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Thursday, 20 September 1906

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) .' - I am extremely sorry to say, sir, that I have again to dissent from your ruling.

Senator Pearce - I rise to order. I wish to direct your attention, sir, to standing order 415. My first point is that a motion of "dissent from your ruling ought to have been submitted immediately after you gave your ruling." Senator Clemons did not dissent from it then-, but asked you to amplify it.

Senator Dobson - On another point.

The PRESIDENT - No, the same point.

Senator Pearce - You had given your ruling, but for Senator Clemons' benefit, you agreed to amplify it." That is my first point - that standing order 415 provides that the objection must be taken at once.

Senator Dobson - So it was.

Senator Pearce - It was not taken at once.

Senator Dobson - Substantially it was.

Senator CLEMONS - I can answer that.

Senator Pearce - If that point of order is not sufficient, I direct your attention to the last line of the standing order to which I have referred, and request you to consider whether in this case the discretion which has been left to you ought not to be exercised - that is to say, that debate is to be adjourned until the next sitting day - unless the matter .require immediate determination.

Senator Playford - This point does require immediate determination.

Senator Col Neild - Can a point of order be taken on a motion that has not been submitted?

The PRESIDENT - I think that Senator Neild's point is correct. Senator Clemons will have to submit his motion in writing.

Senator CLEMONS - I intend to do so. I am writing it out. I now move -

That the President's ruling - That the third reading of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill can be taken without an adjournment of the debate, or without leave to Senator Turley to resume his speech - be dissented from.

On this occasion I am not going to put myself in a position of decided disadvantage, as I did on a former occasion. Unfortunately, I feel impelled to dissent from your ruling, 'and I admit that I do so with the greatest reluctance ; especially because I have heard you say you do not like to have your rulings dissented from.

The PRESIDENT - I did not say that. What I said was that I do not like them dissented from- for - well, perhaps I had better not say.

Senator CLEMONS - I think I can fill up the ellipsis which you have created. I think you intended to say that you did not like to have your rulings dissented from' for party purposes. Neither do I. But if I may be permitted to refer to the last occasion when I had to dissent from your ruling, it will be remembered that the division disclosed that there was no party purpose, inasmuch as the vote was even, whereupon, under our standing order, the question had to pass in the negative. The voting on that occasion was 13 to 13, which in itself, added to the fact that you and the Chairman of Committees - whose rulings were then in dispute - voted orv one side-

The PRESIDENT - Is the honorable senator now dealing with his point of order ?

Senator CLEMONS - I am.

The PRESIDENT - I do not thinkthat the honorable senator is. He is making an attack upon the Chairman of Committees and myself.

Senator CLEMONS - If that remark were made by an ordinary member of the Senate, I should immediately take active and decided steps to resent it. Coming from the Chair, I can say nothing; but if you were on the floor of the Senate I should, I say, undoubtedly resent it. My remark was not made for that purpose at all, and I think that you are taking an advantage of your position from the Chair, which you yourself will, on reflection, probably regret. Now I am going to deal with my objection. You yourself, in your ruling, have just made the admission that there is no standing order which supports it. I took a note of your remarks. You said further that this matter must be decided, after all, by common-sense. You emphasized that remark ' by repeating it. I submit, therefore, - and I do so with the greatest of respect - that if there ever was an occasion when a member of the Senate might dissent from your ruling, this is such an occasion. Surely, if common-sense is to decide the question, there is no better course than to submit it to the common-sense of the whole Senate. You yourself would be the first to say, I am certain, that if common-sense is to be the sole arbiter, we could not do better than submit the question to a vote of the Senate. You have also said - I noted the exact words - " I am quite willing that the Senate should decide it." I wish to give the Senate an opportunity of deciding it. What better occasion could there be for the Senate to decide upon a ruling given by you, believed by some honorable senators to be erroneous, than when you yourself have said that common-sense must decide the question, and that you are perfectly willing to submit it to the Senate ? Now, with regard to another point. If I had been desirous of interfering with the ordinary course of business, I need not have intervened until we had proceeded past half-past 10 o'clock, when no new business could have been taken. If I had waited .until thirty-one minutes past jo, and then had raised an objection to the proceedings, I should have brought the sitting to an end ; because the debate on the dissent from your ruling would have had to be adjourned until the next sitting day.

Senator Playford - I do not know that the honorable senator will have it adjourned.

