1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Sir JOHN QUICK presented the report of the Printing Committee upon certain allegations regarding the cost of Commonwealth printing.
Report read by the Clerk(vide page 15654).
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Royal Australian Artillery : Alteration of Regulations respecting Appointments.
Customs Act: Drawback Regulations (Manufacture of Sugar).
Excise Act Excise Tariff: New Sugar Regulations.
Post and Telegraph Act : New and Amended Regulations, dated 21st August, 1902.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Polling at First Federal Elections : Return.
– I desire to know whether in view of the difficulty of obtaining copies ofthe Commonwealth Acts, the Acting Prime Minister will appoint some place in each of the States where they can be purchased by the people?
– For some time past copies of the Commonwealth Acts have been on sale at every Government printing-office in the States.
– That is not known.
– It may not be generally known, although it has been advertised. I may mention that a second set of Commonwealth Acts has already been sent to the various States.
– I asked the Acting Prime Minister a few days ago a question with reference to a petition to the Throne from certain kanakas in Queensland. The Minister had no information at that time, and I now desire to know whether he has made any inquiries.
– I found on inquiry that I had received no copy of thepetition referred to. I have, however, asked the officers of the department to endeavour to obtain one.
Bill returned from the Senate, with a Message again requesting certain amendments, and modifying other requests (vide page 15539).
– I have realized the importance of the matter which is now before the House, and have conceived it possible that an appeal might be made to me for a ruling upon the point mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. Having considered the matter carefully, I have devoted special attention to the questions - (a) Whether the Message just read is one we. should receive ; and (b) Under what authority we may deal with the message. Our practice in matters relating to money Bills is controlled by sections 53, 54, 55, and 56 of the Constitution, and by our standing orders which may not conflict with the Constitution. Under section 50 of the Constitution - “ Each House of the Parliament may make rules and orders with respect to’’ - (1) The mode in which its powers, privileges and immunities may be exercised and upheld ; (2) The order and conduct of its business and proceedings, either separately or jointly with the other House.” No rules or orders have been made by this House either alone or jointly with the other branch of the Legislature with respect to the order and conduct of its business and proceedings in relation to Money Bills under discussion between the two Houses. Under certain provisions of the Constitution, e.g., the first three sub-sections of section 53, the practice laid down is so clear that I should have, even in the absence of standing orders, no doubt as to how I should rule in any matter arising thereunder. Under sub-section (4) of the same section, however, I find that the words, “ the Senate may at any stage, &c.” are open to at least two interpretations, and that, therefore, it is necessary that the two Houses should jointly, by majorities, make rules or orders laying down the practice to be followed in all cases arising under the provisions of the Constitution herein. As a majority ofthe House would have the power to make rules or orders, it appears to me to be my duty to give no ruling which would fetter a majority of the House on this occasion in determining for itself whether it will consider the Message, or what it will do in the matters with which it deals. I, therefore, rule that the question of the receiving and consideration of the Message is one to be determined by the vote of the House. As to the further point, I remind honorable members of Standing Order No. 378, under which it is competent for the House, if it so pleases, to take a Message into consideration either at once or at a future time, and I rule that the order gives all the necessary power to consider the Message and to determine all the issues raised in it as a majority may desire.
– Mr. Speaker, the ruling which you have given obviously casts upon this House the duty of determining whether the Message of the Senate should be received. As you have pointed out, the position at present is that we are not only without permanent standing orders of our own, but that we are entirely without joint standing orders which could govern the procedure by which measures or messages were interchanged between the two Houses. Under these circumstances, if I may say so, it appears to me that your ruling should be upheld so far as you have declined to prevent this House from itself deciding as to the action it should take in this or any other analogous case. The burden of the responsibility cast upon the Government under these circumstances appears to me to call for a motion on their part expressive of their sense of the duty of the House in relation to this particular Message. I therefore desire to ask honorable members to take into consideration the circumstances under which their decision is invited, and ask them also, in view of this unprecedented and never-to-be-repeated set of circumstances, to take another view than that which they might ordinarily feel called upon to accept with regard to this particular proposal. We have before us a Message relating to a measure that, according to the direction of the Constitution, should be passed within two years, and already more than 20 months out of the 24 have elapsed. This, of course, although a mandate from the people by whom the Constitution was virtually enacted, is one that it might, under certain circumstances, be impossible to comply with, but, at all events, it is one which it is our clear duty to see fulfilled if the conditions permit. Moreover, I am certain that no honorable members of this House would view without apprehension an unnecessary prolongation of the business uncertainty which prevails in all parts of the Commonwealth, and in all ranks of life. It is not simply the merchant and trader, but the producer and consumer who are affected. The country and town, the man in the field, and the man in the factory are alike interested in the earliest possible settlement of the long-debated schedule of duties included in the Bill to which this Message relates. Until that uncertainty is removed, the development of many enterprises must continue to be hampered, employment must be restricted, and financial operations checked, and this at a time when, if possible, we should desire the pursestrings of investors to be generally unloosed. The best present encouragement that honorable members on both sides of this House can give to the commerce and production of the country will be by promotingthe speedy passing of the Customs Tariff Bill. This has practically ceased to be a fiscal issue. The Tariff was never one upon which an appeal could be made to protectionists or free-traders, considered apart. It was, even as introduced to this House, no scientific measure of Australian protection - it could not be so - it fell far short of the opinions and convictions of protectionists like myself who have never been reckoned among the extreme advocates of that doctrine. It could not be made a federal Tariff in the strict sense of the term, because of the restrictions imposed upon us- at every turn by the bookkeeping and other financial sections of the Constitution. It could be at best what it was, not even a federal Tariff, but a confederate Tariff - a Tariff which sought to reconcile and conserve the interests of six separate States, and did so by the sacrifice in a considerable measure of interests in each State, and, at the same time, by forfeiting the character it might otherwise have acquired of a consistent protectionist measure. It was a Tariff about which party enthusiasm was always impossible, but it was a thorough and honest attempt to so shape the imposition of customs duties upon imports and the excise duties in this country as to maintain existing industries, and to conserve the financial interests of the States. However far it may have fallen short, these were its original aims, and these it endeavoured to attain. It has been conspicuously shorn of some of those features during its passage through this Chamber, and is not now a Tariff in which the separate interests of the States are distinctly considered. In fact, framed as it was to meet extraordinary circumstances - a condition of affairs that was passing away - the treasuries of the States had to be studied rather than the whole people whose interests can not be absolutely blended until a future date. Shaped under all these difficulties, and again remoulded in its passage through this House, it has become a Tariff, which, I venture to say, although pressed upon the attention of honorable members of this House and pf the country, cannot be so pressed by any particular party in it, but is so pressed because of the overwhelming necessity of putting an end to a long period of uncertainty. We must now give the country the system of customs and excise duties under which our industries are in future to be carried on. I, therefore, appeal to honorable members, without distinction of party and in the interests of the people- of the whole of’the Commonwealth, to exhibit, in the critical position we have now reached, that patience which is absolutely called for, if we are to secure the passage of this measure within any reasonable period. I have made these remarks, which are a mere repetition of the opinion entertained by every honorable member, simply because I now wish to qualify them by saying that a. question may arise which is even more important. . It is quite possible that the contingencies of the present situation may be allowed to arouse issues of profound and far-reaching significance - issues which, although in the first instance they affect, only the relations between one body ofrepresentatives of the people and another body of representatives, may, in their directand indirect influences together prove of paramount importance in some far distantfuture. On some nearer occasion other issuesmay arise, to be determined in part, perhaps, by the precedent which we now lay down. No matter how we may seek to avoid strife, no matter how anxious we may be to pass by the “sleeping lions “ of the Constitution, it is not possible to ignore the fact, that even in connexion with this message; they may be very easily awakened. You, sir, in your ruling in a general manner hav& called attention to the danger. You have* pointed to the special conditions which now obtain, and so far as I followed, your ruling have found as much reason - if not more - for the attitude you have taken under the particular circumstances in> which this message reaches you, as in thenature of the message itself. You were careful to point out that we are at present without those joint standing orders which should be arrived at by common agreement, and should determine the manner in which another place and ourselves should exchangeproposals, or. impart our views to each other. Evidently it is because we find ourselves without the guidance which those standing orders would afford, that the question isthrown upon the deliberation of this Chamber. Members are now faced with the danger of the possible intrusion into a commercial and industrial issue of constitutional questions, affecting the rights of the two Chambers, and through them the whole body of the electors - questions whose solution will assist to give form and colour to our institutions. They are the natural growth of our Constitution, in which their germs are found, often in extremely general language. That generality was necessary in any Constitution. An instrument of government could not be drawn with thattechnical particularity which -would enable it in advance to provide for every possible emergency. It necessarily sketches outlines .rather than fills in details, and1 presents to us a frame into which the people require to breathe the breath of life. It is for the two Houses of Parliament representing them to give gradually to their conception the contour and character which will enable each, to attain the full measure of its individuality. That is a task in which we are called upon to take part today. Very serious and very grave are the issues attendant upon it. Yet I think that honorable members, without distinction, would deplore any occasion which compelled us to introduce into the arena of controversy in which we have been engaged, and the fruits of which we see in the Customs Tariff Bill, so far as it has been mutually agreed to, a new set of motives entirely different in origin and in aim, which would, if permitted their free play in this connexion, divert, perhaps, the whole course of what would otherwise be the natural evolution of the measure we have had so long under consideration. It is under these circumstances that the Government submit to the House that, if by any action of ours it is possible to separate these two sets of interests one from the other, to prevent constitutional principles from being considered in the light of fiscal attachments, and decisions upon the practical proposals of the Tariff - from being diverted by constitutional considerations out of the natural path of their orderly sequence, we should not hesitate to take it. Obviously, it is to the advantage both of those who desire to* see a settlement arrived at upon this measure of infinite detail, which we have debated for nearly twelve months, and of those who realize the importance of the seed now to be sown in the shape of constitutional precedent, to keep the two matters as far as possible separate from each other, and to deal with each without allowing it to receive its colour and direction from the other.
– That is impossible.
– One honorable and learned member tells me, by interjection, that it is impossible. The Government believe it to be possible, and the proposal which I have to submit is one which, it appears to me, will amply safeguard the constitutional rights of this Chamber by removing them altogether from the area of controversy, concentrating our attention upon the question upon .which we. have been so long engaged, and isolating it from every other disturbing influence. The 44 m 2 motion which I have the honour to submit, is as follows : -
That, having regard to the fact that the public welfare demands the early enactment of a Federal Tariff, and, pending the adoption of joint standing1 orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect to this message, and resolves to receive and consider it forthwith.
At this time the House has a warrant for declining to determine its constitutional rights and privileges which no subsequent House can ever possess. You, sir, have already called attention to an ambiguity which occurs in the fourth paragraph of section 53 of the Constitution, and have pointed out that the precise interpretation of that section should, if possible, be arrived at by both Chambers, and embodied in their joint standing orders. If that course were followed a possible danger to all future measures of this character might be removed, the land marks would be fixed, the territory of each House would be determined, and we should at once know of any encroachment or invasion of our rights. In this Parliament we have an excellent warrant for declining at the present moment even to enter upon the determination’ of our constitutional rights and obligations so long as we are satisfied with making it clear that we are dealing to-day under circumstances of peculiar urgency with a special measure - the Customs Tariff Bill - that we propose to deal with it upon its merits, in such a fashion as not to prejudice our own rights, and not to assail the rights of the other branch of the Legislature. We ask that the two issues, instead of being confused, shall be kept separate - the Tariff for immediate treatment, whilst the consideration of the question of constitutional procedure, viewed in the light of section 53 and the four following sub-sections, should be rele-gated to a time when that question alone need occupy our attention, so that it may be determined absolutely upon its merits. The Tariff can now. be dealt with upon its merits.
– We shall never get an opportunity which is free from Tariff disputes. «
– So soon as we have adopted permanent standing orders we shall have an opportunity of approaching the other Chamber as to joint standing orders.
– But when the trouble arises we shall have to interpret them.
– When we have obtained joint standing orders, of course we shall have to interpret them. At the same time, I believe they can be so drafted as to remove the ambiguities which at present attach to section 53 of the Constitution and to make it perfectly clear to both Chambers exactly what their rights are. Of course those orders will be subject to the Constitution. All that the standing orders can do will be to fill in the details which the . Constitution has omitted, to follow its general lines, and, without any breach of its provisions, to supply the winding line “which will mark the delimitation of our respective boundaries.
– Will this form part of the Message to the Senate 1
– Not necessarily. It is, however, necessary to debate it before we enter upon a consideration of that Message.
– I think that it will be requisite to include this motion in the Message.
– I beg to differ from the honorable and learned member. But what form the Message should take, if any, apart from its ordinary formal contents, is a question for after consideration. The issue now before us is whether this Message - should be taken into consideration at all. The Government submit that it ought to be. If it be taken into consideration, the course proposed can be followed without any trespass upon the rights and ‘privileges of the other branch of the Legislature, and without any loss or peril to our own.
– The other Chamber has us in the toils.
– It has us in the toils no more than one Chamber will always have the other under its control so far as the other presses upon it a measure which in its eyes is of paramount importance.
– It was merely an assertion of our power to receive it.
– It -is merely an assertion of our power to receive it, and of our power to put aside for a time the complex issues which are necessarily involved if we commence to consider the constitutional question before we have joint standing orders or permanent standing orders of our own, and at a moment when it will be more difficult than perhaps under almost any other circumstances for this House to give its undivided attention to the particular propositions which are suddenly submitted to it. How is it possible when our minds are full of the almost infinite details of this Tariff, or still occupied with the conclusions to which they in their present shape have led, for us to consider any Tariff issues apart from our constitutional leanings, or our constitutional leanings apart from the Tariff issues 1 This is not like an ordinary session of the Federal Parliament. This being the first session, it is under the circumstances no reproach to us that we find ourselves in a condition of unpreparedness to deal with this new difficulty.
– The first step is the most important.
– The first step may be the most important, but the first step is not proposed to be taken along the constitutional road ; that is to be left clear for future action.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that we can retrace our steps if we take an unconstitutional step now?
– I do not think that the House, by acting as we now propose, will place or should place any fetters on its future action. The course open to us today is to reject this message if we entirely disapprove of it. That course will be open to us at every future occasion, no matter under what circumstances messages may be sent down.
– That could be said of any amendment.
– That could be said of any amendment. Nothing can take that power from us. That is, so bo speak, the power behind the Throne which enables us, in this instance, to deal, with the Tariff without forfeiting any jot or tittle of our constitutional prerogative. We shall be free in any case to reverse our action at another time, but, as a matter of fact, we are taking precautions in order that it may not be necessary to retrace our steps, ‘but that at any future time, under any circumstances, this exact situation cannot be repeated. There are many other grounds than those which I have urged, on which this proposal might reasonably be submitted. What we have to recollect, and what I think we shall not forget, is that in dealing with the Senate under the Commonwealth we are by no means dealing with an ordinary Upper House of the Australian States. We must remember that we are dealing with men, who, like ourselves, are directly chosen by the people.
– By a section of the people.
– By the whole people, although they vote for the Senate in different groupings, which render it possible that at times a majority may represent a minority of electors. I do not know, however, that this argument will be urged in the present instance. One other exceptional condition has been pointed out to me to-day by the honorable member for Darling Downs,- namely, that this Senate was contemporaneous with ourselves - that it sprang from the people as a whole at the same time as this Chamber, when the minds of the electors were presumably agitated by the same issues and governed by the same principles.
– That is a dangerous admission from the Government.
– Not in the least. An admission of fact cannot add to or detract from the argument. The Senate to-day is in the same position, and no better, than the ‘ Senate will always be in # after a double dissolution, at which particular questions have been submitted and the whole comcommunity has simultaneously returned members to the two Chambers. An ordinary Senate may not occupy so strong a position when only half its members have been recently elected and the other half have not seen their constituencies for five or six years. There is a difference, and a notable difference, between a Senate created at the same time with ourselves and a Senate, as it may be in the future, not so created, when dealing with a particular issue before it. So it seems to me that although this condition may be repeated after a double dissolution, the present position can never be repeated so far as Australia is concerned, for the very simple reason that there can never be again a first session, and there never can be again, I hope, a time when we shall find ourselves without either standing orders or joint standing orders.
– And the honorable gentleman hopes there will never again be a session of eighteen months.
– It is- to be hoped there will never again be a session of eighteen months, or a Tariff which requires consideration for twelve months. We have now laid, it is hoped, a foundation of some kind upon which in future Parliaments may be able to build without that utter exhaustion on the part of those concerned which has necessarily attended the giants’ work required to be undertaken during the last eighteen months.
– And now the proposal is to put, a keg of dynamite in the basement.
– We are proposing to put it at such a great distance that if it ever explodes it will affect neither party to the transaction. Of course the process in whichwe are now engaged is not to be continued adinfinitum. We must admit that each interchange of messages in relation to this measure has marked a considerable step in advance. I had hoped, and am disappointed at the frustration of the hope, that after another Chamber had received the concessions already made to its requests by this House, they have not been satisfied that under the circumstances its dignity and authority had been sufficiently manifested and acknowledged, and that no further steps were necessary. It is not my task or desire to review the proceedings of another place, more especially as by a. curious anticipation I criticised very much this situation in the discussion in the Adelaide Convention on the very clause which is now section 53. Before the .event other members and myself indicated what . ought to be the influential and important part which the Senate, under the Constitution, ought to play in moulding the destinies of Australia. It is clear, however, that if we reduce the number of matters to which public attention is called, and now proceed to give the proposals in this message a full consideration on their merits, quite apart from any constitutional issues, we shall be able to make at once a final settlement of this vexed question. That will prove to the country the earnestness of the members of this Chamber to avoid any unnecessary cause of dispute, and show the profoundest anxiety on their part to pay due respect to the wishes of the im.portant body which represents the people of the whole of the States of Australia, By a further sacrifice of our opinions, we can present so reasonable a Tariff that the public opinion of Australia will support us, and indicate to the Senate the wisdom of accepting it with an acknowledgment of the public spirit that has prompted us. My honorable colleague, if this motion be assented to, will indicate the particular details of the Government proposal. I shall only say in advance that they represent an honest attempt to reach the end of the long road we have been travelling - a substantial step towards final agreement. They are based on a careful consideration of the circumstances of each industry, and of the manner in which each has been dealt with in this Chamber. We shall then be afforded a foothold without which any position we might attempt to occupy would indeed be feeble - we shall have a hold upon the judgment of the body of thoughtful electors outside, who from one end of the continent to the other are watching the issue of this measure with the utmost anxiety. When those electors see that their representatives in this Chamber are prepared, in order to put an end to the distraction which has so long existed in industrial circles, to make one more series of further concessions, they will realize that we here have done all they could desire, and that it rests with the representatives in another Chamber to meet us’ in the same spirit, and put an end to the long debates which have left us jaded at the end of fourteen months of sitting. In point of fact what we offer, if the House sees its way to accept it, is, we believe, the final solution of this Tariff problem.
– Does ‘ the Acting Prime Minister anticipate any opposition to the motion before the House 1
– I do. From the interjections, and from my knowledge of the past, and, I believe, present opinions of honorable members of this House, I have reason to believe that members will be found-
An Honorable Member. - Afraid to listen to the request.
– No, not afraid to listen “to the request ; but honorable members are alarmed lest we commit ourselves to a -similar course of procedure under all circumstances in the future, and thus tie our hands, which at present are free. I myself have entertained opinions very largely of the same nature as long as I have been in political life, and arn not aware that I am in any respect departing from them. It appears to me that when we undertook the combination of the federal form of government, with responsible government we set” before Australia, a great problem, involving many minor problems, which have never yet been solved in any other country as we shall require to solve them. We have in this case, as in many others, to undertake the pioneering work of cutting roads for ourselves through untravelled country ; we have to make our own precedents, and develop our own principles. That is the burden cast on us by the Constitution, and I for one realize the immense importance which would attach to mistaken steps in any direction. Therefore I neither fear nor deprecate criticism from any quarter, which may be designed to show that we are following an erroneous course. But for my own part, after consideration, more anxious, perhaps, than that I have given to any other problem - at all events since I have been clothed with official responsibility - and after an anxiety for the last few weeks which I would most willingly have escaped - after recalling principles to which I have been pledged, the career I have followed, and the party I have been associated with, I have come to the clear and unmistakable conclusion that our duty in this instance is to act as now proposed upon a broad view of the situation. Possibilities of danger may be adduced, but there are greater dangers before us in the ship-wreck of this allimportant measure. After all, there appears to be much alarm. The course which I have asked the House to follow is- in harmony with the basic principles of representative and responsible government, as we have known them hitherto, adapted to the conditions of the Federation which we ourselves have brought about, and for which we must take full responsibility. Having accepted the federal form of Government, it is not for ns to endeavour, without a mandate from the electors, to secure unification by negotiations between the two Chambers. If it is ever sought to reduce the Senate to the position occupied by the Upper Houses of the Parliaments of the States, it will be necessary for the people to signify that they are in favour of such a change in the Constitution. In the meantime, we have to deal with a second Chamber, such as has hitherto been unknown in Australia. We have before us a crisis as great as has ever confronted the Parliament of any State, seeing that our decision ou the Tariff affects the whole Commonwealth. . Under these circumstances, I commend the motion to the consideration of honorable members, believing that by adopting it we can gain peace with honour, and that if we refuse it the future alone can show what is in store for us.
– Honorable members will readily understand that it is with great diffidence that I address them upon a question of constitutional importance which is probably greater than any other question with which we could be called upon to deal. The members of the Opposition, for whom I am now speaking, have not brought about the present crisis, because if the fair proposals of the Senate had been agreed to it would not have arisen at all. But, as the question has been raised, there must be, I fear, some discussion in regard to the relative positions of the two Chambers. No doubt all honorable members of this House are anxious to maintain its rights and dignity. The question with which we are now dealing will be a very difficult question for many years to come. Section 53 of the Constitution, to which reference has been made, was the result of a compromise. An attempt was made to refine into language a position which no one could really understand, and, like all compromises, it has created a crop of difficulties which might have been avoided by manfully facing the situation. To my mind there is no doubt that the Constitution gives this Chamber powers in relation to financial measures superior to those possessed by the Senate. It provides, in the first place, that the Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation. That is a very clear statement ; but a little further on it is provided that the Senate may make suggestions - an altogether weaker position. Then come the words -
Except,as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
If in regard to every other matter the Senate is to have equal power with the House of Representatives, the inference is that it does not possess equal power in regardto Money Bills. The Senate is, in the first place, the States House, representing in its corporate unity the public opinion of the States qua States. But, besides being the States House, it is a second Chamber under a bicameral system of government, and it is more as a second Chamber that it has taken up the position which we are now engaged in discussing. But if it is clearly embedded in the Constitution that in financial matters this House shall exercise largerpowers than those possessed by the Senate, we need . not be afraid to listen to their representations,no matter how often made, when by doing so we can prevent conflict between the two Chambers. Let us get away from legal quibbles if we can, and deal with the matter on business lines, and from the point of view of common sense. In regard to most of the financial measures which the Senate might criticise there would probably be only one or two specific points of difference. Butin the consideration of aTariff like that which has been passed by this House, there are hundreds of points of possible disagreement, affecting not merely matters of detail, but the whole policy of the Government. Therefore, in this matter we cannot take up the “stand and deliver” attitude which some honorable members would advocate. If we refuse to receive the Senate’s Message, we shall precipitate the crisis which we desire to avoid. The Senate would tell us that they represent the same people that we represent, being elected upon the same franchise, and that if we will not agree to some business-like arrangement for dealing with this matter, we must take the responsibility of forcing the difference to the bitter end.
