Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 19 December 1911

The CHAIRMAN - The request which Senator E. J. Russell has moved deals with sub-item k of item 356 in the original schedule, which refers to strawboard. I cannot accept the request, because there is no reference to strawboard in the Bill before the Committee. I know nothing about a ruling which was given by the President last night, as I did not happen to be here. But if such a ruling was given, it is not yet to be found in the printed President's Decisions. Following the procedure which I have laid down for myself, I cannot accept the request, because the item " strawboard " is not mentionad in the Bill as it came from the other House.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I beg, sir, to dissent in writing from your ruling, on the ground that it is not in conformity with the ruling which was given by the President last night in a similar case.

In the Senate:

The Chairman of Committees. - I have to report that a ruling of mine has been dissented from in the following circumstances : In dealing with item 356, Senator E. J. Russell moved - " That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend the item by adding to sub-item k the following words, and on and after December, 1911, per cwt. (General Tariff) 2s., (United Kingdom)1s. 6d.' " The effect of his proposal would have been to introduce into the amending schedule a new item known as " Strawboard." Now it will be recollected that though strawboard was an item in this Bill in the form in which it wasoriginally introduced in another place, inthe form in which it was transmitted to the Senate it contains no reference whatever to strawboard. Following the procedure which has been laid down, I ruled that Senator E. J. Russell's request was out of order, on the ground that it was not relevant to the Bill 'before the Committee. It may be relevant to the principal Act, which this Bill seeks to amend, and if an instruction had been given to the Committee, it would have been competent for him to submit his proposal. But in the absence of such an instruction, I ruled that I could not accept his proposal, because, while it was relevant to the principal Act, it wasnot relevant to the Bill before the Committee. During the course of the debate which ensued, it was stated that my ruling was contrary to a decision which was given by you last evening. I had not the pleasure of hearing that decision, and, as it is not yet in print, we are not supposed to know of it officially. But you, sir, will be able to enlighten the Senate as to whether an exact analogy can be- instituted between the two cases. I understand that in the case in which you gave a decisionlast evening, two matters were involved which were, to some extent, interrelated. Only yesterday, in ruling upon a point of order, I admitted a proposal upon a similar ground, namely, that the two questionswere somewhat related. But on this question it seems absolutely clear, if we areto follow the procedure which has been laid; down for our guidance, that Senator E. J. Russell's proposal is not in order. Onlylast session, when a Bill to amend the Tariff schedule was before us, you, sir, said -

Senator Stewartdesired to move the insertionof an item, namely, Bananas, which did not appear in the schedule to the Bill under consideration. and that, therefore, it was not in order.. My contention is that the admission of Senator E. J. Russell's proposal would involve the insertion of an item which does not appear in the Bill now under consideration. All reference to strawboard was deleted from the measure in the other branch of the Legislature, and the Senate knows absolutely nothing about it. Upon these grounds, I refused to accept Senator Russell's proposal.

Senator Millen - In view of your recent decision, sir, I would not have ventured toaddress you but that this matter is creating is. great difference of opinion as to exactly where we stand. It is almost threatening ito disrupt parties, and to terminate life-, long friendships, and, therefore, it is desirable that we should obtain from you a clear and authoritative statement as to the course which we are to follow, not merely on the present occasion, but in the future. Up till yesterday, the Senate, as the result of rulings given by your predecessors and yourself, had acted on the assumption that in an amending Bill it was only competent to amend any portion of the principal Act which was touched by such Bill. That has "been the procedure followed. But your ruling last evening was a departure from that practice, to the extent that you affirmed that an amendment might be received on this Tariff which might be irrelevant to the Bill under discussion, provided that it was grouped in the printing of the principal Act under the same item. In other words, we were asked to regard an item in the Tariff schedule as the equivalent of a clause in a Bill. Now I would direct attention to the fact that certain items are grouped together, although they have no relation whatever to one another. For instance, one item deals with heating stoves, and, under it, Senator Vardon sought to introduce a proposal relating to incandescent mantles. Now, although they are grouped under the same heading, it cannot be contended for a moment that there is any relation between the two things. Yet the effect of your decision would be that, because they are grouped under the one item in the principal Act, it is competent for Us to deal with either of those sub-items. If that is the ruling which you desire shall stand, it is quite clear that it shuts out of view that which has hitherto been regarded as an essential feature, namely, that of relevancy. I do submit that the mere printing of an item under certain headings is really not the point which ought to determine your decision. The point is, " Is the amendment requested relevant to the matter contained in the amending Bill?" If relevancy is held to be the controlling feature, I submit that the Chairman of Committees was quite right in his ruling, because it can hardly be contended that there is any relevancy between strawboard and apple wraps.

