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Wednesday, 20 December 1905

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I feel quite sure that every honorable senator thoroughly appreciates the keen attention which the Standing Orders Committee have given to this matter, but, at the same time, we reserve the right to take exception to a proposal if we consider it will not tend to the satisfactory conduct of business. I am opposed to these proposed new standing orders, but that, of course, does not mean that I am opposed to the members of the Standing Orders Committee. I should prefer the standing orders on the subject of instructions to remain as they are, rather than adopt a rule of this kind, which I regard as exceedingly dangerous. In the past, I know, honorable senators have desired to insert in amending Bills amendments not relevant to the Bill itself, though relevant to the principal Act it was sought to amend, and, under our present standing orders, have not been permitted to do so. The object of the proposed standing orders is to remedy that state of affairs. While that, in a sense, may be a desirable object, we must not forget the dangers to which we may lay ourselves open. It is a good old parliamentary maxim admitted throughout British Parliaments, that standing orders are intended, not only to facilitate the conduct of business, but also to protect minorities, and certainly this is a view of which we ought not to lose sight. If the mere temper of the Chamber from sitting day to sifting day is to be the sole guide, then let us. away with all our standing orders - tear them up, and put them in the waste-paper basket. The provision for fifteen affirmative votes is no compensation for the dan-, ger to which the minority would be exposed under the proposed standing orders : and it appears to me exceedingly strange that old parliamentarians should suggest a rule of the kind. So far as I understand

Senator Pearce - Not unless the Chairman had an instruction to do so.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - As Senator Stewart pointed out, after the second reading of a Bill has been carried, and before the President gives way to the Chairman, notice must be given.

Senator Pearce - No: the honorable senator has not read the second suggested standing order.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I can assure the honorable senator that I have read the second suggested standing order.

Senator Pearce - How can notice be given then ?

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - It can be given before the Senate goes into Committee.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Notice will have to be given previously.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - How long previously ?

Senator Lt Col Gould - On the previous day.

The PRESIDENT - That is so.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - If that be the intention, why not express it in plain, unmistakable language? I have an objection to words which do not convey the precise meaning in the minds of those who use them.

The PRESIDENT - According to our Standing Orders, "notice" means notice for another day.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Then that should be stated in plain terms in the proposed new standing order 319B. We are often told that we cannot do this or that, but frequently these are the very things that are done. We have improved the language in which the Chairman of Committees puts proposals from the chair, and we should take a similar course in regard to these proposed new standing orders. It was interjected, I think by Senator Turley, that the necessity for fifteen affirmative votes would mean a saving of time. In my

Senator Millen - There is the same principle in force in the standing order, which requires nineteen affirmative votes.

Senator Trenwith - It is. in effect, a second reading of the new proposal.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - This is absolutely a new departure. An honorable senator may be in favour of the principle of a Bill, but opposed to the manner in which it is proposed to carry that principle into effect, and he gives notice of amendments. All that is legitimate; but, under the present proposal, an entirely new Bill may be evolved - a Bill which has not the least resemblance to that contemplated in the order of leave. Is that the method in which we are going to conduct our business ? The danger of the proposed new standing orders may be illustrated by the notice of motion which Senator Trenwith has on the businesspaper to-day. That motion is strictly relevant to the Tariff, and under these standing orders the whole of the Tariff would be open to discussion.

Senator Higgs - If the majority wished.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Thatis what I am pointing out, namely, that the protection of the minority would disappear, simply because on any particular day the majority might desire to re-open the whole of a question such as that of the Tariff. I may say that personally I agree with Senator Trenwith that his motion deals with a matter of very great urgency, which ought to be disposed of before the prorogation. But under the new standing orders, instead of one legitimate, urgent grievance being removed, there might be re-opened the whole question which it took the first Federal Parliament seventeen months to deal with'.

Senator Pearce - If the majority of the Senate think that the question of the whole Tariff is urgent, and should be re-opened, while the honorable senator thinks that only one particular item should be considered, surely the will of the majority has at least as much right to obtain as the will of the individual.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - I do not say that the whole question of the Tariff should not be re-opened if the majority of the Senate desired that it should, even though I might hold the contrary opinion. I do not suggest that, but I say that if an honorable senator, believing that there was pressing need for an alteration of one item in the Tariff, brought the matter under consideration, the whole Tariff might, under these proposed standing orders, be thrown open for discussion.

Senator Trenwith - These standing orders do not apply to a notice of motion of the character to which the honorable senator has referred.

Senator Lt Col Gould .- But the object of the motion could not be carried into effect except by way of a Bill.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Precisely. A tricky Government, watching their opportunity from day to day, could, by the exercise of a little skill and patience, use these standing orders to put legislation on the statute-book which was not desirable. Such a procedure should not be tolerated. I sincerely believe that, when we are dealing with important questions, we should have some means of securing finality in regard to them. You, Mr. President, have mentioned that in future the majority of the Bills submitted to us will probably be amending measures, and that therefore the general principles upon -which we have been legislating will not be affected to any great extent. An amending Bill is brought in because, from experience, we have learned that, whilst the principle of the existing Act to which it relates is good, the methods we have adopted to carry it into effect are defective. We therefore adopt other means subject to the limitation imposed by our present standing orders. But under these standing orders both the principal Act and the Bill by which it was proposed to amend it would be open for discussion, and therefore we could -never hope to secure finality. For these reasons I am strongly opposed to the proposed standing orders. If we are to have irrelevant matters - matters quite outside the order of leave introduced - the best thing we can do is to abolish the standing orders and pass a law providing that the minority shall have no rights.

Senator CROFT(Western Australia).T agree with the general policy of this very small report, printed on a very large sheet of paper. Before proceeding to discuss it. I should like to point out that, sin-2e there has been so much talk about the cost of stamps used by honorable senators, we might reasonably take exception to this small report of eight lines being printed on four pages of foolscap size.

The PRESIDENT - The cost is only a few shillings.

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