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Wednesday, 21 July 1920

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) .- I shall state very briefly the reasons why I intend to vote for this motion to dissent from Mr. Speaker's ruling. I had the pleasure of introducing to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the town clerk of Sydney (Mr. Nesbit), who asked for an inquiry into Father Jerger's case. The right honorable gentleman promised us that he would grant an inquiry, but it merely took the form of a departmental investigation by Sir Robert Garran. . Sir Robert Garran is a public servant of the Commonwealth, and while I do not wish to reflect upon him in any way, it cannot 6e said that an inquiry by him constituted a hearing before a legal tribunal. His decision in this case does not carry with it the authority that would attach to a decision by a Court of .law. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), when he was called to order, was endeavouring to point out that when representing Father Jerger before this departmental inquiry, he was deprived of his right to put questions to witnesses. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) raised the point of order that the matter could not be referred to since the case was sub judice, and had actually been before a Court. My contention is that the inquiry by Sir Robert Garran was not an inquiry by a Court, and that even if it could be so construed, since a decision had been given and the case had not been carried on to any legal tribunal, the honorable member for West Sydney was entitled to discuss the whole matter in the House. By means of this point of order, we had' put into Mr. Speaker's mouth the statement that the case was sub judice, and therefore could not be discussed. I am only a layman, but I have come to the conclusion that the honorable member was perfectly within his rights when he was called to order. We, as representatives of the ,people, have certain rights in this House. Surely it is open to us to criticise departmental in quiries, particularly when the proceedings have been completed. I am very friendly with Mr. Speaker, and regret exceedingly that I shall have to" vote against a ruling given by him, but I am convinced' that his ruling in this instance was wrong. It cannot be said that this Parliament does not stand above all Courts. The Justices of the High Court are our servants. We pay them to carry on the machinery of the law, and we ought not to be precluded from discussing any question brought before them. No one could be injured by a discussion in this House in relation to an inquiry that had actually closed, and in which a decision had been given. It is now argued that since notice of appeal against that decision had been given the case was clearly sub judice. We are told that we are in duty bound to respect the decisions of the Courts. Is there not a greater obligation on the part of the Government to respect the orders of the Courts? When action is being taken before a public tribunal to restrain the deportation of Father Jerger, the Government should refrain from any attempt to deport him until the decision of the Court has been given. Our position, I contend, is unassailable. The honorable member for West Sydney, in my opinion, was quite in order. He was looking after the interests of his client, and the people of the country generally, when he was ruled out of order; and I shall certainly vote to dissent from the ruling.

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