8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., -and read prayers.
Charges against Public Accounts Committee.
’.- I r I rise to a question of privilege. I wish to refer to statements made in this House in Friday last by the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), which reflect on the Chairman and members of the Public Accounts Committee. Dr. Maloney, speaking about half-past 4 p.m.- on Friday referred to the recommendation of the Committee in reference to a timber option on Vanikoro Island, which was alleged to have been secured by a Mr. Caldwell. ‘The honorable mem!ber said -
I must say that I found the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee .prepared to throw every obstacle in the way of my obtaining information, even though the evidence to which reference is made was taken- publicly, and in the presence of representatives of the press. Three legal gentlemen desired to obtain certain parts of the evidence, and I, as member for Melbourne, made a request for it on their behalf, but because one of those three gentlemen is not a persona grata with the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the request was refused.
– I object to that statement. I was acting all through under the instructions of the Public Accounts Committee.
I am instructed by -the Public Accounts Committee, of which body I am ViceChairman, to say, in reply to that statement, that in response to requests to be supplied with copies of the evidence for distribution, the honorable member for Melbourne was told, by direction of the Committee, that, as the Committee had notreported -to Parliament on this particular matter ‘at the time the requests were made, he could not be so supplied; but he was advised that there was no objection to his perusing the evidence at the
Committee’s- office. This offer, however, was not accepted. A copy of the evidence affecting Mr. Caldwell was, however, forwarded to that witness as it was received from the printer. After the Committee had presented its report to Parliament the honorable member for Melbourne was supplied with copies of all .the evidence given in public in connexion with this inquiry. ‘The honorable member for Melbourne stated further, in regard to a letter written by Mr. J. Woolf, that - .
Although this correspondence was official he (Mr. Fowler) has* to say that there was nothing in the letters which he considered worth placing on record. .This official correspondence ought not to have been suppressed.*
To that the Committee’s reply is that t?he papers referred to were in no sense “ official “ documents, nor were they placed before ‘the Committee as evidence by Mr. Caldwell. The papers consisted merely of copies of letters written to various persons by Mr. Caldwell, who had plenty of opportunity, if he so desired, of producing these letters to the Committee whilst under examination, and of having them incorporated in his evidence. There was no suppression of any documents, nor were any facts concealed’. Mr. Caldwell was given every opportunity to state his case in his own way. The correspondence referred’ to was subsequently obtained from the honorable member for Corio.
Referring to a statement by the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee about Senator E. D. Millen, the honorable member for Melbourne said -
He (Mr. Fowler) states “ that the action of the honorable gentleman (Senator ‘E. .D. Millen) was correct and honorable in every regard.” This is an* opinion, although stated as a fact, not ‘founded on any evidence or any statements made on oath by the individual concerned.*
He (Mr. Fowler) states “that if be (the Minister) erred at all, it was, in his opinion, in showing undue consideration to the, person
To that the Committee’s reply is that the statement was made by the Chairman by direction of the Committee, and is shown in Hansard, page 13206.* The honorable member for Melbourne said of- a letter that had been written -
I consider that the letter is quite pertinent to this ‘debate on the operations of the War Service Homes Commission. It refers to the case of a man who has been deeply wronged by what I consider a conspiracy, and in connexion with whose case perJury lias been committed, and the honorable member for Perth was in the chair when the perjury was committed.
To that I am ‘instructed by the Committee to reply *hat it has been repeatedly alleged that perjury has been committed by Lieut.-Colonel Walker while under examination by the Committee. But the Solicitor-General, to whom the matter was referred by the Committee, is of an entirely different opinion. He states that-
There is, however, in my opinion, nothing in the report to show that the statement was made with the knowledge that it was incorrect. Unless such knowledge can be shown there is no ground for a prosecution for perjury on proceedings under section G of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913.
Tie honorable member for Melbourne said further -
I will prove the above facts and conclusions before a High Court Judge,*
To that the Committee reply that throughout the proceedings of the Committee the Chairman acts as its mouthpiece, and, although the reports bear only the signature of the Chairman, the Committee as a whole takes the responsibility for them.
.- The quotations made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) from a speech which I delivered on Friday are, no doubt, correct, but a letter which I read is not privileged, its state-
Passages offensive to an honorable member deleted by direction of Mr. Speaker. ments are those of the writer, and the writer of that letter challenges Parliament, the Government, or any citizen to disprove his statements. I believe that perjury was committed. I read from a previous examination, and I have to thank, as .the public has to thank, Senator John
– If he has. a claim for . £50,000, why does he not take his case into the Court and prove it ?
– A man of limited means cannot afford to go to the Law Courts.
– A few of those behind this man are not of limited means.
– The evidence of the High Commissioner for the Pacific proves that Caldwell had not a tittle of claim to those lands.
– Two, three, and perhaps four times Mr. Caldwell’s signature to a letter was sworn to before the Public Accounts Committee. But the witness when challenged by Senator John D. Millen, of Tasmania, admitted that the letter had not been signed by Mr. Caldwell. The signature must have been a forgery. A witness swore in evidence that the letter was signed in the presence of three individuals, one of whom Mr. Caldwell has never seen. I ask the Government if that document which was proved to be false has since been supplied to the officer representing the High Commissioner for the Pacific?
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to a personal explanation.
Mr.Rodgers. - Even if all the statements the honorable member is making are correct, Caldwell still had no claim to those Pacific lands, for Fairley, Bigby, and Company had a prior claim.
– Of course, the Law Courtsare still open to Mr. Caldwell, but, after my experience of the High Court, I would not advise any man of limited means to go before it. In behalf of a man whom I consider has been deeply wronged, I demand the appointment of aRoyal Commission presided over by a High Court Judge to inquire into this matter. If that is done we shall have none of those “ fiddling “ methods by which the chairman consults his secretary, and the latter says that the language in a letter tendered as evidence does not please him. I withdraw nothing of what I have said. I believe that the letter quoted contains the absolute truth, and from my place I, as the representative of the city of Melbourne, demand the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry presided over by a High Court Judge to decide who is right and who is wrong.
.- As the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has mentioned my name in connexion with this matter, I desire to make a brief personal explanation. I mentioned in the House that Lieut. -Colonel Walker had said that he had been offered a bribe of £5 per cottage if he would let a contract for 10,000 cottages to a certain person. But that has nothing whatever to do withthe Caldwell case. In reply to something said by the honorable member for Melbourne, I did say, in this House, that Caldwell had tried to sell the Commonwealth something that he never possessed, in other words, a gold brick.
– For £50,000! That is exactly the position.
Mr. FOWLER presented the Fourth ProgressReport of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on War Service Homes (Queensland).
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Public Service Arbitrator has made proposed legislation the reason for refusing to decide upon the claims of the Public Service Clerical Association, will the Prime Minister send back the determination for reconsideration, with instructions to decide upon the evidence, and notupon the assumption as to what Parliament may or may not do.?
– The recent discussion in this House on this matter will be brought underthe notice of the Public Service Arbitrator.
Offer of Timber Lands by J. T. Caldwell - Commission of Inquiry.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he have printed for the information of honorable members all correspondence by Mr. J. T. Caldwell, or by Mr. J. Woolf, solicitor for Mr. Caldwell, to the Prime Minister, the Acting Prime Minister, and the SolicitorGeneral, as to the conduct and proceedings of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and the replies thereto?
– The information is being prepared.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether in view of the charges made by Mr. Ashworth, president of the Employers’ Federation, with regard to answers made by the Minister for Repatriation and the Prime Minister, will the Prime Minister bring before the Cabinet the question of the necessity of appointing a Justice of the High Court as a Commissioner to fully inquire into the administration of the War Service Homes Act? .
Mr. GROOM (for the Prime Minister). Attention is invited to the Prime Minister’s reply in the House on the 30th November in connexion with this matter.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Overtime - Extra Working Hours
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inform the House whether it is a fact that if the public servants of the Commonwealth worked an extra half-hour per day there would be a saving in overtime of £340,000?
– There would be no such saving. At present about 18,000 officers of the Public Service work at least eight hours a day. The extension of half-an-hour per day would, therefore, apply to only about 5,000 officers. In many of the offices in which the 5,000 public servants are employed, the suggested extension of the hours would have no appreciable effect, either upon overtime or upon temporary assistance. In these offices, overtime is seldom resorted to, and temporary assistance little availed of, but where the circumstances necessitate overtime or temporary assistance, the extension of attendance to 5 o’clock would not often obviate it. In the very large branches of the Public ‘Service, such as the Taxation Office, where there are about 2,000 employees, some saving might be expected as a result of extending the ordinary hours of duty. The saving in all the Departments would, however, be very slight - a small fraction of the £340,000. Even 3 per cent, of that £340,000 would be an optimistic estimate. It is presumed that the sum mentioned (£340,000) is arrived at by working out the payment at 2s. per hour to 23,000 officers for half-an-hour per day for a year. It seems to be supposed that, in an office in which six officers are employed, the effect of making the six officers work three hours extra per week would be to save 36s., i.e., eighteen hours at 2s. an hour. In practice, however, no saving at all would be effected. The business would be such as could be coped with by the officers in the present hours of duty without any overtime or temporary assistance. The extra time worked in such a case would not enable any man’s services to be dispensed with, and the effect in many cases would be merely that the staff would spread, over the longer hours, work that could be done in the present working time.
– With reference to questions which the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me , on 1st December, concerning the dismissal of lift attendant Robert Denholm, as I have already intimated, the lift attendant is not on the House of Representatives staff, but on that of the joint Houses, of which the President of the Senate is Chairman. The trouble concerning Robert Denholm occurred during the period of my recent illness, and in my absence the Deputy Speaker (Mr. Chanter), in response to references by the honorable member for Melbourne and other honorable members, made statements to the House which will be found on reference to pages 9633 and 9638 of Hansard of this session. The Deputy Speaker (the Hon. J. M. Chanter), in his statement on the 1st July, quoted from a report he had obtained from the President of the Senate (the Hon. Thos. Givens), in which it was stated that -
Denholm has not been “dismissed” - his services as a temporary employee were terminated in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service Act, to which the pointed attention of the Head of the Joint House Department was called by the Auditor-General.
The termination of his services was made by the head of the Department, under the authority conferred upon him by the Public Service Act.
On 13th July the Auditor-General gave evidence before the Senate Select Committee, in which he questioned the accuracy of certain statements contained in the report concerning his own action as bearing upon the employment of Robert Denholm. The matter is fully dealt with in the final report of the Senate Select
Committee (No. S.I.F. 18189) ordered to be printed on 31st August last, to which I refer the honorable member for more detailed information.
Messages recommending appropriations of revenue for the purposes of the following Bills reported: -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill.
Messages transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the years ended 30th June, 1920, and 30th June, 1921, and recommending appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue accordingly, reported.
Ordered to be printed and referred to Committee of Supply.
The following paper was presented: -
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at Double Bay.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend section 15 of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1014.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That leave , be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to carry into effect the Treaty of Peace with Hungary.
Bill presented by Mr. Greene, and read a first time.
Senate’s Right to Press Requests.
– I move -
That, having regard to the fact that the public welfare demands the early enactment of the Tariff, and pending the adoption of Joint
Standing Orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of Message No. 97 received from the Senate, in reference to the Customs- Tariff Bill 1921, and resolves to consider it forthwith.
– This will be. the third time that we have shelved this constitutional question.
– I appreciate the courtesy of the House in granting me leave to submit this motion. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has remarked, by way of inter,jection, if the motion be agreed to, this will be by no means the first occasion that the House has refrained from asserting whatever may be its constitutional rights or obligations in regard to a matter of this kind, but has endeavoured to put aside the question for consideration at a more opportune time. When possibly arrangements have been made for joint standing orders, the House will be able to consider this very important issue, which you, Mr. Speaker, have-raised in connexion with the Senate’s message.
– The joint standing orders cannot alter the effect of the Constitution in so far as this matter is concerned.
– No. But they can pave the way, should the occasion arise, for the proper deliberation of these issues by the two Houses. I do not propose this afternoon to discuss the constitutional question raised under section 53 of the Constitution. That has been done at length on two or three occasions, in this Chamber. The only point I desire at the moment to bring before honorable members is the absolute necessity for finalizing the Tariff.
– Can we hope to finalize it if the Senate persists in pressing its requests?
– That I admit is a difficulty. We may reach a point at which we cannot compromise any further. Should that position arise later on, the House will have to determine it. I do not think, however, that honorable members will have any doubt as to the desirableness of finalizing the Tariff at the first possible moment. The business community want to know where they are.
– Does the honorable member think it should be finalized in the way desired by Another place or as desired by this branch of the Legislature?
– As far as possible the will of this House should prevail in such matters. Honorable members know perfectly well that the Constitution has provided for the Senate making requests, but that it is more or less ambiguous as to whether the Senate may press a request over and over again or merely make a request. Thos© are questions which I do net propose to argue this afternoon. I intend to confine my remarks to the motion, which is, in substance, that, in view of the necessity for finalizing the Tariff this House, for the time being, will determine to put on one side the question of its constitutional rights and obligations, for final determination at some more convenient period, and will proceed to consider the requests of the Senate for the second time. I emphasize that the like procedure has been adopted on two previous occasions.
– But each time it was distinctly stated that that course was not to constitute a precedent.
– I do not propose to establish a precedent now. I am simply setting out the issue before honorable members; which is, that in view of the early termination of the session, it is essential to finalize the Tariff at the earliest possible moment. That being the objective, it becomes desirable that, at this moment, we should prevent a constitutional issue from arising between this House and another place. The first of the two occasions on which a’ similar situation developed was on the Srd September, 1902. The Senate returned to the House of Representatives the first Tariff Bill with a message announcing that, in relation to certain of its requests, the Senate again requested the House of Representatives to make the amendments as originally requested by the Senate; and, as regards certain other requests, the message stated that the Senate had made modifications and requested the House of Representatives to make the amendments as modified. The then honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mauger) asked the Speaker’s ruling concerning whether the message was in order and could be received by the House. The Speaker, after observing that the words of section 53 of the Constitution were open to at least two interpretations, declined to give a definite ruling which would fetter the House. On the motion of the then Attorney-General (Mr. Deakin) a resolution, similar to the motion which I have presented, was agreed to.
There have been two or three other occasions on which a somewhat similar issue has been raised. With all but one of those, however, I shall not now deal. On 21st May, 1908, a message was received from the Senate in respect of a Customs Tariff Bill in which, inter alia, it was stated, “ The Senate has resolved to further press certain requests;” and that Chamber again requested the House of Representatives to make the amendments at issue. Again, the Speaker was asked to give a definite ruling, which, however, he declined to do. He referred to the course which had been adopted in 1902, and said that it was for the House to decide whether that course should be followed. Consideration of the message was made an Order of the Day for the 26th May.Upon that date the House resolved, on the motion of the then AttorneyGeneral, that -
Having regard to the fact that the public welfare demands the early enactment of the Tariff, and pending the adoption of joint Standing Orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of the message received from the Senate, and resolves to consider it forthwith.
– But on the present occasion Mr. Speaker has given a ruling.
– You, Mr. Speaker, have not definitely ruled that the Senate cannot take the course under discussion. You suggested, sir, that it was a matter for the consideration of this House whether the Senate could press its requests after the manner which it is seeking to do. I took it, however, that you did not definitely rule that the Senate had no power to press its requests in such a manner ; but that, inasmuch as you recognised that there was, in the Senate’s message, a constitutional issue between the two Houses, instead of stating the question from the Chair in the ordinary way, namely, that the consideration of the Senate’s message be made an Order of the Day for the following day, you left a motion to that effect to be moved deliberately from the floor of the House.
– Mr. Speaker said -
I am of the opinion that the Senate, in pressing certain requests for amendments in the Customs Tariff, has exceeded the rights conferred on the Senate by section53 of the Constitution.
– Yes, but I understood, Mr. Speaker, that you did not definitely rule that the House could not receive the message.
– Mr. Speaker did more than raise the question ; he gave a definite opinion.
– Yes, but that is different from giving a deliberate ruling.
– Of course.
– And the action which Mr. Speaker suggested that the House should take, namely, that it should be for the Minister in charge to move from the floor of the House that the consideration of the Senate’s requests be made an Order of the Day for a certain day was advised with the deliberate intention of giving this House an opportunity to discuss the matter in a way which, otherwise, it could not do. I moved therefore -
That the consideration in Committee of the Senate’s message be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
Thus, it became a substantive motion on the business-paper, as honorable members now see itbefore them.
I am taking this line of action simply because I feel that if, at this stage, a constitutional conflict is raised - and it would bea fairlybitter one betweenthe two Houses - the probabilities are that the Tariff would not be finished before the House had adjourned over the Christmas holidays. And, in that event, honorable members would be required to return next year to settle the matter.
– Is that a threat?
– No; I am simply suggesting what would be the possible - or, indeed, the probable - consequences if this House were to decide that the Senate had no right to press its requests afterthe manner which it is seeking to do. I am not asking the House to decide that the Senate has the right to press its requests over and over again. I desire honorable members to put that issue on one side, for the time being, and to agree to consider the requests for the second time. What may be the result of such consideration, in relation to the discussion of the items themselves, it is impossible for me to forecast. In Committee, honorable members may be able ‘to find some means of effecting a compromise. On the other hand, it may be found necessary to press each one of the individual messages upon which the issue has been raised. It is most important that the commercial community should know exactly where it stands. Duties are being collected itoday under four separate Tariffs. In many respects, where relief has been afforded by the present Tariff, it is impossible, owing to the operation of the law, to grant that relief. May I be permitted to cite one special instance? In the course of the ‘Tariff debate it has been agreed that timber for box-making shall be permitted to enter Australia at a reduced rate of duty. Under the old Tariff that same timber is subject to a high rate of duty, and my Department cannot give the relief afforded by the lower rates in respect of that material. The Customs officials are bound to collect upon the highest rate ruling under all four of the Tariffs until the present Bill shall have become law. That is only one of the disabilities suffered by the commercial community. Of course, it is possible for another place to finally throw out the Customs Tariff Bill.
– That is not likely to happen.
– It is hardly likely the Senate will take that drastic course, but nevertheless under the Constitution it has the right to do it.
– And that is the only right it has. “
– I am not going to be drawn into expressing an opinion as to whether the Senate has or has not the right to press its requests to a Tariff Bill. I have read many of the opinions expressed by gentlemen far better versed in constitutional law than I claim to be, and find that the very highest legal authorities hold both views on this particular point with equal certainty, so that in the circumstances I am sure that honorable members will not expect me to express a very definite opinion upon the matter.
