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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Mr DEAKIN (Ballarat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - I trust that the motion will not be assented to, more especially if its acceptance is to involve the adoption of the views that have been urged in support of it. If each honorable member, because he represents a different constituency, is to be entitled to repeat the same argument for the sake of his constituents-

Mr Kelly - Not necessarily in the same way.

Mr DEAKIN - If every honorable member is to be permitted to repeat his own arguments, and those of others, ad infinitum, debate "will be at an end, and Parliament will cease to be.

Mr Kelly - We do not object to that.

Mr DEAKIN - Evidently. The corporate existence of Parliament in those circumstances would be destroyed. We should have a gathering of irresponsible individuals, whose places in this respect might be supplied by so many gramophones or phonographs which, without the exertion of physical force, could keep on repeating what had' already been said. The contention of those who have supported the motion would reduce the proceedings of the House to chaos. Here, as in the House of Commons, the unlimited right of an honorable member to repeat his own arguments, or those of others, would lead to absolute paralysis of business. Are we compelled to choose between a doctrine of that character and the ruling now submitted' to us? I regret! that the motion, as proposed, appears not to truly represent the actual position.

Mr Fuller - It was submitted to Mr. Deputy Speaker, and was fixed up by him.

Mr Salmon - That is scarcely correct.

Mr DEAKIN - I do not wish to dispute that point. But surely honorable members will agree that the consideration of this ruling requires us to have regard to the time, the place, and the moment of its deliverance. No one would say that in no Circumstances should an honorable member be permitted to repeat his own arguments, or those of another to which he desired to reply. Such a ruling, if not fatal to debate, would seriously cripple it. I venture to submit that when we look at the time and circumstances of the ruling, we shall find that arguments were being repeated with the object of convincing no one, elucidating nothing, advancing nothing. Their sole object was to occupy the time of the House. That is absolutely forbidden in express terms by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, and is also forbidden by one of our own Standing Orders, although its terms are less explicit. In these circumstances the ruling that that was not the time or the occasion on which an honorable member was justified in repeating his own arguments, or those of others, was a proper one. Everything depends upon the time, the place, and the circumstances.

Mr Johnson - That is a very poor answer.

Mr DEAKIN - I defy the honorable member, or any one else, to state the conditions under which every standing order is to be applied in all conceivable circumstances. That would be impossible. In this matter, .as in relation to everything else, we have to trust to the good sense of the House, or to the judgment of Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, as the case may be. Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman, takes all .the facts of each situation into account, and it is for him to say, in the particular circumstances, whether or not repetition is justifiable. A re-statement of arguments either for the purpose of giving a bona fide answer, or an explanation - a re-statement made not from a desire to occupy time, but to clear up some point that had been submitted - would not fall within this ruling.

Mr Johnson - I submit that it would.

Mr DEAKIN - I beg to differ from the honorable member, and tq assert that the ruling places no limitation upon debate that has not been already imposed by Mr. Speaker, and, indeed, by our own Standing Orders. Our Standing Orders, properly read, and the rulings of Mr. Speaker, as I have heard them, properly understood, imply that while there are times and places at which, a re-statement of an argument is absolutely necessary, and is in many other cases justifiable, there are also times and places in which it is absolutely unnecessary. If Mr. Speaker and the Chairman are not to interpose in such circumstances, and, with the weight of their independence and mature judgment are not to guide us, for what do we require a Speaker or Chairman? Do we expect the Standing Orders to operate automatically? Do we not intend that they shall be applied by Mr. Speaker and the Chairman according to the problem that happens to be submitted to them. It appears, therefore, that the fair and reasonable view is that the ruling having regard to the circumstances in which it was given was absolutely right; and that, while in other circumstances it would not apply, that fact does not detract from its soundness. I venture to assert that it would be impossible for Mr. Speaker in any ruling; to define all the circumstances in which such' a ruling should be accepted absolutely, qualified in some particulars, or rejected. I take no exception to the submission of this motion, and certainly none to the way in which it was put before the House. It was dealt with argumentatively, and as briefly as possible. But I take a different view of the ruling from that which the honorable and learned member for illawarra has adopted. He has read it as applying absolutely at all times, to all honorable members in all debates. My reading of it is that it applies only to the time and place and debate in respect of which it was given. In such circumstances, it was right. In others it might have been wrong. On a general principle our Standing Orders condemn repetition or irrelevance, as do the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, When repetition becomes irrelevant, tedious, or useless!, when- a point has been made and sufficiently enforced, Mr. Speaker or the Chairman must be allowed to intervene to enable public business to be transacted. We must trust them to interpose at the right moment to prevent abuse of the forms of the House and loss of public time. I submit that under the circumstances of the case Mr. Deputy Speaker took the proper course, and should be upheld by the House.

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