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Thursday, 23 November 1905

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - The concluding remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong would lead one to believe that the rights of the minority in this House have been absolutely ignored. In view of recent experiences, I had almost come to the conclusion that toe majority had forfeited whatever rights they originally possessed. Many objections have been urged against the' Government proposals, and it has been freely stated that there is no justification for them. But those who make such an assertion must be speaking with their tongues in their cheeks. The history of this Parliament affords ample evidence of the necessity foi some such standing order as that now proposed.

Mr Conroy - Did not the honorable member once boast that no argument that might be adduced would cause him to change his mind ?

Mr KENNEDY - I am not aware of having made such a statement, but there are some unfortunate individuals who have not a mind to change. Their prejudices have become so petrified that they find it impossible to alter their views with respect to any question. We have only to review our proceedings in order to find ample proof that some such proposals as those now made are absolutely necessary. The Government in office, when this Parliament assembled, found it impossible to carry on business, and their successors were in the same position.

Mr Conroy - They passed so many measures that we have since had to amend many of them.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable and learned member for Werriwa will have another Opportunity to speak.

Mr KENNEDY - What was the position of the late Government? Did they not tell the country that it was absolutely impossible for them to proceed with business in this House? Did they not inform the people that the forms of the House were such that it was impossible for them to secure finality in relation to the consideration of contentious measures, and that they, therefore, proposed to pass new Standing Orders ? I venture to say that the Opposition are not entirely to blame for the present situation. Instead of allowing our parliamentary institutions to be discredited by proceedings which culminated in the spectacle which we witnessed last week, the Government should have submitted such proposals as those now before ns immediately on taking office. A curious change has come) over the situation. As soon as the gun was placed in position, there was a complete transformation on the part of the Opposition, and, this week, twenty speeches, which have not averaged forty minutes each, have been delivered in the House. What is the reason for this sudden fall in the average?

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because we entered into a compact with the Government to dispose of the matter to-night.

Mr KENNEDY - Why did the Opposition enter into that compact? They knew that brute force would prevail when reason would not. Can honorable members of the Opposition say that they have taken up a dignified position? It is absurd for them to talk about the desire of the Government being, to suppress debate, when we know that in the House of Commons, to which we look for light and guidance, more drastic Standing Orders prevail. And yet the business of the nation is dealt with satisfactorily in that House.

Mr Wilks - There are nearly 700 members in that 'House.

Mr KENNEDY - The proportion is about the same, and the volubility of members of the Australian Parliament is by no means less than is that of the members of the British Parliament. It is idle to say that the motion means the suppression of speech.

Mr Conroy - Then for what is it intended ?

Mr KENNEDY - As a policeman arms himself with a baton for protection, so honorable members in this House also desire to arm themselves with a weapon of defence. No Government would seek to apply the closure unless they felt that the stress of the situation rendered it absolutely necessary to do so. Although I have condemned the failure of the Ministry to introduce these proposals earlier in the session, I am pre-' pared, even at this Tate hour, to be subjected to them. I prefer to place my privileges and rights as a member of this House, under the control of the majority, rather than that of the minority. During the present session, the Government have been absolutely controlled by the minority. What business has been done up to the present time? Practically, only one Bill of importance has been passed.

Mr Conroy - The honorable member gauges the work done by the House by the number of Bills that we pass.

Mr KENNEDY - Certainly not. I judge of the work by its importance.

Mr Kelly - The honorable member does not believe in the application of the "gag" to enable the passing of the union label provisions of the Trade Marks Bill ?

Mr KENNEDY - I think that the "gag"isvery convenient when an honorable member becomes a nuisance. The temper of the Opposition to-day reminds me of an incident of the early days. When we sought, in the back-blocks, to subdue the "brumbies." we used to say that we were " fizzer " hunting, and it was not long before we reduced those which we caught, to such a state of submission that they would eat out of our hands. When the final touches have been put upon our Standing Orders., we shall be able to capture the Opposition with a " johnny cake. " Every time that I have looked at the Opposition benches during the present session I have been irresistibly reminded of a birdcage. I have heard the same old tune times out of number. But this remark does not apply merely to the present Opposition. I am free to admit that when I sat upon the other side of the House I was associated with honorable members who adopted precisely similar tactics. Whatever position I may occupy in this Chamber, I shall never lend myself to deliberately obstructing the business of the country. If the proposed Standing Orders recoil upon those responsible for their introduction, they will not receive any sympathy from me. In my opinion, the proposals of the Government are intended to achieve a good purpose, and I feel that they will be used only to facilitate the proper conduct of public business.

Mr McCay - I thought that the honorable member was referring to the union label.

Mr KENNEDY - As far as I can see, a good deal has been said concerning the purposes of the union label which has no application whatever.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - It is a wonder that the honorable member is prepared to indorse the application of the " gag " to secure its adoption.

Mr KENNEDY - I support the Government proposals, because I desire to see public business transacted. I grew tired of supporting the late Government because it was powerless to accomplish anything, and I should grow equally tired of supportingthe present Administration if they did not push on with useful legislation.

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