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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - Senator Lynch having intervened, I now claim my right to discuss this question. It was never dreamt that the standing order was intended to close discussion. -The 'Committee should be the judge of how long discussion should proceed on any item. In any case, I cannot . be accused of having wearied honorable . senators to-day. However, apar.t from sympathy, I claim ithat I am entitled to speak, . and that there should be no curtailment of -an honorable senator's rights by -too strict an interpretation of the standing order.

The CHAIRMAN - Is the honor able senator 'raisinga point of order ?

Senator Gardiner - You, sir, ruled me out of order previously because Senator Lynch had not spoken to : l5he , subitem.

The CHAIRMAN - There is no doubt as to what I 'ruled. 'Senator Lynch was seeking 'an explanation from the Chair in regard to a motion which he said he intended to move, and I was endeavouring to make the position clear to . him. He was not speaking to the -sub-item.

Senator Gardiner - I propose to address myself to the sub-item.

The CHAIRMAN - No honorable senator having intervened in the discussion on the sub-item, it would have been a contravention of the standing order if Senator Gardiner had been permitted to follow on the remarks he was making when he was previously on his feet.

SenatorGardiner. - I presumeI am permitted to do so now.

The CHAIRMAN -Is the 'honorable senator challenging 'my 'ruling'?

Senator Gardiner - I 'do not wish 'to challenge your ruling. Now ' that Senator Lynch -has concluded 'h'is 'remarks, I would prefer 'to ; be allowed 'to 'speak in accordance with the standing order.

The CHAIRMAN - Senator Lynch did -not . address '.himself '.to -the isub-item. The . honorable senator ds . not permitted to speak . a -second time. at this stage.

SenatorGardiner. - I 'claim that . Senator Lynchs statement, that . Senator Duncan -was at -one extreme and . he was at -the other, and that . he -would rnot have a' -fair- opportunity -pf . hawing' his proposal discussed, wasa discussion -of the'isubitem.' In. any . case,' I do , not . wish ..this standing order, which interferes, so much with honorable senators, to be narrowed down any further,, and if the Chairmanrules me out of order I shall take exception to his ruling in the ordinary way.. The standing order provides - 407a. No senator shall speak for more than one hour in any debate in the Senate, except, that in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or on the first reading of a. Bill which the Senate may not amend, or in moving the second reading of a Bill, he shall be at liberty to. speak for one hour and a half. Any senator may move that the limit of one hour or of one hour and a half may be extended for thirty minutes; such motion shall forthwith be put without debate. In Committee no senator shall speak, for more than a quarter of an hour at any one time on any one question.

I take exception to the concluding words. The standing order is quite bad enough as it is worded, without having it limited. I claim that Senator Lynch, whether merely by asking questions or not, addressed himself to the question. When an honorable senator is called by the Chair, he can fairly be taken as addressing himself to the question, if he speaks to the question at all. I submit the following dissent from the Chairman's ruling : -

That Senator Lynch, having addressed himself to the item by asking a question, I rose to speak. The Chairman ruled that I could not do so, as Senator Lynch had not addressed himself to the question. I dissent from: the Chairman's ruling.

The CHAIRMAN - The position is that, in connexion with standing order 270, and standing order 407a, Senator Gardiner has objected to my ruling in the terms he has just read. Honorable senators will have noted the reasons for my taking the action I did; and the position must now be cleared up by the President. In the Senate:

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - I have to report that during discussion in Committee on sub-itemC of item 136, Senator Gardiner, having resumed his seat after making some remarks, Senator Lynch rose and addressed himself, so faras I could comprehend hismotive, to the Chair, requiring an explanation of his position in regard tosome intended request of his which was contingent on the fate of a request moved by Senator Duncan. The request moved by Senator Duncan was under discussion by the Committee when Senator Gardiner had addressed himself to the Chair. That-hon orable: senator had occupied his fifteen minutes: under the standing order, and -I did my best to enlighten Senator Lynch in regard to the particular position in which he was respecting his intended request. Senator Gardiner, after Senator Lynch had resumed hisseat, arose and wished to address himself once more to. the Committee regarding the item.I ruled that that would be a breach of the standing order which enjoins on the Chairman the duty of observing that no honorable senator in Committee shall speak more than fifteen minutes at anyone time on any one question. Senator Gardiner has taken exception to that ruling in the following terms: -

That Senator Lynch, having addressed himself to the item by asking a question, I rose to. speak. The Chairman ruled that I could not do so, as Senator Lynch had not addressed himself to tho question. I dissent from the Chairman's ruling.

Senator Gardinerhas put the matter fairly enough except that he says, that Senator Lynch rose to address himself to the item. Such was not my conception of Senator Lynch's action. I understood Senator Lynch to rise to ask an explanation from the Chair as to his position respecting the request he intended to move later on. That being so, I respectfully submit, to you, Mr. President, that if I had permitted Senator Gardiner to speak twice just because- Senator Lynch had risen to address the Chair in explanation, I would be - permitting a. practical overriding of the standing order, and that to permit such a contravention of the spirit of the standing order by a technicality is. not within my competency and power.

