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Thursday, 11 August 1904


Mr SPEAKER - The question of the dissolution of Parliament, or otherwise, is, of course, within the prerogative of the GovernorGeneral, and must not be debated in this House. I am sure that . the honorable member for Gwydir will not transgress the rule.


Mr WEBSTER - I was not discussing the question of a dissolution. I was discussing the probabilities - as to what' might occur in consequence of the action that has been taken by the Opposition. I maintain that honorable members of this House; before any practical legislation can again be put before the House, may possibly have to face those who sent us here. For that reason, I wish honorable members - as every Britisher would wish - not to adopt, or support that course of procedure which has been pursued by the Opposition.


Mr Glynn - I should like to take your ruling, sir, as' to whether the honorable member is in order, under cover of a motion of this kind, in impugning the motives, attacking the independence of judgment of honorable members, and anticipating debate upon a matter which is not yet decided by the House.


Mr SPEAKER - In no case can an honorable member anticipate debate on a motion which is upon the notice" paper. Therefore, it will not be competent for him to refer in any . way to any debate which is or may be pending - upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, for example. I am quite sure that the House would desire that in the case of every speech reference to a debate now pending should be specifically avoided, and that we should debate not the personalities of members themselves, but the question of policy which may be under consideration.


Mr WEBSTER - I have not transgressed the rule which you have laid down, Mr. Speaker. I have not endeavoured to impugn the motives of any honorable member on account of the opposition which he has given to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which is now before the House. Nor do I intend to do so. I have sufficient knowledge of the Standing Orders to be aware that an honorable member cannot anticipate debate on another question which is upon the notice paper. But I have also the knowledge that whenever a Government is threatened with defeat, whether directly or indirectly, honorable members, whether they be victims of that defeat, or whether they may benefit from it, have a right to defend their attitude. Because every defeat of a Government may involve a dissolution. Since that is possible, I appeal for a rightto discuss the question which I have brought forward. I am appealing for a right which would have been granted by any Opposition hitherto existing. No " Parliamentary Opposition, of which 1 have ever heard, would have made it necessary for me to advance such a claim, nor would it have made any attempt to refuse to a Government the right to recommit a Bill.


Mr Conroy - I understand that the first reason given by the honorable member for Gwydir for the motion which he has submitted is, to discuss as a matter of urgent necessity, the policy and administration of the Government.' At the present time, one question under the consideration of the House is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The honorable member is now referring to what is likely to happen in case of the defeat of the Government. I submit - that he is not entitled to do that. I go further. He also advances, as a reason for bringing forward this motion, the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament. When a Government seeks to have certain clauses of a Bill recommitted, it is quite competent for the Opposition to object to the motion, without violating the Standing Orders. Therefore the honorable member is now criticising not the conduct of the Opposition, but virtually the Standing Orders -of this House. This is my -point of order- the honorable mem ber is not entitled, by means of a motion of this kind, to discuss the Standing Orders which have been adopted by the House. I submit that the honorable member is entirely out of order.


Mr SPEAKER - I have looked again at the notice which the honorable member for Gwydir has handed to me. I see in it no reference to discussing the Standing Orders of the House. I am not quite sure that if the honorable member had been pleased to include that matter, to have done so would not have made the motion irregular. The honorable member has brought forward the motion in order to discuss a matter of urgent necessity, namely, the policy and administration of the Government, and also the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament. The honorable member, so far as I know, has not transgressed the rules. I may point out that where there are frequent interruptions by points of order, I am not able to listen so closely to the honorable member as I should otherwise do.


Mr Conroy - I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to confine the honorable member to the particular purpose of his motion.


Mr SPEAKER - I have already dealt with that matter. The question now under discussion is, whether, or not, the Standing Orders shall be suspended, and the honorable member has the right to use any reasonable arguments upon that point, for the consideration of the House.


Mr WEBSTER - I marvel at the spirit which is being manifested by honorable members who are raising these points of order. They seem to have as many points as has the proverbial porcupine. I am merely asking for a British constitutional right, namely, that every representative in this Chamber shall have an opportunity to lay before his constituents, through Hansard - the only medium we have - his reasons for the attitude he is taking up. I was referring to the unjustifiable conduct of the Opposition. If honorable members opposite had submitted a direct vote of censure upon which honorable members could have discussed the general policy of the Government, there would have been no necessity f6r me to take my present action ; but it is because we have been hobbled and gagged by the methods adopted by the Opposition, that we, -as Britishers, feel called upon to raise our voices in protest.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is now referring to another debate.


