13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the
Vice-President of the Executive Council the following questions : -
– The constitutional powers of the Commonwealth do not permit of this Parliament legislating in the direction desired by the honorable senator. A conference is now being held in Melbourne between the representatives of the States of South Australia and Victoria on this subject, and I am informed that a representative of Western Australia is also on his way to attend the conference, with a view to drafting uniform State legislation which, while not going as far as the honorable senator has indicated, will give protection under State laws. The recommendations of the con- ference will be forwarded to me before the amending bankruptcy bill leaves this chamber.
Further Suggested Economies
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been directed to the article published in the Canberra Times this morning stating that further economies in the Public Service are contemplated? If so, will he say if this means further cuts in wages and alterations in the conditions of service; and will the right honorable gentleman state what the Government intends to do in the matter ?
– I have read the article in the Canberra Times, and I can make a pretty shrewd guess as to its origin, as well as the origin of similar statements that have appeared in the same newspaper from time to time. It is not customary to indicate government policy in reply to questions.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister the following questions: -
– I have already answered a similar question submitted by Senator Dunn, and I can only repeat that it is not the practice to make statements of government policy in reply to questions.
– Has the Leader of the Senate read the cabled information iu yesterday’s newspapers to the effect that the Central African colony of Nyassa succeeded in raising, within a few hours, a loan of £2,000,000 at 4£ per cent, in the Loudon market? If so, will he bring this matter under the notice of the Premier of New South Wales, and suggest that he should go to Central Africa to learn wisdom from the administration of that colony iu order that he may be equally successful?
– I read the paragraph referred to; but I do not know that it is the duty of this Government to bring it under the notice of the Premier of New South “Wales. I have no doubt that that honorable gentleman has read the news with very great interest.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible to Senator E. B. Johnston, in reply to hi3 question concerning expenditure to date on aerodromes in the Northern Territory, and to Senator Dunn, in answer to his question with regard to the basic wage standards in the several States.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the report that Newnes shale petrol is now ready for sale on the oil markets of Australia, will the Prime Minister give instructions to all departmental heads of the Federal .Public Service that Newnes petrol bo used in preference to imported petrol?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
A limited quantity of petrol only is at present available at Newnes. If and when large quantities are produced consideration will be given to the question of the use of Newnes petrol by Commonwealth Government departments.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Dr. Lions and Dr. Trikojus, of the Department of Organic Chemistry, Sydney University, have given a public statement to the Sydney press in relation to the Newnes shale oil works; if so, will the VicePresident endeavour to have the statement reprinted and handed to honorable senators?
– A statement on the subject mentioned has appeared in the press. Consideration will be given to the question of re-printing the statement for the information of honorable senators.
– Information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible to Senator Dunn, in reply to his question with regard to the working of the gold standard in the British Empire.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government bring in a bill this session to abolish the recent cuts effected in the pensions of the old-age and invalid citizens of Australia and the returned soldiers and sailors and their dependants under an Act of Parliament passed at the instance of the Scull in-Theodore Government? If not, why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
It is not the practice to deal with matters of policy in answer to questions.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders.
[11.12]. - I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
It is not the intention of the Government to ask the Senate unduly to hurry the passage of this bill. My only reason for submitting the motion is that I may be enabled to move the second reading to-day. I am quite willing that the debate should then be adjourned and the procedure laid down by the Standing Orders thereafter followed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
[11.13].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is desirable that I should preface my remarks by a reference to Part III. of the Financial Agreement, but before doing so I suggest that the consideration of this and the bill to follow would be facilitated if honorable senators provided themselves with copies of the agreement and of the Constitution, which are available to them. In the preamble to the bill there is a recital of clause 1 of Part III. of the agreement which reads -
Subject to the provisions of this part of this agreement the Commonwealth will take over on the 1st July, 1929 -
I direct the attention of honorable senators to the important qualifying words “ subject to the provisions of that Part “ which appear in the preamble to the bill. Clause 2a of Part III. of the Financial Agreement sets out that the Commonwealth will pay interest to the bondholders, but again the obligation is “ subject to this clause “. I invite the attention of honorable senators to paragraph c of clause 2 of the Financial Agreement, which reads -
Each State shall in each year during the same period of 58 years pay to the Commonwealth the excess over the amounts to be provided by the Commonwealth under the last preceding sub-clause necessary to make up as they fall due the interest charges falling due in that year on the public debt of that State taken over by the Commonwealth as aforesaid and then unpaid, and on any moneys borrowed by the Commonwealth onbehalf of that State and then unpaid, and after the expiration of the said period each State shall in each year pay to the Commonwealth, as they fall due, the whole of the interest charges on any debt then unpaid and included in the public debt of that State taken over by the Commonwealth as aforesaid, and on any moneys borrowed by the Commonwealth on behalf of that State and then unpaid.
The Government appreciates the significance of those qualifications. If a State fails to meet its obligations, the Commonwealth is absolved from the performance of its undertaking. That is to say, the liability of the Commonwealth is a contingent liability. With respect to the moneys lent by bondholders to the States, the right of the bondholders is to look to theborrowing States for payment. Such bondholders have no right of action against the Commonwealth.
Now that one State has defaulted in its obligations, the credit of the whole of the Commonwealth has been imperilled. This bill is designed to repair the damage to our national good name, and I hope, therefore, that every honorable senator will support it. Under the provisions of this measure the Commonwealth, which, as I have stated, is under a contingent liability with respect to certain State debts, assumes an absolute liability in that respect. The bill specifically declares that any bondholder shall have the right to sue the Commonwealth in the High Court in respect of any payment due under a bond. It places the bondholder, whose faith has been so rudely shaken by the default of New South Wales, in an unassailable position. In addition to the right which he has always had - that of looking to the States for payment - he is given the additional security of this Commonwealth statute, under which the Commonwealth undertakes the full responsibility for payment. The necessity for the restoration of financial confidence has been repeated many times. In -this bill definite action to restore that confidence is taken. I commend the measure to the Senate, and I feel sure that it has the full approbation of the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
Report of Standing OrdersCommittee.
