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Wednesday, 1 September 1937

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [3.30]. - This is not a government matter, and government supporters may takeup whatever attitude they like in regard to it. But I, personally, am not in favour of the proposed amendment, because it does not take cognizance of the origin of the practice which the Senate has hitherto followed. Honorable senators generally are aware that the procedure in the Senate is different from that in the House of Representatives. The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives provide for a "Grievance Day." Every alternate week, a formal motion is proposed " That the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means," and upon that motion members may discuss any administrative or other matter they desire to bring under the notice of the House. This procedure follows the practice of the House of Commons. When the Senate met for the first time, its President, Sir Richard Chaffey Baker, an eminent South Australian, pointed out that the Senate was unlike an ordinary upper house, because it had powers with respect to money bills which were greater than those possessed by the upper houses of the State legislatures. He said that he proposed, on the first reading of a money bill -that is, a bill which the Senate could not amend - to allow discussion on matters not relevant to the bill. Under the Standing Orders of the Senate, the first reading of an ordinary bill is formal, but he proposed to allow a general debate on the first reading of a money bill, in order to give members of the Senate a privilege similar to that enjoyed by members of the House of Representatives on " Grievance Day." In other words, he proposed to afford honorable senators an opportunity to ventilate grievances, and to bring up any matters on which they desired to express their views. He said that, as money bills came before the Senate from time to time, honorable senators would have an opportunity equivalent to the grievance debate in the House of Representatives. It was never intended that this was to give an opportunity for a discussion of the bill itself at the firstreading stage, because, obviously, it is unnecessary to have practically two second-reading debates. I am aware that in practice the principle laid down by Sir Richard Baker has been departed from. I have tested the matter in the past, and I do not propose to do so again; but I now inform the Senate that the original intention of the Standing Order is being departed from by the amendment now before the chamber. On the first reading of money bills, we have frequently had the equivalent of secondreading debates, no matters beyond the scope of the bill being mentioned. It is then possible on the second reading to have a repetition of the debate. In my judgment, the original practice to which I have referred was introduced for the orderly conduct of our business, and at the same time for the purpose of conferring on honorable senators a valuable privilege.

Motion agreed to.

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