2nd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator WALKER. - I desire to ask the
Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he will be good enough to lay upon the table of the Senate a copy of the last report on the Defence Forces by the late Inspector-General ?
Senator PLAYFORD.- I shall have no objection to laying a copy upon the table.
POSTAL RATES BILL.
Senator STEWART. - I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Postal Rates Bill this session?
Senator KEATING. - The Bill is before the House of Representatives, and I have no reason to believe that the Government intend to postpone its consideration. I understand that it will be proceeded with.
UNIMPROVED VALUE OF LAND.
Senator MILLEN. - I desire to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, if there is any possibility of the Senate being furnished this session with the return showing the number of holdings of different sizes in the various States, which it ordered on the motion of Senator Pearce some weeks ago?
Senator PLAYFORD. - I do not Know. Of course, the informationhas to be obtained from the States, and I believe that it is being collected. I cannot say when the return will be available.
PROPOSED CUSTOMS TARIFF CHANGES.
Senator PULSFORD asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
(a) The increases and decreases of revenue expected to result from the proposed Tariff changes ?
(b) The basis of the preferential arrangements made by Canada, South Africa and . New Zealand respectively ?
(c) The amount of the imports that have paid duty under (1) the preferential rates, and under (2) the ordinary rates year by year in eachof the three countries since preference was adopted, giving also the totals of dutiable imports for the three preceding years ?
(d) In the case of Canada, the imports subject to duty from the United Kingdom and the United States respectively for each of the last ten years?
(e) The percentage of the amount of the imports subject to preference as compared with the duty-paid goods not so favoured ?
(f) A division of the imports for 1905 of the articles now proposed for preference by the Commonwealth, showing in regard to each item the respective imports from - (1) the United Kingdom, (2) Canada, (3) India and other British Asiatic Possessions, (4) other British Possessions, (5) Japan and China, (6) United States, (7) all other foreign countries, (8) the totals?
(g) The imports into the Commonwealth during 1905 which, under the suggested arrangement with New Zealand would be subjected to ‘ higher duties, showing separately the imports - (1) from the United Kingdom, (2) from other parts of the Empire, and (3) -from foreign countries?
(h) Any other, information considered necessary to a full and correct understanding of the proposed agreement with New Zealand, and of the preference proposed to be given to the United Kingdom ?
Senator PLAYFORD. - Unmistakably the honorable senator is asking for a return, and a lengthy one, too. I think that all returns should be moved for in the usual way, as provided in the Standing Orders, fluid that the desired information can be obtained expeditiously. We have given instructions for the preparation of the return to be commenced, but I would ask the honorable senator to be good enough to give notice of a motion in the ordinary way. The formal answer to his question is as follows : -
If the honorable senator will move that returns be prepared as indicated, the matter will receive attention.
Senator Pulsford. - I shall not move for a return, but give the information to the Senate myself.
Senator Playford. - Hear, hear ! That will save expense to the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Minister as to the desirability of offering the company such facilities as to land and otherwise as may be thought just, in consideration of the company spending a certain amount of capital in developing cotton-growing in the Commonwealth ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following papers: -
Transfers of amounts under the Audit Act approved by the Governor-General in Council, financial year 1905-6, dated 3rd September.
Provisional Immigration Restriction regulation, Statutory Rules 1906, No. 70.
Motion (by Senator Playford) pro posed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [2.38]. -We have discussed very fully the details of the Bill. On the motion for its second reading I took the opportunity of explaining mv views as to what I regarded as the principles aimed at, and I had hoped that in Committee the Bill would be reformed in such a way as to make it really a measure furthering the supposed intention of its framers, and freed from a good many features which £ think extremely objectionable. On this occasion I do not intend to occupy the attention of the Senate at any length withregard to matters which have been fully debated, but I wish to state as briefly as I can the grounds on which I intend to vote against the motion. In the first place, I repeat that I am as strongly, opposed to mischievous monopoly as any member of the Senate or any other person can be. I think, as I have always thought, that my own fiscal views - which may not receive the assent of my honorable friends opposite - rest upon a foundation of principle which is entirely antagonistic to anything in the nature of monopoly. And with regard to the other portion of the Bill, I have an equally strong objection to what I scarcely can conceive as possible to. take place under the terms which are specified, that is the importing of goods with the design of destroying an Australian industry. I should be entirely opposed to anything of that kind. If such a thing were to take place it would be in the highest degree mischievous, and one against which Commonwealth’ legislation or, if it came within the ambit of State control, State legislation might very well be directed. But I find in the Bill as I think, a number of provisions which, if the object is to put an end to mischievous or destructive monopolies, will render the measure entirely inefficacious. The provisions with regard to monopoly are an extraordinary mixture of complication, and of injustice. They exhibit, as I think, a degree of ineptitude which it is very difficult to measure. I am sure that honorable senators, if hereafter they come to see the working effect of the measure, will agree with the conclusion at which I have now arrived, namely, that the provisions supposed to deal with mischievous monopoly, will be entirely ineffective. Part II., from clauses 4 to 15 inclusive, surrounds the whole object with a complicated entanglement of conditions and qualifications, elements of difficulty, which, on the face of the Bill, indicate the impossibility of its ever being carried into effect. It may disorganize and distract trade ; it may upset the commerce of the country in many directions ; it may operate on that timidity which is characteristic of trade and commerce, and disarrange things a bit; but it will never. have the effect of putting an end to a fighting monopoly in the hands of the ^powerful combination against which many honorable senators think that this is directed. This part not only surrounds the object with entanglements, but. it possesses elements of injustice. What - to remind honorable senators of only Orr - can be more unjust than clause 6, which declares it to be evidence of unfair competition if the importing firm comes within the designation of a commercial trust? It is admitted that commercial trusts are not all baneful. It is admitted that there may be combinations - I shall not call them monopolies - which are really beneficial and not mischievous ; but in opposition to the view which we entertain on that subject the clause declares that the moment we have a trade being conducted by that which is defined as a commercial trust, that is prima facie evidence of unfair competition. In other words, mv honorable friends admit that a commercial trust may be beneficial and useful, may occasion, no detriment to the community : but simply by the fact of its existence it establishes unless rebutted, unfair competition. That is an element of injustice which ought to shock every fair mind, especially when we have regard to the definition of a commercial trust. It is not merely a trust or a corporation wherein the trustee or corporation hold interest, shares, or stock, but a combination wholly or partly within or beyond Australia - it mav be a partnership within the borders of a State - whose voting power or determinations are controlled or controllable bv an agreement. If there are two or three men who act together for the purposes of trade, and who have an agreement amongst themselves by which their operations are regulated and the manner in which they shall conduct their business is defined, -they are to be held to constitute a commercial trust; and simply because they have such an agreement, the competition in which they indulge with other persons in the same business is to be declared to be prima facie unfair when they can be brought before a Court upon a criminal or quasi-criminal charge rendering them liable to penalties. That is an element of injustice which 1 regret to say the Senate did not wipe out of the Bill. The entanglements which are thrown in the way of traders will’ occasion inextricable confusion and difficulty. We have resolved that this, in my judgment, useless measure shall be placed upon trie statute-book ; and even with a few of the defects which I have indicated, some of us might be able to find reason for saying, “ Give it a trial, to see whether it is useless or not,” were it not for the blot of injustice declaring what may be unfair competition. But the part of the Bill dealing with monopolies , is simplicity itself compared with the net-work of the part headed “Dumping.” Clause 1.9 indicates the so-called mischievous element in dumping. It provides that if the Comptroller-General receives a complaint in writing that any person, either singly or in conjunction with any other person within or beyond the Commonwealth, is importing into Australia goods with intent to destroy or injure any Australian industry, he shall be guilty of unfair competition. Now, the effect of any considerable importation of oversea goods is, of course, to a certain extent, to disarrange ‘the market, and to injure persons who are engaged in a similar trade or industry, and who have a large stock of goods which they wish to place upon the .market.” But when we look back upon the complicated series of clauses which define unfair competition, we find that one of them - paragraph / of sub-clause 1 of clause 18 - makes it unfair competition if the unfortunate importer sells his goods at a price which is less than gives to the person importing or selling them a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value. Could anything be more preposterous than to define as unfair competition the action of a .man who brings in a cheap purchase, or a large purchase which is not cheap, and who, finding the goods upon his hands, is obliged to get rid of them at a sacrifice? If he attempts to do that, and sells at a loss, he comes within the category of persons who, by unfair competition, are seeking to destroy or injure an Australian industry. My first objection to this Bill is that as it stands it is a sham. If it had been introduced in plain terms to suppress mischievous monopolies, I should not. have objected to it. If there is a mischievous monopoly, it does not matter what the intention is - it ought to be put down, and the machinery for putting it down ought not to be complicated with all these elements before the charge can be brought home to the persons whom it is desired to punish. If some enemy had sought to introduce all these qualifications by amendment into the Bill I could have understood it. But I cannot understand the introduction, and the attempt to pass into law a Bill of this description with the intended object of putting down monopolies, and yet surrounded and hampered with so many impediments to its effective operation. Therefore I shall vote against the third reading on that ground. My second ground of objection to it is that quite recently some suggestions have been made with regard to what is called preferential trading. We may have a proposal to that effect before us soon. But it is. an extraordinary thing that whilst one day we are seeking to establish some kind of preferential trade with the mother country, in respect of a large number of lines, we are on another day seeking to prohibit importations from her. The moment she takes advantage of our encouragement by sending us any unusually large quantities of the goods in respect of which we are seeking to give her this socalled Tariff preference, the importers are to be penalized or to be put upon their defence on charges of bringing more goods in than we like. The position we are taking up is hopelessly and ludicrously inconsistent. As a Parliament we say. “ We want to encourage you to send your goods to this country, and for that purpose we wish to give you a preference which is to be denied to other countries.” And at the same time we say, “ But if you bring your goods in and sell them at a loss you are prima facie indulging in unfair competition, will be liable to be charged with an offence, and be subject to penalties.” On that account, I say that such a measure as this ought not to be placed on our statutebook. It will establish a reputation for this Parliament of, in the first place, utter inconsistency, and, in the next place, of utter hypocrisy in the eyes of the traders and the people of England, whom we are supposed to wish, to encourage by our policy of preference. On that ground, also, I shall vote against the third reading of the Bill. Again, I shall vote against if because of provisions contained in it which I am glad to think a number of us made an effort to have expunged. I mean those which are a direct interference with the authority of the States to control their own internal trade, and which are, in my Judgment - although in that respect I quite franki v admit that some honorable senators do not agree with me - a direct infringement of the Constitution under which this Commonwealth exists. I look upon these provisions as literally the worst feature of this measure, and if they alone remained in it, I should be compelled, as a representative of the State from which I come, sent here to defend State rights, and the control to which the State is entitled over its own internal trade - to vote against the third reading. I do not think there can be the slightest shadow of doubt that these provisions are a distinct interference with the territorial jurisdiction of the States, and with their territorial trade. Some honorable senators say - mistakenly, as I think - that we have the power under the Constitution. I take the opposite view. We have debated the point at considerable length. I do not propose to go into it again. But what I do wish to draw attention to, and I urge it upon the most serious attention of honorable senators, is this: It is admitted that these provisions embody a legislative anomaly. My honorable friend the Honorary Minister admitted that the anomaly exists,. That anomaly is that the Bill makes one law for one person and a different law for another. It declares that a person incorporated - that is a legal entity in that form - shall be liable to penalties whilst a person unincorporated shall go free. The defence is that the Constitution permits that anomaly. My view rests upon the undoubted rule of construction that you are not to construe an instrument of any kind - not to construe an ordinary Act of Parliament, much less a Constitution - in such a way as to bring about an, anomaly or an absurd or unjust result. That is a well-understood elementary rule in construing such an instrument as. an ordinary Act of Parliament, and still more does it apply to a Constitution. If you1 find that a particular construction which you are putting upon such an instrument brings about an absurd or unjust result, the ordinary rule is that you should reject it, and should say that the words which you are attempting to construe were never intended to mean anything of the kind. The particular section of the Constitution upon which the supporters of this Bill rely, gives us clear and undoubted power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce. But that provision is confined to the one subsection which declares that the only trade and commerce in respect of which we are entitled to make laws is the trade and commerce with outside countries and between States.