– It is wonderful how these legal authorities change their views according to the House in which they are sitting.
– I have not noticed that to the extent the honorable member suggests, but I have noticed that high legal authorities who have occupied seats in this House have taken one view, and that high legal authorities in the Senate have taken an opposite view.
– What do the Crown Law officers say ?
– I think that they have declined to express a, definite opinion one way or another, so that one does not expect much help from that source. I hope that this House will agree to follow the course I have suggested. It is not an ideal one, but in the circumstances in which we find ourselves at the present moment it is the best way out of the difficulty, and with all due respect to Mr. Speaker, I feel that, if at this period we attempted to determine the constitutional issue which has been in abeyance for a number of years, the probabilities are that our action would have results which none of us desire. I submit the motion which I have already read .
– I rise to a point of order. We considered the Tariff in this House and sent it to another place, which has returned it to us with certain requests, to some of which we have agreed, and to others of which we have not agreed. The matter having gone so far, is it in order for us now to do what the Minister for Trade and Customs desires ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), in submitting his motion, is acting in accordance with a practice already established . in this
House. The last occasion- on which the matter was dealt with was on the 21st May, 1908. Sir John Forrest had raised a point of order, “ that the Senate had not power to return any proposed law a second time with requests for (amendments,” and Mr. Speaker said -
I am not prepared to give a ruling on the question, but on ‘being asked so. to do, I ought to give the House such information as I am possessed of. In -the first place, it is impossible to* look elsewhere for precedents, because I know of no other Constitution which so distributes the financial power as does ours between the respective Houses. We must, therefore, be guided wholly by our own Constitution, and by the practice which we have set up. Precisely the same point arose on the consideration pf the first Tariff, and it was agreed by the then House that, whether or not the message which was sent, as this message has been sent, from another place to us should be received, was entirely a matter to be determined by the House itself. There was not then, there are not now, any joint standing orders dealing with the matter, so that when this question is again called on on the day for which, to-night, it may be set down, it will be for the House either to proceed with the consideration of the message, or to deal with it as it may think fit, or to refuse to consider it, precisely as the House at that moment pleases. I may remind the House that, on the last occasion, it was decided to take the message into consideration, but the following resolution was adopted: - “ 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 or obligations in respect to this message, and resolves to receive and considerit forthwith.”
That is the course that was followed on that occasion, and that may, or may not, be followed on this occasion, as the House, led by the Government, decides.
The Minister is proceeding on exactly the same lines as were followed in 1908.
– On a precedent which should never have been established.
– As to that, I offer no opinion; but it is to be regretted that the point has not been definitely settled. It cannot, I think, be settled by the Speaker’s ruling, which has no binding effect upon proceedings in another place. There is, I think, no doubt as to the right of the House of Representatives to control taxation; but how such control can be co-existent with the right of the Senate to virtually insist on the acceptance of its requests, by persistence in pressing them after this House has refused to accede to them, it is difficult to see. It is true that the Senate has no right to amend - and while a request, in itself, is not an amendment, the pressing of requests already refused is an indirect form of attempted amendment, and in certain circumstances might approximate to attempted coercion of this House, as in cases where urgency would not admit of the delay in reaching a final decision. The whole matter hinges on the interpretation of sub-section 4 of section 53 of the Constitution. It will be a matter for the House itself to determine, either now or at some future time, what attitude it is going to take to protect its undoubted right of control in matters of finance and taxation.
.-I agree with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that we should reach finality with the Tariff, but at the same time I do not think we are justified in accepting the position as he has placed it before the House. This is. the third occasion on which we have been faced with the same issue, and it seems to me that, notwithstanding the language in which the motion has been couched for the purpose of preserving the rights of this Chamber, the fact remains that by permitting this to be done every time the same trouble crops up we are on each occasion setting up a precedent.
– The trouble has always occurred on the same point.
– Thatis so, and why do we not decide it onceand for all? This difficultycropped up in 1902, and again in 1908, and on each occassion a similarly worded motion was carried, attention being at the same time drawn to the necessity for joint standing orders to deal with such an emergency. We have not yet had those standing orders framed.
– Why do not the Joint Standing Orders Committee frame them?
– The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) assures me that the Joint Standing Orders Committee have not the power to do so. If that is the case, we. have all the more reason for deciding the matter for ourselves, in order to put this House in its proper position in relation to the Senate in regard to such matters. The Minister suggests that he wants to get finality in regard to the Tariff. We all do. But how can we get that finality if we permit this game of see-saw to continue? We decided upon a Tariff schedule and sent it to the Senate. The Senate sent us back a message asking us to consider certain requests. We did so, and we returned the schedule to the Senate with a courteous message telling them that we had considered their requests, and taken certain action in regard to them. Then they took it upon themselves to send the schedule back to us again for further consideration. Surely those who framed the Constitution never intended this?
– Yes, they did.
– I am doubtful about it. My interpretation of the section of the Constitution Act dealing with this matter evidently differs from that of the honorable member for Franklin.
– I do not think the framers of the Constitution did intend it.
– Neither do I. If that was the intention, how can we hope to reach finality?
– The great difficulty is to interpret the words “ at any stage.”
– The matter ought to be settled now; and if any action we take does result in a double dissolution, let it come. Section 53 of the Constitution provides -
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
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 ofRepresentatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
As a layman, my interpretation of that section is that we shall send the Bill - in this case a Tariff Bill - to the Senate, receive and consider any requested amendments that Chamber may send down, and then return the measure with a message that we cannot comply with certain of those requests and have complied with others. In the present instance, as previously, the Senate has taken it upon itself to send the requests back to this House for reconsideration. It is plain that if such action were contemplated by this section, we could never have finality.
– It gives the Senate power of rejection without responsibility.
– That is so. We have to remember that the Senate is differently composed from the House of Representatives. We represent the constituencies, whereas the Senate represents States. There is equal representation in the Senate, which means that the small States have as much power as have the large States, so that it is possible for the representatives of a minority of the people to hold up the business of this Chamber for as long as they choose.
– That is not involved now; it is a mere question of the interpretation of the Constitution.
– Exactly; but under such an interpretation as is now suggested, the Senate has equal power with the House of Representatives.
– Exactly; the Constitution gives that power.
– My interpretation of the section is that the Senate has not equal power with us. In 1908, when this question was before the House, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) spoke, and I find that what he then said is in accord with my own views -
That is a very different matter from that with which we are dealing to-day. I hold that the Senate had a perfect right to make certain suggestions for the amendment of the Tariff as passed by this House, but this House having considered those suggestions, and having accepted some, and refused to accept others, the powers of the Senate in the matter are exhausted, and it cannot suggest further amendments, but should take the responsibility of accepting or rejecting the Customs Tariff Bill as sent from this House, after its suggestions hadbeen considered.
That is the position of the Senate, and if honorable senators are not satisfied they ought to take the responsibility of rejecting the Bill.
– Did the Senate ask for a ruling of the High Court?
– No; the High Court cannot touch the matter.
– As it is, the Senate, and not this House, has the final say.
– Yes. The then member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), now Chief Justice of Victoria, said -
Whatever may be the views taken by honorable members in regard to the constitutional question at issue, the motion of the Prime Minister is not calculated to add to the dignity or efficiency of the House, or to settle the point. It rather leaves it open, inviting further differences which may be of more serious consequence than that now existing. But there is another aspect of the matter which has not yet been put before the House. It seems to me that in this, and in all similar cases, in which a message comes from another place which it is doubtful that the Senate has the constitutional right to send, there is thrown uponyou, Mr. Speaker, the responsibility of determining whether it is properly before us. Your position as Speaker is not defined in the Constitution, but it is referred to. It carries with it the whole authority and power of the position of Speaker of the House of Commons, with this difference’: that the House of Commons is part of a unified Parliament, in connexion with which there cannot occur such difficulties as arise under, a written Constitution defining the respective rights of the two Houses of a Legislature.
It will be seen that Sir “William Irvine was of opinion that it is a matter for the Speaker himself.
- Sir William Irvine refrained from expressing an opinion on the merits of the question.
– He said, further on -
You, sir, as Speaker, are the only authority that can determine it, and this House can only affect your determination by disagreeing with your ruling if it should desire to do so. i therefore ask you to determine whether this is a message that can bc sent down from the Senate under section 53 of the Constitution?
There is a difference of opinion on the point, but I think that most honorable members consider, with me, that the matter is one for the House to determine. We cannot procrastinate any longer. If the question is not settled now it will only crop up, probably in another form, when, if we be near the end of’ the session, we shall have a proposal similar to that now before us. If we continue to pass such motions our attitude towards the Senate will become a precedent, in spite of all that may be said. There is not the slightest doubt that we ought to stand by our fights, and insist on the Senate accepting our decision. As I have said more than once, if the Senate stands on its dignity, and insists on returning these rejected requests to us again, we can hope for no finality.
– Finality will come with a. double dissolution.
– That is the only solution, and, though a double dissolution may take some time to accomplish, I see no good in pursuing the course now proposed by the Government. The Minister informs us that he is now collecting under four Tariffs, and that, in consequence, injustice is being done to some importers. That, however, cannot be helped if the Senate continues to “ stand to its guns.” If the Senate does maintain that attitude we shall rise for the Christmas recess with the Tariff still in suspense. We ought to show that we’ are prepared to meet the position that has arisen. I submit that we have been very fair and reasonable with the Senate, and treated it with every courtesy. The requests they sent down received full consideration.
– Especially those for increases of duties !
– At any rate, the requests were given fair consideration, and that ought to close the matter. We are not justified as a Parliament in continuing to pass such motions as that now submitted. .
.- Honorable members, generally, will agree with the Minister (Mr. Greene) in his statement as to the urgency of the Tariff) and if that were the only issue, the honorable gentleman would probably find a unanimous House.
– The same reason has been given each time.
– That is so. On this occasion the Tariff has dragged a long and wearisome course through both Houses. It is, I think, of the utmost importance that those who are affected by its incidence should know how and when they will be permitted to trade and manufacture under its provisions. The Minister has stated the issue quite plainly in that respect, and there is a general desire on the part of the mercantile and manufacturing community to get finality in regard to the provisions and figures, of the Tariff. But that is not the only issue, as the Minister implied rather than said. This is the third major occasion on which the issue has arisen between the two Houses, and the more we refrain from putting a stop to this procedure the more we assent tacitly to the assertions of another place. The Minister read the resolution passed in 1902 by this House, when it decided, on the grounds of public welfare, not to settle the issue with the Senate. I remind the honorable gentleman, however, and also the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), who is by his side, what the answer of the Senate was on that occasion. This House resolved-
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 or obligations in respect to this1 message, and resolves to consider it forthwith. v
The answer of the Senate to that message was a challenge of the most emphatic and proclamatory kind which could possibly issue from that House. This is what the Senate said by resolution -
That the action of the House of Representatives in receiving and dealing with the reiterated requests of the Senate ‘is in compliance with the undoubted constitutional position and rights of the Senate.
The Senate did not accept courteously the attitude of no fight which the House of Representatives put up then and- again in 1908. But in accepting the resolution of the House of Representatives, the Senate said, “ We have insisted on our undoubted constitutional rights. ‘ ‘ That was in 1902.
– The Senate adopted the same course in 1908.
– I do not think we can decide the motion of postponement proposed by the Minister for Trade and Customs without considering something of the elements’ and principles of the dispute itself. It appears to me that there is no power but the two Houses respectively that can settle this matter as the Constitution at present stands. It would be wrong to put so grave a responsibility either upon the President of another place or the Speaker of this House. A decision, so far as a decision is possible, can only be arrived at by a majority vote of the respective Houses. J believe that we cannot with propriety refer this issue to any other tribunal. The Constitution is widely open. This is the first provision of its kind that ever was framed, within my reading. It is ambiguous, and susceptible of many meanings. The High Court could not decide this issue, because neither this nor any other House would surrender the interpretation of its powers and privileges to a body of jurists created for another purpose.
Without traversing fully the merits and history of the question. I might ask honorable members to consider the position for a moment. Before the Commonwealth Constitution was framed, every Upper House within the British Empire, and I think it is quite safe to say in any other country adopting parliamentary government of our kind, was limited with respect to certain Bills. Its powers over finance were not co-equal with those of the lower, or the popular, branch of the Legislature.
– That is to say, in connexion with money Bills.
– I speak, of finance. There are various interpretations of that, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) knows. When the Commonwealth Constitution was framed two reasons apparently impelled the Convention, the Parliaments, and the people to accept the new method for the treatment of finance Bills. The two reasons were, first, that the Senate in the Federation represented the second entity in the Union. The House of Representatives represented the Federation of peoples, and the Senate the Federation of States. It was clear, therefore, that if the States were to exercise any real influence in connexion with important matters of government and legislation, the Senate must be given some concession in advance of previous practice. Then for the first time in the history of British peoples that I can recall, the franchise of both Houses of the Federal Legislature was the same, and, owing to the broad, Democratic basis on which the Senate was elected, it was felt that it ought to be intrusted with some larger discretionary powers in money matters. The Convention invented, or tried to invent,” a provision midway between no power and equal or full power, and said to the Senate, “You may accept or reject a money Bill. You may not amend it, but you may request its amendment,”, and there it stopped.
– I think that the Convention followed the South Australian practice in that.
– I ami not aware that our constitutional provision is exactly the same as the South Australian provision.
– The only difference is that in South Australia it is called the power of suggestion.
– I think the power to suggest is not quite the same eis the power to request. The honorable member may be inclined to view the question from the point of view of the Senate, as, unfortunately, for him, he committed himself to the Senate’s views, as a leader in another place when this question arose on a previous occasion.
– What meaning does the right honorable gentleman attach to the words “any stage”?
– Can the Senate request the same amendments twice? That is the real issue.
– I do not know what was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution regarding what a stage of a Bill is. Many constitutional authorities hold that there are only three stages of any Bill - that is to say, there are three major stages, the second reading, the Committee stage, and the third reading.
– There is the first reading.
– All the rest are formal and technical stages There is a motion to introduce a Bill, a motion for the first reading, and other practically formal motions, . and these are perfunctory and elementary stages. The really deliberative stages commence when the second reading is attempted, are pursued in detail in the Committee stage, and finally disposed of on the third reading. It may be held that the report stage is a stage of a Bill. But whether there are three or five stages of a Bill - and different schools of thought would decide that point differently - there are certain clear stages of a Bill, and if suggestions or requests may be made by another place at any stage of a Bill, there is still a limit to the number of stages.
– In the Convention a motion was submitted to strike out the words “ any stage,” and insert the word “ once.”
– In 1903, after thefirst collision had occurred between the Senate and the House of Representatives, a Constitution was framed in this State of Victoria. It adopted practically the principle of the power of request for the Upper House; but in order to make sure that the confusion or ambiguity, obvious in the Federal Constitution, would not occur in the State Constitution, the number of times upon which requests might be made by the Upper House of the Victorian Legislature to the Lower House, was limited. We are not in a position to make that provision here. At some stage or another, possibly by deliberation of the Standing Orders Committee of the two Houses, a modus vivendi for the settlement of this issue will have to be found. The only alternative to that is to deliberately suggest an amendment of the Constitution more specific in its interpretation of this section, and put it to the people for their acceptance or rejection.
– It is the ambiguity of the section that gives rise to the trouble.
– Quite so. But does the Minister’s proposal satisfy the House at the present time? Every time we postpone the settlement of the question we decline the challenge of the Senate. Every time the Senate receives the kind of message proposed, its determination becomes harder. If, every time the difficulty arises, the same precedent is laid down, they may contend that there is no means of interpreting the section other than the practice between the two Houses, and, as Mr. Speaker Holder very properly observed, the rights of this House become weaker and weaker.
There can be no democratic system of government, whether unitary or federal, in my judgment, which permits the Upper House to exercise co-equal powers with the Lower House on two very important matters, the first being finance, and the second the power over the Executive. Those who read constitutional history and endeavour to appreciate the importance of constitutional principles, must realize that for the safety of a democracy of any kind it is necessary to keep these two powers finally in the hands of the Lower House of Legislature. I say now that, unless the Minister for Trade and Customs accompanies his motion with a definite promise that the Government will, during the recess that is to rapidly supervene, produce for the consideration of Parliament next session some solution of this question as to either procedure or principle, the position in which this House will be left to-day will be worse than it has ever been.
– That ought to meet the situation.
– It will not satisfy every honorable member, but it will satisfy some of us.
– Should not the question be referred to managers appointed by the two Houses?
– I was going to suggest that, quite apart from the merits of the particular Bill which gives rise to the question now, the Minister might promise to recommend a procedure for the consideration of this issue between the two Houses, either in the form of a conference of managers - frequently resorted to by State Legislatures - or in some other way, which will insure a satisfactory ending of the dispute. I gathered the other day from the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in reply to a question by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), that he does not regard this issue as important. I do not know whether I took a wrong meaning from his somewhat cavalier answer to the question, but in my opinion carelessness about a matter involving basic principles of the Constitution may be fraught with danger to the Constitution and to the relations between the two Houses. He said/ in this House the other day, when asked whether an opportunity would be afforded to honorable members to debate the question, that he did not think anybody wanted to debate it. He said he could not see any burning desire in Parliament or out of it to settle the question.
– I do not think the Prime Minister intended to convey that impression.
– If one reads, as I have, the report of the Prime Minister’s remarks in Hansard, one feels disappointed that the Leader of this House should take that view, because the leader of the forces in the Senate, hearing that statement, would say, “ There is no fight in the Lower House.” This issue, and the constitutional provisions relating to it, has been the subject of innumerable trials between the Upper and Lower Australian Houses of Parliament in both Colonial and Federal days. Every time, whether the Upper House was a nominee or. an elective House, the vigilant Lower House has asserted its rights, in most cases with smashing effect.
– The Privy Council has given a considered judgment in a case in Queensland. It will be found in Keith’s Responsible Government in the Dominions, page 565.
– In the State, of Victoria we have had innumerable trials of power between the Upper and the Lower Houses, and most statesmen, Governments, and Parliaments of Victoria have been resolute in their assertion of the rights of the people’s Chamber.
– The South Australian Legislative Council went on strike for a fortnight on one occasion.
– I wish many of the Upper Houses would go on strike. An Upper House, by the way, has been “struck” in the northern part of this continent. I ask the Minister to consider with his colleagues, before this motion is finalized, whether he cannot supplement it with a statement that the Government will bring a proposal down in the next session of Parliament prescribing a procedure for the determination of this constitutional issue between’ the two Houses. I would accept that as satisfactory in the present emergency, but unless some such action is taken every recurring attempt by the Senate to attack these powers will weaken this House, as we shall find to our cost in the future.
