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Thursday, 13 September 1906

Senator HIGGS (Queensland) . - I should like to offer a few observations for the consideration of SenatorClemons particularly, seeing that he is the mover of the motion before us, and will undoubtedly reply at some length. The decision upon which your ruling was given, Mr. President, was a decision in Committee. Under standing order 251 the Committee may consider only those matters referred to it ; and the matter in this instance was a Bill for the survey of a railway. Senator Symon has emphasized the difference there is between a proposal for a survey and a proposal for the construction of a line, and has pointed out that honorable senators, in voting for the second reading of the Bill, are in no way committed to the construction of the line. As to Senator Symon's argument concerning the time at which a survey should be made, is it not a straining of the meaning of " time" to claim that it may be defined by inserting a condition that, until the consent of the South Australian Government has been obtained to the construction, a survey shall not be made? In my opinion an amendment as to time must, in order to be relevant, fix some specific date, and not be couched in such general terms as to merely amount to a suggestion that we ought to have the consent of the South Australian Government to the construction of the railway. In considering this point we should have regard for the rulings given in the Senate, and the Standing Orders dealing with instructions to Committees. You will remember, sir, that when a Bill was before the Senate proposing several amendments in the electoral law Senator Mulcahy wished to move an instruction to the Committee that the elections should be conducted on the Hare system of preferential voting. The honorable senator was ruled out of order on the ground that the subject-matter of the Bill as it passed the second reading did not enable him to move such an instruction. We afterwards so amended the Standing Orders that SenatorMulcahy might, if he wished, move, in connexion with such a Bill, that it be an instruction to the Committee to provide for preferential voting. Senator Pearce was ruled out of order in an attempt which he made to make provision in the Bill for the use of voting machines. Senator O'Keefe was also ruled out of order when he desired to have a provision inserted in the same Bill to permit of plumping at elections. If it was necessary, under our new Standing Orders, that Senators Mulcahy, Pearce, and O'Keefe should ask for instructions to the Committee before they could introduce provisions concerning preferential voting, ' voting machines, and plumping in an Electoral Bill, surely it is reasonable to argue that if Senator Givens wishes to insert in a Bill for the survey of the route of a railway a provision concerning the construction of the line, he should first get an instruction from the Senate to enable such a matter to be considered by the Committee on the Bill.

Senator Givens - What is the difference between survey and construction?

Senator HIGGS - I think that there is a very great deal of difference. Before any one can be authorized to construct the proposed railway there will have to be a new Bill passed. I submit that it is not right to introduce into another Bill, by way of amendment, a wide and divergent proposition, which will require the passing of a separate measure to give it effect. I should like to remind honorable senators that the Standing Orders are intended for the protection of the majority, as well as for the protection of the minority. If we are to be permitted in Committee, on a Bill making provision for the survey of the route of a railway, to introduce amendments relating to the construction of the line, what logical objection could we raise to an amendment providing that the railway to be constructed must be an electrical railway? If such an amendment were to be considered in order, any amendment whatever relating to the construction of the railway might be moved, and if -that were to be allowed it would be in the power of the minority to paralyze the action of the Senate.

Senator Fraser - No; the majority would still carry the day.

Senator HIGGS - I do not think that in such circumstances as I have described it would be in the power of the majority to give effect to its wishes. The commonsense interpretation of the Standing Orders, I think, is that any amendments submitted in connexion with this Bill, which has passed its second reading in a certain form, must be relevant to the question of the survey, and not to the matter of the construction of the line. I hope that honorable senators will support your ruling. I feel sure, however, that if a majority of honorable senators dissent from it you will not take any exception to the decision. In fact, you said so almost in so many words when giving your ruling last evening.

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