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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) - J look upon this as a nonparty question. The position of the Opposition to-day may be occupied by us next week, and I look upon the motion as a most serious one. Although I am reluctant to question the Deputy Speaker's ruling, I realize that the privileges of honorable members must be maintained at all costs. I would refer honorable members back to the time when a severe drought afflicted nearly all parts of Australia, and members representing outlying districts in all the States, with the exception of Western Australia, had to use precisely the same arguments in support of a remission of the fodder duties. If the Chairman had ruled that after the second honorable member had spoken, the arguments previously used must not be repeated, the whole debate would have been stifled. Then, again, in the case of the discussion on the Orient mail contract, many honorable members on both sides of the House used the same arguments, although they may not have been couched in exactly the same words. If you, sir, had put a stop to that discussion on the ground that honorable members must not repeat the arguments already used by others,' we should have all felt very much aggrieved. Of course the circumstances under which the . ruling in question was . given were quite exceptional. I must confess that when I heard it given, I regarded it as one of the most extraordinary that I had ever known of,. I am sure the sense of the House is entirely against the idea that an honorable member should be debarred from repeating an argument previously used by another speaker. However careful honorable members might be in their efforts to avoid a conflict with the Chair, such a ruling would have the effect of stifling debate. Many honorable members have prepared second-reading speeches, and have failed to catch the Speaker's eye until the debate has proceeded at some length. They have then found that many of their arguments have been anticipated, and that the ground has to some extent been cut from under their feet. If, under such conditions, you, sir, were to rule that the House could not listen to me, for instance, merely because I was repeating arguments that had been previously employed, I should_ consider that you were dealing with mp very arbitrarily. For the reasons I have stated I think we should be very careful to guard our privileges. I am ready to pay due respect to the Deputy Chairman, who may think that he was perfectly justified in the ruling he gave. If, however, he made a mistake, it would be well for him to acknowledge it, and to allow the matter to rest there. If the motion is pressed, I shall have to 'vote for it.

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