Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 13 May 1931

Senator OGDEN (TASMANIA) - It could have no effect.

Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH - I do not know whether it could. Certain happenings within the last few days have made it clear that the highest authority in the land - the High Court - upholds the rights of Parliament. The High Court has ruled that Parliament is supreme, and, in fact, that the Government cannot defy Parliament. His Excellency the Governor-General representing His Majesty the King, the Senate and the House of Representatives constitute the Parliament. That is the institution upon which the people are entitled to rely.

Senator Daly - Does the honorable senator suggest that the High Court said that this Government had defied Parliament?

Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH - I did not say anything of the sort. I said that Parliament is supreme, and that a government cannot defy Parliament. I did not attribute to the High Court any remark that this Government had defied Parliament. I merely said that the High Court has declared that Parliament is supreme. If the Senate chooses to adopt this amendment, and transmits it to another place, we shall then have an opportunity to learn whether the members of that chamber are or are not prepared to defy parliamentary authority. It would be worth finding that out. In any case, I say without hesitation that the time must come when the right of a government to impose, under section 52 of the Customs Act, a prohibition for purposes entirely uncontemplated by that section will have to be tested. As a layman, but one who has some understanding of what words mean, I venture the opinion that, when the time comes, the High Court will hold, as it has previously held, that a delegated power is simply what it says, and nothing else; that a government cannot, under cover of a power like that, do something which was never contemplated. If this abuse of power is to be remedied, it must be remedied by Parliament. Subject to your approval, sir, I move -

That the following words be added to the motion: - "and that after the 31st day of August, 1931, the date of the expiration of the agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State of Queensland, no agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the .State of Queensland, or between the Government of the Commonwealth and any other party, relating to the sugar industry, and no duty, embargo or prohibition on the importation of sugar into Australia shall have any force or effect until approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.

If that amendment is agreed to, I then propose to move -

That the resolution, as amended, be forwarded to the House of Representatives, and its concurrence desired therein.

Senator Daly - I request your ruling, Mr. President, as to whether the amendmen┬▒ is or is not in order. I submit that it is not. It seeks to introduce questions that do not affect the subject-matter of the motion before the Senate, which is, " That the paper be printed ".

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill - I shall deal, from two points of view, with the question that the honorable senator has raised. First, as to relevancy; and, secondly, in relation to practice. These are closely allied with the consideration of any point of order.

As to relevancy, I may say that, if the honorable senator had raised this ques-tion between the years 1903 and 1906, and I had been in the Chair, I probably should have been obliged to rule that the amendment was out of order. Since that time, however, a convention, which doubtless honorable senators have noticed, has come into vogue, at all events in the Senate. It is that whenever a paper of importance is laid before another place, in order to give honorable senators an opportunity to express their views upon the question at issue, a motion is made in this Senate that the paper be printed. That has gradually grown into a most regular practice. Let me give an example. Honorable senators are aware that when the budget is brought down in another place, a paper that is a digest of that budget is laid before the Senate, and a motion is made " That the paper be printed ". That motion generally comes to no conclusion, because the budget itself arrives in the Senate in time to take its place.

Now with regard to precedent. I quote from the rulings of Sir Richard Baker, as President of the Senate, from 1903 to 1906. At page 21 of Vol. 1, ruling No. 151 reads -

When a motion is submitted that a paper be printed, the arguments submitted ought to be directed to showing the desirability or otherwise of that course being followed.

That practice has long been discontinued.

I draw the attention of honorable senators to the wording of this Order of the Day. It reads. - " Sugar Industry - Government Policy - Paper ". If it were intended that this paper should be looked upon only as one to be either printed or not printed, in the first place the question would be left to the determination of the Printing Committee, and in the second place the words " Government Policy " certainly would not be interpolated in it.

