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Thursday, 13 September 1906

The PRESIDENT - Before the debate, on the motion of SenatorClemons to dissent from my ruling, is resumed, I desire to say a few words to more clearly indicate the position I take up. I conceive it to be my duty to uphold the ruling of the Chairman of Committees, unless I am sure that he is wrong. In this particular case I am not only sure that he is not wrong, but I think that he is right. Some fear has been expressed lest a precedent may be created which might unduly cramp the proceedings of Committees in future cases. I do not think that the fear is well grounded, because each case, as to whether an amend- ment is relevant or riot relevant to the subjectmatter of a Bill, must be considered in reference to all the surrounding, facts and circumstances, and it is very unlikely that another such occurrence will be exactly on all fours with what has taken place in this instance. Since last night I have looked through all the decisions in the House of Commons and various State Parliaments which I can find, and I can only find one which has any bearing on this particular question. Even then I do not see that it is on all fours; but the principle involved seems to me to be the same. It is a case which happened in the House of Commons on the 8th April, 1861. The second reading of the London Coal Mine Duties Continuance Bill was moved. Its object was to continue a tax on coal which was brought into London, and the purpose of the tax was to provide funds for the improvement of that city.

Mr. Ayrtonmoved, as an amendment to the question of the second reading - " That in the opinion of this House the coal tax and the London Bridge Approaches Fund should be continued until the 31st July, 1862.

Mr. Speakersaid he did not see anything in the Bill about the London Bridge Approaches Fund, and therefore the amendment of the honorable and learned member for the Tower Hamlets was not in order.

It will be observed that it was an amendment to the motion for second reading and the Standing Orders of the House of Commons - from which ours have been copied - provide that all amendments to the motion for second reading should be strictly relevant, as ours do. Perhaps this case is not exactly similar to the case under consideration, but the question of relevancy is a matter of degree, and not a matter of principle. It seems to me that the case I have quoted may be argued to be somewhat similar to the one under consideration, because the Speaker said that he saw nothing about the LondonBridge Approaches Fund in the Bill, and in the present case I can see nothing about the construction of a railway in the Bill. I give the information to the Senate for what it is worth.

Senator Millen - Am I, sir, to interpret your ruling as meaning that it will not be competent for the Committee to attach any conditions?

The PRESIDENT - That is exactly what I did not rule. Undoubtedly any conditions can be attached which relate to the survey. But can a condition be attached that it shall not be made until the

Government of South Australia have agreed to a transfer of the State debts ? I do not think that any one can argue that. I admit that such an amendment would be less relevant than is the proposed amendment, but it is only a question of degree.

Senator Dobson - Have you, sir, ruled that the question of the survey stands absolutely apart from that of construction of the railway ?

The PRESIDENT - Undoubtedly, so far as the standing order is concerned. The Bill provides for a survey, but it says nothing about the construction of a railway. I dare say that a man in the street might connect the two things, and perhaps he might be quite wise in so doing.

Senator Dobson - Does not the Bill connect them?

The PRESIDENT - No; it says nothing about the construction of the railway.

Senator Givens - May I ask you, sir, how we are to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers if we are to engage in projects which we have not the right to undertake?

The PRESIDENT - That is a question which I do not think I ought to be called upon to answer. It is not a question relating to the construction of the standing order. It is a matter for the Senate, and not for me to determine. Does any honorable senator wish to speak?

Senator Clemons - The order of the day has not been called on yet.

Debate resumed from 12th September (vide page 4438), on motion by Senator Clemons -

That the ruling of the President - that the following amendment to clause 2 of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, viz., to insert the following words " Upon the State of South Australia giving the necessary permission authorizing the construction of the railway through that State" is out of order- be dissented from.

The PRESIDENT - Does any honorable senator wish to speak ?

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