– Suppose the Constitution justifies us?
– I do not think that it does. In the first place, no Constitution would deny to two Chambers like ours the right to make sensible arrangements for discussing and arriving at a conclusion in regard to the various matters which have to come before them. There are at present in existence no standing orders which meet the case, but Mr. Speaker in his ruling practically admitted that we could create standing orders which would provide for the course of procedure which it is now. proposed that we should adopt. Is not the attitude that some honorable members would like to see assumed in regard to this matter an attitude suggestive rather of captious weakness than of completely-felt power? The position of this House under the Constitution is so strong that we need not cavil at any arrangement which will prevent a dead-lock between the two Chambers.
– The Constitution makes provision for dead-locks.
– Exactly; but reference to the debates of the Convention will show that such a thing as an absolute dead-lock was looked upon as impossible. Many of the members of the Convention argued that there should be no mechanical arrangement for the prevention of dead-locks. They said, “ Will not the members of the Commonwealth Parliament be people like ourselves ? Will they not be persons possessing common sense, patriotism, and practical business ability, such as has characterized the members of the Parliaments of all British communities?” And although, in deference to the wishes of the majority, a mechanical arrangement for dealing with dead-locks was agreed to, it was felt that to carry any difference between the Chambers to the bitter end would be alien to the characteristics of our people. I rather deprecate the introduction of the Tariff into this discussion. It must be remembered that this is the first Parliament of the Commonwealth, and that there has been a great difference of opinionas to whether the actions of the Government in regard to the Tariff have been consistent with their hustings pledges. The Senate, as a second Chamber, is the guardian of the people against any renegade action on the part of the Government.
– Not so much as we are.
– Does the honorable member for Wentworth find that provision in the Constitution?
– It is not in the Constitution, but it must be remembered that a Chamber elected upon a popular suffrage cannot be dealt with in the same way as an ordinary Legislative Council. I think that the Government have, upon the whole, taken the right course, though there is an element of weakness in what they propose - an evidence of desire to avoid the main issue. I do not fear that issue, and I think it would have been better if the Government had taken a commonsense view of the situation, and had said - “ We are dealing now with financial legislation of a special kind, legislation which it took this Chamber seven or eight months to consider, and upon which the Senate has spent a very long time, and, therefore, we propose to recognise the right of the Senate to make requests, and will again consider every item which they have re-submitted to us. The Government to a certain extent compromised the House by agreeing to consider the requests made by the other Chamber.
– We are compelled to do so by section 53 of the Constitution. “ Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN. - No doubt, but the Government did not take up the position urged upon them by some honorable members of absolutely refusing to consider the requests of the Senate.
– Who argued that that course should be taken?
– One section of honorable members urged, not that the requests should not be considered formally, but that the Government should not agree to any alterations whatever beyond mere necessary details. These honorable members thought that the constitutional stand should be made then, and the press has time after time denied the right of the Senate to deal with the Tariff in detail. We, however, have recognised their right to da so. Considering that we are within such a short view of a. final result, it would be suicidal on our part, on a mere technical quibble, to refuse to deal with the requests of the Senate in a business-like manner. I have made these remarks with a certain amount of diffidence, and I have purposely avoided any refined arguments with regard to the constitutional question. That may be a matter for decision in the future, if the Houseis called upon to assert its position.
– The honorable member says that we have no position to assert - that the Government have compromised us.
– I do not quite follow the honorable and learned member. I do not decline at this moment to face the whole issue of any future trouble between the two Houses. I think that the spirit which has dominated this House and the Senate up to the present has been everything that the bust wishers of the Commonwealth could desire. We have had one or two slight hitches, which have disappeared under mutual courtesy and consideration, and during our sittings, extending over fourteen or fifteen months, the relations between the two Houses have been of the most cordial and amicable character. Do not let us disturb this happy condition of affairs ; do not let us raise an unnecessary bogey. We are dealing with a question of a practical character, affecting the whole of the industrial interests of Australia. Honorable members on this side of the House have not brought about the present crisis. It has arisen because honorable members opposite - very properly, no doubt, from their point of view - refused to consent to what we considered to be very reasonable requests on the part of the Senate. Let us again take this message into consideration, and, further, let us exhaust every possible effort that we can–
– During the next few years
– To what other efforts does the honorable member refer 1 Supposing that we agree to consider the requests, and the Senate still differs from us, are we to be called upon to accede to the requests when they are again preferred ?
– i am not going to imagine such a contingency. Let us exhaust every reasonable effort - if honorable members prefer it, I would limit the period to within the next few days - to arrive at a reasonable conclusion. If we were dealing with this matter in a mere party spirit, we might desire to bring about a political crisis, but we have no wish of that kind. We do not approve of the Tariff- - it is not our Tariff, –and we shall probably not take any part in the discussion that may follow if the motion is carried. The matter lies now between honorable members opposite and the Senate. If the Government has any further compromise to make, we shall assist them in the event of the vote being challenged, and we desire to dp everything we possibly can to avoid the continuance of the present period of unrest throughout Australia. We can say no more. That is a fair and reasonable attitude to assume, and I trust that honorable members generally will take that view of the position.
– It is a matter for regret that at this early period of our Commonwealth history we should be called upon to face a position that presents many difficulties from whichever stand-point we view it, We did not need the eloquent and powerful speech of the honorable the Acting Prime Minister to convince us of that fact. I fully recognise the difficulties with which the Acting Prime Minister has had to contend in dealing with this unprecedented question - unprecedented as far as the Federal Constitution is concerned - and I am sure that honorable members will be unanimous in thoroughly appreciating the way in which he has grappled with them. We all feel confident that he has endeavoured to do what he thinks is the honest best for Australia. I am quite in harmony with the Minister in many of the observations he. has made. I thoroughly indorse all that he has said with regard to the importance of having the Tariff issue settled at as early a dai e as possible. We all recognise the existence of the feeling of unrest and uncertainty to which he has referred, and know that that feeling is detrimental to trade, that it affects all branches of commerce, and that its influence is not confined to those merchants, whether manufacturers or importers, who are engaged in extensive businesses, but that it reaches down to the humblest worker who moulds the commodities they have to sell. Whilst acknowledging the importance of this question, however, I cannot, in the first place, persuade myself that the Minister is right in regarding this as an unprecedented circumstance, or one that is not likely to occur again. It is certain to occur whenever we have a. Tariff question before us. The difficulty arising from unrest in connexion with the Tariff settlement is one that we have been called upon to face, as have other countries, and one with which we shall be required tocope again: There are, in some respects, peculiar circumstances attendant upon this epoch, such as the State Tariffs, which are still in operation. We have gone on with these Tariffs for a considerable time, and possess means for temporarily settling the Tariff question in this Parliament, without embarking upon a precedent which is possibly fraught with serious consequences tothe future of Australia. The motion as framed seeks to guard, as much as such a motion could guard, against its being treated as a precedent. But there is something which speaks stronger than words, and that is action. We cannot, as it seems to me, take a step which has the undoubted and unqualified effect of recognising what I believe to be a serious breach of the Constitution, without establishing a precedent. I am not taking any mere technical point,, and I am not raising what may be fairly called a quibble, unless the questions upon which the struggles of popular Chambers throughout Australia have been based can be so called, and unless the struggles with which we have been made familiar by history, embarked in by the House of Commons on behalf of the people from time to time, can also be called quibbles. Unless the bases of- all these historic struggles were quibbles, it is not justifiable to attach that appellation to our proceedings. However anxious the Government may be to avoid a collision with the other Chamber, and at the same time to do what they think is expedient under our commercial circumstances at the moment, it must be throughly felt that the motion is of great importance and significance, and that its possible consequences will reach far down into our history. We are asked to take a step which I feel may be regarded as the great renunciation by this House of the rights, powers, and privileges, which have been confided to it on behalf of the nation. I recognise that it is easy to receive this message, and to deal with it. I recognise that it is easy to look at the matter from the mere stand-point of settling the Tariff, and terminating what may be regarded us a momentary unpleasantness. I believe that, although it is not so intended by the Government, the motion presents an ignobly easy way of responding to what we must recognise as a direct challenge. It is always easy to go flown hill, especially when you are pushed, but in that sense, and in that only, do I regard the course proposed by the Government as an easy one to follow. It would not be easy for any House of Representatives in the future, more courageous than ourselves, to retrace the steps now proposed to be taken, to recover lost ground, and work its way up the hill to the position in which we stand . at this moment. For these reasons, and for others which I shall give, and which I regard as overwhelming, I think this motion ought to be rejected. There were two ways of challenging the Message of the Senate. One was adopted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and I feel that you, Mr. Speaker, hare taken the only attitude that is commensurate with the importance of this occasion. Even if you had felt yourself in a position to give a technical ruling adverse to the reception of the Senate’s Message, by reason of the standing orders, or by reason of the non-existence of standing orders, we all feel that it would be too much to put upon the shoulders of any one member of this House, however exalted, the responsibility of deciding this question. It is a responsibility that we, ourselves, must bear - a responsibility which the people expect us to shoulder - and one which - whatever our views on. the subject may be - we are all willing and anxious to sustain. Therefore, I think that the burden of deciding this all-important question rests upon the proper shoulders. To ask the House to refrain from acknowledging the constitutionality of the Message from the Senate is a serious step to take. Let me bring to the pointed attention of honorable members some of the terms of the requests by the other Chamber, because, to my mind, the word “ request,” in this Message, is only the word “amendment” spelt differently. I cannot persuade myself from any stand-point that a moment’s doubt can be entertained that this Message is a direct assertion on the part of the Senate of the right to amend. When I draw honorable members’ attention to the wording of the section they will, perhaps, perceive, if they do not already do so, what I wish to convey. There are words in this Message which raise, as distinctly and directly as the English language is capable of raising it, the one plain issue - “ Has the Senate the right practically to amend such a measure as this?” An affirmative reply to that question carries with it the right to amend every Appropriation Bill and every taxation Bill in the future. The other Chamber, has forwarded to us certain requests. Some of them we agreed to. We agreed to others in a modified form, and we rejected others. But I wish specially to invite the attention of honorable members to the text of the Message. It reads thus -
The Senate has agreed to the modifications made by the House of Representatives in certain requests of the Senate.
Where in the Constitution do we find anything which warrants that statement ? The Senate has the power - as I will show presently- to regard any modifications of its requests which have been -assented to by this House, as part of the Bill, and to say whether it will accept the Bill with those modifications or not. But where in the Constitution is power granted to the other Chamber to announce to us that it has agreed to our- modifications ? Then the Message proceeds -
The Senate again requests the House of Representatives to make the amendments as originally requested. ‘
That brings me to the wording of section 53, and to a particular portion of it which, so far as I have been able to observe, has not obtained that recognition and attention which it deserves. The Message continues -
The Senate has ‘agreed not to again request the House of Representatives to make the amendments. originally requested by Requests Nos. 1, 2,
.10, 11, 12, 40, 51, 60, 01, 62, 63, 64, 72, 74,
80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 88, 89 (as bo part), and 4)2.
What is the meaning of that statements Where in the Constitution is any provision which confers upon the Senate the right to say that it does not press its requests upon the House of Representatives t6 make certain amendments 1 In other words, this Message is one which is appropriate only to a Bill which the Senate lias amended and returned to this Chamber, and to the amendments in which this House’ has not assented. If we alter the word “ request” to the word “amend,” this is the form of Message that is appropriate. Honorable members must see that, if they accept it, they are accepting, for this occasion, at all events - and though they may disavow it in what language they please - a Message asserting the right of amendment by the Senate. More than that, I wish to point out that, not only is the claim which I am now discussing as great as is that to amend certain Bills which the other Chamber has a right to amend, but it will, if acceded to by us, be construed into an admission that the Senate has power to do. by way of request, more than it can do by way of amendment. We shall thus be giving to the other Chamber in respect of Bills which are placed upon a higher plane by the Constitution a greater power than it possesses in respect of other measures which are treated as being of less importance, or as coming more properly within its purview. When we look at the Message we “ are compelled to ask ourselves - “ What is the interpretation - the fair, honest, broad, and reasonable interpretation - of the Constitution in regard to this matter.” I entirely agree with the Attorney-General that we should not regard the Constitution as embodying all the, rules, regulations, and modes of procedure which are intended to guide this Legislative Assembly.
– Then why did the honorable and learned member appeal to its verbiage only a few moments ago ?
– The honorable member, perhaps, did not hear what I said.
– Oh, yes, I did.
– Then he evidently does not understand it. I said that we should not regard the Constitution as containing all the ‘rules which should guide us-
– Why then appeal to it?
– Is it necessary to answer that question 1 The smallest reflection on the part of the honorable member will convince him that it answers itself. I say that so far as the Constitution makes any express provision, it must be followed. 33ut there is behind that Constitution - behind that fabric which has been constructed at the cost of great labour, great expenditure of energy, time, and assiduity - the whole bulk of British and Australian tradition relaid ing to parliamentary government. What I mean is that we have first to look at the Constitution, but if we find ‘ anything in it which is inconsistent with what I may term the common law of parliamentary usage, precedent, and tradition we should be guided by that as well. For example, we find nothing in the Constitution regarding the prerogative of the Crown, the practice of Cabinet Government, the responsibility of the Ministry to one House ; but it is there all the same. It is embodied in our practice, and the Constitution must be read in conjunction with that practice. That is what I mean when I say that we should not look solely at the bare words of the Constitution. Therefore, I agree with the Attorney-General that we should regard the Constitution to a large extent as the frame-work of what is to govern us. Behind it, and along with it, we must remember the . ‘’ breath of the people,” as he termed it, the practice that has guided us in the past, and which, I trust, will continue to guide us in the future. The section which is all-important in this connexion is section 53. Those who were honoured by being members of the Federal Convention will never forget the peril in which we stood upon one memorable occasion when that section was under consideration, and when the delegates from the smaller States fought for giving the Senate power to amend all Bills, whilst those representing the larger States opposed it, but were perfectly willing to concede the other Chamber the power to amend certain Bills as a fair compromise between the power of rejection only and the power of amendment. As a result, the compromise of 1S91 was carried.
– The honorable and learned member is scarcely correct. He must recollect that five representatives of the smaller States enabled that provision to be carried.
– It was as the honorable and learned member reminds me, but the matter depended especially upon the patriotism of two members who subordinated their own opinions at the last moment, and thus saved the whole federal cause. At the time those two members were subjected to considerable, obloquy in certain quarters, but to-day their action is regarded as patriotic in the highest degree. Remembering that, and remembering that the fight was upon the question of the wisdom of conferring upon the Senate the power of amendment as against the power of request only, I cannot refrain from asking myself what would have been the consequence if, at that juncture, the proposal to give the Senate the power of amendment had been carried.
-paterson. - Was that in 1891?
– The compromise of 1891 was then adopted, and now finds its place in the Constitution. That compromise gave to the Senate the power to request amendments when, under the Constitution, the Senate was not a body to be elected by the people, but by the Parliaments. We must also recollect that it was never intended to place the Senate upon the same platform as that occupied by the House of Representatives, which was elected by thepeople. In the Convention we had contemporary explanations of what the compromise of 1 891 meant. I do not think that in all cases we are j justified in quoting individual expressions of opinion by members of the Convention regarding the interpretation of this Constitution. I do not think that we ought to regard all the individual views of the then representatives of the States as to the meaning of the words which at present find their place in the Constitution as binding upon those States or upon the nation for all time. There were occasions when the leader of the Convention was plainly expressing his own views, whilst there were others when he was clearly representing the united sense of the body which was engaged in fashioning the Constitution. But I think it will be well to remind honorable members of what the leader of the Convention said upon this particular point in Adelaide, because it is necessary for those who object to the course which the Government propose to assign reasons for their action, so that they may be placed upon record for all time.
– Is the honorable and learned member not on very dangerous ground in seeking to explain the Constitution by diverse opinions ?
– I have explained my meaning. I am not on dangerous, but on the firmest, ground, because I am going to show that the words of the Constitution, interpreted as they stand, are entirely consonant with and corroborated by the expression of opinion by the leader of the Con’vention at the time the provision was agreed upon. The date was 14th April, 1897, and the remarks are contained in the official report of the Adelaide Convention, at page 557. Sir Edmund Barton said -
Let us come to another argument that has been used with a good deal of effect by some members. We are told that this is a question of mere choice of words - that is to Say, that the power of amending taxation is practically the same as the power to make suggestions. The question of responsibility rises again. If the second Chamber makes suggestions such as are enabled to be made in this colon)’ (South Australia) under the Compact of 1857, which is not a. matter of law, but a matter of agreement ; if the second Chamber makes suggestions under an agreement of that sort, and if the suggestions are not adopted, that House must face the responsibility of deciding whether it will veto the Bill or not.
– In South Australia they do exactly what we are doing now. The requests are repeated and go backward and forward.
– That is to say, the House which makes the requests will not take the responsibility of rejecting the Bill. Sir Edmund Barton continued -
If the procedure is to be by way of amendment, and the amendments are disagreed with by the House of “Representatives, and are still insisted upon b)’ the Second Chamber, then it is upon the House of Representatives that the responsibility must rest of destroying its own measure.
That was repeated by Sir Edmund Barton at the Sydney Convention when he quoted a long passage, including, the words I have read, and that shows he retained his opinion regarding the section. But almost at the end of the Melbourne Convention the present honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne submitted an amendment of sub-clause (4), and the remarks, made at the time are contained in the official report of the Melbourne Convention proceedings of 7th March, 1898, page 1,996. I draw attention to the words I am about to quote, because they seem to me highly important as showing no justification for the course now proposed.
Sir Edmund Barton, after having been asked a question by Mr. Higgins, said
As I understand it, the proposal is that the Senate may, at any stage of the passage of a proposed law–
Honorable members will observe that it is a stage the Bill has reached. Sir Edmund Barton went on - through the Senate, return the Bill to the House of Representati ves with a message requesting the amendment, or omission, of any items or provisions therefrom.
– As long as the Senate has possession of the Bill ?
– Yes, as long as the Bill is in the hands of the Senate. That means, I take it, a power not solely to send a Bill down at a stage at which the measure has, at the moment, arrived at ; but that, if it arrives at a further stage in the Senate, there being in the meantime some settlement or no settlement in regard to the suggestion made, that the Senate would have power to make other suggestions.
It will be observed that there are two conditions - the Bill must arrive at a further stage in the Senate, and the requests must be other requests. Then Sir Edmund Barton went on to guard himself -
Whether it would have power to repeat the same suggestion, is a matter I have not considered, but it seems to me that there is nothing in this clause to restrict the Senate, after making a suggestion at one stage of the Bill, from making another suggestion at another stage of the measure, as long as the Bill is in the course of its passage through the Senate.
There are three points to be observed. The stage that is referred to is the stage of the Bill. After- a request has been made by the other Chamber, and dealt with by the House of Representatives, the Senate, according to that opinion, has power at any further stage of the Bill to make any further request. The honorable gentleman offered no opinion as to whether the same request could be made at any stage, but he was clear in what I have read to honorable members. There is all the difference in the world between the present attempted procedure and that laid down by Sir Edmund Barton. In the procedure laid down by that gentleman, finality is assured, and the procedure is entirely in consonance with the words of the section, whereas the procedure now proposed, will, it is admitted, leave the matter without finality.
– Sir Edmund Barton expressed no opinion upon that phase.
– He did not express an opinion on that point, but the opinion he did express seems to be very significant as to the meaning of the section. I quote the passage principally to dissipate any idea that may have arisen in the minds of some honorable members that it alfords any warrant foi- accepting the motion. At best, honorable members who are favorable to the motion must admit that the quotation gives no warrant - that it is negative. But on the other hand, it seems to me that while Sir Edmund Barton used the language at Adelaide, and repeated it at Sydney, he at the last moment would not take it upon himself to say that the Senate has power, to repeat the same request at any period, nor would he take it upon himself to say that the Senate could make fresh requests at the same stage. That is very important for honorable members to recollect. When I direct the attention of honorable members to the words of the section, they will see that no such interpretation as that now sought ought to be applied.
– Does the honorable and learned member contend that the opinion of Sir Edmund Barton at the Convention is binding in the interpretation of the Constitution ?
– No, I should not contend that ; but this passage has been used by those who entertain a contrary opinion to myself as warranting the reception of this message ; and, I want to show, as best I can, that it offers no such authority.
– What is the practice in South Australia?
– Exactly what is now proposed.
– I may as well come te the section at once, and show how important its words are. The section, after making the important provision to which the honorable member for Wentworth has alluded, sets forth that, except as provided in the section, the powers of the Senate shall be equal with the powers of the House of Representatives in regard to Bills. The section proceeds to make very important exceptions, first as to the power of origination, which, in regard to appropriation or taxation.Bills, is exclusively confined to the House of Representatives. Then comes the power of amendment, and the Senate is prohibited from amending Bills imposing taxation, or ordinary appropriation Bills. Then there is a power which is less, and intended to be less, than that of amendment - namely, the power of request.
If that power were not in the Constitution, the Senate would have no power regarding such Bills but that of agreement or rejection. I should have referred to an intervening paragraph of the section, which ought to have the greatest weight with honorable members in coming to a conclusion. That section provides that the Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to “ increase any proposed charge or burden “ on the people. That means that even in regard to Bills which the Senate may amend - even in regard to what I may call Special Appropriation Bills, or any other Bills, they may amend - they have power to diminish, but no power to increase, a charge on the people, either by way of amendment or request. The power of request is not an exercise of any power to alter a Bill in any respect. The Senate may request an amendment, and, in the particular Bill under discussion, they have requested that burdens or charges on the people may be increased. If now we are going to permit the Senate to insist on these requests being acceded to, they will, in regard to certain Money Bills, which are supposed to be further removed from their consideration than are other Bills, have a power greater than they have in regard to Money Bills which they may amend. I press this point on the attention of honorable members because it seems to me to be entirely decisive that if the Senate are to be permitted to send down requests to this House to amend the Tariff Bill or an ordinary appropriation Bill by adding to the expenditure of the people, and if this House sends the Bill back, and a game of battle-door and shuttlecock goes on, the Senate not only shirk the responsibility, which it is admitted on all hands they ought to take, of vetoing or accepting a Bill, but they virtually and practically exercise the power of amendment in a higher degree than they can in regard to a Special Appropriation Bill, which the Constitution has placed more thoroughly within their functions.