.- I did not speak during the debate on the motion for the second reading, and I may say that I should not have given a vote to prevent the Bill being taken into Committee. Like every one else, I recognise that there’ are possibilities under such a title as covers the Bill, of effecting beneficial legislation for the Commonwealth. Holding that view, I should not have opposed the second reading ; but I reserved my right, which I intend to exercise, of voting against the third reading. I shall do so for many reasons, some of which we have heard from Senator Symon, and which, have from the first time I perused the Bill, seemed to me strong and imperative. So far as I can judge, having regard to the discussion in Committee and in the Senate. I should say that the keynote of the Bill is that we shall infallibly kill industries of the Commonwealth unless we keep up prices. From every point of view, economic and otherwise, that is a very bad starting point. I should join as heartily as any honorable senator on the other side in any attempt, by factories law or similar legislation, to insure that every industry carried on in the Commonwealth would be conducted under conditions worthy of the Australian people. But once we have devoted proper attention to that most important point, we violate every economic law when we practically make it our chief object to keep up prices. My view is that, subject to all those conditions which I may group generally as fair conditions of labour, the object aimed at - and it is the most worthy object any Parliament could have - is to cheapen economic production. The more we cheapen production the more we lessen the amount of labour that we or any other civilized persons have to undergo in order to live happily. That, to mv mind, is the real value of legislation of this kind; but any attempt made in Committee to amend the Bill in that direction was defeated by a majority. An effort to maintain prices was sustained throughout, in spite of the many divisions called for on this side of the Senate ; and for that important reason I object to the Bill. There are, however, other objections. Rightly or wrongly, I am of opinion that one of the results of the Bill, if it becomes law, will be to create monopolies within the Commonwealth; and I venture to say that such a result would not be entirely unpleasant to members of this Senate. I know that there are honorable senators who hold the view that it is not desirable that private enterprise should carry on economic production ; and they recognise that, if any monopoly arises within the Commonwealth, it will give them an additional handle whereby ‘to continue their determined efforts to abolish private enterprise, and submerge all competition in one big State industry. Many honorable senators do recognise that possibility ; and we have abundant proof of the fact, not only in their attitude, but in the speeches they made both in Committee and in the Senate in regard to the probable operation of the measure. We have been’ told, more or less directly, that such a result is quite possible ; and for that reason I feel compelled to vote against the third reading. There are, however, other reasons for the vote I intend to give. It is admitted on all sides that one of the chief results of the Bill will be to hand over to the Executive greater power than probably we in this Commonwealth Parliament have ever vet endowed the Executive with. But it will not stop there. In this legislation there is a most extraordinary departure, which characterises no other measure submitted to us. It is proposed to hand over tremendous powers, not to a member of the Executive, but to a permanent official in the person of the ComptrollerGeneral. If my memory be right, we have never yet given such a power to any permanent official. Bad as it is to take away from Parliament such powers, and to entrust them to the Executive, it is far worse to hand them over to a permanent official
– That has been the case for some time in the Department of Trade and Customs.
– It must always be the case.
– I am sure that Senator Higgs” will recognise that there is no parallel. We have necessarily to give the Comptroller- General certain administrative powers, but the powers proposed under the Bill are totally different from those attached to the ordinary duties of his office”.
– The ComptrollerGeneral has to pass judgment on an industry.
– That is another form of administration.
– If Senator Trenwith says that this is another form of ad- ministration, I shall tell him the alternative, namely, that the Comptroller-General or the High Court shall do certain things. Would Senator Trenwith call that an act of administration? Surely when the alternative is that a question shall be decided either by the ComptrollerGeneral or by a Court of Justice, we are leaving altogether the domain of administration, and endowing this particular official with duties such as, I venture to say, no English-speaking official has ever before been entrusted with. On other occasions I have strongly objected to taking away from Parliament powers which properly belong to it, and handing them over to the Executive; and that view is, I know, shared by many honorable senators on both sides of the Chamber. We deplore the extensive powers given to the Executive by regulation ; but this Bill confers additional powers, not on the Executive, but on a permanent official - powers which we should jealously guard as belonging entirely to Parliament. Last night, when an endeavour was made to have the Bill recommitted, it was pointed out, and I think very reasonably, by Senator Drake, that the measure must necessarily to some extent come into conflict with the proposal for preferential trade of which we have had notice.
– That proposal is only a pretence to get higher duties.
– That may be, but for the purposes of my argument I have to assume that the Ministry are in earnest. I venture to say that Senator Playford himself last night offered no reason whatever for his contention that the proposition of Senator Drake is not soundly based. I venture to say, further, that Senator Playford cannot offer any reason in his reply, though I hope he may.
– He has no desire to do so. Enough time has been wasted over the Bill already.
– I think that a great deal of time has been wasted over the Bill. I .am sorry that Senator Trenwith, who, I suppose, is an ardent advocate of preferential trade with Great Britain, is unable to see that the Government are proposing something with one hand while they take it hack with the other. I believe that, if we pass this Bill, we shall interpose a great obstacle to the achievement of even that measure of preferential trade which Ministers and their supporters profess to be willing to give to Great Britain. I believe that many members of the Senate Told that if it becomes operative, it will lead to the creation of monopolies within the Commonwealth. The only hope I have in connexion with the matter is that the Bill, if it becomes law, will remain entirely inoperative. I console myself with the reflection that if it should be inoperative it will not be singular in that respect, when considered with other legislation we have passed this session. It is. a deplorable thing that, after manyweeks have been devoted to the discussion of a measure with a loud-sounding title, many members of the Senate, who are anxious to promote all the good indicated by the title are compelled, as I am, to fall back on the hope that the Bill, when passed into law, will remain operative. Now that we have reached this stage, and seeing that I have only that hope to rely upon, I am compelled to vote against the third reading.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [3.18]. - I should have liked to have had an opportunity to speak after some honorable senator on the other side had spoken to the motion.
– We are all satisfied.
– If honorable senators opposite are satisfied, I suppose they will not say anything on the third reading, but by-and-by will be prepared to vote, when if becomes necessary. No doubt, Senator Play ford’s omission to reply to Senator Drake’s argument is largely due to the fact that he has the voting power behind him, and therefore does not see any necessity for making any special effort to defend the measure. I shall not believe that the honorable senator is unable to give any good reasons at all for it, because we have a right to assume that a Minister who submits a measure for the consideration of the Senate is prepared with arguments, which, to his mind, are cogent, m support of it. I should be failing in my duty if I did not say a few words in protest against the passage of a Bill which I believe to be inimical to the best interests of the Commonwealth. Holding the views I do on the subject, I can only fulfil my duty by speaking and voting against the measure, while I recognise that eventually I must bow to the will of the majority of the Senate. Senator Symon’s speech dealt with the legal aspect and objectionable features of this Bill very completely. It was not a speech of great length, but it covered all the points of criticism. ‘ If this Bill is open to the construction put upon it by Senator Symon, and I believe it is, we must look forward to some very unpleasant and unsatisfactory litigation in connexion with the industries of the country as a consequence of it. No doubt we ail desire that the trade and commerce of the country shall progress; but if they are to be hampered in the way proposed in this Parliament they can be conducted only under the most difficult and unsatisfactory conditions. I sympathize with the desire expressed that our industries shall be fairly conducted, and I recognise the objections which are urged against dumping which might be injurious to local manufacturers. But honorable senators opposite should bear in mind that there are other people in the Commonwealth besides manufacturers. They should remember that the consumers form the mass of the people, and it appears to me that they are the very last persons considered in this class of legislation. If this Bill should give effect to the desire of its promoters, one of its results will be to make Australia one of the dearest countries in the world to live in. The people of Australia are not wealthy ; they are a people of moderate and less than moderate means, and every enhancement of the price of the goods which they must consume must be considered a serious injury to them. I have no doubt that the effect of this Bill will be to enhance the cost of living in the Commonwealth. Senator Clemons has already pointed out that, whilst the Government profess to offer preferential treatment to the people of Great Britain, they propose under this Bill to shut out British goods. I shall not deal with the preferential proposals of the Government to-day, but will content myself with saying that it appears to me that they are merely an attempt to introduce a higher protective Tariff by Executive act, and without giving Parliament a fair opportunity to express an opinion on the matter. The question of preferential trade is one which should be dealt with quite apart from the levying of ordinary Customs duties. No doubt we shall have an opportunity to express a. full opinion on these proposals later on. Honorable senators who allowed this Bill to go beyond the second reading, and now find that it has been reported from Committee practically unaltered, have only one course open to them, and that is to vote against the third reading. It was submitted with a high-sounding title, and as many of us understood it, the object sought to be accomplished was a good object, but I felt, when the Bill was first submitted to us, that it contained so many blemishes and defects, and was so little likely to be radically altered in Committee, that it was a very serious mistake to record no division against it on the second reading. Had it been possible to defeat the Bill on the second reading, a very great deal of time would have been saved. If we are able now to destroy it on the third reading, whilst I shall regret the time which has been lost in considering it, I shall rejoice at the result. It is a measure which abrogates every principle of fair play’ and justice, as understood in British communities. It will destroy the confidence which people should have in entering upon the establishment of industries. If their enterprises are to succeed, the people must be given fair play and justice. One of the objects of this measure is to prevent the operation of monopolies, but a commercial trust is defined as a monopoly, and it is greatly to be hoped that the Bill will not .have the effect of preventing the operation of some of the commercial combinations which our honorable friends opposite regard as monopolies. After all, those particular combinations have been brought about merely in self-defence, and in order to promote the industries in which the people forming them are engaged. Their operations are being carried on for the benefit of the community. If it could be shown that they are taking an unfair advantage of the community, we should be justified in putting a stop to their operations, but nothing of the kind has been shown. Under this measure persons charged with an offence have the onus of proof that they are not guilty of the offence thrown upon them. We know that it is a much more difficult matter to prove a negative than to prove an affirmative, and I say that it would be better that some breaches of the law shoul’d go unpunished than that persons who are really innocent of an offence created by this Bill should be punished. A commercial trust has been so defined as to include every person who enters into a combination or becomes a body corporate. If the Bill is not unconstitutional, as I believe it is, in the manner in which it deals with corporations, as apart from individuals, it is certainly most unwise that amy attempt should be made to strain our powers under the Constitution in order to enact such legislation. The people of Australia, in accepting the Constitution, did so in the belief that it would be construed according to the ordinary just and fair meaning of its provisions, and it is a serious thing that they should now discover that, while they thought that thev were amply protecting States’ rights, they were really handing them over to another authority that is determined to exercise its powers to the fullest extent. Apparently, it is intended to deal with States Governments who may be considered guilty of a technical offence created by this measure. Quite recently the Government of New South Wales entered into very large contracts for the supply and importation of wire netting, to be distributed to the farmers and graziers of the State to assist them to deal with the rabbit plague^
– Has not that argument already been very fully stated?
-Col. GOULD. - Only the other day a deputation waited on the Premier of New South Wales to ask him to give work at enhanced prices to persons locally engaged in the wire-netting industry. They explained that unless their request was granted a large number of wire workers would be thrown out of employment. Mr. Carruthers, in reply to the deputation, pointed out that by the contract let in the old country for wire netting, the Government was saving ,£22,000 to the farmers and graziers of New South Wales. Can it be said that the importation of this wire netting does not interfere with the local trade, and could not, therefore, be described as “ unfair competition “ ? I say that if an attempt were made to deal with that case, it would be a monstrous interference with States’ rights. I may be told that this measure is not intended to apply to such cases.
– We could not deal with it.
– If a dozen of the men whose interests will be affected by the importation of wire netting under the contract referred to combined to import wire netting, it would be said that they were engaged in unfair competition, to the detriment of the wire-workers of New South Wales, and they would render themselves liable to a prosecution under this Bill. Senator Trenwith says that it will not apply to a State. If it will not, why should it apply to half-a-dozen persons who have joined together to do exactly the same thing? The object of men in joining together to save money in that way is very worthy, because it assists them to conduct an industry at the minimum of cost. But by this legislation, honorable senators 011 the other side say to such men, “ You shall not be allowed to do anything of the kind. If you happen to be located here, you will have to buy all your materials for your stations or farms at the highest possible rates,” although such persons cannot possibly get an extra sixpence for their products. That example alone will show how the-Bill will work. Again, let me take the case of dumping. It has been pointed, out that if at the end of the summer season a merchant wants to dispose of his goods, he will sell them at a sacrifice, and of course to the detriment of persons who have similar goods to sell, but do not want to make a sacrifice at that time. That is an illustration of dumping. Next, let me take the case of a man who, at the end of the season in the old country, has bought goods which were offered at a cheap price, or which mav have deteriorated somewhat in value. The goods are imported into the Commonwealth, and sold at what are called “ slaughtering “ prices. No doubt the operation will injure some other person in the trade, and the importer of the goods will be liable to a prosecution. I may be told that the measure is hedged round with certain safeguards - that first the ComptrollerGeneral will have to issue a certificate ; second, that the certificate will have to go before the Minister, who, if he chooses, may refer the matter to a Justice; and, thirdly, that it will be reviewed by the Justice. That will afford very little safety to an individual in a case of the kind which I have stated. So far, unfortunately, the policy of the Commonwealth has been to interfere as much as possible with trade and commerce. It is a great mistake to pass this grandmotherly legislation. I believe that if certain honorable senators had their way a man would not be able to engage in” any business or occupation without finding himself surrounded with all sorts of restrictive legislation, and faced with all sorts of pitfalls, although he had no desire to interfere with other persons in the community, and had in view only one object, and that was to do the best he could for himself and the community at large- I am sorry that the Bill has reached this stage. I shall record my vote against the motion, and then, like many other persons, await anxiously to see what the result of this legislation will be.