Senator Rae - No more than there is "between wigs and paint pots.

Senator Millen - Bearing in mind all the rulings which have been given previously, I submit that the controlling fea ture ought to be, " Is the amendment requested relevant to the subject-matter of the amending Bill or not?" I ask you, sir, to bear that in mind in the decision which you will be called upon to give this evening.

Senator Pearce - I would like to say a few words on the point which has been raised by Senator Millen, because, unless you, sir, go back on your previous decision, it is the only point upon which there is room for a difference of opinion. But on the question of relevancy, I would ask, " What has an amendment to be relevant to? " In an ordinary amending Bill, an amendment has to be relevant to a clause which it is proposed to amend. Now a clause may deal with two or more separate subjects, and, provided that an amendment were moved which was relevant to either, it would be accepted as being relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill. The only analogy which we can draw from that is that in this Bill the items are really equivalent to clauses in another Bill. The item which was under consideration when the ruling of the Chairman was disputed was item 356, of which strawboard is one of the sub- items. Some honorable .senators have spoken as if strawboard were a separate item-

Senator Millen - But the portion of item 356 which is brought under review is set out.

Senator Pearce - Honorable senators, if they will look at the Bill, will see that that is not so. Dealing with the reference by the Chairman of Committees to a ruling given on the previous Tariff Bill, I direct attention to the fact that there is no analogy between that case and that which has now arisen. In the case referred to an attempt was made to deal with the duty on bananas, which was not dealt with in the Tariff Bill at that time, and which appears in the Tariff as a separate item - item 59, Bananas. There was no proposal in the Bill to deal with that separate item in any way, and so it was ruled that a request for its amendment could not be received.

Senator Chataway - It might be dealt with under the item " Fruits and Vegetables."

Senator Pearce - That is where the analogy fails, because bananas are not included in the Tariff under fruit and vegetables, but as a separate item. In this case, the whole of item 356 is before us, and I contend that, so long as requests moved are relevant to that item, the Chairman of Committees must accept them. AsI said last night, the effect of any other ruling would be to seriously limit the power of the Senate to request any amendment of the Tariff. It seems to me that the only question involved in this instance is the question of the relevancy of the proposed request; and I contend that, as it is distinctly relevant to item 356, it must be received in accordance with the rule in respect to ordinary Bills, that an amendment which is relevant to a clause can be accepted though it should not be relevant to the whole of the clause.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - A very similar question cropped up last night in connexion with a request submitted to the Temporary Chairman, Senator McColl. Senator McColl ruled that the request was in connexion with sub-items which were involved by an amendment of the Tariff proposed in the Bill. In this case the Bill does not propose to deal with strawboard in any way. The proposal made reads - 356. By inserting in sub-item (a) before the word "Bags" the words "or Embossed."

By inserting in sub-item (1) before the word "Wrapping" the figure " (1)."

By inserting in sub-item (1) after the words " candle carton paper " the words " , paper felt and carpet felt paper."

By adding to sub-item (1) the following words : - " (2) Apple Wrapping as prescribed by Departmental By-laws, free."

By omitting from sub-item (m) the words "Carpet Felt Paper."