– A repeated request may be regarded as rejecting or shelving a Bill.
– Repeating a request as often as they choose, and refusing to deal with the measure, is equivalent to shirking responsibility. It is a refusal to pass it, and a request becomes a demand when it is repeated.
– The repetition of a request does not limit the powers of this House.
– Of course not. The honorable and learned member is accurate. But who has spoken of the powers of this House being limited ? We have power to refuse a request, as we have power to reject an amendment. We are not now talking of the right of this House to say “ no “ to anything proposed by the Senate ; we are talking of the right of the Senate to demand what the Constitution declares it shall only request.
– Then why did not the framers of the Constitution provide that a request should be made only once?
– The Constitution provides that the Senate may make a request at any stage of its consideration of a measure. We have discussed the provisions of the Constitution in regard to the Senate, but have honorable members had their attention directed to the all important and terribly significant words which relate to the House of Representatives? Does the Constitution stop short atprovidingthat the Senate, in dealing with Money Bills, may make requests instead of amendments ? No. The words used in regard to the powers of the House of Representatives are stronger, wider, and more significant than appear in regard to the powers of the Senate, or than can be found in the Constitution of any other Legislature. When a request comes to us from the Senate -
The House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
From a legal point of view there is no more force in that provision, by reason of the use of the words - “if it thinks fit” than there would be if they were absent. But as a beacon, indicating with illuminating light the meaning of the section, they are all important. Those words were in the Bill framed by the Convention of 1891. They were part of a compromise. They were also in the Bill originally framed by the Convention of 1897-8. The drafting committee of the Convention struck them out, and, later on, I moved to restore them. At page 2450 of the official report of the debates of the Convention during its Melbourne session, honorable members will find that, after pointing out that from a mere legal standpoint, the discretion of the House of Representatives would be unaffected by the words, I added -
I do not think that there would be any legal difference, so far as I can see at the moment, if they were omitted, but they were put in with n very distinct object, and I am sure the presence of the words hod weight with some honorable members, as showing that to grant the power of suggestion was not as great as to grant the power of amendment. I think it will be better to leave in the words.
The leader of the Convention, the Prime Minister, in reply to my remarks and the observations of other honorable members, said -
As to my honorable friend’s suggestion, there is no real difference in the meaning of the Bill, whether the words “if it thinks fit” are or ore not inserted. Both the old form and the new form make it clear that the House of Representatives may do what it likes with suggested omissions or suggested amendments - that it can take them or reject them, or modify them and take them. I have no objection to the insertion of the words “ if it thinks fit,” if my honorable friend thinks it really is an advisable thing to do.
– I think it is.
– If my honorable friend thinks it is a politic thing to do, and he moves an amendment, I will accept it,
The representatives of the smaller States were jealous of any mark in the Constitution of the superiority of the House of Representatives, and I, therefore, to prevent any possible misapprehension, thought that it was politic to move the reinsertion of the words, and they were reinserted. Those words are all-important in this connexion, and I will show honorable members why. Let me indicate as best I may what the whole meaning of the provision is. It means that in certain Bills which are intimately connected with the constitutional principle, and essential to the true conduct of responsible government, you cannot have a divided care ; you cannot have divided opinions on the details of a measure, although you properly allow the second Chamber to say “ Yes “ or “ No “ to the measure as a whole. The Senate must take the responsibility of accepting or rejecting such measures as a whole. As was pointed out in a State Parliament by a distinguished member of the Convention, the object of the provision is this : Whereas, under the States Constitutions, second chambers have had to take the responsibility of the rejection or acceptance of financial measures without being able to avail themselves of any recognised formal method of acquainting the public with the reasons of their action, a means is here given to communicate with the other House, and to ask for an expression of its real, deliberate will in regard to any provision which does not commend itself to the Senate. When the Senate, at any stage in its consideration of a measure, communicates its difficulties to the House of Representatives, and asks us whether we really in- . tend to adhere to our proposals, we may either say, “ Yes,” absolutely, or agree to amend or modify those proposals. The measure must then go back to the Senate, and their power of suggestion in regard to it is exhausted, so far as that stage is concerned. Repetition of the request converts it into a demand. If, at a future stage, other difficulties present themselves, it is quite possible, though I pronounce no definite opinion upon the subject, that it may be intended by the Constitution that the Senate shall have another opportunity to formulate new requests for further light as to the will of this House ; but it has no right to again challenge the decision of this House in respect to matters in regard to which it has made requests, and has received . a definite answer
– –The only precedent we have is the South Australian precedent.
– That precedent was created under a Constitution which places both Houses on the same footing, except with regard to the power of originating appropriation and taxing Bills.
– What does the honorable and learned member understand by the words “ stage of a Bill,” as applied to the consideration of a measure by theSenate 1
– The meaning of the words is thoroughly understood in the parliamentary procedure of both England and America.
– I know what is understood in the procedure of the State Parliaments. I ask what, in the absence of joint standing orders, is the meaning of the words as they occur in. the Constitution 1
– We are discussing not. standing orders but the Constitution. As the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne rightly said, no standing orders: can alter the Constitution. The word “stage” is ordinarily employed in connexion with the consideration of a parliamentary measure. It will be found inMay’s Parliamentary Practice on pages 444’ and 445. For instance, it is there statedthat the second reading is “the most important stage “ through which a Bill is; required to pass. The word will be found also in Story’s Constitution qf the United States. Speaking of the procedure of passing a Bill through three readings and the committee stages, he comes to the question of its engrossing and reading a third time. That is the time usually chosen by opponents of a measure, lie says, to attack it, though
Attempts are indeed sometimes made at previous stages to defeat it.
Lower down, he states -
The two last stages of the Bill, namely, on the questions, whether it shall have a third reading, mid whether it shall pass, are the strong points of resistance and defence.
Then Cushing, in his work on The Law and Practice oj Legislative Assemblies, has a chapter headed - “ Of the several stages through which a Bill passes.”
– The word “ stage “ is not confined in its application to the first, second, and third readings 1
– That is doubtful. I am not prepared to say that it is so confined. But there has been no subsequent stage in regard to the consideration of the measure with which we are now dealing.
– The Senate went into committee upon it again.
– The Bill had reached a certain stage when the Senate first made requests iri regard to it, and it has not advanced beyond that stage. Certain matters have been reconsidered, but the Bill is in the same stage as it was in before. Cushing, on page 829, says -
Bills thus received, whether presented by members, reported by committees, or sent from the other House, are, in all substantial respects, to be proceeded with in the same manner, through the several stages which have been established by usage for the passing of Bills. At each of these different stages every Bill, in a parliamentary sen.-)e, presents a new question, although it may, in fact, be the same which has been formerly considered. These /several stages have never been departed from, although they depend, upon usage merely, and are as much in force und as fundamental in our Legislative Assemblies as in Parliament. The nature of the different stages through which each Bill must pass in its progress, before it becomes a law, will be stated more fully as we proceed.
In earlier times, when reading and writing were not universal accomplishments, the members of the House of Commons required to have the provisions of measures read out to them, so that they might understand them. In this way arose the term - “ The reading of a Bill.” It .requires’ very little research to discover that the firstreading stage was preceded by several preliminary stages, intended to acquaint honorable members with the purport of the measure. Then came the first and second readings, the consideration in committee, and the third reading stages. Altogether there are several stages in connexion with the consideration of a Bill, though it is a matter for each House to determine what the stages shall be.
– Does the honorable and learned member admit that the consideration of a Bill in committee is a stage t
– I think that it is, but I do not make any admission on the subject.
– Then, if a Bill is referred several times to a committee, it passes through several stages ?
– Certainly not, if it is referred to the same committee. Until a Bill has passed beyond the committee stage, it has not entered another stage.
– What about a recommittal t
– That is a going-back to the same stage. It is not a going-forward to a further stage. It is not making another stage on the journey from Melbourne to Adelaide to go to Serviceton, and then to return to Melbourne. There can be no doubt that the Bill is still at the same stage as it was at when the matter was last before us, and that the requests now before us are the same. Consequently, it seems to me beyond argument that their consideration is forbidden by the Constitution. I have endeavoured to place distinctly, and, I hope, convincingly, before honorable members the reasons why I think we ought not to agree to the motion. I think that a fundamental breach of the Constitution, in no unimportant, but in a very central point, is about to be committed. I hope that I have said nothing to offend the susceptibilities of any honorable member. I cannot recognise as a fair and legitimate reason for laying down a new line of policy utterly foreign to all sense of responsible Government as understood and practised in Australia, the ground of expediency advanced by the Government, or the party reasons which may perhaps operate with honorable members opposite. I do not think that it will be any party triumph for the free-trade members if they secure the consideration of these requests. They will not change the character of the Tariff, if they carry every resolution in favour of acceding to the requests of the Senate.
– Why does the honorable and learned member suggest that we are guided by party considerations 1
– I am only pointing out that my honorable friends may think that they are gaining something, but that their hopes will not be realized.
– -If we sought a party triumph we should like to see a dissolution, because it would “wipe out” a number of honorable members opposite.
– I am sure that my honorable and learned friend means all that he says. I am confident that honorable members will not regard me as impeaching their motives. I am merely presenting reasons why they should not take the course to which they seem favorably inclined. I believe that we shall make a great - I hope not an irretrievable - error if we allow matters of momentary consequence to outweigh those greater considerations which must present themselves to our view. I hope that those considerations, which are merely transient, incidental, and alterable, will be subordinated to those which are permanent,’ essential, and unalterable. The AttorneyGeneral has told us that the Tariff is a nonparty document. I admit the force of what he says, but I submit that the Constitution is still less of a party character, and that we should take refuge behind it. If we are right we are more than justified in resisting any encroachment upon the privileges of this House, which are not given to us for our own sake, but on behalf of those whom we represent. It may be difficult in the highest degree for us to retrieve our position if we once make the mistake which, I am afraid, we are about to commit. I fear that we are about to take, as Wentworth, .in Browning’s Strafford, says -
One false step no way to be repaired.
But however that may be, I am sure that honorable members will act according to the best that lies within them, and I hope, even now, that we shall leave no legacy of doubt or weakness to our successors. I trust that they, when they review our actions and our proceedings to-day, will admit that we have been moved by no impulses less lofty, less noble, or less glorious than the maintenance in its integrity of ‘our splendid Constitution,
U x and consideration for the welfare of the people it is designed to serve.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- If honorable members on this side of the House desired to make this a party question, they would throw in their lot with those who dissent from the Government, because it must be clear that a dissolution would offer some hope to any party in a minority. We think that a dissolution would offer us every prospect of being able to reverse the present situation. On the other hand, if we went to the country now, we should immensely strengthen the power of the Senate, because there would be returned to this House a body of men determined to reduce the duties imposed by the Tariff, and act strongly in accord with the requests which have been made.
– All the “wobblers “ would go out of Victoria.
– Perhaps so ; but there is no doubt that the representation of the greater part of Australia would undergo a marked change if we had a dissolution-. A great deal has been said regarding the injury that would be inflicted upon this House if we consented to consider the Message received from the Senate; but the whole question has been reduced to the consideration of the meaning of the words “at any stage.” Unless we attach a- particular meaning to these words, the Senate has not gone beyond its power. I listened very carefully to what the honorable and learned member for Indi said regarding the statement made by Sir Edmund Barton at the Convention in Melbourne. That right honorable gentleman said that requests differing from those first submitted might be made at a subsequent stage ; but, if that had been intended, it would have been specifically provided that requests made on subsequent occasions should differ from those preferred at the outset. We are reduced now to a quibble over one or two words, and I ask whether it is worth our while to take the extreme course suggested by the honorable and learned member for Indi. Ought we not to rely upon common sense, and to sweep’ away the cobwebs of the law ? These may be strong enough to enmesh the minds of members of the legal profession, but I trust that they will not be sufficiently strong to influence a body of practical men, who are met together for the purpose of governing - of reconciling the conflicting interests of the people. The interests of a certain party in this House conflict with those of another party in the Senate, and the honorable and learned member for Indi proposes that we should take steps that would prevent us from having any discussion whatever between the two Houses. If there is a difficulty, this House should be the first to come forward, and make suggestions by which it could be surmounted. It has been said that we might injure the standing of this House in connexion with Money Bills ; but section 53 of the Constitution, provides that -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys or imposing taxation shall not originate in the Senate.
That is a most important limitation, which cannot be overcome by anything we may do. Surely honorable members will not contend that the power of rejecting a Bill -does not lie with the Senate1? It may be that it is a disadvantage to have a second Chamber, but I do not wish to enter into a discussion of that question. Whilst there is a second House, however, it must have the power of rejecting Bills, and, if this is admitted, how can we contend that it is not to have the infinitely less important power of suggesting amendments, or requesting us to make them ? Are we not raising a trivial difficulty ? I decline to adopt the narrow view of the matter which the honorable and learned member for Indi has been trying to force upon us. We should do our best to overcome the difficulties which have arisen, but if we do not receive a message from the Senate we are not in a position to know in what respects they disagree from us. The practical result of adopting the attitude suggested by the honorable and learned member for Indi would be to deny the Senate any right to share in the government of the country, and we know what consequences must ensue from our taking up any such attitude. If honorable members opposite had been as ready on a former occasion to foresee difficulties, we might not have found ourselves iri our present position. In July last I warned the Minister for Trade and Customs, who, apparently, did not intend to consider the Senate in any way whatever, that a constitutional difficulty would surely arise as the result of his attitude, and surely enough, he has fallen into the blunder against which I warned him. I do not suppose any one doubts that he is directly responsible for the trouble that has arisen, and the fact that the Senate has insisted upon some of its original requests. It was easy for some of the honorable members of the Senate to ascertain that some honorable members did not take the trouble to consider some of the Tariff’ proposals, but blindly followed the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I hope that those honorable members now see the folly of relying upon his guidance. Upon the occasion to which I refer, I did not receive any assistance from the honorable and learned member for Indi, or from the honorable and learned, member for Corinella.
– Why does the honorable and learned member challenge me with not having done something, and assume that I intend to take a certain course to-day ?
– I assumed from the interjections of the honorable and learned member that he was of the same way of thinking as the honorable and learned member for Indi, and I do not think I was wrong. Whilst I should be very glad to take advantage of any circumstances which would tend to force this House to the country - because I believe that the Tariff has-been imposed against the wish and behind the backs of the people - I cannot regard the Senate as having placed itself in a position that would debar us from accepting its Message, and therefore I shall support the motion. T feel myself bound to support the Government upon this occasion.
– I do not intend to detain the House more than a few minutes in discussing this question. At the same time I recognise that it is one of such importance that those who, like myself, are apparently iri a minority should embrace the opportunity of briefly placing upon record their reasons for dissenting from the course proposed by the Government. After the long and able address of the honorable and learned member for Indi, I do not intend to weary the House by repeating the salient points of the Senate’s Message to which strong exception can be taken. I think it will be agreed that there are portions of that Message, which are in no way warranted by the Constitution. If the Senate makes ‘ requests to this branch of the Legislature, and we refuse to accede to them, it then becomes the business of the other Chamber either to pass or reject the Bill, without informing us that it approves of our agreement to, or modifications of, its requests. Such an intimation is entirely superfluous, and it is more than a matter of mere words, because it approximates to the practice in connexion with amendments, and is in reality an implication that the Senate can deal with our treatment of its requests in the same way that it can deal with our treatment of its amendments. If we make the amendments requested by the other Chamber, or make them with modifications, and then return the Bill, it is the business of the Senate either to accept or reject it as it stands without sending us any Message whatever in regard to particular items. In itself this is not a matter of very great importance, but regarded as an indication of the attitude which may be assumed hereafter by the other Chamber when questions arise as to the relations between the two Houses, it is of the gravest concern. It is utterly useless for the Government to assert that they are going to do something which is not warranted by the Constitution, and at the same time to declare that they reserve all our rights under that instrument of government. If we yield to the Senate something which the Constitution does not grant, it is useless saying that we reserve our rights. A henpecked husband who continually dwells upon the word “ obey “ does not improve his position by verbally reiterating his rights. Similarly if we grant to the Senate a power with which it is not clothed by the Constitution we shall alter the relations intended to be established between the two Houses, and no reservation of rights will prevent the precedent set up on this occasion from having considerable weight should the same question be involved in the future. That is all I desire to say concerning the form of the Senate’s Message. But in regard to its substance I wish to observe that the words employed iri section 53 of the Constitution - which deals with the power of the Senate in the matter of making requests - show upon any reasonable interpretation one limit of meaning only. I do not rely upon the expression of opinion in regard to this matter by Sir Edmund Barton, when acting as leader of the Federal Convention, though I think that his opinion is entitled to the utmost respect. Certainly, if any one’s judgment ought to weigh with us his should do so. But the reasonable interpretation of section 53 is that a limit is imposed upon the power of the Senate in regard to Money Bills. In the first place I hold that the power of request is not intended to exceed the power which would be conferred by the right of amendment. The Senate, by its requests, is not to have more power than it would enjoy if it possessed the right of amendment only. In this connexion I differ from the view of the honorable and learned member for Indi as to requests by the Senate for increased charges or burdens upon the people. I think that section 53 carnes with it an implication that the requests of the Senate shall suffer the same limitation that applies to amendments, namely, that a burden or charge upon the “ people shall not be increased. It is inconceivable that the power of request which was intended to be less than the power of amendment should- be allowed to exceed it. It is impossible to suppose that the Constitution meant to declare - “The Senate cannot amend a Bill so as to increase a charge upon the people, but it can request that such a charge shall be increased.” That limitation on the power of request must be read into the Constitution, though it does not appear there in so many words. If the power of request is not to exceed that of amendment, it seems to me that we arrive at something like that position. With respect to the resolution submitted by the- Attorney-General, without any desire to fully discuss the meaning of the word “ stage “ to which reference has been made, I may say that, to my mind, ib means a complete operation in regard to a Bill, bringing it nearer to its final passage through the House.
– The honorable and learned member for Indi said there were seven or eight stages in the passing of a Bill.
– Yes : but each stage is complete in itself, and brings its final passing nearer. It appears to me that the Senate cannot make requests twice at the same stage in the history of this measure. As a matter of fact, I do not think that it can make requests twice during all the stages of the Bill. The words “ the Senate at any stage may return a Bill, &c,” mean at any stage in the history of a Bill. At the most the Senate may suspend the operation of that stage, and return the Bill to this House with’ a request that it shall be amended. When it resumes its consideration of the measure it must either complete that stage in its consideration or go on to the next stage. I see no legal quibble or refinement in this matter such as the leader of the Opposition suggests is to be found in any constitutional argument.
– Does the honorable and learned member say there is no question about the interpretation which he has placed upon the Constitution 1
– I- am very loth to answer in the affirmative, because, with all its flexibility, the English language is a very imperfect vehicle for conveying our thoughts. But I do hold that what I have stated is *t reasonable interpretation of that section.
– It is a most, inconvenient one.
– We are not concerned -with whether or not it is inconvenient. We are concerned with whether that was +.116 intention of the Constitution under -which the people declared that we should -work.
– The question is -whether that interpretation is a correct’ one.
– Exactly. I have not -heard anybody suggest that it is not correct. I venture to say that not a single vh.onorn.blo member will declare that the “Senate can return the same request to this House, twice.
An Honorable Member. - What would be the next stage 1
– Going into committee would be the next stage, the report would constitute another stage, and the third reading still another. There are plenty of stages in the history of a Bill.
– But in this case it As the various items of a schedule with -which we have to deal.
– I have yet to learn that ‘-the schedule is not part of the Bill. I am very much obliged to the honorable mem.ber for his interjection, because I should -like to draw attention to the fact that the only power which the Senate possesses is to deal with the whole Bill as we sent it to that Chamber. When the Senate returns the schedule to us it has to return the whole Bill. That fact strengthens my contention that the other Chamber must not send back the whole Bill to this House twice at any stage. To my mind, it has exhausted its powers when it has returned the measure once.’
– The Convention settled . that.
– The Convention did nothing of the sort. The Constitution alone settles it. Even the leader of the Convention did not express a definite opinion upon this matter.
– Was not this provision based upon the South Australian practice 1
– It was suggested by that practice, but I cannot agree that it was determined by it. The next point which arises is - “ Can the Senate make the same suggestion under any circumstances a second time V If it can, then it can make it a third and a thirtieth time, subject to any limitations which it chooses to place upon itself by its own standing orders.
– It can make a request as many times as we allow it to do so.
– No : it can make it as many times as we choose to receive its Message. If we receive its Message a second time there is no reason why we should not receive it a third time. If the Senate can make the same suggestions a second time, whether at the same stage or another I care not, so far as regards this particular part of the argument - if the Senate can do that, it is in exactly the same position in regard to requests as it is in regard to amendments. When I use the word “ exactly,” I am leaving out of account the somewhat theoretical question as to the House on which the final responsibility of rejecting the Bill will fall. But that is rather an academic question, at any rate, at the present stage of affairs.
– There is the great difference that the requests do not go to a joint sitting.
– That is perfectly true, but that only goes to show that the power of request is to be regarded as something distinctly inferior to the power of amendment - something not equal to an amendment in its incidence, except on the particular point to which ‘another honorable member has referred.
– Suggestions can be referred to a joint sitting.
– Not suggestions.
– Section 57 provides -
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to’ pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session. nguiu pusses the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree- certain things are to happen. That is the only section in which the word “ suggested” instead of “ requested” appears in the Constitution, and it is, so to speak, a misprint. Bequests appear to be placed on a fairly (strong basis, but that aspect is foreign to the present issue. If the same request can be repeated it is an amendment in all but name ; the difference in the words amounts to nothing. Neither the members of the Convention nor the people of Australia, when the)’ accepted the Constitution, for one moment .believed that “requests” were to be identical with “ amendments.” Had I believed that requests were to be regarded as amendments I should, as far as lay in my power, have asked the people of Victoria to reject the Constitution. It was because, on a reasonable rendering of the section, a distinction was intended, and, as I supposed, was made between requests and amendments, that I was prepared to accept the Constitution. If the proper construction be that contended for by some honorable members, we have a cumbrous machinery for attaining exactly the same results as an ordinary system of amendments would attain.
– Will the honorable and learned member indicate the course hethinks ought to be followed 1 The honorable and learned member for Indi did not do so.
– I am prepared , to indicate the course which ought to be followed, and I believe the honorable and learned member for Indi also did so when he expressed the opinion that the motion should not be passed. I do not want to do the Senate the discourtesy of not formally letting them know that their Message actually reached us.
– How does the Constitution provide for that ?
– If the Senate does what we consider unconstitutional, we are not to be blamed if we are courteous enough to tell them that we think they are wrong.
