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Tuesday, 27 September 1904
Tuesday, 27 September 1904

Mr. Speakertook the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.


Motion (by Mr. Reid) agreed to -

That Orders of the Day, Government business,

Nos. 1 and 3, have precedence over all other business this day.


Sir JOHNFORREST (Swan). - I rise to a point of privilege. In the Age newspaper of Saturday last the following passage occurs in a report of a speech of the honorable, member for Southern Melbourne : -

Last night Sir John Forrest had boasted of having introduced conciliation and arbitration ' into Western Australia, and had said that preference to unionism was the basic principle of his Bill. And yet this was the man who was opposing preference to unionism at the present time, with the desire to make the Bill null and void. Such unmitigated humbugging of the people whilst* professing to be actuated by a regard for their welfare was shameful. The honorable" member's statement that I had said that " preference to unionism was the basic principle of my Bill " is incorrect, as my remarks were the very opposite of those attributed to me. They are reported at page 4857 of Hansard, as follows: -

I was the first man in Australia to introduce and pass a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, brought up to date with the provisions of the Act then in force in New Zealand, with one or two exceptions.

Mr.Groom. - With preference to unionists?

Sir JOHNFORREST. - No. That was not in the measure. I am opposed to preference to unionists, as being unnecessary and unfair. I do not think it was in the New Zealand Act at that time.

Mr.GROOM. - It was held to be.

Sir JOHNFORREST.- I did not know that at the time. I do not think the State Parliament of Western Australia would have passed a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill giving one man an undue preference over another.

Mr.Groom. - Has it passed it since?

Sir JOHNFORREST. - I may tell the honorable and learned member that even now, though the measure I passed has been amended, with the assistance of the Labour Party, which was not in existence in my day, and has been liberalized in some directions and brought up to date with the New Zealand Act, there is no preference to unionists in it, and the Court in Western Australia has refused to give preference to unionists.

Mr. Frazer.- That is why they are amending the Bill again now.

Sir JOHNFORREST. -I am not speaking of what is to be done, but of what has been done. I wrote to the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, pointing out to him -

Mr. McDonald.- I rise to a point of order. The right honorable member commenced by saying that he wished to state a question of privilege; but he has not told the House whether he intends to conclude his speech with a motion. I do not know if it is his intention to conclude with a motion, but I ask if he will be in order in not doing so ? If he continues his criticisms, and does not conclude with a motion, the honorable member for Southern Melbourne will be prevented from replying to him, and other honorable members will be debarred from taking part in the- discussion of the subject.

Mr. SPEAKER.-There are two or three courses, any one of which may be taken on a question of privilege. The right honorable member for Swan is well within his rights in stating to the House in such manner as he may desire, but at not too great a length - and he certainly has not yet occupied very much time- what the question of privilege is. It will be competent for him then to leave the honorable member for Southern Melbourne to make any rejoinder which he may desire to make, or the right honorable member may conclude with a motion. He is, however, entitled to state to the House, first of all, for its information what the question of privilege is which he desires to bring under its notice.

Sir JOHNFORREST.- I wrote to the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, pointing out the error which he had made in attributing to me the statement that " preference to unionism was the basic principle of my Bill " ; but, instead of replying that he had made an error, or had misunderstood my remarks, the answer which I received from him this morning states that he is surprised at my objection to his words,as he does not disclaim the report. The whole point of his remarks was that I had said that " preference to unionism was the basic principle of my Bill," and that notwithstanding what I had said, I had, in this Chamber, opposed preference to unionism, the inference being, to use his own words, that I have been " humbugging the people, and that my conduct is shameful." There is only one way in which the honorable member for Southern Melbourne can now act, and that is to express his regret at having altogether misrepresented me. When an honorable member misrepresents another, the only proper course for him to take is to say at once that he misunderstood him, or unknowingly and unintentionally misrepresented him. No one who has read the Hansard report of or listened to my remarks can doubt that I have been absolutely misrepresented by the honorable member. Such conduct is unworthy of a member of this House, and if the honorable member allows it to stand against him it will be simply scandalous.

Mr. SPEAKER.-The question raised by the right honorable member for Swan is not one of privilege, nor is any further step necessary in connexion with it. -The right honorable gentleman was perfectly entitled to make a personal explanation-

Sir JOHNFORREST.- That is what I intended to do. I should have said " personal explanation " instead of " point of privilege."

Mr. SPEAKER.- If the honorable member for Southern Melbourne desires to make a rejoinder he is at liberty to do so.

Mr. RONALD(Southern Melbourne).I received the right honorable member's communication, in the form of a note containing a quotation from a newspaper report, which, I may say, was not a verbatim report of what I said. It must have been known to the right honorable gentleman that the West Australian Bill was based upon the New Zealand Act, and that at the time the measure was passed, the Legislature had before it not only the New Zealand Act, which contained a provision for preference to unionists, but also the decisions of the Courts in support of such preference. Therefore, if the right honorable gentleman had desired to oppose the granting of preference, he should have indicated it upon the face of the Bill.

Sir JohnForrest. - I believed that all references to preference had been omitted from my Bill.

Mr. RONALD.- I have looked up the decisions of the Courts-

Mr. SPEAKER.-I would remind the honorable member that the one point for explanation, and the only one, is in regard to the complaint of the right honorable member for Swan that the honorable member stated that he said a certain thing which the right honorable gentleman denies having uttered. We are not concerned with what was included in the Bill, or what was accomplished by that measure. The sole question is whether the honorable member did, or did not, make the statement attributed to him, and I should be glad if the honorable member would confine himself to that.

Mr. RONALD.- It is my intention to reply to the right honorable gentleman in my speech upon the motion of want of confidence. I shall content myself at present by stating that the report that I said that the right honorable member for Swan made preference to unionists the basic principle of the Bill is not correct. What I said was that preference to unionists was the . basic principle of the Bill.

Sir JohnForrest. - If the honorable member had stated to the House at once that the newspaper report was incorrect the matter would have been ended.

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