Although item 356 of the Tariff deals with strawboard, and imposes a duty of1s. 6d. upon it, it is not before the Committee of the Senate in any way whatever. We can only look to the Bill as it appears before us to decide what portions of the existing Tariff we are asked to amend. Senator Pearce's contention that the ruling of the Chairman of Committees would hamper a Committee of the Senate unduly is not a matter which we need consider now. It is well known that we have not the power to initiate taxation in the Senate. It can only be initiated in another place, and I submit that we are entitled only to consider such proposals for taxation as are embodied in a taxation measure as it comes to us from that place. This difficulty was dealt with a considerable time ago. I have here Volume I. of the Rulings of the President of the Senate(Sir R. C. Baker), 1903-6, from which I quote the follow- ing-

Amendments in Committee must be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill' as read thesecond time.

When the Tariff Bill now before the Committee of the Senate was read a second time, no proposal with respect to strawboard was embodied in it. The ruling from which I quote continues -

The question to be considered is whether an amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill. If so, it can be moved, whether it contains a new principle or not. The test is not the title of the Bill, nor the scope or object of the Bill.

The ruling is clear and precise ; the principle is laid down there definitely, and has been accepted and acted upon since the ruling to which I refer was given in 1905, that the question to be considered is whether an amendment is relevant to thesubjectmatter of a Bill.

Senator St Ledger - Was the ruling referred to given in connexion with aTariff Bill?

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould.. - Perhapsnot. If an amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill, according to the ruling given by Sir Richard! Baker, it can be moved, whether it contains a new principle or not, but not otherwise. The question for us to consider now is whether the request submitted' by Senator E. J. Russell is relevant to thesubjectmatter of the Bill before the Committee. The honorable senator asks us toconsider a request in connexion with a sub-item of item 356, which has not been put before us for consideration by another place. It may be that the sub-item inquestion was under consideration in another place ; but of that we have no official knowledge. We know only that the Bill cameup to the Senate without containing any proposal affecting strawboard. This question came up again in 1907-8, when I had-' the honour to occupy the position of President of the Senate. I find that I ruled -

Amendments must be relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill or consistent with the text.

That ruling was given by me in strict conformity with the ruling given previously by Sir Richard Baker. I recollect that, when Sir Richard Baker gave the rulingto which I have referred, it was after agood deal of consideration, because a proposal was made at the time to make a very material alteration, I think, in an Electoral Bill. I think that this ruling will he- found to be confirmed by May's Parliamentary Practice, and by our Standing Orders. In this case, unless it can be shown that the sub-item dealing with strawboard in the existing Tariff is relevant to the subject-matter of the Tariff Bill which is now before the Committee of the Senate, we cannot entertain any request to amend it. I submit, sir, with all due respect for any opinion you may have previously held, that you will agree that item 356 of the Bill how under consideration cannot be so enlarged as to enable us practically to initiate new taxation. We have no proposal in the Bill affecting strawboard in any way ; and the effect of the adoption of Senator E. J. Russell's request would be the same as if we had said, without any reference to what appears in the Bill, that strawboard is an article which should be subject to a duty, and we shall, therefore, request another place to impose a duty upon it. If, for the sake of argument, an article similar to strawboard was not dealt with, even in the existing Tariff, could we consider the desirability of imposing a duty upon it? Clearly, we could not, because it would not have been submitted to us in any way whatever by another place. As the Tariff Bill has been submitted to us, it deals, not with item 356 as a whole, but with a limited portion of that item only. Another place has practically said to the Senate, " We do not desire that you shall give consideration to any but this limited portion of item 356 of the existing Tariff." If, for instance, an Electoral Bill is sent up to the Senate from another place, we must look to the various clauses of the measure to discover what it is we are asked to deal with. There may be many matters of importance in the principal Act with which we should like to deal ; but, under the ruling which has been given, we cannot touch them if they are not dealt with in the Bill submitted to us, if we have not taken advantage of the Standing Orders to carry an instruction to the Committee enabling the Committee to deal with them. I submit that, whether it is wise or unwise that there should be such a limitation of our powers of amendment, we have no power whatever to consider any matter that is not submitted to us in this Bill as it comes to us from another place. To suggest that we may assume that item 356, as submitted to the Senate in the Tariff Bill, may be extended to cover halfadozen sub-items, gives us, I contend, no more power to deal with a part of the item which is not contained in the Bill. It might just as well be contended that, in the. case of an ordinary Bill, half-a-dozen sections of the principal Act might be regarded as one. I submit again that we have no power to consider Senator E. J. Russell's request to deal with the duty on strawboard.