In committee: Consideration of report presented to the Senate on the 24th July, 1931.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The first report from the Standing Orders Committee appointed by the Senate is as follows : -
The Standing Orders Committee has duly considered the matters referred to them in the following motion agreed to by the Senate, viz. : -
That the question of the provision of the Standing Orders necessary to give effect to the recommendations of the select committee on the standing committee system, adopted by the Senate on 14th May, 1931, be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report.
The recommendations of the select committee are as follows: - 1. (a) That a standing committee of the Senate, to be called the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, be established.
That all regulations and ordinances laid on the table of the Senate be referred to such committee for consideration and report.
That such standing committee shall consist of seven senators and shall be appointed at the commencement of each session in the following manner : -
1 ) The Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four days from the commencement of the session, appoint, in writing, four senators to be members of the committee; and
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate shall, within four days from the commencement of the session, appoint, in writing, three senators to be members of the committee.
That such committee shall have power to send for persons, papers, and records, and that four members shall form a quorum.
That the question of the procedure to be adopted in the Senate as a result of the establishment of the standing committee recommended be referred by the Senate for the consideration of the Standing Orders Committee, with the following requests: -
That the Standing Orders be amended in such a manner as to facilitate the reference of bills to a select or standing committee.
That provision be made for the appointment of such further standing committees as the Senate may from time to time desire to establish.
The committee also considered the advisability of a proviso to Standing Order No. 133 dealing with the “ same question “.
Your committee now recommend the amendment of certain of the existing Standing Orders and the provision of new Standing Orders as set out in the appendix hereto.
President’sRoom, 21st July, 1931.
I propose to submit the amendments and additions recommended by the Standing Orders Committee separately.
Committee’s recommendation :
After Standing Order No. 36 insert the fol lowing now Standing Order, viz.: - “ 36a. - (1.) A standing committee, to be called the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, shall be appointed at the commencement of each session. (2.) The committee shall consist of seven senators chosen in the following manner: -
The Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of the session, nominate, in writing, addressed to the President, four senators to be members of the committee.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of the session, nominate, in writing, addressed to the President, three senators to be members of the committee. (3.) The committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to sit during recess; and the quorum of such committee shall be four unless otherwise ordered by the Senate. (4.) All regulations and ordinances laid on the table of the Senate shall stand referred to such committee for consideration and, if necessary, report thereon. Any action necessary arising from a report of the committee, shall be taken in the Senate on motion after notice.”
[11.24].- I move-
That the proposed new standing order be agreed to.
Most honorable senators are familiar with the history of the proposed standing orders. They originated from a select committee which was appointed by the Senate to ascertain how the Senate could best adapt its procedure and its committees so that it would have some means of keeping a check upon the regulations and ordinances which are promulgated from time to time. The standing orders which are now proposed are the result of the labours of that select committee, and the subsequent consideration of its recommendations by the Senate and the Standing Orders Committee of the Senate. The committee will notice that this standing order suggests a method of choosing the seven senators who will constitute the committee. It is proposed that the Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of the session, nominate four senators to he members of the committee.
As there are on the Government side of the House members of two political parties, who usually support the Government - the United Australia party and the Country party - I assume that the Leader of the Government would see that both parties were represented on the committee. Similarly there are also two sections sitting in opposition; and I assume that the Leader of the Opposition would, in making his nominations, see that each of them was represented on the committee. In appointing sessional committees that procedure has generally been adopted ; we have attempted to recognize the various sections of the political parties as they are represented in this chamber. The proposed new standing order provides that nominations shall be submitted within four sitting days after the commencement of the session. Obviously, that cannot be done this session, because we have already sat more than four days. I assume that it would be a compliance with the standing order if the nominations were made within four days of the adoption of this new standing order. It will be an innovation in the Federal Parliament, and the result will be watched with interest. There is scope for much useful work to be performed by the committee. I commend the new standing order to honorable senators.
– I had intended, as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, to take the course which has been taken by the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) ; but, as he has put the position so well there is no necessity for me to do more than support his motion.
– If the honorable senator, as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, would move the adoption of the new standing order, I am prepared to withdraw my motion.
– There is no need for that. No one could have put the case better than did the right honorable gentleman. All that he said was correct, more especially his remarks relating to the allocation among the various parties of positions on the committee. The proposal has much to recommend it; indeed, much time and argument would have been saved had such a standing order been in operation in past years. I hope that the proposed new standing order will receive the unanimous endorsement of honorable senators. The task now before the committee automatically divides itself into three parts. First, there is the consideration of the rules guiding the appointment of a standing committee, and the provision for the appointment of other standing committees, if deemed desirable. Secondly, there is the consideration of regulations; and, thirdly, the method of referring bills to select committees or standing committees. I cordially endorse the remarks of the Loader of the Government, and I hope that the Senate will be unanimously in favour of the motion.
Senator DUNN (New South Wales) f 11.29]. - On behalf of the group which I represent in this chamber, I desire to express my appreciation of the thoughtfulness displayed by the right honorable the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce). I was somewhat afraid that this group would not be recognized in this connexion ; but his remarks have removed my fears. As the right honorable gentleman has stated, there are two groups supporting the Government in this chamber - the United Australia party and the Country party - and also two groups sitting in opposition.
– How does the honorable senator define the two groups?
– The section which I represent adheres to the principles which the honorable senator supported when he was a member of the Labour party in Queensland. I think that the allocation of membership of the committee outlined by the Leader of the Government will meet with the approval of honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
– So far as I can see from a study of the report of the Standing Orders Committee, the new standing order now under consideration will simplify the work of the Senate. The suggestion of the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) with respect to the distribution of representation meets, I think, with the views of members of the Opposition.
– Honorable senators will notice that paragraph a of sub-clause 2 of proposed new standing order 36a provides that -
The Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of thu session, nominate in writing, addressed to the President, four senators to be members of the committee . . .
It would appear that no difficulty is likely to arise in the appointment of the committee iu the future; but, as already more than four sitting days have elapsed since this session commenced, the Senate will be debarred from appointing such a committee this session unless the proposed new standing order is amended. The position may be covered by some standing order already in operation with which I am unacquainted, but I think that the paragraph should be amended to read : “ The Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the first adoption of this standing order, and on all subsequent occasions within four sitting days after the commencement of the session nominate in writing, addressed to the President, four senators to be members of the Committee “. The paragraph in its present form would, as I have said, appear to debar the appointment of such a committee during this session.