– During its progress through, the Senate, 1 have stated my objections to the Bill. I have moved some amendments, but, as a rule, thev have not been accepted by the Senate. ‘I am told that time has been wasted. I have been endeavouring to convince the Senate of the correctness of my views, and if I have failed I suppose that it is because I have not been able to convince honorable senators that they are wrong. In that respect there may have been a waste of time, but from my point of view there has been no time wasted, because I am still strongly convinced that the blots I pointed out are real, and might have been removed. Therefore, I say that we might with advantage have devoted more time to the consideration of the measure. On the motion for the second reading, I pointed out that the question of dealing with trusts was a very difficult one, that it had been in the mind of previous Governments to bring in a measure to deal with” trusts, and that they had .not been able to arrive at any means by which it could be done. I also expressed the opinion that the Bill did not provide any solution of the difficulty. During its progress through Committee I became mere fully convinced of the fact that we had not yet found a means of dealing with trusts. Being desirous to bring in a Bill, and to at all events make an attempt in that direction, the Government have relied very much on the Sherman Act. In fact, the principal provisions in regard to trusts are admittedly drawn from the example of that Act, though I must admit, to be perfectly fair, that a slight alteration has been made. The Sherman Act has been departed from by putting in the words “ to the detriment of the public,” but that, I submit, is like putting in the word “wrongfully” or “ wilfully,” for it really means nothing. It says that a certain thing is wrong. If it is wrong it will still be for the Court to decide what is to the detriment of the public, and it does, not approach to a clear definition of a trade agreement which is injurious. In the August number of the North American Review, I find an article entitled “ The Sherman Anti-Trust Law,” by Mr. Charles G. Dawes, formerly Comptroller of the Currency. In order to enable the Senate to form an opinion as to whether Mr. Dawes is in a position to write on this subject. I propose to quote a note relating to him. He is described as -
President of the Central Trust Company of Illinois, was born at Marietta, Ohio, in 1S65. He graduated from Marietta College in 1S84, and from the Cincinnati Law School in 18S6. For seven years he practised law in Lincoln, Nebraska, but discontinued legal pursuits to attend to business interests in Evanston, Illinois, La Crosse, Winconsin, and Akron, Ohio. He represented Illinois on the Republican National Committee in the campaign of 1896, and he was Comptroller of the Currency from 1S97 to 1902. He is the author of a volume entitled “ The Banking Systems of the United States.”
That 01315- ought to know something of the subject on which he is writing. This is what he says about the Sherman Anti-Trust law, and perhaps when it is quoted honorable senators can form an opinion as to whether it has been a success or not -
In its present form, during the sixteen years that have elapsed since its passage, it has proved a failure.
– This Bill is not in the form of the Sherman Act.
– It is in the form of that Act, and it contains the words “ te the detriment of the public,” but that is not a solution of the difficulty.
– It goes much further.
– If that were a solution the people of the United States would not be confronted with so many obstacles in their task of dealing with corporations, as the honorable senator will see if he will exercise a litle patience.
If it is to be useful hereafter, it must be made to define what kind of agreements in restraint of trade are illegal, and to exempt from its provisions those trade agreements which, while they may be in restraint of trade, operate either for the public welfare or at least in a manner not injurious to it. This is the day of the trade agreement. We see all over the country, in different lines of business, district, city, State, and national associations or business men, formed for mutual protection and for the arranging of what might be termed the rules of trade. The business community already knows that there are certain agreements in restraint of trade which keep alive competition, and that are aimed at keeping it alive. They seek to substitute, among business men, the “ live-and-let-live “ policy for the policy of unrestrained competition.
Further on he explains the genesis of the Sherman Anti -Trust law in these words : -
In July, 1890, when the culminating years of a period of great prosperity had turned the mind of the public to questions relating rather to the distribution than the creating of wealth - a period of public disquietude like the present - the Sherman Anti-Trust Law was passed in response to an excited public demand. Because of its inherent defects, this law became practically a dead letter until recently, when an effort has been made to use it in response to a recurrence of public protest against corporate abuses. It seems to us very unfortunate that now, when the public interest in such questions is fully aroused, we do not have greater efforts on the part of our leaders to create wise public sentiment in favour of proper legislation regulating general corporations; and that, so far as the trust question is concerned, the chief endeavour to satisfy the public mind is made through selected civil and criminal cases under the defective Sherman law.
That is exactly the same thing as we are doing.
– He is asking for a law like the one we arepassing.
– Oh no. This Bill sins exactly as the Sherman Act does. It contains all the defects which are pointed out by this writer in that it lumps good and bad agreements in one undiscriminacing condemnation. Mr. Dawes finishes his article with these words : -
Let us hope that, before this period of general interest in corporation questions is passed, the question of the amendment of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law will be taken up by Congress, and the law made more practical and enforceable by the clearer definition of what shall constitute illegality in trade agreements, and by the exemption from its provisions of such agreements in restraint of trade as are not injurious to the public.
The onlything which can be said about the Bill as it stands with all agreements, good and bad, lumped together, is that when it is placed upon the statute-book its friends will be very careful not to allow it to operate in any case where an agreement is not injurious. It is very dangerous legislation. So far as we can see, if it is operative at all it will have a very injurious effect. At this stage I do not propose to go into the questions with which I have endeavoured to deal previously. Senator Symon has expressed my views very fully this afternoon with regard to interfering with the trade rights of a State. I object to the Bill most strongly on that ground, because I think it is one of the most dangerous attacks on the rights of the States which could be made under the Constitution. Such attacks cannot fail to have a very injurious effect upon the relations between the Commonwealth and the States. I also protest against the Bill on the ground I stated more fully last night, namely, that it is clearly an infraction of the treaty which has only recently beer, made with New Zealand, and the offer of preferential trade which has been made to Great Britain. I shall therefore vote against its third reading.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4th September (vide page 3827), on motion by Senator Keating -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is the Bill about which it seems to me there ought not to be much discussion. Of course, it can be properly said that any alteration of the Constitution is important. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance, as a legal instrument, of the Constitution under which we work. But to say, because it is important, that we ought to hesitate to alter it when the lines upon which we propose to make a change are clearly, in our opinion, in the interests of the community, is. I think, a fallacious form of reasoning. What we are seeking to do is what we have been asked to do by a very large and important section of the community. The agricultural section in Australia - that is, that section engaged in cereal growing in all the States - is occupied in harvesting at the time when under existing arrangements we proceed with the general elections. Of course, it can be urged that technically this Parliament has no power to decide ‘Upon the time for the Senate elections. That is a power which, under the Constitution, rests in the hands of the States. But the Constitution provides a period of duration for Parliament. Obviously, it would be extremely inconvenient, and sometimes, possibly, would create extremely anomalous results, if an election took place any considerable period before the natural termination of Parliament. It has been urged truthfully that we can now, if we choose, have the general election in October. Of course we can.
– Or in November.
– Why do we need this Bill when the matter is in the hands of the Government?
– It can be said that we can have the general elections in August. But see the possible anomaly. The new senators cannot commence their period of office until the ist January. Suppose Parliament were elected in August. Say that an emergency arose - as has happened in the history of other Parliaments in the Commonwealth, and frequently in the history of the Parliaments of British-speaking peoples elsewhere - and it became necessary to call Parliament together hurriedly. Say that the elections had taken place on the ist October, and that Parliament had to be called together early in November. Suppose that certain senators had been rejected at the poll. They would still, however, be senators. Certain other persons would have been elected in preference to them, but the newly elected persons would not yet be capable of sitting in Parliament.
– The same thing would happen if the date were altered to June, and there were an election in Mav.
– Even under this Bill we ought not, in my opinion, to have the elections earlier than late in May, in order to minimize as far as possible the effects of such a state of ‘affairs as I have suggested.
– May as compared with July would be equivalent to the beginning of November as compared with the 1 st of January.
– I am well aware that dates can be suggested when the same inconveniences would result as at present.
– The farmers of South Australia are more affected by the present date of elections than are those of any other State, and I know that they ‘would not be inconvenienced by having the elections in November.
– Hay is made in South Australia,, and hay is always made before harvest. Harvesting operations commence very quickly after haymaking.
– It is not the hay-making that is the trouble. It is the harvesting. The wheat drops out in the hot weather.
– Hay-making is not nearly so important, but still it is of consequence. Honorable senators who know anything of agricultural pursuits are aware that it is very common indeed to see large quantities of hay absolutely destroyed by an unexpected or inopportune period of wet weather. It is often possible to save a large percentage of a crop of hay by active operations on the part of the farmer in shifting it about and getting it dry , quickly. At such times a farmer cannot be expected, at very great possible loss, to leave his work. Therefore, this ‘Bill has been asked for by the people in whose interests it is designed.
– :By a portion of the people.
– It is only claimed to be introduced in the interests of the agriculturists.
– We shall next have the people who are growing pumpkins wanting a different date.
– I purpose to deal with that argument, but I want to clear up one point at a time. If we can suit the convenience of agriculturists without doing any injury to any other section of the community, and if this Bill will achieve that purpose, it is to that extent a good Bill. Unless it can be shown that we are conveniencing the agriculturists without prejudicing the interests of any other considerable section of the community, the Bill is not justified. Now, while it has been urged - and, of course, there is force in the argument - that, if we alter the date of the elections, we mav perhaps create inconvenience in the ranks of some other section, of the community, it has not been shown that that will be the result. We have proof that the date’ now chosen for the elections is extremely inconvenient to a large section. We ought to try to remove that inconvenience, unless some equally great, or greater, inconvenience is created. Of course, I am prepared to admit that probably every one of the 365 days of the year would be inconvenient to some persons. It is impossible to select a day, a month, or a period that will suit every voter. But clearly it is our duty to do what we can to meet the convenience of the largest number of voters possible. So far as we have any evidence, this Bill will conduce to that end.
– It might be necessary to alter the Constitution every three years because it was found that the balance of convenience was different from what it was previously.
– I quite agree with my honorable friend that it is undesirable to have frequent alterations of the Constitution unless there be great necessity. On the other hand, it is undesirable that Parliament should be elected by any but the largest possible number of voters. If it can be shown that by altering the Constitution every six years we can secure a completely representative Parliament, and that by refraining from altering the Constitution, that end will not be attained, then, however objectionable that course might appear, it would be better to alter the Constitution. Senator Clemons told us that the American Constitution, in over 100 years of existence, has been altered comparatively infrequently. In this connexion, however, we have to remember that it is very much easier to alter our Constitution than it is to alter the American Constitution; and the difficulty has been the cause of great discontent and inconvenience to the people of the United States. They have sought to alter the Constitution, but the obstacles are so great that it has been found impossible to do so except in a few instances.
– When the honorable senator says “ they,” he does not mean the whole people of the United States?
– No ; but I mean a considerable majority of the people. Fortunately our Constitution is much more flexible, and can be altered with less difficulty : and, therefore, the circumstances in America are bv no means indisputable evidence that the majority of the people there would not like to alter their Constitution more frequently. Senator Clemons introduced an argument which I venture to say is not warranted, namely, that there are honorable senators in favour of the Bill because it will extend their period of service in this Chamber. Senator Clemons described this position as undignified and suspicious, if not disgraceful ; but I venture to say that such terms cannot properly be applied. The extension of the tenure of office is a mere incident, though Senator Clemons spoke of it as the object of honorable senators in supporting the Bill.
– -Why extend the term of senators elected at the beginning of the last three years? The Bill cannot come into operation this year.
– That is true.
– Then why give present senators a six months longer term ?
– The term cf office may be either extended or contracted, whichever may be considered the better way.
– We have gone on for six years under the present system, and why not do so for another six years ?
– For the reason that the elections would continue to be held at the same inconvenient time as in the past.
– The first of the two we cannot alter.
– I do not know whether we can alter the first of the two, but we can alter the second of the two. However, I was, referring to the ignoble suggestion that honorable senators are actuated by the consideration that under the Bill their term of office will be. extended.
– I do not think that Senator Clemons said that honorable senators were actuated by that consideration, but that an extension of the term would be the result of the Bill.
– As a matter of fact, Senator Clemons said that that was the object ; and I am sure that honorable senators must feel hurt at such an imputation being cast upon them.
– That might be said outside.
– We know that Parliament is often spoken of disparagingly and most unwarrantably by persons’ outside, who have neither the intellect nor the character to entitle them to cast such a reflection. That sort of thing cannot be helped; but the pity is the greater when we find the same sort of unwarrantable reflections being cast upon honorable senators within the Chamber. However, I do not desire to speak in a way offensively antagonistic, but merely to express the belief that the object suggested is not that of the Bill, aor of honorable senators. What the Bill really proposes is to make the time for holding the elections more convenient for the people; and it happens that, incidentally, we must either contract or extend the period of one Parliament. Personally, I do .not care which course is adopted ; but it is certainly wise to hold the elections at a more convenient time.
– To which elections is the honorable senator referring?
– 1 am referring to the elections for both Houses; and we can all see difficulties, which cannot be avoided. If we make the proposed adjustment, and it proves to be the most convenient, the condition under which one branch of the Legislature holds office mayupset the whole arrangement. That difficulty could be obviated by another method of administration, which Parliament may yet have to adopt ; but that question, however, is not before us at present. If we were to discard the form of responsible government, and adopt the system of elective Ministers, the arrangement for the election for both Houses to be held at the one time could go on for ever. However, there is the possibility that, for once, admitting that we achieve the result we desire-
– I do not admit “ for once”; it may be possible to have a dual election afterwards.
