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Thursday, 23 November 1905

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) - Like the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I do not propose to devote more than a few minutes to the consideration of the amendment. The principal difference between the original motion and the proposal submitted by the honorable member for North Sydney is that the latter is intended to penalize an offender in connexion with unduly protracted debate, whilst under the Government proposition the closure would undoubtedly be applied not only to individual offenders, but to the whole issue in question. In view of the present state of parties in this House - in view of the fact that we have three parties, which, in the words of the Prime Minister, make constitutional government almost impossible - the difference between the two proposals is especially; marked. The standing order proposed by the Government would enable them, or any of their supporters, to closure a motion, and the proposition becomes infinitely more obnoxious the moment one realizes the peculiar situation in which Governments may find themselves in this House. Let us take, for instance, the almost impossible situation of three parties, one party, the smallest, being in power, and another, twice its size, supporting it-

Mr SPEAKER - I fail to see that the remarks now being made by the honorable member have any bearing on the amendment before the Chair. They would have been appropriate to the general question, but that having been disposed of, the only question now before the Chair is as to the relative advantages of the form of closure proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney and that submitted by the Government.

Mr KELLY - The amendment is a proposal to limit the duration of debates. I firmly believe that some such limitation is necessary. I am informed that the honorable member for Gwydir, in the course of last session, made speeches covering no less than seventy-two yards of Hansard. That honorable member, at all events, should support the amendment. Surely those who have offended by speaking at undue length should be the first to support it. Unless they do, the people will be, naturally, suspicious of their motives. An honorable member who in one session has made speeches covering seventy-two yards of Hansard should support any proposition to fix a time limit.

Mr Johnson - The honorable member for Gwydir does not believe in the closure being applied to himself , although he would apply it to others.

Mr KELLY - I trust that the honorable member will be generous, and recognise that the physic with which he is prepared to dose the Opposition is one which he might well use himself. Under the amendment, an honorable member will be able to address himself to a question of importance for an hour. Surely that is a reasonable proposal ? Surely, even if the Government refuse to accept the amendment, they are not prepared to say that one hour is insufficient to enable an honorable member to properly debate any question that may be submitted. I should think that the Minister of Trade and Customs would be able within an hour to elaborate at least one argument and address himself properly to it. Why does he oppose this amendment ? And why does the Vice-President of the Executive Council propose to vote against it? These two honorable gentlemen can hardly refuse to support it, since it would not interfere in any way with their liberties. An hour would surely be a reasonable time to enable the Vice-President of the Executive Council to work off one of his jests. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I trust that if honorable members feel impelled to pass the closure motion in its original form, they will recognise that it will interfere with the right of their constituents to watch the progress of business in this Chamber, and that they will be extremely sparing of its use. If they take up that attitude, and so make the abuse of the proposed standing order impossible. I, for one, shall feel that a great many of my objections to the Government proposition will have been proved almost groundless.

Amendment (by Mr. Dugald Thomson) put -

That after the word " namely," line 4, the following words be inserted : - " No Member shall speak for more than one hour on any question before the House except in the debate on the Address-in-Reply, or on the Budget, or in a debate on a motion of ' No Confidence,' or in moving the second reading of a Bill, or in moving a resolution.

In a Committee of the House no Member shall speak for more than one hour in all, or four times in all, on any question before the Committee. This rule shall not apply to a Member in charge of a Bill or resolution.

Any Member may speak for a longer period or more frequently than is allowed by the two next preceding rules with the leave of an ordinary majority of the House or Committee, as the case may be. The question whether the Member be further heard shall be put forthwith without amendment or debate."

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