– I do not think that any difficulty arises in this connexion. The Senate, which is master in its own house, can, either by leave, or more properly, by motion, under the new standing order when, it is adopted, act in the manner desired. The difficulty, if there is one, can easily and properly be overcome in that way.
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) [11.36 1. - Honorable senators are aware that the object of the proposed new standing order is to arm the Senate with the power to review regulations which are tabled from time to time, frequently in very large numbers. When thi? chairman of the select committee appointed to inquire into this subject was explaining the substance of the committee’s report, he pointed to the practice of legislation by regulation which has grown up in Great Britain, and to which public attention has been directed by the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart, in his work entitled The New Despotism. “Whether we shall arrive at the. samestate of affairs remains to be seen. It has been mentioned from time to time that the power of Parliament has gradually been taken away under the authority given to governments in the matter of making regulations. In some instances measures have been passed in a skeleton form, and the regulations framed under them have never been properly considered by Parliament. This proposal is an endeavour to give to Parliament an opportunity to more closely study the regulations which, after all, are an integral part of the legislation passed by Parliament. The new standing order provides that the Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of the session, nominate four senators to be members of the committee. It is customary for such committees to be appointed at the commencement of a session. Usually, the work of a parliament is divided into three sessions; but, as honorable senators are aware, one of our sessions covered 27 months. I think that the paragraph should be amended to read, “at the commencement of each Parliament,” or that we should insert some such words to more precisely determine the period intended.
Paragraph b provides that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate shall, within four sitting days after the commencement of a session, nominate three senators to be members of the committee. When this report was drafted, the committee had in mind that, following traditional practice, there would be only one party in opposition. To-day there are two parties in opposition in this chamber, and we have not yet been informed who is actually the leader of one of them, or of the political differences which separate them. Senator Barnes is recognized as the leader of one party in opposition; but, up to the present, we have not been told who leads the other party. Senator Dunn, whom I find it difficult to follow owing to his polished Oxford accent, may have announced at some time, that he leads that party. If he has, I feel sure that he will pardon me for having overlooked the fact. When this report was tabled the Opposition comprised only one party, but now it consists of two.. How are we to designate the second party in opposition?
– As “the breakaways.”
SenatorRae. - There are two parties also on the Government side.
– The difficulty I see is how three members of a committee are to be appointed from two parties, each of which claims: to be the principal party in opposition. We have no modern Solomon to make the division. Perhaps the difficulty could be overcome by inserting in paragraph b the words, “ the several leaders of the Opposition in the Senate “.. Two years ago no one dreamed that there would now be two parties in opposition, and it is quite possible that, before long, there may be a third party, the members of which will still call each other comrades. This paragraph presupposes only one party in opposition. I suggest that the paragraph be amended to read -
The several leaders of the Opposition in the Senate shall, within four days after the commencement of the session, nominate in. writing, addressed to the President, three senators, selected from the several oppositions, to be members of the committee.
I should like Senator Daly, who is learned in the law, to give us the advantage of his experience and knowledge. Then there is my respected friend Senator Dunn. While I address you, Senator Plain, as “ Mr. Chairman “, his form of address is “ Mr. Charman “. This matter concerns all parties, including that of which he is a member. I want him to tell us how we may overcome the difficulty with which we are confronted. The Senate has always been remarkable for its special ability to surmount difficulties. Here we have a little difficulty that will tax the ingenuity and ability of the several parties in opposition. I am awaiting a clarification of this very difficult problem. The necessary talent is present, and honorable senators want to see it put to this useful purpose. I apologize if it is thought I am wasting the time of honorable senators; but I considered it was necessary to point a way out of the difficulty. We are in a maze, and cannot see the light. We are at a dead end. We do not want a report to be published throughout Australia that this chamber cannot manage a little difficulty of this sort. Judging by the nature of the language that the two branches of the present Opposition have used towards each other in the past, the Chino-Japanese war may be only a small circumstance compared with what might happen if they came to close grips. For the present I shall subside and await a manifestation of the higher intelligence of the gentleman whom I have named.
– My sole reason for rising is to reply to some of the personalities that have been indulged in by Senator Lynch. The impression has been left in the minds of honorable senators, and of those citizens of Australia who are spectators of these proceedings this morning, that my friend Senator Lynch is endowed with a greater degree of intelligence than any honorable senator sitting on the Opposition benches. The honorable gentleman made bold to refer to my accent, which he described as an Oxford accent. Oxford, as honorable senators are aware, is one of the great seats of British learning, and a foremost expounder of the English language. I am rather pleased and honoured, therefore, that Senator Lynch should credit me with the possession of such a cultured accent.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I point out to the honorable senator that the committee is considering a proposed new standing order. I did not hear Senator Lynch make the remarks with which he is credited by the honorable senator. If he did so he was out of order, and had I heard him I should certainly have interposed.
– If you did not hear the remarks, Mr. Chairman, I must conclude that only a mass of shamrocks fell from the lips of Senator Lynch. Does that honorable senator wish to convey to the minds of other honorable senators the impression that only Lynch law may be debated?
– I ask the honorable senator to deal with the proposed new standing order.
– I submit, Mr Chairman, that Senator Lynch-
– Order ! I have already pointed out that I did not hear the remarks that have been attributed to Senator Lynch. In those circumstances I cannot allow the honorable senator to continue to comment upon them. I again ask him to confine his remarks to the proposed new standing order.
– Very well. Without any desire to be impertinent, may I inquire if you, sir, as the Chairman of this committee, fully understand what I am saying at the present moment?
– Order ! I again ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the proposed new standing order. I shall not repeat the request.
– Very well. It is evident that you do not understand me; consequently, I must take notice of what you say.
– Order !
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce), who by a turn of the political wheel, has again been elected to represent the State of Western Australia in this chamber, has just given an assurance to honorable senators that the various political groups in this chamber will be accorded their due recognition. It is known that there are four distinct political groups in the Senate. One, the United Australia party, has control of the treasury bench. Then there are the Country party and the two Labour groups which sit in opposition. It is true, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley) has asserted by way of interjection, that I and those who sit with me are break-away* from the party to which he belongs. We make no apology on that account. The New South Wales section of the Federal Labour party could no longer follow that party.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I shall do so. We could not support the proposition put forward by the party to which Senator Dooley belongs, to make an attack on pensions.