– The honorable and learned member asks the Senate to listen to us, but does not want us to listen to the Senate.
– I think the Senate ought to be informed that their Message has been brought before this House, and that it is considered by us that they exceed their constitutional powers by sending the Message.
– And that the Bill has been sent to them to deal with.
– And that the Bill lias been sent to the Senate to pass or reject it. We may also express a hope that the Senate will pass the measure, or use wordsto that effect. The framers of the Constitution assumed that the Senate would not exceed their constitutional power, and, therefore, there is no provision for such an occurrence. The Acting Prime Minister seems to doubt the propriety of sending to the Senate the motion in which he seeks to preserve our rights.
– I doubt the necessity.
– “ Necessity” and “propriety” come to the same thing in considering grave matters of this kind. The Acting Prime Minister seems to think that by a motion of our own - a sort of private home declaration concerning ourselves - we shall save our rights. If that be the ActingPrime Minister’s idea he is more sanguinethan ever I thought him to be. It is no use making abstract declarations on our own behalf. In future years, when the Houses do have to settle questions even bigger, perhaps, than that now in dispute - when the inevitable conflict occurs, though not necessarily carried to the extreme contemplated as possible by the Constitution - what will be appealed to will not be the mellifluous .terms of a resolution declaratory of our own rights, but the actual course taken by the House.
– Say, “ without prejudice,” to satisfy legal members.
– The honorable member is pleased to be jocular, and he evidently misunderstands legal members on the subject. The honorable member would, I suppose, sacrifice all his rights “without prejudice” - would give away all his money, or support the Government Tariff proposals on the same terms. To my mind the Commonwealth will never be able to get away from the fact that on the first occasion on which the question could be raised as to the respective constitutional powers of the two Houses, the Government, which is supposed to be, even more than private members, the guardian of the interests 1 of the House, with the approval of the leader of the Opposition, advised honorable members to sacrifice the conceivable rights of the Chamber, and the conceivable rights of the people represented by this Chamber.
– If I thought that the motion, as proposed by the Acting Prime Minister, would involve any sacrifice of the rights of this House I should vote against it, and advise every honorable member to do the same. I decline to admits however, that the passing of themotion means either a sacrifice, as suggested by the honorable member for Corinella, ‘or a renunciation of our rights as suggested by the honorable member for Indi. I am as strong as those honorable and learned members in the view they have put forward as to the construction of the Constitution. I agree with them entirely in the view that the section empowering the Senate at any stage to return a Bill with a Message requesting alterations gives a power which can be exercised only once at the same stage, and that it does not give the right to repeat the same request at the same stage. That, I think, is a sound constitutional view - a view consistent with the unwritten law of Parliament in regard to communications between the two Houses, and a view thoroughly in harmony with the Constitution. Amendments no doubt are sometimes pressed, but we must consider the q’uestion apart from the principle of Amendments. I do not think the Senate has a right to press a request. I thoroughly agree with the view put forward by the honorable and learned members, to whom 1 have already referred, that there is a si-eat difference “between the constitutional power to request or suggest alterations, and the constitutional power to make amendments. The section itself draws a marked distinction in the words “ the Senate may request an omission or an amendment.” That shows a marked contrast between requesting a thing to be done by another House which has the exclusive power to do that thing, and the light to do it by the party requesting it to be done.
– That is all right in theory.
– And also in practice. When we arrive at the stage at which the question will be properly fought out to the bitter end - and this is not the proper, stage - then effect will undoubtedly have to be given to the contrast shown in the section, and also to the words referred to by the honorable and learned member for Indi, namely, that the House of Representatives may, “ if it thinks, fit,” make the alteration requested. These words show that the intention of the Constitution is that finality shall rest with this Chamber, and that the Constitution at the saint time intends that this Chamber shall be in a position to recognise hints and suggestions from the Senate, as it might indirectly through any public organ in the Commonwealth, as to the direction in which alterations or improvements may be made as to the direction in which alterations or improvements may be made. Such being my view, I desire to explain, in a few words, why I intend to support the proposition of the Acting Prime Minister. By passing his motion we point out to the Senate, and to the whole world, that we do not in anT way surrender our right to place our own interpretation upon the section of the Constitution when the time arrives. If we receive the message of the Senate without entering something like a protest, or placing a notice such as is now proposed upon our records, it may be said hereafter that we have waived our right of interpretation. Even if we did waive that right, our action in doing so would in no way affect our powers and privileges as determined by the Constitution. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has said that we cannot in any way contract or enlarge our powers by passing standing orders. Neither can we contract our powers by any action we may take in waiving them.
– Yes, we can, if we waive our rights under a section which the House of Representatives and the Senate interpret between themselves, and whose interpretation will never be a matter for the courts to determine.
– We receive this message under the special and extraordinary circumstances referred to in the motion. The statement of that fact recited in the motion submitted pi-events anything like a waiver of our rights. The time may arrive when a triumphant majority in this House will desire to raise the question in a practical form, and to fight it out, even to the length of carrying on the contest before the constituencies.
– It will have to be raised when the standing orders come to be framed.
– That would be a very weak way of raising it ; indeed I do not see how it can be raised then. It will have to be raised in connexion with some great legislative proposal : but this would be a most inopportune and unwise time to raise it. This is the first occasion in our history that any difference of opinion as to the interpretation of the section has come before us in a concrete form. The point has been discussed by constitutional writers and in the press, but we have never been called upon to exercise the responsibility of declaring our view in regard to it.
– We are not giving up the right to at any stage refuse to receive the Messages of the Senate.
– That is hardly the point. The point is whether by receiving this Message of the Senate we waive the right to hereafter raise the contention that the Senate cannot send two Messages in regard to a measure while it is still at the same stage of consideration. By agreeing to the motion which has been moved by the Acting Prime Minister, we save that contention. We, say that under the special circumstances of the case - Parliament having been engaged for a long period in the discussion of a momentous and complicated measure, which it would be a disaster resulting in a national crisis to jeopardize - we agree not to determine our constitutional rights. Strong as my views as to our constitutional position are, I regard with positive alarm the possibility of anything like a contest resulting in a dead-lock between the two Chambers at the present time. We ought not to launch into a great fight, such as we should be inviting if we refuse to accept the Message of the Senate, without considering all the consequences. If we declined to accept this Message, the Senate would say, “ You never gave us warning of the view you take in regard to your constitutional position. You have never, by any action or declaration, denied our right to send a second Message, and in the absence of such notice or declaration we had a right to send .a Second Message.” The rejection of a second Message under those circumstances would undoubtedly give the Senate the right to complain of discourteous treatment. Before entering into a big controversy, we should respectfully acquaint the Senate of our views as to its constitutional disability, and the constitutional rights of this House. The motion before us will do that, and will give them fair notice and warning as to what we may do on a future occasion if a second Message is sent under like circumstances. I think the people of Australia will expect us, before entering into a contest with the Senate which may involve the loss of the Tariff and the prolongation of the commercial uncertainty and unrest which now exists, to acquaint the members of that Chamber with our views on the matter. I think that, as a piece of. political wisdom and precaution, we should agree to the motion, because it will preserve our rights and privileges, as we or those who may come after us may interpret them, and afford a judicious means of dealing with the difficulty at the present stage. It the Senate, after this intimation, show a persistent determination to invade our rights and privileges, it will be the duty of the Government to take such action as will show them that we do not intend to tamely submit to any such invasion. Those are the views which I entertain, but I decline to admit that I am, in any degree, less earnest or less determined than honorable members who have preceded me, to vindicate to the utmost the privileges of this House, as established by the letter, as well as the spirit, of the Constitution. Under the special circumstances of the case, I urge honorable members to acquiesce in the view presented by the Acting Prime Minister, and to pass the motion, which, I believe, will meet all the requirements of the situation, and will, at the same time, judiciously preserve our rights and privileges.
– I regret that I cannot vote for the motion of the Acting Prime Minister. Although I have from the inception of the consideration of the Tariff endeavoured to keep in view the desirability of avoiding a contest with the Senate, and bringing the matter to a conclusion as early as possible, so as to allow business people to know under what conditions they will have to cany on their enterprises, and have therefore on many occasions sacrificed my view as to the rates of duty which should be imposed, I think a period has come when we must cease to attempt to obtain harmony by continuing to sacrifice our opinions. I admit that the position has been ably stated by those who object to the motion on constitutional grounds, but I do not base my opposition to it wholly upon those grounds. As a layman I am not competent to express an opinion as to the exact interpretation which should be placed upon that section of the Constitution which governs the relations of the two Houses in regard to Money Bills, but the contention of the honorable and learned ‘member for Indi, which is supported, strange to say, by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo who intends to take an exactly opposite course, appears to me to be the correct one. That the Senate may return a Bill with requests for amendment only once at any particular stage of its consideration, seems to me .to be the correct interpretation of the Constitution, and I cannot understand the attitude of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, who, while he not only admits, but asserts that the .view taken by the honorable and learned member for Indi is correct, tells us that he is prepared to make use of the ladder which the Government have provided to enable members of this House to climb down from an awkward position.
– It is a matter of expediency.
– It may be, but those who, like the honorable member for Bendigo, think that we shall get another opportunity to maintain the position which it is open to us to maintain now are very much mistaken. The Acting Prime Minister has told us that we shall be able to get the constitutional issue decided when dealing with the standing orders. Does he think that there will be enough vim behind any proposal in regard to the standing orders to cause honorable members to go to the country upon it 1 Will a difference of opinion in regard to the standing orders appeal to the great masses of the electors as a sufficient excuse for a contest between the two Houses? They will laugh at us for our pains, and probably elect other men in our places.
– Is the honorable member anxious to go to the country ‘?
– No, but I am prepared to do so if necessary in support of my principles, as I and other members of the labour party did in New South Wales in 1S95, in support of a measure introduced by a Government in which the honorable member held a portfolio, and after we had been only twelve months in Parliament. I am prepared to go to the country now rather than to concede to the representatives of minorities of the people equal power with us in regard to measures dealwith taxation. That is the whole point involved. The fact that the Senate is a House representing minorities may be cloaked by a reference to it as the States’
House, and to the State rights which are supposed to be entrusted to its keeping, but it still exists. Those who representminorities of the taxpayers are asking for equal powers with this Chamber with regard to the imposition of taxation. I intend to oppose at every opportunity which presents itself the contention that they have a right to do so. I fought the issue in New South Wales at some risk of my own seat, but I am prepared to take the risk again in defence of the position now. The Acting Prime Minister said that the special circumstances in which we now find ourselves are not likely to be repeated. He has referred to the two-year period within which the Tariff has to be passed, and has stated that if we push matters to extremes we may exceed the limit. I do not know that, as a matter of practice, there is any great argument underlying this statement, because, whilst it is desirable from all points of view that the Tariff should be settled within two years, or even before the expiration of that time, what penalty can follow the non-observance of that particular condition ?
– None at all. It seems to me, therefore, that whilst that provision should have weight with us - and I dare say it was considered by many of us during the past few months, when we endeavoured to secure reasonable compromises upon matters in respect of which we otherwise should not have yielded - it should not operate in our minds in comparison with the broad question whether this House or the other is- to mould ‘the taxation of the country. The honorable member for Wentworth s°aid that the mere fact of our reception of the first Message from the Senate, and our consideration of it, item by item,- deprived us of the opportunity of declining to receive the second Message. The honorable member argued that “we had given away the whole case by accepting the first Message, but I differ from that view, because, as I understand it, we were constrained to receive that Message by the exact terms of the Constitution. There can be no possible doubt as to the interpretation of the section of the Constitution which provides that the Senate shall be entitled to make requests and forward them for consideration to this Chamber. Surely no one would argue that we should be justified in refusing to accept the first set of requests, and I do not see that the action we took in any way prejudiced the position that some of us now desire to take up. I believe that in regard to finances especially, and generally speaking in regard to the conduct of the affairs of this Commonwealth, it is not possible to carry on responsible Government with two Houses of anything like equal power. One House must be predominant; otherwise responsible Government is impossible, and as I have to choose, as the country will eventually have to do, between the two Houses, I prefer to throw in my own lot with the Chamber which represents the people in their numerical strength and taxable capacity rather than with the other House, which is said to represent the people in other aspects of national affairs. A great deal has been made of the State House aspect of this question, but I wouldask honorable members what evidence there is that the members of the Senate have not been actuated by exactly the same considerations as have the members of this Chamber in the discussion of the Tariff? There is no indication that each delegation has acted conjointly on behalf of its own particular State. There has been no question, so far as I have been able to ascertain, of any State action. Each member has been guided purely by his own convictions with regard to the incidence of taxation, or by the objections which he has entertained towards certain proposals.
– I stated that the Senate had acted in its capacity as a second Chamber, and not as a House representing the States.
– I am sorry I misunderstood the honorable member. If we dismiss the question of the representation of the States in the Senate, we have to confine our attention to the point whether the Senate, as a second Chamber, is entitled to prevent the passing of a measure which the whole community has asked for, or to insist that if it is passed, it shall be in the shape desired by them, and not as framed by this House representing the people as a whole. I do not wish to labour this question, because I think it has been very ably argued by other honorable members, particularly from the legal aspect. I have for years taken the stand that there can be only one Chamber to exercise effective control over the affairs of the Commonwealth, and that, whilst for advisory purposes and in order to insure that every consideration shall be given to legislative proposals before they become law - even from that point of view there may be more justification for the view taken by those on the other side - I cannot consent on an occasion of this kind to any steps being taken which would admit the equal right of the other Chamber, particularly in matters of taxation, to control the affairs of the Commonwealth.
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie). - Like the honorable member for Bland, I feel that this question has been well debated from the legal aspect by those who have preceded me. As a lay member of the House, however, I feel very greatly obliged to the honorable member for having brought the matter down from the somewhat lofty position it occupied to the level of practical politics. The Constitution provides for certain methods by which the expressed will of the people shall be crystallized into statute law. It was provided that there should be two Houses, and that in matters relating to taxation one House should have the sole right of origination, and that the other House should be limited with regard to the manner in which it should deal with such measures, comparedwith laws affecting other matters. The members of the other Chamber have privileges that we do not enjoy. For instance, they have a longer tenure of office ; a tenure twice as long as that conferred on members of this House. That at once disposes of any claim that might be put forward for equal power on the part of the other Chamber with regard to Money Bills. It shows that those who drafted the Constitution, and recommended it to the people, and those who accepted it were fully aware of the vital difference between the powers of the two Houses. The otherChamber has the right to make requests with regard to Money Bills, but the power to insist upon such requests is one that cannot be held to exist. The Senate may have the right to insist upon its requests, but I do not know that any honorable member will assert that that Chamber has made amendments in this Bill. It has been stated in that Chamber that the Senate has “madeamendments,” and that it has “ fixed the rate of duty,” but we do not admit that. The Constitution provides for the making of requests by the Senate, and for their reception by this Chamber, but it does not provide for a second message similar in character to that first sent to us. At page 671 of the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, compiled by Messrs. Quick and Garran, the following passage occurs : -
If that House (the House of Representatives) declines to make the suggested amendment, the Senate is face to face with the responsibility of either passing the Bill as it stands or rejecting it as it stands. It cannot shelve that responsibility by insisting upon its suggestion, because there is nothing on which to insist. A House which can make an amendment can insist on the amendment which it has made, but a House which can only “request” the other House to make amendments cannot insist upon anything If its request is not complied with, it can reject the Bill or shelve it ; but it must take the full responsibility of its action.
I understand that the honorable and learned member for .Bendigo does not agree with this authority.
– Yes, I do. The honorable member could not have followed my remarks.
– The honorable and learned member told us, as I understand, that the Senate could repeat its requests.
– I understood him to say that the Senate had a right at a further stage to make requests similar to those preferred in the first instance.
– No, I said that they had a right to make a request a second time at the same stage.
– The Senate has taken up the strong position which one of the ablest critics of the Constitution Bill, Sir Samuel Griffith, foretold. He said- and the remark is noted at page 671 of the work which I have just quoted -
A strong Senate will compel attention to its suggestions ; a weak one would not insist upon its amendments.
– The honorable member must add to that, “if you have a weak House of Representatives.”
– That statement of Sir Samuel Griffith afforded the first indication of what might happen. During the last few weeks attempts have been made to induce the Senate to insist upon its requests.
– Sir Samuel Griffith went ofl to say that he did not see much constitutional difference between the power of request and the power of amendment.
– Yes, and by his remarks upon that portion of the
Constitution, Sir Samuel Griffith showed his utter unfitness for the position of Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, which some people would like to push him into. I would ask honorable members not to throw away the rights and privileges which this House possesses under the Constitution. I was deeply pained when I heard the AttorneyGeneral read his motion. I have given more thought to this question than to any other that has occurred during the nine years I have been in public life, and it was with a feeling of grave disappointment that I found the Acting Prime Minister, departing, for the first time to my knowledge, from the principles which he has so valorously upheld in the past, and his stout advocacy of which has endeared him to the democracy of his native State. I feel that we ‘are now about to take a step which we shall never be able to retrace. I. do not’ believe that we can save the situation by consenting to this renunciation of the highest rights and privileges we enjoy. There is no comparison between the strength behind this House and that behind the Senate. Undoubtedly the balance of power rests with the House of Representatives, and a step which would deprive us of our strength would not only be deplorable, but should, even atthislatemoment, beprevented I only wish that I could give adequate expression to my feelings regarding this matter. I view- the motion as a. step in the wrong direction, and I fear that if it be carried we shall, in the near future, deeply regret our action.
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has already pointed out, in his really patriotic speech - a speech imbued with a truly federal sentiment - that the action proposed by the Government upon the present occasion, can scarcely be regarded as a precedent. I go beyond that, and say that nothing we can do in this matter can amount to a precedent, because there can be no such thing as precedents between the two Houses. Our behaviour in relation to one another, if it is not prescribed by the Constitution, must be determined by the exigencies of each particular occasion. I cannot see how any action taken by us on one occasion can be said to constitute a precedent which is applicable to an altogether different set of circumstances. We cannot establish a precedent which will cut down any rights vested in this House by the Constitution. But any danger in that respect has been removed by the terms of the resolution, which is couched in statesmanlike phraseology, and which declares that our action on this occasion must not be interpreted as a precedent. What is the issue really involved ? The Senate has a second time sent down a number of requests. Now is not the very object of giving the other Chamber the right to make requests in cases in which it has nob the power to amend, and might be compelled to exercise the extreme power of rejection, that suggestions, with a view to compromise and the avoidance of a crisis, may be made to the House of Representatives? If the other Chamber says - “ Instead of exercising our power to reject the Bill, we wish again to appeal to the House of Representatives,” surely it cannot be accused of attempting to curtail our rights. When the Senate admits our exclusive power to amend Money Bills, by requesting us to make certain amendments in the Tariff, I hold that by repeating its requests it does not curtail our privileges.
– That is not the point.
– The Senate has merely asked this House a second time to exercise its exclusive prerogative to amend a Money Bill.
– Can it do so constitutionally ?
– Undoubtedly it can. The fact that it is not expressly stated in the Constitution that the Senate cannot repeat its requests does not necessarily imply that it can send down those requests once only. In law, the power to do a thing, in the absence of an express limitation, includes the power to do it from time to time, as occasion requires.
– But under the Constitution that power is governed by the words “at any stage.”
– I cannot see that the Senate, by repeating its requests, in any way negatives or cuts down a power whichis acknowledged by the Constitution to be exclusively vested in this House. I do not believe that the other Chamber has, or ought to have, equal powers with the House of Representatives in regard to Money Bills. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo clearly explained that in referring to paragraph 3 of section 54 of the Constitution, which states -
The House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
– According to the procedure which is being adopted, we must make the amendments.
– Does the honorable and learned member mean to say that the repetition of a request allays the machinery of the Constitution?
– It becomes a demand.
– The Senate has not rejected the Customs Tariff Bill. The period of thi-ee months which has to run in the. event of a disagreement between the two Houses dates only from the time when the Senate rejects or fails to pass the Bill. Does the repetition of a request postpone the running of that three months’ period?
– It does not cut down our acknowledged powers, neither does it allay the machinery of the Constitution, and, therefore, I fail to see how a repetition of certain requests curtails the undoubted rights of the House of Representatives in regard to Money Bills. But the true key to this matter - as was mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo - is to be found in the provision which declares that the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make the amendments requested. That is an acknowledgment in express terms of the exclusive right of this House to make amendments in Money Bills. I would further paint out that a request cannot be referred to a joint sitting of the Houses. That is clear from section 57, sub-section (3), which states -
The members present at the joint sitting may deliberate and shall vote together upon the proposed law as last proposed by the House of Representatives, and upon amendments, if any, which have been made therein by one House and not agreed to by the other . . . &c.
No provision is made for a joint sitting of the Houses in regard to requested amendments. The very fact that in the final issue those requests cannot be referred to a joint sitting indicates that they are less potent than are amendments.
– What is the meaning of the word “ suggested “ in the provision relating to the joint sitting ?
– That word is used only in the first part of the section, and it refers to requests which have been adopted by the House of Representatives and embodied in a Bill. Those requests then become part of that Bill, which can be a second time passed by the House of Representatives. But if there be a balance of requests which had not been adopted as amendments by the House of Representatives, those requests disappear and cannot be referred to the joint sitting. Really, therefore, the position is that any Bill referred to a joint sitting must be in the form in which it was last amended by the House of Representatives. In that form, with reference to any requests, it must either be accepted or rejected. That, however, is not the case with amendments within the power of either House to. make, and which lead to a dead-lock. They can be discussed one by one, and either accepted or rejected. Clearly, therefore, it was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that requests should have equal potency with amendments in Money Bills’. By agreeing to the resolution submitted by the Attorney General, we are not curtailing our privileges in any way whatever. In this connexion, perhaps, I may be permitted to refer to the only case in the nature of a precedent which can possibly guide us. The provisions in the Constitution for the cure of deadlocks were taken from an agreement between the two Houses in 1857, and the South Australian Constitution Act of 18S1, and it is strange that the procedure adopted by the Houses of that State, which is regulated by joint standing orders, expressly provides which the Commonwealth Constitution does not, that after the requests of the Legislative Council have been considered by the House of Assembly and returned, to the Legislative Council, the power of requesting amendments is at ari end. But the legislature does not act upon that provision. It takes a more statesmanlike view of the situation. In the debates which took place upon the Tariff Bill in 1S87, the point was raised whether the House of Assembly should regard the requests of the Legislative Council as amendments, whether they could be modified and returned to the Legislative Council, and whether the latter could again return them either with or without modifications to the Assembly. The standing orders of that State provide that after the requests of the Legislative Council have been considered and the Bill has been returned to that Chamber, it shall either be assented to or rejected in the form in which it was passed by the House of Assembly. Parliament, however, does not act upon that provision. It takes a wider view of the situation, and one which is marked by a spirit of compromise. The very object of the provision is to bring about a compromise by appealing a second, and, if necessary, a third time to ,the House in which the dominant power is vested.