– Yes. We cannot be certain that it will operate even for once, .and I realize the difficulties as fully as does the honorable senator. But that is no’ argument! against doing our best’ to so fix the time for the elections for the Senate as to suit the convenience of a large section of the community. Senator Clemons asked’ what claim agriculturists had over amy other section of the community in this connexion,. I quite agree with Senator Clemons that the agriculturists, per se, have no special claim ; but. if it can be shown that any section of the community is inconvenienced, and that the inconvenience can be removed-
– Then we can hark back again.
– No; if the inconvenience can be removed without entailing as great, or greater, inconvenience on other sections of the community, we should remove it. That is the course adopted in the case of all boards and committees, when it is found impossible to fix the meetings at a time to suit all concerned. The course adopted is to fix a time which will suit the convenience of the greater number ; and that is only what the Bill seeks to do in the matter of elections. There is no great principle involved in the Bill, which can create no danger to the populace, or cause any injury to the Constitution; and under the circumstances we might very properly accept it. Senator Clemons urged that this Bill would open the door to other alterations of the Constitution. But the door is already open; the Constitution necessarily and properly, provides within itself means by which it may be altered at the will of the people. There are reasonable safeguards against frivolous alterations; but the Constitution clearly contemplates that alterations may be necessary. If we agree that the Constitution ought to be altered we ought not to be deterred by the consideration that! there may be other requests for alterations in objectionable directions. What we have to consider is whether the proposed alteration is or is not worthy of approval. Senator Clemons contended that by putting into operation * this machinery, we leave it open to proposals for its use in regard to other issues: but I do not regard that as a sufficient argument against the Bill. In all cases the proposals made would be considered on their merits, and in the present instance the proposal involves an improvement which I think we might accept. I do not regard it as a very important improvement, nor as an improvement the neglect of which would seriously imperil the Constitution or endanger our elective machinery. The Bill, however, will provide greater facilities for voting for an important section of the community, who now suffer much inconvenience.
.- Will this Bill affect the other House?
– It will, so far as the other place continues the present arrangement-
– Tt will not affect the other House.
– Tt will, so far as another place continues the present arrangement of holding its election concurrently with the election for the Senate. Of course, if there were an extraordinary dissolution the whole arrangement would be upset.
– We shall be utterly dependent on, I was going to say, the whim, or, at any rate, the resolution of the House of Representatives. We shall be tied on to the tails of members of another place.
– They will be tied to our tails if there is anv tving at all.
– A penal dissolution would make waste paper of the Bill.
– Not quite, because a penal dissolution would alter the period of the elections for the two Houses. At any rate, even if a penal dissolution did interfere with the concurrency of the elections, the election for the Senate would be at a time more convenient for the people; and, further, another penal dissolution would bring’ the two Houses into concurrency again.
– It might or might not ; and in the meantime the States Parliaments might upset the whole arrangement again.
– Although the States Parliaments have the right, they are bound within certain limits.
– Twelve months.
– The States Parliaments have wisely adopted a uniform period at the suggestion of the Federal Parliament.
– The States Parliaments have simply abstained from doing anything.
– The various Parliaments have permitted that concurrence to continue. The last elections for the Federal Parliament were anticipated. Honorable members in another place consented to a curtailment of the constitutional term of existence of the House of Representatives in order to secure the concurrency of elections sought to be achieved now. They performed an act of selfdenial which, I think, we should all be prepared to do, for the purpose of securing so desirable a result as the saving of a large amount of public money. It is very probable that the arrangement will continue; but, whether it continues or not, if my first proposition is correct - that it is a more convenient time than that at which the elections are at present held - the Senate elections will take place in future at a time that is more convenient.
– The honorable senator thinks that it is desirable that the Senate elections should not be held at a different time from those for the House of Representatives if that can be avoided.
– Certainly ; and this Bill does not propose that. ‘ The House of Representatives can hold their elections concurrently with the Senate elections under the provisions of the measure we are now discussing, and they can arrange to continue that concurrence which we all admit to be desirable. Led on by interjections, I feel that I have discussed this comparatively trifling matter at greater length than I intended. There is really only one issue: - is it- or is it not most convenient for the electors to make this change? It seems to me that all the evidence is in favour of the assumption that it would be more convenient to them to make the change.
– Where is the evidence?
– I refer to the evidence of a large section of the people given by various means, such as public meetings, and the passing of resolutions by organizations with which they are connected. In this way they have said that the time at present fixed for the Federal elections is extremely inconvenient to them. I refer to people who are largely engaged in the production of cereals.
– I never heard anything of those meetings.
– Then the honorable senator cannot be paying much attention to current history.
– I read the Age.
– It has frequently been stated in the Age and in the Argus. I have not with me copies of the newspapers in which these statements have appeared, because I had no idea that the statement I have made would be disputed. There have been frequent declarations that the time now adopted for the holding of the elections is inconvenient. It has been urged in opposition that we may have the growers of pumpkins saying that some other time would be more convenient to them. It has also been urged; with as much show of reason as some other con- tendons that have been put forward, that it is a device of the present Government, with whom the Labour Party are associated, to hold the elections at a time when the agriculturists, who are the back-bone of the community, will be unable to go to the poll. I have no sympathy with the contention, that the back-bone of the com.munity is represented by one section of the people. I think that we are all of importance to the community as a whole; but I admit that the agricultural section is a very numerous section, and that its members have to contend with conditions that other citizens of the Commonwealth have not to cope with. Their labour is put into their means of livelihood, and when they have done all that they possibly can they are obliged to depend for the results of their labour on forces over which they have no control. They are therefore entitled to every consideration which we can give them, and this is one which I earnestly urge the Senate to accord to them.
-21]- - I do not think that any one will question1 the advantage of our Constitution, to which Senator Trenwith has directed attention, in respect to its elasticity and susceptibility to amendment, as compared with the American Constitution. But, while that is the case, it does not alter the circumstances or conditions which ought to justify us in amending it. The ease with which amendments may be made is, perhaps, a temptation to amend; but it does not alter the great principles on which we ought to’ proceed in making amendments. I do not regard the Constitution of the Commonwealth, or any instrument emanating from the brain or hand of man, as sacred’. I do not regard it as an “Ark of the Covenant “ on which hands are not to be laid, if the exigency and necessity for amendment should arise. But I strongly object, as I think all members of the Senate do, to what I call tinkering with the Constitution. I do not think that anything would warrant us in amending the Constitution in that which did not affect a fundamental principle, and which would not improve it, in its essential principles, and give us a better instrument, on broad grounds, for the purposes of government, than we at present possess.
– A more representative Parliament, for instance.
– So far as I am aware, no alteration of the Constitution will give us a better, more representative, or more democratic Parliament, or one more broadly based upon the people’s will, than that which it’ is possible for us to get under the Constitution as it stands. I do not regard what Senator Trenwith has been referring to as a substantial alteration of the Constitution, or one which affects the principles of the government of a great democracy. I am against all tinkering with the Constitution, .and against every proposed amendment of it that does not deal with some great, vital, and essential principle. I approach every proposed amendment of it from that stand-point.
– The honorable and learned senator means to say that to make the Constitution slightly better is not good enough ?
– I start with the assumption I have already indicated, and I say that that should be the principle on which this Parliament should proceed. Some amendments have been shadowed forth in this Parliament, and in the Senate itself, which would affect essentials of the Constitution, but I say that the principles by which we should be governed in considering proposed amendments of the Constitution are those which I have indicated. That is a view which I commend strongly to Senator Trenwith, who was a member of the Convention that framed the Constitution. If I had any doubt as to the propriety of supporting this Bill, or as to my absolute duty to oppose it, they would be furnished by the arguments of Senator Trenwith! The honorable senator has literally demolished the contention that there is any necessity for this Bill. He has damned it with faint praise. He has declared that he regards it as a trifling measure. That is a kind of thing which we should not seriously consider for a moment in connexion with an amendment of our Constitution. Senator Trenwith has said that he regards this as a matter of no importance, . and that the Constitution will not be seriously imperilled if we do not make the proposed alteration. I say that we should not adopt any amendment of the Constitution unless it is vitally necessary to the better working of the Constitution, unless without its adoption the great principles of the Constitution will be imperilled to a greater or less extent. Senator
Trenwith has explained that the object of this measure is to remove some inconvenience, and I deny that we should alter the Constitution merely to remove an inconvenience. When it is pointed out that another body of the producers would be benefited if the Federal elections were to take place at some other time, Senator Trenwith sa.vs that if another inconvenience is found to arise we can remove it. At present a certain section of the community, whose interest should be regarded as far as possible, claim that December is an inconvenient time for them to go to the poll. By-and-by another section might claim that March, April, or May would be an inconvenient time for them, and then apparently we are to have another amendment of the Constitution. We should have no end to amendments ofl the Constitution if the convenience of every section of the community is to be separately met in that way.
– Every section will be consulted under the Bill.
– Yes, but only as to one proposal. We might have another proposal next year, when another section would claim that the alteration we made was inconvenient to them, and our Constitution would become like “ Joseph’s coat, of many colours,” if we adopted the principle advocated by Senator Trenwith of making amendments of the Constitution to meet the convenience of each section of the people, who might find it more convenient for them to go to the poll at one time than at another. The honorable senator’s damning of the measure with faint praise shows that the Bill is one which should not be seriously entertained for a moment. He admits, as we must all admit, that its efficacy is absolutely dependent on the contingency that there will be no penal dissolution of the House of Representatives.
– Not entirely j we should have the Senate elections right, anyhow.
– We should not, because the underlying principle of this Bill is that the elections for the two Houses should take place at the same time.
– That is so: but it does not alter the fact that if there were a penal dissolution the Senate would go on.
– But the expiration of the term of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time would be at a different time.
– Hear, hear.
– And we should be in exactly the same dilemma. The Senate elections are not dependent upon the elections for the other House if the Government choose to hold them at a different time. I interjected while Senator Trenwith was speaking that by giving us a six months’ longer term - to the ist of July - we should be landed in precisely the same position as he suggested about the two or three months, for the newlyelected senators would be simply standing by ready to step in when the others went out. I do not know when the election of senators is to be held. It seems to be put off as far as possible, but if it is held in November we shall ,have the newly-elected senators standing by ready to step into the shoes of the senators who go out of office on the ist January. If the election takes place in May we shall have exactly the same situation. There is no remedy for that.; it must happen. But suppose that the Parliaments of the States Should choose, as they may do, to avail themselves of their power under the Constitution, and fix the times and places for the election of their senators. One State might act at one time, a second at another time, and a third at a different time.
– That is possible now.
– Yes, and it will be possible if the proposed alteration be made.
– The States have not shown any such disposition up to the present, nor are thev likely to.
– I cannot forecast the future.
– It is very improbable.
– If the States felt that it was necessary to have their senators chosen at a particular time they would not hesitate to legislate. I should think that they ought to take that course, because it must be recollected by honorable senators that the “fundamental principle of our Constitution in relation to the Senate is that senators are sent here by the States, and the Commonwealth has only a. verv Qualified position in regard to them. It is the State Governor who issues the writs for the election of senators for a State, and it is the State Parliament which sa.vs when they are to be chosen. If in any State the Parliament chose to say, “ We prefer that our senators-
– I admitted that very fully in mv first sentence.
– I am rubbing it in.
– But how does that affect the argument?
– My honorable friend has said that he is going to vote for a Bill’ which he has pulverized by his arguments. He admits that it deals with a matter of no importance.
– I did not.
– I took down my honorable friend’s words. He said that there is no great principle involved, and that the Constitution would not be seriously imperilled if the Bill were not passed. Of course, we know the shrug of the shoulders with which a remark of that kind is made. My honorable friend must agree with me that the Bill is ludicrous in substance
– I do not.
– I know that mv honorable friend appreciates a joke as well as any man, and really it is a joke to offer this measure to the serious consideration of the Senate. My honorable friend referred to America, but he did not pursue the comparison, of course always admitting the qualification that he referred to as to the less facile means of amendment. The only amendments which have been introduced into the American Constitution have been amendments of serious principles, without which its great objects were very gravely injured.
– They would have been verv. seriously injured.
– I do not wish to put it so strongly as my honorable friend did, but that was a fact. I do not suggest that we ought to be bound by American procedure, but I contend that we ought to act on the same principles as did the people in America in refusing to tinker with the Constitution, and to make only such amendments as were, to a certain extent, vital to its principles. My honorable friend knows that the first ten amendments in the American Constitution were practically an introduction of what many statesmen at that grea!t period of toil anc1/ trouble and constitution-making considered to be essential, namely, something equivalent to a declaration of rights. After the Constitution was framed and adopted bv the Convention in September, 1787, it was not ratified for twelve months, and then only by eleven States. In March, 1789 - that is, about eighteen months after - the Congress met. It was not until 1790 that the thirteen States came into line By the assent and adhesion of Rhode Island. Then the first ten amendments were introduced, practically like our amendments, which were the result of the Premiers’ Conference, and submitted to a second referendum, because the outstanding States would not give in their adhesion without that declaration of rights on the face of the Constitution. They were there as though’ they had been inserted in the framework of the Constitution as originally adopted. The eleventh amendment was introduced three years afterwards. The twelfth amendment removed a very grave blot on the procedure with regard to the elections of the President and Vice-President. It was vital to the Constitution that that change in the method of election should be adopted in 1804, and that was done fourteen years after the adhesion of Rhode Island, and on the strong recommendation of Alexander Hamilton, one of the greatest statesmen that the world has ever produced. There was no other amendment of the Constitution until 1865 - that is, after the war had ended.