– Order. Is the honorable senator deliberately disobeying my ruling?
– I have no wish to do so. If that is your impression, sir, I humbly apologize. During the course of his remarks Senator Lynch claimed that the wisdom of a Solomon would be needed to distinguish between the various political groups.
– Order. Political groups have nothing to do with the proposed new standing order.
– If you wish to have it more nicely expressed, 1 shall use the word “ representation.”
– Representation has nothing to do with the proposed new standing order. I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to that subject.
– The word “ group “ is disallowed, and so is the word “ representation.” Am I allowed to use the word “ sections “ or the word “ nominee’s “ ?
– The word “ nominees “ has nothing to do with the proposed new standing order.
– But we have in the proposed new standing order these words - (n.. ) The Leader of the Government in the Senate shall, within four days after the corn.mencement of the session, nominate in writing addressed to the President, four senators to be members of the committee. (&. ) The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate shall, within four days after the commencement of the session nominate in writing addressed to the President, three senators to be members of the committee.
That is a distinct statement in King’s English. Unlike the snakes that were banished from Ireland, I am not hissing.
– Order. Once more I point out to the honorable senator that the statements which he is making have nothing whatever to do with the standing order under consideration. There is only one recognized leader of His Majesty’s Opposition.
– Very well. We will take another place as an illustration. In that chamber there is the Government party led by the Prime Minister, the Country party, what is known as the Federal Labour party, and the New South
Wales Labour party. The Prime Minister recognizes those several parties-
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the standing order. If the honorable senator does not quite understand the standing order, he should resume his seat.
– I understand it all right. With all due respect, you do not.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark and apologize to the chair.
– That is easily done. I withdraw my remark and apologize.
– The honorable senator must do so in a respectful manner.
– With all due respect to you, I suppose there cannot be a censorship of my thoughts.
– Order! I call upon the honorable senator to withdraw that remark also and to apologize.
– I apologize; but I am still thinking and I cannot help my thoughts from running in a certain channel.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw and apologize unqualifiedly.
– I apologize for my remark and also for thinking of it. I do not wish to delay the business of the committee especially as, to use the vernacular, I am “ in the gun “.
– Order ! I have no alternative but to name the honorable senator for his disobedience of, and the undignified attitude he has adopted towards, the Chair.
– That is a dastardly act.
– Order !
– You can name me, too, if you like. It is a scandalous prostitution of your office to act as you have done.
– Order !
– Absolutely scandalous.
– Order! I also name Senator Rae for his disrespectful attitude to the Chair.
– I should think so. It is a rotten judgment.
In the Senate:
– I have to report that Senator Dunn has persistently and wilfully refused to conform to the Standing Orders, and has wilfully disregarded the authority of the Chair.
– The Chairman of Committees having reported that Senator Dunn has persistently and wilfully refused to conform to the Standing Orders and disobeyed the authority of the Chair, I call upon Senator Dunn to stand in his place and make any explanation or apology he has to offer.
– With all due respect to you, sir, I have nothing to add to or retract from what I have already said in committee.
– Then I call upon the Leader of the Senate to take the necessary action.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) put -
That Senator Dunn he suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Dunn then retired from the chamber.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) put -
That SenatorRae be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Rae then retired from the chamber.
Proposed new standing order agreed to.
Proposed new standing orders agreed to as follows: - “ 37a. Other standing committees may be appointed from time to time, on motion after notice, to consider and report on such subjects as may be decided upon by the Senate.” “ 37b. The procedure to be adopted in the proceedings of standing committees shall be the same as that of select committees unless the Senate otherwise orders.” (Standing order proposedto be amended - 133. No question or amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question or amendment which, during the same session, has been resolved in the affirmative or negative, unless the order, resolution, or vote on such question or amendment has been rescinded.
Committee’s recommendation -
That the following proviso be added: - “Provided that this standing order shall not operate to prevent the proposal of a motion for the disallowance of a regulation or ordinance substantially the same in effect as that previously disallowed during the same session.”
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.14].-I move-
That the proviso be agreed to.
This point cropped up last session when a motion was submitted for the disallowance of certain regulations. As the standing order was not quite clear the Standing Orders Committee has recommended this alteration.
– The committee should not adopt the proviso without mature consideration. During the last Parliament certain difficulties arose because of the attempt by the Opposition to thwart the Government with regard to the making of certain regulations. Any similar difficulty in future will be overcome by the appointment of the proposed standing orders committee. That body will be properly representative of the Senate, and following the usual practice the Government representatives on it will be in the majority. If it functions as expected, it will overcome any difficulty such as that which occurred during the last Parliament, and possibly it will obviate the need for this proviso. The standing order enunciates a principle which should be maintained by this Parliament, namely, that questions once having been finally disposed of shall not be raised again and again in the same session. The proposed standing orders committee will take the consideration of all regulations and ordinances out of the hands of the Senate, because I cannot visualize this chamber disallowing regulations or ordinances that have received the endorsement of the proposed committee, and, on the other hand, I cannot visualize the Senate approving of regulations or ordinances which are disapproved by the committee. The adoption of the proviso may weaken an otherwise vital and valuable principle enunciated in the standing order.
– I hope the committee will adopt the suggested proviso, and that the new standing order will be enforced until its place is taken by direct legislation, either by an amendment of the Acts Interpretation Act, or in some other way. The position which arose during the last Parliament could not have been foreseen by the f ramers of our laws, otherwise there is no doubt whatever that they would have made provision for it. There is very good reason why the amend- ment should he adopted, because, after all, it is only a standing order, and if there is any possibility - I do not think there is - of a recurrence of the regrettable incidents of last session, action can be taken under it pending the passage of direct legislation.
– For the sake of charity, I move - ‘
That the word “ that “ second occurring in the proviso be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ one “.
In its present form the proviso may be somewhat misleading.
Amendment agreed Co.
Proviso, as amended, agreed to.
Standing order proposed to be amended - 194. Amendments may be moved to such question by leaving out “now” and adding this day six months”, which if carried, shall finally dispose of the bill; or by referring the bill to a select committee; or the previous question may be moved.
