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Thursday, 6 October 1927

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I can promise honorable senators that I shall not occupy much time in replying to the debate. Senator Glasgow, the Acting Leader of the Senate, said a little while ago that the Senate had every right, under Standing Order 66, to depart from its usual order of business. That is admitted. But did the Senate on the 9th May " otherwise order " the routine of business on that occasion?

Senator McLachlan - Yes; it gave leave to the Leader of the Senate.

Senator GIVENS - Leave is not " order." " Otherwise ordered " can only be accomplished' by motion. It is of no use for the Government now to try to camouflage the position. Senator McLachlan, being a lawyer, talked all round the issue with the object of confusing honorable senators and, as might have been expected, he succeeded in making it as obscure as was possible. The Senate on the 9th May, did not " order " the usual procedure to be departed from, notwithstanding what my friend Senator Glasgow has said. He stated that a message from the Governor-General may, be received at any time. My reply is that anything can be done in the Senate provided it is done at the proper time and in the proper way. I am not disputing that for a moment. What I am saying is that neither you, sir, nor the Government had any right to proceed with any business until the Senate had been opened in the usual manner. That is the point which I wish to impress upon honorable senators. If you had called for petitions and had asked for notices of motion and questions, then, undoubtedly, the Leader of the Senate would have been within his right in asking the leave of the Senate to adopt a certain procedure. My objection is that the departure from the recognized parliamentary practice was deliberate on the part of the Government. Senator Pearce admitted that at the time. He said that it was the intention of the Government to prevent a certain report of a Joint Parliamentary Committee from being presented. As a result of that action the public have been deprived of the report for a period of four and a half months. That is another point which I wish to make. In the course of your remarks you, sir, quoted a ruling by Sir Albert Gould, a former President of the Senate, that it is competent for a Minister to move the adjournment of the Senate immediately after prayers. I am not going to dispute that ruling. I have not looked it up, and, therefore, I am not -in a position to express an opinion. My point is* that if a Minister can move that motion at that stage the Senate can do no business, and, therefore, can do no wrong. But on the 9th May the Senate did transact business, and it was not done in the proper way. You have also said, sir, that if there was anything wrong with the procedure of the Senate on that occasion all honorable senators were equally guilty.

I remind you that whilst what you have said may be true, you, as President of this chamber, are not only the custodian of the rights and privileges of the Senate, but also primarily the guardian of those rights and privileges. Therefore, if it was our duty to protect them, it was much more your duty to watch over our procedure It is a strange doctrine that the proceedings may be conducted any old way without any responsibility on the part of the President if members do not object. I have already said that whilst I knew the procedure was wrong I thought it was due to inadvertence, and, because of the historic nature of the proceedings, excusable. But the matter assumed an entirely different aspect when Senator Pearce, in moving the adjournment of the Senate, stated that the procedure had been adopted deliberately. I should probably have taken definite action then but for the fact that it would have been distasteful to me to raise a point of order; and, moreover there was a general desire, out of consideration for you, that the proceedings should pass off smoothly. I merely wish to add that if your health was bad on that day I think mine was- very much worse. However, that is a personal matter, and need not be enlarged upon. If, as you contend, the Leader of the Senate had a right to move a motion by leave before the business was called on in the proper way, all I can say is that there is no precedent for that course in the records of either the House of Commons or this Senate. Senator J. B. Hayes has admitted that he thought the procedure wa3 wrong, and that the Chairman of the Joint Committee should not have been deprived of the right to present his report.

Senator J B Hayes - I said that the circumstances were exceptional, and were never likely to recur.

Senator GIVENS - The honorable senator said also that the proceedings of the 9th May were not likely to be regarded as' a precedent. Unfortunately, unless we pass this motion, those proceedings will be regarded as a precedent. It will be competent for Ministers or presid-ing officers in future Parliaments to quote the procedure of the Senate on the 9th May as authority for a similar course of action. Senator McLachlan said that

Senator Pearcetook advantage of tho procedure. Se did nothing of the kind. He evaded the usual procedure of the Senate.

Senator McLachlan - What was the honorable senator doing to allow that?

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