.- While I cannot vote for the motion suggested by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), I think that he has adopted by far the wisest course in the interests of those who support the Tariff. I cannot vote for the motion because I cannot see any reason for “ shillyshallying “ with the question. I ‘think the Senate is quite within its constitutional rights in the action it has taken. Speaking as one who has opposed the high Tariff passed by this House, I think it would be an extraordinary thing on the part of this House, at this late period in the session, to refuse to recognise what the Senate looks upon as its rights, and upon which it insisted as far back as 1902. If the Senate uphold” its privileges under the Constitution, the responsibility will belong to this House of having the Bill delayed or thrown out.
– According to the honorable member the Senate has established a precedent already.
– I can quite understand that the Senate has established a precedent. It has been necessary in the past to save the face of members of the House of Representatives, and the Minister is proposing to do the same again.
– The House is being asked to consider the Senate’s message a second time without prejudice to its rights in the future.
– I think that the attitude of the Minister is most desirable, from the point of view of those who wish to see the Tariff enacted. If this House tells the Senate that it will not recognise its claim, and determines to fight it on the question of constitutional practice, the Senate, naturally, will demand the rights and privileges that the Constitution gives it. It is not a question of what one desires; it is a question of : What does the Constitution say, and what was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution when they prepared it for submission to the people of this country?
– This House can accept the Senate’s requests if it thinks fit.
– Yes, but absolute responsibility with regard to the Bill remains in the Senate. I can see no reason why this House cannot do as it has done before. Under the Constitution the Senate is given equal power with the House of Representatives in fill proposed laws, subject to the specified exceptions enumerated in section 53 of the Constitution. Under that section, the Senate is prohibited, inter alia, from amending proposed laws imposing taxation, but is enabled at any stage to return to the House of Representatives any such proposed law requesting by message the omission or amendment of* any items or provisions therein. In the case under consideration, the Senate, by a message, requested the House of Representatives to amend certain items in the Customs Tariff Bill. The House of Representatives has not agreed to all the requested amendments, and the Senate has returned certain of its requests to the House of Representatives with a message that the Senate “has resolved to press” for the said requested amendments. I think thataction is well within the province of the Senate under the Constitution. When this House considered the same question in 1902; it had valuable legal opinions before it by Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Isaacs, Sir John Quick, the Hon. P. Glynn, Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Higgins), and the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). While the opinions of these gentlemen may be of value in considering the matter, they are no more than individual opinions ; they do not create a precedent, and must not be confused with a judgment of the High Court. The matter is entirely one for the Senate arid the
House of Representatives to determine. In the case of trouble, the form for settling the dispute is to submit it to the electors by means of a double dissolution. This is provided for by the framers of the Constitution in the Constitution itself.
– The honorable member does not suggest that the Tariff should be put through this House a second time?
– I am not asking for that; but if the Government were striving for a double dissolution on the question of the rights of the Senate, and if I thought the Senate would stand to its guns, I would assist the Government to contest the Senate’s powers, so that the fight could come on. I would do so with the greatest possible pleasure in the world. The late Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Samuel Griffith, whose opinions must be looked upon with respect, said, as reported on page 9 of the notes on the draft Federal Convention, 1897: -
Whether the mode in which the Senate should express its desire for an alteration in money Bills is by an amendment in which they request the concurrence of the House of Representatives as in other cases, or by a suggestion that the desired amendments should be made by this latter House, as of its own motion, seems to be a matter of minor importance. A strong Senate will compel attention to its suggestions; a weak one would not insist upon its amendments.
As far as one can see, the substantial legal difference between the power of suggestion and the power of amendment is none other than as regards the actual responsibility of the two Houses in passing or rejecting the measure as a whole. A simple example will make this clear. In the case of a Bill which the Senate may amend, the Senate, equally with the House of Representatives, is responsible for the detail. It incorporates its amendment in the Bill, passes the Bill with an amendment, and returns it to the House of Representatives. If that House does not agree to the amendment, the Senate can “ insist on its amendment,” and thus compel the House of Representatives to take the responsibility of accepting the amendment or of sacrificing the Bill, because the Bill is in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives cannot force the Senate to take a direct vote on the Bill in its original form.
On the other hand, in the case of a Bill such as the Customs Tariff Bill, which the Senate may not amend, but only request amendments, the House of Representatives alone is responsible for the form of the measure. The Senate cannot strike out, alter, or .add one word to it, but can only suggest that the House of Representatives should do so. If that House ultimately refuses .to make the suggested amendments, the Senate must either pass the Bill as it stands, reject it as it stands, or shelve it, because the Bill is in the Senate. 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, and cannot insist on those amendments, is in a different position; if its request is not complied with, it has the power to reject the Bill or shelve it. The responsibility for sacrificing a Bill is on the House where the measure is at the time. In the case of an ordinary amendment made by the Senate, the Bill is returned with that amendment to the House of Representatives; but in the case of a requested amendment, the Bill remains in the Senate. This alone seems to be the important distinction between the right of amendment and the right of request. It would appear, therefore, that this provision in the Constitution is intended to declare nothing more than that: (1) the House of Representatives is solely responsible for the form of the money Bills to which the section relates; (2) that the Senate may request alterations in any money Bill; and (3) that if such request is not complied with, the Bill, still being in the Senate, that House has to take the full responsibility for accepting, rejecting, or shelving it as it stands, except in so far as it can say its action is caused by the House of Representatives refusing its request.
– Who said that?
– This is my opinion. Having these powers, surely it cannot be argued that the Senate must accept the rejection of its request by the House of Representatives, and has no right to press, and, if necessary, again press, its request before it decides whether or not it will reject the whole measure. It has been done over and over again. The Constitution seems to have contemplated very clearly any such situation. The rights of the House of Representatives do not prevail over .those of the Senate in the case of . amendments “suggested” by the Senate until after a joint appeal to the people. In order to test a principle, it is advisable sometimes to take an extreme case. Let us, therefore, assume that the Senate kept on repeating its suggestion, and the two Houses kept on playing at battledore and shuttlecock, what would the position be? The Constitution clearly meets the case. The Senate would not have “passed .the Bill with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree “ within the meaning of section 57 ; but it would “ fail to pass “ the Bill within the meaning of that section. The House of Representatives would, af ter the statutory period of three months, even if the Senate was still repeating its request, again pass the proposed law, either with or without the Senate’s “ suggested “ amendment. The section for the double dissolution, therefore, specifically recognises the “ suggested “ as well as the “made” class of Senate amendments. Af ter the double dissolution, the section again, in providing that the House of Representatives may again pass the proposed law, specifically recognises the Senate’s “suggested” class of amendments, and provides that the House of Representatives may or may not include these in the Bill. If, however, the Senate still exercises its right of “failing to pass” : the Bill because the House of Representatives will not agree to its suggested amendments, then the GovernorGeneral may convene a joint sitting, in the convening of which the “suggested” class of amendments are again recognised by the Constitution.
– But this issue could not be considered at a joint sitting.
– If the Senate refused .to be coerced, and failed to pass a Bill, the House of Representatives could pass the proposed law.
– That is in reference to amendments to a Bill; but in this case it is requested amendments.
– When, however, the joint sitting is held, the “suggested” class of amendments are for the first time not recognised. The joint sitting must vote only upon the proposed law as last proposed by the House of Representatives, and upon the “ amendments,” but not “ suggested “ amendments, which are at this stage omitted for the first time. It is true that theword “ suggested “ occurs in this section, and the word “request” in section 53, but clearly it is intended to apply to the same class of amendment, for there are only two classes of amendments, namely, the actual amendment as in an ordinary proposed law, and in suggested or requested amendment of proposed money and taxation laws. As the Constitution recognises . the Senate’s power of request in the double dissolution section, it is not possible to believe that it was ever intended that the Senate should, without even sending a request back a second time, reject a proposed law because the House of Representatives refused a request for an amendment sent down only once. The Senate has exercised such a right on previous occasions since the resolution of 1902 was passed without any “ without prejudice “ motions being carried. On 10th October, 1906, a message was received by the House of Representatives from the Senate returning and pressing its request for certain amendments in the Excise Tariff Bill 1906. The House of Representatives agreed to a part of the request, but rejected another part. Later on the same day the Senate sent the request back for a third time, with a message indicating that it further pressed the request. The House of Representatives agreed to the request. From the point of view of the States, and the position that was understood between them at the time of Federation, one cannot put the position clearer than to quote the words of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on 3rd September, 1902, vide Hansard, page 15705.
– The present Prime Minister was not a member of the Convention.
– No. It was some years after the Convention.
– He repeated the views he placed before the people in regard to that power.
-Yes; he placed them before the people, and expressed what he believed to be the intention of the framers of the Constitution. It is better to have an opinion formed at that time than at this juncture, when we fancy we require the power for a specific purpose. He said -
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 minds 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 terms 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 ? 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 of 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?….. Are we to say that the Senate is to have the power to make requests and ask us to accept them, and no more?
That is what we are doing to-day.
– Quite right, too!
– I am very sorry that a representative of one of the smaller States should, by an interjection of that nature, seem to favour destroying the power of the Senate.
– I am only putting the position as it is laid down in the Constitution.
– The present Prime Minister stated further - and that the Senate is to be placed in exactly the same position as that accepted by the Legislative Council of the State Parliaments. If any man had dared to stand up and tell the smaller States that the Senatehad no such power, the Constitution would never have been accepted.
This issue was fully debated in the Convention. In volume 11, page 1,996, of the debates, Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Higgins is recorded as having moved for the deletion from section 53 of the Constitution the words “ at any stage,” with the object of inserting “ once “ in their stead. This motion was negatived. Why ?
– Read what Mr. Justice Higgins said in 1902.
– I am going to do that. I want to show the pleading of the politician, who knew the Senate power was there in regard to requests.
– But the Constitution does not necessarily empower the Senate to make requests more than once.
– I think it does.
– If the Senate can do as you suggest the power of request will be stronger than the power of amendment.
– A request repeated is uncommonly like insistence.
– At all events, the Constitution was approved by the people of the Commonwealth in the full belief that power was there. As I have shown, an attempt was made in the Convention to strike out from section 53 the words “ at any stage,” and to insert in their stead the word “ once” ; but the opinion of the Convention was against this course. The late Sir Samuel Griffith, speaking on this issue in the Convention, said -
There must bc a check, and a substantial check, and if the smaller States are only going to be offered something which is nominally a check and which will not stand the test of time and use, it appears to me difficult to suppose that there will be any disposition on their part to enter into an alliance by which the)’ practically subordinate their powers and interest in every Federal question to the decision of the majority in the national assembly. . . . . My present inclination - and I think I am justified in expressing my views at this stage of the proceedings in a tentative form - is to give to the Senate the right of amending all money Bills - not of increasing the burden, but simply of exercising power of veto in detail. My present idea is that no exception, should prevail, because, of course, in Appropriation Bills, by the aid of devices of which history affords various instances, the most important question can bo raised, and any House which does not possess the power of amending or of vetoing money Bills in detail can be subjected to disadvantages which practically make them powerless.
He also pointed out that a weak Senate will give way, whereas a strong Senate would adhere to its opinion.
– - He was then arguing for equal power for both Houses.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who was then a member of the Senate, expressed himself thus during the Customs Tariff debate on 9th /September, 1902:-
There can be no doubt whatever as to rights of the Senate under section 53 of the Constitution, and if a conflict arose between the two Houses in that respect, I feci sure that the public would side with this Chamber. . . .. . My own view is that we should simply place upon record our view that the action of the Senate, in ‘repeating its request, is perfectly in accordance with its constitutional rights. I do not think that any honorable senator entertains a doubt as to what those constitutional rights are.
– I wanted to avoid a long debate upon the constitutional issue this afternoon. i
– But we have had from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) a strong demand that this House should insist upon its so-called constitutional rights, and I think it would be a mistake if we allowed the occasion to pass without comment.
– I understand the honorable member will not support the motion which I have submitted?
– Because the Minister spoke of the undoubted constitutional rights of this Chamber.
– The effect of my motion i3 that we refrain from the determination of the constitutional rights and obligations of this Chamber at this stage.
– I think I could do that. In the circumstances, the Minister has, I think, taken the proper course for the purpose of expediting public business. I think it would be a mistake to raise grave constitutional issues with another Chamber at this stage. The question can, of course, be dealt with later if the House so desires. I appeal to honorable members representing the smaller States to give this question their earnest consideration before they determine to support, in the slightest degree, the position as stated by the honorable member for Balaclava or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I am not saying anything as to what the constitutional powers of this House should be. I only claim that the Constitution should be interpreted as we find it to-day. This issue was raised shortly after Federation, and when all the events were fresh in the minds of those who were instrumental in framing the Constitution. Their opinion, as I have show this afternoon, was that the Senate, in similar circumstances on a former occasion, was acting quite within its rights.
.- I do not propose to continue the debate at any great length. We have delayed the determination of this question too long already. It was raised in 1902, 1906, and 1908, and the reasons that have been advanced to-day were given then. We are asked again to consider practically the same resolution, as was carried on that occasion.
– There is a slight difference.
– We know that it is desirable to have any Tariff settled at the earliest possible moment, and this provision of the Constitution, operating as it has, is responsible for the delay which has occurred in the determination of Tariff questions.
– We kept this Tariff about two years, and the Senate had it only a few weeks.
– The honorable member is referring to the time that has elapsed since it was introduced. The periods occupied in discussion in the respective Chambers do not bear the same ratio as the honorable member has suggested. It has been pointed out that the framers of the Constitution endeavoured to find a. solution of the difficulty that they anticipated as likely to be experienced between the two Houses in connexion with money and taxation Bills. The last paragraph of the very section under consideration shows, to the lay mind, that an exception was made with respect to laws appropriating revenue or imposing taxation. The concluding paragraph of section 53 reads -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) gave us some quotations from the remarks of the Convention delegates”, and some indication was furnished as to what was in their minds and what was done in 1891 in connexion with money Bills. The provision adopted at the Convention in 1897 reads -
In the case of a proposed law which the Senate may not amend, the Senate may at any stage return it to the House of Representatives with a message requesting the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks lit, make such omissions or amendments, or any of them, with or without modifications.
– But if it does not there is an end to it.
-Yes. That is shown by the remarks of Mr. McMillan at the Convention. He stated -
There is one matter which I should like to draw attention to with regard to suggestions. It seems to me we might add something to it to make the sub-section more complete. It says, “ And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make such omissions or amendments, or any of them, with or without modifications.” If we were to add, “ And the House of Representatives shall take into consideration such suggestions and,” it would be rendered imperative that these amendments sent down as suggestions should be taken into consideration.
That Convention did not add those words. Mr. Dobson, who represented one of the small States, and who had voted to give the Senate1 the right to amend money Bills, stated -
This sub-section gives the Senate the power of making suggestions, and we have to be content with that, as we have been beaten on the clause which sought to give them the power to amend money Bills.
There is an admission of the limitation that was inserted in the Constitution subsequently. It was remarked by the late Sir George Reid -
If we are to work the Federation in harmony, the financial business must be under the control of one House, and that the House of Representatives.
All through the debates the discussion was upon that particular point. If that interpretation is not accepted, the position will be, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. Watt), that, while the Senate is denied the right to amend money Bills, it can, by requesting amendments and by its power of rejection, exercise considerably more power than if it were given the direct right to make amendments. It would have the power to enforce acceptance of amendments at any time during the passage of a measure like a Tariff Bill without having to take the responsibility, as it must in the case of other Bills, of amending them directly or rejecting them. It is time this House did something in order that its rights may be established in relation to money Bills, and in order that the majority of the people may have their opinions reflected in our legislation. Apart from whether there is a strong or weak Senate, or a strong or weak Government, I contend that twenty-one years is too long for us to have delayed the decision of this vital issue.
– It would have been very much better if it had been settled long ago.
– In what way?
– There is only one method, and the sooner the necessary action is taken the better, seeing that at present the representatives of one-tenth of the people are sufficient in number to influence taxation one way or the other.
– Honorable membershave to consider this question from the stand-point of existing conditions. Try as hard as they may, they cannot disregard the gravity of the situation, brought about by the unconscionable delay in completing the Tariff. If the advice of some honorable gentlemen were taken, it would involve the postponement of the settlement of the Tariff question for a further considerable time. The position is - and I desire to emphasize it so that it may be truly realized by the House - that, at the present moment, we are practically collecting revenue under four Tariff instruments. The only Tariff which is at present in force as an enactment is that of 1914. Collections which have been made since, under various schedules, have from time to time been validated, and the result is this extraordinary and anomalous state of affairs, that if a rate of duty imposed by the Tariff of 1914 is higher than that, imposed by the schedule that is now the subject of the consideration of Parliament, then, although Parliament has virtually . determined that the duty on a particular article shall be reduced, the higher rate is levied. But, on the other hand, if the rate provided for in the schedulenow under the consideration of Parliament is higher than that in the 1914 Tariff, duty is collected under the schedule; that is to say, the highest duty, whether under the Act or proposed by the schedule, is always collected. That is most unreasonable, unfair, and disturbing to the trading and commercial community. The practicehas existed for many years, but it has occasioned a great deal of trouble and difficulty, and brought about many demands for refunds. Under it the commercial community suffers, and the consumer suffers. Therefore, some expedient must be found for the finalization of the present Tariff schedule, which has been before the House since March, 1920. The people will not learn with equanimity that this House and the Senate are quarrelling over what each conceives to be its constitutional rights, while the anomaly of which I have spoken remains. Let us do justice to the public, and settle this all-important Tariff matter, and afterwards take some other means to determine the constitutional rights of the two Houses, in regard to which strong and rigid claims are made by each of them.
– What would be the practical effect of passing this motion ?
– Precisely the same as that of similar, motions passed in 1902 and 1908. In regard to the dispute in the latter-named year, I had a great deal to do, as I then happened to be Leader of the Senate. What has been done on two previous occasions has been done without prejudice to the rights of this House, and the effect of passing the motion would be to preserve those rights.
– But would the passing of the motion mean compliance with, the Senate’s requests?
– No. The requests are to be considered on their merits.
– And if we do not agree to make the amendments requested by the Senate, a message to that effect will be sent to that body ?
– That is so.
