move as an amendment -

That the words, " was a grave breach of the privileges of the House and " be left out.

There is no need for the Senate to declare that the procedure adopted on the 9th May was a grave breach of the privileges of the House. The only concern of the Senate is that that procedure shall not be regarded as a precedent to be followed in the future. In its amended form the motion would carry with it no condemnation, actual or- implied, of any one; yet would make it clear that this Senate is of the opinion that the action taken on the 9th May must not be regarded as a precedent.

Senator Ogden - The amendment does not take the sting out of the motion.

Senator DUNCAN - I think it does. It will be admitted by all that the occasion to which reference has been made was an extraordinary one. Perhaps a similar occasion will never occur again. Every honorable senator on that day realized its importance, and was willing to do and to suffer things which he would not do or suffer on other occasions. Having in view the historic nature of the event, and its great importance, we should be prepared to overlook, to some extent, any departure from the ordinary practices of the Senate, provided that we make it clear that similar happenings must not occur in connexion with its conduct on other occasions. My amendment, if agreed to, would meet the occasion in every way, while carrying with it no sting. It would enable honorable senators to vote in the way they desire, but which they might not otherwise do for fear that they would be passing a vote of censure on the presiding officer and the Leader of the Senate.

Amendment negatived.

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