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Thursday, 9 November 1911

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator DE LARGIE - Am I not in order in saying that?

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator applied his observations distinctly to the party on the other side of the chamber.

Senator DE LARGIE - I applied the term " stupid Tory party " to my political opponents, and they are honorable senators opposite. Surely it is no breach of the Standing Orders to apply that term to them.

Senator Walker - I have always objected to being called a Tory, and I take the same exception as the President to the honorable senator's remarks.

The PRESIDENT - It is not a question of Senator Walker being called a Tory. I rose because I understood Senator de Largie to apply the term " stupid " to honorable members of the Opposition. I think that is out of order.

Senator DE LARGIE - The term I used was applied to the party opposite. I said that they were the stupid Tory party. I now learn that one of them is a Whig, and I call him a member of the stupid Whig party.

Senator Chataway - Is the honorable senator in order in repeating what he said before, and what you called him to order for saying?

The PRESIDENT - If Senator de Largie applied the term to honorable members of the Opposition, he was out of order. If he applies it to the party in the country represented by honorable senators of the Opposition, it is a different matter. I understood the term to be applied distinctly to honorable senators on the Opposition side, and if the word " stupid " is applied to honorable members of the Senate, it is out of order, and should be withdrawn.

Senator de Largie - If you rule that I cannot apply the word " stupid " to a party, I can assure you that that is a new ruling in the Senate, and is one I never heard before.

The PRESIDENT - If Senator de Largie intended the term " stupid " to be applied to honorable senators on the Opposition side, he was distinctly out of order. I interfered because I considered the term offensive, and I think it should be withdrawn.

Senator de Largie - Then I must disagree with your ruling. I have applied my remarks to my political opponents generally. I hold that that is not out of order, and I dispute your ruling.

The PRESIDENT - Senator deLargie dissents from my ruling. I do not know that he has exactly quoted it in his notice of dissent. He says - ' '

I beg to dissent from the ruling of the President that it is a breach of the Standing Orders to apply " stupid Tory party " to the Opposition party.

What I asked Senator de Largie was whether he .meant the word " stupid," which I consider offensive, to be applied to honorable senators on the other side.

Senator de Largie - To their party.

The PRESIDENT - I pointed out that if the term was meant to be applied to the party as a whole, or the policy of the party represented by honorable senators on the Opposition side, it would not be out of order; but, as it appeared to me that the honorable senator said of honorable senators that they were the " stupid Tory party," I asked the honorable senator to withdraw the word " stupid " as applied to them. The honorable senator's notice of dissent does not properly apply to my ruling, which was that the term he used, as applied to honorable senators on the Opposition side of the Chamber was out of order. Senator de Largie should alter this motion, because it is not in accordance with the reason why I asked him to withdraw the words.

Senator de Largie - May I be permitted to make an explanation, sir?


Senator de Largie - It is quite evident to me, sir, that you misunderstood the remark I made, otherwise you would not have ruled as you did. The remark was applied to honorable senators on the other side as a combined party. I was referring to what was the policy of the party which is now the Opposition, when it was in office. You will see, sir, that my remark could only apply to them as a party, and not as individuals. My intention was quite plain to any one.

The PRESIDENT - If Senator de Largie meant to imply by his remark that the policy which was pursued by honorable senators opposite was a stupid policy, he was perfectly in order; but what I understood him to convey was that they were a stupid party.

Senator Chataway - He said, " The stupid Tory members on the other side."

Senator Walker - "The stupid Tories on the other side."

The PRESIDENT - I ask Senator de Largie, if the contention which I raise is tight, to alter the terms of his motion of dissent.

Senator de Largie - I cannot alter the remarks which I made, sir.

Senator St Ledger - I was listening very attentively to the remarks of Senator de Largie, because they were largely directed to some remarks I had made. My impression is distinctly that he said, " The stupid Tory members on the other side."

Senator de Largie - ' ' The stupid Tory party."

Senator Chataway - No; you used the word " members."

Senator Millen - I would like a ruling from the Chair. I understand that a certain event transpired, that you, sir, gave a ruling, and that a notice of dissent therefrom has been handed in. It appears to me that the discussion is being revived on the matters which led up to the ruling. Are we discussing the ruling now or the original matter ?