– Which might have been saved if the Americans could have altered their Constitution easily.
– No; because that was the amendment which freed the slaves, and which would not have been introduced into the Constitution by the ordinary process.
– Not by the American process ; but by ours it might.
– The price paid for the freedom of the slaves was the Civil War and the blood of its citizens.
– And the rigidity of the Constitution.
– Not at all. It was because two portions of the United States were in solid battle array against each other on that question.
– Because they had no other method.
– Because thev could have no other method, for the Southern States would not have consented to a line or a comma in the Constitution being altered which would have interfered with their slave rights. Therefore, that amendment, which was the fruit of the Civil War, was introduced in 1865. But not one single amendment of such a frivolous character as the one proposed in our Constitution was ever attempted or suggested in America. If it dealt with a matter of great principle, 1 should support the Bill. When my honorable friend tells me that it is introduced for the convenience of one section of the people, who wish to discharge their trust, that, I submit, is not a- ground for altering the Constitution. If it is altered for the convenience of one set of men, it must be altered for the convenience of another set. No one knows better than does Senator Trenwith that one of the problems we are trying to solve is how to compel men to vote. But, instead of doing that, it is proposed to meet the convenience of different sections of the community.
– Why do we want to compel men to vote, except that it is desirable that they should?
– It is desirable that men should vote.
– It is inconvenient for some men to vote.
– I have very great sympathy with any person who has a difficulty in voting. I know that persons of all sections - producers, manufacturers, and artizans - have, I shall not say an unwillingness, but an “ Oh, I do not want to be bothered “ sort of feeling about going to the poll. But we ought not to alter the Constitution in this way without, if my honorable friends like, consulting the different sections in the community, and finding out-
– We shall do so by the referendum.
– No; we shall only consult the people then as to making an amendment of the Constitution for the convenience of one section.
– If they say that it should not be done, it will mot be done.
– But suppose that the people say, “ We have no objection to this alteration being made, but we would like the Constitution to be amended in order to suit us too,” what would my honorable friends propose to do then ?
– If they show sufficient cause, why not alter it?
– Apparently we are to have a patch-work Constitution in order to take the elections, not at any particular date, but in each month, as it may suit the convenience of a large section of the community. We shall have our districts and divisions voting in sections at different periods of the year.
– We can have that now, if the people like. This will not facilitate that a bit.
– That is the logical outcome of the attitude which my honorable friend and others are taking. But what is said in support of the Bill? When is an election inconvenient ? Why is an election in December inconvenient? Harvesting operations are going on. If it is a hot day, and the farmer and his men go away to vote, there is a danger of the grain falling out of the ears. What is the remedy for that? It is not an amendment of the Constitution. It is said that, on this occasion, the elections are to be held on the 2 1 st November. I hope so, because that date would meet the case.
– Plenty of persons are harvesting on the 21st November.
– I am not aware of it. In South Australia harvesting is done” at about the end of November and the beginning of .December. My honorable friend is, I dare say, familiar with the state of things in, Victoria. In South Australia we have the earliest wheat harvest that I know of, and when wheat is brought into Port Pirie and Port Germein, at the end of November or the beginning of December, the fact is duly chronicled in the press as a wonderful event. If the election comes at an inconvenient time this year, the Bill will not remedy it.
– The remedy rests with the Executive Government. What obligation is there to keep the Parliament sitting after the ist of November ?
– To do the business of the country.
– Why should we not meet two months earlier? What is to prevent us from meeting in’ April ? Why is the meeting of Parliament put off? It is to lengthen the recess until the end of June, lt is within the power of the Government and of Parliament, without an alteration of the Constitution, to have the elections held at a time that would suit the convenience of the largest section of the community.
– It has not been shown that this proposal will inconvenience any section.
– I do not know. But the Bill is unnecessary. lt will not remove inconveniences in respect of the elections we are about to face. Surely we. are not going to alter the Constitution to relieve Ministers of the responsibility of calling Parliament together to do the business of the country a little earlier than usual. Surely we are not going to add six months to the tenure of those senators who were elected three years ago simply because the Government three years hence may or may not prorogue Parliament in time to allow the elections to take place before harvest. What is to prevent this Government, if it continues in office, or the next Government, from arranging the sittings of Parliament in the final session so as to convenience the farming electors? There is no constitutional point involved. The Constitution is clear. Senators are to hold their office from the 1st of January. If an election takes place during the year preceding the 1st of January in an ordinary periodical way - whether it takes place in July, in February, or in any other month up to December - the senators then elected have simply to stand by and wait for the cloak of their predecessors to fall upon them.
– Would it not be rather demoralizing to have a man occupying the position of senator who had been rejected bv the electors at the polls?
– The same difficulty may arise if this Bill is passed. My point is that the Government has the fixing of the date of the elections in its own hands. As a matter of fact, however, there is no guarantee that the month of May will be more convenient to the farmers than November or December will be. In South Australia there may be wet weather in May. People do not like to travel many miles to vote in severe thunder storms. It may be that the evil will be intensified by this Bill. I am quite sure that when my honorable friend, Senator Trenwith, referred to Senator Clemons’ observations about the additional six months-
– Does not Senator Symon think that it was rather unworthy lo put that forward as a motive for supporting the Bill?
– I say that there is a probability that we shall be confronted with that point by the electors.
– But does the honorable senator seriously put that forward as a motive that is influencing any senator in supporting this Bill ?
– What is the use of asking that? Senator Clemons did not mean that.
– Why did he say so if he did not mean it?
– But that the Bill will have that result no one can deny. It is a Bill to add six months to the tenure of senators who were elected for three years.
– That cannot be done without consent of the majority of the people in the majority of the States.
– Of course it cannot, but my honorable friend has to face the fact that the motive suggested will be alleged. We are told that meetings have been held at which farmers have expressed themselves as opposed to the present system. We do not know what other sections of the community think.
– Except that silence means consent.
– My honorable friend does not seriously mean that. The remedy is not to tinker with the Constitution about a matter which the Executive Government can arrange quite easily. , We all know that the Constitution does not provide anything in regard to electoral details. It was never intended to do so. It is large, broad, and deals only with principles. What did Parliament do in regard to electoral details? An Electoral Bill was introduced. How did we provide facilities for meeting the convenience of people who reside at a distance from the ‘polling booth? We conferred upon them the privilege of postal voting. Various other facilities were given. No amendment of the Constitution was required. To enable the electors to vote at a time that will be convenient to them is another facility. Why not give it by the ordinary arrangement of parliamentary business? Why, under cover of an amendment of the Constitution, make concessions to the electors for holding the elections earlier in the year? I believe that the farmers of South Australia will be quite content if the elections this year take place somewhere about the beginning of November. The hay harvest is nothing. But the Bill does not affect the coming elections’.
– The same set of circumstances may arise on a future occasion.
– Surely we should leave some responsibility with the Government.
– The Government is not responsible if it cannot get its business through earlier in the vear.
– Is it not? Why cannot the Government call Parliament together earlier? Why not call Parliament together in January if necessary? Why should there be a recess from December to June?
– Let the honorable senator tell us why the Government of which he was a member did not call Parliament together until the end of June?
– We called Parliament together in ample time, and prepared more business than the honorable senator and his party were inclined to do. For that reason they went over and supported another Government that was more lenient.
– The honorable senator’s Government called’ us together to do nothing.
– We called Parliament together at a time when if we had had our will the elections would have taken place at the season most convenient for the people of this country. My honorable friend, Senator Trenwith, referred to the argument which he said had been addressed to the Senate as to “ opening the doors” for constitutional amendments.
– It is to be Hoped that the door is always open. It would be a pity if it were not. The Constitution has left the door open.
– That is not the meaning which my honorable friend attached to the phrase. What was meant was that if an amendment was proposed about a trifling matter it would immediately put into the hands of any one who wanted a fad to be put before the people by way of ‘referendum, to use the argument, “ As you are having a referendum about a trifle, why not have one at the same time about my proposal “ ? That is what is meant by “opening the door.” I myself consider that there are considerable merits in a referendum on some matters of legislation. But it should never be taken except on important matters, as is the case in Switzerland. It is not a good thring that the Senate, on the eve of an election - to which this Bill cannot be applicable - should take the initiative in a direction which will lead to lengthening the term for which honorable senators were elected. Senator Trenwith’s arguments effectively convinced me that this is a Bill that should be laughed out of the Senate instead of being seriously dealt with. He has also convinced me that the remedy is not to enact a measure of this character, which will be absolutely ineffective in the event of a penal dissolution, and will not remedy the apparent anomaly to which he referred of one set of senators standing by without office whilst the others conclude their terms. The honorable senator has also convinced me that the remedy is in the hands -of the Executive and of Parliament. Just as the provision of electoral facilities for registering the votes of the electors are secured under our electoral laws, so this Bill simply gives a further facility by rearranging the times ; and this also ought to be in the hands of the Executive. I know that the present Parliament cannot do so effectively, but certain! « the next Parliament ought to insist on the Executive giving serious heed to the position, and taking care that the business o± Parliament is so arranged that the elections shall be held at a time as far as possible convenient, not to any particular section or place, but to the whole people of the country. I object to the Bill, first because, to use Senator Trenwith’s words, it deals with a trifling matter not worth an amendment of the Constitution, and, secondly, because we should not have an amendment of the Constitution except in regard to some vital principle.
– Until it has reached breaking point.
- Senator Trenwith has already said that if. the Bill be not carried, the Constitution will not be imperilled.
– And the honorable and learned senator says that the Constitution must not be altered unless it has “ reached breaking point.”
– I never said so.
– That is implied by the honorable senator’s remarks.
– The honorable senator is doing me an injustice. What I say is that any alteration ought to be in regard to some matter of principle, and not in regard to a matter which, as Senator Trenwith has said, is of no importance. I had an opportunity to gauge Senator Trenwith’s views at the Federal Convention, and I appeal to him as a strong Federalist, to say that he will not permit an alteration of the Constitution in regard to a mere trifle. At any rate, the remedy is that which I have suggested, and it is one in which the honorable senator practically concurs. I hope that that suggestion will be adopted, particularly as the election for this year, which it is said will be prejudicial to the farmers if held later than the middle of November, cannot in any way be affected. I shall record’ my vote against the Bill.
– I have a vivid recollection of the framing of the first Constitution by the Federal Convention, and also of the submission of that Constitution to the people of Australia. One of the strongest objections all over Australia to the first Constitution was that it was not elastic enough’ - that there was no possibility of amending it except by wading through almost a sea of difficulty.
– That was because the American Constitution was in the mind of the people.
– It was because what has been described as the cast-iron principle of the Constitution of America, was embodied in it; and that first attempt to bring about Federation failed. There was a Conference of Premiers held, and an amendment was effected in clause 127, now section 128, of the Constitution, making it possible under any circumstances to amend the Constitution; and a majority of the people of Australia in every’ State accepted that Constitution as amended. I may say that I voted against the ‘Constitution as first proposed, but in favour of the second, for the reason that the latter gave power to the people, almost despite the Parliament, to amend it. To-day we have Senator Symon’, in his jocular way, ridiculing the Bill because it proposes only a trifling amendment. Apparently the hon orable senator would permit the Constitution to be pock-marked with little defects from the first section to the last, rather than amend it - he would decline even to administer a dose of medicine, being satisfied with nothing short of amputation.
– Or decapitation.
– Or decapitation. Why was the Constitution made elastic? Was it not that it might be amended? Senator Symon has repeatedly referred to’ the proposal to add six months to the term of sitting senators, or senators who may be elected at the next election. Is that proposal really so calamitous, or one of which we need be ashamed ? In answer to an interjection - there had to be an interjection first - the honorable senator said he did not impute any motive in this connexion to honorable senators who proposed to vote for the second reading.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting me. I never imputed that motive at all.