– In considering our constitutionalrights, we should be in a position to consider them, altogether apart from the merits of the Tariff questions involved. So far back as 1901 or 1902, the desirability of some settlement of these matters, the establishment of some working machinery or agreement between the two Houses, was urged by the parliamentary Leaders, so that these difficulties might not arise when their discussion might be affected by the merits of the questions involved, and a proper settlement therefore be more or less prejudiced. It is useless for a member of this House to say, “ Let us settle this matter at once. Do not let us follow the precedents of the past.” In the past, the House of Representatives has asserted its rights, and has said that what it did was done without prejudice to them. When the resolution containing that assertion of rights was transmitted by message to the Senate, that Chamber said, “We will deal with this matter in a manner that will provide for the reassertion and protection of our constitutional rights.”
Time allowed for the discussion extended until its determination.
– There has been a strong and rigid assertion of rights by each of the Houses. I have been a member of the Senate, and I can assure honorable members that on this particular question each Chamber is animated by the indefeasible determination that there shall be no sacrifice of what it conceives to be its constitutional rights. It is, therefore, useless for the members of this House to say, “ We insist on this matter being settled at once.” The idea should not be held that we can coerce the other Chamber; because we cannot do so. The members of the Senate are as strongly imbued with the necessity of asserting their constitutional rights as we are, and, therefore, will not recede from their position. Thus, unless we are prepared to proceed to a double dissolution, we have no chance of settling; the question; and even that would not permanently settle it. There is a good reason why the proposal now made by the Government should be accepted. It hasbeen suggested that there may be a Convention. If that takes place, the question could then be considered; but if there is not a Convention, it is obvious that certain alterations of the Constitution will have to be made in the more or less early future. If this and the other Chamber are not going to come to some mutual working arrangement, an alteration of the Constitution will be needed. What took place anterior to thepassing of the Constitution is more or less beside the question. It is quite true, as has been mentioned, that this House in dealing with this question is justified in looking back to what took place anterior to the passing of the Constitution, in order to learn the spirit and intention of the framers of that instrument. I would point out that in 1891, when it was suggested that the Senate should be at liberty to make an amendment, and to send that amendment down to the House of Representatives once only, that was objected to. For what reason? Sir Samuel Griffith said on that occasion, “ Under such conditions you would cripple and cramp the power of the Senate,” and the Convention accepted the view that it was undesirable that the Senate, which is a very different body from the Legislative Council of a State, should be so restricted in its powers. Honorable members should not run away with the idea that the Senate is similar to a Legislative Council ; its powers are infinitely more important. When, in 1897, the Convention was considering the draft Constitution, Mr. Justice Higgins, then Mr. Higgins, wished to amend the provision, “ The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives,” by striking out the words “ at any stage,” with a view to inserting the word “ once,” so that it should be competent for the Senate to send back its requests once only. The Convention would not agree to that amendment, because its adoption would have crippled and cramped the powers of the Senate, and the provision was allowed to remain as drafted. The Constitution, therefore, now reads, “ The Senate may at any stage.” When the word “may” is used, it connotes absolute and complete discretion so far as the Senate is concerned. The words “at any stage” are not limited in their meaning by the ideas ordinarily associated with stages of a Bill ; they mean at any time while the Bill is before Parliament. That is, the Senate may at any time make these requests.
– You suggest that “stage” does not mean the stage of a Bill; that it means time; but that contention only adds to the ambiguity.
-Precisely. Honorable members are not to think that the Constitution is capable of but one interpretation in this matter, and that an interpretation in favour of the view taken by the House of Representatives. The Senate may at any time make a request. If it had been intended that the power of making requests should be limited to the making of one request, that would have been expressed in the Constitution, but no such limitation appears there. The Senate may make its requests, and then persist in them.Thus we arrive at this position. Honorable members must understand that the Senate simply claims and asserts its rights. It claims that section 53 of the Constitution gives it a certain power in regard to financial Bills. The Senate cannot originate proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation. The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue, and the Senate may not amend any proposed law as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people, but -
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 -
Each House has its own absolute and complete discretion in the matter - make any of such omissions or amendments with or without modifications.
Then follows this significant paragraph - Except as provided in this section the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
– According to the honorable member, the Senate could send a request here to-day, we could refuse to comply with it, and the Senate could return it again to-morrow, and that could go on ad infinitum. That would be absurd.
– The Senate has a right to persist in any request.
– How long do you suggest that this game of battledore and shuttlecock might continue ?
– The game may continue until the question is settled by compromise or otherwise. If this cannot be brought about, then the Senate must decide to either accept or reject the Bill., If the Senate refuses to pass the Bill, machinery is provided by the Constitution for arriving at a settlement.
– And it was deliberately provided for that purpose.
– Exactly. Neither House can settle this question by its own separate determination ; it can be settled only by mutual arrangement between the two Houses. The situation will not be eased by any dogmatic expression of the constitutional rights and powers of either House.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that unless a person is dogmatic he has no rights.
– There is a lot in that; but it often happens that a man is most dogmatic when he has no case. I claim that a settlement must be a matter of mutual arrangement, and it is the duty of the Government to take action to that end. In 1902 the opinion was expressed that the constitutional rights of the two Houses must be settled apart from the immediate issue on which the Tariff question was raised. So, too, to-day we must settle this dispute as a constitutional issue, and apart from the merits of the question which is immediately before the House. The best course is to follow the precedent established on two previous occasions. I quite agree with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that the Government “are called upon to take this matter into immediate consideration, and I reiterate the statement that if no Convention to consider the Constitution is held, some amendment of it, at the instance of this Parliament itself, must be made.
– The Senate might throw out the Bill.
– Both the Senate and this Chamber should be animated by a desire to make mutual concessions, with the object of arriving at a common working arrangement between the two Chambers. It is most undignified for the two branches of the Legislature to be quarelling over this matter. It is useless to abuse the Senate because it is insistent on what it regards as its constitutional rights. It has as much right to do that as has this Chamber. An arrangement by mutual agreement is the only method of overcoming the difficulty.
.- The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) very ingeniously, and at considerable pains, endeavoured to show that a defence of the rights of this House would interfere with the convenience of honorable members and others. That is a consideration whichI do not think should be allowed to influence us. Those who have studied the doings of the Federal Conventions will admit that their intention was that the Senate should have no power over money Bills, except when the rights of the States were at stake.
Nobody outside a lunatic asylum will deny that a Tariff Bill is a taxing measure, and are honorable members in favour of allowing the Senate to dictate the taxation of the Commonwealth? Only if the Customs Tariff Bill interfered with the rights of’ the States could the Senate persist in its objections. No Constitution providing for a bicameral Legislature permits the second Chamber to interfere with taxation. Of course, the American Constitution is framed by the Americans themselves, but the first granted under the British Crown was that of the State of New South Wales, and it and all those which have subsequently emanated from the same source, and which recognise the authority of the Crown, have emphatically provided that the second Chamber shall not interfere with measures for the imposition of taxation. The men who drafted the New South Wales Constitution many years ago had no experience to guide them, but that document represented their conviction that under the British Constitution the second Chamber is merely a House of revision, and should have no power ‘ of taxation.
– The New South Wales second Chamber is not an elective body.
– That does not alter my argument. The elective second Chamber of the Victorian Legislature is similarly limited in regard to powers of taxation. And it must be remembered that , when there are two elective Chambers, they are elected on different franchises. The Federal ‘Constitution empowers this House to impose a Tariff, and the Senate cannot alter it. We might ignore the Senate’s requests by continuing to collect the duties imposed by this Chamber, and then at the close of the Parliament pass a special Bill to indemnify the Government in respect of all money collected under the Tariff. The very fact that the duties fixed by this Chamber continue to be collected until this Chamber alters them supports my argument that the Senate has no power in relation to Customs -taxation. The time has come when we must take a stand in defence of the privileges of this House, and we should lay it down that the return of the Tariff to this Chamber with requests is the final stage. If we acknowledge the right of the Senate to request amendments, and when they are not made to press their requests and continue pressing them indefinitely, there can be no finality to the procedure. The framers of the Constitution must have understood the need for finality, and they must have intended the Senate’s power to be limited’ to the making of a request. Of course, the framers of the Constitution worked under great difficulty. The States and interested parties were trying to block Federation, and the Constitution, as finally agreed to, was the best compromise that could be devised. I feel confident that if the framers of the Constitution had intended that both Houses should have equal powers in respect of taxation measures they would never have provided for the equality that exists in the representation of the States in the Senate. Both the Canadian and South African Constitutions provide that the second Chamber shall have no voice whatever in regard to taxation. When the South African Constitution was being changed the advice of Mr. Alfred Deakin and Mr. . J. 0. Watson were sought, and they pointed out the anomalies in the Australian Constitution. My attitude upon this constitutional issue is not influenced by the fact that this discussion has arisen in, connexion with the Tariff. Any other attempt by the Senate to dictate taxation would compel me to take the same stand. If the Customs Tariff Bill interfered with the rights of any States the Senate would be within its constitutional powers in resisting it to the utmost, but no such question has arisen, and we should proceed to operate the Tariff as it left this House regardless of the opinions of the Senate. Does any honorable member believe that, if the matter were submitted to a referendum of the people, they would agree that the second Chamber should decide what the taxation should be? I was somewhat surprised at the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). I thought that he would have taken up a very strong stand, and would not have been prepared to gloss over this attempted invasion of our constitutional rights. The proposal he has made should not be tolerated by the House. It is absolutely unthinkable that we should evade this issue to-day on the; understanding that it shall be definitely raised next session. Next session we shall all be making electioneering speeches, and if, we do not now settle this question once and for all, I am convinced that we shall not be afforded a chance to deal with it next year. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) would have us be guided by precedents. I am tired of hearing of precedents. Parliament, in matters of this kind, should bring its own common sense to bear. There is no reason why we should slavishly follow precedents created in years gone by, in circumstances that do not obtain to-day. If we are to be continually hedged about by precedents, we shall never accomplish any valuable reform. The House should be prepared to say at once that the’ Senate is not entitled to press its requests. I do not know what would be the effect of some of the amendments of the Tariff which another place is pressing us to make. The amendments, whatever they may be, are of little consequence compared with the vital issue as to whether or not the Senate shall be allowed to encroach upon the rights of this House in regard to matters of finance and taxation. Surely we aro not prepared to disregard this attempt, on the part of another place, to invade our constitutional privileges, merely because it would not suit the convenience of some honorable members to remain here until the whole question has been fought to a finish. I think that if the honorable member for Balaclava had known my views on this subject he would riot ha,ve spoken as he did. We should tell the Senate that in matters of finance and taxation the House of Representatives is supreme. I think that the Senate, in deciding to press certain requests, was influenced- by the belief that since the end of the session was close at hand, we should not be disposed to combat its demands. I am convinced that honorable members generally share my view, which is a common-sense one, and I hope that we shall decide that there shall be no infringement of our constitutional privileges on the part of another place.
– I desire briefly to address myself to this question of the relations of the two Houses, which has been discussed in this Chamber on more than one occasion. In dealing with it, we must have regard, first of all, to the business out of which the constitutional issue has arisen. Honorable members generally admit the pressing necessity for passing the Tariff. If there is one question of outstanding public importance which demands determination at the earliest possible moment, it is that of the Tariff, because for many years - even from the beginning of the war - the whole Commonwealth has been anxiously awaiting Tariff revision. I urge honorable members, in dealing with this question, to keep that point in view. It is only because of the urgency for the early enactment of the Tariff that the Minister has submitted this motion.
The relations of the two Houses received a great deal of consideration at the hands of the Federal Convention, and those who have read the Convention debates are perfectly clear on the point that it was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that the Senate should be but a reproduction of the State Legislative Councils, with their limited outlook and status. The Convention created a Federal Constitution, in which provision was made for a people’s House, based upon the popular will, and a Senate as a revising Chamber, designed to fulfil the functions ordinarily discharged by a second Chamber, but at the same time, to possess, with certain exceptions, coordinate powers of legislation. In order to determine what was intended, we have not to look at the speeches of members of the Convention. We have rather to examine critically the actual wording of section 53 .of the Constitution. That section, taken in conjunction with the whole fabric of the Constitution, makes it clear first of all that proposed laws appropriating revenue, or imposing taxation, shall originate in the House of Representatives. In that respect this House is supreme, and to that extent it has the controlling power over finance. Responsible government is possible only when the control of the Executive is vested in the popular House, and honorable members are aware that the Constitution vests that control in the House of Representatives. With reference to the proposition immediately before us, we have to ask ourselves what are the respective rights of the two Houses, and whether the Senate is entitled, at any particular stage, to repeat a request for the amendment of a Bill imposing taxation. The Senate has taken up the strongest possible attitude with respect to its right to press such a request, and the House of Representatives has, before to-day, expressed just as strongly the opinion that the Senate is not entitled to press its requests for the amendment of a measure of this kind. If we return the Bill to the Senate with an intimation that we refuse to entertain its requests, when repeated, then whatever may be the outcome we must stand by that decision. In that way a deadlock might occur, and lead to the dislocation of the whole of the business of the Commonwealth. Neither House could lightly regard such a situation. The whole workingof constitutional government, both in the United Kingdom and in the Commonwealth, has proved, in respect of the two Houses, where each possesses certain absolute powers, that if it is desired to carry on the business of the country without continual conflicts there must be a certain degree of give and take.
– But it should not be a matter of all give and no take.
– Not necessarily. Hitherto, if both parties had made extreme claims and had insisted on their particular rights, there could only have followed a deadlock, with resulting confusion and trouble. Common sense suggests, however, that when faced with such a serious position both Houses should, for the time being, refrain from pressing their respective claims, and should endeavour to find some way of getting over the difficulty. That is what is now being sought. Honorable members are desired merely to agree to the motion. I admit that the present occasion will have been the third on which a similar method has been adopted.
– Actually the fifth.
– ‘The third in respect of a Tariff schedule.
– The mere acceptance of this suggestion does not establish any rights in the Senate.
– It will not, cannot, alter the legal and technical position respecting the constitutional powers of this Chamber. Failure on the side of one party to exercise its powers may strengthen the determination of the other party. That is all that one can say regarding the present situation. There is no question of this Chamber waiving any of its constitutional rights; whatever rights the House of Representatives may possess still remain with it. I do not wish at this moment to go into strict legal interpretations. There have been two diverse views expressed by men who attended Constitution Conventions, and by others who were not delegates thereto. The question is not one of pure legal construction. There must be considered the best methods by which constitutional government can be carried on in Australia. That should be the determining factor in deciding the relations of the two Houses each to the other. I agree entirely with the view that twenty years is a long enough period to have been allowed to elapse, with this matter still remaining open, without any attempt on the part of the House of Representatives to get into touch with the Senate in order to bring about a solution.
– A solution by what means ?
– ‘What I propose to suggest to the Prime Minister - and I am taking this course entirely on my own responsibility - is that steps should be taken to ascertain if standing orders cannot be devised by the two Houses under the guidance of which we may be able to regulate procedure whenever again this issue may arise.
– Cannot the Minister suggest the introduction of a Bill for the alteration of the Constitution?
– That would be a matter for Parliament to decide. In the interests of Australia it might be better, perhaps, instead of having a rigid Constitution, that it should be so amended as to provide a greater measure of elasticity. The more play permissible and practicable, before a crisis has developed, the better the prospects for the good government of the country.
– But it might not be possible to devise joint standing orders.
– We can only wait until negotiations may have reached that stage ; but I feel that some definite attempt should be made to bring the matter before Cabinet, and then before Parliament, to see if there cannot be arranged some method for framing joint standing orders bearing upon the respective rights of the Houses in regard to the particular points at issue.
– If this Chamber should for the third time adopt the course proposed,, and should then move in the direction of devising joint standing orders, a tremendous advantage will have been given in respect of pressing the claims of the Senate.
– I do not think so. Under the Constitution the control of these measures, the power to make amendments, the power to originate, rests entirely with this House. In the course of a dispute a stage must ultimately come when this House would be bound to say, “ We are the controlling Chamber; we intend to exercise our powers, of control over finance”; and then, if the other place did not agree, we would throw upon that Chamber the responsibility for acceptance or rejection.- But have we yet arrived at that stage?
In considering the Tariff schedule, Parliament has been dealing with a matter covering thousands of items and effecting taxation over an exceedingly wide area. At this stage I ask if honorable members think we have arrived at such a critical point in the course of the Customs Tariff Bill that the House of Representatives would be justified in sending back the Senate’s pressed requests with the message - “ You must either accept the items in dispute as we have sent them to you or take responsibility for throwing out the whole measure. ‘ ‘ The only way in which the issue may be determined, other than in the manner proposed for the acceptance: of honorable members, would be to issue, practically, a challenge. First, however, an endeavour should be made to secure the easy working of our Constitution so that ultimately in the making of our laws we might feel that we did not only express the sovereign will of the people, but of the States also, as represented in the Senate, thus securing true representation of the whole) of Australia in the Federal Legislature. All I ask honorable members to do is to agree to the motion, to preserve the rights of this House, and then, at some future opportune stage, to consider the framing of joint standing orders which may provide a satisfactory determination upon the subject-matter of the dispute between the two Chambers.
– I agree that this is not a time to go very deeply into the constitutional aspect of this matter. But this is the third occasion on which I have heard ‘a similar debate, arising upon an identical issue as between the two Houses of the Federal Legislature. And on two other ocasions the position ‘of this House, in relation tq certain requests of the Senate, has been waived without question, and even without the consideration of a pious motion such as honorable members are now asked to accept. As one who may be regarded as a student of these matters generally, I have taken considerable interest in the Constitution Conventions. Practically every leading man in the 1897 session of the Convention looked upon the power of suggestion and the power of amendment as identical.
– That is absurd.
- Mr. Higgins and Mr. Isaacs were the two delegates who differed upon that point with such men as Mr. Reid, Mr. Barton, Sir Josiah Symon, Sir Joseph Abbott, and Mr. Carruthers. I have taken a few extracts from the records of the 1897 proceedings. Sir John Downer said -
Both the power of amendment And the power of suggestion will practically depend on the strength of the body which has the authority to exercise it.
Sir Joseph Abbott said
I hope that the common-sense of the members of the smaller States will enable them - if they are in earnest about Federation - to accept this principle of suggestion. Practically, it is absolutely the same as the principle of amendment. “ There is this difference, that the people have been so educated with regard to the turmoils and disputes with Legislative Councils. . . . The people have got an idea that the Senate will be a type of our Legislative Councils. The Senate will be nothing of the kind. I look upon it that the Senate will be filled with the best men in Australia.