Committee’s recommendation :
Amend the standing order by leaving out the words “or by referring the bill to a select committee “.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.21].- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
As our procedure with regard to the second reading of bills is to be dealt with in a series of new standing orders, it is necessary to make this amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new standing orders - “ 195a. A bill having been read a second time shall be considered in a committee of the whole Senate, or the Senate may first refer the bill to a Select Committee or a Standing Committee.” “ 195b. When it is intended to move to refer a bill to a Select Committee or Standing Committee the second reading may be moved pro forma, and in such case there shall be no speech by the mover and no debate: Provided that notice of intention to move pro forma must be given either at the time of fixing the date for second reading or not less than two clear sitting days before the date fixed for second reading, the same to be. notified on the notice-paper.”
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.22]. - I do not feel satisfied with the form in which those proposed new Standing Orders, 195a and 195b, have been presented. I have had them submitted to the draftsmen, and I think it is possible to express the intention in simpler language.
I, therefore, suggest that the following new standing orders be substituted for the two recommended by the committee : - 195a. A bill having been read a second time shall, unless otherwise ordered, be considered in a committee of the whole Senate. 195b. Notice of motion that the second reading of a bill be pro forma, in order that the bill may stand referred to a specified select committee or standing committee, shall be given either at the time of fixing the date for the second reading of the bill or not less than two clear sitting days before that date. 195c. Where the Senate orders that the second reading of a bill be pro forma, there shall be no speech by the mover and no debate, and the bill shall stand referred to the specified select committee or the standing committee as ordered.
There is no ambiguity in the language of these proposals. If the Government brings forward a bill and it is not desired to refer it to a select committee, the Minister may proceed with his secondreading speech. Under the committee’s proposal the Minister is assumed to know what is in the minds of honorable senators, but actually, he may not know of a desire to have a bill referred to a select committee. I believe the recommendations submitted by the Standing Orders Committee will be found to be unworkable. I do not care to move for the substitution of the proposals which I have indicated, but if some honorable senator will move the adoption of the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee, I shall move an amendment to omit all the words after “ shall “ in proposed new Standing Order 195a, with a view to insert the words “ unless otherwise ordered be considered in a committee of the whole Senate.” If that amendment is carried, I shall move to omit proposed new Standing Order 195b, with a view to inserting the proposed new standing orders which I have read.
– To facilitate discussion, I move -
That proposed new Standing Order 195a be agreed to.
– This proposed new standing order has been working satisfactorily for many years in New Zealand. While it may not be expressed in the best form, it would only have been courteous if the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) had referred his proposals to the Standing Orders Committee, and given that body an opportunity to consider and compare them with its recommendations. There is no doubt whatever that in certain circumstances, Senate procedure may be seriously hindered under our existing Standing Orders. Honorable senators may not be aware of it, but during the second reading of the Central Reserve Bank Bill, there occurred a hiatus which had to be provided for in a manner not laid down in our Standing Orders, to permit the Senate to return to the discussion of the bill on the second reading. The intention of these proposed standing orders is to prevent the practice of moving that a bill be referred to a select committee or a standing committee until the second reading has passed, either pro forma or in some other way. Then there is another difficulty. It has arisen because of the abolition from the Standing Orders of the Senate, of one stage of a bill which exists, so far as I know, in the majority of English speaking Parliaments. Immediately the second reading of a bill is concluded in either House, a motion is made by the Minister in charge of the measure, that the President, or Speaker, as the case may be, do now leave the Chair, and that the House do now resolve itself into a committee of the whole for the consideration of the bill. That is the proper stage for moving that it be referred to a select committee or a standing committee. Under our present Standing Orders, the only stage at which this may be done is on the second reading, which is absurd. I am unable at the moment to grasp the full meaning of the. right honorable gentleman’s proposed amendment. I suggest that we report progress, and ask leave to resume the debate on the next day of sitting, so that in the meantime I, as Chairman of the Standings ‘Orders Committee, and other honorable senators, may have an opportunity to consider his proposal.
– If “given an opportunity to move my amendment, so that it will be before the committee, I propose then to ask that progress be reported.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (West be best for us to report progress; but before doing so, I submit that the proposed standing order, as it now reads, might be interpreted to mean that a bill could be referred to a select committee only when the intention to do so had been notified, and there had been no debate on it.’ It might be Wise to include a provision somewhat as follows : -
A bill may be referred to a select committee after the second reading’ has been passed, notwithstanding that no notice of intention to refer such bill to a select committee has been given, as provided in the preceding Standing Order.
The necessity for a select committee to review a bill is not always manifest until after the second-reading debate has taken place. I submit my suggestion for the consideration of the Standing Orders Committee.
– A subsequent standing order meets the honorable senator’s objection.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [12.38]. - In order that my amendment may be placed before the committee, Senator Brennan moved just now that the proposed new Standing Order 195a be adopted. I now move -
That all the words after the word “ shall “ be left out with a view to insert in Heu thereof the words “ unless otherwise ordered, be considered in a committee of the whole Senate.”
Later, I shall move tha.t progress be reported, in order that the Standing Orders Committee may consider my amendment, as well as the suggestions of Senators Colebatch, McLachlan, and others. For the guidance of the committee, I point out that if we adopt the proposed Standing Order 195b, we shall find it unworkable, whatever its intention may be. When a government introduces a bill it may have no knowledge of ‘any intention on the part of a section of the Senate to refer it to a select committee. The proposed standing order proceeds on the assumption that every one knows of the intention to refer the bill to a select committee, or not to do so. It provides that “ the second reading may be moved pro forma.” I take it that that provision is made to meet cases in which it is known that it is intended to refer the bill to a select committee. But what is the position if that intention is not known? Where that intention is known, the proposed standing order provides that there shall be no speech by the mover arid no debate. There is a proviso that “ notice of intention to move pro forma must be given either at the time of fixing the date for second reading, or not less than two clear sitting days before the date fixed foi- second reading, the same to be notified on the notice-paper.” That can only mean that a bill is introduced one day with the intention of the second reading being moved the following day. Honorable senators may not see the bill until its introduction, yet they have to give r.wo clear sitting days’ notice if they desire to refer it to a select committee. They cannot give notice of their intention until the following day. The proposed new standing order would prove unworkable in practice. Is the mere giving of notice sufficient to make the second reading of a bill pro forma If that is to be the position, what a splendid weapon will be placed in the hands of an alert Opposition; merely by giving notice, it will make the second reading of a bill pro forma ! Why cannot we say, in plain English, what we intend? F am not concerned with what has been done in New Zealand or elsewhere. It may be the practice adopted in New Zealand rather than the wording of their Standing Orders which is satisfactory. If the practice there is sound, by all means let us follow it; but why not express what we mean in plain English? In order to enable the Standing Orders Committeeto consider this matter in the light of the suggestions that have been made, I suggest that we now report progress.