– Does the South Australian Parliament violate its own standing orders 1
– No; because it is the master of its own procedure. When objection was taken to the adoption of the course I have indicated in connexion with the Tariff, the House of Assembly allowed the Legislative Council to make further requests, stating, however, that such action must not be regarded as a precedent. That is exactly the position in which honorable members find themselves to-day under the proposal of the Government.
– But the South Australian Constitution gave the Legislative Council the unfettered power of amendment.
– It enabled standing orders to be passed to regulate the procedure between the two Houses, and as long as those standing orders are in existence they have equal potency with the Constitution itself.
– No, the House may disregard a standing order.
– The difference is simply in the power of rescission. On the analogy of South Australia, the course proposed by the Attorney-General should be adopted. But I would further point out that requests made by the Legislative Council have been considered and amended a second and even a third time at the instance of that Chamber.
– There is a different Constitution.
– The only difference is that the prescription in one case is by the resolution of the two Houses, and in the other by the Constitution itself. The honorable member would, I suppose, on the same principle hold that a by-law is not of equal obligation with the Act under which the by-law is made ; but so long as a by-law is passed under the power given by the Act, it is of equal obligation with the Act. The instances in which requests have been made by the Legislative Council of South Australia in connexion with Money Bills begin with a Loan Bill in 1S74. I shall not mention every occasion, but come to that of the Payment of Members Bill in 1SS7. In that case the requests, when they were first considered by the Legislative Assembly, were sent back with i reasons foi’ disagreeing to them. The LegisJlative Council considered the message, and the requests came back to the Legislative i Assembly in some cases with modification.
– What ‘have we to do with this? I
– I do not wish to take I up time, because, really, we are raising an issue which does not properly belong to the occasion. But these requests were sent back a second time ; and I could follow the matter out, and show that they went back again, and were finally adopted, with some modifications suggested by the Legislative Council. The honorable and learned member for Indi practically suggests that the whole of our liberties, which we inherit under the British Constitution, so far as they are applicable to Australia, will be, imperilled by our allowing the Senate to repeat requests in a modified form. But at whose suggestion are the requests repeated 1 At the suggestion of the very House whose liberties the honorable and learned member wishes to protect: The House of Representatives sent back the requests in a modified form, and declared they had agreed to the modifications made. At our instance, and at our invitation, the requests were sent to us, as we amended them - for what purpose ? To reject them ? Why was the honorable and learned member silent when we modified the requests, and sent them back for the acceptance of the Senate, and repetition, as altered? I cannot see that the Senate, in making a request the second time in a modified form at our invitation, is imperilling the great wealth of liberty we enjoy under the British Constitution. I am exceedingly glad Ministers have taken a statesmanlike stand on the matter, and that the acting leader of the Opposition thoroughly agrees with the temper in which the motion is proposed.
– I desire to say a few words on this matter ; otherwise my action may be misconstrued. We have heard at considerable length very admirable dissertations upon the constitutional phase of the question. It is quite unnecessary for me, if I were able, to traverse the arguments : I need do no more than simply agree or disagree with them. We are asked by virtue of this motion to affirm that this is not the time to enter into a constitutional struggle, but that we shall write across the motion the words “without prejudice” and settle the items of the Tariff on their merits. First of all, I say that we cannot write “ without prejudice “ across such a motion. I quite agree with the honorable and learned member foi1 Corinella, who said that it would be impossible to refer this question to the committee on the joint standing orders, and expect the members of the committee to keep out of their minds the fact that on the first occasion when this House had an opportunity to defend its liberties or its privileges, it put that opportunity aside and deliberately accepted peace. If I thought for a moment that any of our privileges were in question; I should vote against the motion, but I firmly believe that the Senate is acting quite within its rights. I do not believe that any of the men in New South Wales who voted against the Bill, or half of those who voted for it, had any doubt in their mind that the Senate was to have, except as to mere quibbling of terms, exactly the same power as the House of Representatives in all matters. The honorable member for Wentworth described, during the referendum campaign, in colloquial terras the difference between a request and an amendment as the difference between “tweedledum and tweedledee.” We have heard some eloquent and learned dissertations upon the construction of clause 53. But how is it construed by the people of the country 1 Undeniably it was said by the leader of the Government, by the leader of the Opposition, and by the leaders of the federal party throughout Australia, that one of the essentials of federation was equal representation in the Senate, in order to safeguard the interests qf the States as such, as opposed to the interests of the majority of the people as such. Is there any State interest more important than the financial interest ? We have heard from the Treasurer and from the Minister for Trade and Customs - not once, but hundreds of times - that the solvency of the States is the crucial point in the Tariff. These Ministers say that we have entered into certain honorable and onerous obligations, and that they intend to meet those obligations. And no one denies that position. Are we to say that the Senate is to have the power only to make requests and asks us to accept them and no more? According to the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, if we “ think fit “ we may accept the requests, but if we do not “ think- fit,” then the Senate is to be placed in exactly the same position as that occupied by the Legislative Council of a State Parliament. If any man had dared to. stand up and tell the smaller States that the Senate had only such a power, the Constitution would never have been accepted. The smaller States were told that the Senate was to be a safeguard to them, and in the larger States - at any rate, in New South Walesa - the chief objection to the Constitution was that the Senate had equal power with the House of Representatives, the only difference being in the form of words in which the power was expressed. Now, however, we hear that “ at any stage “ means that the same request can be made only once at any stage. I might, if I were inclined to quibble, ask what is “ a stage.” Is there a special meaning, or is the meaning that which -all men commonly attach to the word ? Is that not a stage in a Bill when one House receives a measure, deals with it, and sends it out of the House? If that be the meaning, then, according to what we have heard, the Senate has the-power to request amendments at every stage. Whether that be so or not, the Senate, which is quite as well able as this House to determine its powers under the Constitution, has a perfect right to its opinions. Senators believe that the section means what two-thirds of the people in New South Wales believed it to mean - what the head of the Government and the head of the Opposition in their Sydney Town Hall speeches, and throughout Australia, told the people it meant - namely, that the Senate has actually the same powers as the House of Representatives. We have been, told that there is a great difference between the power of request and the power of amendment. But the difference is merely in the manner in which the question is put from the chair ; it is a verbal difference. It is contended that the strong, stable Senate, which was to safeguard the interests of the States, is to be reduced to the pitiable position of a humble suppliant, instead of occupying the position of a body of equal power. If that view bc correct, then the Senate has no more power than has the Legislative Council of New
South Wales. The Legislative Council can make suggestions - they cannot convey them by messages to the other House, it is true - on the floor of the House, and every honorable member of the other House who reads the newspapers knows that he has to accept those suggestions, or face the consequences of a total rejection of a measure. In 1894-5 the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales were not told by message in so many words what the Legislative Council wanted ; but there was ringing in the ears of the members of the Lower House the fact that, unless they agreed to the suggestions made, they would have on their shoulders the responsibility of a rejection of the measure then under consideration. The Legislative Assembly took that responsibility, and asked the country to decide. Are we now to be told that the Senate has. no more power than the Legislative Council 1 If that be so, then all the arguments for a second Chamber in a federation fall down helpless. There is no real reason for a bi-cameral system, or no reason why equal representation should be enshrined in the hearts of the federation, if the Senate is to have no more voice than a Legislative Council. But the Senate exists, so we are told, by virtue of a totally different principle. Whether the bi-cameral system be essential or not, if we consult Bryce, or any other constitutional authority, we see that the system is a constant attendant on federation. There are no instances which I can recall, in which the bi-cameral system has been departed from in modern times ; and in nearly every system an approximation has been made to equal representation. We, in New South Wales, were told that without equal representation the smaller States would not enter federation, and the chief reason was financial. We are continually told that the smaller States must have money, and now it is sought to rob them of the right of saying what shall be the revenue of the country. It is true that The immediate question before us may be of small moment, but it might have represented millions or meant the difference between insolvency and entire bankruptcy in two or three of the States. Yet it is sought to take from the Senate all but the power of making one set of requests which Ave, as we “think fit,” may accept or reject. If an appeal were made to the people on the point, I do not think there could be a doubt as to the result. I do not care whether or not an appeal is made. I, like many others, do not want one. The honorable member for Bland, who has taken rather an extraordinary attitude, says that he is prepared to go to the country and fight this matter out ; but I am sure the honorable member could not do so consistently. He was one of those who, like myself, went up and down “ like raging lions ‘”’ telling the people that the Senate had this power, and begging and praying them, in consequence, to reject the Constitution. How could the honorable member go back to the country, and tell the people that the Constitution he begged them to reject is now to. be modified, not in a constitutional manner by them, who made it, but because it suits his political purpose for the time being? I have explained my position, and the reason why I intend to vote for this motion. I think I have set down very clearly that in voting for it, I by no means admit that this House prejudices any of its privileges, now or hereafter. I have said, I think with sufficient emphasis, that the position of the Senate is, in my opinion, unassailable, under the Constitution as it now stands. I would only, in conclusion, remind those honorable members who take up another attitude so strongly, and whoassert that the Constitution does not give the power to the Senate on this particular matter, that in the State of ,New South Wales, at any rate, the people were assured to the contrary by us, and by others, that they deliberately accepted this measure, and that it has to stand now until some provision is made under the Constitution for an amendment. I would remind those again who are prepared to accept the Constitution, and the power of the Senate with regard to all other matters than money matters without protest, that, under this Constitution, whether by their refusal to vote for this motion, or by any other means, an appeal could be made to the country, which would have the result of preventing the Senate insisting upon these particular amendments, by the return to this House or to the “other House of a sufficiency of men pledged in a different direction, so far as the Tariff is concerned. That course or any similar one could have no effect upon the power of the Senate in respect to other measures, or indeed to this particular class of measures. What these gentlemen propose to do by their action is nothing more nor less than to make of this constitutional question a political one. It may serve for the time being party purposes, or political ends, but it can have no lasting effect, if any at all, upon the constitutional phase of the question. I say, for my part, that there is a way, which, while it is not simple and expeditious in its application, is yet the only one that may be taken, for the satisfaction of members of this House and of the country, and with certainty, and that is an appeal for an amendment of the Constitution. If this Constitution gives powers to another place which results in a power being given to a minority of the people equal to that given to the majority, that I say is an inherent defect of the Constitution, which can be remedied only by an appeal to the people under the provisions set down in the Constitution.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I should like to bring the matter nearer to the concrete. The debate has taken a wide range, and the matter has been discussed with a due sense of the importance of the crisis.
– But is there a crisis ? That is the .point.
– After all, what has happened is that we have declined to accept certain requests of the Senate, and that the Senate has again sent a Message to us which states that it again requests this House to make the amendments originally requested. The essence of the question is that they are making the same requests a second time. It is a very, different thing for a House to have the power to make the same requests a second time, or for tlie same House to have to forge or devise a new request which it would, have to justify to the country, explaining why it did not make the request before. But the power to renew the same request a second time, a third time, and ad infinitum, is a very much graver power than the power to make a new request which did not occur to the Senate in the first instance. The Government proposal is -
That having regard to the fact that the public welfare demands the early enactment of a Federal Tariff, and pending the adoption of joint standing orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights and obligations in respect of this Message, and resolves to receive and consider it forthwith.
That proposal will be officially known only to ourselves. That resolution is not to ‘be communicated to the other House, as by way or protest, and all that the other House will see will be that they have again requested some alterations, perhaps I should not say amendments, and that we have dealt with their repeated requests. If the motion proposed by the Government is carried, I should suggest that, to have any weight whatever, this protest ought to be incorporated with any Message which we send. There is nothing in the standing orders to prevent that, and if one man or one body protests to another man or another body, the proper way is to express the protest. I hope Ministers from their own point of view, if they desire to keep alive the protest, will incorporate with it the Message which we shall send. Of course, there is a difficulty as to the interpretation of this section of the Constitution. There are several means of explaining it, but I desire to remind the House that this is a matter which no High Court or any other court can settle. It is a matter which will be settled by the practice of the House, and the first step is therefore the most important step. I say it is idle to assure the House that this will never recur. What we know perfectly well is that when there is any measure upon which there is a difference of opinion, the Senate will exercise the same power again, and the experience of the two Houses of the United States is that the Senate always, as in this case, though it has not the power of originating Money Bills, Appropriation Bills, or Ways and Means Bills, keeps them strung on untilthe end of the session, and then it says to the House of Representatives - “ You must accept our amendments or you will have no means of carrying on the government of the country.”
– Hear, hear; it bullies the House of Representatives.
– It bullies the House of Representatives, that is quite true; and every constitutional authority admits that although the other House originates the measures, the Senate has superior weight in money matters.
– It can be dissolved.
– Ministers can dissolve this House, but they cannot dissolve the other House unless there is a double dissolution, which would only occur once in a “blue moon.” There is power to dissolve this House, but not power to dissolve the other House. I say it is an unhealthy state of politics that we have to face a position in which no less than two-thirds of the Senate represent less than one-third of the population of Australia, and that half of the Senate represent less than a fourth of the population of Australia.
– That is a weakness of the Constitution.
– It is a weakness of the Constitution.
– It was pointed out at the time of the referendum, but a great many supporters of the Bill contended that there was no danger.
– After all, Government is finance, and finance is Government, in some respects. We have this state ofaffairs - that one-third of the taxes goes with two-thirds of the power to spend taxes. What I mean is, that in that House, if honorable members will take it that taxes are pretty evenly contributed according to population, we shall find that those people who contribute only one-third of the taxation have a House in which they control two-thirds of the members. Of course the result will be very nice when we come- to try to adjust finances, and when the men, who will be voting for the appropriation of public money, feel that the burden will fall chiefly upon the people representedby a minority of the members of the Senate. I must say that on this matter I have felt in a curious position. I have felt some grim amusement with regard to it. I feel that a prophecy of mine is coming true much more quickly than I expected.
– We quoted the honorable and learned member very often in New South Wales upon this point.
– I must say that I did not expect to see so quick a fulfilment of my prophecy, and I did not think that so quickly the Senate would be able to show its superior financial power. Of course, I urged throughout that there was no practical difference in the result between requests and amendments. I still adhere to that view, and I think it is practically proved that we were right in urging that there was no substantial difference. It is not so with regard to the representations made by those who advocated the Bill. I find, for instance, that the right honorable member for East Sydney, who advocated the Bill so strongly, and to whose advocacy I apprehend the passing of the .Bill in New South Wales was clue, said at Bathurst-
The House ot Representatives would be the House that would shape every line of the Tariff:-
It does not look like it. that would shape every item on the annual Appropriation Bill, lt would hold the Ministry in the hollow of its hand, and would, control the Executive power of the Commonwealth from da)’ to day. If the Senate passed a vote of censure, nobody would be any the worse. If the House of Representatives passed a vote of censure, the Ministry it destroyed would have to apply to the people to decide.
-Was that his “Yes” speech or his “No” speech.
– That was the voice heard at Bathurst, when the federal capital was looming ahead. With respect to the words “ at any stage “ in the section of the Constitution referred to, I am told that honorable members have been reminded that I moved in the Convention that these words should be struck out, upon the ground that they would lead to this confusion. The leader of the Convention, the present Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, admitted that the Senate might make new requests from stage to stage. I felt the danger of it, and I moved the omission of those words, but I got no support from my honorable friends here and there, who now point out the enormity of what is being done. At the referendum in Victoria and in New South Wales I was frequently confronted with the statement that the Senate would be able to make only requests, and that if we did not accept them, we should put the responsibility upon them. It is admitted that the whole object of this section was to compel the Senate to take the alternative of the acceptance or rejection of a Bill, and to prevent them from stringing the matter on for an inordinate length of time. Now that object is to be defeated because they may not only make new requests, but prefer the same requests a second, third, or fourth time. Moreover, they may put upon this House the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the Bill. That was not the intention of the Constitution, but there is no doubt a good deal of ground for the contention that the words “ at any stage “ mean that the Senate may make new requests. That was debatable ground. By their action in this case the Senate have not only occupied that debatable ground between . the two Houses, but they have 44 o advanced into the distinct territory of this Chamber, and have imported into the practice of the two Houses the right of repeating requests. It does not require a legally trained mind to see that there is nothing whatever, in this section of the Constitution to give the Senate the right to repeat a request. It is stated that the Senate may,. “ at any stage,” make a request, and that, we may accept or reject it, or accept it with modifications. .It has often been said that, the South Australian practice affords justification for this provision. I think somehonorable . members from South Australia . are inclined to look with favour on what . is being done, not only because it would favour their fiscal views, but because of: ‘ the fact that they have an arrangement of long standing between the two branches . of the State Legislature. The arrangement there, however, is very different from that which is here provided for. There, only one< request can be made, and then a Bill must. be either accepted or rejected. The compact reads as follows : -
That it shall be competent to the Council to suggest any alterations in any such Bill (except that portion of the Appropriation Bill that pro,vides for the ordinary annual expenses of the Go,vernment), and in case of such suggestions not. being agreed to by the House .of Assembly such. Bills may be returned by the House of Assembly to this Council for reconsideration ; in which case . the Bill shall either be assented to or rejected by this Council as originally passed by the House of Assembly.
There is a perfectly clear provision that if the one request is not assented to the Coun-. cil shall face the necessity of accepting or rejecting the measure. That is the agreement which was introduced to our notice at i the Convention by Sir Richard Baker. I know that it is not in order to refer to what has taken place in another Chamber, but fortunately we have distributed amongst us copies of the” journals of the Senate, and I may be permitted to say that the form in which the Message now comes to, us from the Senate is due to a mistake in the way in which the Government submitted our resolutions to the Senate. In each case the question was put - “That the Senate do not press its request.” The result was. that each particular request was dealt with on its merits. If the Government had. strictly followed the Constitution, and had. simply stated that the House pf Repre* sentatives had dealt with the- requests of the Senate, and that it was for the Senate to accept or reject the Bill, or to make new requests, the burden of responsibility would have been on the majority in the Senate who oppose the Government, to make new requests or to reject or accept the Bill. I know to my sorrow that a matter of this kind is not one to arouse any direct enthusiasm or excitement. There is a tendency to look at the ‘ immediate results and not at the final consequences. I know also that a number of members who regard it as of the utmost importance to reduce duties from 15 per cent, to 10 or 12£ per cent., consider that it would be better to help the Senate on this occasion, without regard to the fact that the tables may some day be turned upon them. selves, and that their majority in this House may be thwarted by a hostile majority in the Senate. There is a tendency to take a narrow view of the immediate exigencies of the Tariff discussion ; and I am sorry to say this, because the issue before us is one which transcends the Tariff in all its phases. No doubt, the Tariff is exceedingly important ; but it does not compare in that regard with the issue with which we are now called upon to deal. The matter is one. affecting the rights of the people of Australia to direct, by their majorities, the policy of the country on all national subjects. The effect of the section of the Constitution to which we have been referring, as it stands, would be accentuated by the course now proposed by the Government, and we should shift the centre of gravity under the Constitution from its proper place - the majority - to the minority of the people. We might have two progressive Houses, but this device would effectually prevent the progressive forces from having their way if the reactionary forces could Only manage to get the majorities grouped in such fashion that one would fight the other. All that the reactionaries would have to do would be to divide the opposing forces, and conquer them. I can see plainly that we shall remove the political power from the physical force of numbers, and that is always a danger, because the ‘political power should rest with the preponderating physical power - the majority in every case.
– The honorable and learned member pointed that out when he was opposing federation three years ago.
– I am afraid that I may be repeating myself, but I may be pardoned, because I feel just as strongly now as I did then. The provision in section 53 is one of the devices by which the reactionary forces could circumvent the progressive forces. All that they would have to do would be to work up a quarrel between the people grouped behind different members. We created a so-called States House for the protection of the minor States against the larger members of the union, but this is not an issue as between one set of States and another. The divergences of opinion have been very much the same all through, and the greatest State - New South Wales - has returned the largest majority of revenue tariffists to the Senate. This shows clearly that there was no need for any States House for the purpose of protecting the smaller States against the others. As matters have worked out, an honorable member from Western Australia really possesses eight times the influence that a member from New South Wales can exercise.
– Is not that one of the reasons why Western Australia joined the federation ?
– No. So far as I am able to judge the question at the federal elections in Western Australia was one between the farmers on the one side, and the miners on the other, and I do not think that federation was discussed in that State on the same lines as in the eastern States. I regret that the Government could not see its way at this stage to respectfully send word to the Senate that there was nothing in the Constitution which would justify their repeating ‘the requests made in the first instance. Then if there were any difference of opinion with regard to the powers of the Senate, that would be the proper time at which to discuss the constitutional question. The time has not yet arrived for compromise, but it is for us now to assert our rights. The first time our rights come into question was when this message was received by us, and it is at this stage that we should say that the Senate has no- power to repeat its original requests. It is not for me to presume to say how the Senate would deal with the Bill under such conditions, but there might eventually be some proposal for a compromise.
– How could there be any compromise after we had adopted the course suggested by the honorable and learned member ?
– Surely the honorable and learned member can see that a compromise might be arranged.
– Not unless we begin de novo.
– I have in my mind several means by which a compromise could be effected, but I will not presume to dictate to the Senate on that point. The honorable member, with his experience of Parliament, must see how it could be done. Our present duty is to assert our rights, and, having asserted them, to let events take their course ; but I am very much afraid that the weak and flabby resolution proposed by the Government will be passed. It is my intention to vote against it as it stands, because I do not regard this as the time at which we should make any such statement. We ought not to give up the fort before we have intimated to the Senate that we hold it. At the same time, I ask the Attorney-General, upon whose shoulders a very grave responsibility rests, if he will allow the following words to be added to the motion : - “ And that this resolution be included in any Message sent to the Senate”?
– Would that remove the honorable and learned member’s objection to it?
– To a large extent it would. My opinion, is that in order to effectually enter a protest we must express it.
– Such a strong and almost unanimous feeling has been expressed against the right of the Senate to transmit to this House a second Message requesting amendments in the Tariff, that it appears to me that, if the AttorneyGeneral had not submitted a motion of this character, we should now be involved in a very serious crisis. Even the honorable gentleman indicated - and I suppose he speaks for his colleagues as well - that he does not indorse the claim put forward by the Senate.
– I do not admit anything at present.
Mr.SAWERS.- The honorable gentleman has evaded the position by tabling what is a very justifiable and prudent motion, in view of the tremendous issues at stake. The honorable member for Bland, the honorable member for Indi, the honorable member for Bendigo, and several other influential members, have taken up a very strong attitude against the claim of the Senate. The leader of the labour party and the honorable member for Laanecoorie declared that ‘for years they had fought for the rights of the popular House in the State Legislature, but I venture to submit that the old disputes between Legislative Assemblies and Legislative Councils in the different States have no bearing whatever upon this question. We are confined to the four corners of the Constitution itself. I quite admit that that Constitution may be differently interpreted by conscientious and able men. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo was very forcible in denouncing the claim of the Senate to make a second series of requests, and the honorable and learned member for Indi took up a similar position. After listening to their speeches, it appears to me that the whole question is dependent upon the interpretation of the final paragraph of section 53 of the Constitution, which states that -
The Senate may, at any stage, return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by Message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein.