Mr WEBSTER - I am referring to the attitude taken up by the Opposition with regard to the conduct of the business of the House.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must not refer to another debate.


Mr WEBSTER - It is necessary for me to refer to the action of the Opposition with regard to the conduct of the business of Parliament, as illustrated by recent events, in order to show why the Standing Orders should be suspended, and why we should be afforded that right of discussion of which the Opposition have sought to deprive us. It is important that facilities should be offered to us to discuss the general administration of the Government. I ask what has been advanced by honorable members opposite against the policy of the Government? What charge has been laid at the door of the Ministry which would justify their ejection from office?


Mr Conroy - I would ask if the honorable member's statements can fairly be considered arguments in favour of the suspension of the Standing Orders?


Mr SPEAKER - I take it that the honorable member is now stating one of the reasons which he indicated when I asked the honorable member to show the urgency of his motion.


Mr WEBSTER - In spite of the opposition "shown by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, which is thoroughly characteristic of him, I have a duty to perform, not only to myself, but to the whole Commonwealth, and I intend to discharge it, despite all attacks on the part of those who are seeking to burk discussion. I wish to know what portion of the policv of the Government has induced the Opposition to assume their present remarkable attitude ? Are they opposed to the policy of Ministers who have succeeded in placing upon our statute-book a measure dealing with a matter which has been dangled before the electors of the Commonwealth ever since the Federation was established? Do they object to the Government because they have expeditiously settled for all time the question as to where we are to go " in the sweet by-and-by " ? Are the Opposition seeking indirectly to deprive the Government of office and power because of their action in regard to the Seat of Government Bill ? Do they wish to revert to the state of affairs which existed before we passed an Act to bring about a White Australia? Do those honorable gentlemen who are seeking to conduct the business of this Chamber in the manner which the notice paper indicates, hope that they may reverse that legislation that has been so well administered by the Government in the interests of a White Australia? Are these members prepared to stake their political existence on the attitude which they are now taking up ? I realize that there is only one explanation for the conduct of those who are seeking by these indirect methods to attain something which they have not the courage to achieve by direct means. Are honorable members opposite cognizant of the fact that all the political leanings and all the public utterances of their present leader indicate that he is opposed to a White Australia?


Mr Reid - I have been looking at the standing order 407, and I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member is in order in obtruding his speech upon the House, out of its due order, and before the preliminary question has been decided whether or not we shall suspend the Standing Orders. In connexion with a proposal to suspend the Standing Orders, and to interrupt the ordinary course of public business, the honorable member is making a speech which he ought not to deliver until we have determined to throw our Standing Orders to the winds to enable him to do as he desires.


Mr Webster - I intend to deliver another speech afterwards.


Mr Reid - I submit, sir, that the honorable member must be confined to a statement of his reasons for asking that the Standing Orders shall be suspended, and that he must not indulge in a speech on the general question until the House has by an absolute majority determined that the ordinary course of business shall be interrupted.


Mr Watson - I submit that in the first place the standing order referred to by the right honorable gentleman does not provide that under these circumstances the question as to the suspension of the Standing Orders must be submitted without debate. In giving his reasons for the suspension of the Standing Orders the honorable member surely has the right to refer incidentally to the conduct of the right honorable gentleman and those associated with him in this crisis. It seems to me that the honorable member for Gwydir is' quite within our rules in giving reasons why the Standing Orders should be suspended. Even in an ordinary set of circumstances, if it were proposed to suspend the Standing Orders merely in order to pass a Bill through all its stages hurriedly, it would be open to honorable members to debate the proposal. They could show reasons why it was not a matter of urgency, and conversely in this instance the honorable member for Gwydir can advance reasons why it is a matter of urgency that his views should be placed before the country.