Mr. O’Connor said
If you place the power in the Senate of throwing out a measure or of amending it, and, therefore, moulding it, you cannot say the moulding of the measure is in the .hands of one House. It is in the hands of the House which can show itself the strongest in having the greatest staying power. When you put that in the hands of a House not subject to dissolution, which has a fixed existence, I say you arc putting in the hands of the second Chamber the power of dislocating the Government of the country and of absolutely stopping the machinery of responsible government.
Here is a very important phrase, because, upon it, hangs the whole question of the double dissolution. I have no hesitation in saying that if, when the Convention was dealing with this power of amendment or of suggestion, there had been the provision which was afterwards inserted in the Constitution in respect of the double dissolution, the Senate would have been given the power of amendment. The reason why the word “ suggestion “ was inserted in place of “ amendment “ is indicated in a phrase of Mr. O’Connor, “You are placing it in the hands of a House over which you have no power of dissolution.” The debates of that Convention must be read, so to speak, ‘backwards, for the reason that the power of double dissolution was not contained in the Constitution when the other provision was decided upon for insertion. I emphasize that, with the exception of one outstanding character in the public life of Australia, namely, the late Sir Samuel Griffith, the gatherings of 1897 contained an assembled array of talent such as Australia had never before seen, and will never know again. Practically every delegate, I repeat, with the exception of Mr. Isaacs and Mr. Higgins, agreed that the power of suggestion was tantamount to the power of amendment. I shall proceed to quote the words of Mr. Josiah ‘Symon, as follow: -
The same result would follow in the case of suggestion as in the case of amendment. The only difference is as to the form in which it should be adopted. . . . Exactly the same results have followed in regard to suggestion in South Australia, where the method of suggestion prevails, and they will follow the method of amendment that we wish to prevail of amendment in the Senate of the new Federation.
Sir Joseph Carruthers said
They propose to give the Senate power tq make suggestions as to money Bills, which, to my mind, are equal to amendments.
Sir George Reid interjectedxx
I was always against it.
Sir Joseph Carruthers continued
Mr. ‘McMillan has said that the whole thing is a dispute over the choice of words, and that position, to my mind, is absolutely incontestable. If you want to debar the Senate, as representing a minority of the people of Australia, from having co-ordinate powers in regard to taxation and other Bills, you will not do so by depriving it of the right of amendment, and leaving it the still larger power of veto and rejection.
On the question of the use of the word “once,” Mr. Higgins - who was, at the Conventions, the most consistent advocate of reducing the powers of the Senate - proposed that this word should be inserted; but I think that there were only three members of the Convention who were in favour of his proposal. By the division thus taken, the Senate was deliberately given the power of making repeated suggestions; but when the Convention realized the power it had thus given to the Senate, it inserted in the Constitution a clause, the object of which was to provide means of preventing deadlocks. This was the double dissolution clause referred to by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), and it really is the only means by which we can settle the issue between this House and the Senate. The suggestion for the appointment of a Joint Committee to devise joint standing orders is like a drop of water falling on a granite block. Even more futile is the suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) that we should send a Bill to the Senate asking it to approve of submitting something to the people which will limit its power. The Senate would merely put such a measure on one side. The Constitution already contains ample provision for deciding any issue between the two Houses. A Joint Committee would prove worse than useless.
– Joint standing orders can be drawn up with the consent of the Senate.
– Of course; but it all comes back to the one point that we would require to secure the consent of the Senate to the cutting of their own combs politically. The Senate will ]]n l agree to do so. Sir Samuel Griffith’s words concerning the powers of the Senate have become almost historic. He has pointed out that there is no difference between the right of amendment and the power of suggestion, because a strong Senate will insist on its suggestions, while a weak Senate will not insist upon its amendments. I think that the Senate ‘? quite within its powers. It has always insisted that it has the power of making requests and insisting upon them. It is useless to camouflage the issue. In 1902 the Senate deliberately threw down the challenge to this House to force a double dissolution on this particular issue, and this House dodged it. Again, in 1908, the Senate took up exactly the same stand, that it was well within its rights in insisting on its requests. There was no camouflage about its attitude. In 1906 and in 1914 the Senate insisted on its requests, and this House considered them even without passing any resolution on the lines of the motion which has been submitted to-day. This, therefore, is the fifth occasion on which the same question has arisen in connexion with Tariffs, although it is only the third occasion on which we have had a motion submitted stating that we are prepared to consider the Senate’s message without waiving any of our rights by doing so. As pointed out by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), our Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was emphatic on the point that the Senate was quite within its rights, and he went further, and said that if it had been suggested that the Senate was not to have this power, he doubted whether the smaller States would have accepted the Constitution. Coming fresh from the first elections, after the Conventions, the right honorable gentleman said that he and others in the State of New South Wales had fought the Constitution, although not on that particular issue. If honorable members will take the time and trouble to go through the three Convention debates, especially those of the Adelaide Convention, they will see that the great consensus of opinion was that the Senate should be granted this power. It was only when it was discovered that this power had been granted to the Senate that, taking advantage of the absence of the Western Australian delegates, who had left for their homes, the double dissolution provision was rushed through on the second day before the Convention ended, and it was inserted in the Constitution entirely for the purpose of making provision to meet such an emergency as has now arisen. It is useless to attempt to play with this matter. We must either accept the position that the Senate has this power or fight the Senate, and we can only fight it by bringing about a double dissolution, which we would be lunatics to do on an issue such as this.
Mr.BOWDEN (Nepean) [5.57]. - I agree with the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who says that in the framing of the Constitution the House of Representatives was made the people’s House, and the Senate was made a revising Chamber and the representative of the States. Under the Constitution of every British Dominion the people’s House has the sole determination in regard to money Bills. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) must admit that section 53 of the Constitution Act was inserted as a compromise between the views of those who considered that the Senate should have the power to amend money Bills and those who held that it should have no power in regard to such measures except to accept or rejectthem. Like all other compromises, it has ever since led us into a good deal of trouble and perplexity. I do not agree that this is a small issue on which to fight the Senate. It is one of the most important constitutional points we could have under consideration, and is worthy of the best attention and thought of honorable members. It has always been a difficult question, and has been looked at from various stand-points. Opinions, however, have always been coloured according to the stand-point from which the question has been viewed. Quick and Garran, dealing with the matter, say -
The money Bills which the Senate cannot amend are Bills imposing taxation and Bills appropriating money for ordinary annual services. Bills of this description canot be amended by the Senate, but it may, at any stage, return them to the House of Representatives with a message, requesting the omission or amendment of any item or provision. Under this law the Senate can suggest amendments in the ordinary annual appropriation Bills and in tax Bills such as a Bill to impose duties of Customs and Excise. If the suggestions thus made were not entertained the Senate would have to pass or reject those Bills, as sent from the House, so that the responsibility of final acceptance or rejection would remain with the Senate as if no suggestion had been made. …. In the case of a Bill which the Senate may not amend, the House of Representatives alone is responsible for the form of the measure; the Senate cannot strike out or alter a word of it, but can only suggest that the House of Representatives should do so. If 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 on its suggestions, because there is nothing on which to insist. A House which can make an amendment can insist upon 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 for its action.
That was the position argued for all through. I quite agree with the Minister (Mr. Groom) that, after all, the procedure suggested to-day will have no effect upon the interpretation of section 53. We cannot, in interpreting the meaning of a section of an Act, pay any regard whatever to the intention of the framers of the Constitution, hut, nevertheless, that intention can guide us to a certain extent. We know that this particular provision was one of the crucial questions brought before the Convention. In fact, at one stage, at Adelaide, if a vote had been taken on one particular day, the whole Bill would have been wrecked. It was only saved because, after a night’s reflection, five of the representatives of the smaller States put the larger interests of Federation before the interests of their States, and voted for this amendment. Otherwise there might not have been any Bill to put before the people. When the question first arose in this Parliament upon the first Tariff Bill, the conditions differed somewhat from those in existence to-day. The State Tariffs were then in operation, and were to continue until the Federal Tariff was enacted. There were, therefore, special reasons why the latter should come into force as soon as possible.
– That was only a difference in circumstances,and not a difference in principle.
– It was the difference in the circumstances which led to the adoption of the resolution, the effect of which was to shelve the issue for the time being. These were Mr. Deakin’s words at the time -
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 difficulty.
Mr. Higgins suggested that the first step was the most important. Thereupon Mr. Deakin said -
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.
Mr. McLean then interjectedxx
Does the honorable gentleman think we can . retrace our steps if we take an unconstitutional step now?
To this Mr. Deakin replied -
I do not think that the House, by acting as we now propose, will place any fetters on its future action.
At another stage, one member of the Convention suggested that the proposal was to put a keg of dynamite in the basement ofhis House; and Mr. Deakin while admitting that the thing was loaded, and was more or less a keg of dynamite, said it was proposed to put it at such a great distance, that, even if it exploded, it would affect neither party to the transaction, but that, of course, the process in which they were engaged could not be continued ad infinitum. We have been asked for twenty years to pass a resolution that begs the issue involved. Compromise always creates a crop of difficulties. Parliaments which have preceded us, whenever the question has come up, have put it on one side, declaring that this House was not giving up any power, although every sane man must recognise that each time we give way, whether we say we are raisinga constitutional issue or not, we weaken our position and strengthen the position of the Senate.
– Do you say that?
– I say that. As before quoted, the section provides -
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
There is a distinct statement, in spite of what the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has said about amendments and requests being the same thing. There is a distinct provision in the Constitution itself that the Senate may not amend such Bills. The section goes on -
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 question has been raised again and again as to what “ at any stage “ means. I take it that the words mean that at any stage of a Bill, not at any time, but at any of the distinct Parliamentary stages of a Bill, the Senate may make a suggestion or request to us to amend. If that request be dealt with, I think that at any future stage of the Bill the Senate could make any other suggestion, but I do not think that the phrase “at any stage” means that the Senate can mak the same request at different stages of a Bill; certainly I do not think it means that the Senate can make a request several times at one stage of the Bill; and that is what the Senate proposes to do now. When the Senate has, at a certain stage, made a request, I do not think it is constitutionally possible for it to make the same request again at the same or any other stage. The Constitution does not, I think, give the Senate power to make identically the same request at any other stage, although, while the Bill is in its control, it may desire to make some other request. I take it that the section really means that this House shall give its careful attention to the finances of this country; that the Senate may review our action, and if it thinks a mistake has been made it may request alteration. But if after courteously and carefully considering such request, this House arrives at a decision, then the Senate’s power is exhausted, and they must either accept or reject the .Bill as a whole. As to “And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit,” I do not exactly know the power of the phrase, but I know that the section originally read, “ And the House of Representatives may make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modification,” and it was on the motion of Mr. Higgins that the words “if it thinks fit” were inserted, in order to show that, although the requested amendments might be made, the final decision on the request was entirely a matter for this House. The words “ Except as provided in this section,” are, in themselves, an admission that the Senate has less power than the House of Representatives. That paragraph of the section reads -
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 all other questions the Senate has equal power, then the deduction is plain that it must have less power in regard to money Bills, I remind the House that we cannot go on indefinitely doing what is now proposed. “We have passed such resolutions before, but actions speak louder than words; and when we say to the Senate, “ We do not believe you have the power, but we will let you exercise it this time “ - and we are now asked to permit it for a third time - the position becomes farcical, and must come to an end. This issue arises with every Tariff, and will continue to arise unless we do as we ought to do, face it and make it impossible in the future. Of course, there is the argument of the expediency of the moment, an argument that has been raised every time the question has cropped up. It is important, in the interests of the community as a whole that the Tariff should be finalized; but it is also in the interests of the community as a whole that this issue shall be settled once for all, and an end put to this constant debate and argument; and in the interests of the community there should be no giving way to the Senate on the question of money Bills. We must hold our power if we are to be a democratic community and a democratic Government. Of course, it is always easy to give way, but there is a time when to give way becomes ignoble and shameful. If such requests are repeated over and over again, they cease to be requests and become demands; and we cannot have any demand from the other House on questions connected with the finances of the country. The Senate announces that it “does not again request,” or the Senate has “ resolved not to press its requests “ -on certain items; but the Constitution gives the Senate no power to pass such resolutions - it has no power to make such announcements^ I hope, we shall have the courage to deal with this matter. It has been suggested, not only that it is expedient from the point of view of the public that we should settle this matter, but that it is expedient for ourselves. I hope, however, that such considerations will not influence honorable members in dealing with a constitutional principle of this magnitude. I am quite prepared to stand by our decision - quite prepared to take the consequences of the vote I give. The issue is of so much importance that, even if all those dire things that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) suggested do eventuate, I am prepared to face them.
.- I suppose I am describing the position, not only of myself, but of other honorable members, when I say that if we do finally consider the schedule later, I shall certainly favour one or two of the proposals the Senate has made. At present, however, I feel it incumbent on me to vote against the motion of the Minister (Mr. Greene). It is about time that this House insisted on what are its real rights. The honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) has quoted Quick and Garran, which is perhaps the best authority on our Constitution; and in my opinion the Senate on this issue is absolutely out of court. Realizing that, I am not prepared to assist the Senate to flout the opinions of the House and assert rights that the Constitution does riot give.
– I am exceedingly sorry that the Government have determined to treat this important matter in the way it has. Of course, the Government has warrant for the action proposed to preserve the rights of the House of Representatives, but we have to look forward to the future, when succeeding Governments will be in the position in which the present Government now finds itself with regard to the claims of the Senate. Those claims can only be asserted on a measure submitted by a Government, and, as in the past, so in the future, a Government will desire to get its measure through rather than to conserve the rights of this House in the financial administration of the Commonwealth. But those of us who remember the initial debates with regard to Federation know that this Constitution would never have come into being with the States equally represented in the Senate unless the compromise of 1891 had been made. To argue now that there is no difference between a request and an amendment is to fly in the face of the whole history of Federation. Sir Henry Parkes originally suggested that the power of the Senate on finance should be completely and definitely expressed in the Constitution, and he would never have wavered from his position had it been made clear that the power to be given under this compromise was not a power equal to the power of amendment. Yet I venture to say that, in practice, we are asked to assent to-day, not only to the power ‘ of suggestion being made equal to , the power of amendment, but to it being made superior. What would have happened if the Senate had the power to amend? The Senate would have incorporated in the Customs Tariff Bill as amendments the proposals which they sent to the House of Representatives as requests, but would have passed the Bill as so amended. This House would have considered the Bill, as amended by the Senate, and passing judgment on the amendments would have accepted or rejected them, and the Bill would then have been returned to the Senate as it finally left the House of Representatives. The Senate could not go on repeating its amendments, as it is now suggested it may repeat its requests, regardless of whether the House of Representatives accepted or rejected them. We have to ‘assume that the framers of the Constitution intended to give us a workable instrument of government. We have to assume that they intended that requests should carry less weight than amendments, otherwise they would have used the customary term. We have to assume further that the final word should rest with the House of Representatives. That is evident in every phrase used in the section governing the matter. This House is to adopt . the Senate’s requests “if it sees fit.” There is no power given to the -Senate to repeat a request. It has the right only to make it. A request within the meaning of the section is not a demand: It is something submitted tb a body which has the right to refuse and to continue to refuse it.
This matter is* of the gravest importance in a Constitution such as-ours. In the Senate, the State of Tasmania has equal power with the State of New South Wales, although its population is little more than the population of two New South Wales electorates for the House of Representatives. In the Senate the representatives of the small= States are in a majority, and if we are to accept the proposition submitted by the Government, the Senate may interfere with a Tariff which affects trade and industry in all of the States. Its requests do not concern only one State or the small States, but industry and commerce throughout the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, to accept the proposition put forward would be tohand over the power of this House, which represents the people to the Senate, which represents the States. We are being asked, in effect, so far as trade and industry in Victoria and New South Wales is concerned, to hand it over to the determination of representatives of the small States, without being able to resent their action.
I differ entirely from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) as to the position that exists to-day. I say that we never have been in a better position to insist upon the rights of this House than that which we occupy in connexion with the Customs Tariff Bill. The Senate dare not reject the Tariff. If this House is determined to stand by the right which the Constitution gives it, and the right to which it is entitled as representative of the people of the Commonwealth, we shall place the Senate in the position of claiming before the electors of Australia that the government of this country is to be, not by the people,but by the States. Honorable members may picture the Senate as being the most powerful Senate in existence; but it is not sufficiently powerful to submit such a proposition as that to the electors of Australia.
– Is the Senate not acting within its rights?
– No, it is not.
– Yes, it is.
– The honorable member’s contention will not promote peace.
– I am here to fight for the right of the majority of the people, and not the minority, to govern this country. I say that the issue which theGovernment are shirking in this case is the right of the majority of the people of Australia to frame the Tariff which the majority have to observe. We are told that other . Governments have done what the present Government propose. They pretend, as other Governments have done, that this is not creating a precedent, and the Minister had only said the word when Mr. Speaker quoted the precedent as his authority for the action he took.
– I am not Mr. Speaker’s keeper.
– Fortunately, the honorable member is not the keeper of Mr. Speaker’s conscience. The
Minister really gave his position and the position of his illustrious predecessors away when he tried to put before us, as a reason why we should not insist upon the rights we have, that we shall have to face the ordeal of another Tariff session.
– The honorable member means to say the rights that he thinks we have.
– I say that the right of the majority of the people to rule the country is not one which is open to question. That the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who represents one of the larger States, should be asking this House to betray the larger States is a position that I am at a loss to understand.
– That is not true, and the honorable member knows it.
– I repeat my statement as a statement of the facts. This House, through the elected representatives of a majority of the people, said that the Tariff should be framed in a certain way. In doing so, it spoke for the electors who sent honorable members here. The Senate is elected on a basis of equal representation of the small and larger States. The House of Representatives is constituted of a greater number of members, representing the larger populations and the larger States, and on a basis nearly, but not completely, in accordance with the principle of one vote one value. If this House is not to determine the form which the Tariff shall take, then the position created will be that the Senate, which is not elected upon a population basis, but upon the basis of equality of representation for small and large States alike - without which the small States would not have come into the Federation - will be imposing its will upon the representatives of the majority of the people in this House. The true issue submitted is that the Tariff should be framed by the minority and not by the majority of the people of Australia. We are asked to accept this position, not because we think it is right, not because we think that the framers of the Constitution intended that it should be so, and not because it is a just principle of government, but merely because the Government are too anxious to get the Tariff through to stand up for the rights of the majority of the electors to frame the Tariff as they desire.
– That is a severe indictment of the Government.
– It is one of the unfortunate defects of our parliamentary system that we are helpless, and will continue to he helpless until a Government arises that will set the rights of the electors before their own immediate needs. I can quite understand that no Government would desire to plunge the country into the turmoil necessary to decide this matter if the Senate fights, but I do not believe that the Senate would be so foolish as to stand before the people of Australia as a House defending the demands which it makes today.