– I do not say that the honorable senator did. In reply to an interjection, the honorable senator said! that he did not impute any motive, but in his references to the remarks of Senator Trenwith he kept “ rubbing it in, as he said.” Why? Why is a mustard plaster applied if not to irritate? The idea must have been running in the mind of the honorable senator or we should not have had the continued repetition of the statement we heard from him. It has been said that we are altering the Constitution in a wa that may not suit a majority of the people. It is acknowledged that late in the year is not convenient for an election, particularly in the case of the agricultural population. It has been repeatedly said that if the last election had not been held so late in the year, the country would have been saved the calamity of such a strong Labour Party within this Parliament. If there be any truth in that contention, honorable senators on the other side ought to be willing to make any arrangement to secure the largest possible number of voters at the poll. All’ that is proposed now is to provide machinery whereby the people of Australia may say whether they will have the elections in October, November, or December, or in March, April, or May. That question will have to be answered one way or the other by a majority of the people in a majority of the States; and surely there is nothing very criminal in such a proposal. I notice that each honorable senator argues as though the State he represents is the only one to be considered ; but, as Senator Trenwith pointed but, we desire to fix a time most suitable to the whole of the people. In my opinion, so far as the southern States of South Australia, Victoria, New . South Wales, and even Western Australia, are concerned, October would be a most convenient month, though for Queensland it would be highly inconvenient. In the latter State October is the height of the sugar season, when any stoppage of the mills would result in considerable loss.
– March would also be a verv inconvenient month in Queensland.
– I am not suggesting that the month should be March, but I dare say Queensland senators will agree with me that the latter end of April or the beginning of May would be a most convenient time for the northern State. Can any honorable senator show that the time I have mentioned would be inconvenient to the other States? Senator Symon has told us that of late years the weather has often been wet in May; but as a matter of fact in South Australia there are not ten wet days in May, and the people there would be very glad of a little more rain. If the latter end of April or the beginning of May would suit every other State, and suit Queensland better than any other time, why should the Constitution’ not be altered? “No,” says Senator Symon; “you must not alter the Constitution; it is too sacred a thing.”
– I said nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator said that we ought not to alter the Constitution unless in regard to some great principle.
– I said that we should not alter the Constitution for a trifle like this.
– The Constitution was made elastic, so that alterations might be carried out in the interests of the people. Throughout the Constitution we find in many sections the words “ until Parliament otherwise .provides. “ The tenure of a senator is not a very important matter, and I ask why the words I have quoted were not used in this regard.
– Does the honorable senator not think that it was not meant to amend the Constitution for such a trifle?
– The omission shows that the framers of the Constitution did not think anything about the matter. They got over these sections as quickly as possible; but they inserted “until Parliament otherwise provides “ in regard to much less important matters. Had the words been inserted, we should have been saved all our present trouble. Some honorable senators have said that the dissolution of another place would disorganize all the arrangements under the Bill. But are we not in that position now?
– The position is not bettered by the Bill.
– A dissolution of Parliament would disorganize matters now.
– It might or might not.
– It might or might not, and in just the same way it might or might not if an alteration were made fixing the date of the elections for April or May. But if a dissolution did alter it, I am satisfied that, in the interests of economy, the members of the Federal Parliament would see that the dates of the elections of the two Houses were brought together again as soon as that could be effected, as it certainly could be by degrees. That is what would be done under existing conditions, and. in fact, under any circumstances. If this alteration is made, it can only be with the consent of a majority of the people in a majority of the States.
– And the majority of the House of Representatives.
– And a majority of both Houses of the Federal Parliament. We are only proposing in this measure to ask the people whether it would be more convenient for them to have the Federal elections held in March, April, or May, or in October, November, or December. If they give an answer, the change, if a change is desired, will be effected, and it will be according to the will of the majority of the people; it will suit the convenience of the majority, and we shall hear no more about it.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [5.17]- - From some of the arguments that have been adduced, one would be inclined to think that this Bill proposed not only a desirable, but a very simple, alteration in the Constitution. I have every sympathy with honorable senators who wish to fix the date of the elections at such a time as will enable the largest number of the electors to record their votes. We all deplore the fact that many of the electors take so little trouble to record their votes. I admit that it is a reasonable proposal to fix the date of our elections at a time that will be convenient to the electors, and that we should make any alteration which will bring about that result and which can be made without any great difficulty. If we were able to deal with a matter of this kind without any amendment of the Constitution, many of our difficulties would be removed. Whilst it is true that we can amend the Constitution in any way we think fit, alterations of the Constitution are always very properly regarded as matters of very grave importance, and they should not be undertaken without serious reason.
– Is it not a serious reason that the whole of the electors should be provided with an opportunity to cast their votes.
.- It is no doubt desirable that they should be given that opportunity.
– It is not merely desirable ; it is a verv serious matter.
.- I say that it is desirable that we should not seek to amend the Constitution unless verv serious questions are involved. In Quick and Garran’s Annotated. Constitution, I find the following remarks made under the head.ing of “ Alteration “ : -
Where a community is founded on a political compact it is only fair and reasonable that that compact should be protected, not only against the designs of those who wish to disturb it by introducing revolutionary projects, but also against the risk of thoughtless tinkering and theoretical experiments.
– But not against the desire of the parties to the compact.
– I am willing to admit that honorable senators opposite do not regard this measure as “thoughtless tinkering” with the Constitution. But unless it can be shown that it will attain the object for which it is proposed - that it will bring about a condition of affairs in the future which will afford a better opportunity to the electors to record their votes than they now have - it must be so regarded. If the measure is merely to change the date of the elections from one month to another, and the difficulties sought to be overcome are as likely to arise in one month as in another, the measure must be held to be thoughtless tinkering.
– It removes ore difficulty by creating another.
– Exactly. What was the object of the founders of the Constitution? It was that, as far as possible, the Senate and the House of Representatives should be elected concurrently, and should occupy the same time in dealing with matters appertaining to the Commonwealth. I admit that it is always possible that a penal dissolution may take place, which would destroy the symmetry of the scheme. But, as it at present stands, the Constitution clearly contemplates that the two Houses shall be elected together, and that each shall continue without change of -personnel for a period of three years. We are now in the sixth year of our existence as a Commonwealth, and we have had no penal dissolution during that period.
– We might have four during the next six years
– The House of Representatives, in the first Parliament, lasted for the full period of three years, and is now completing a second period of three years, and the elections for the two Houses will again take place together. I assume that this Bill will be passed, and, for the sake of argument, that the Parliament to be elected at the end of this year will continue in existence for three years. In these circumstances, we shall find ourselves in this anomalous position. Certain senators who will be elected in the month of November or December will continue to hold office for six years and six months, and honorable senators who under existing circumstances have three years of office to run will continue in office for three years and six months.
– That is so.
– The members of the House of Representatives elected at the same time will have only three years of office, and will then have to go to their constituents again, and the new Parliament will meet before honorable senators who have three years and six month’s of office to run have completed that term of office. Members of the Senate, whose time is about to expire, will then be taking part in legislation brought forward by a Parliament that is newly elected, so far as’ the House of Representatives is concerned, and, as Senator- Symon put it, the new senators will be waiting to take the cloaks as they fall from other men. If, on the other hand, we do not pass this Bill, both Houses of the
Federal Parliament will go before the electors at the same time under normal conditions. Now I take the case where a dissolution takes place, and I admit at once that that throws the whole of our machinery out of gear. In such a case it will be impossible to again secure the concurrent election of the two Houses, unless the dissolution of the House of Representatives should take place just at the time when an election for the Senate ought to take place under the new law. It has already been pointed out that under section 9 of the “Constitution -
The Parliament of a State may make laws for determining the times and places of elections of senators for the State. and in section 5 it is provided that -
After any general election the Parliament shall be summoned to meet not later than thirty days after the day appointed for the return of the writs. “Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act the writs are to be returnable within sixty days after their issue, and Parliament must meet within thirty days after they are returned. So that under no conceivable set of circumstances is it possible for us to overcome the difficulty I have pointed out in the event of Parliament expiring by effluxion of time. If Parliament expires by effluxion of time, and the elections are held on the 31st December, the new Parliament must meet bv the end of the following month of March. That is assuming that the writs are issued and made returnable within sixty days after their issue.
– An amendment of the Electoral Act would put all that right.
-Col. GOULD. - It would not put it right except so far as the return of the writs is concerned. Our Electoral Act provides that -
The date fixed for the nomination of candidates shall not be less than seven days nor more than twenty -one days after the date of the writ. and -
The date fixed for the polling shall not be less than seven days or more than thirty days after the date of nomination. anc -
The date fixed for the return of the writ shall not bs more than sixty days after the issue of the writ.
Then we have the provision in the Constitution requiring Parliament to meet within thirty days after the return of the writs. Senator McGregor contends that the Commonwealth Parliament can alter its electoral law, but I ask honorable senators if it is within the bounds of probability that any Parliament would amend the electoral law so as to permit of a delay in the meeting of Parliament until six months after the date of the election ?
– That is not what I meant. .What compels an election of the House of Representatives at the end of the vear?
– The fact that its term of office expires at the end of the year.
– But it does not.
.- The House of Representatives is elected for a period of three years, and the term is reckoned from the date on which honorable members take their seats. My argument is that after such a disarrangement as I have referred to, until we had some great change in connexion with the House of Representatives, we should not be able to bring about again the concurrent election of members of both Houses. As the law stands, the elections for the House of Representatives takes place at the end of the year.
– Not necessarily. They might take place in April or in May.
.- So far as I know, there is no proposal to alter the law in that respect.
– It is not a question of law so much as a question of practice.
– No practice adopted will enable a newly elected House of Representatives to continue in office for more, than three years. That could only be done by legislation, and would involve an amendment of the Constitution. I contend that, as we cannot always make the elections for the two Houses concurrent, it is desirable that under ordinary circumstances they should take place in November, December, or January, rather than in May, June, or July. Honorable senators talk about the difficulty of getting persons fo vote; but that would not be overcome by enacting that the electors shall go to the polls and vote for the members of one House at one period of the year, and for the members of the other House at another period. Another point is that the Bill, if passed, would involve an alteration of the Parliamentary Allowances Act of 1902. It will be remembered that section 48 of the Constitution says -
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, each senator and each member of the House of Repre- sentatives shall receive an allowance of ^400 a year, to be reckoned from the day on which he takes his seat.
The Parliamentary Allowances Act contains this provision-
The allowance to each senator under section 48 of the Constitution shall be reckoned -
in the case of a senator chosen to fill a place which is to become vacant in rotation, from the ist day of January following the date of his election.
It will be seen that this Bill, if passed, would involve the necessity of altering that Act. Because, if a man were elected in May, or June, or July - in fact, at any time during the year - his allowance would not become payable until the ist January in the succeeding year. Of course, I admit that that law could be altered ; but there it stands. Unless the Parliamentary Allowances Act were altered, the retiring men would receive their allowances up to the 30th June, and then the parliamentary work would be taken part in by the new men who would not be entitled to any allowance until the ist January following. I am pointing this out, mot as an insuperable objection, but as a subsequent alteration which must be made. Unless we provide that all elections shall take place after the 30th June, it will be most unwise to alter the time for holding the Senate elections. Even if there were circumstances which strongly pointed out that necessity, I have not heard that there is any intention to alter the date for holding the elections for the other House. I take it that, if the members of that House wanted an alteration they - would be inclined to make the period of their representation shorter, rather than, longer, in order to escape the objection which would otherwise be raised throughout the- country, that they had attempted to extend their term of office by six months. If the members of the other House were to’ shorten the period of their representation by six months, then, instead of having a difference of six months between the elections, we should have a difference of twelve months. I think that, in framing this Bill, sufficient consideration has not been given te the whole subject. When any honorable senators propose to amend the Constitution in any respect, they ought to be perfectly satisfied in their own minds, first, that it is a most desirable amendment to make, and, secondly, that it can be accomplished without inconvenience or injury to public interests. I have failed to dis cover how the proposed alteration could be said to come within that category. If my honorable friends will look at the Constitution as a whole, they will see that the difficulties are such that, by passing, this measure, no permanent benefit could accrue, because at some time or other we should find that the Houses were not working together harmoniously, but in such a way as to bring about confusion in legislation.
– I had no intention of speaking to the Bill until Senator Gould so very forcibly emphazised the considerations that were paramount in the minds of those whom we regard to-day as our Constitution builders. The honorable senator has emphasized the view that the members of the Federal Convention contemplated that the elections of senators and members of the ot’her House would always be concurrent. I differ entirely from that view. I recognise that a very large percentage of the members of the Convention were old and practised politicians.
– With the exception of one who had never been in Parliament.
– Probably there may have got in, unthinkingly, one or two who had never been in Parliament, but generally the members of the Convention were ‘men who knew every point that experience in politics could teach them, and they fully recognised that there could be no possibility of the elections for the House where Governments would be made and unmade being always concurrent with the elections for a House like the Senate. It is by the merest providential turn of the political wheel that for the third time in a period of six years there is a possibility of such elections taking place concurrently. But, during the next six years we may have several elections in connexion with the other House. The question which concerns a very large section of the people is the advisability of having the elections for the Senate in such seasons of the year as would render it possible for the greatest number of electors to conveniently vote. This Bill has been introduced at a very opportune time inasmuch as we all recognize the enormous amount of work which is necessarily incidental to the submission of a proposal for an alteration of the Constitution. If this attempt be put off, either a delay of three years must elapse, or a considerable sum must be expended in order to ascertain whether the people of the Commonwealth are in favour of the proposal. The measure is in perfect harmony with the spirit oft the Constitution. If the people feel that they are labouring under a grievance which can be redressed by an alteration of the Constitution, they are practically invited to make known their desire. Surely, we do not fear that the people would commit such an error1 as to alter the Constitution when they have no such desire, and see no reason or necessity for taking that step. I take it that the convenience of the people in exercising their franchise should be the paramount consideration. If they feel that the convenience they now possess is sufficient to serve them in time of need, I venture to say that they will vote at the referendum against the introduction of an amendment in the Constitution. But if, on the other hand, large sections of the people find, and still larger sections recognise, that there are disabilities which can only be overcome by an alteration of the Constitution, then I feel satisfied that the vote at the referendum will be a plain indication to the Parliament of the opinion of the electors generally. I see no reason why any strenuous opposition should be offered to the measure. It is merely a proposal to ask the people who are our masters whether the inconvenience which has, been voiced by a very large section of the electors is sufficiently great to justify an alteration of the Constitution. For these reasons I intend to support the second reading of the Bill.