The PRESIDENT - I pointed out that the written statement of dissent did not accord with the reason why I stopped Senator de Largie and asked him to withdraw certain words. I asked if he would alter the terms of his dissent, and he desired permission to make an explanation, which he did ; but said that he could not alter the terms of his dissent. The question before the Senate is -

That the ruling of the President, that it is a breach of the Standing Orders to apply " stupid Tory party " to the Opposition party, be dissented from.

But I would point out that, under standing order 424, when a motion is seconded " it shall be proposed to the Senate and the debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day." Is the motion seconded?

Senator Needham - I second the motion.

The PRESIDENT -The standing order continues - unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.

Senator Pearce - Does that mean, sir, that the business before the Senate will be interrupted?


Senator Pearce - If that is so, I desire to move that the question requires immediate determination.

Senator Millen - One moment ! There is a ruling on that point, I think.

Senator Pearce - I think it is the motion of dissent from the ruling, and not the business before the Senate, which is postponed to a future day.

Senator Millen - I cannot quite recall the circumstances, sir; but, on one occasion, the point was raised as to whether the standing order meant the adjournment of the business under consideration or the adjournment of the question raised by the dissenting motion, and a decision was given.

Senator Pearce - The decision was that the debate on the question raised by the dissenting motion had to be adjourned.

Senator Givens - No; the whole business was adjourned.

Senator Pearce - The question raised by Senator de Largie appears to me to be so trivial that I think it ought to be dealt with straight away. Therefore, I move - That the question requires immediate determination. -

Motion agreed to.

Senator Needham - I think that some misapprehension has arisen in the minds of honorable senators. I was listening to the speech of Senator de Largie, and I do not think his remark was intended in an offensive sense. He applied the word " stupid," not to honorable senators opposite, but to the policy pursued by the party to which they belong.

Senator St Ledger - To " the members of the stupid Tory .party opposite."

Senator Needham - I listened attentively to the utterance of Senator de Largie, and I can say that he did not direct his remark at all to any honorable senator opposite. It should be remembered that when an honorable senator is addressing the Chair, and discussing a question of policy, he has in his mind the policy pursued by the party opposite. If we are to be tied down in these matters, it will rather narrow the margin. If the word " stupid " is applied to any honorable member of the Senate, certainly it may be considered offensive; but if it is applied to the policy pursued by the party which honorable senators opposite represent, I do not think it can be considered offensive.

Senator Givens - It would be true ; and that is where the sting would lie.

Senator Needham - It is a question of the intention of Senator de Largie. It was the policy which he was discussing, and not a member of a party, or even the party. In my opinion, his application of the remark was quite correct, and, therefore, I support his motion of dissent from the ruling.

Senator Pearce - I regret that this motion has been moved, because I do not think it was worth while to object to the ruling. What we are called upon to deal with is the ruling itself, and we must assume that the President has correctly stated what Senator de Largie did say. The President distinctly asked the honorable senator whether he applied the term personally to honorable senators on the other side. It the honorable senator had risen then and assured the President that he had not, that would have cleared up the whole matter.

Senator de Largie - I rose as soon as I got an opportunity, and repeated what I had said.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator will excuse me for saying so, I think that what he said on the second occasion was not what he said on the first occasion. In the first instance, I took the same view as the President, namely, that the remark was open to the construction that Senator de Largie was alluding to honorable senators opposite as being a " stupid Tory party." I think it was perfectly reasonable for the President to regard the remark in that light. He took that view, and asked for a withdrawal of the words. I think that the honorable senator will be well-advised if he withdraws the motion and states that, if his words were understood in that sense, he is prepared to withdraw them, or assure honorable senators opposite and the President that he did not intend them to be so understood.

Senator Millen - Is that question involved, now that the President has given a ruling ?

Senator Pearce - We have to decide whether the ruling is correct or not. The President has stated that he gave the ruling believing that Senator de Largie had used the words in the sense I have suggested. If a vote is taken, I must support the ruling, because it seems to me that it is a correct one. The question now is, not whether the honorable senator did or did not use the words. The President has said that he did use the words, that he asked him if he used the words in that sense, but did ' not get the assurance which he desired.

Senator de Largie - I repeated what I had said, and that was sufficient.

Senator Pearce - I would suggest to my honorable friend that he should ask leave to withdraw his motion, and give the President the assurance which he asked for, but did not get, and resume his speech. If such an assurance is given, the President will probably tell the Senate that he does not regard the remark as being out of order. Otherwise I shall have to vote against the motion.