The whole position, apparently, turns on the definition of the words, “ at any stage.” I hold that this is not the same stage that the Bill had reached when it last claimed our attention. What are the stages of a Bill? To my mind, there are the first reading, the second reading, committee, and the third reading stages. What will constitute another stage?
– A different step in regard to the Bill.
– I ask the honorable and learned member whether he considers that before the Senate can return the Bill a second time, it should agree to its third reading. Let us assume that the Senate requests this House to make 50 amendments, and that we agree to accept half of them, either with or without modifications. The measure is then returned to the Senate, which considers our amendments, and sends it back with further requests. In such circumstances, I maintain that it is strictly constitutional for this House to consider those requests. I admit that finality must be reached sooner or later. If this House were to refuse all the requests contained in the Message from the other Chamber, finality would be reached. But if we agree to halfthe requested amendments, the Senate is still in a position to send down further modified requests. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has referred to the fact that in the Convention he moved to omit the words “ at any stage.” He asked what was their meaning, whereupon Sir Edmund Barton said -
As I understand it, the proposal is that the Senate may, at any stage of the passage of a proposed law through the Senate, return the Bill to the House of Representatives with a message requesting the amendment or omission of any items or provisions therefrom.
– As long as the Senate has possession of the Bill ?
– Yes, as long as the Bill is in the hands of the Senate. That means, I take it, 11 power not solely to send a Bill down at a stage at which the measure has, at the moment, arrived at, but that if it arrives at a further stage in the Senate, there being in the meantime some settlement or no settlement with regard to the suggestion made, that the Senate would have power to make other suggestions.
The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne spoke of the requests which are now before us as “ the same old requests.” I submit that they are not the “same old requests.” This House accepted a certain number of the original requests of the Senate, and sent a Message to it to that effect. The other Chamber has withdrawn some of those requests and has modified others. They cannot, therefore, be the same requests. Without quoting further from the Convention debates, I may mention that the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was rejected without division. Evidently, therefore, the Convention had no wish to deny to the Senate the power of sending down a second Message. I venture to say that the majority of the people of Australia would interpret section 53 of the Constitution in the common-sense way that I have interpreted it. I decline to allow my judgment to be warped by the fine distinctions which have been drawn by some members of the legal profession. It is an unfortunate circumstance that the opinions of legal gentlemen very rarely agree. I will undertake to say that in the. other Chamber just as eminent members of the legal profession as have addressed the House to-day will be found arguing this question from quite an opposite stand-point. When lawyers differ, the layman must adopt what appears to him to be a common-sense view. M.y opinion in regard to this matter is strengthened by the knowledge that this question constituted one of the great snags in the way of federation when the referendum was taken in New South Wales. The question of equal States rights was bitterly fought, and it was carried in the affirmative on the clear understanding that the power of suggestion should be given to the Senate. All we can do now is to stick to the bargain. If we are dissatisfied, we ought to obtain an amendment, of the Constitution, but so long as the Constitution, for good or evil, remains as it is, I shall be faithful to it. I regret that the Government have found it necessary to come down with this motion. I am disappointed they could not see their way to simply move the House into committee to consider the message, thus acknowledging at once that the power of making further requests had been given to the Senate.
– I have received the following amendment from the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, which he claims to have moved at the conclusion of his speech just now -
That the motion be amended by the addition of the following words:- “And that this resolution be incorporated with the Message to be sent to the Senate.”
I did not understand the honorable and learned member to move that amendment. If I had so understood him, I should have pointed out that it anticipates- a stage which will arise later on, when it will be necessary to move that’ a certain Message be sent to the Senate. When that Message is moved it will be competent to move the amendment, but that stage cannot be anticipated, and, therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.
– I listened with a good deal of interest but a certain amount of amazement to the speech of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. With much of what the honorable and learned member said I am heartily in accord, though those portions with which I agree are out of place today. The honorable and learned member told us that he does not see the necessity for the Senate, and that it was not wise to provide in the Constitution for a second Chamber. In that I absolutely agree ; but it is not the question we are now discussing. What we have now to consider is whether the Senate has the right to send down requests once, twice, or thrice - whether the Government are right in submitting the motion, and whether we should discuss the requests which have come to us for a second time? In a book entitled The Australian Commonwealth BUI, and consisting of essays and addresses by Mr. H. B. Higgins, who, I suppose, is the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, we find the following -
In (his Bill (section 53) you will find words to the effect that the Senate may not amend the principal Money Bills - Bills imposing taxation and Bills appropriating revenue for the “ordinary annual services of the Government.” But if you look a little further on, you will find that the Senate can “request” amendments, and can keep on “requesting” as of ten as it likes. The Senate can send down “requests “ at any stage. I say there is no material difference between the Senate proposing amendments to the House, and requesting amendments to the House.
– I say so still.
– The. honorable and learned member said something very different just now. The extract continues -
Calling it a different name does not alter the true nature of the thing.
– Does the honorable member understand the difference between repeating the same request, and milking requests ad infinitum ?
– That is rather a quibble, I think. These addresses were made when the honorable and learned member was, like myself, opposing the Constitution Bill. The reason I opposed the Bill was that I believed the Senate had the right to the power which is now claimed, and it was a keen disappointment to me that the democracy of Australia should accept a Constitution giving them such a power. I voted against the Constitution Bill on two occasions, and in doing so imperilled my seat in a State Parliament as the representative of a border city, the population of which consisted mainly of South Australians and Victorians. The address proceeds -
But as if we had not enough difficulties already to face, this Bill throws an apple of perpetual discord between the two Houses. This precious distinction between “requests” and “amenmants” will lead to continual friction between the two Houses in Appropriation Bills.
– I say so still.
– Then I wish the honorable and learned member had stuck to those sentiments just now. The book also contains three articles, contributed in 1898 by the honorable and learned member to the Sydney Daily Telegraph, from which I take this sentence -
The Senate can “request” amendments at any stage - not once, but as often as it likes.
It seems very peculiar that the honorable and learned member should, when opposing the Bill, make such statements, and then come here and say that the Government ought to take a different course.
– T have not changed my ground one inch. I say that the Senate can make new requests, but cannot repeat requests.
– No doubt there is a great deal of difference between speaking before an ordinary crowd, and before Judges of the bench, where hair-splitting may be indulged in.
– There is no hair-splitting in saying that there is a difference between an old hat and a new one.
– If the Senate has no right to make a request more than once, then a large number of us unwittingly misled the people of New South Wales ; but we did so on the authority of eminent lawyers, such as the honorable and learned member. If the case be as stated, it appears to me there ought to be no question about carrying the motion. Indeed it ought not to be necessary for the Government to submit the motion : the procedure ought to follow as a matter of course. What did the smaller States believe, or think this part of the Constitution means ? We must discuss this matter not only from the stand-point of the bigger States, but ‘also from the stand-point of the smaller States. I have here an extract from an article in the Adelaide Advertiser, which says -
That the States in this Chamber should be equally represented is a principle not likely to be seriously contested at the Convention, but there is a distinct risk of refusal by the more populous colonies to admit the principle of equality in respect of the powers of the two Houses. As to that we cannot budge. If even we had to compromise to the extent of making the Federal Executive responsible only to the population Chamber - a point which Sir John Downer is altogether unwilling to concede - at any rate we could not stretch complaisance so far, nor imperil State rights so deeply, as to submit to an inferior .legislative status for the Senate. We must have the substance ; we cannot except the shadow. Dr. Quick, speaking at Bendigo the other day, said there should be one exception to the law of equal power in Federal Houses - that the Council of the States should not have the right to initiate or amend money Bills. Dr. Quick is the real author of the present movement, and his recent speech was in almost all respects liberal and statesmanlike. But on this question, as the Argun shows him, he has gone fatally astray. The refusal of equality in finance upsets the principle altogether. The most important measures which will come before the
Council will be Money Bills, and if State rights are not to be recognised in respect of these, the recognition in other respects will be of little or no value.
– What date was that?
– In 1897, before the Convention.
– How can that throw any light on what the Convention did afterwards ?
– I am endeavouring to show what the smaller States wanted. Most of us who opposed federation did so because we strongly believed there ought to be only one Federal House, but we were told again and again that there was no chance of federation without a second Chamber - that the smaller States would not join the union unless States rights were thus guaranteed. The leading newspapers in the smaller States accepted the Bill, and they would not have done so unless they were satisfied that to all intents and purposes they had got what they wanted in this respect. It would be unfair to ask the smaller States to come in on the basis of equal representation, and then afterwards get half-a-dozen lawyers to find out that that advantage had not been conferred. I was prepared to wait for federation for a good many years rather than give up the principle of one Chamber, and had it depended on my vote there would have been no federation under the present Constitution. But the Constitution was carried by the democracy of Australia, at a referendum based on the most liberal franchise, and it is now our duty, as far as possible, to carry that Constitution into effect. I do not speak as a South Australian, but I may say that whilst the Constitution Bill was before the people, it was necessary for me, asone of the State representatives of Broken Hill, to frequently pass through Adelaide, in my journeyings between my constituency and Sydney. All those I came across then were of opinion that the Senate had, practically,’ equal rights with the House of Representatives in matters of finance. We have given them the shadow and taken away from them the substance if it is now found to be otherwise. So to-day it is not with me a matter of free-trade or protection. I am not particularly bothered about whether certain duties should be 15 or 10 per cent. I think there is something in fighting upon the question whether there should be no duty or a duty of 15 per cent. It might be worth while to take one’s jacket off over that. But whether the duty should be 15 or 10 or 12½ per cent. or 7 or8, instead of 9 or 10 per cent., is not a matter which I personally would be prepared to break my neck over. 1 say that supposing that this House had passed the Tariff on lines of free-trade, and the Senate had modified and altered it to such an extent as to make it a protectionist Tariff, I would still hold that we must receive again and again their Message ; but I would probably after receiving their requests vote against them. We are bound by the Constitution, as it was interpreted by the people of Australia who accepted it, to pass the motion submitted by the Ministry, and to deal with the requests of the Senate as they come before us. As I said just now, I am against the Senate. I should be delighted at any time if a responsible Government or any one else started a movement to do away with the Senate altogether, upon the legitimate lines for its amendment laid down in the Constitution, to give a vote at any time to do away with the Senate. But as it is constituted to-day, I am not prepared to play falsely with the small States. We have got them into the federation on the understanding that the Senate is their Chamber to protect their interests, and I for one am prepared to abide loyally by the compact which we made.
– I must first of all thank the Acting Prime Minister for his very able and lucid speech. I may say at once that I intend to support the Government. I think it is necessary that I should give a few of my reasons for that support. We have had some very able speeches from what is termed the “ legal corner “ with regard to the position under our Constitution. But it seems to me, in spite of all the opinions expressed from that side to the contrary, the meaning of the particular sub-sectionof section 53 of the Constitution which has been referred to is still very largely open to discussion. The honorable and learned member for Indi argued that the words “ at any stage “ contained in that subsection refer solely to the stages of a Bill as understood in all ordinary Parliamentary procedure, and as laid down in May. I say at once that the stages of a Bill are matters which it is fully within the power of this House and of the other House to determine. I do not believe that it was intended in this sub section that the words, “ at any stage,” should refer to our ordinary parliamentary acceptance of the term, as meaning the first, second, and third reading, or committee stage, of a Bill. If we are to admit that that is the reference, then I say that the committee stage is not one stage, but a series of stages ; and as often as we go out of committee, and into the House, so often we create a new stage in the process of carrying the Bill.
– A sort of treadmill process.
– As often as a Bill is recommitted or referred from the House to the committee, passing between separate bodies that have nothing to do with each others proceedings, we establish a new stage. Now, as to the right of the Senate to make more than one suggestion, the honorable and learned members for Indi and Corinella, and one or two others, have argued that the right of the Senate was exhausted when they submitted their first requests, because they had made them at the completion of the Bill, and that there was no other stage possible.
– Oh, no.
– If the honorable and learned member admits that there is another stage possible, he at once cuts the ground from under his own feet, and agrees that there is another stage at which the Senate may offer suggestions, as they do now.
– Yes; but not the same suggestions.
– I understand that the honorable and learned member argued not only in regard to the same suggestions, but with respect to all suggestions.
– The honorable member misunderstood me.
– Does the honorable and learned member admit now that the Senate still has the right to offer new suggestions, even though one stage of the measure has been exhausted ?
– At a new stage I think probably they have the right to make new suggestions.
– I should like to point out what I consider the difference in the stages. The moment the suggestions of the Senate are placed before this House, and then referred to the committee for consideration, a new stage is established, even in this House, in regard to the Bill. We passed the whole of the stages of the Bill, according to May, and according to the ordinary parliamentary interpretation, because we passed the first, second, and third readings, and the committee stage, and sent the Bill on to the Senate. 1 ask honorable members whether we do not establish a new stage when the suggestions of the Senate are brought to this House, and are referred by this House to the Committee of the whole ? Undoubtedly we do. If the Senate had not still the right of making suggestions and even new suggestions, I ask the close attention of legal members to the interpretation of the 4th sub-section of section 53. In order to emphasize the point, I shall read, the sub-section as it stands -
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting by message the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein, and the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments with or without modifications.
That was done. We received from theSenate a message containing a series of suggestions or requests which w& considered, and we returned a message to the Senate on the 20th August, pointing out that we had accepted certain requests as to part, that we had made other amendments entirely as requested, and that with respect to a number of other requests we had made the amendments requested as to part and with various modifications. Now, if the Senate’s power of suggestion and a further message has been exhausted, how can any honorable member of this House say that there, is any possibility of live legislation if we decline to permit the Senate to reconsider their message with the modifications we sent to them - modifications which must and did include in many instances new matter and new suggestions, and new rates of duty It must stand to reason that if we admit that they had the right to reconsider their suggestions in the light of the modifications that we sent to them, they must have the right to send us a message to say what they have done with them. That is exactly what they have done. We admit that under our Constitution we have sent them certain messages, in reply to. their suggestion, not agreeing to them in some instances, and saying that with respect to the rest we entirely disagree with them, but agreeing to a certain number, agreeing in part to others, and agreeing to others n,i;i:in with certain modifications. But, when their message comes back here some members of this House say - “Let us decline to receive their message altogether.” This is a message which must contain their decision upon the new matter which we ourselves introduced to them .in the message recently sent. That is a view of the position which I do not think has been considered before, and which does not appear to have suggested itself to some honorable members. Now, between the right to amend and the right to suggest, I think there is a very wide difference. The right to amend -some Bills given to Legislative Councils in, I think, all the State Parliaments, is an absolute right by which the Legislative Council can return a Bill with clauses struck out, clauses amended, and new clauses inserted. They can .insist that their new clauses shall be inserted, and if they are not inserted, they can decline to pass the Bill, throwing the responsibility of declining to agree to the amendments upon the other branch of the Legislature, and giving them only the option of casting the Bill on one side, or coming to some terms, or some compromise by means of conferences, and so forth, -which is generally done with happy and satisfactory results. But, in this case, we are dealing with a right which was fought for very strongly in the Federal Convention, and a right for which I voted, because I believe, in spite of what has been said about the democracy, that it is in the best interests of the democracy, and of the whole people of Australia, to have a strong Senate. Certainly the best interests of the smaller States, which would not have come into the federation but for the understanding that there would be a strong Senate, will be served by maintaining the power of a fairly strong Senate. The members of the Senate are not elected as members of this House are elected in many States, by small constituencies, with small ideas of their own interests and industries, but they are elected in each State by the whole of the people of the State to represent the whole State. Under our new electoral law, and even under the law which has been in existence in some of the- States, the representatives elected to the Senate have been returned by the votes, not only of the manhood, but of the womanhood of the whole State. There is a vast difference between conferring large powers upon such a body, and widening the functions of the Legislative Councils to a similar degree. In many cases, the Upper Houses of the States are elected by voters who must possess high property qualifications ; in some cases the members are nominated by the Government in power, and in nearly every case the circumstances under which the House is constituted are very unsatisfactory to the great bulk of the people. The Senate, however, consists of men returned by the whole of the electors of each State, and they owe allegiance not to any small parties, or factions, or groups of faddists, but to the whole of the people, whose best interests they are sent into the Senate to protect. When the members of the Senate were given the power to suggest alterations even in Money Bills, it was recognised .that an attempt was being made to protect the smaller States against encroachments upon their rights by the larger States. It was intended by this means to guard against any possible chance of a combination amongst the larger States which have such a strong numerical representation in this branch of the Legislature, with the object, for instance, of floating a large loan of £10,000,000, £20,000,000. or £30,000,000 for the purpose of carrying on extensive defence works in Port Jackson or Hobson’s Bay. In such, a case the smaller States would have to pay their share, even though they might strain their resources to the verge of insolvency. The smaller States insisted that the Senate should have powers as nearly as possible co-ordinate with those exercised by the House of Representatives, and certainly that they should be in a position .to prevent themselves from being over ridden. There is a great difference between the power of suggestion and that of amendment. As I pointed out just now, the power of amendment throws upon a Government originating a Bill the responsibility of deciding the fate of the measure. But the power of suggestion places us in an entirely different position. If we consented to consider the Senate’s Message, we should not exhaust our rights. So far as I am concerned, I should welcome even two or three more Messages from the Senate if the result were to give us a Tariff which would represent a compromise between the views of all sections of the two Houses. We know of the confusion which exists in commercial circles, and of the difficulties with which businessmen have to contend, owing to the uncertainty now prevailing. During this time of general depression through all Australia, when the cost of the Federal Parliament is being somewhat severely felt, and when the people in the various States are being taxed to the utmost, we should be deservedly cursed by the people of Australia if we were to disregard the labours of the last twelve months, and throw the whole of our finances into a state of chaos. If we returned the Bill to the Senate, after considering their requests, and acceding to some, whilst possibly leaving others to be dealt with as a matter of further compromise, the Senate would be quite satisfied with our courteous treatment, and we should at last reach the end of our present arduous labours, and bring to a close that period of trouble which has been found so irksome by business men. Supposing the Senate again returned the Bill to us, it would be quite within our power to say that we did not intend to give any further consideration to their requests.
– The honorable member said that he would welcome several other Messages.
– I said that I should welcome two or three more Messages if they would lead to a settlement of the very much vexed question of the Tariff. I say that still. I do not think that our rights and privileges are being threatened, or that we should seek a conflict with the other branch of the Legislature, or render it necessary to introduce another Tariff after months of further delay. I would agree to go to any length that would not absolutely involve the surrender of our rights and privileges, in order to avoid such a contingency. A lot of hair-splitting has been indulged in by the honorable and learned members of the House in regard to the interpretation of section 53 of theConstitution, and I am sorry that, owing to the length of this session, and the amount of work we have had to do, no opportunity has presented itself for constituting a High Court, to which we could refer questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution.
– The High Court would have nothing to do with this section of the Constitution.
Mr.V. L. SOLOMON.- The High Court would not have the power to lay down our parliamentary procedure, but it wouldbe entitled to interpret the meaning of the Constitution.
– Not of this section.
– The experience gained in connexion with the United States Constitution shows that their Supreme Court has been called upon to interpret the Constitution in cases where difficulties have occurred in the settlement of guiding principles and where differences have arisen between the States.
– The sections of the Constitution containing the words “ proposed law” are beyond the jurisdiction of the High Court.
– I am satisfied, at all events, that there is a good deal of room for argument as to the meaning of the words “ at any stage.” I am sure that it was never intended that these words should limit the Senate to the sending of a Message at any one stage of a Bill, or to the sending of one Message at any particular stage. The word “ stage “ is not to be construed as bearing the same meaning here as where it is employed in May in reference to Parliamentary procedure. The words “at any stage “ in this case mean “ at any time.” It was suggested when we were considering this section at the Convention that we should follow the lines of the South Australian practice, but, for obvious reasons, that was not regarded as sufficiently liberal. We were not prepared to accept a provision that at only one stage should the Senate have the right to make a suggestion. It was, therefore, provided that at any stage - at any time whilst a Bill was under consideration - the Senate should have the right to make requests. I shall give the Government my support, because I feel that we shall not be sacrificing any of our privileges or taking any step which we should not be in a position to retrace to-morrow, or the next day, or at any future time.
– I think that all Government supporters who are prepared to vote against the motion should express their convictions, as it is important that in a first step of so vital a nature, those who vote against the Government should make no uncertain sound. I do not think I can add much to the weighty words which have fallen from the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and the honorable and learned member for Indi, who have enlightened the House very considerably, not only as to the legal, but as to the constitutional position.- I sympathize with the Acting Prime Minister in the difficulties which he has had to face, and which have impelled him to adopt a course which although supported by considerations of expediency, may imperil the rights of this House.
– Why does the honorable and learned gentleman suggest that our rights may be imperilled 1
– The resolution itself, and the statement accompanying it, show that the Minister does not wish the action taken in this case to be regarded as a precedent, and it is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that he regarded it as dangerous. I am sorry that some members of the Opposition are not supporting us. I feel the greater regret because I find that all those who have spoken against the Government proposal are members of the protectionist party.
– That is worth noting.
– Yes ; it is worth noting, because this is now a party question, and it is regrettable that the Opposition will sink the interests of the people in order to secure a mere fiscal triumph. I may mention that my sympathies and the interests of my constituents would have led me to support three of the requests of the Senate, but I am not viewing this matter from a party point of view. The members of the Opposition should not view it from a party stand-point either, as they profess to believe that if a dissolution were to take place they would be able to sweep Australia clear of all the protectionist members of this House, but those honorable members on the protectionist side who are opposing the Government in this matter show that they are ready to face the chances of a dissolution, not that they want it, but in the interests of the democracy, which this House represents. I take it that the Government have climbed down almost before they were shot at. I think that before taking such action we should have returned this Message to the Senate to ascertain if it persists in the position which it has assumed. If it did, there would have been time enough then to consider the expediency of making a compromise. The proposal to receive its message at the present stage, even at the sacrifice of our constitutional rights, is not calculated to induce the
Senate to take a proper view of its position in the future. If we have no regard for the rights of this House, we should certainly endeavour to conserve the rights of the people. In speaking just now, the honorable’ member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, implied that we were quibbling about the rights of this Chamber. Nothing of the sort. It is the people’s rights that we are protecting, and I consider that upon a question like this we ought to support the democracy of the future rather than the areas represented by the other House. We are really sacrificing that for which our forefathers fought for many years. In connexion with almost a similar movement they faced a civil war. Rather than imperil democratic rights, I would rather have no Tariff. Such a misfortune would be temporary. Our action to-night creates a, permanent precedent. However, I shall content myself with having entered my protest against the proposal of the Govern-, ment. There are various ways in which a protest can be recorded. I have looked up May, and I find that whenever the Commons protest against the encroachment upon their privileges by the Lords, they enter it upon the journals of the House. The Lords have done precisely the same thing. We might go still further. Our rights are set out ia a written Constitution, ‘ and I think that even the AttorneyGeneral’s opinion is that the Senate in this connexion has overstepped its powers. It is of no use doing a thing “ without prejudice,” unless it is so communicated to the other party, and I should, therefore, like to see a very strong protest recorded, by incorporating in the Message, when it is returned to the Senate, the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. We should clearly set out that we have considered only the matter under the’ exceptional circumstances existing, and with-‘ out prejudice to the rights of this House.