– The criticism which has teen applied to this Bill seems to have narrowed itself clown to two questions. The one may be described as typified bv the argument that the proposal is hardly important enough, to warrant us in bringing into play the machinery provided bv the Constitution for its own amendment. The other argument is to the effect that even if this proposed amendment of the Constitution is adopted we are very little, if an V, nearer than we are under existing conditions to accomplishing what is desired. As to the first argument, I have to say that the object of the Bill is to enable the greatest possible number of electors in the Commonwealth to exercise their constitutional rights and privileges. We do not propose in this Bill definitely to fix any particular date or period of the year as the time when an election either for the Senate, or for the House of Representatives and the Senate together, shall be held. But we do propose to alter the date of the expiry of the term of a senator’s service. That date is already provided for in the Constitution, and all that this Bill purports to do in that behalf is to alter the date of the expiry of the term from the 31st December to the 30th June. That is proposed as a means to an end. Having accomplished that, we shall be able without any of the difficulties that at present confront us to arrange - always providing that no extraordinary conditions be interposed - that the elections for the Senate, and, for reasons of economy and convenience, the elections for the House of Representatives, shall be held in the first half of the vear instead of the second half. The other argument, to which I shall address myself before sitting down, is that the amendment of the Constitution proposed carries us no further in the direction in which we wish to go. It has been pointed out in the first place that, subject to any method of election that may be prescribed bv this Parliament, the States themselves have the power to determine when and where the elections for the Senate shall be held. But we are entitled to assume - and justly, I think, do assume - that the States Parliaments in the exercise of that power, and the States Governors in the exercise of the functions that are reposed in them in connexion with the election of senators, will fall in with what will be for the greatest convenience of the greatest number of the electors of the Commonwealth.
– I contend that the latter portion of section 9 of the Constitution does not depend upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
– That is the correct position, whether we carry this Bill or not. We do not propose to alter it ; and all the evil consequences which could possibly flow from that provision hereafter can flow from it at present. But I repeat we are assuming, and we are justly entitled to assume, that in the exercise of those powers’ the States will be mindful of what will be for the convenience of the greatest number of the electors. That has been their attitude heretofore. Certainly Queensland, Tasmania, and Victoria have legislated in this direction - I do not know whether all the States have done - ana* the legislation they have put upon the statute- books of those States is very elastic in its provisions, with the object of enabling an election of senators to take place contemporaneously with an election of senators in the other States of the Commonwealth, and also simultaneously with the elections for the House of Representatives. I have not the slightest doubt - and I do not think that any other honorable senator has any real doubt - that the States will hereafter depart from the principles they have followed in the past in that regard.
– Does the Government suggest any alteration with regard to the other House, so as to bring the term of service of its members to a termination contemporaneously with the end of the term for senators.
– The other House will do that.
– Is there to be a corresponding Bill for the other House? If the other House is elected in the coming November, and terminates three years hence, what is to happen if an election is to take place in the following April or May?
– Endeavours will be made to meet every contingency with regard to enabling the elections for the two Houses to be held simultaneously. It will be remembered that the first House of Representatives did forego a certain period of its term to enable the House to go to the country at the time when it was necessary to elect eighteen fresh members of the Senate. An argument has been put forward by Senator Pulsford to the effect that Parliament has passed an Act called the Parliamentary Allowances Act, with certain provisions of which this Bill will be in conflict. Of course, after this Bill has been approved bv both Houses of the Parliament and by the electors, it will no doubt be necessary to harmonize the provisions of the Parliamentary Allowances Act with the altered Constitution. But it is not for us to do that now. The scope of this measure is confined to the amendment of the Constitution. It cannot deal with the amendment of other legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. To do so would be altogether outside the scope of the Bill, which must be confined wholly and solely to an amendment of the Constitution. The difficulty that seems to present itself to Senator Pulsford’s mind in that regard is, however, one of very small magnitude indeed. The passage of this Bill, I may point out, is only one of a number of steps that must be taken before the Constitution can be amended. Finally and above all, is the submission of the proposed alteration to the electors of the Commonwealth. It must be submitted to them under the provisions of the Constitution, and before it can take effect it must be approved by a majority of the electors in a majority of the States. When honorable senators reflect upon that, they will realize the importance of giving proper consideration to this proposal. It is not submitted to Parliament with any other motive than to enable the election for both Houses of the Parliament, as far as we can insure it, to be held simultaneously and at a period which will be most convenient to the greatest number of the people of the Commonwealth. If we can do that we shall insure probably a more correct expression of opinion from the people. Further than that, we shall be guarding against an increase in electoral expenditure. Some honorable senator asked me what expenditure would be involved in holding two elections throughout the Commonwealth instead of one - that is, an election for the House of Representatives on one occasion, and an election for the Senate or. another. I have made inquiries of the officers 0t the Electoral Department and I am told that, roughly speaking, the cost of an election for the House of Representatives and onehalf of the Senate may be set down at something like ^40,000 : and if either of those elections were held separately, roughly speaking, the cost would be the same.
– This Bill would not avoid that.
– As far as we can do so we are endeavouring to provide that the elections shall be held simultaneously. When I was moving the second reading of this Bill an interjection was made to the effect that an extraordinary dissolution might affect the efficacy of the measure. But assuming that we have no extraordinary dissolution for any lengthy period in the meantime, we shall ‘be enabled to avoid a duplication of expenditure, and also to hold the elections at a period that is most convenient to the electors. Reference has been made to1 the possibility of the Government of the day making arrangements for holding the elections at a more convenient date by calling Parliament together earlier in the year than has hitherto been the custom. But so far as the Australian States are concerned, the practice has been, I think, within the memory of all of us, to summon Parliament together towards the middle of the year, or even after the middle of the year, and to prorogue about December. In many instances the Parliaments of the States sit right up to Christmas. We have followed the same practice in the Federal Parliament; and I venture to say, without fear of contradiction from any honorable senators - certainly least from those who have had the most parliamentary experience - that if this or any State Parliament were called together in March instead of in June, it would not necessarily follow that the session would end any earlier than it does at present. The disposition seems to be on the part of all the Parliaments in Australia to carry on their business right up to the end of the year. Once they go into recess members naturally wish the recess to be of a reasonable length. Because after all, members, apart from their own private business, have public duties which are not embraced in sitting in Parliament itself. There is a great deal of work for them to do outside of the Legislative halls, and they must be given some period of recess during which they can conveniently transact that business. The tendency always is therefore to call Parliament together at about the middle of the year, and to prorogue beforethe end of the year. We ought to take that into consideration as practical men, and to endeavour to make some provision which will tend towards holding our elections at the most convenient period.
– In view of section 28 of the Constitution, will the Minister explain how it is possible on all occasions to have the two elections simultaneously?
– We can deal with that point in Committee.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … …15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Rotation of senators).
– The Minister has brushed aside with lightheartedness a point which I think seriously requires the attention of honorable senators. On the second reading Senator Gould raised the question of whether or not a provision making a corresponding extension of the term of members of another place was contemplated by the Government. Unless there is such an extension it seems to me that the professed object of the Bill will absolutely fail. The other House will, I assume, terminate its existence some time in November, and the new Parliament must meet within ninety days, when it will commence its term of three years. Unless a corresponding Bill is passed in another place, not only the next election, but the election after that, will be at variance with the election for the Senate. Ministers ought to consider the position, and enable honorable senators to consider the details of the proposed new arrangement.
– There will be plenty of time for that in the next Parliament.
– Here is another example of the Minister’s levity. We are to ask the people to approve of an amendment of the Constitution which can only become effective if ianother Bill is passed.
– Let us wait untif the people have spoken.
– If that is the attitude of the Government we ought to have been so informed during the debate on the second reading. In any case, if theanswer nowgiven is the correct one. it does not appear to me to be sufficient. We are asked to pass a Bill with the obiect of enabling the Constitution to be altered : and I say that simultaneouslv there ought to be a Bill introduced in another place extending the term of the members there. We should then have some reasonable guarantee that at the election which follows the coming election, the members of the two Houses would commence their term of office on the same date. We may assume that the next election will take place about the middle of November, and that the new Parliament will meet about the. middle of February. That Parliament, if it runs the full term, will expire in February, 1910. It is not contemplated under the Bill that future elections will be held as early as February, and I assume that they will probably be held two months later. How is it proposed to get over the interval? Is it contemplated that there shall be a time when there is no Parliament in existence, and everything shall be left to administrative action? We know, of course, that Parliament is frequently in recess ; but we can be called together if a sufficiently serious crisis arises. Now, however, the Government are deliberately creating a position in which not only will the object of this Bill be defeated, but in which there will be a period when no Parliament can be called together, no matter how great the national urgency. If the .Government have an explanation of how it is proposed to tret over the difficulty, we ought to hear it.
.- If a Bill were introduced now in another place with the object of altering the term of office we should be accused of anticipating the vote of the electors. By means of the Bill before us we seek to ascertain from the electors whether they are willing to have the date of the elections .altered ; and when the answer has been given, is it not reasonable to suppose that the House of Representatives will take it a.s an intimation that the necessary legislation must be introduced to bring about simultaneous elections? If a Bill of the kind suggested by Senator Millen were now introduced, the Government would be told that it was folly on their part not. to wait for the approval of the electors
– The Minister of Defence has confirmed the view I take as to the attitude of the Government. Up to the present I have asked honorable senators to consider what may happen at the end of the next Parliament; but I now ask them to’ look three Parliaments ahead. As I have said, the next Parliament, if it be elected about the 20th of November, will meet on, say, the 20th February, 1907, and terminate on the 20th February, 1 910, assuming that it runs its full course.
– There seems to be too much assumption.
– I make the assumption because I decline to believe that the members of the House of Representatives will consent to shorten their term of office on every occasion. Those honorable members have shortened their term once with the express purpose of bringing the elections for both Houses into line. But we cannot suppose that they will be content to permit the next Parliament to exist for two years and nine months, the following Parliament to exist for two years and six months, the third Parliament to exist for two and .three months, and the fourth for only two years. That, however, would be the exact position brought about. Personally, as an elector, I should object to return a Parliament for a period1 of only two years. The present term is already too short, and it is utterly ridiculous to ask each succeeding Parliament to shorten its term by three months. The next Parliament, as I have already said, will meet about the 20th February, j 907, and will expire on the 20th February, 1910. Allowing the usual period for the issue of the writs, and’ so forth, the succeeding Parliament would meet on the 21st May, 1910, and expire on the 21st May, 1913. That would be the one and only Parliament, if it ran its course, in which the two elections would be simultaneous : because each succeeding Parliament, if it ran its full time, would go on three months further ahead. Yet the Minister says there is no need for any action - that things will shape themselves in some way, though he does not know how, and, so far as I can judge, he does not care. I ask honorable senators to realize the position into which we are ‘drifting.
– The ,term does not commence at the meeting of Parliament.
– Yes, it does. On that point I invited the attention of Senator Keating to section 28 of the Constitution ; but the honorable gentleman, with a discretion I admire, left it severely alone.
– The honorable senator carefully did so after I had sat down.
– The President gave the Honorary Minister the opportunity “to reply, had he chosen to do so.
– I had not then looked at the section.
– At any rate, the Minister can now say whether I .am right or wrong in the conclusions at which I have arrived. Under the circumstances, I think we ought to “go slow”; and I suggest that, now the second reading has been passed, further discussion should be deferred until we know what provision it is proposed to make for dealing, with the difficulties to which I have called attention. The Government should clearly point out that they are not going to carry on a course of legislation the whole efficacy of which will depend on the House of Representatives agreeing in the first place to dispense with three months of its existence in the next Parliament, with six months in the following Parliament, nine months in the Parliament after that, and so on, an absurdity which I confess I am unable to contemplate.
– Senator Millen has drawn a picture-
– Of fact-.
– The honorable senator is, of course, the only member of the Committee who assumes the role of a prophet, who can tell us what the facts will be in three, six, nine, or twelve years from the present time. He has constituted himself a prophet, but it will be for the members of the Committee to say whether they will accord him recognition as such. I point out that the difficulties Senator Millen foresees are precisely such as would confront the Government and Parliament of any State in carrying out triennial elections in something like a corresponding month in every third vear. Section 28 of the Constitution provides that -
Every House of Representatives shall continue for three years from the first meeting of the House and no longer,- but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General. and in, section 32 it is provided that -
The Governor-General in Council may cause writs to be issued for general elections of members of the House of Representatives.