– How would the honorable member settle the matter?
– By declining to accede to any of the Senate’s requests.
– Suppose we did that?
– Then the Senate must pass the Bill or reject it.
– But that would not settle the question.
– It would be quite within its rights.
– That is the right of the Senate. It is the only right the Senate has, should its requests not be acceded to by the House of Representatives, and it is that which differentiates this particular class of legislation from all other legislation we have to consider.
– What would the honorable memberdo if the Senate neither rejected nor passed the Bill?
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I intended to place before the Committee a short review of the constitutional history of this question, but that would be useless, in view of the circumstances which confront us. It will not, I am afraid, be decided upon the value of the arguments placed before the House, as most honorable members will tremble at the terrors, which the Minister has suggested, of having to listen to days and weeks of the honorable member for Dampier(Mr. Gregory) and his friends in again debating the Tariff. This prospect appals the great majority of honorable members, to whom the appeal that the Christmas goose is roasting, and the Christmas pudding almost prepared, is irresistible. As the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) agrees with me I shall not proceed further.
.- It is not my intention to take up the time of the House at very great length in discussing this question ; but it is one which affects this House to a greater extent than any other that has been before the Chamber since I have been a member of the Federal Parliament. I fully understand that the powers conferred upon the various Legislative Councils throughout Australia, and all other second Chambers within the British Empire, are fairly clearly defined. Notwithstanding what honorable members have said to the contrary, the powers of second Chambers are definitely laid down, and although a Legislative Council can reject a money Bill, it cannot amend it. In the State of Western Australia it was clearly shown that the Legislative Assembly had not the slightest intention of allowing the second Chamber to usurp its rights. A Forestry Bill introduced in the Western Australian Parliament contained one clause which affected the revenue of the State, and which the Legislative Council decided to amend. The amendment was not only rejected by the House of Assembly, but it was pointed out by the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees that the second Chamber had no right under the Constitution to press its amendment. I believe that the framers of the Federal Constitution viewed the Senate from a different stand-point, because its members were elected by the same people who returned members to the other Chamber, and intended to give the Senate slightly increased powers to those possessed by any ordinary second Chamber. I do not think that this matter should have come before us in the form in which it is now presented. This House decided upon the imposition of certain duties, and a Bill containing a schedule of those duties was sent to the Senate when certain requested amendments were made by that Chamber which have since been considered by this House.
The question of whether they have all been given effect to does not come into the matter at all. They were considered, some were adopted, and others rejected. That did not satisfy the Senate, and they have been returned to this Chamber for further consideration, which is equal to a demand that their requests be adopted. I do not think that the Senate has any right to press its requests. I have had an opportunity of perusing the opinions of some of the constitutional authorities on this question, and I would have been pleased if you, sir, had given a ruling in accordance with the opinions you expressed when you contended that the message was out of order, and then the matter would have been correctly before the House. We would then have had the opportunity of agreeing to or dissenting from your ruling, and it would have settled the question in this Chamber. It matters little to me what effect the decision would have had on the Senate, neither does it matter to the people of Australia in this instance. No good purpose will be served by cavilling at what the Senate has done, and if we pass any motion contrary to the Senate’s wishes, what effect will it have? It is useless speaking of action unless it is likely to lead us somewhere, and I do not see how definite action in a certain direction would improve the position. I do nOt think the Senate has the right to press its requests for amendments, and to adopt a stand-and-deliver policy. If the Federal Convention Bill is passed by this Parliament - I sincerely trust it will not be - this point can be decided by the proposed Convention, and a recommendation can be submitted to Parliament for approval. As has been stated, this position arises at the termination of almost every Tariff debate, and it is unfair, without honorable members having the opportunity of giving the matter the attention it undoubtedly deserves, to expect us to come to a decision in a moment to overcome a difficulty which has been in existence for so many years. No one appears to be prepared to take the responsibility of submitting a definite proposal, although many honorable members now in the House were here when the precedent was first established. If the Government’s suggestion is adopted, the position will remain as it is at present. I do not know’ what their intentions are regarding the various items in the schedule which are still in dispute, neither do” I care. ‘ Having gone so far, the point should now be referred to the proposed Convention, and, failing that, it should be raised during the next general election, when the people could be informed of the position. I believe the popular Chamber should always predominate. The Senate was created under different conditions to any other second Chamber in the British Empire, and a different set of conditions regarding it3 power to amend should obtain. In all the circumstances, I believe the Government are taking a wise course, because the Senate has considered the opinions expressed in this Chamber on two occasions, and still presses its request. I am not in favour of high duties, and in this instance I do not care whether the duties are high or low. I am prepared to allow the rates to pass as they stand. The Senate will then be able to say that its rights have been conserved, and honorable members in this Chamber, representing ±he people directly, will know that the dignity of this Chamber has not been lowered. and that there has been no abrogation of any of its rights.
.- The views expressed by the .representatives of the legal profession in this Chamber have been very helpful; but as a casual observer of the difficulty that has arisen between the two Houses, I can see that an important issue is involved. The question of the States has been introduced, and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) referred to one man one vote and the rights of the people. The smaller States would not have agreed Fo come into the Federation *had the provision of equal State representation in the Senate not been agreed to in connexion with legislation which applied to the whole of the Commonwealth. It cannot apply partially. Take the first item, that of bananas, in the schedule returned to this House. That has been a bone of contention because it affects the trade of the Commonwealth. In the State I come from, a big reciprocal trade with Java has been very seriously interfered with by the Tariff resolutions of this House. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will, I am sure, be with me in my advocacy of the rights of small States.
The question, of self-determination is involved in this issue. It may be all right for the honorable member for Illawarra to contend that the majority should dominate the position; but it is quite possible for one State alone to contain an absolute majority of the people, and thus command a majority of votes in this Chamber. It is essential, therefore, that the smaller States should be adequately safeguarded; otherwise, there will be a. breach of faith.
– Does the honorable member think that the smaller States should dominate the larger States ?
– That position does not arise. The rights of each State under the Constitution must be equal, and the interests of all protected ; otherwise, a manufacturing State may, by means of favorable1 Tariff resolutions, be able to dominate a State more largely dependent upon primary production. There is more involved in this question than the mere technical issue. The position was clearly seen by the framers of the Constitution, and they tried to meet the difficulty.
– It is a pity they did not frame the section in less ambiguous language.
– It appears to me that it is a case of the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. The power of suggestion or request is held to be tantamount to the right to amend. This provision was inserted to give the smaller States an assurance that the rights of all the States, as States, would be equal under the Constitution. To my mind, that is a reasonable provision. If we depart from it the Senate might just as well be abolished, because this Chamber will then dominate all legislation, the principle of centralization will be indorsed, aud the development of Australiaretarded. I am of the opinion that this House has no power to alter the position. Neither has the Senate. There is only one constitutional method of altering section -53 of the Constitution, and that is by referendum of the people, and I hope, if that course is adopted, that the people will turn it down emphatically.
.- I may be quite in sympathy with my honorable friend, the member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), on bananas, fencing wire, and self-determination, but I am not sure that I see eye to eye with him on the question of State rights. Apparently, the honorable member thinks that because in the Constitution we introduced this pernicious theory of State rights - if I may thus describe it - we should exert all our efforts by a. technical interpretation of the Constitution to extend it as far as we can. I ask leave to record the terms of the . resolution to which we are asked to agree -
That, having regard to the fact that the public welfare demands the early enactment of the Tariff, and pending the adoption of joint Standing Orders, this House refrains from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of Message No. 97, received from the Senate, in reference to the Customs Tariff Bill (1921), and resolves to consider it forthwith.
There was nothing on earth or under heaven, so far as I am aware, to prevent us from setting out to consider, if we so desired, the merits of the question itself. But instead of doing that, the whole of this debate has hinged upon a motion submitted by the Minister (Mr. Greene) that we should refrain from doing something which certainly we might have done done had we wished, and, clearly, we might have refrained, without suffering. I do not think we need get angry with the Senate, and I do not propose to join with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) in telling another place what it ought to do and what its duty is. It is quite sufficient for us to define what our rights are, and what our duty is in this regard. Nor do I agree that the position, from the constitutional point of view, is in any way obscure. There is not the slightest doubt that many shades of opinion, and many subtle opinions at that, were expressed by the wise framers of the Constitution on this issue. I have no doubt that able men discoursed at length on the probable effect of a request on the part of the Senate to this House to do certain things, and the power of the Senate to make, or not to make, amendments to Bills sent from this place. I think, at all events, that the language of the section is sufficiently clear, whatever may have been the intention of those learned and distinguished gentlemen, or whatever they had told their friends their language was susceptible of, in ‘order to placate criticism. The position from our point of view is now quite clear. The familiar section of the Constitution states, among other things, 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. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
It has been suggested that the power to request is limited to a single act of! request. I cannot accept that view. Without going into any very subtle choplogic on the matter, it seems to me that the right of request remains a right of request as often as we choose to send a proposed law to the Senate for acceptance. If we are content to do so a dozen times, each time a new right is created in the Senate to make a fresh request. Apparently if another place and this House were futile enough1 to continue the process, it might, within the terms of the Constitution, be continued indefinitely.
– For; ever.
– For ever. Some honorable member has rightly said that, when the popular Chamber passes a law relating to taxation in a certain form, and re-affirms it deliberately, after further consideration it should, at least, be a broad hint to the wise men professing democratic beliefs in the Senate, which is not the popular Chamber in the sense the House-of Representatives is, to accept it. If , however, in the exercise of their undoubted rights they regard the matter of - sufficient importance to make a firm stand upon, they may send it back again and again. This is where I charge the Government with being guilty of one of those characteristic evasions of theirs which in recent months have so marked their progress, or lack of progress, in this country and in this Chamber. Instead of having the courage of their opinions, and telling this House and the country what they think it ought to do in regard to this matter; instead of declaring that this question of barbedwire and bananas is of national importance, or is not, they come to this House with their policy of vacillation, and ask honorable members to pass a pious resolution, which, by some process of reason ing, is supposed to sustain both the dignity and power of this Chamber, and at the same time permit us to proceed to the consideration of bananas and fencing wire, and other things. I suggest that had this House proceeded to the. consideration of these issues, it would have lost none if its dignity, it would have surrendered none of its undoubted prerogatives, and it would have created no dangerous precedent whatsoever, because just as the Senate may send requests back to us, and just as we, in turn, may send messages to the Senate, so may we at any time change our opinions and votes, and ease the situation. The constitutional position, by that means, will not be altered in the slightest. One of the objects, of course, in sending Bills backwards and forwards is to bring about a change of views, and consequent change in votes. Sometimes the wise members of the House of Representatives read the crude utterances of the members of the Senate, and occasionally a little light, breaking in through the obscurity of those utterances, may alter our view on a question such as this. Having sent a Bill back a second, third, or fourth time, we may have it again returned to us in a slightly altered form, or not altered at all. We would not, however, have established any precedent by their accepting it. The clear duty of the -Ministry, in the circumstances, is to tell the House and the country whether the matter is vital, or is of such importance as to justify us in letting the Senate know that the machinery of the Constitution will be bested to its full strength to determine the rights of the respective Houses. It is no use evading the question. If it is an unimportant and trifling matter, let us make our concession to the Senate on this question of bananas; and if bananas are vital to the salvation of the country, let us use the machinery of the Constitution. The Act 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, again passes 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, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
If it is a vital matter, let us have a banana dissolution. That would be something to stir the imagination. What could thrill them more than the great question of black or yellow bananas? But, above all, let us not take refuge behind a fiction that there is some obscurity in the Constitution itself. Let us not be hard on those who framed the Constitution. It has many defects and grave limitations. I have more than once tried to have it amended, and have always failed; but, at all events, on this matter it is sufficiently clear.
– If we did have a double dissolution, what would happen then?
– Then we might have a joint sitting on bananas. That is the constitutional remedy.
– You could not have a joint sitting on the question of a request; you must have an amendment.
– There is a very easy means of putting this matter in a form such as would enable a joint sitting to be held. I suggest very mildly that the resolution should never have been submitted by any Government with a capacity for taking responsibility in this House. Consistently with their policy of bringing in Estimates and whittling them down, the Government have introduced this makebelieve resolution to preserve their dignity, but it means nothing, and is nothing.
.- I do not think I need apologize for addressing the House. I recognise that I am breaking a rule that I have consistently followed up to the present, not to take part in any debate in which party politics are involved; but I recognise that this question should be regarded as being altogether beyond the scope of party considerations. The House has to consider what are its rights, and what action it will take. I am not going over the ground already traversed by those who have preceded me in this debate. I would like honorable members to look at the facts as they are. Our duty is to the people who sent us here, and to the people of Australia as a whole. We have to consider the consequences of our action, if we are inflexibly and invincibly determined to stand upon our constitutional rights at this particular juncture. Is there not another way out of the difficulty, by which we may settle what may be called a family quarrel, before we resort to the arbitrament of the people ? I think there is. A long controversy at this time would result in the disorganization of the whole trade and commerce of Australia for a period of six or seven months or more, and that would be disastrous. I am not one of those who are willing to give away the legitimate rights of the House of Representatives. I am not going to debate the merits of the question at all, because this is not the time to do so. A few hours are not sufficient to discuss a constitutional matter of this magnitude. Three or four weeks might be well occupied in dealing with it, if that were necessary. What are the alternatives? There are a few which I respectfully suggest to the House for its consideration. In the veryfirst dispute between the two Houses with regard to a Tariff matter, it was contended that the resolution was only brought forward pending the almost immediate consideration of the question by the Joint Standing Orders Committee; but, unfortunately, it was never submitted to that Committee.
– But the Committee could not break the Constitution.
– There is only one matter in dispute. It is not a question of a breach of the Constitution, but of the interpretation of the Constitution. We have the Standing Orders relating to the operations of this House, and the Joint Standing Orders dealing with the operations of both Houses, and this question has never been submitted to the Joint Committee. I suggest that it should be placed before that Committee at the earliest possible moment. If the Committee’s report were acceptable, the House would accept it; and if otherwise, it would reject it. If the Joint Committee could not deal with the matter, we could appoint a number of members from this House to confer with an equal number from the other Chamber. I would suggest twelve, or two from each State, in each case. Let them meet as a Conference to consider the whole question, and after dealing with it according to the ordinary parliamentary procedure, let them submit their recommendations to the respective Houses. If it were found, then, that the recommendations could be approved, there would be a solution of the difficulty.
– What if the representatives of the two Houses disagreed?
– I am coming to that point. I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that either of the two courses I have already suggested would enable a solution of the difficulty to be found. It has been solved in South Australia and Victoria. The only question we have to consider is whether the other Chamber has the right to press its requests. In South Australia and Victoria the number of times a request can be made is limited, and questions of this kind are settled satisfactorily. Who can say that it is not within the bounds of possibility that a Conference such as I have suggested, comprising twelve members from each House, could frame a report such as would be acceptable to both Houses ? This difficulty can be settled without any reference to the people at all. The people do not understand these great constitutional questions, and the matter could not be finalized in that way. In the event, however, of the methods I have referred to not being successful, and taking into consideration the absolute necessity to finalize the matter in dispute immediately, that is, as soon as it is practically possible to do so, how can it be done if the Senate will not compromise? My suggestion is - and I offer it with some diffidence, because I do not wish to add to the conflagration - that the question should be settled. I recognise the necessity of finalizing the matter. The constitutional rights of the two Chambers should not remain unsettled until another Tariff comes to be dealt with. Every one will,I think, admit that, except in regard to money and taxation Bills, the Senate’s powers of amendment are equal to those of the Representatives, but in regard to money and taxation Bills there is a. reservation in favour of the popular House. The Tariff is a measure which the Senate may not amend, but in regard to which it may; in the form of requests, offer suggestions for amendment. It has exercised that right in the present instance, and is pressing requests with which this House has not complied. With the object of finalizing the matter, I would suggest that, should attempts at conciliation fail, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) should, as soon as we meet next year, bring down an amending Customs Tariff Bill dealing only with the duties which are now in dispute. If the Senate remains as determined as itis now, it will again press its requests, to the point of rejecting the Bill if they be not complied with, and then, after the lapse of three months, the same Bill can be sent to them again, and if it is also rejected, the result must be a double dissolution, and the verdict of the people can then be obtained.
– But that will not settle the constitutional point.
– Are we not in this dilemma because no one is in a position to settle the constitutional point?
– Let us go on with the Convention.
– That is another way out. If a Convention amends the Constitution in a way that will get rid of this difficulty, so much the better. But if there were a double dissolution, under the circumstances I have suggested, the opinion of the peoplecould be obtained solely on the constitutional question. I have refrained from expressing any view on the merits of the dispute. I wish to see the Tariff passed, because I recognise that the commercial interests of the country demand finalization. Having got rid of ‘the Tariff, we can then take the means that I have suggested, or similar means, to assert the rights of this, the people’s House, against the Senate, which is the States’ House. I. hope that my suggestion may receive the consideration of Ministers and of members, and that the difficulty may be got over without undue delay.
.- I hope that the Minister (Mr. Greene) will take notice of what the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter) has said, because it is necessary that some way shall be found out of the present difficulty. Personally, I think there will have to be an alteration of the Constitution.
– That is the only way in which the point can be settled.
– There cannot be an alteration of the Constitution without the consent of the Senate.
– Any Bill for the alteration of the Constitution will have to be passed by the Senate, and a Senate which was bold enough could throw out such a Bill, and prevent the submission of this point to the people, though I doubt if that would be done. I think that the Senate would give the people an opportunity to express its opinion on this matter. Section57 provides for a double dissolution, but if there were a double dissolution, and the new Senate were practically the same as that which had appealed to the country, nothing would have been gained. Such a happening is quite possible, because it is difficult to get the people to take a live interest in constitutionalquestions. It is hard to make them see the importance of such questions, and the consequences that may result from various positions. Consequently the Senate elected after a double dissolution might be virtually the same body as that which appealed to the constituencies. Could it be said, then, that the people had spoken in such a way as to settle decisively the constitutional questionremitted to it?
– Can the people settle a constitutional question ?
– I do not think so. What would be settled by the election following a double dissolution ?
– The meaning of section 53 of the Constitution under whichthis trouble has arisen would not be settled.
– What would be settled would be the duties on barbed wire and bananas.
– At a cost of £100,000 !
