Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 28 September 1906

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - I find it very difficult to speak to the motion, because, to a certain extent. I have committed myself to help the Ministry, but I recognise that they have blundered, and blundered badly, with regard to contingent notices of motion, in order toget to the end of the session.We have been asked, on notice, to suspend the Standing Orders ; we are proceeding to suspend them without notice, and in order to suspend them without notice we have previously broken them. I venture to think that if any one calmly reads to-morrow what has happened here to-day he will come to that, and no other, conclusion.

The PRESIDENT - The Standing Orders have not been suspended.

Senator CLEMONS - I am assuming that they will be suspended; but we are being asked to suspend them without notice, and that could not be done except upon one condition, and that is that we had broken them, when pretending to give notice. I unfeignedly regret, sir, that you have been put in an extremely difficult position, which I believe that it was almost impossible for any man to get out of. The whole fault is attributable to the Government, which has confused matters throughout. I raised no protest this morning against the proposal of Senator Playford ; I knew that he was going to do what was utterly wrong, and I endeavoured to point that out to him. I would not put any unfair or even unusual obstacle in the way of the honorable senator getting on with business. Yet that deplorable result has been brought about simply because Ministers have utterly failed to understand the Standing Orders, or to have them properly applied. What I am going to do in the division I do not know. I can see that it is my duty to uphold the Standing Orders. I believe that if I support the motion to suspend them I shall be acting contrary to my duty. On the other hand, I know that the time to be fixed for the elections depends upon the date when this or the other Constitution Alteration Bill passes the Senate. If I do anything to postpone the date for the third reading of these Bills, I know that I shall thereby be assisting to postpone the date of the elections. We all agree that they will be held late enough as it is, . and every day we remain in session will push them further forward.

Senator Playford - Hear, hear.

Senator CLEMONS - That is one side of the question. There is, however, an alternative, and. in view of the state of confusion into which the Senate has got, I ask Senator Playford whether he ought not to seriously consider it. He knows that he is not at all certain of securing the passage of both measures. It is doubtful whether he will carry one of them. I begin to think that the only solution of the difficulty is to drop the Bills.

Senator Drake - Hear, hear; that is right.

Senator CLEMONS - O - Of course, I know that I shall be charged with having a party object in view. In this case, it is not fair that I should be charged with offering the suggestion simply because I want to defeat the Bills. I am always prepared to take my chance of defeating a measure to which I am opposed by the ordinary means. But this is a different case, and I ask the Minister to believe that I do not offer the suggestion with , a view to secure the defeat of a Bill to which I object. If my action were to be so regarded, every honorable senator who opposes this motion might be held to be doing something which, in my opinion, he ought not to do if he has any respect for the procedure of the Senate, or of doing something which may postpone the holding of the elections for perhaps weeks.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [11.43]. - I shall only take up sufficient time to enter my protest against suspending the Standing Orders in relation to the making of a call to deal with a Bill to alter the Constitution. The framing of the Constitution occupied a vast deal of time. It was the subject of a great deal of ingenuity by our leading public men. At the last gasp of the Parliament we are asked to suspend standing orders which were designed for the protection of minorities and for securing proper deliberation, and with a few hours' notice of a call of the Senate it is attempted to thrust through Constitution Alteration Bills in a manner which, I think, could not have been anticipated by the authors of the Constitution. . I cannot credit that if the people of Australia, had even guessed that a carefully devised Constitution would be brushed aside in this thoughtless manner - that it would permit of such inroads being made - they would have accepted it. I feel it to be my duty to enter my protest and most reluctantly to give my vote against the action proposed. I have taken up no time on the points of order which have been raised, but I must, as a matter of duty to those who have sent me here, utter these few words of emphatic protest against proceedings which I take to be ill-advised in the interests of the whole of Australia, and equally ill-advised in relation to the conduct of the business of the Senate.

Suggest corrections