Senator St Ledger - Item 356, as before us in the Tariff Bill, contains certain provisions to which Senator Gould' has referred. Senator E. J. Russell desires to make an amendment in another part of the item. I ask honorable senators to consider . this Bill as originally introduced in another place. They will find that item 356 was amended in another place.

Senator Rae - That does not affect us.

Senator St Ledger - I consider that it does. We know that, as originally introduced, item 356 of the schedule to this Bill was amended in another place.

Senator Rae - We do not know that officially.

Senator St Ledger - Every person in the Commonwealth knows it. That amending Bill introduced the item which is now the subject of dispute. The other House amended the Bill in a certain direction. Amongst other things, the House of Repre- . sentatives made amendments in item 356 of the schedule of the Tariff Act. They ask us to consider these amendments. Does any one contend that the Senate cannot consider the whole of item 356 ? Item 356 includes certain sub-items. The House of Representatives has made amendments affecting some of those sub-items, but has not touched the others. It is contended by some honorable senators that we must confine our requests to the sub-items that are actually before us in the Bill.

Senator Vardon - It is a question of relevancy.

Senator St Ledger - It is not a question of relevancy, but of power. If we looked at the matter purely from the point of relevancy, Senator Vardon and Senator Gould might be quite right. But it is very important that we should also consider it from the aspect of the powers of the two Houses of the Legislature. It is agreed that the House of Representatives had power to consider the original Act. Is it contended that when this Bill comes before the Senate for consideration we cannot turn back to the original Act? Does the Constitution say that? I contend that just as the House of Representatives had the power to consider the amending Bill in the light of the schedule of the original Act, so we have power to make requests in a similar manner.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir AlbertGould. - That is what' it has been ruled we cannot do.

Senator Keating - In accordance with parliamentary practice.

Senator St Ledger - I do not care for the parliamentary practice. If there have been rulings in that direction, it is time that they were decided against. This is a question of the powers of the two Houses.

Senator Vardon - Nonsense !

Senator St Ledger - No one will say that the House of Representatives had not power to have the schedule of the original Act under their purview. Yet it is held that we cannot do the same.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator St Ledger - I wish to summarize briefly the points which are now before the President for decision. There is a Bill before us relating to duties of Customs. That Bill contains item 356. The principal Act also contains an item numbered 356. The House of Representatives amended that item of the principal Act. I contend that it is open to us to dissent from their treatment of that item, either wholly or in part. We have power to request amendments affecting any part of item 356. If the Senate has not those powers of request, which correspond to the House of Representatives' power of amendment, our revisory powers over taxation proposals are almost useless. I trust, therefore, that every honorable senator will be afforded the opportunity of proposing requests on any item that is brought before us in this amending Bill.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I rely upon the ruling of the President, given yesterday, which maintained the powers of any member of the Senate to- move a. request on any item specified in this Bill. At the end of your ruling, sir, in reply to an inquiry by Senator Gould, who wished to make the matter still more clear, you indicated that, in your opinion, when an item was brought up for consideration, the whole item was open for discussion. Therefore, I maintain that the whole of item 356 of the Tariff is now before the Senate, and that it is within the power of a senator to move any request which is relevant to that item.

Senator Millen - Is the honorable senator regarding a statement made by the Pre sident, after he had given his ruling, as equivalent to the ruling itself ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I am content to base my case on the previous ruling of the President.

Suggest corrections