– Section 53 of the Constitution says -
The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend–
I think that there is as much to be said for a wide interpretation of those words as for a technical interpretation of them. There is much to be said for the contention that the Senate may make requests at any time that the Bill is in its possession. The section continues - requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representativesmay, if it thinks fit, make any of such amendments or omissions with or without modifications.
It would be absurd to say that the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, accept or alter the suggestions of the Senate in any way, if the Senate may make its requests more than once. The Constitution gives no support to the contention that the power to make a request is equal to the power to make an amendment. After the Senate has been given the power to make a request, the section continues -
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
From that it is clear that the power to make a request is not tantamount to the power to make an amendment.
– Those words seem to strengthen the limitation of the previous part of the section.
– Yes. They make it clear that the power to make a request is not as wide as the power to make an amendment. Then, again, while section 57 provides for a double dissolution, it specially confines joint sittings of the two Chambers to the consideration of Bills which can be amended. That, again, is evidence that the power to make a request is not tantamount to the power to make an amendment.
– And it shows that the whole debate is “ much ado about nothing:”
– I do not think so. No one could afford to prejudice the country by postponing the finalization of the Tariff in order to determine the right of the Senate to press its requests. We are practically bound, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, to put the best face on the matter we can; to assert our constitutional rights, and then to consider the requests which the Senate has pressed. We have done that on two or three previous occasions, and I do not think that we shall prejudice our position if we do it again now. We shall be following the course already followed, and one which is practically imposed on us by a consideration of the public interest. We cannot afford to have a constitutional fight at this time. But the question whether the Senate can press its requests is a very important one. It might arise in connexion with some financial measure in regard to which it might be of much greater consequence than it is now. The only reasonable view that can be taken of the Constitution is that it does not permit the Senate to press its requests more than once. If the Senate can press its requests, the two Chambers might go on ad infinitum refusing to comply with and pressing requests.
– A fair compromise would settle matters.
– There is nothing in the Constitution about compromise.
– With a little common sense one could be arranged. I would not waste £100,000 in referring the matter to the people.
– No one proposes to do that. The contention of the Senate might put this House ultimately in the absurd and humiliating position of having to reject legislation which only it can originate. This is the people’s House, the House that has power over the pursestrings ; but, if the Senate were to succeed in its contention, an occasion might arise in which it could direct the taxation of the country, although this House is responsible for ways and means. That was never intended. I understand that in South Australia the Upper Chamber is restricted as to the number of times it can press its requests. If the House of Assembly will not then comply with its requests, the Council must choose between accepting or rejecting the measure under consideration. In regard to finance this is the principal branch of the Legislature, but it becomes impotent if the other Chamber can persistently press its requests and force this Chamber to take the responsibility of perhaps rejecting its own measures.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– At the present time, in the interests of the country, this House will have to follow the course it followed on previous occasions : but the Government should consider at an early date the introduction of legislation that will place the respective- rights of the two Chambers on a definite and understandable basis. Section 53 of the Constitution, is indefinite and ambiguous, but when read in conjunction with other” sections seems to indicate that the Senate cannot continue to press its requests. Section 57, which provides for a double dissolution, seems equally futile, because, after all, the double dissolution does not settle a difficulty created under section 53.
– Yes, it does.
– No; because’ the framers of the Constitution intended that this House should be the final arbiter in regard to a money Bill, and, therefore, that a double dissolution should never arise out of a dispute in regard thereto.
– The honorable member is supporting my contention that this House should be the final arbiter regarding money Bills. It is absurd to suggest that this Chamber should throw out its own Tariff simply because another place presses some request regarding bananas or barbed wire. »
– A joint sitting of the two Houses could not settle more than the particular item that is in dispute. It would not do away with the dispute between the two Chambers.
– These provisions of the Constitution are ambiguous, and the Government should take steps to bring about an alteration of the Constitution. I suppose that if managers were appointed from each House they would both work in the interests of the country, and propose an amendment which would be clear and understandable. That is the only method by which we can arrive at any final settlement.
– An amendment of the Constitution might not be necessary. The managers might recommend the introduction of a standing order that would meet the situation.
– I am not prepared to say off-hand whether or not the difficulty could be overcome in that way. But if what the honorable member suggests would be sufficient, that would be a quick and simple method of settling the point in dispute. We should devise the simplest and quickest means of arriving at a definite understanding as to the respective powers of the two Houses. The sooner such a settlement is arrived at the better. I can foresee the raising of this issue on some very important matter when the issue will have to- be fought out, and when the fight has been carried to the point of a double dissolution, we may get no satisfaction, because the Constituton cannot be altered by that means’. However, it is so important that this Tariff Bill should be finalized, that I think we are bound to follow the weak and rather flabby course which has been followed in the past.
– I do not understand whether the Minister (Mr. Greene) intends to accept the dictum of the Senate or to still further bargain with the other Chamber. From my point, of view there is much to be gained from bargaining; but, unfortunately, our parliamentary procedure is largely governed by precedents. Even the Constitution can be defined by precedents, and for that reason I am afraid to agree to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter). If we agree to postpone the consideration of this matter for six months, perhaps twelve months will elapse before the matter is settled as he suggested, and that will mean that three times this House will have accepted the Senate’s refusal of a Tariff formulated by the House of Representatives. Every time we accept the Senate’s dictum we strengthen its hands, and eventually the position will be that the House of Representatives, and not the Senate, will make requests. If the Senate’s contention that it has powers equal to our own be admitted, it will be only a matter of time before we shall cease to formulate the Tariff, and will simply send up suggestions to another place. The time has arrived when we ought to fight out this question, and determine which is the paramount Chamber in regard to money. Bills. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has said that a double1 dissolution would not settle the issue. If the Government had the strength of mind that they should have, they would look for a double1 dissolution ; and if we went to the country on the issue of the House of Representatives versus the Senate, and the majority of the Senate were returned with authority from the people to uphold the powers of the second Chamber, this House would have to cave in, and admit that the Senate was equally the people’s House, and had a right to amend money Bills. Therefore, I cannot agree with the honorable member for Kooyong that a double dissolution would yield no result. However, I suppose it is useless to discuss the matter, for the Government have decided to cave in; but I still regret that we1 have not in power a Ministry with some backbone, so that we might assert the right of the people’s House. The contention of the smaller States^ - I mean the States which are small in population - that they can dominate the whole of Australia is not new, and it is time that the States with the big populations took a stand. I am not particularly fond of elections, but I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) showing such determination in this matter. I agree with him that this House is representative of the people; the Senate is not.
– What does the Senate represent?
– Purely broad acres. The Senate was created to protect the land of Australia, and one State against another. Throughout the Convention debates it is clear that the Senate was designed to protect State rights. Unfortunately, it has proved to be as much a party House as is this Chamber, and, apparently, it has the same powers as we have, except that it has not the people behind it. I remember sitting in the gallery ta listen to the debate, in 1902, when this issue was first raised, and after listening to two nights of keen debate one was justified in believing that the issue would be settled in the near future. In 1908 the Senate was again allowed to have its own way, as it has been allowed since, notably when, because it suited the Government, the Senate was allowed to alter the taxation on amusement tickets. If we cave in again on this occasion, there will be no hope of this House asserting its constitutional rights against the Senate.
.- I do !not know what attitude the Minister (Mr. Greene) intends to adopt, but I do not intend to give a silent vote upon this motion. In my opinion, the whole discussion has been unnecessary and a waste of time. If the Senate is to exist at all, it has a perfect right to make requests, and, if it thinks necessary, press them. If the Senate does not repeat its request, it tacitly admits that it was wrong in making the request in the first place. The Senate’s position is analogous to that of the Legislative Councils in the State Legislatures. Those bodies have the same rights as the Senate has to make requests that may or may not be acceded to by the popular Chamber. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) referred to a Western
Australian. Bill which had been rejected because the Legislative Council had amended it. It seems to me that it was absurd to throw out the Bill on such a frivolous pretext ; the Bill might have been admirable in itself, and it was lost only because of some mistake made by the Council in inserting. an amendment in it. We are told that the only way tb settle this issue is by a. double dissolution. Such a course is unthinkable. Our last double dissolution was the outcome of the Senate’s refusal to pass legislation sent up by this Chamber. If a double dissolution arose out of this constitutional issue, we would be appealing to the people on a subject of which they knew nothing, and members of this House would be fighting members of another place on the hustings. Such a situation is too absurd to contemplate. I am in favour of the Senate being allowed to make requests, and, if necessary, press them. This, however, does not imply that I agree to support the requests made by the other Chamber. If it is not to have that power, it should be abolished - as an unnecessary . echo and appanage of this Chamber. If the Senate is only to indorse the decisions which this Chamber arrives at, there is no need for it at all. Without knowing what attitude the Government intend to adopt, I shall vote to acknowledge the Senate’s right to press its requests if it so desires.
– I shall not occupy more than two or three minutes in replying to the debate, which has covered a good deal of ground. In submitting the motion early this afternoon, I intentionally avoided the constitutional issue, which has been traversed over and over again, because I desired as far as possible to confine the debate to the particular question which I was submitting. I frankly admit that an attempt should have been made long ago to settle the issue by commonsense methods. I agree that for all practical purposes the only method, short of an alteration of the Constitution, by Which the question could be settled, is the adoption of joint standing orders governing the situation as between the two Houses. It seems to me to be inconceivable that the two branches of the Commonwealth Legislature should be unable to come to a final decision as to what is a fair interpretation of the rights of the
Senate, as laid down in the Constitution, in regard to money Bills or taxation measures. After all is said and done, that is all that is required, and one’s common sense revolts from the idea that it should be possible for the two Houses to go on indefinitely playing a game of battledore and shuttlecock in respect to any Bill, and not coming to a determination. There must be a common-sense method of settling this all-important issue. It is quite clear that the framers of the Constitution intended that there should be a material difference between the rights 6f the Senate in respect of money Bills and its rights in regard to other measures. While the Constitution gives the Senate the right to throw out or finally reject a money Bill, taking the full responsibility for so doing, it does not give it the right of direct amendment. Consequently, it seems to me that there should be a perfectly logical, common-sense method of settling this question by an agreement between the two Houses, which should be embodied in joint standing orders. As it is, the issue has been raised for the third time - and probably three times too often. It ought to have been settled at the very outset. On behalf of the Government, I can only say that if we can devise a way of settling this question definitely and for all time we shall try to do so. I hope that at an early stage next session the question will be submitted for the consideration of both Houses, and that an agreement will be come to as to joint standing orders that will for the future govern .this class of question.
– Would the passing of this motion mean that we accept the Senate’s requested amendments?
– Not at all. I am merely asking the House to agree that whilst refraining from coming to a final determination as to its constitutional rights or obligations, it will forthwith consider the requests made by the Senate for the second time. All that the House will be committed to by the passing of the motion is that it will refrain from the final determination of its constitutional rights or obligations in respect of this vexed question, leaving it for determination at a future period by the means I have ventured to suggest, and that we will, at the same time, agree, without prejudice to our constitutional rights, to consider on their merits the various requests that the Senate has made to us for a second time.
– Supposing that the Committee resolved to stand by its former decisions with regard to these requests?
– That is a matter for the Committee to finally determine. It may decide to refuse to make any one of these requests, or it may decide to reject some and to agree to others with modifications. All that we shall affirm by carrying this motion is that by agreeing to consider these requests we are not surrendering our constitutional rights or obligations, whatever they may happen to be.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided..
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the foregoing resolution be incorporated in the message when the Bill is returned to the Senate.
Consideration resumed from 24th November (vide page 13208) of motion by Mr. Greene -
That the consideration in Committee of Senate’s message be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Item 52 -
Fruits, fresh, viz. : -
And on and after 19th May, 1921, per lb.,1d.
Senate’s Request. - Per lb.,½d.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Requested amendment not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
– I propose to deal with the Senate’s requests in the order in which they appear in the schedule. It will be more convenient to do that instead of dealing with them in the order in which they appear in the Tariff. I do not intend in regard to any of them, except where I may propose some modification, to do more than move either that the requested amendment be made or be not made. We have already discussed these questions at great length, and I do not think I can say any more with respect to them. Dealing first of all with the Senate’s request in regard to bananas, I move-
That the requested amendment be not made.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Wire netting, per ton, British, 68s.; intermediate, 85s.; general, 105s.
Senate’sRequest. - Per ton, British, 55s.; intermediate, 75s.; general, 95s.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Requested amendment not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the requested amendment be not made.
.- I desire merely to point out the grave difficulties which beset the development of this country. I earnestly hope the Committee will give consideration to them, and to the urgent need for the expansion of our rural industries.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Item 159 -
And on and after 11th June, 1921 -
Wire, iron and steel, for use in the manufacture of barbed wire and wire netting, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, per ton, British, 52s.; intermediate, 72s. 6d.; general, 90s.
Senate’s Request. - Per ton, British, 44s.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Requested amendment not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the requested amendment be not made.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural machinery and implements …. ad val., British, 22½ per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Requested amendment not made:
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be now made, subject to the following modification: - “ Instead of British, 15 per cent.; read British, 20 per cent.”
The action I propose to take is to restore the old rate of duty which has been in force since 1914.
Motion agreed to.
Chaffcutters and horsegears . . . British, 22½ per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 25 per cent.; general, 30 per cent.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the requested amendment be now made, subject to the following modification: - “Instead of British, 15 per cent.; read British, 20 per cent.”
Drugs and chemicals, viz.: - and on and after 22nd June, 1921 -
Senate’s Request. - Make the duty on arsenate of lead, ad val., British, 10 per cent.; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be now made.
The Government has given very careful consideration to the position, and as far as I am able to gather, the Australian arsenate of lead is now being sold at 50 per cent, less than the cost of the imported commodity, which, of course, is one of those indications that go to show in a most unquestionable way that the imposition of a duty does not necessarily increase prices.
– I am exceedingly sorry that the Minister (Mr. Greene) has gone back on the strong arguments he advanced when on a previous occasion he moved that the Senate’s request be not made. He is dealing unfairly with the local industry when he seeks to wipe out the protection afforded to it because the price of the commodity it produces is less than that of the imported article. I hope that the provisions of the anti-dumping law will rescue the industry if the removal of this protection will cause it to languish, if not die altogether.
Motion agreed to.
Explosives, viz.: -
Senate’s Request. - Amend sub-item to make it - (e) (1) Coal-getting explosives, being those explosives named and specified in any Permitted List approved by the Department, ad val., British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.; (2) explosives, n.e.i., ad val., British, free; intermediate, 10 per cent.; general, 15 per cent.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request pressed.
– I propose to move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
– I had expected the Minister (Mr. Greene) to make some statement in regard to the explosives industry, to which he has already made great promises. If he is not prepared to give some assistance in the shape of a protective duty, what does he intend to do? Apparently he has gone back on his original attitude to afford some protection to what he has already described as one of the key industries of the Commonwealth.
– I proposed a deferred duty condition on the fulfilment of certain undertakings. Those conditions have not been fulfilled.
– It is all very well for the Minister to sit at his table and put on a superior air because he has probably a majority of the Committee with him, but has he taken into consideration the fact that the removal of this duty will throw a large number of men out of employment, including very many returned soldiers! Surely returned soldiers employed in a key industry are of as much value as returned soldiers employed at Victoria Barracks, or engaged in Defence factories!
– They are not of as much value as ten times their number of returned soldiers who are employed in getting coal.
– Notwithstanding the statements of honorable members who represent the coal miners, I guarantee that the rank and file of the men engaged in the mining industry are opposed to the supply of explosives made by black labour. The miners would be the first to object if coal was coming into Australia which was the product of black labour, and I am only trying to protect the white worker against explosives, the product of black labour. I need not repeat what I have said on this subject on a previous occasion, but I propose to divide the Committee upon the question. . Here we are, a Committee of white men sitting in a white man’s Parliament, in a country that is called a White Australia, and proposing to accede to the request of the Minister that the explosives to be used in our mines should be supplied by black labour in South Africa, and that white men in Australia receiving four times the wages of that black labour should be deprived of their means of livelihood.
– The honorable member would put more white men out of employment in Australia.
– The honorable member cares very little for Australia. I am afraid, too, that there are others who agree with me in political matters from A to Z, but yet care so little for a White Australia that they will support the Minister. I move -
That the requested amendment he now made subject to the following modification: - After the word “ Department “ in paragraph ( 1 ) insert -
The product of white labour, ad val., British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 5 per cent. (b) The product of coloured labour, ad val., British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.
Under my proposal, explosives produced by white labour overseas would be practically admitted free of duty, but explosives the product of black labour would pay a reasonable duty. A more reasonable proposition has never been put before an Australian Parliament. The Minister has agreed unhesitatingly to increased duties wherever they have been requested by the Senate, but apparently he has no time for them in regard to this key industry. The miners cannot expect any sympathy from me when, owingto the absence of local competition, the price of the black labour product is increased.
– That will certainly come about.
– I am pleased that I have the support of at least one follower of the Government. I guarantee that there will be no increase in the present price of the local explosives if sufficient protection is afforded. No company has made a more reasonable proposition to the Minister than that which has been submitted by the local company.
.- On the 24th November, 1921, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) -
Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to the threatened explosives industry? Is it the intention of the Government to sup port a black labour product of South Africa as against that of white workers of Australia?
He replied -
My attention has not been called to the threatened explosives industry. It is not the intention of the Government to support a black labour product of South Africa as against that of white workers of Ausralia.
If the Prime Minister gives a definite answer like that, I cannot see why this Committee, the majority of which is supposed to be Protectionist, proposes to destroy a local industry, and cause a lot of men to be thrown out of work. It makes one smile when one contemplates the fact that a so-called coloured race can surpass the British race in the manufacture of explosives. I am alluding to Japan, which, in the period of an ordinary man’s life, did not know how to manufacture any explosives, but now, having garnered the wisdom of the West, has up-to-date works for the manufacture of explosives which we, the descendants of the British race, cannot equal. The Government cannot deny the statement that, unless the explosives industry is supported by a protective duty, it cannot possibly exist in competition with one of the vilest Combines that desecrates the earth at the present moment. Wealthy mine-owners of South Africa have formed a Combine against Nobel’s, and employ in the production of explosives a coloured race, no doubt of splendid physique, but yet a people which should not get any sympathy from us as compared with those of our own race, who are working in our own midst. If the Committee decided that the price should be fixed for these explosives, I should be quite willing; but I understand that the manufacturers are prepared to give an undertaking that the prices will not be raised in the future. What more could the Committee desire? I listened to the most eloquent speech that has been delivered here for many years pastby the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) when the Tariff schedule was before us ; and if that speech did not change the vote of any honorable member, no speech would. However, honorable members are not regarding this matter from the point of view of Protection, or of assisting the white worker as against the coloured worker, but with the desire to obtain these products at the cheapest rate possible. The pages of Australian history have been illumined by the diggers of Ballarat and of New South Wales, and I do not believe that if these men, who have been able to form one of the finest organized bodies in Australia, really understood the matter they would be thankful to their representatives for voting to reduce the duties. However, the vote of theCommittee is the deciding factor. I regret that the people of Australia, who pay for all - pay our wages, pay our policemen, ourGovernor-General, and the Judges on thebench - have not the power of controlling this created thing, Parliament. The creators have no power once Parliament is created, but I hope to see the day when they will; then we may have a Tariff of which we may be proud, and which will assist this country to rise to higher ideals.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Fenton’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the requested amendment be not made.
