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Friday, 24 November 1905

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister for Extemal Affairs) - I move-

That the following Standing Orders be forthwith adopted : -

1.   The following motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and shall be forthwith put from the Chair without amendment and the vote taken : -

(a)   A motion for the first reading of a Bill;

(b)   A motion, That this debate De now adjourned.

(c)   A motion in Committee, That the Chairman report progress (either simply or in any form);

(d)   A motion in Committee, That the Chairman leave the Chair;

(e)   A motion to reinstate on the NoticePaper any business which has lapsed because of a count-out.

Should any such motion be negatived, no similar motion shall be received within a quarter of an hour of the declaration of the preceding decision, and no such motion shall be received if the Speaker or Chairman is of opinion that it is an abuse of the rules or formaof the House, or is moved for the purpose of obstructing business.

2.   A motion without notice may be made, That a Member who is speaking "be not further heard," and such question shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.

It is unnecessary to repeat the observations which I made to the House two days ago in moving a similar motion. The malady for which a remedy is proposed is, as I thein explained, chronic, although this proposal has been provoked by a special attack. At first it appeared that a minimum limitation would suffice, but had I. been aware that the Government would be refused assistance in obtaining anything approaching a real and efficient standing order for this purpose, I should at once have moved the adoption of the whole system of closure in force in the House of Commons. The criticism to which my first proposal was subjected has not impaired our justification for its introduction. It is essential for the pro- per conduct of parliamentary business. It was thought last week that the standing order then proposed would have taken less time to discuss, seeing the need, at this period of the session, for preserving our time, but, under the circumstances, and in view of the fact that that standing order is general in its application, it is desirable to prevent idle discussions on certain motions, and to deal with obstruction on the part of individual mem- bers. The first part of this motion aims at prevention. It provides that motions which ought tobe treated as formal shall be dealt with formally, that is to say, that they shall not be subiect to amendment or debate, but shall be put at once to the House, or to the Committee, as the case may be. In this way a great deal of obstruction will be prevented without any active intervention.

Mr Johnson - And a great deal of useful debate may also be prevented.

Mr DEAKIN - Very few will share the honora'ble member's opinion, and, I think, no one who has listened to the recent speeches on the motion " that the Chairman do now leave the chair." This part of the motion has received the approval of the Standing Orders Committee in the last Parliament and in this Parliament, and, therefore, is recommended in a fashion which should specially appeal to honorable members opposite. The second part of the motion is aimed at individual obstruction. If we relied entirely on the standing order adopted yesterday, it might happen that the House, exasperated by the irrelevance or undue length of' a few speeches, might close a debate, and thus prevent honorable members who desired to address themselves, in reasonable fashion, to the question from doing so. This part of the proposed new standing order! is taken from the practice of New South Wales, where it has been in force for a great many years, and a somewhat similar rule exists in Western Australia. I am not aware that complaints have been made against its operation, except, perhaps, in a few cases.

Mr Robinson - Is the honorable and learned member aware that Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. R. E. O'Connor were both closured when fighting for Federation?

Mr DEAKIN - The fact is not in my memory, but does not affect my argument. If, in the course of years, the rule has been unwisely or improperly applied in individual cases, it has beenno more mishandled than the best and soundest laws may be. The powers of restraint on which civilization rests are all capable of abuse, and all have been abused at times, since capacity to be used implies capacity to be abused. The object of this rule is to prevent abuse of the time of the House, and of the rights of honorable members; and to say that it can be abused in its turn is not a sufficient objection to it. If we cannot rely on the good sense and judgment of Parliament, on what are we to rely ? On the one hand, we have the judgment of the great body of members, and, on the other, theresistance of, often a small, and sometimes a numerically insignificant, minority, who set their individual desires against the clear wish of the House. Unrestricted individual speech is impossible in modern days, in any Parliament, no matter how small. There must be self restraint on the part of the units if Parliament as a whole is to be free and to work effectively. The choice offered to us is between the risk that the units may occasionally suffer at the hands of the majority, and the danger that the business, standing, and dignity of Par liament shall suffer from caprice or deliberate attack at the hands of the units. I am confident that both these rules will come to be employed with due regard to the rights of honorable members, applied infrequently, and with as little abuse as possible. After the first experiences are over, they will take their place with the other Standing Orders, and be handled in the same way. The last rule is aimed at protecting free speech, by giving to the more modest and less loquacious members of the House opportunities of which they are now often deprived by- the prolixity of others. It is intended to enable us to transact our business in a businesslike way which will command the respect of businesslike people outside. The decision' in each case will be given by the majority in the full light of day, and with a full and clear sense of responsibility. A member of the majority cannot shelter himself behind numbers, but will have to take upon himself the responsibility of his actions before the people as a whole, before his constituents, and before his fellow members. When power and responsibility go hand in hand, and that power is placed in the hands of this House, I have little apprehension as to the results of its exercise. Honorable members will fully realize the importance of any action that may be taken either under the standing order passed yesterday, or those now proposed. The last new standing order need rarely, if ever, be used for party purposes, and never, I trust, will its appllication be dictated by partisan motives.

Mr Lonsdale - A party vote was given yesterday.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not think that the members 6n this side of the House are to be blamed for that. It is in the power of either side to make any question a party question - that is one of the necessary conditions under which we transact our business; but in dealing with individual members, it is to be hoped that party considerations will not be allowed to influence the actions of the majority. It is the duty of honorable members not to sit idly by listening to irrelevant speeches, or to stand up themselves and make inconsequent observations, but to devote themselves to the business which they were sent here to transact, with as little delay as is consistent with due regard to the discharge of their obligations.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).Is it not idle prattle for the Prime Minister to tell us that these proposals are not prompted by party considerations, and that the new standing orders will not be used for party purposes ? Every one else knows, and the Prime Minister must know, that these proposals have their origin in fierce party rancour. No one blames the honorable gentleman for what he is doing. We have only pity for him.

Mr Deakin - I take the full; responsibility for my action.

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