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Wednesday, 20 December 1905

Senator HIGGS (Queensland) - I voted against the adjournment of the debate because the subject is fresh in the minds of honorable senators, and we are well able to come to a decision upon it. It is not perhaps a fitting subject with which to wind up a very long session, but there is no advantage in waiting six months before we decide it.

Senator Keating - There is no advantage to be gained by adopting the standing orders now.

Senator HIGGS - The two cases which give rise to the proposed standing orders were rulings given by the President, under our existing standing order, and in accordance with the practice of the Senate that no amendment could be made in a Bill unless it were relevantto the subject-matter of that Bill. When Senator Mulcahy proposed that the Committee of the Whole, in dealing with the Electoral Bill, should consider the question of compulsory voting, you ruled that he could not move in that direction, because the proposal was not within the scope of the Bill. The second case occurred when Senator O'Keefe proposed to consider in Committee the question of plumping at elections. Our standing order regarding instructions is apparently of no value. Some amendment is necessary in order to make it effective. The proposal of the Standing Orders Committee that we shall be permitted to consider matters in Committee not relevant to a particular amending Bill, but relevant to the principal Act, will enable us to give effect to the existing standing order. The fear expressed by Senator Stewart and Senator Gould that such a standing order as proposed will give rise to " stonewalling " is groundless, in view of the standing order providing that the Senate may at any time divide upon the question under debate. So that if, in. the opinion of the majority, any question before the Senate had been sufficiently debated, or had been moved for the purpose of obstruction, the motion "That the Committee do now divide " could be submitted, and the obstruction would be brought to an end.

Senator Millen - The only party likely to move the "gag" is thatto which the honorable senator belongs.

Senator HIGGS - I do not take the view that the majority of the Senate should be entirely at the mercy of the Government of the day ; and I was very glad to hear Senator Keating observe that if at any time an instruction were moved regarding a matter which the Government did not consider ought to be inserted in a Bill, the Government had the right to withdraw the Bill.

Senator Findley - Would not twenty senators' be at the mercy of fifteen under this standing order, because they could keep on moving instructions ?

Senator HIGGS - Only instructions that were relevant.

Senator Findley - They could treat every clause in the Bill in the same way.

Senator HIGGS - That might be attempted, but we have never had any such experience in the Senate. The standing order providing for the question " that the Senate do now divide" has never been put into operation except on one occasion, when Senator de Largie proposed that the editor of the Argus should be brought to the bar of the Senate for insulting the memory of King James. There is no analogy between the Senate and other legislative bodies in which obstruction might take place. We are only a small House of thirty-six members all told, and I do not think that the whole of the members of the Senate have ever been present at the same time. Our average attendance is about twenty-four, and ample opportunity might be given to every honorable senator to exercise his full right of debate. But the opportunity to exercise the full right of debate will not be given if we are hedged in and limited by the will of the Government in regard to any proposed amending Bill. If the Government chose to introduce a Bill amending the Tariff in respect of the duty on harvesters, as a result of the carrying of the motion submitted by Senator Trenwith, we should be limited to the consideration of the duty on harvesters, though the majority of honorable senators might be of opinion that the duties imposed on various other articles should also be considered.

Senator Millen - In such a case would it not be the duty of the Government to bring down a Bill and proceed in the ordinary way ?

Senator HIGGS - The new standing, orders would enable the majority of the Senate to have their way. If the Government introduced a Bill dealing only with the duty on harvesters, in the circumstances I have mentioned, any member of the Senate might move, under these standing orders, that the duties on several other articles should be considered by the Committee. As I understand that several honorable senators desire to discuss other business, I shall not debate the question at length. I wish to quote two or three cases in regard to instructions which are referred to in May. There are several classes of cases in regard to instructions, and at page 839 of the 10th edition of May it will be found that the first class referred to comprises -

Cases when an instruction was necessary to empower a committee on a Bill to consider the amendments proposed by the instruction.

I mention one or two of the cases coming under this class. There was a Bill introduced in 1862 dealing with markets and fairs in Ireland, and the proposal for an instruction was to insert provisions for the equalization of weights and measures in all mercantile transactions throughout Ireland. Evidently the Bill did not contain provisions dealing with this matter, and so an instruction to consider it was moved. In the case of the Representation of the People Bills of i860 and 1866, an instruction was moved to insert provisions for restraining bribery and corruption at elections. Under class 2, dealing with cases when instructions were unnecessary, because the Committee possessed the power which the instructions would confer, a reference will be found at page 841 to the Western Australian Constitution Bill of 1890. In the case of that Bill it was not considered necessary to move an instruction - to insert clauses enacting that the ' Bill should not come into operation until the Act recited in the schedule to the Bill, which conferred a Constitution upon the colony, was amended, by assimilating the franchise, and the qualifications of members of the Legislative Council and Assembly of Western Australia, to those of other Australian colonies.

That would appear to have been an important amendment of the measure, and it was considered that an instruction was not necessary to enable the Committee to deal with it. The third class of cases covers cases of instructions ruled out of order as being foreign to the subject matter of the Bill., and at page 841 of May, a case quoted is that of the Arms (Ireland) Continuance Bill of 1886, on which an instruction was moved - to insert clauses dealing with the law relating to poor law guardians, labourers' dwellings; and the franchise in corporate towns in Ireland.

It was' ruled that that instruction could not be moved, because the matters proposed for consideration were not relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. Class 4 covers cases of instructions to extend the scope of a Bill, and the pases quoted would meet that in which Senator Givens proposed that the application of the provisions of the Commerce Bill should be extended to the States of the Commonwealth. That was ruled out of order in Committee of the Senate, because the Bill did not refer to commerce within the States, but with foreign countries.

Senator Millen - Could an instruction have been given in that case?

Senator HIGGS - Not according to our practice. One of the cases' quoted in May is that of the Sunday Trading (Metropolis) Bill of 1855, in connexion with which an instruction was moved - to insert a clause applying the provisions of the Bill to the United Kingdom.

That was not disallowed under the practice of the House of Commons. If we had previously adopted this standing order Senator Givens could have moved an instruction to the Committee to consider the amendment he d'esired to submit in the Com- 1merce Bill. I think that the proposed standing order is one which, without taking away any of the responsibilities of the

Government of the day, will give the majority an opportunity to carry out their wishes. There would have been no danger in permitting Senators O'Keefe and Mulcahy to move the instruction they proposed for the amendment of the Electoral Bill. My firm conviction is that the amendments they desired to move for proportional representation, and to allow of plumping, would have been rejected if they had been considered in Committee; but I still think it would have been right to have permitted the honorable senators named an opportunity of submitting their amendments.

Senator Millen - Had they not an opportunity to introduce a separate Bill ?

Senator HIGGS - I am glad Senator Millen has mentioned that point. If the honorable senator will look at the businesspaper he will see that private members of the Senate have practically no chance of having even a resolution dealt with, to say nothing of a Bill which would have to pass through several stages.

Motion (by Senator Pulsford) - put.

That the debate be now adjourned,

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