Senator Sayers - I do not intend to discuss the merits or demerits of this matter, sir, but to remind you of an incident which occurred the other day. When Senator Vardon made use of some words, you ruled that if an honorable senator thought them offensive, they must be withdrawn. Senator Vardon said at first that he would not withdraw the words ; but he did so on your ruling that if any honorable senator considered that any words were offensive, they would have to be withdrawn.

Senator Chataway - I do not want to discuss the merits of this matter, or to dissent very much from the ruling; but, on general lines, I think that Senator de Largie had a perfect right to say what he did. If he likes to call honorable senators on this side " stupid Tory members," he has the right to do so.

Senator de Largie - I did not say " stupid Tory members."

Senator Chataway - I am really supporting my honorable friend. I understand that he denies that he considers us "stupid Tory members." I certainly thought he said that members of the Opposition were a " stupid Tory party." But to me it does not matter what he said, so long as he was not personally offensive. I have a perfect right to call Senator de Largie a stupid Labour man, and he is equally at liberty to designate me a stupid Tory, or a stupid Liberal, or anything else, so long as his remarks are confined to a political sense. It might be a good thing if we were permitted a little more latitude in our choice of language than we have hitherto been allowed. It now appears that we must not describe the appointment of certain members to a Royal Commission as a scandal, neither must we call an honorable senator "stupid," or a "Tory." Upon the whole, I drink we are getting too much into a Sunday-school atmosphere. I agree with Senator de Largie, and if he chooses to use strong language m reference to myself, he is perfectly at liberty to do so.

Senator Millen - I was absent from the chamber when certain words were used, by Senator de Largie. It seems to me immaterial what they were. The President has entered judgment upon them, and we are now asked to say whether his ruling is right or wrong. It appears to me that what may be held to be right or wrong is very much a matter of opinion, and will vary with different Presidents, just as much as it will with honorable senators. But the point is that we have a President, and, unless his decision is hopelessly wrong, we are under an obligation to support it. Having said so much, I join with the Minister of Defence in asking Senator de Largie, not only for his own credit, but for that of the Senate, to terminate this incident, especially as, according to his interjection, he evidently meant one thing, whereas the President thought that he meant another.

Senator Story - Like Senator Millen, I did not hear the remark to which exception has been taken ; but the position seems to be that you, sir, have ruled that certain words, which Senator de Largie denies having used, should be withdrawn. In these circumstances, I am bound to support your ruling. I am sorry that an honorable senator upon the Ministerial side of the chamber, has taken up a similar attitude to that adopted by an honorable senator upon the other side of the chamber only last week. So long as I have been a member of this branch of the Legislature, it has been customary for any remark made by any honorable senator, which was regarded as offensive by another, to be immediately withdrawn. I regret that Senator de Largie, who is Whip of the Government party, and who ought to save the valuable time of the Senate instead of wasting it, should have taken up this obstinate attitude, and should have refused to adopt the gentlemanly course which has hitherto obtained, of withdrawing what is regarded as an offensive expression.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Sitting, as I do, so near to Senator de Largie, and being possessed of a fairly good memory, I am entirely with him in this matter ; and I am surprised that the Opposition should take so much objection to the words which he used. Senator Chataway is in a somewhat different vein - he evidently wishes to extract a little fun out of the position. .1 have often heard it said that we upon this side of the Senate call ourselves Labour members. How often are we called Socialists, and something even worse - a term which some of us may not care to have applied to us. Senator de Largie has expressed himself in the way that I would have expressed myself. Speaking in all soberness, I say that the Opposition are an extremely Tory party. With very great reluctance, I shall vote against the President's ruling, and in opposition to the Government. I shall support Senator de Largie, because I think he is in the right.

Senator de Largie - I am somewhat sorry that this matter is to be settled immediately, because, if it were postponed until to-morrow, when we shall have the Hansard report before us, we would then be able to see exactly the terms which I used.

Senator Millen - Revised or unrevised ?

Senator de Largie - We should have the Hansard report without it ever having been touched by me. We all know the accuracy of our Hansard reports, and I am quite prepared to stand by them.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They are almost infallible.