Senator Gardiner - I am asking your ruling; Mr. President, in accordance with my usual practice not to permit any irregularity to pass unchallenged. Senator Lynch, while asking questions as to hisposition, also stated that the request of Senator Duncan and his own intended proposal represented the extremesof this question. Senator Lynch having made that statement, he, to my mind, had addressed himself to the Committee in such a way as to entitle me to challenge the ruling of the Chairman. I call your attention, Mr President, to the first part of' the standing order which deals' with proceedings in the House,' and permits a; senator to speak for one hour, a period which may be extended by thirty minutes on motion to be put forthwith. The second portion of the standing order deals with proceedings in Committee, and provides that a senator shall not speak more than a quarter of an hour at one time on any one question. I did not speak for more than a quarter of an hour, at the expiration of which I was properly called upon to resume my seat. I did not rise to resume that quarter of an hour's speaking, but to commence another one, and I hold that it will be an interference with debate in Committee if the ruling of the Chairman is upheld.

Senator Lynch - In my question to the Chair and the remarks thereon, I was referring especially to the fate of my proposed request. Previously I had addressed myself to the proposition on its merits, but when I spoke at the time referred to by the Chairman (Senator Bakhap), I was referring particularly to my proposed request, which was of equal, if not more, importance than the question previously discussed. Whether or not my reference to the fate of my request is to be taken into account and described as speaking to the question, is for yourself, Mr. President, to decide, but, so far as I am concerned, the information I was trying to elicit was quite as important as were my previous efforts in discussing the merits of the proposition.

Senator Payne - It appears to me that the new standing order was framed with a specific object. In the ordinary business of the House, a certain length of time is allowed to a senator to address himself to the question, and it will be observed that that time is much longer than that allowed in Committee. Evidently the framers of the standing order recognised that it would often occur that an honorable senator in Committee would not be able to express himself fully in a quarter of an hour, and provided that he might speak more than once - no limit being placed on the number of times a senator may speak. The object appears to me to have been to compel honorable senators to confine their remarks to a quarter of an hour, so that every senator might have opportunity to take part in the discussion. When an other senator had thus taken part in the discussion, the senator who had been unable to complete his speech within a quarter of an hour was intended to be allowed to continue. If Senator Gardiner's contention is admitted, to what position are we brought ? If Senator Gardiner were speaking in Committee, and his quarter of an hour had expired, and I rose simply to express a desire that the discussion might be adjourned, not beingprepared to continue it, and my request was refused, would that give Senator Gardiner the right to continue for another quarter of an hour?

Senator Gardiner - That is my claim, because you would have been called on by the Chairman.

Senator Payne - It seems to me that such a claim is opposed to common sense. I take it that something must intervene between the time when one honorable senator's time has expired - something in the nature of the continuance of the debate - before that -senator can be permitted to occupy the floor again. This seems to me to be the intention of the standing order. I have no desire to curtail any of the privileges of honorable senators, but at the same time we must regard the Standing Orders from a commonsense point of view, and endeavour to ascertain the intention of those who framed them. In my opinion, Senator Gardiner's contention ought not to be sustained.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I almost feel I ought to apologize to you, Mr. President, and to the Senate, for taking part in this discussion. It seems to me that the discussion is for the purpose of assisting you to arrive at a decision, and I am afraid 1 am not able to render much assistance. T,o me, the point is not so simple as, apparently, it seems to those who have addressed themselves to it. Let me remind honorable senators that this is a standing order of which we have not had much experience, and that if, in the light of what has taken place here to-day, we were called upon to draft another with the same object, we should probably employ different verbiage. Senator Lynch himself admits, that when he addressed the Chair he did so not on the item itself, but on a matter of procedure. What that matter was is immaterial to the argument; the honorable senator did not speak to the item, and therefore, when Senator Gardiner rose, he was resuming, so far as the discussion on the item is concerned, a continuous address. If Senator Gardiner's view were to be maintained, that any one speaking in between, however briefly, restores his right to speak again, it would be possible to destroy the continuity of an honorable senator's remarks by a mere interjection, or by one of those friendly or unfriendly altercations which occasionally take place even in this well-ordered Chamber. On the other hand, it is well known that no one may do indirectly that which he has not the right to do directly. Here we have direct prohibition against honorable senators speaking more than a quarter of an hour at any one time on any one question; and I submit that if Senator Gardiner's claim were upheld, it would enable a senator to do indirectly that which is prohibited by the standing order. The standing order is for the purpose, not merely, as Senator Payne suggests, of giving other honorable senators an opportunity of speaking, but of placing a restraint on unlimited debate. That purpose could be defeated by a mere interjection, or series of interjections.

Senator Gardiner - But I claim that, as Senator Lynch was called by the Chairman, he was addressing himself to the question.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Chairman asserts, and Senator Lynch himself admits, that he was not addressing himself to' the question; with the exception of Senator Gardiner, that is not disputed by any one. I stress the point that this seems to me to be an indirect attempt to do what the standing order prohibits; and on that ground I think the balance of merit is with the Chairman's contention.

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