Senator CLEMONS - Let me point out to Senator Playford that if my objection to the ruling proceeds on the ordinary lines prescribed by the Standing Orders, it will make no difference to his business, because he will be able to take up another measure while the Bill now before us is in abeyance.

Senator Playford - I want to dispose of one piece of business at a time.

Senator CLEMONS - Surely the Senate will recognise that, although I am raising this point at a time when there is, so to speak, keen party strife, it is a point that it will be well to have settled. I venture to say that you have given a ruling on no more important point than this. I also venture to say that you yourself were in difficulties about coming .to a conclusion. I feel sure that you will admit that. Under such circumstances, therefore, is it not a proper matter for the Senate to consider, and to come to a conclusion upon? It is obvious that certain-irregularities have occurred. You admit that, under ordinary circumstances, when it is desired that a debate on one subject shall cease and other business be taken up, the invariable practice of the Senate is for some one to move the adjournment of the debate. After that is done, a motion is submitted that the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for some subsequent time. In this case that was not done. If such a motion had been submitted with regard to this measure, any one could have opposed it.

The PRESIDENT - No; Senator Turley was in possession of the Chair, and no one could have moved such a motion.

Senator CLEMONS - I do not think that that throws any light upon the subject. What is the position of Senator Turley? His speech has been interrupted, but no one has moved' the adjournment of the debate. Senator Turley did not ask, because it was not necessary to ask, for leave to resume his speech. The position discloses all sorts of difficulties. We may rely that Senator Turley, not having asked leave to resume his speech, and having sat down., has finished.

Senator Trenwith - The lunch hour had been reached.

Senator CLEMONS - That was not the cause of Senator Turley's taking his seat. Under ordinary procedure, Senator Turley would have resumed his speech after lunch, but it is questionable whether Senator Turley could have done so to-day. I submit that, for this and other reasons, your ruling, sir, is beset with grave and great difficulties. I recognise that you- are forming a procedure for the Senate, the value of which I recognise. From time to time you give us your rulings, which are used in the interpretation of our Standing Orders, and the very ruling which you have given to-night will, no doubt, be included amongst your other determinations on disputed points. But is it not right and desirable that the Senate should express an opinion whether or not it upholds your ruling ? You will, I am sure, acquit me of any desire to see your ruling rejected; my only wish is that the Senate may have an opportunity to express the opinion which you have invited it to express.

The PRESIDENT - I am afraid that the debate will have to be adjourned.

Senator Pearce - I rise to a point of order. I contend that this is not a motion which you, Mr. President, can receive, for the reason that it was not moved, as, according to the standing order, such motions must be moved, immediately your ruling is given. I furthermore draw your attention to the concluding words of the standing, order, namely, " unless the matter requires immediate determination." I take the view that the Senate is greater than its Standing Orders, and yet, unless the discretion vested in you is to be exercised, one honorable senator may prevent the Senate from proceeding with any business whatever. It would only be necessary for an honorable senator, as soon as a Bill was called upon, to dispute some ruling of yours, and immediately the whole business must be postponed until the following day. I believe that the intention, in inserting the words I have quoted, was to prevent any honorable senator being able thus to cause a dead-lock in the business. This is surely an occasion on which you should exercise the discretion vested in you. I contend that the objection was not taken at once, as it should have been, and that, even had it been taken at once, you ought to exercise your discretion and say that this measure is a matter which 'requires immediate attention.

Senator Millen - The point has been taken that the objection, to your ruling was not given immediately after the ruling had been stated. The facts are that you, sir, gave your ruling, and that Senator Clemons spoke, whereupon you rose again, and said that you had apparently not made yourself clear. You, sir, said, "I am going to give a ruling now.'"

Senator Playford - I think the President said, " I have already given a ruling."

Senator Millen - I do not quarrel with that view of what took place. But you, Mr. President, went on to say, " I am going to give a ruling, and I trust there will be no discussion afterwards." It was immediately after that ruling that Senator Clemons, in compliance with the Standing Orders, gave the notice of. protest which is in your hands. As to the second point, I submit that this is not a question of discretion, but a question of whether it is absolutely necessary that the matter should be determined now. There is nothing connected with the third reading of this Bill which renders it imperative that the discussion should proceed now. Unless it be assumed - and I am sure you will be the first to resent such an assumption - that it is part of your duty as President to give decisions te assist the Government in getting through particular measures-

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - There is no such suggestion.

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