Sitting suspended from 18.40 to 2.15 p.m.
[2.15]. - As the Financial Agreements Enforcement Bill, the second reading of which I propose to move this afternoon, has not yet reached .the Senate, I suggest, sir, that you suspend the sitting until 3 p.m.
Silling suspended from 2.16 to S p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
British Commonwealth Merchant Shipping Agreement, signed at London, 10th December, 1031.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Twentyfirst Annual Report, 1930-31.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and sessional orders suspended, and bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[3.3]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I propose briefly to sketch the history leading up to the position in which we find ourselves in regard to the very important subject of the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and the States. First of all, the Financial Agreement, dealing with the transfer of debts, the creation of sinking funds, future borrowing, and incidental matters was agreed to by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the six States in 1927. Subsequently, the Commonwealth Parliament, and every State Parliament, passed financial agreement bills in which the Financial Agreement appeared as a schedule. A bill providing for the necesary amendment of the Federal Constitution was passed by an absolute majority of both Houses of the Federal Parliament, and subsequently, in accordance with the constitutional provision, it was referred to the people, and adopted in every one of the six States. I think it desirable to remind the Senate of this history, because there appears to me to be a disposition in certain quarters to try to make it appear that the Financial Agreement had its origin solely in an act of the Commonwealth Parliament.
After that agreement had been arrived at, its provisions and the provisions of the draft bill were subjected by every State Government to the scrutiny of its Crown Law officers, so that presumably each State Government was at pains to see that the rights of the State were fully conserved before it asked the Parliament of the S tate to give legislative concurrence to it. So far as I know, no other bill enacted in the history of federation has ever had to pass such a gruelling test as that to which this particular legislation was submitted.
Let us now see exactly what alterations we have made in the Constitution as it existed before 1927. Section 105 provides -
The Parliament may take over from - the States their public debts as existing at the establishment of the Common wealth, or a proportion thereof according to the respective numbers of their people as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, and may convert, renew, or consolidate such debts, or any part thereof; and States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of the debts taken over, and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debt shall be deducted and retained from the portions of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth payable to the several States, or if such surplus is insufficient, or if there is no surplus, then the deficiency or the whole amount shall be paid by the several States.
That was altered in 1910 by the deletion of the words “ as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth “ to enable the debts to be taken over up to that period. The alteration made as a result of the Financial Agreement in 1927 was inserted in 1929 by Act No. 1 of that year. That amendment was of a vital and farreaching character, and I venture to say that a great many persons in the Commonwealth who have been talking on the subject have never studied the alteration then made or they would not speak as they do.
– They probably would not have voted for it had they read it.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. The proposed amendment of the Constitution was extensively canvassed and discussed on public platforms and through the press: The people at that time knew what they were doing and did it deliberately.
– That is rather inconsistent with the Minister’s previous statement that many of those who are talking on this subject have never studied the alteration.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Not at all ; because the critics to whom I referred were probably not interested in the subject at that time. Section 105a of the Constitution - the Financial Agreement - provides -
The Commonwealth may make arrangements withthe States with respect to the public debts of the States including -
Sub-section 2, which, I suggest, many people appear to overlook, reads -
The Parliament- “ The Parliament “ means the Commonwealth Parliament and no other - may make’ laws for validating any such agreement made before the commencement of this section.
Sub-section 3 is as follows : -
The Parliament may make laws for the carrying out by the parties thereto of any such agreement.
– By the consent; of the parties thereto.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is an obligation on this Parliament.
– On all parties.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The obligation to make laws is laid upon the Commonwealth Parliament. Subsection 4 reads -
Any such agreement may be varied or rescinded by the parties thereto.
Sub-section5 is as follows: -
Every such agreement and any such variation thereof shall be binding upon the Commonwealth and the States parties thereto, notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution or the Constitution of the several States or in any law of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State.
That sub-section is one of the strongest in the whole of our Constitution. It deliberately provides that the agreement shall be binding “notwithstanding any- ching contained in this Constitution or the Constitution of the several States or in any law of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of any State.” Then we have sub-section 6, which provides -
The powers conferred by this section shall not be construed as being limited in any way by the provisions of section 105 of this Constitution.
It will be seen from this brief review that the Commonwealth and all the States have been and were fully consulted on this subject; that the Commonwealth Parliament and all the State Parliaments have legislated thereon; that the people have endorsed the action taken ; that the agreement is binding on the Commonwealth and on the States; that the obligation to enforce the agreement is placed upon the Commonwealth; and that enforcement is to be by legislation.
I now come to what has caused this bill to be brought forward at this juncture - the default by Mr. Lang, Premier of New South Wales. Mr. Lang has defaulted in his interest payments on two occasions. . The first of these was when the Scullin Government was iri office–
– What was the date of the first default?
– I think it was in September or October of last year. At that time, Mr. Lang gave the Scullin Government over a week’s notice of his intention not to meet overseas interest payments. The Commonwealth Government of that time, having a week’s notice, obtained the money from the Commonwealth Bank, paid the amount, and began an action in the High Court for the recovery of the sum due and owing. Mr. Lang subsequently gave the Commonwealth Government treasurybills for the amount which the Commonwealth Government had paid on behalf of the Government of New South Wales, and the action in the High Court was then abandoned.
– He promised also not to repeat the offence.