Mr McDonald - I desire to point out that upon a previous occasion - I cannot recall the exact date - when Sir Edmund Barton filled the position of Prime Minister, I took exception to a motion to suspend the Standing Orders in connexion with the despatch of certain Australian troops. If my recollection serves me accurately, my attitude then was opposed by a very strong section now upon the Opposition side of the House, and the action of the Prime Minister was upheld. The point which I then raised was whether the Prime Minister was in order in discussing the question which he desired to debate before the Standing Orders had been suspended. I believe that a ruling was given against me, and I claim that that ruling established a precedent in this Cham ber. Consequently, any honorable member who seeks the suspension of the Standing Orders is perfectly entitled" to furnish reasons why that course should be adopted. In this particular instance the honorable member for Gwydir wishes the Standing Orders to be suspended, and the House cannot possibly know whether or not that course ought to be followed until he has advanced reasons in support of his motion. To my mind the grounds which he has already advanced amply warrant the suspension of the Standing Orders. He is perfectly in order in adopting the line of argument which he is pursuing.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to raise the question of whether, in the whole of the statements of the honorable member for Gwydir, there is a scintilla of evidence of the character contemplated by the Standing Orders? He has informed the House that he has submitted this proposal because some honorable members of the Opposition have adopted an unusual course.


Mr McDonald - That does not appear in the motion.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of the honorable member's argument, and not of the motion. There is nothing in his statements to indicate that the matter which he desires to discuss is one of urgency.


Mr Watson - Oh, yes.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The motion merely indicates that in this House there is an Opposition, and that there is also a Government which fis pursuing its ordinary purposes of policy and administration. Consequently we require to look to the reasons advanced by the honorable member to ascertain whether any urgency exists in connexion with this matter.


Mr Watson - Why not allow him to state his reasons?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I submit that he has already sufficiently stated them. After all the tumultuous cheering which occurred in the caucus room this morning, I should have thought that honorable members opposite had quite pumped themselves out.


Mr Watson - Was that the caucus which was held in the Opposition room ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, in the Labour Party's room.


Mr Watson - There was no caucus meeting there.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the meetings of that party continue to be so boisterous, I am not quite certain whether a thicker partition than already exists will not be required between the room in which they assemble and the Opposition room.' The gravamen of the statements by the honorable member for Gwydir is that the Opposition yesterday adopted a course of which the Government did not approve. To argue that that is a matter the discussion of which urgently requires this motion is a travesty upon the Standing Orders.


Mr Watson - That is for the House to decide.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is for Mr. Speaker to say whether the matter is one of urgency, and whether he will permit the discussion upon the motion to suspend the Standing Orders to proceed. I contend that there is nothing to indicate that the slightest urgency exists in connexion with this matter. Upon that ground, as well as upon the other, I submit that the honorable member ought not to be allowed to proceed.


Mr SPEAKER - Two points of order have been put before me. The right honorable member for East Sydney has called attention to the fact that the first matter to be determined by the House is, whether or not it will suspend the Standing Orders, and, that if it determines to suspend them, the debate may then proceed upon the subjects mentioned in the motion. That is so. The only question which honorable members can now debate is, whether or not the Standing Orders should be suspended. Some time since, I called the attention of the honorable member for Gwydir to the fact that that is the question to which he must confine his remarks. The honorable member for Parramatta claims that no urgency has been shown to exist. I am endeavouring, as well as I can, when I am not engaged in determining these points of order, to ascertain whether the honorable member for Gwydir is making out a case of urgency. He claims that there is some probability of the Government losing its position upon the Treasury benches, and I understand that before that event takes place, he desires to enable honorable members to make certain statements. I am quite prepared to listen to him further, reserving to myself the right - which I indicated halfanhour ago - to prevent a continuance of the debate, should urgency not be proved.


Mr WEBSTER - During my Parliamentary experience, I have never been so favoured by an Opposition as I have been upon the present occasion. It is, indeed, considerate on the part of honorable members opposite to afford me such frequent intervals in which to think out fresh points. Personally, I do not care whether I occupy a seat upon the Ministerial side of the House, upon the Opposition side, or upon the cross benches. But, seeing that there is a probability of the Government being defeated, owing to the adoption by the Opposition of tactics which are without a precedent in any Parliament in Australia, I contend that we should be afforded an opportunity of criticising, and, if we think fit, of supporting the policy of the Government. What can be more urgent than the right of honorable members to defend themselves against attacks which are made upon them, not in a constitutional way, but in a manner which is unknown in any other Parliament within the Commonwealth? I wish to obtain the suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose of discussing the policy and . administration of the Government, and also of considering the attitude that has been adopted by 'the Opposition in the conduct of the public business. When they resort to such tactics it is a matter of extreme urgency that the Standing Orders- be suspended in order that we may exercise the British right of free speech. When the right honorable member for East Sydney smiles, as he is now doing, I know that he does not relish the arguments that are being adduced. I think I have clearly shown that this is a matter of extreme urgency.


