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Friday, 10 November 1905

Senator CROFT - I am entitled to form my own opinion. I think that if we make reasonable progress we shall be warranted in adjourning at the usual time. But if honorable senators talk a lot of twaddle that is not warranted-

Senator Lt Col Gould - Is that in order ?

Senator CROFT - Well, I withdraw the word "twaddle." What I say is that I shall be prepared to sit late, if reasonable progress is not made. I speak entirely for myself. I am not the leader ofthe party to which I belong, nor do I hold office in it. This is not a party question, although honorable senators opposite appear to desire to make it one. If honorable senators were in earnest they would reserve their criticism until we came to the more vital clauses of the Bill. Any amendment then sought to be made for the betterment of the measure will receive my support, whether the Government approve of it or not. I admit that an attempt was made by me to organize a number of honorable senators who were prepared to sit late. But I deny that there was any desire to gag any one.

The CHAIRMAN - Does the honorable senator think that that has anything to do with the question, which is that the words "six months" be omitted?

Senator CROFT - I think I ought to be allowed to explain what has been done. It is very ungenerous to suggest that I had any desire to apply the gag. It is also untrue. I belong to a party which would be the last in the world to attempt to gag discussion, because that party in its earlier career was subject to the gag in every Parliament where its members appeared.

Senator Dobson - Is this relevant to the question ?

The CHAIRMAN - I shall be very glad if the honorable senator will deal with the question before the Chair.

Senator CROFT - I hope that the Government will not back down on this question, but will stick to the Bill as it stands.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales). - I am sure that honorable senators are very much indebted to Senator Croft for the little lecture that he has given them. It was just as well that he should have an opportunity of explaining his attempt to apply the gag. I can assure him that if he desires to sit all night a number of us are prepared to accommodate him. If we do not catch our trains to-day we can catch them to-morrow. We are perfectly willing to accept the challenge if honorable senators opposite wish to organize a system of gagging.

The CHAIRMAN - I have already asked honorable senators not to deal with any question that is not before the Chair. I direct attention to standing order 404, which says that no honorable senator shall use offensive words of any other honorable senator. There is no doubt that it is a reflection upon a senator to say that he wishes to "apply the gag,," and I" hope that that expression will not be used.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I realize the full force and effect of the standing order to which reference has been made, but I am not aware that I have said anything offensive. My statement was that there was an attempt to organize a gag-by means of an all-night sitting. In fact, Senator Croft spoke for the express purpose of telling us that he had suggested that we should take such a course.

Senator Croft - I denied that I did if for the purpose of gagging any one. I did it in the interests of public business. We ought to do some work.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - The honorable senator said-

The CHAIRMAN - Will Senator Gould kindly refrain from dealing with that question any further, and confine himself to the amendment ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I certainly do not wish to dispute your ruling, but I think I was justified in making an explanation. Senator Croft is quite willing to support amendments of which he approves, but he does not like to see others supporting amendments which they think will improve the Bill. He appears to claim the right to say which amendments shall be supported, and which opposed.

The CHAIRMAN - Really, Senator Gould must see, as an old parliamentarian, that that ha,si nothing to do with the question of the omission of certain words.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - There is one other matter which I think is in order in Committee on a Bill, and that has reference to the conduct of business. It is always, I think, legitimate when suggestions are made with regard to the progress of a Bill for that subject to Be discussed, though the discussion need' not be) prolonged. Honorable senators on this side could not help overhearing the whispers of Senator Playford.

Senator Playford - Senator Playford never said anything about sitting late.

Senator Sit JOSIAH SYMON - I desire to pour oil on the troubled waters. We could not help hearing the suggestion of Senator Croft about sitting late. We do not know now what course the Government propose to take. I do not think any one has a right to blame Senator Croft for his attitude. He had a perfect right to make a certain suggestion, and has explained his reason. I gather that he had no intention of applying the gag, as it is termed. But any ordinary man, much less an Englishman, an Irishman, or a Scotchman resents anything in the nature of the application of the iron hand. I do not think that Senator Croft would set himself up to be the infallible judge of what was sufficient progress.

Senator O'Keefe - I rise to order. I ask you whether these remarks are in order, or whether the discussion should not be confined to the amendment ? .

The CHAIRMAN - It is my desire to suit the convenience of the Committee. In doing so, I am more likely to conduce to a smooth method of carrying on business. If honorable senators desire at a stage in Committee to ascertain what course is proposed with regard to the progress of business, I do not consider that I ought to act upon the strict letter of the standing order and compel the discussion to be applied absolutely to the amendment before the Chair. But I would urge honorable senators not, on every amendment to a clause, to ask the Minister how far he proposes to proceed with the Bill. If it be the wish of the Committee to ascertain his intention, perhaps it will hear a statement, and, as soon as it has been made, consider the question before the Chair.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I shall not be a party to anything which savours of obstruction or to the proposing of amendments which are frivolous or apparently not calculated to subserve the general purposes of the Bill in some way or other, i merely rose to say that I think we ought to accept what Senator Croft has said by way of explanation, to assent' to his proposition that there should be some progress made, though on the point opinions may differ, and to ask Senator Playford to state definitely, on behalf of the Government, what he proposes to do. Does he intend on this - the first day on which the Bill has been in Committee - to sit after the usual hour of adjournment? If he does, then we shall endeavour to ascertain how much longer he proposes to sit. Certainly this is the first occasion on which I have known any departure from the ordinary course of procedure in regard to the details of a Bill during its first day in Committee to be suggested. If it was the second or third day on which the Bill had been in Committee, not after three months, as was the case in another place, and my honorable friend wanted ray assistance in bringing the discussion to an early close, it would be given. He knows perfectly well that never in any House of Parliament has an attempt been ma(ie to force a Bill of importance through Committee at the first sitting. I take the liberty of asking my honorable friend to state definitely whether he intends to keep us here after the usual hour in order that some at present undefined progress may be made?

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