– I am coming to that. That was not the only undertaking he gave. At that time, Mr. Lang undertook also tq adhere to the Premiers plan to reduce the adjustable expenditure of his Government by 20 per cent., and to meet all future interest pay ments as they became due. The circumstances in connexion with ‘ the second default are these : When the Loan Council was meeting in - Melbourne in January last, statements submitted by the New South Wales Government revealed that Mr. Lang had not kept his promise regarding the Premiers plan, since he had not reduced his adjustable expenditure by 20 per cent. On this occasion he gave the Commonwealth Government only one day’s notice of his proposed default. He asked the Commonwealth Government to find the sum of £500,000 at one day’s notice, undertaking himself to make available £45S,000, making a total of £958,000, which apparently was due and payable on the following day by the State of New South Wales. The Commonwealth’s contribution to interest on debts of the State under the Financial Agreement is £7,584,912 annually; the States provide the balance of the interest payments due on their debts. The £500,000 which Mr. Lang asked the Commonwealth Government to find was no part of this sum of £7,584,912.
We have now to deal with the power vested in this Parliament to enforce the Financial Agreement, and honorable senators are asked to consider what I think can accurately be described as the most vital legislation ever brought before this Parliament. It is without precedent. The situation which has arisen as a result of the default of the Lang Government of New South Wales is also without precedent. The direct issue involved is the financial stability of Australia, and this Government proposes to take the most summary steps to preserve that stability. I remind honorable senators that that was the mandate which we received from the people of Australia at the last general election.
I have already recapitulated the main features of the Financial Agreement. I shall now proceed to outline the provisions of the bill. Honorable senators will then be in a position to appreciate the reasons which I shall advance to show how imperative it is to place such drastic legislation on the statute-book at the earliest moment possible.
It is advisable, I think, to refer to the fact that joint annual contributions by the Commonwealth and the States are to be made to a sinking fund, for the purpose of finally repaying the sums which have been borrowed.
At the present juncture, the crux of the matter is the payment of interest. I may here appropriately mention, that interest amounts to £55,000,000 per annum - which is, I think, prima facie evidence that there was never any intention between the contracting parties that the Commonwealth should undertake the responsibility of raising this sum from revenue.
Clause’ 2 b of Part III. makes it quite clear -that the Commonwealth is to raise approximately £7,500,000 in respect of State debts, and that the States shall provide the balance in respect of their liability as set out in clause 2 c, which reads as follows : -
Each State shall iti each year during the same period of 58 years pay to the Commonwealth the excess over the amounts to ho provided by the Commonwealth under the last preceding sub-clause necessary to make up as they fall due the interest charges falling duc in that year on the public debt of that State taken over by the Commonwealth as aforesaid and then unpaid, and on any moneys borrowed by the Commonwealth on behalf of that State and then unpaid, and after the expiration of the said period each State shall in each year pay to the Commonwealth, as they fall due, the whole of the interest charges on any debt then unpaid and included in the public debt of that State .taken over by the Commonwealth as aforesaid, and on any moneys borrowed by the Commonwealth on behalf of that State and then unpaid.
Borrowings since the agreement came into force have been made by the Commonwealth, and are primarily a Commonwealth responsibility. This, though not relevant to the present default by New South Wales, is important in considering the bill with reference to the future; because, as State loans fall due for payment, bonds under any consequential conversion loan will be a Commonwealth liability. That matter is dealt with in the bill, the second reading of which I moved earlier in the day.
The problem now to be solved is, in what manner shall the Commonwealth protect itself and the rest of the States in the event of default by one State? In the ordinary contingencies of civil life, the process of the courts for the enforcement of a debt is satisfactory and suitable, but it was not designed to meet cases such as we are now considering. The difficulty in taking proceedings is great, an immediate decision cannot be obtained, and the final step - that of seizing the debtor’s property and selling -it - is impracticable in the case of States. In fact, section 65 of the Judiciary Act prohibits process, such as attachment or execution, against the Commonwealth or the States. We have to face an extraordinary situation, which demands a drastic remedy.
The obligations under the Financial Agreement must be fulfilled. We propose that in any specific case the High Court shall determine what obligations remain unfulfilled, and that the Commonwealth shall, after taking certain procedure, receive specified revenues of the defaulting State.
Very clear and simple provision is made for the collection of such revenue. In outline, it is as follows: -
The proposed method of approach to the High Court is simple and expeditious.. It will be founded on a certificate furnished by the Auditor-General that there is a sum of money owing and unpaid to the Commonwealth by a State under the Financial Agreement. The certificate will be published in the Commonwealth Gazette, and the Treasurer may then apply to the High Court for a declaration that the sum mentioned in the certificate, or any lesser sum, is due and owing. The certificate will be prima facie evidence of the matters mentioned in it. It is open, of course, to the State to bring evidence in rebuttal, but it is obvious that such evidence would arise only from a miscalculation or a clerical error. The declaration of the High Court will have the force of a judgment.
The final step in procedure is a resolution of both Houses of the Parliament, applying the machinery, to which I hav referred, to revenues of the State as specified in the resolution. The time during which” such revenue will be collected will be commenced, and later determined, by proclamation. Alternative urgent machinery is provided, by which Parliament may, by resolution of both Houses, after a certificate by the AuditorGeneral, put into operation the machinery provisions for the collection of revenue pending the declaration of the High Court.
Provision is also made to prevent further loan moneys from, being paid to a defaulting State. There is, of course, provision for the adjustment of accounts, if revenue is collected in excess of the debt due by the State. Finally, there is power to call on any bank holding State funds for the payment of such amount of those funds as the Treasurer demands.
Two other matters may be referred to in passing. The bill, as amended by another place last night, now contains a clause limiting the operation of the act to a period of two years. It is the intention of the Government that, well before the expiration of that period, the representatives of the States shall be called together to consider this legislation. It is probable that, when that meeting takes place, we shall have, had some experience of the working of the act. In any event, it is highly desirable - in fact, essential - to have on the statute-book some permanent legislation that will enable the Commonwealth to enforce the Financial Agreement. In the light of that experience, and after there has- been consultation with the States before the expiry of the fixed period of two years, the Commonwealth Government will determine whether legislation of this character, or any amendment thereof, shall be brought forward as the permanent legislation dealing with these contingencies.
There is also provision that, where advantage is taken of the urgent procedure, the Attorney-General must apply to the High Court for a declaration of the amount due. As the bill was originally presented in another place, it was optional whether the Attorney-General applied to the High Court or refrained from doing so. Now the provision makes it compulsory for him to apply. In addition, a State is given the power to institute proceedings contesting its liability.