Mr Johnson - The honorable member has not yet said a word in support of his motion.


Mr WEBSTER - Even if I availed myself of every word in the dictionary, I do not imagine that I should be able to convince the honorable member. Some honorable members are so full of their own selfimportance that it is impossible to coa vin :e them that they hold erroneous views on any subject, and therefore I shall not attempt to perform impossibilities. We have a right, as free men, representing a free people, to give full expression to our views on an allimportant question of this kind. We have a right to protest against the tactics pursued by the Opposition during the last day or two. What are the planks in the Government policy to which the Opposition object ?


Mr Johnson - I submit, Mr. Speaker, that while it is perfectly competent for the honorable member to show that it is a matter of urgency that the Standing Orders should be suspended, he is not in order in discussing the general question.


Mr SPEAKER - While the honorable member for Gwydir was speaking, I was looking up the precedent mentioned a little earlier in the proceedings by the honorable member for Kennedy, so that I was not closely following his remarks. If the honorable member was distinctly going beyond the question of whether it is desirable to suspend the Standing Orders, he was certainly out of order.


Mr WEBSTER - As I am only a novice, I feel inclined to accept the kindly advice offered by honorable members opposite. As a tribute to their high intellectual attainments, to their wide knowledge of constitutional law, and to their intimate acquaintance with the rules of procedure, I should perhaps express my gratitude-


Mr SPEAKER - Will the honorable member discuss the question?


Mr WEBSTER - I have already shown that it is a matter of urgency that the Standing Orders should be suspended. I shall now discuss those features in the policy of the present Government to which the Opposition are opposed.


Mr SPEAKER - In discussing that matter the honorable member would go beyond the scope of the motion.


Mr WEBSTER - I wish to show that by the action of the Opposition we are deprived of the right to freely discuss their tactics.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not at all.


Mr WEBSTER - I am surprised that the honorable member, in whose veracity I have always had the greatest confidence, should hold that opinion. He knows that the Opposition are anxious to burke discussion - to gag honorable members on this side of the House - and to prevent us from putting before the people of Australia our reasons for objecting to their attempt to follow a course of procedure which has never been adopted in any other Parliament in the Commonwealth.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The question is whether honorable members are going back on the vote which they gave in favour of the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. It is the Ministry who say they will resign if the clause is not recommitted.


Mr WEBSTER - I admire the honorable member's friendly interest in me, but do not welcome his interposition. By the action of ' the Opposition we have been deprived of the right, which we should otherwise have enjoyed, to discuss the general question on a direct motion of want of confidence. Do those who are supporting the Opposition tactics fully realize that they are allowing the impression to go forth to the public that they are not prepared to support the policy of this Government?


Mr Reid - I rise to a point of order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member is not discussing the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, and that he is out of order from first to last. I hold that he must absolutely confine himself to the giving of reasons in support of his contention that it is urgently necessary that the Standing Orders should be suspended.


Mr Watson - Having had time to look up the precedent referred to by th'e honorable member for Kennedy-


Mr Reid - If this is a Government move, I do not wish to object to it.


Mr Watson - I hold that it is' one of the duties of a Government to protect the rights of honorable members in regard to our methods of procedure.


Mr Reid - Hear, hear.


Mr Watson - I have had an opportunity to look up the point referred to by the honorable member for Kennedy, and shall briefly put it before the House. On the 14th January, 1902, the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, wished to make a statement to the House relative to the South African war, and the part which he proposed, on behalf of the Government, that the Commonwealth should play in it. The proposal to make that statement was objected to, on the ground that it would give honorable members no opportunity to reply, and the Prime Minister then proceeded to deal with the subject on a motion to suspend the Standing Orders. On that occasion, Mr. Speaker, you ruled that -

The objection of the honorable member for Kennedy is fatal to the Prime Minister on this occasion making any statement to the House except in the way which he proposes - a speech which will conclude with a motion such as for the suspension of the Standing Orders.

The Prime Minister adopted that form, and concluded with a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Debate then ensued, and the discussion, which is reported in Hansard at pages 8741 to 8800, covered the whole question of the South African war.


Mr Glynn - I should like to take your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on the point whether the matter to which the honorable member wishes to refer can be discussed by the House even if he obtains the suspension of the Standing Orders. Is it not a matter which is already under discussion?


Mr Watson - He wishes to discuss the general policy of the Government.