Item 136 -
Iron and steel -
And on and after 9th July, 1921-
Senate’s Request. - (e) (1) British,. 20 per cent.; (e) (2), British, 44s.
House of Representatives’ Message. - Requested amendment made with the following modification : -
Sub-item (e) (thrice occurring), omitted, and the following inserted : -
And on and after 9th June, 1921 -
And on and after 3rd November, 1921 -
Senate’s Message. - Modification not agreed to. Request pressed.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be not made, and that the modification made by the House of Representatives be not altered.
Honorable members will recollect that on this item in the Tariff this House agreed to the modification requested by the Senate as to the ad valorem rate, but did not agree to any alteration of the fixed rate. That is the position to which I propose to adhere.
In dealing with any modification I ought to have moved that it take effect as from to-morrow. I think, however, that after we have considered these items, if I move that the decision of the Committee take effect as from 6th December, honorable members will understand that the motion applies to all the items.
Motion agreed to.
Machinery, Machines, and Appliances: -
Senate’s Request. - Amend sub-item to make it read - On and after 1st July, 1921, Metal Parts n.e.i. of hay rakes (horse) and mowers, per lb., British, l¾d.; intermediate, 2d.; general, 2d.; or ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 45 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
House of Representatives’ Message. Requested amendment made, with the following modifications: -
Sub-item (d) omitted and the following inserted: -
Metal parts, n.e.i., of -
Senate’s Message. - Modification agreed to, provided sub-item (e) of the item be amended by omitting the words “Hay rakes (horse).”
Mr. GREENE (Richmond - Minister for Trade and Customs [10.10]. - I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This is purely a formal amendment. Subitem e reads as follows : -
Metal parts of hay rakes (horse), reapers and binders, and mowers, viz.: - knife sections and ledger plates, British, free; intermediate, 5 per cent.; general, 10 per cent.
Knife sections and ledger plates are parts of reapers and binders, and also of mowers, but they are not parts of horse hay rakes. The latter words “hay rakes (horse) “ were included in sub-item e owing to a clerical error, caused by the repetition of the words of the preceding sub-item d. It is very important that this error should be rectified, as it might possibly be held that sub-item e, as at present worded, makes all metal parts of horse hay rakes free, 5 per cent., and 10 per cent. If this view could be maintained it would have the effect of nulli fying the action of Parliament in placing a duty under sub-item d on metal parts of horse hay rakes. In view of this position it is necessary to amend subitem e by omitting the words “ hay rakes (horse) “ in order that no possibility may exist of the intention of Parliament being frustrated.
Motion agreed to.
Electrical machines and appliances -
Electric heating and cooking appliances, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general,. 40 per cent.
Electric fittings consisting wholly or partly of metal, viz. : - switchesfuses’ and lightning arresters, n.e.i., ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate. 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.
Regulating, starting, and controlling apparatus, for all electrical purposes, including distributing boards and. switchboards, n.e.i., ad val., British,. 30 per cent.; intermediate, 35 percent.; general, 40 per cent.
And on and after 9th July, 1921 -
Dynamo electric machines, static transformers and induction coils, for all purposes, unless otherwise expressly provided for, electric fans, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate,. 35 per cent.; general, 40 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Electrical machines and. appliances - (a), (b), (c), and (d), British, 25 per cent..
House of Representatives’ Message. - Not made.
Senate’s Message. - Request to make duty under the British preferential Tariff 25 per cent, on sub-items a, b, c, and d not pressed, but make the duty under the British preferential Tariff 27½ per cent, on each sub-item.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
The Senate has, on this occasion, come half way to meet us, suggesting a duty of 27½ per cent.
Motion agreed to.
Senate’s Request. - Amend sub-item to make it-
(1) Photographic and X-ray, dry plates, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.; or per square foot, British,6½d.; intermediate, 8d. ; general, 9½d., whichever rate returns the higher duty.
House of Representatives’ Message. -Made with the following modifications -
Paragraph (a) (1)- After “Plates” the words “ and flat films, sensitized “ inserted; and the fixed duties made - 5d. British preferential Tariff, 6½d. intermediate Tariff, 8d. general Tariff.
Paragraph (a) (2)- After “films” the letters “ n.e.i.” inserted ; and the fixed duties made - 8d. British preferential Tariff,10d. intermediate Tariff, 12d. general Tariff.
Paragraph (a) (3) - After “n.e.i.” a semicolon and the words “Postcards (sensitized with or without letterpress) “ inserted.
Paragraph (a) (4)- The words “Postcards (sensitized with or without letterpress) “ omitted.
Senate’s Message. - Modifications agreed to, provided the following paragraph be added after paragraph (4), viz.: -
– In dealing with this item the Senate accepted the modification that we made in its request, but now requests our accept ance of a further modification. The proviso attached by the Senate to the acceptance of the modification passed by the House of Representatives refers to - Sensitized blue print and heliographic papers and fabric, British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent. “When the item was placed in the Tariff the question of these papers and fabrics had not come under notice, and it was found afterwards that the proposed . fixed ratesunder paragraph 3 worked out at a very high ad valorem duty - up to 220 per cent. As there was no sufficient reason for imposing so high a duty on this class of sensitized papers the proviso was added in the Senate in order to take them out of paragraph 3 and place them in a new paragraph 5 at the rate of duty in force before the amendment was made in the item, viz. - British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent. ; general, 35 per cent. I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
Motion agreed to.
Vessels, including all fittings imported therewith, viz.: -
Vessels, n.e.i., not exceeding 500 tons gross register, trading Intra-State or Inter-State, or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period of three months, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
And on and after 1st January, 1923 -
Inter-State, or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period of three months, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.
Senate’s Request. - Omit “ 1923,” and insert “ 1925.”
House of Representatives’ Message. - Made with the following modifications: - (Sub-item (b) (second occurring) - The date made - And on and after 1st July, 1923; and after the word “months” the following inserted: - “, excepting vessels exceeding 500 tons gross register ordered before the 11th October, 1921”. [As a consequential amendment, the date in sub-item (f), paragraph (2), will now read 30th June, 1923, instead of 31st December, 1922].
Senate’s Message. - Modifications not agreed to. Request pressed.
– This is an item upon which a very long debate took place in this chamber, and I have no desire to start another discussion upon it. I think the view of the Committee was fully expressed. I do not propose to depart from the position we took up. If, when the date we proposed for the application of the duties arrives, it is found impracticable to start building operations in Australia on a commercial scale, it will be competent for the Minister for Trade and Customs, on the advice of the Tariff Board, to extend the period during which the proposed duties shall not apply. I think that is the only way in which it is possible for us to overcome the difficulties of the situation.
– Can the Minister say whether any contracts are at present in existence that will not be completed within the period provided for ?
– Honorable members will recollect that we asked the Senate to agree to provide that vessels for which contracts had been let, or which had been ordered prior to the date, should not be subjected to duties, notwithstanding the fact that they might be imported after the 1st July,1923.
– The Minister might personally order a rebate ; but that would not be provided by the Tariff itself.
– No; all such ships would be specifically excluded by the Tariff from the operation of the duties up to July, 1923. Any boats brought into Australia prior to that date would be free of duty, and after that date all vessels) with the exception of those ordered before the 11th October, 1921, would be dutiable. I move -
That the requested amendment be not made.
. -I shall not delay the Committee unduly, because I know that this item has been fully discussed. But I wish to remind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that shipbuilding in Australia will not be in any way assisted by the imposition of these duties. The difference to-day between the price at which ships can be bought, and the cost of building them in any country in the world, is so enormous that the effect of the duties proposed will be merely to add 25 per cent, to the price of ships. Information has been received that the Tasmanian Government are contemplating extending operations in connexion with the State Government line of boats. Advice has come through from the Agent-General for Tasmania that it is possible to buy ships on the stocks by paying the balance of the amounts that are due on them. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) put the matter clearly here the other day when he stated that it is possible now to purchase at from £8 to £10 per ton vessels which cannot be constructed in any part of the world to-day at under from £25 to £30 per ton. We know that the running cost of ships has been enormously increased. We have had an official statement in answer to a question that it has been increased in the case of ships trading on the Australian coast by 285 per cent, beyond what it was prior to the war. If, in addition to this, we are to impose the duties proposed on ships, we shall be placing the primary producers of Australia, at a very great disadvantage in shipping their products, not only overseas, but Inter-State as well.
– There will be no duty on oversea ships.
– I have referred to the Inter-State trade as well as to the overseas trade. The Inter-State trade is carried on to-day under serious difficulties owing to the enormous cost of shipping. It has been stated over and over again that it is cheaper to-day to bring timber from the other end of the world to Australia than it is to transport it from one State of Australia to another. This is simply because we are piling up costs in connexion with shipping. The proposed duties of 25 per cent, will merely add 5s. in the £ 1 to the present capital costs. It will be no use to the ship-building industry in Australia, because 25 per cent, does not represent anything like the difference between the purchasing price and building cost of ships of any tonnage at the present time. I again ask the Committee not to place Inter-State shipping at such a disadvantage. I hope that the Senate’s request will be accepted, and that these duties will not be brought into operation until 1925.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That any amendment made in the schedule shall have effect on and after the day following the day the amendment is made, except where the Committee has otherwise decided, or where the contrary intention appears.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
In Committee (Consideration of Sen ate’s amendments) :
Clause 8 -
The Chairman shall receive, in addition to his salary as an officer of the Public Service, an allowance which, together with his salary, shall not exceed Fourteen hundred pounds a year, and each of the other members shall receive an allowance of Five guineas per sitting.
There shall be paid to each member, on account of his expenses in travelling to discharge the duties of his office, such sums as are considered reasonable by the GovernorGeneral.
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert the following new sub-clause : - “ (3) The total amount chargeable on and payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the establishment and maintenance of the Board, including the salary of the Chairman and the fees to members, shall not during any financial year exceed Four thousand pounds.”
– I move -
That the amendment be not agreed to.
I do not know what the Senate intended when it suggested this amendment, because a good deal of the work which the Board will do will have to be done in the Department. If it means that the whole of the work now being performed by the officers of the Department, plus the additional duties which will devolve upon the Department, shall be done for £4,000 a year, it is impossible.We might as well throw the Bill under the table and be done with it.
– Provided it does not mean that, and the Senate contends that this amount should cover the expenses of the Board alone, is the amount reasonable ?
– It would be a mistake to attempt to limit the expenditure of the Board in that way. It is impossible to separate the actual cost involved in departmental work and the additional expenditure involved over and above the ordinary work of the Department. It is almost impossible in many cases to discriminate, and to say that certain new expenditure would not have arisen if the Board had not been established, or that a particular item of expenditure should or should not be chargeable to the £4,000 suggested.
– I said when the measure was before this House that the Board would cost £8,000 or £10,000 per annum.
– I do not think it will cost £10,000 a year, or anything approaching that figure, but it is impossible to employ additional men without incurring expenditure. At the same time, I believe that if the Board does its work in the way we hope it will, and the results are anything approaching what we anticipate, the money will be well spent. It sets an almost impossible task to those who have to administer this measure to say whether certain expenditure should or should not be charged to the proposed amount of £4,000. It is a bad precedent to establish to limit the expenditure of such a Department to a particular amount. Later we shall be called upon to consider an amendment to limit the period this legislation shall be in operation to two years. I am quite prepared to agree to that, because it seems to me that in two years we shall be able to determine approximately whether the Board is of the use we anticipate. Even if the expenditure involved is more than £4,000, Parliament will have an opportunity of determining whether the money has been well spent. It will be a great mistake to limit the expenditure of the Board in this way, and I trust the Committee will not agree to the Senate’s amendment.
.- I am somewhat surprised-
– Why not let it go?
– The honorable member for Wakefield was one of the strongest opponents of the proposal to appoint -a Board. The honorable member has been telling us how to economize, and I felt sure that he would oppose the Bill.
– I am considering the interests of the consumers.
– I opposed this measure very strongly, and pointed out that I thought a Board of this character, if it had been at work before the Tariff was under consideration, could have supplied the Committee with a good deal of useful information. We have now passed the Tariff, and I trust it will be many years before another one of this character is introduced. The consumers in this country will realize how they have been penalized to placate the wishes of a few city manufacturers. I said when the Bill was introduced that it would be the means of imposing extra charges upon revenue, and there is not the slightest doubt that this is a direction in which we could economize. I said when the Bill was being discussed in this Chamber that the Board would cost £8,000 or £10,000 a year, and the Minister (Mr. Greene) now admits that an expenditure of £4,000 per year would be absolutely useless.
– It depends on what is meant.
– There will be nothing for the Board to do.
– In any case, the amount expended on the chairman’s salary would have to be paid by the Department.
– Naturally. I am going to support the amendment, because I want to knock out the Bill if I oan. If, however, I cannot do that, I desire to limit the Board’s expenditure. I was glad to hear the Minister say that he would accept the last amendment on the list, because at the end of two years we shall know if the Board is going to be of any value. In the meantime, I hope that we shall be able to keep down the expenditure.
– Do you think the Board can be useful if you limit its expenditure in that way?
– I would like to prevent the creation of the Board at all ; but being unable to do that, I intend to support the Senate’s amendment in order to keep down the cost.
.- I intend to support the amendment submitted by the Senate. Members of that Chamber evidently gave a great deal more consideration to the Bill than did this House. The Government are going to appoint a Tariff- Board without any honorable member or the Minister himself being able to say how much it is going to cost.
– The honorable member thinks it would be wise to ration this proposed new Department?
– Yes, and every other Department as well. I know of no method by which we can possibly obtain economy, together with efficient administration, than by rationing the whole of these Departments. This’ was shown in the history of Lord Cromer’s control of the finances in Egypt. He took over the administration at a time when the finances were in a most disordered state, due to unchecked extravagance, but by severely rationing the various Departments he restored order and brought about economy and efficiency in administration. Extravagance is the worst enemy of efficiency. Reasonable remuneration and a reasonable number of officers in our Public Service are the best guarantees of efficiency. The Senate was well advised when it carried an amendment limiting the expenditure of this proposed new Board to £4,000 a year. .
– Would the honorable member tell me how it is possible to discriminate between expenditure for the Board and expenditure which, under any circumstances, would have to be incurred by the Customs Department?
– It is perfectly clear. The amendment of the Senate states that the total amount chargeable to the Consolidated Revenue against the establishment and maintenance of the
Board must not exceed £4,000 a year. It makes no reference to the ordinary administrative expenditure of the Customs Department. Obviously, it deals only with the extra expenditure required for the establishment and maintenance of the proposed Board, and £4,000 a year should be ample. Can the Minister say what it is likely to cost? Will it be £10,000, £20,000, or £50,000 a year? During the second-reading stage, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) declared that it would cost at least £10,000 a year.
– Well, letus get to a vote.
– Yes, and let us squander the country’s money. This proposal to appoint a Tariff Board is one of the most deliberate attempts to squander public money that has ever been placed before this House. I ask those honorable members who are trying to hound me down, and who want to take a vote, what do they think this Board is likely to cost. I ask for a limit, and the Senate has submitted an amendment placing the limit at £4,000 a year. Can the Minister give any reason why the expenditure should exceed that amount?
– You take out the word “ total “ and put in the word “ extra “.
– Can the Minister show that the Board would do a great deal of work that is now performed by the Customs Department, and that the amount chargeable to the Board would mean a corresponding reduction in the expenditure of that Department? There has been no information placed before the Committee to lead honorable members to think that.
Mr.Greene. - When I introduced the Bill, I explained that matter fully.
– I listened attentively, but it was certainly not made clear that that would be the result. Will the Minister now say definitely whether the extra cost of this Board would not exceed £4,000?
– I cannot say, because I do not know.
– Will it be more than £10,000?
– I am not going to indulge in a sort of Dutch auction.
– The Minister cannot say that the extra cost will not be more than £10,000.
– I know what the extra cost of running this Parliament is, with the honorable member speaking.
– That is an insult of a kind which too often comes from men in Ministerial positions. I have a perfect right to raise my voice in the interests of the taxpayers, and the Minister has no right to sneer at me and suggest that I am taking up the time of the Committee unnecessarily. The Minister has not only outdo an insulting observation, but has sneered at every taxpayer in Australia. I would like some assurance from the Minister on the point raised. Some limit ought to be placed on the cost of the Board. I agree with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that the proposed expenditure would be absolutely useless. Honorable members are not in the mood to be consulted on this matter at the present juncture. Will the Minister give me an assurance that the extra cost will not be more than £4,000?
– The chairman gets £1,400, so it leaves very little.
-The Senate gave the matter ample consideration. The work proposed to be given to the Board could be done ten times better by the head of the Customs Department himself. We all know how new Boards or Departments are started in a small way, and gradually increase their activities, becoming more and more expensive to the country. The Minister wants to foist this measure upon us, without in any way guarding against extravagance.
– I hope the Minister (Mr. Greene) will give some further information. New Departments are established on & small scale, but they quickly assume considerable ‘ dimensions. Whenever a new set of officials is created, I hope Parliament will place a limitation on the expenditure. In this case we are asked to give a blank cheque. I cannot support the Minister unless he can show the Committee that £4,000 is insufficient. It is unfortunate that the Committee did not previously place some limitation on the cost of the Board. The Minister has expressed his intention to accept the Senate’s proposed new clause, that “ the Act shall continue in force for a period of two years and no longer.” At the end of that time it will have to be renewed, and that will give an opportunity for a reconsideration of the matter. Then the Senate says that the expenditure for the first year shall not exceed £4,000. I think that a good proposal. If £4,000 is not sufficient, the Minister should say what amount will be required for this Department. We have a rightto know that. We should not give the Government a blank cheque for this new Department. If some reasonable explanation is not made, Ishall vote for the amendment of the Senate.
Question - That the amendment be not agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority. . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 December 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211205_reps_8_98/>.