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Thursday, 3 July 1941

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) (Leader of the Opposition) . - in reply - There is very little to which I desire to reply, because little has been said in opposition to the motion. One good result of the discussion will be that honorable senators opposite will have a more intimate acquaintance with the Standing Orders of theSenate than they have previously possessed.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I wish to take exception to your ruling, Mr. President, and will hand in my objection in writing.

The' PRESIDENT. - The honorable senator is too late. He did not take exception to my ruling when it was given.

Senator COLLINGS - The longer this discussion continues, the more evident it becomes that there is a definite conspiracy on the other side of the chamber to prevent the Opposition from obtaining justice, when it draws attention to a distinct breach of privilege on the part of members of Parliament and other individuals.

SenatorFoll. - I rise to a point of order. The Government takes the strongest exception to the statement that there is a definite conspiracy to prevent the Opposition from obtaining justice. I ask that the statement be withdrawn.

Senator COLLINGS - I regret that the Minister should suddenly have become so touchy. However, I withdraw the word " conspiracy " with pleasure, and say that there seems to be a definite honorable understanding among honorable senators on the other side of the chamber to allow an injustice to be done to the Senate in regard to the secrecy of the ballot. The official who conducted the ballot went to elaborate lengths to show how open and above-board everything connected with it was. He is the only man in this chamber who knows how members voted.

Senator McBride - He does not know that.

Senator COLLINGS - I agree that he could not know how members voted unless he were unfaithful to his trust; but he could know how the votes were oast, because each honorable senator had to write on the ballot-paper, in his own handwriting, the name of the candidate for whom he voted.

Senator Ashley - The official could do as the Minister for the Interior did, and refer the writing to a handwriting expert.

Senator COLLINGS - When the great legal luminaries on the other side who know so much about everything that they know little about anything come to interpret the Standing Orders, they do not help us a great deal. Had your ruling, Mr. President, not been what it was, I should have taken refuge in Standing Order No. 447, which reads - 447. Except so far as is expressly provided, these Standing Orders shall in no way restrict the mode in which the Senate may exercise and uphold its powers, privileges, and immunities.

There is nothing in the Standing Orders which expressly provides that I shall not impeach a member of another place for saying what he has said. If I had done nothing else, I have at least drawn attention to something which, in the opinion of the Opposition, is serious, namely, that although this is supposed to be & States House, and although we on this side belong to one party and stand to that party and its policy at all times, it is now obvious that at no stage of its proceedings is the Senate other than a party House. Every member on the Government side has declared that he is prepared to see the Senate done a supreme injustice, in that he is willing to allow one of the most sacred privileges which we so far have enjoyed, to be impinged upon by the press of this country, even when the Opposition has the courage to expose what the press has done. Before crossing the floor, honorable senators opposite should give to this matter a few moments earnest consideration. I know that in ordinary circumstances the Government has the numbers to defeat the Opposition, but surely there are times when we should put party considerations on one side and decide matters on their merits alone. The preservation of the rights and privileges of the Senate is not a party matter. Honorable senators should remember that they can bring democracy into disrepute by doing the very things to which we are supposed to he opposed. In subtle ways, democracy is being undermined by those who submit without protest to the whittling away of their democratic rights, and seek to destroy the faith of the people in their elected representatives. If we allow these things to be done often enough, we shall have in this country, as in others, fifth-columnists and Quislings who, when the time comes, will be ready to support a dictatorship, and act contrary to those tilings which we hold so dear that, we are engaged in a life and death struggle for their preservation. In bringing this motion forward 1 have given to honorable senators no light opportunity; it is one of the most serious things that I have undertaken since I have been a member of this chamber. While trying to prevent me from accomplishing my purpose, Sena- tor Gibson admitted that he had seen what I am now doing done only once in twenty years. I know the occasion to which he referred. At that time there was no attack upon the institution of Parliament. Action was taken because a member of the other branch of the legislature had made statements which, at the time, were considered to be subversive. It is our privilege to conduct the affairs of the Senate in the way that we desire, and therefore I ask honorable senators not to vote on this motion, lightly but with a real sense of responsibility.

Question put -

That the motionbe agreed to.

The Senate, divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. j .cunningham . )

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