Mr Glynn - He wishes to refer to the action of the Opposition during the last two days in endeavouring to prevent the discussion of a certain matter.


Mr Mahon - And to the policy of the Government.


Mr Glynn - In support of the point which I have raised, I should like you to refer, sir, to the following passage on page 264 of May's Parliamentary Practice -

Nor can a motion be brought forward which is the same in substance as a question which, during the current session, has been decided in the affirmative or negative, nor which anticipates a matter already set down or appointed for consideration by the House.

I respectfully ask you to decide, Mr. Speaker, that the object of the honorable mem- ber for Gwydir, in asking for the suspension of the Standing Orders, is to refer to a matter already under the discussion of the House, and to interfere with the right of honorable members to continue that discussion.


Mr SPEAKER - I will deal first with the point raised by the honorable and learned member for Angas. So far as I, as Speaker, have any knowledge, the question under discussion in the debate to which the honorable and learned member refers is whether a certain clause of a certain Bill shall or shall not be recommitted. Whether the fate of the Government is. or is not, involved in that discussion is a question in regard to which I cannot assume to have any knowledge. It is not for me to say whether it is or is not. Therefore, so long as the honorable member for Gwydir does not discuss the motion relating to the Arbitration Bill now on the notice-paper, and the amendment omitting clause 48 from the proposed recommittal, or any other matter of which notice has been given, he will be in order, and the point which the honorable and learned member for Angas has raised will have no application. The honorable member, however, will be out of order instantly if he attempts to debate any motion on the notice-paper. So far as the point raised by the honorable and learned member for East Sydnev is concerned, the House will see that the line between that which the honorable member for Gwydir may discuss and that which he may not discuss is a very faint one. He cannot discuss on the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders the subject which he wishes to discuss if the suspension of the Standing Orders is granted ; but he may give as fully as he pleases the reasons why he thinks the' Standing Orders should be suspended. At the moment when attention was called to his remarks by "the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, he was, as I understood him, arguing that possiblv the action of the Opposition' might prevent certain arguments being advanced in the House, which he thought ought to be advanced, and was thereby proving the need for the suspension of the Standing Orders.


Mr Reid - Another day or two.


Mr Fisher - Contemptible minds have contemptible ideas.


Mr WEBSTER - I have every reason to be proud of the wonderful unanimity which exists amongst honorable members opposite in the desire to burke discussion on this question.


Mr Kelly - Is the honorable member in order in saying that the members of the Opposition are unanimous in the desire to burke discussion?


Mr SPEAKER - If the remark is objected to by any honorable member, it must be withdrawn.


Mr WEBSTER - If it is objected to by any honorable member opposite, I withdraw it; but, knowing the marvellous abilities of the honorable member for Wentworth, I did not intend to convey the impression that he is capable of burking discussion. It is very difficult for a man to speak connectedly wfien he is being continually badgered. I remember being called to order verv quickly on one occasion for objecting to an honorable member expressing his opinions when he desired to do so.


Mr SPEAKER - Will the honorable member discuss the question before the House ?


Mr WEBSTER - I feel sure that in discussing the wisdom of suspending the Standing Orders to allow honorable members who, during the last nine months, have taken an attitude which seems to me more incomprehensible and more inexplicable -


Mr Reid - Have we anything to do with what has happened during the last nine months ?


Mr SPEAKER - The purpose for which the honorable member desires the suspension of the Standing Orders is to enable him to discuss "the policy and administration of the Government, also the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament." So far as I can see, that covers all that the honorable member can say in regard to the whole life of this Parliament.


Mr WEBSTER - I am delighted that the right honorable member for East . Sydney raised the point of order, because your ruling, Mr. Speaker, has given me an opportunity for which I am grateful. It considerably enlarges the scope of my observations. We have the right, on whichever side of the chamber we may sit, to explain our actions during the existence of this Parliament, which is not yet twelve months old, in order that later on we may, if possible, obtain the approval of our constituents in regard to what we have done. I am acting as the friend of honorable members on the Opposition side of the House, who, I feel certain, are just as anxious as I am to be able to place on record the reasons why they have taken the course which they have adopted during the existence of this Parliament. I maintain that it is only fair that we should have an opportunity to do so since it is probable that that opportunity may not occur again on account of the action of the Opposition in connexion with a motion which has recently been put before the Chamber. Each and every one of us should have the opportunity to defend his attitude towards the Government, and the vote which he intends to give, thereby once and for all giving to the people whom he represents an honest outline of his reasons for the faith that is in him. Honorable members opposite have the same right to be heard as have the supporters of the Government.