– Since three o’clock this afternoon the House has had as much constitutional argument to the square inch as it will require for many years to come. The honorable and learned member for Corio opened his remarks by declaring that the acceptance of the Government proposal would imperil the rights of this House, and of the people. But to my mind the point at issue is whether or not we ought to receive the Senate’s message. The debate originated in the question which was put to Mr. Speaker by the honorable member’ for Melbourne Ports, who desired to know whether this House had the power to receive the message in question. Mr. Speaker’s answer was that owing to an ambiguity in section 53 of the Constitution, and the absence of joint standing orders, he was prevented from giving a ruling upon the point.
– Has the honorable member formed any opinion as to why all these constitutional objections have been raised by high Tariffists 1
– The only opinion which I can form is founded upon the admission of the honorable and learned member for Corio. He marvelled because all the constitutionalists who apprehend an invasion of our rights and privileges, are Victorian representatives. I think that most of their objections are more fiscal than constitutional. I am of opinion that if the requests of the Senate had been in the direction of increased duties we should have heard little about the constitutional aspect of the question. I would further point out that all the legal members of the House who have spoken differ in their interpretation of the Constitution in regard to the power of the Senate to again request amendments.
– But they are all dying for a fight.
– Yes. The Attorney.General when addressing the Housedid notadmit that when the proper time arrived, he was prepared to surrender any tittle of the power of this House. No surrender is suggested. The Tariff issue he said had been fought out. After twelve months of labour we had almost reached finality in regard to it, and he did not intend, by confusing the fiscal question with the constitutional, to provoke a struggle with the other House, when the question at issue could not be properly placed before the people of the Commonwealth. He said that the dislocation of trade which would result from a conflict now between the two Houses would be disastrous to the whole of Australia. If this debate has shown, anything, it has evidenced that we have provided in the Constitution a power which may prove injurious to the people, and which may demand in the near future an amendment of that instrument of government. I am satisfied that when the people have to vote upon the question, whether they shall rule or whether small coteries shall be dominant, the average elector of the smaller States will vote in the same direction as will the democrat of New South Wales and Victoria. I repeat that no surrender of principle is involved in the proposal of the Government. The legal luminaries of the House assure us that if we establish a precedent in this connexion the people will never be able to free themselves from its shackles. I do not believe that statement. This motion is not irrevocable, and we may take a different action in the future. In the course of the Tariff discussions, I naturally expressed my own fiscal views as strongly as possible in opposition to the views of the honorable members on the other side. I realize, however, that we now have a Tariff comprising over 300 different items and having its ramifications in all classes of trade. . The Senate, in the exercise of their powers under a written Constitution, has suggested amendments, and one Message was received from that Chamber. A return Message was sent, and modifications made in the duties, and now a second Message is before us. The wonder is that the suggested amendments were so few, when we consider the hundreds of items which had to be discussed. In my opinion, «the word “request” is simply a euphemistic term used in the early days of the struggle, in order to obtain adherence which otherwise would not have been obtained to the federal movement. In this connexion we are reminded of a burglar who may calmly, and in the most polite way, “ request “ a person to disgorge his cash, but, if the burglar is properly armed, the “ request “ has all the force of a demand. We know that the word “ request” carries with it the force of “amendment.” At present the Senate has, through this House, the whole of Australia “in the toils,” and that has been shown in the Minister’s appeal to honorable members to receive this Message. We have to consider the conditions of trade, and also the fact that a similar position cannot occur again. This is the first time in our history that a uniform Tariff has been drafted, and in order to prevent chaos the Senate’s Message ought to be considered. After this time, however, it rests with ourselves whether we accept other requests made by the Senate, and if it were an Appropriation Bill I could understand members of this House fighting strongly against the exercise of the power claimed by the Senate.
– What is the distinction in the Constitution 1
– If a conflict were provoked under present conditions, and reference were made to .the people, the question could not be clearly decided. The suggestions of the Senate have been mostly in the direction of free-trade, and if an appeal were made to the electors of New South Wales they would have to decide on the action of their representatives in the Senate, backed up by the opinion of the majority of their members in the House of Representatives, in furthering a policy in which they believe. The constitutional issue and the fiscal issue would thus be confused. With an Appropriation Bill, however, there would be one question clearly before the people, irrespective of fiscal considerations. Some honorable members have urged that we should go to the country, but those who, it may be without just cause or reason, are strongest in their constituencies, are not always anxious for an appeal to the people. The experience in State politics is that the man who is everlastingly crying out for an appeal to the electors, very often after the appeal is made has no further opportunity of speaking in the Legislature. You, Mr. Speaker, have had experience as private member and Prime Minister in a State Parliament, and now, in your honorable position as the first Speaker of the Federal Parliament, you have refused to rule on the issue before us, and have thrown the responsibility on the House. My opinion is that, as the first Message was received, so should this Message be received. Sweeping away legal subtleties, I say that if there is anything wrong in the reception of the second* Message there was something wrong in the reception of the first Message a fortnight or three weeks ago. It is within our power, in the future, to say whether or not the Senate is correct in sending on suggested amendments. I do not know whether the Acting Prime Minister is aware . that the Senate is prepared for a policy of compromise, and that, if certain modifications are made, the members in another place are prepared to remove obstacles’ which now exist. If the Acting Prime Minister has that information,
I can understand his present action ; but if he has any fear that the Senate is not prepared to compromise, but is anxious to fight, then by all means we ought to refuse the Message and, in order to save time, bring on the conflct now. But if in regard to a Tariff - for the whole of Australia, at this stage, only twenty differences remain, more or less unimportant, then the first Parliament has done well. It is not to the interest of the public of Australia to cause a conflict on the present occasion, and throw the public finances and the industrial and commercial world into confusion. The honorable and learned member for Corio said he believed in the representation of population and not of States, and to a great extent I agree in that opinion but the Constitution has been carried, and I do not believe in mock battles. I feel pleased, as a free-trader, that the suggestions of the Senate are in the direction of lowering the Tariff, and if I were to refuse to accept a Message, and say that the Senate had no right to send it, I should be false to my reading of the Constitution.
– I can hardly follow the concluding portion of the speech of the honorable member for Dalley, but I understand him to say that he is induced to support the motion, because the suggestions of the Senate are in the direction of reducing taxation. It appears to me, however, that the question we are, or should be considering, is not that of raising or lowering taxation, but the question of the proper mode of procedure between the two branches of the Commonwealth Parliament. I very much regret that, having been busy during the whole of the afternoon, I was unable to hear the speeches of the constitutional authorities of the House, and I am now in almost absolute ignorance of what has gone before. I did hear a portion of the speech of the Acting Prime Minister, and it is to that I intend to direct the few remarks I have to make. I may say, however, in the first place, that I was one who originally opposed the Commonwealth Constitution Bill, partly on the ground that it enabled one-third of the people to impose taxation on two-thirds, against the will of the latter. At that time I, as a layman, interpreted the Constitution to mean what it says, and no more. I understood the Constitution to mean that the Senate could send down a Bill at any stage with a request for a particular amendment, but I did not understand that if the request was not complied with, it could be repeated over and over again. I have so much confidence in the Acting Prime Minister that if he had taken the responsibility of telling the House that after full consideration he believed the Constitution did confer this right on the Senate, I. might have been disposed to give up my own views in deference to his. But so far as I followed the honorable gentleman he did not take up that position. He did not say that the Senate in sending .down the same requests a second time’ were acting within their constitutional rights. . The honorable gentleman pointed out, and I quite agree with him, the desirability of settling this question, and the vital importance which its early settlement is to the people of the Commonwealth. But I do not think that we should make any false step when laying the foundations of a nation. It is a most important matter, and serious as the consequences of delay or of a possible constitutional crisis may be, I think it will be still more serious if we make a vital mistake at this stage. I believe that it would be a mistake for us to lay down a precedent which is not contained in the Constitution. Should we find out afterwards that we had made a mistake, I believe that we could not retrace our steps. Whatever we may say now, and whatever we may assert, it is our act that will be looked to, and if a similar case arises again there is not the slightest doubt that this will be pointed to as a precedent from which we cannot very well depart.
– One Parliament cannot control another.
– I know that one Parliament cannot control another, but the honorable member knows that if a serious precedent of this kind is once established it is extremely difficult to get away from it, and we shall have to face this question again handicapped by the load of the precedent we are now asked to make.
– Does it not depend upon our majority.
– I did not hear the views of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. I do not pretend to say that my view of the Constitution is correct. As I have already stated, I would much rather take the view of. the Acting
Prime Minister if he would give it to us upon this point. But as the’ honorable gentleman did not say that he believed that the Senate were acting within their rights, I regret to say that, much as I should like to support his proposal, I cannot do it in deference to what I believe to be the rights of the people of the Commonwealth.
– In arriving at finality what is the difference between the power of suggestion and the power of amendment ?
– I do not think there is much difference, even if the” Senate had the right, as I believe they have, only to make their requests once. I have, always contended that there is no very great difference, but I find that all the constitutional authorities are opposed to me upon that point. If they say there is a substantial difference between the right to make a request and the right to make an amendment, and if they then go further and say that the Senate can repeat their requests time after time, I must say that their distinction is a hollow sham, and there is nothing whatever in it. Whatever the real difference between the power to request and the power to amend, as I interpret it, may be, there will be no difference at all if the Senate has the right to repeat a request time after time. I do not’ wish to detain the House further in explaining the reasons why I cannot follow my honorable friend upon this occasion. It is because I believe that if the Constitution does not confer the right upon the Senate to repeat a request time after time, it will’ be a fatal blunder on our part to lay down a precedent in the contrary direction, and I believe a blunder from which we cannot subsequently recede, that I shall oppose the motion.
– I I do not intend to labour this question at any great length, because I do not think at this time of night very much more need be said. We have had some very learned arguments upon the constitutional aspect of this question, but some of them appear to me to be neither more nor less than consummate pieces of word - spinning. For instance, such a speech as that delivered by the honorable member for Indi I so characterize. I listened to that honorable and learned mein ber very patiently, and with a great deal of admiration for the cleverness with which he stated his ease. But it occurred to me that his argument consisted wholly of wordspinning. . I could not call it anything else. I am bound to say that, in my opinion, the honorable and learned gentleman’s utterances were not nearly so weighty as many which we have been accustomed to hear from him in this House. I should like also to make a remark somewhat upon the lines suggested by tlie honorable member for% Dalley. I desire to ask the House to take notice of the fact, and it is a striking one, that every honorable member who has argued against the Senate on this occasion, and has seen innumerable dangers wrapt up in the proposal of the Government, is without exception a Victorian hightariffist. Is that a coincidence ? If it is, it is a very remarkable one. Every honorable member who sees all these dangers in the Constitution to-night is a man who is dissatisfied with this Tariff, and who sees in the proposal of the Government a proposal for a still further modification of it. I say that that fact is too . patent to escape notice.-
– How about the converse ?
– Does not the honorable and learned member see that he points the way for us. We cannot go wrong in following the honorable and learned member’s indication. If he is going all the while to see constitutional dangers in anything that makes for the amelioration of this Tariff, then we may refuse to see those dangers when we believe that the proposal of the Government is for a still further concession in the matter of the Tariff.
– What about the Minister for Trade and Customs ? Is that’ honorable gentleman a free-trader ? He is with honorable members opposite.
– No ; the Minister for Trad.e and Customs is not a freetrader, but he is a member of the Government. I apprehend that there has been some very considerable discussion on this question in the Cabinet. I should say that, after all the Minister for Trade and Customs has gone through in connexion with this Tariff, whether he be a free-trader or a’ protectionist, he is heartily sick of the job, and wants to be done with it. I had charge of the Tariff I should be heartily ashamed of it. But the question is not the Tariff exactly. There is a constitutional aspect of this matter, and I am one of those who are glad that the Government take the attitude in dealing with this question that they do. I would rather the matter was dealt with in the way they propose than make any definite announcement on the present occasion as to what the rights of the Senate and of this House are. At tlie same time, I am bound to say, further, that in my opinion there is nothing in the Constitution which prevents the Senate from sending down a second or a third suggestion if they deem fit. In trying to understand the meaning of the section which has been so much debated to-night, I take the meaning given to it by the framers of the Constitution at the time of the Convention, and I go back to the speech quoted by the honorable and learned member for Indi, which is the latest utterance, I take it, in the Convention on this subject - I refer to the speech of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, Sir Edmund Barton, who was the leader of the Convention. I do not read the utterance as the honorable and learned member for Indi read it, and I shall put one question to the honorable and learned member in regard to it. Sir Edmund Barton at that time was speaking of the power to make suggestions on the part of the Seriate, and after an interjection from the present Minister for Trade and Customs as to how many times they might make these requests or suggestions, he uses these words -
Yes, as long as the Bill is in the hands of the Senate. That means, I take it, a power not solely to send the Bill down at a stage at which the measure has at the moment arrived, but that if it arrives at a further stage in the Senate, there being in the meantime some settlement or no settlement with regard to the suggestion made, the Senate would have power to make other suggestions.
Now the honorable and learned member for Indi says that “ at any stage “ of the Bill does not mean any further stage in committee.
– Does not the quotation to which the honorable member has referred speak of “other suggestions”?
– The difference between 15 per cent, and 14-J per cent, would be another suggestion. What is the use of quibbling in that way about mere terms? The question is, have they the substantial power’ to send down suggestions after this House has dealt with the suggestions which they first sent down ? Sir Edmund Barton, in the Convention, referred to a case in which no settlement had been arrived at. I desire to know from the honorable and learned member for Indi how they could send down to this House any further suggestions upon a matter as to which no settlement had been arrived at after the stage that the Senate was last at? For instance, they send down this proposal to this House when the stage of report has been passed. There can be no further stage, according to the honorable and learned member, but the third reading, which is the next stage in succession. There is no intervening stage after the committee has reported ; we must go on to the third reading. That is the only stage next in succession. How could the Bill reach that stage before a settlement had been arrived at ? Would it not be necessary to go into committee to consider the Message on its return from this House 1 Therefore, it is clear that Sir Edmund Barton could not have had in his mind the case put before us by the honorable and learned member for Indi. The Senate could not send down suggestions for the alteration of the Tariff at the thirdreading stage.
– That would depend upon their rules of procedure.
– The honorable member has said this evening that we must take the rules of procedure as we find them. There is no provision in the rules for making suggestions for amendments when a Bill has reached the third-reading stage. It is, therefore, clear that Sir Edmund Barton intended the term “ at any stage “ to have the very widest meaning. It is impossible to accept the reading of the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– Sir Edmund Barton could not prophesy what the rules of procedure of the Senate would be.
– The honorable and learned member is now departing from his own statement. He said that we were bound by the ordinary rules of procedure, by the procedure of the House of Commons, and by the practice of British parliamentary institutions. But in no British dominion is there any means provided by which the Senate could reach a further stage of ‘the Bill than they have done at the present time, and still, send requests to us regarding amendments in the Tariff. I am sure that if Sir Edmund Barton were here now he would say that it was intended that the Senate should be enabled to send down suggestions at any time that the Bill was under consideration. My own impression is that the section means that the Senate may make requests as frequently as they like so long as this Chamber permits them to do so. It rests with us to say whether or not we shall take their requests into consideration. We have the control in our own hands, and we can stop at any moment. . We may put an end to the negotiations at the exact moment when we think they have gone far enough. I cannot read the section as conveying any other meaning. The honorable and learned member said that the words “if it thinks fit” might just as well have been omitted. That may be, but they were inserted with a view to give this House the power to shut down on the negotiations between the two Chambers . at any time. I congratulate the honorable and learned member for Indi upon his speech. It was the cleverest piece of word-spinning I have ever heard in this Chamber ; but I could not help thinking of Plato’s saying - “ Truth lies at the bottom of a well.” Certainly it seemed as if the honorable and learned member were diving deep down into the bowels of the earth in order to find an argument againt the procedure of the Government on this occasion. It is very curious that all the talk about the importance of this constitutional question, and the dangers which are to be apprehended from the acknowledgment of the rights of the Senate to repeat their request, comes only from those who are in favour of a high Tariff. Those honorable members who desire to arrive at a settlement upon the lines of a moderate Tariff see none of these constitutional dangers. If a crisis were to occur, and I went to” the people of New South Wales and said that I objected to what the Senate had done in regard to the Tariff,’ they would turn round and say - “We want the Senate to do precisely as it is doing.” Then I might retort - “ But look at the danger that is involved to the Constitution.” They would then say- - “ We had all those dangers pointed out to us before the referendum was taken. We knew all about them then, and now that the Senate is in favour of our view with regard to the Tariff, we ask you and others to work the Constitution as you find it until it is altered in a constitutional way.” Therefore, believing that the Senate is acting within its rights, and that it is correctly interpreting the wishes of the majority of the people of
Australia regarding the Tariff, I am ready to consider its requests. I hope that tlie course we shall adopt in this matter will result in bringing the Tariff more into harmony with the wishes of the people of Australia. Apart from that consideration, there is the further question of the uncertainty which now exists in business circles, and the upheaval of our commercial affairs, owing to the unsettled state of tlie Tariff and the administration of it. I submit that the administration of the Tariff is worse than the Tariff itself. There is a feeling of unrest throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and the people, whether protectionists or free-traders, are asking that we shall arrive as soon as possible at finality in regard to this long drawnout and troublesome question. I have heard the most ardent free-traders in New South Wales say - “.For goodness sake finish the Tariff. Give us anything you like - anything will be better than the present state of uncertainty.” Therefore, since the Government propose to waive the constitutional point for the present, and defer its consideration till some future time, we ought to readily follow them. We have been told that the question as to the relative powers of the two Houses will have to be considered in connexion with the framing of the standing orders. No doubt it will. The standing orders will have to provide the methods of procedure to be followed in connexion with, negotiations between the two Houses, whose respective positions will have to be determined. We shall have to discuss this question at an early date, and the sooner the better. I think it is almost a calamity that the standing orders were not considered in the first instance, and brought into operation before we were called upon to deal with the Tariff. It seems strange that, after having been in session for eighteen months we should have no recognised means of approaching the other House. This affords another reason why we should more readily follow the Government, because no question of procedure and therefore “ no question of the relations between the two Houses arises. I commend the Government for finding us a way out of the difficulty, and I shall follow them with a great deal of pleasure.
– Reference has been made by the honorable member for Parramatta to the fact that some protectionists see constitutional difficulties because of the fiscal views they hold. The retortmight be made by uncharitable people that it is a peculiar coincidence that all free-traders are in accord with the Government in their determination not to assert the constitutional rights of this Chamber upon the first occasion upon which they have been questioned. The accusation df bias, conscious or unconscious, would always lie against honorable members in such cases, but it does not rest with the free-traders to cast imputations upon those who sit on this side of the House.
– I do not think it is worth noticing.
– Why does not the honorable member explain it ?
– The honorable member for Parramatta should first explain his position. My complaint is that the Government, having had thrown upon it the responsibility of determining the constitutional rights of this Chamber, has evaded the issue and placed honorable members in an unfair position. We know that the commercial and industrial welfare of the whole community is wrapped up in the Tariff issue to a great extent, but the question is not now one of high Tariff or low Tariff, but of the rights of the other Chamber to determine matters relating to the taxation of the people. I have never admitted that the Senate has equal rights with this Chamber in the imposition of taxation on the people, but ‘ the position taken up by honorable members on tlie other side is entirely opposed to that view, although the acting leader of the Opposition has admitted that a clear distinction is laid down between the powers of the Senate in dealing with Appropriation or Taxation Rills, and their powers in dealing with other measures. There is a clear difference between the powers of the two Houses, and yet the honorable member for Dalley says that there is practically no distinction between them. He. says that the Senate has practically the power’ of amendment in connexion with taxation Bills. That is where we join issue, and I find fault with the Government for evading the real issue. The acting leader of the Opposition was perfectly fair when he said that the motion evades the main issue completely.
– It was intended to.
– That is what I find fault with. The time occupied in this debate, added to a few hours to-morrow, would probably have enabled ‘ us tq determine the constitutional question involved in the action of the Senate. We have heard the opinions expressed by eminent legal authorities in the House, all of whom are agreed upon this question. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo, it is true, takes up the position of. the proverbial small boy, who says that he is not quite big enough to fight yet. He admits that the justification for a fight exists, and that a determination of . rights should ensue, but he says that he is -not yet big enough to fight. The honorable and learned member regards this matter from the standpoint of expediency rather than of principle. That is what I object to. I have never admitted - and it has never been seriously urged by any federal leader - that the right of the Senate to amend taxation or appropriation Bills is co-ordinate with that of the House of Representatives.
– The Senate has an equal right to rel:ct those Bills.
– It is true that the responsibility of rejection rests with the Senate. But the position, . I think, has been clearly put by one honorable member, who quoted the dictum of Sir Samuel Griffith, that the right of suggestion by a strong Senate was equal to the right of amendment ‘by a weak. Senate. That is the position to-night. We have a weak Government who will not face the situation in the interests of the whole of the electors. I feel convinced that those honorable members opposite, who pose as true democrats, will ere long have occasion to reverse their attitude upon this question. Are they prepared to allow the representatives of the smaller States to impose burdens upon the great majority of the people of the Commonwealth in opposition to the will of the latter 1 That is practically the whole position. This is not. a question of whether we shall have a high or a lo.w Tariff, The difference- between the duties upon the items in dispute do&s. not represent pore than 5 per cent. Is that a matter about which we are likely, to quarrel at the expense of the utter dislocation of trade t Certainly I am not prepared to take up that position, but I think it. is .the duty of the Government to clearly define the constitutional powers of this Chamber, in matters -of taxation and appropriation. Upon those grounds I intend, to oppose the. motion, which contains an admission by the Government that some of our rights may. be infringed if we discuss the Senate’s Message without first adopting this resolution. The concluding portion pf the resolution reads - , .
This House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of this Message, and resolves to receive and consider it forthwith.