In the somewhat limited time at my disposal - and I thank the honorable senator for the fact that it was not more limited - I have been able to find two instances of the adoption by the Senate without question of the course that it is now proposed to follow. The first was on the 4th May, 1921. J. am unable to say whether that is the earliest date upon which this procedure was followed; but I can say that where the policy of the Government is laid open to criticism by the convention of the printing of a paper on the subject, there is also furnished to the Senate the opportunity of expressing its opinion, thereon, by amendment, should it so desire. On the date named, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), by leave, made to the Senate a statement with respect to the wool industry; and, having laid on the table the following paper, namely, " "Wool Industry - Copy of letter dated the 28th April, 1921, from the Chairman of the B.A.W.R.A. Limited to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, submitting certain particulars and suggestions regarding the industry he moved " That the paper be printed". Senator Guthrie moved an amendment to add certain words. The debate continued. Senator Gardiner, memory of whom is fresh in the minds of honorable senators, moved an amendment on the amendment. The debate was further continued. Senator Gardiner, by leave, withdrew his amendment. Senator Guthrie, by leave, withdrew his amendment. The debate continued. The question was then put, and passed. No point was raised touching the propriety or otherwise of moving au amendment; the correctness of the procedure adopted was accepted by the Senate.

Again, on Thursday the 10th November, 1927, there occurred an incident in which I was implicated. I may say that I then occupied very much the same position as that now occupied by my friend, Senator Daly. I moved that the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the Commonwealth Government's shipping activities, presented to the Senate, be printed. Senator Grant moved an amendment to leave out all the words after the word " That," with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " the decision of the Government to sell the Commonwealth Line of Steamers is inimical to the best interests of the primary producers and the people of Australia, and, in the opinion of the Senate, the Line should be retained and re-organized." The Senate divided, and the amendment was negatived.

That recital of occurrences in the history of the Senate, in my opinion, establishes the propriety of this procedure. The continuance of the convention to consider a motion for the printing of a paper, as a vehicle for an. important debate and the expression of views on the policy of the Government, confirms theopinion that T had already formed. I, therefore, rule that the amendment is quite in order.

Senator DALY(South Australia [4.28] . - I had not intended to speak upon this subject, and should not have done so but for the statements that were made by Senator Colebatch, in which a connexion was sought to be drawn between arbitration and this and other proposals of the Government.

Apparently, the honorable sena.tor holds the view that the policy of this" Government is to grant an embargo or to give a preference to a particular industry in order to bolster up the industrial conditions of the workers engaged in that industry. Had the honorable senator devoted as much time and thought to the preparation of that portion of his speech as he did to other portions, he would have discovered that that is not the policy of this Government. The policy of Australia is to give to every worker, in whatever industry he may be employed, the conditions which an arbitral tribunal is prepared to grant to him. "When the Government decides to afford shelter ' to an industry, it determines that that industry shall stand by the policy of the country. So with the sugar industry it is not a question of giving this protection in order that the awards of arbitral tribunals may be obeyed. A like safeguard was embodied in the gold bounty and other similar bills that have come before this chamber. It is idle to say that such a policy has just been introduced by this Government. The protection afforded to the sugar industry is not the creation of this Government. This Government came into power at a time when hundreds of thousands of pounds had been expended in building up the sugar industry in Australia, and when tens of thousands of men were employed in it. Other governments that preceded the present Government decided that it was in the best interests of Australia that certain advantages should be given to it. The present Government had to face the position as it found it, and it did so. Its action is identical with that taken by its predecessors in office. Of course, if the Parliament lays it down as a matter of policy that all agreements of this nature shall come before Parliament, I certainly shall have no complaint to make about it. I agree with the contentions of Senator Colebatch up to a point, and do not consider that any real objection could be offered to the course that he suggests. But I honestly believe that the Government felt that it would be a waste of time to place this agreement before the Senate. The honorable senator must admit that we have sitting opposite us to-day a united party. " Surely there could be no difference of opinion in the ranks of that party on the question of a sugar bounty! Where, then, was the necessity to send this agreement to the Senate? Were the ranks of the party opposite divided on the question of the cotton bounty and the gold bounty?

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - These were dealt with by Parliament.

Suggest corrections