Mr Hughes - Does the honorable member say that they should be compelled to explain ?


Mr WEBSTER - I do not believe in compulsion except in connexion with arbitration. In a matter of this kind I feel sure that they will not need to be compelled. I am certain that they are only too anxious to have an opportunity to do so. The methods adopted by the Opposition in relation to the conduct of public business have engaged even their own supporters. But the leader of the Government is prepared to extend to them that which their own party would' refuse. What have honorable members to object to in the policy of the Government ?


Mr SPEAKER - That question has no relation to the suspension of the Standing Orders.


Mr WEBSTER - Owing to certain occurrences which may eventuate, and which are well known to honorable members, we shall have no opportunity to discuss the question at a later stage.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member may say that, but he must not discuss the policy of the Government.


Mr WEBSTER - I am giving my reasons for thinking that we should have an opportunity to discuss the important questions that are now pending. I am rather sorry that no other point of order has been raised, because it would have given me time to mature my thoughts. Is it not right, in the interests of good Government, that honorable members opposite should have an opportunity to explain why, in connexion with certain legislation, they have opposed the Government, and why they intend to vote in a particular direction in connexion with an event which is likely to occur during the next day or so?


Mr Glynn - I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the honorable member is not now referring to the pending vote on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?


Mr SPEAKER - At the moment when the honorable and learned member for Angas rose to a point of order, I was speaking to the honorable member for Macquarie with reference to the debate; but if the honorable member for Gwydir was doing what the honorable and learned member for Angas says he was doing, he was transgressing the rule. I ask him not to do that.


Mr WEBSTER - I certainly have no desire to transgress the rule. I have always endeavoured to keep within the four corners of the law of Parliament. I admit at once that I have to exercise my right to speak within a barbed wire fence, which has been erected for the purpose of preventing me from explaining my position. But, sir, I did not, as the honorable and learned member for Angas stated, transgress the rule.


Mr Glynn - What was the " pending vote " to which the honorable member referred ?


Mr WEBSTER - I was not referring to the vote which is to be taken on the Arbitration Bill. I contend that I did not transgress by referring to a subject which undoubtedly is hurtful to honorable members opposite. Why are these constant objections raised to the exercise of my constitutional right to debate a question which we are otherwise prevented from debating by reason of the attitude assumed by the Opposition? Do honorable members realize that as the outcome of this method of conducting public business it is possible that they will have to give an explanation of their opposition to the Government and its policy? There is one thing that it is absolutely essential that honorable members should consider, and that is that in the efforts of the Opposition to displace the Government by means hitherto never adopted by a Parliament in Australasia


Mr Glynn - To what means is the honorable member referring?


Mr Reid - I rise to a point of order. This is quite a new point. I should like to have the benefit of your ruling, sir, with regard to it. I have just observed the terms of the motion which the honorable member for Gwydir has sprung on us, and I wish to have your ruling as to whether, under the Standing Orders, the honorable member con include more than one subject in a motion, for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Because, if he can do that, he can include a schedule. I submit to you, sir, that there are two subjects mentioned in this motion - the policy and administration of the Government, that is one thing; and the attitude of the Opposition in relation to the conduct of the business of Parliament. These are two absolutely different things, and seeing that this standing order is not often used, I feel that it would be convenient, and useful in the future, if we had the benefit of your opinion as to whether, upon a motion to suspend the Standing Orders, more than one subject can be included.


Mr SPEAKER - I have no hesitation in giving the ruling asked for. I would remind honorable members that it is a common practice in connexion with Supply Bills and Appropriation Bills to move that the Standing Orders fee suspended, to enable the report of the Committee of Supply to be adopted, and a Bill introduced and passed through all its stages without delay. In such cases, three or four different things are contemplated by the motion, as contrasted with only two under the motion now before honorablemembers. It is quite competent for the House to suspend the Standing Orders for - one purpose or for more than one.


Mr WEBSTER - I shall go on for a few minutes to enable the right honorable gentleman to look up another point of order. Already eleven points have been raised, but they have not disturbed me in the least. I am determined to discharge what I conceive to be my duty, despite the interruptions to which I am being subjected. Honorable members will have to weigh very carefully the reasons which they may be required to give to their constituents for the action which they are taking. Should they not have an opportunity to explain whv they propose to desert a Government which is in favour of a White Australia ?


