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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hesitate to add to this debate, and should not have done so but for the remarks of the honorable member for Bland. If anything would induce me to advise the honorable and learned member for Illawarra to withdraw his motion it is the attitude which has been assumed towards it by the leader of the Labour Party, who even yet seems to be almost savage in his desire to stifle debate. I see no trace of his calming down upon that matter, even after having secured possibly the severe application of the closure rules to future debate. One would have thought that the honorable member would have been a little saner and calmer after his recent triumph. However, he still appears to catch at any straw which will justify him in stifling the arguments of opponents. As the honorable member for Macquarie interjected, that is all verv well from the honorable member's point of view. Everybody knows that there has not been very much in the nature of repetitive arguments from the Labour corner recently, and really there has been no need for it. I should imagine that repetition on the part of honorable members sitting there goes on in quite another place, so that further repetition in the House is unnecessary. Consequently we find the honorable member for Bland voicing the opinions of the caucus, and scarcely any other honorable member of it giving utterance to the sentiments of the party. That may be a very commendable thing from the stand-point of party discipline, but it does not apply to other parties in the same way.

Mr Batchelor - The honorable member himself was very dull when he sat in this corner last session.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not aware of it. I am afraid that I was not in the sense in which the honorable member is referring to the matter. However, I do not wish to talk about last session. We have quite enough to do in focussing our attention upon this session. While the honorable member for Bland was perfectly justified from his point of view in advancing the arguments that he did, and in catching at a mere straw thrown to the wind by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa in order to provide himself with some justification for proceeding further to stifle debate. I think that a broader and saner view of the matter will show him that he is entirely wrong. The ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker, if it be upheld, means neither more nor less than the application of another form of closure, even more direct and effective than any of the forms which have already been adopted by the House. I venture to submit that, the House has no intention of placing any such arbitrary power in the hands of any speaker, neither is there any constitutional justification for so doing. Certainly there is no authority for such a proceeding. When the honorable member for Laanecoorie rose to make his explanation, I expected that he would have seen fit to modify in some way the attitude which he assumed upon the occasion to which allusion has been made. Instead of that, he finds fault with the drafting of the motion., and emphasizes his view as to the correctness of his ruling on the occasion referred to. He attempts to buttress his own ruling upon that occasion by the ruling given previously by Mr. Speaker in relation to the same question. Therein I think he makes a very great mistake. I draw a clear distinction between the unqualified statement of Mr. Deputy Speaker arid the more qualified statements of Mr. Speaker in relation to this point. When Mr, Speaker gave his ruling, he pointed out that it was not in. order to repeat arguments to which utterance had already been given " in the same way " by other honorable members. Then, again, he used the qualifying words, " in the same relation." That makes a vital distinction.

Mr Crouch - Does not Mr. Deputy Speaker say that he withdraws everything in his ruling which varies from that by Mr. Speaker, upon which it was based, and also that he has been misreported.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not hear the honorable member make that statement.

Mr McCay - He said that the first ruling given by him was correct, but that those which followed, so far as they differ from it, were inaccurate.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He said in his first ruling that -

Mr. Speakerhas already ruled, and it is in accordance with the practice of the House of Commons, that repetition may consist not only of a re-statement of a matter by the honorable member who is addressing the House, but also of a re-statement of the arguments of those who have preceded him.

Mr McCay - In that case it was simply said that repetition " may " consist of a re-statement. There was no mention of tedious repetition.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. Mr. Speaker went further, and said that arguments were not to be repeated in the same way and in the same relation. He meant; no doubt, that honorable members should not be permitted to continue droning out statements uttered in almost identical language by other honorable members. I do not cavil at Mr. Speaker's ruling. It is a wise restriction to place upon debate. But I do not think that he intended to lay down the rule that there should be no repetition of argument in connexion with any matter before the Chair. Such a ruling would mean that only two or three honorable members would be permitted to speak on any question. There are certain well-defined lines of argument in connexion with almost every debatable subject that comes before the House. Take the union label clauses of the Trade Marks Bill, with which we are to deal almost immediately. If an honorable member is not to advance arguments against the union label on the ground, for instance, that it may lead to boycotting, there will be little debate on the whole subject. When we come to discuss the union 'label clauses, one or two arguments will form the staple of the whole of the opposition to them.

Mr Watson - "Come" to discuss them ! Have we not already discussed them for three or four days ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps that is why the honorable member wishes to clutch at this straw - to shut down debate,

Mr Watson - I thought that the honorable member had shot his bolt.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I trust that the honorable member will rely upon the " gag" which he already possesses rather than try to bring another "gag" to bear through the medium of Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees. Unless reasonable latitude be allowed in the repetition of the main arguments relating to amy question, we may as well have no further debate. I take it that the qualifying words used by Mr. Speaker, in delivering 'the ruling to which ^reference has been made, cause it to differ in a vital degree from the ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker. It may be that we should' have regard to the circumstances in which the ruling was given, and under which debate had taken place ; but, making every allowance for those circumstances, I do not consider that the explanation

Mr. Deputy Speakerhas given has made it one whit clearer or more favorable from his point of view. Since hearing the speech made by the honorable member for Bland, I am more averse than ever to this motion being pushed to a vote, inasmuch as it is clear that, irrespective ofthe consequences that may happen when he is on this side, and struggling against great odds, as we appear to be doing, he is ready to give his support to any proposal that will have the effect of curtailing debate. I hope, therefore, now that the matter has been ventilated - and particularly as we have recognised the difference between the qualifying words used by Mr. Speaker, and those used by Mr. Deputy Speaker - we shall not proceed to a division, but allow the matter to remain in the hands of Mr. Speaker, and trust to his wisdom and guidance in future debate.

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