Senator de Largie - I am not a wholesale reviser of the remarks which I make in this Chamber. I am somewhat surprised at the members of the Opposition rushing into this matter in the way that they have done, because they have most to lose by any curtailment of our privileges. Senator Chataway is the only honorable senator opposite who has taken a proper1 view of this question. If the right of honorable senators to express their views in every-day language be curtailed, they will suffer. If, for example, it be wrong for me to apply the word " stupid " to honorable senators opposite, it is equally wrong for them to apply the word " intelligent " to their policy. If it be wrong for me to condemn them because of the stupidity of their policy, it is equally wrong for them to claim that that policy is an intelligent one.

Senator Walker - One is a complimentary word, and the other a condemnatory one.

Senator de Largie - If it be wrong to condemn their policy, it must be equally wrong to praise it. Senator Story has introduced the personal element into this debate. Had he been present at the time he would have known that when my remarks were called into question I was not dealing with any individual member of the Opposition. Had I been doing so, I would at once have recognised the propriety of withdrawing the words to which exception was taken. But 1 was dealing with the Opposition in a party sense, and I cannot for the life of me see how there could, be any misunderstanding of my meaning. I was dealing with the policy of the late Government, and there are members of that Government who are politically dead. They are not here. There are many men outside of this Parliament who were members of the Fusion party. I was speaking only in a party sense, and I fail to understand how there could be any misconception as to my meaning.

Senator St Ledger - Why did not the honorable senator clear the matter up?

Senator de Largie - I did. I repeated the words which I actually used, namely, "stupid Tory party." I was referring at the time to the result of the last election, when the Fusion party was nearly wiped out of existence. The Minister of Defence is entirely wrong, and I hold that the President did not hear my remarks, otherwise he would not have ruled as he did.

Senator Millen - The President has ruled against the honorable senator on that point.

Senator de Largie - If the President has placed himself in a wrong position, I am not responsible. As soon as I had an opportunity, I rose in my place, and repeated the words which I had used. If. honorable senators vote against my motion of dissent from the ruling of the President, they will vote to curtail their own liberty to use every-day language in this Chamber.

Senator Long - Why does not the honorable senator adhere to the words that he did use? Why does he vacillate? Why not be honest?

Senator de Largie - I am adhering to the words that I used. I know precisely what I said.

Senator Long - The honorable senator said, " the stupid members of the Tory party opposite."

Senator de Largie - I said "opposite," certainly. I have already pointed out that it was impossible, owing to the train ot thought which I was following, for me to have applied to any individual senator opposite the words to which objection hasbeen taken. I went on to say that " thisstupid Tory party " apparently could not learn or forget.

Senator Long - " The stupid members, of the Tony party opposite."

Senator de Largie - If the honorable senator wishes to argue the question, I wish that he had done so before I rose toaddress myself to it. I can assure him as to the words which I actually used, because I know what I said. I was at the time dealing with the policy put forward by the party opposite when they were inpower. I was referring to the Loan Bill which they passed through this Parliament. I said that " apparently this stupid Tory party "-

Senator Long - " Opposite."

Senator de Largie - Does it matter whether the members of that party are "opposite," or on the roof of this building? Some of them are in the other branch of the Legislature ; others are not. I know my position in this matter if Senator Long does not know his, and I am not going to back down when I am in the right.

Senator Long - The honorable senator must not imagine himself an ocean if he has water on the brain.

Senator de Largie - I imagine myself as good as is the honorable senator. He may be big, but he is not almighty. I have already pointed out that it was impossible for .me to have applied only tohonorable senators on the opposite side of the chamber the words which I used, because I was speaking of a party which has to a considerable extent been brokenup. Many of its members have disappeared from the political arena. These are circumstances that should guide the members of the Senate. Consequently, I must stand by my motion.

The PRESIDENT - In putting this question, I wish to state that the motion does not contain the words which I understood Senator de Largie to use, and towhich I took exception. Pointing to honorable senators on the other side, he said,. " Members of the stupid Tory party opposite." I immediately rose, and asked thehonorable senator to withdraw that expression, because I considered it to be disorderly. He admitted that he had used' the words which I had understood him touse. I pointed out to him that if he applied the term " stupid " to the policy of a party it would be quite in order, but as I understood the words to have been used concerning honorable senators opposite to him they were out of order. I may add that a ruling of a former President lays it down that "it is not proper to impute to a senator stupidity."

Senator de Largie - Neither did I.

The PRESIDENT - I certainly understood the honorable senator to apply the term to members of the Senate. I have already stated that if the phrase had been used concerning the policy of a party it would have been strictly in order.

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