Mr Reid - I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether this outrage upon our rules is to be permitted any longer? We are now being addressed on the subject of a White Australia, upon the assumption that it is a matter of urgency which will admit of no delay.


Mr SPEAKER - I distinctly 'heard what the honorable member was saying. He was urging that some opportunity should be afforded to honorable members to discuss the policy of the Government, which includes the maintenance of a White Australia.


Mr WEBSTER - I know that this subject is a sore point with the right honorable member for East Sydney.


Mr Reid - The honorable member has now a loose rein; the White Australia question is very urgent.


Mr WEBSTER - I desire to impress upon honorable members who are following the right honorable member that they will probably have to explain to their constituents their attitude upon this question. They are leaving in the lurch a Government which has fought tooth and nail to safeguard a principle which is among the most sacred to Australia, namely, the maintenance of a White Australia. Are they prepared to assist into office those who have asserted that if they can secure the reins of Government they will do everything they can by maladministration to defeat the objects of the Immigration Restriction Act, and to go back on the grand principle of a White Australia? Will honorable members also be able to explain the position which they have taken up with regard to the proposal of the Government embodied in the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill now before this Chamber? Will those honorable members who profess to desire to encourage Australian industry, who have shed bitter tears of sympathy with the unfortunate unemployed, and who are pledged to their constituents to legislate, and to administer our laws, upon such lines that our industries will be established upon a sound basis and provide work for our citizens, be able to show that their present' action is justified ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Upon a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member is now submitting as matters of urgent necessity some possible attitude of members of the Opposition at some time or other, with regard to the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill, the White Australian question, the provision of employment for the people, and other items which make up the general programme of the Government, or have relation to their administration. I ask you to rule that none of these are matters of urgent necessity, and that, therefore, they furnish no reason for the suspension of the Standing Orders. They may be matters of great importance, but they have already been discussed and voted upon within the recent past. I submit that there is not a scintilla of proof of urgency in connexion with any of these matters, and that the course which the honorable member is taking constitutes a grave abuse of our Parliamentary privileges and procedure. If this kind of argumentation is to be regarded as a matter of necessity, we may as well set aside all our Parliamentary rules, and allow you, sir, to govern the House without reference to them. What would hinder any honorable member from taking a similar course every day of the vear, and so render it impossible to transact any business?

An Honorable Member. - What is the point of order?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The point of order is that the honorable member is indulging in a grave abuse of the Standing Orders.


Mr SPEAKER - Order. Will the honorable member state his point of order?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My point of order is that the honorable member has shown no urgent necessity to adopt' the course which he desires to follow.


Mr Thomas - That is the honorable member's opinion. It is not a point of order.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course it is my opinion, and I am asking Mr. Speaker to rule upon the matter.


Mr Hughes - He has already given a ruling upon it.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Since Mr. Speaker gave his ruling the honorable member has introduced two or three fresh matters of the most ordinary character - matters which do not relate to the Government programme. For example he mentioned the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill. I submit, therefore, that his conduct amounts to a grave abuse of the Standing Orders. May points out that such a motion should refer only to some matter of grave importance, which arises suddenly, and which requires the immediate attention of the House.


Mr SPEAKER - Is the honorable member giving a ruling or is he asking for my ruling?


Mr Reid - Labour cheers again.


Mr SPEAKER - Order.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I respectfully submit that I was supporting my point of order, but I do not think that I need proceed further.


Sir William Lyne - I submit that the honorable member for Gwydir was perfectly in order in making the remark to which exception has been taken. The prospect of our existing legislation, in respect « of a White Australia being repealed, is a matter of urgency, and I happen to know that it has given rise to very grave concern in the minds of a large number of persons.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member for Parramatta has asked me whether the course followed by the honorable member for Gwydir is not an abuse of constitutional practice. Of course, I have not to rule under such Standing Orders as I should prefer, or under such Standing Orders as are in force in some other Parliaments, but under those which are operative in this Parliament. I should much prefer that our Standing Orders should require a motion for their suspension to be put without debate. But under those Standing Orders there is no such requirement, and therefore I cannot uphold the view that the course which is being taken by the honorable member for Gwydir is an abuse of parliamentary privilege. The honorable member has distinctly asserted that it is probable that, even to-night the Government may have to vacate their position upon the Treasury benches, and has argued that before that event takes place, time should be afforded for a certain discussion. From his point of view, that matter is certainly arguable, and I am prepared to hear him debate it still further.