It is interesting to turn to the provisions of Act No. 48 of 3927 of the State of New South Wales, the short title of which is “The Loan Act 1927”. Section 3 of that act authorizes the raising of sums of money not exceeding £5,922,400, by the issue of debentures or stock, secured upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I understand that those terms are common to the legislation of all the States, which authorizes the raising of money by way of loan.
– Does that refer to interest as well as principal?
Senator Sir . GEORGE PEARCE.This is interest. It is obvious why that should be so. When a person raises money privately he has to furnish -some security. Trie State of New South Wales cannot pledge the whole or any part of its railways or its harbour bridge; therefore it. pledges its public revenues. Section 8 of the act to which I have referred, provides that where treasury bills have been issued the interest on such bills shall be chargeable on and payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
I invite the attention of honorable senators to one item in the schedule of works enumerated at page 448 of this volume of the New South Wales statutes for 1927 ; it is “ Sydney Harbour bridge, further sum’, £531,000”. It is obvious that the bondholder could not proceed to sell one-eighteenth part of the Sydney Harbour bridge for the purpose of recovering what was due to him; nor could he ask the court to hypothecate any portion of the sixpenny toll which I understand the Government of that State proposes to levy for the purpose of defraying the annual expenditure on the bridge. The only way in which, as a practical fact, the debt and .the interest thereon can be met is by the hypothecation of the revenues of the State. I am not suggesting, Mr. President, that it is the interest on that particular loan which New South Wales is not now paying; but I do say that it is the interest on loans with respect to which the New South Wales Parliament made that exact provision. The legislation that we are now asking the Commonwealth Parliament to pass merely carries out what the New South Wales Parliament and the law passed by it says should be carried out, namely, the hypothecation of the revenues of New South Wales to meet the interest on loans raised by that State on the undertaking given by the law which I have quoted. The bill merely proposes that the Commonwealth shall obtain possession of revenues which, under the State act, is charged with the payment of the debt - a State act which, I suggest, the State Government is disregarding.
I am not unaware that serious -doubt has been cast upon the validity of provisions contained in this bill. I assure the Senate, however, that the Government has gone to considerable pains to secure the best guidance possible in that regard, and has obtained the advice of eminent counsel concerning the provisions of the bill.
– “Will the right honorable gentleman lay those opinions on the table of the Senate?
– I should prefer the honorable senator to make that request at question time to my colleague, the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan).
– I now ask the Acting Attorney-General to make a note of my request.
– I am astonished that a lawyer of Senator Daly’s attainments should put such a question to a poor, unsophisticated layman like myself.
I also point out - and this cannot be repeated too often - that section 105a of the Constitution has received the closest and most minute examination by acknowledged constitutional authorities. Having said that, I feel that we should leave comments on the interpretation of the Constitution to the body whose province it is, namely, the High Court of Australia.
In the debate upon this measure it will probably be said that by it we are invading the sovereign rights of the States. That is a phrase which comes easily to the tongue.
– Why not say the constitutional rights of the States?
– I shall put it in that way if the honorable senator wishes me to do so. The constitutional rights of the States in this matter are embodied in section 105a of the Com monwealth Constitution. Many people appear to act on the assumption that that Constitution makes provision only for the rights of the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact the sovereign and constitutional rights of the States are as much provided for in it as are the rights of the Commonwealth, particularly in section 105a.
– I do not believe that one member of the legal profession among Government supporters will agree with that view.
-Those who talk in that way seem to me to be obsessed with the idea that the Financial Agreement is the product only of Commonwealth legislation.
– It was pushed on to the States by the removal of the per capita payments.
-That is rather an insult to the intelligence of the Governments and Parliaments of the States at the time.
– What else could the Governments do in the circumstances? They had to accept the Financial Agreement or nothing.
-They were free agents in the matter. I have a higher opinion of the calibre of the State Parliaments than to think that they acted under duress. Nothing can be adduced to back up the assertion that they were coerced.
Let me examine the question of the ‘ rights of the States. I am a representative of the State of Western Australia. That State has certain rights. For instance, if Mr. Lang is allowed to default in his interest payments the taxpayers of Western Australia will have to pay taxation to make up, not only the interest due on their own indebtedness, but also a share of the interest due on the indebtedness of New South Wales. Surely it is a right of Western Australia to see that, each other State meets its own interest payments so that Western Australia will not have to help to make good the default of another State. How can it protect itself in this respect? It may be said that it has a right of action in the High Court. I doubt very much if it would be satisfied with that recourse, because the length of time that would elapse before it could assert its rights would bo rather appalling.Western Australia, however, some years ago, agreed that something should be put into the Commonwealth Constitution to protect its rights in these matters. As one of the six States, by its own legislation, and by the will of a majority of the people of the State expressed at a referendum, it secured the insertion in the Constitution of a provision giving power to the Commonwealth Parliament to enforce the Financial Agreement. That is where the rights of Western Australia under the Financial Agreement repose to-day.
– The term used in the Constitution is “ carry out “ and not “ enforce. “ It seems to me an important difference.
– The honorable and learned senator may be able to show the difference, but if the Commonwealth Parliament is to provide for the carrying out. of the Financial Agreement, I fail to see how it can do so without the powers of enforcement. My view may not be a goodlaw, but it is at any rate, common sense. There are, however, several legal men in this chamber, and I leave the point to them. I do not propose to say anything further at this stage.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Tuesday next,at 3 p.m.
Legal Opinions on Financial Agreements Enforcement Bill.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senatedo now adjourn
– In view of the possibility of a conflict of opinion about the legislation we have to consider on Tuesday next, will the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan) makeavailable for the use of honorable senators the legal opinions quoted by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) to-day. These opinions cannot be regarded as private, and they would be of the greatest possible service to honorable senators in deciding upon the correctness or otherwise of the deductions drawn from them to-day by the Leader of the Government.
– I take the full responsibility for saying that the opinions asked for by Senator Daly will not be laid on the table of this chamber or the Library for the very good reason that in all legal actions counsel’s opinions are the property of the litigants, and in this instance are to be used to secure a remedy, not only for the Commonwealth, but also for the States. The arguments used during the debate on the legislation now before this chamber may or may not be founded on counsel’s opinions, but the opinions themselves are at the moment the property of the Attorney-General. I do not think that the Senate should ask for them; indeed, I do not think that honorable senators are entitled to have them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 March 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320304_senate_13_133/>.