Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 26 July 1906


The PRESIDENT - They could not ask for a Conference. They could only report to their own House. How could a Committee of either House ask for a Conference ?


Senator PLAYFORD - It would not need to be a Conference, but representatives of both "Houses might have met to talk the matter over quietly ; or the Printing Com - mittee of the House of Representatives might have ' forwarded a representation to the Printing Committee of the Senate on the subject. In this case eight long papers that had previously been printed bv the Government, covering regulations under the Post and Telegraph Act, were ordered to be printed again by the Senate. The Senate had a perfect right to make such an. order, but it added unnecessarily to the cost of printing for the Commonwealth. The Senate was not entirely to blame in the matter, because the difficulty arose from the fact that instructions had not been given to the Government Printer to send copies of these regulations to each member of the Parliament when he printed them for the Government under an Act. It was necessary for the Senate and the House of Representatives to order the printing' of those papers so that the members of both Houses might obtain, copies of them. That involved considerable extra expense, as honorable senators are aware. Of course I cannot, and do not, pretend! for a moment to defend the action of the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives.


Senator Millen - That is what the honorable senator is doing.


Senator PLAYFORD - I do not defend the way in which thev gave expression to their opinion on a matter of economy. They expressed a right and a justifiable opinion, so far as economy is concerned, but they did so in the wrong way, and in a way which I cannot defend. I do not know that anything will be gained by passing the motion. I understand that a similar difficulty cannot arise again, because at the instance of Senator Neild the Senate passed a motion respecting the supply of official publications to members of the Federal Legislature, and I am informed that the Prime Minister has directed that members of both Houses are in future to be furnished with copies of all Commonwealth publications, the Acting Government Printer having been instructed accordingly. The motive which actuated the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives was certainly a good one, because their desire was to study economy, but they had no right to refer the matter to the Prime Minister, who, of course, had nothing to do with it. They made a very serious mistake in doing that. With respect to the resolutions at which the Printing Committee of the Senate have arrived, the first is -

That it is the right of the Senate to order the printing of any paper laid on the table of the Senate.

There can be no doubt that that is our right if we choose to exercise it; but I assume that we have no desire to exercise it in such a way as to involve the Commonwealth in unnecessary expense. The second resolution is -

That the action of the Senate in ordering any paper to be printed is not open to review by the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives.

Ordinarily, of course, it is not; but the members of the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives, as well as every person in the Commonwealth, have a perfect right to say so, if they consider that proper economy is not being practised,


Senator Henderson - The Senate ordered the printing of the papers.


Senator PLAYFORD - And it is open to review as to whether it was. a wise action on the part of the Senate, when it involved unnecessary expense.


Senator Millen -By whom ?


Senator PLAYFORD - By everybody.


Senator Best - By individuals, of course, butnotby an official committee.


Senator PLAYFORD - The Printing Committee of the House of Representatives might have called attention to the matter in avery nice way. Unfortunately they did not do so, and I do not defend their action. The third resolution reads -

That it is not proper that the action of the Senate should be brought by the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives under the attention of the Prime Minister.

I quite agree with that. I do not think that weought to pass the motion. Weought not to do anything which might be a cause of friction between the two Houses.


Senator Findley - On the Minister'sreasoning we should abolish" the Printing Committee of the Senate, and hand over the consideration of all printing to the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives.


Senator PLAYFORD - No. I have already said that a similar difficulty arising out of the printing of regulations under Acts of Parliament cannot again occur. I ascertained the additional and unnecessary expense involvedin the extra printing ordered in this case, and I do not think it was a very large sum.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - What has that to do with the question?


Senator PLAYFORD - It has something to do with it.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - No.


Senator PLAYFORD - What I am afraid of is that this motion, if passed, may give rise to some little friction between the two Houses. We must recollect that the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives complained on the ground of economy, and honorable senators will agree that such action is always more or less popular.


Senator Millen - How does the Minister know that economy was the only consideration which, moved them.


Senator PLAYFORD - I think that they were actuated by a desire to promote economy, and I certainly should not attribute their action to any base motive. The Senate has a right to pass this motion if it pleases.


Senator Findley - Does the Ministerbelieve that the Senate is not to be trusted to consider economy?


Senator PLAYFORD - I think that this motion will not secure economy. Attention has been called to the matter by what has already transpired, and that, I think, is all that is necessary. If, however, honorable senators desire to pass the motion, well and good.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (SouthAustralia) [6.25]. - I think it well, andat all events I am not sorry, that the Minister of Defence has thought it necessary to say a word or two before the motion is passed. The honorable senator, it seems to me, takes up a very curious position in assenting to every one of the resolutions submitted by the Printing Committee of the Senate, and at the same time deprecating the placing of them on record by the Senate. If we assent to the resolutions, it is our duty to back up the Printing. Committee by placing them on record. We have intrusted the Committee with the duty .of controlling printing, so far as it concerns the business of the Senate, and when we believe their action "to be right it is our duty to support them, just as it would be our duty, if we thought they had done wrong, to criticise them, and, perhaps, to express some strong opinion against what they had done. I take the view that the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives adopted a very unwise course, not merely in form, but in substance. I am not prepared to accept the position that the Printing Commitee, or any other Committee, of the House of Representatives can sit in judgment upon the proceedings of the Senate, or of any Committee appointed by the Senate. The Senate ordered , the printing of these documents, and it is perfectly immaterial whether the expense involved was 5s. or ^5. The Senate made the order, and the decisions of the Senate are not, it appears to me, to be called in review, as the Minister of Defence believes they may be, by the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives. I entirely disagree that the Printing Committee of the .House of Representatives, or even the House of Representatives itself, is entitled to sit in judgment upon the proceedings of the Senate, except in the ordinary parliamentary way. In that respect the Minister of Defence adopts a mistaken attitude, as he does also, I think, in deprecating our taking action to maintain the dignity of the Senate and of our Printing Committee. When he says that it must cause friction with the other Chamber> I should like to know who has caused this friction? In the first place we must attribute it to what Senator Playford has very justly described as the improper vote of censure passed upon the proceedings of the Senate and of a Committee of the Senate. In the next place it was wrong for the Committee of the House of Representatives to have transmitted that censure through the Prime Minister. We cannot be wise at all times, but I think it .was wrong for the Prime Minister to take it upon Himself to forward Ihe censure or to have anything at all to do with it. It would have been wiser if the honorable and learned gentleman had intimated to the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives that it would be well for them to reconsider their position, and to adopt a better course. The censure was forwarded, and it appears to me that we should now agree to the resolutions which the Printing Committee of the Senate have submitted. I cannot understand why the course that has been indicated should not have been followed ,in the event of the Printing Committee of the House of Representatives feeling that action had been taken concerning which they might make a suggestion to the Printing Committee of the . Senate in relation to the conduct of the business it has been appointed to control. When we appointed our Committee we gave them power to confer with, or sit as a joint Committee with, the corresponding Committee of the House of Representatives. Every facility was, therefore, given to enable a conference of the kind to take place.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.







Suggest corrections