Mr WEBSTER - When I was interrupted I was seeking to discover how honorable members opposite could justify their position before the workers, who would benefit by the granting of a bonus for the production of iron in Australia. It is due to them that they should be afforded an opportunity of telling their constituents in so many words why they have sunk the fiscal question, upon which they were elected to this Parliament. The right honorable member for East Sydney, who has assumed the position of leader of the Opposition, and who is such an adept in the art of making personal explanations, that he can explain the various and conflicting attitudes adopted by him upon any question, should be afforded an opportunity of stating why he has pulled down the fiscal flag, which he nailed to the mast at the last election. He should perform his duty in this House, and not seek to evade responsibility for his conduct by endeavouring to obtain a snatch vote.


Mr Johnson - Upon a point of order, I submit that the honorable member is now transgressing the rules of Parliament, in that he is discussing the subject which he proposes to discuss when the Standing Orders have been suspended.


Mr Watkins - Seeing that you, sir, have pres'iously ruled upon the same point, is not the honorable member for Lang guilty of disorderly conduct in again raising it?


Mr SPEAKER - The point of order raised by the honorable member has not previously been taken. It relates to a sentence in the speech of the honorable member for Gwydir, which had not been uttered when the last point of order was raised, and, therefore, objection could not then be taken to it. I dismiss the point of order, and call upon the member for Gwydir to proceed.


Mr Reid - Labour cheers again.


Mr WEBSTER - I sympathize with honorable members opposite, who feel that they will not be able to justify the votes they have given, and I am seeking to do justice to them. I sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition ; with that democrat of old, the honorable member for Parramatta; with the father of the Labour movement, the honorable member for Lang, and with that self-righteous and lecturing individual known as the honorable member for New England. I desire to secure an opportunity for them to explain their attitude, and to put before their constituents the reasons why they oppose the Government. I wish to know why the honorable and learned member for Ballarat - who Has been conspicuous by his absence from the Chamber during this debate - and those who followed him under the banner of Protection at the last election, are prepared now to lower their colours. They should have an opportunity to explain why they are consenting to this invasion of their sacred rights and privileges, and attempting to burke legitimate and free discussion. I have done my duty.


Mr Robinson - Go on.


Mr WEBSTER - All the fighting qualities of the House are not confined to the Opposition benches, and I may go on too long to suit the convenience of the honorable and learned member for Wannon. A time may come when he will wish that I had not said as much. I have done my duty in availing myself of the forms of the House to draw attention to an action on the part of the Opposition, which will stand out prominently in the history of Commonwealth politics,' as one of the most despicable attempts to burke discussion that has ever been known.


Mr Reid - That is outrageous.


Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must not charge the. House, or any section of it, with resorting- to methods which are despicable in their character.


Mr WEBSTER - Then, I shall withdraw the word " despicable," and shall say that the action of the Opposition is unfair, unmanly, and un-British. Their methods would not be followed by statesmen of the type of Gladstone, Disraeli, or Chamberlain. Such men would never stoop to the tactics of which the Opposition have been guilty, in order to secure a temporary victory over their opponents. IJnlike the Opposition, they would not gag them and rob them of their pojitical liberty. I have on a previous occasion spoken of certain honorable members as being political highwaymen, and I say, without hesitation, that those who are supporting the Opposition tactics may fairly be described in that way. They are political highwaymen, seeking to rob the Government of their political rights. I trust that my protest will be remembered. It certainly will be recorded on the pages of the history of this Parliament. I do not think that any Labour Government would ever descend to the use of such weapons as the Opposition have employed to defeat their political opponents ; but, if they did, I for one should vigorously protest. I have heard the right honorable member for East Sydney say that he likes a fair fight. He invariably cries out for fair play, and yet he is now the first to shelter himself behind a political hedge and pull the trigger of the revolver which another man holds at the head of the Government. He has spoken of what has occurred in New South Wales, but, as a matter of fact, he is pointing a pistol at the head of the Government, and, without giving them any opportunity to defend themselves,- is demanding their political lives. It is his desire that the hands of the Government shall be tied behind them, and that a gag shall be placed in their mouths, so that they may have no opportunity to defend themselves from an attack which is unprecedented in the annals of Australian Parliaments.







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