I ‘ cannot conceive any conditions under which this Chamber should refrain from determining its constitutional rights. If some grave and important crisis arose, in which it was imperative that- we should act upon the spur of the moment, I presume that we should be prepared to do so. But that is not the position. Chaos will not ensue if the settlement of the Tariff is delayed for another week, and will any honorable member argue that a determination, of the question of our constitutional rights could not be’ arrived at within a week ? I regret that the Government by their action are establishing a precedent which will govern our mode of procedure for all time. It has been mentioned ‘ in some quarters that discretion is the better part of valour, but I venture to say that that doctrine’ cannot be upheld for one moment. No honorable member should be willing to allow the constitutional rights of this Chamber to be infringed upon the mere ground of expediency. Principle should govern us in all things, and, therefore, I must oppose the resolution.
– First, I desire to congratulate the Attorney-General upon his masterly and eloquent defence of the Ministerial position. To my mind, it was impregnable, .progressive, and. democratic. When a man has been bushed for some days, either through . a blizzard, or a snowstorm, the first thing which he ought to_ do is to ascend a high hill, and endeavour to discover the smoke of some house, or. the nearest way to a clearing. That is precisely the course which we ought to adopt to-night. For fourteen months we have been debating great constitutional questions, and. yet we have left undiscussed the most vital matter of all, .namely, the difference between the Senate and the House of Representatives. It- seems to me that we ought to clearly define the constitutional powers of the two Houses. I,, hold that the .Commonwealth, of Aus- tralia,, is different .from any other nation that has ‘existed, or does exist. In. the first ‘place, our Government is not like that of Germany, Turkey, or Russia. In Russia the will of the Czar, in Turkey that of the Sultan, and in Germany that of the Emperor is supreme.
– The honorable member’s remarks are scarcely, relevant to the question.
– The point at issue is, what are the constitutional powers of the House of Representatives and of the Senate? I trust we shall decide that the other Chamber has ‘the right to transmit a second Message to us, and that we have the power to discuss it. It seems to me that this House represents the federal idea.
– The national idea.
– its membership is based upon the principle of human numbers. It springs directly from the people, and acts directly upon them. The larger the population of Australia the greater will be the number of representatives in this Chamber. The Senate, however, occupies an altogether different position. It rests upon geographical boundary lines, and its membership can be increased only by the addition of new States to the Commonwealth. It matters not if the population of the Commonwealth totals 20,000,000 or 30,000,000, there can be no increase in the number of senators ; but there must be an increase in the number of representatives in this House.
– But if the number of members in this House were increased, the number in the Senate would also have to be increased.
– Why? The Constitution provides that each State shall be represented by six senators. We must recognise that the Commonwealth is a nation of nations, a Commonwealth of Commonwealths, an indissoluble union of indestructible States. This House has control of tlie purse, and by granting to the other Chamber the power to repeat its requests in regard to Money Bills, we do not in any way imperil the rights vested in us by the Constitution. Therefore, I shall vote for the proposal of the Government.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - AttorneyGeneral), in reply. - I by no means regret a single moment which has been allotted to this debate, and beg to express an unassumed appreciation of the manner in which this question has been approached from all sides of the House. It is a necessary part of even a hurried summing up to point out that the result of this debate has satisfied me more than ever that,! whatever may be the opinion of my critics, this House is not yet ripe for dealing with the serious constitutional issues involved, and that we shall do well to put them on one side until we can arrive at a little more unity amongst ourselves. “A House divided against itself cannot stand,” and until a greater agreement upon more definite propositions in this, regard can be arrived at in this Chamber, it would be in the highest degree unwise for us to enter on a contention with another place. It has been under considerable pressure that the Government decided on the course which they have invited the House to follow. It was apparent to the Ministry, and it has been proved tonight, that whatever truth there may be ia the’ insinuations that honorable members, have grouped themselves on this constitutional question, not so much in regard to their opinions on that question, as in regard to their sympathies on the fiscal proposals involved, certainly a strong dividing line has been drawn. On the whole, member* have not been found on this question taking sides as might have been expected if it had been an abstract issue. Some were obviously greatly swayed by concrete considerations of the result of the action which they were invited to take. Even a suspicion of the play of such external forces on a decision of this kind ought to be sufficient to satisfy my friend, the honorable member for Moira, whose severe complaint we have just listened to, that so far from the course now chosen being one of weakness, it is one in which there has been a discrimination between a premature discussion and a. dangerous settlement of this question now, as contrasted with the very much better opportunities which will shortly be presented to us. I do not undervalue the importance of even the least suggestion that has been made of any interpretation of the Constitution .in favour of this House. There are times when it is proper to “greatly find quarrel in a straw,” but surely it is part of the practical wisdom of the world to know when to set formal issues aside, rather than lose sight of themain contents of a situation. And th& main features of the situation at the present time are undoubtedly the enormous interests at stake to the industrial and commercial development of the country. We shall also have to look above and beyond ourselves, to the people, when we seek to arrive at an agreement, and when we approach our fellow representatives in another Chamber in order to arrive at an amicable settlement. If we are fortunate enough to agree, as I hope we shall; many difficulties will be removed ; if we are not, we shall do well now, and for a long time to come, to be extremely cautious of entrance into quarrels of this kind, for the reason that these are questions which do not appeal with overwhelming force to the public of this great continent. Many of them are situated thousands of miles from our centre of political action, and depend upon very incomplete reports of our proceedings. Many others, owing to want of practical experience in representative institutions, are not able to realize the importance of the issues involved. We should surely be adopting mistaken tactics if we took the last course left to us in a constitutional struggle, until we were satisfied first that we have a good case, and secondly that the electors thoroughly understand it. I venture to say that if we submitted to the people a constitutional issue entangled with the fiscal prepossessions which surround the Tariff, while the whole community is labouring under a sense of its increasing effect on trade, week by week and month by month, we shall at the very outset prejudice our case immensely. It has not been from any neglect or disregard of the proper claims of this House to due consideration as one of the great partners of the Federal Parliament, that the Government proposed the course indicated in the motion. It is proposed because, in the interests of this House and in the interests of responsible government, this is not a fitting time to seek a verdict from the people on the constitutional issues involved. At this hour of the night it would be unwise to labour the point. There are many incidents in political history which go to warn us how by some apparently chance turn of the current of events, incidents such as this apparently slight in themselves, are elevated into instantaneous importance, and become matters of great moment. That being so, it ill becomes one to attempt to prophesy as to what the consequences of a particular step of this sort may be. The consequences so far have been extremely useful, for they have enabled members to commence to understand one another’s minds. I freely admit my own indebtedness to the debate for a much clearer view of some of the points raised. I have no doubt that other debates will enable us to arrive at an agreement here, which, I trust, will presage the agreement we shall reach with the other Chamber. But, although apparently, fortuitous circumstances may at times elevate an occurrence of this sort into an eminence that no one could have foreseen, I am still inclined to believe that the proposal we here make does not mark any such depart ure as will be signalized hereafter. At all events, so far as it does, we are safeguarded by the motion, which seeks to take no advantage of the Senate, and concedes no advantage to this House. It aims at maintaining the constitutional status quo, while it enables us to reach towards the earliest possible settlement of the customs Tariff. Under these circumstances, after carefully weighing, with the attention they deserve, the strong representations which have been made, especially by my fellow-representatives of the State of Victoria, I still remain of the opinion with which I commenced this discussion. I doubt if my friends of the Opposition, who are most of them not Victorians, can understand as well as I do the spirit which has prompted my own friends on the Government side. If there is one thing which is engendered in the Victorian liberal - if there is one principle that flows with the blood through his veins in all constitutional questions - it is the assertion that the local Chamber which represents all the people in this State shall not be subject to the domination of a body elected on a limited franchise with a property qualification, that has proved itself a stumbling-block to most advances which the local Legislature has sought to make. There is such an ineradicable antagonism on our part, inherited from past expriences, that we are but too liable to carry it into an entirely different sphere, where we are confronted, not only by an entirely different body, with entirely different claims to popular support and approval, but by the still novel element of a Federal Constitution. While appreciating the attitude of Victorian– members, I venture to remind them how, when we were on the same platform in the federal campaign, we were opposed by men who held a stricter view, and felt the old antagonism to all Second Chambers. We had then to point out to them that in the Federal Constitution some old contentions lost much of. their meaning. We have to remind ourselves of that truth still, to remind ourselves that now more than ever we must be federalists first, last, and always. The operation of the federal system must necessarily deflect our former principles to a considerable extent, and require us to pay more consideration toa Senate that represents the people of the States. If there are any who chafe at what they consider the limitations imposed on them by the Constitution, there is no other course for them but to alter the Constitution, though while it lasts they must give it their loyal adherence and support. I venture to submit that as federalists our duty is to avoid contentions with the State Chamber. I do not think we shall lose anything by forbearance. I am quite convinced that in the present contingencies we should not have had, eitherin the House or outside, that support which we are entitled to expect when we raise great and serious problems such as have been submitted to-day by the honorable and learned member for Indi, and those who agree with him. We shall do much better bo take the sane and practical course suggested by the motion, rather than “ go sounding on our dim and perilous way “ into the unknown consequences of political conflict, for which, in my opinion, the people are not prepared. What the country is prepared for, and what is required, is the speediest possible settlement of the great Tariff question ; this will be our final Message relating to it; and then, hereafter, by calm consideration, apart from all other questions, the delicate relations between the two Houses may be adjustedon a footing satisfactory to them and to Australia.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Requests again made by the Senate) :
– I trust that we are now entering upon the final stage in connexion with this troublesome and important matter. Itrust and believe that the spirit of conciliation which has been exhibited during the afternoon will continue to be shown. To that end the Government are prepared to make a compromise - such a compromise as I think we can honorably propose, and such also as I believe the Senate can similarly accept ; a fair concession to the necessities of the case, and a full exposition of our feeling that the position in connexion with the Tariff is one of such uncertainty that it ought to be put anend to at the earliest possible moment. I simply indicate what our intentions are. I propose to state the nature of the concessions which we shall ask the committee to agree to. Dealing first with the items under the heading of metals and machinery, where the issue has been as to whether we should retain the duty of 15 per cent., which we originally proposed, or accept that of10 per cent. which has been requested by the Senate, wethink the time has come to offer to make an arrangement upon the subject; and we propose under the circumstances, with regard to all those duties, to reduce them from 15 per cent. to 12½. per cent.
– Upon all machinery ?
– As regards all those items in connexion with which we have been at issue hitherto, where the division of opinion has been between 15 per cent. and 10 per cent. We propose also, as regards the less important item of mangles, to allow the dispute to be similarly settled by agreeing to a duty of 12½ per cent.
– Does the right honorable gentleman propose the reduction upon machinery because he thinks it is right, or because he feels himself forced?
– Because I think it is right under the circumstances. In the matter of residual oil andsolar oil, we propose to consent to a reduction from½d. to ¼d. We believe that¼d. is a fair arrangement, and we propose to stick to it. I venture to think that there ought, and I think there will be a desire on the part of the committee to make our conclusions- in this respect as unanimous as possible. Whilst the Government are giving way fairly liberally in these matters, I trust that a similar spirit will be exhibited on the other side.
– Is this the right honorable gentleman’s final concession?
– I think the time has arrived when we have a right to hope and expect that this is the final stage, so far as we are concerned.
– Suppose the right honorable gentleman’s expectations are disappointed?
– I am not going to anticipate anything at this moment, nor shall I say one word to prevent the realization of the hopes we have, and which I think I may say amount to a certainty that the Senate, if approached in this attitude, will reciprocate accordingly. As regards socks and stockings, we cannot agree to the proposal that the duty upon cotton socks and stockings should be raised to 15 per cent., but we are willing that woollen socks and stockings should be reduced to 15 per cent. As regards yarn, we are prepared to advise the committee to consent to a reduction of the duty to 5 per cent., and as regards all the other items, I think there is a fair division as regards those with which we agree and with which we do not, and I shall therefore ask the committee to support the Government in saying that the amendments requested in connexion with them are not required.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Went worth). - I dp notintend to say much upon the proposal of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I do not even go so far as to say that we see in it a fair compromise. It certainly is not satisfactory to us.
– And I can assure the honorable gentleman that it is not satisfactory to us.
– But I recognise that we have practically had our last say in the discussion of this Tariff. The question is now between the Ministry and their supporters. It isa curious fact that if we take half of the divisions on these different items on the last occasion on which we discussed them, the majority has consisted entirely of the Ministerial bench. At the same time we do not intend to sulk in our tents, and if we find that in connexion with any of these items, the duties upon which the Government are determined to reduce their proposals are in any way objected to, and a vote is taken, we shall vote as freetraders for every reduction. To that extent we shall support the Government. I am sorry that the compromise has not been greater; but I feel that now, after having to a certain extent strained the position, and having received this new Message of the Senate, whatever we do to-night must be final. We do not accept this Tariff as ours.
– It certainly is not ours.
– No. It is a very different document from the Tariff fathered by honorable members on the Government side of the House, and it is also very far from being framed upon the lines indicated by the Prime Minister at Maitland. We brought it to a halfway house on the road back to Maitland, but we did not reduce it sufficiently to reflect either the hustings speeches of the Prime Minister, or the opinion of the people of Australia. Without in any way giving our sanction to this Tariff, we say that anything is better than further delay, and, as a matter of patriotism, which is above all party feeling, we have come to the conclusion that a final settlement should be no longer delayed. Therefore, the work of honorable members on this side of the Chamber is practically done.
Item 15. Paraffin wax …. per lb:.,½d.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to¼d.
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) agreed to -
That the amendment requested be not made.
Item 77. Mangles….. ad valorem, 15 per cent.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to 10 per cent.
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the amendment requested be not made, but that the duty be reduced to 12½ per cent.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). - Divisions have been taken over and over again upon these requests, and I think it will be sufficient if we allow the motions to pass on the voices.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- If a conflict is to be precipitated, and I should think that this is very likely, in view of the attitude now assumed by the Government, I desire to have it placed on record that I have done all in my power to effect a compromise. In this instance no question of protection or free-trade is involved, but a reasonable compromise has been suggested by the Senate, and if we refuse to consider it we might just as well have voted against the proposal of the Government that we should receive and deal with the requests of the Senate.
Motion agreed to.
Item 5. Tobacco, viz……. cigars, per lb. ,6s. 3d. and 15 per cent.
Request again made. - That the duty be altered to 7s. per lb.
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the amendment requested be not made.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- If we had acceded to this request of the Senate, we should have abolished the last of the composite duties provided for in the Tariff.
– The Senate propose to raise the duty.
– Even if that is so, I am perfectly prepared to meet the Senate half way. We should show some disposition to compromise, and I am sorry that honorable members should be content to place themselves under the direction of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has already shown himself utterly lacking in statesman-like qualities, and whose action is calculated to bring about a crisis between the two Houses.
Motion agreed to.
Item 10. Bacon and ham . . . per lb., 3d.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to 2d.
Item 14. Butter and cheese, per lb., 3d.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to 2d.
Item 22. Grain and pulse, n.e.i., per cental., 1s.6d.
Request again made. - That wheat be added to the list of special exemptions.
Item 23. Grain and pulse, prepared or manufactured . . . per cental, 2s.6d.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to1s.6d.
Item 24. Hay and chaff,1s. per cwt.
Request again made. - That hay and chaff be added to the list of special exemptions.
Item 46. Bice. . . . n.e.i., per cental, 6s.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to 5s.
Item 58. Apparel and attire. . . . woollen and silk . . . ad valorem, 25 per cent.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to 20 per cent.
Item 63. Hats and caps : men’s, women’s, boys’, and children’s felt hats . . . ad valorem, 30 per cent.
Request again made. - That the duty be reduced to 25 per cent.
Motion (by Mr. Kingston) proposed -
That the amendments requested be not made.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- The request that the duty upon bacon and hams should be reduced from 3d. to 2d. per lb. is a reasonable one, and it cannot be claimed that it is intended to unduly reduce the protection now granted to those engaged in producing these articles within the Commonwealth. It is unreasonable to dismiss requests of this kind without the slightest discussion. In connexion with the item “grainandpulse” we are asked to place wheat on the free list, and I cannot understand how honorable members who represent city constituencies will be able to justify their action in supporting the imposition of a duty which can only prove effectual in times of drought and scarcity. In connexion with the item “ hay and chaff,” we have had ample testimony as to the pernicious effects of a duty upon this commodity, and the refusal of the Government to make any alteration in response to the requests of the Senate, shows that they are utterly destitute of the spirit of compromise which should characterize our dealings with the other Chamber. If I were a member of the Senate, and that body were treated in the contemptuous manner that marks the attitude of the Ministry at present, I should soon let the Government know the exact place the Senate occupies in our Constitution.
– How far do the Government intend going on with this matter ? I object to finishing to-night. There will be ample time to-morrow. I have been in Melbourne nearly eighteen months consulting the convenience of the Victorians and others who are able to get to their homes every week-end. I am -satisfied to sit till eleven o’clock, but we have been here long enough now. I do not see the wisdom of sitting late now in order that we may have a holiday next week.
– There is.no chance of that.
-It has been stated, on behalf of tlie Government, that, if a certain stage were reached by Friday, there might be an adjournment over next week. T object to that.
– I am afraid we cannot agree to it.
– The Government have frequently promised honorable members an opportunity of discussing private members’ business. That has not been done yet. I do not like to be unpleasant, but I must insist that we shall not go on any further this evening.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I must make a protest against what I regard us a strange proceeding on the part of the Government in connexion with this matter. They pay no regard to the primary requirements of the people in regard to articles upon which there are duties ranging from 50 to 75 per cent., whilst with regard to secondary necessities they propose to compromise. There appears to be no common sense in proceedings of that kind. I protest against insisting upon high duties on flour and the clothing of the people.
– The request of the honorable member for Coolgardie is a reasonable one. We have been engaged all the afternoon in discussing constitutional points, largely from the legal standpoint, and now we are asked to go on with these items seriatim. This is not a reasonable way to deal with the requests which have come to us from the Senate. We want to have an opportunity of fairly considering the requests that have been made, and to see whether it is not possible to meet the wishes of another place. We must all recognise that the Tariff is now a matter for compromise. We are endeavouring to reach a position of agreement. I trust the Government will not push the matter to the extreme of requiring the committee to deal with the whole of - the details to-night.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I do not wish to detain the committee, but T cannot resist the temptation of entering my protest against the way in which the. Government have treated the requests of the Senate. I was under the impression that Ministers would propose substantial reductions with regard to mining and agricultural machinery, and would have shown a desire to meet the wishes of the Senate. So far as the Opposition are concerned they .have, time after time, endeavoured to secure reductions and have been defeated. I recognise that, in view of that fact, and considering the temper of the committee, it is hardly possible for us to obtain further reductions, but, at the same time, I cannot help expressing my regret that the Government have had so little regard to the interests of the primary producers of the country, and .have paid so little attention to the suggestions which have- been made. I feel, with the acting leader of the Opposition, that our task is hopeless as we are in a minority, and that al) we can do is to enter our protest against the action of the Government, and to hope that wiser counsels will prevail, if not at this stage, later on.
Mr. SAWERS (New England).- I wish to know whether I can move that the operation of the duty on hay and chaff be deferred until 1st January, 1903?
– To suit the convenience of the honorable member, I will put the items seriatim.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa.).- I can quite understand that some honorable members do not like this matter to be discussed, although they know that there is a ring of millers who have bought up all the wheat beforehand, and that not a single farmer is benefited by the duty, whilst the rate on flour of £2 15s. a ton has raised the price of bread to the people. They look upon that fact with pleasure, because the members of the ring are putting money into their own pockets. The Minister for Trade and Customs cries in effect - “In the name of all that is good and merciful give the ring a chance of making money out of the necessities of the people.” I protest against the Ministerial proposal. In my judgment we might reason. ably accede to the requests of the Senate in regard to reduced duties upon bacon and haras and wheat. The drought which has prevailed allover Australia has worked almost irreparableinj ury . As honorable membersare aware, itwill be impossible for us to harvest anywheat until January or February next ; consequently the duty of 1s. 6d. per cental upon that commodity will affect the food supplies of the peoplefor the next fourmonths. Similarly with regard to grain and pulse prepared or manufactured, n.e.i., I think that we might wellaccept the reduced dutyrequested by the other Chamber.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas). - I am prepared to allow the duties upon bacon and ham and butter and cheese topass unchallenged, but I cannot take up the same position in respect of wheat. I think it will be admitted that under normal conditions a tax of1s. 6d. per cental upon wheat will not operate within the Commonwealth. In an ordinary season the farmers grow more than sufficient for the requirements of our people, and are compelled to export their surplus to other parts of the world. But throughoutthe entire Commonwealth, and particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, we have recently been experiencing an abnormally dry season, and although the outlook has considerably improved within the last week, the crops are still in a very backward condition. The prospect for the farmers is a very gloomy one indeed, particularly in New South Wales. I feel satisfied that instead of that State being in a position to export wheat, as heretofore, it will be compelled to import it for the purpose of providing food supplies for its people. Indeed I believe that the drought has been so general throughout Australia that within the next year it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to import wheat for its own requirements. In the face of such an outlook, is it reasonable to levy the heavy duty proposed upon the general consumer? I protest against the attitude of the Government in refusing to accede to the reasonable request of the Senate. If they arenot prepared to do that, they might at least agree to a compromise. Certainly a duty of1s.6d. per cental upon wheat is an excessive one.
– We have fought this question to the last ditch, and the fact that we have been unsuccessful does not imply any slight upon honorable members upon this side of the Chamber ; indeed I regard it rather as a compliment.
Every inch of the ground has been fought, and previous divisions upon these very proposals have proved that we cannot get more concessions than we have already secured. The matter, therefore, must now rest between the Government and a majority in the Senate. That being so; I do not think that we need repeat anyof the argumentsused upon former occasions. If any honorablemember feels particularly strong upon any item it would be wise for him to call for a division without debate.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN (Wentworth). -If thehonorable member for Canobolas so desires he can testthis matter by movingfor a reduction in the duty proposed, and calling for a division.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I do not think that the present is an opportune time to impose heavy taxation upon the foodstuffs of the people. What is the price of bacon and hams in Melbourne to-day ? If the working man wants a piece of bacon he has to pay1s. 3d. per lb. for it.
– The very best bacon in Melbourne can be obtained retail for1s. 2d. per lb.
– From1s. 2d. to1s. 3d. I can produce a receipt showing that1s. 3d. per lb. has been paid in the small retail shops.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Will the Prime
Minister arrange that the House adjourn until seven o’clock to-morrow night? The Royal Agricultural Show to be held at Flemington to-morrow is the principal show of the kind in Australia.
– The principal show in Australia is to be held in Sydney next April.
– The agricultural industry is the most important in the Commonwealth. If honorable members do attend the House not much business can be done, because the holiday feeling is in the air; and I would remind South Australian and New South Wales representatives that time after time the House has been adjourned on Thursdays, and at other times, in order to suit their convenience.
Mr.Deakin. - I regret to say that I must ask the House to meet at half- past two, as usual.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 September 1902, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020903_reps_1_12/>.