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Thursday, 29 April 1915


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I do not intend to take up the time of the Chamber in reviewing at any length the painful circumstancesunder which we endeavoured to carry on the business of this House at the particular time to which the motion refers. In fairness to the exSpeaker, I submit that the House should not be asked to go to a vote on this question until that gentleman has had an opportunity to state his side of the case. The charge against the ex-Speaker has been read here to-day, and necessarily so; and it is only fair that he should give his version of the incident. The charge which the honorable member for Ballarat made against the then Speaker was, in my opinion, perhaps the most serious that could possibly be made against the occupant of the chair, whom the House has charged with the duty of seeing, with the assistance of the clerks, that the records are kept absolutely correct. Those records are particularly in the custody of the Speaker; and the honorable member for Ballarat accused the ex-Speaker of a crime - I say a crime - against the honour of this House.


Mr McGrath - Which he has admitted.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Admitted what?


Mr McGrath - The ex-Speaker has admitted the charge.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a charge which the ex-Speaker has never admitted; on the contrary, he has denied it, and denied it most emphatically. He hasnever, however, had an opportunity, up to this moment, to put his case fairly and fully before the House. I appeal to the honorable member for Barrier not to allow the House to expunge this record, and so wipe out the incident, until the honorable member for Lang has had an opportunity to attend and make his defence. I am satisfied, nay, I know, from my own knowledge of the circumstances, that when that defence has been made, the honorable member for Ballarat, if he is the man I believe him to be, will rise in his place and apologize to the honorable member for Lang for having made the charge. I am certain that the charge cannot hold water, and I am equally certain that the honorable member for Ballarat will eventually feel it his duty to apologize. I well remember the circumstances; they are burned into my mind as, perhaps, is no other incident in my life. I can go over the whole circumstances from moment to moment, and I know that at that very time the honorable member for Ballarat made his accusation he was not in a fit state to know what was going on in the House.


Mr Burns - What was wrong?


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why, the honorable member for Ballarat was standing away back on the Opposition side, with his mouth wide open, and his hands in the air shouting for his very life.


Mr Burns - That is a lie!


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member for Illawarra must not use language of that kind, and I ask him to withdraw it.


Mr Burns - I withdraw the language and will say that the statement of the honorable member for Richmond is a deliberate untruth.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable mem*ber is now committing an offence worse than the original one, and that he must not do.


Mr Burns - Well, I withdraw the statement.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must withdraw it unconditionally.


Mr Burns - Yes, I withdraw it unconditionally.


Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Should not the honorable member for Richmond also be made to withdraw the statement he made?


Mr SPEAKER - It was open to the honorable member for Illawarra to immediately rise to a point of order when the honorable member for Richmond made the statement, and take the ground that it was not correct, and ask for its withdrawal. That, however, the honorable member did not do, but took matters into his own hands.


Mr Burns - Am I in order in asking that the statement made by the honorable member for Richmond be withdrawn ? The statement was that the honorable member for Ballarat stood in this House, with his hands above his head, and his mouth wide open, not knowing what was taking place. That is as much as to say that the honorable member for Ballarat was drunk.


Mr SPEAKER - I must say that I do not place the same interpretation as does the honorable member for Illawarra on the language of the honorable member for Richmond. When the honorable member for Richmond was speaking, I did not take it that his language concerned the honorable member for Ballarat, but thought that he was referring to somebody else altogether. In any case, the peculiar position is that, when the honorable member for Richmond said something concerning the honorable member for Ballarat, it was the honorable member for Illawarra who took up the defence of the latter. The honorable member for Illawarra will see that any complaint about the language should have nome from the honorable member for Ballarat.


Mr McGrath - I rise to a point of order. I also do not place the same interpretation as does the honorable member for Illawarra on the words used by the honorable member for Richmond.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was never intended.


Mr McGrath - There was great excitement in the House on that night.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must rise to a point of order.


Mr McGrath - I take strong exception to the statement of the honorable member for Richmond that I was standing up waving my hand. I do not think that the honorable member himself was in a fit condition to know what anybody was doing.


Mr SPEAKER - If the honorable member for Richmond has made any statement to which an honorable member takes exception, I am sure he will withdraw it.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly, Mr. Speaker. I was only endeavouring to describe the very excited state in which the honorable member was at that particular moment; and, indeed, he was not the only one who was excited. ' There were at least eight honorable members on the Opposition side who were doing exactly the same thing as he was. It was a scene of the wildest excitement I have ever witnessed in this chamber ; and I hope I shall never go through a similar experience.


Mr Fenton - Do not talk about excitement ! You were the most excited person in the House I


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member must pardon me; that is not so. I was standing close alongside Mr. Speaker, and I know exactly what happened. However, I rose to-day only to suggest that it would be only fair to the honorable member for Lang, in view of the serious nature of the charge which has now been resurrected by this motion of the honorable member for Barrier-


Mr Thomas - I made no reference to the speech alleged to have been made.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - While that is so, the honorable member is asking this House to expunge from its records a statement of the action that it took upon the speech made by the honorable member for Ballarat, and which contained a charge against the then Speaker. Since the honorable member for Lang is at present in the New Hebrides, whither he has been sent in company with an honorable member from the other side of the House, to make an important investigation on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the honorable member for Barrier may fairly be asked to await his return before calling upon the House to deal with this motion. If he will do so, then I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will say that after the honorable member for Lang has been given an opportunity to put his case before the House he will not prevent a vote of the House being taken.


Mr Joseph Cook - I will be prepared to facilitate the taking of a vote on the question.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have now the authority of the Leader of the Opposition for the statement that we on this side of the House will, in every possible way, facilitate the taking of a vote on this question as soon as the honorable member for Lang has been afforded an opportunity to state his side of the case. In common justice to the ex-Speaker, the honorable member for Barrier should he prepared to adopt my suggestion.


Mr Thomas - The question is not what the ex-Speaker did, but what the House, following the lead of the Government of the day, did.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We must admit that the action of the majority of honorable members is, after all, the action of the House. The House, on the occasion referred to, took action upon a speech made by the honorable member for Ballarat. Whether that action was right or wrong is not the question with which I am at present concerned. My own view is that it was right; but if honorable members are to be permitted to discuss from every platform in the land their private opinions regarding the occupant of the chair, it seems to me that the authority and the respect of the Chair - everything that we hold sacred in connexion with the Chair - must immediately disappear. We all have our opinions, I presume, regarding the occupant of the chair from time to time. We may consider that a Speaker is perfectly fair or the very incarnation of all that is unfair. But if we are to give expression outside to our private opinions concerning the occupant of the chair, I can well conceive the position into which this House will quickly drift. In the circumstances to which I have referred, I ask the honorable member for Barrier if he will consent to the adjournment of the debate.


Mr Thomas - No.


Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are endeavouring to give the honorable member for Barrier a perfectly fair deal, but, at the same time, I think we ought to afford the honorable member for Lang an opportunity to give his version of the incident that has been resurrected by this motion.







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