After the first general election the writs shall be issued within len days from the expiry of a House of Representatives or from the proclamation of a dissolution thereof.
We then provide in our Electoral Act that the date fixed for the return of writs for elections to the House of Representatives shall not be more than sixty days after the issue of the writs. We have just seen that they must be issued within ten days from the expiry of a. House of Representatives or from the proclamation of a dissolution thereof. If an election for the House of Representatives took place in November or December, the House might assemble in March of the next year.
– It must do so. .
– Its ordinary term of three years, under the Constitution will date from the meeting of Parliament. If in the third session of that Parliament the work of the session concludes in November or December, there would be no earthly reason why - and in the experience of the States no such reason has been discovered in the past - the power given to the Governor-General to proclaim the dissolution of the Parliament should not then be exercised in order that the people should proceed fo the election of the new Parliament to replace it at such a. time as to enable the succeeding Parliament to take up the work of the next session at the same time of the year as the previous Parliament took up its work. That, I submit, is the practice in every State, though I speak with a more intimate observation’ of the practice in Tasmania. Other senators from that State will bear me out when I say that it has been the practice there to hold the elections in March or April.
– Then the Minister admits my contention that this means a shortening of the term of the House of Representatives.
– I admit nothing of the kind. I say that we have not had experience of a Parliament running its full term of three years to the day before taking steps for the election of its successors.
– We do not go in for concurrent elections of the two Houses for the State.
– It does not matter whether we do or not. Will Senator Mulcahy deny that the elections every three years are usually held in the same month ?
– I do deny it.
– I deny it absolutely as regards New South Wales.
– The last session of a Parliament is usually terminated some time before the Parliament would expire by effluxion of time, and advantage is taken of the balance of the term during which, in ordinary circumstances, honorable members would not exercise their legislative functions to dissolve the Parliament, and make provision for the election of its successor. If we established the principle of holding the elections for the Senate as far as possible during a certain month, of the year honorable senators could rely upon it that the Government of the day, whoever they might be, would take all necessary precautions to exercise the powers given to the GovernorGeneral under the Constitution-
Seantor Millen. - To shorten the term of the House of Representatives.
– To. bring to an end the existence of the other House, in order to enable the election of its successor to be held. Of course, if Parliament were to sit and engage in actual legislation up to the very day of the expiry of its term it would be a difficult matter to deal with, but, as a matter of actual practice, do we not know this-
– We do not. What the Minister is stating is absolutely contrary to the practice in New South Wales.
– I ask the honorable senator to reserve his judgment on what I am going to state until I have stated it. I say that, as a matter of absolute practice, we know that when a general election is coming on a considerable percentage of sitting members of Parliament intend to again submit themselves as candidates for election, and thev are not disposed to continue the exercise of their legislative functions in Parliament until the date of the expiry of their term of office. We know that many of them exhibit an anxiety that the last session of their term of office shall be cut short. I venture to say that we have had some evidence of that in connexion with this Parliament. Is there any actual harm done in terminating constitutionally and legally the existence of a particular Parliament in ample time to enable the new Parliament to be elected and take up its work in the regular month of the year. I submit that the difficulty which Senator Millen has raised is a theoretical one, and one which, in the light of the experience of the States Parliaments, we have no reason to anticipate will occur. In the circumstances, honorable senators will be well advised in dismissing from their consideration the difficulty which Senator Millen suggests.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [6.25]. - I take it that Senator Keating contemplates that the election for Parliament after Parliament will continue to take place at about the period of the year at which they have hitherto been held.
That is to say, at some time in November or December, and that the new Parliaments elected will meet at about the same time of the year as previous Parliaments have met.
– I did not argue that the elections would take place in the future in the same month as heretofore.
.- The Minister’s contention appeared to .me to be that the States Parliaments finished their work in November, and arrangements were made to enable each new Parliament to assemble some time in March. The Constitution, as it stands, contemplates the elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate taking place at the same time. In order that that may continue, if the Parliament should pass the Bill, it will be necessary to prolong the tenure of office of the members of either House of the Parliament. That can only be done bv an amendment of the Constitution. The; Constitution provides that the term of office of the House of Representatives shall not exceed three years.
– From the first meeting, and the elections might have taken place a couple of months before the first meeting.
.- I quite admit that. The elections might take place in December, and Parliament might meet in February. But senators are not to be elected until a later period of the year, because it is found that April or May would be a more convenient time for certain electors to record their votes. Surely it is not contemplated that the convenience of electors is to be consulted for the election of senators and not for the election of members of the House of Representatives ? In many ways it might be contended that the bulk of the electors are more concerned in the election for the House of Representatives. Whilst we might be providing a more ‘ convenient time for the election of members of the Senate, there would, I think, be a smaller- number of votes recorded for the Senate elections. I desire honorable senators to realize the fact that if the writs of elections are issued in November or December, the law requires that Parliament shad I meet within ninety days thereafter, and, as a result, we might have a new Parliament so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, dealing with legislation, and a Senate in which the term of office of half its members would expire in three months. If I went up for election at the next elections, and were not returned, and the new Parliament met in March or April, I should have the right to sit here and record my votes up to the ist July, >, when I should have to give way to the senator elected in my place.
– That is the present law.
– That is the present law, assuming that the elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate are not held concurrently. What I wish honorable senators to realize is that if Parliament were to meet in February, for four months legislation would be conducted by a Parliament only portion of which had been newly returned from the constituencies.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7-4-5 i>-m-
.- Under any circumstances it would be quite impossible to bring the elections into line within a reasonable period. Of course, it is quite possible that as the result of a joint dissolution the desire of honorable senators opposite might be accomplished. No one oan foretell when a joint dissolution will take place, but we can all realize that if no dissolution of the other House occurred the two Houses would be placed in a position of inharmonious relationship, so far as the elections were concerned, and that. I take it, is not desired by any one. Unless we are in a position to provide that the election for the other House shall be held at the time which it is contended would be more convenient to a large section of the community, it would only make matters worse to deliberately provide for the Senate elections to be held at a distinct period, and not to allow that event to come about, as it might do, through the medium of a dissolution and other causes. In my opinion, it would be a great mistake to make this departure. If the general elections are held towards the end of November, as is anticipated, the Parliament will have to meet in the following February, and unless the Government made up their minds to allow the other House to expire by effluxion of time on two or three occasions, in order to bring about concurrent elections again, it would be necessary, as Senator Millen has suggested, to shorten the duration of the Houses elected hereafter. However honorable senators may desire to bring the elections into harmony, it is not desirable to pass a measure which would operate to shorten the duration of the House of Representatives when it was doing good work for the Commonwealth. To judge from ‘the division on the second reading, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the Bill will be passed by the Senate, but nevertheless it is not desirable that we who .think that there is no occasion to alter the Constitu-tion should allow it to pass without pointing out its defects, which, in our opinion, largely outweigh any advantages which might accrue from holding the elections for the Senate in the middle of the year;
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [7.49]. - I think it behoves us to adopt the advice of Senator Keating, and give to the clause the fullest possible consideration, particularly from the standpoint of securing as .far as we can a homogeneous and harmonious position in respect of the election and meeting of the two Houses. The debate which has taken place confirms the view I put forward, that instead of altering the Constitution it would be verv much better to leave the rearrangement of the time of elections to the Government and the Parliament. Of course, I recognise the argument that it is intended to secure in some way or other a slight improvement in the convenience of one section of the people. That is the basis on which the Bill is put forward. The arguments which have been used in regard to this operative clause confirm that view very strongly, and the more the matter is discussed the more I think honorable senators will see that it is making a change which would introduce complications, and create a kind of Chinese puzzle. What would be the result of its enactment? We should have a dual election taking place in November or December of this year. According to the times which have been referred to by honorable senators, the first meeting of the new Parliament would be held in February or March. My honorable friends on this side suggest that the effect of that would be to interfere with the full tenure of the seats of the members of the other House. At the present moment it has to cut down its- tenure by, say, three months. Although it is elected for three years, still it sits for only two years and nine months. The first House of Representatives elected under the new system would enjoy a full term of three years. I do not quite see with my honorable friends in the view which they have been putting from that stand-point. It occurs to me that if the new House of Representatives met in February or March, 1907. and the next general election - that is in 1910 - were to take place concurrently with the Senate election, it would have substantially the full tenure of three years. As a. constitutional rule, the other House does not expire by effluxion’ of time, but is dissolved in the ordinary course. Probably if the tenure of three years would expire in February or March, 1910, there would be a dissolution at as convenient a time before that date as would permit of dual elections being held at an early date - within the meaning- of the Constitution and the electoral law - after February or March. But subsequently every succeeding House of Representatives, if the same law prevailed, and there was no intervening penal dissolution, would have a duration of two years and nine months. If we went on at that rate we would continually put off the period by three months longer. It is quite obvious that in order to bring the two elections into line again we should have to revert to the same system as prevails now of curtailing the tenure of the other House by three months.
– If we chose to make the period two years and nine months we could practically bring it about.
– That is exactly my point.
- Senator Millen very properly says that if we wish to make a permanent rule that there shall always be ai period of two years and nine months, so that whatever parliamentary vicissitudes may take place the elections for the two Houses shall be held simultaneously, we ought to alter the provision for the three years’ tenure. I agree with my honorable friend if that is intended, but still I should be adopting a course inconsistent with the views I have expressed if I supported it, because I think that these matters ought to be left as far as thev can to the electoral management of the Government and the Parliament. The Government must take some responsibility in ascertaining through the ballotbox the views of the electors, and giving them all sorts of facilities and conveniences. It would be impossible to work the legislative machine unless we threw a great deal of responsibility upon the Govern- [l38)-2 ment. I do not desire to relieve them of that responsibility, or to give them an excuse for going to the country now, and saying to the electors, “ You have been complaining far and wide of our postponing the elections until a time which was very inconvenient to the farmers. We assure you that we had no alternative, because the Constitution does not permit us to do otherwise. We propose therefore to ask your adoption of an alteration.” That is not .a, position which, even if I were in a Government, I should quite approve. There is a point which I think is deserving of very serious consideration, and that is as to how the change would work out. It has been customary in the Federal Parliament, and it has to some extent been usual in the States, for the Parliament to work up to November or December, and then go into recess, or, if it was about the time when there was to be a new election, to prorogue the Parliament, and follow that with a. dissolution of the lower House. Suppose that the imposed change were made. If the Parliament had worked to the end of the vear we should have an enforced recess of three months between the prorogation and the time when the steps were taken bv the Government with a view to holding a fresh election, and then’ another rest of three months or thereabouts, making the total period of ninety days.
– What is the constitutional necessity for the Parliament to sit at the end of the vear?
– I do not say that there is a constitutional necessity, but I agree with Senator Keating that it has been the practice.
– I should like the Parliament to sit in the summer, when the climate is better.
– I am very glad to hear my honorable friend say that. I agree that it has been the practice to sit till the end of the year. Then the Christmas holidays intervene, and it has not been customary to come back after them. I think we may assume that that is likely to continue to be the practice. It is very unlikely that Parliament would consent to come back for a few weeks after the recess. The intervention of Christmas generally marks the period when the business of the year ends”. But I agree with Senator Pearce that there is no reason why we should not meet early in the year. It is for that reason that I said in my secondreading speech that this matter ought to be left to the Executive and to the GovernorGeneral, who could summon Parliament for the despatch of business whenever he chose. I do not see why Parliament should not be summoned as soon after the Christmas holidays as possible. In that way the elections could be brought or. so as not to interfere with the harvest. That is the argument which I used to show that the Bill was not necessary.
– That would mean altering the present end of the financial year.
– I think not. The financial year ends on the 30th of June. If Parliament met in March or April, there would be no reason why it should not sit after June to get the Estimates through. In fact, I think that the adaption of that practice would give the Senate a better opportunity than it now has to exercise something more than the fancied theoretical control which is all it now enjoys over the finances of the country. It ‘would be very much better to be able to consider them before the end of the financial year, than after much of the money voted has been spent. My objection to what is proposed is that there will practically be six months of parliamentary time wasted. There will be three months from the time Parliament rises in December until March, before operations in connexion with the elections will be commenced, if they are to take place in May. If Parliament sits up to November or December, and the dissolution takes place within ten days of the prorogation, the country will then be in the throes of the general election. The time spent in the general election is of course time thoroughly well spent in public service. No one can deny that for a moment. But immediately before the general election there will be three more months of enforced idleness.
– Do we not have a long recess now?
– Of course we have a recess, but we have no enforced recess before a dissolution. The prorogation at the end of the third session is followed bv a dissolution, and members of Parliament are before their constituents immediately.
– What special virtue is there in that?
– Perhaps there is no special virtue in it to my honorable friend, who may not be desirous of facing his constituents. But there is this special vice in the proposal of the Government - that we are now making an alteration that gives a three months’ recess immediately before the steps to be taken towards the general election begin - that is from December until at least March. The steps to be taken with a view to the next election cannot begin earlier than that. Otherwise the elections cannot take place in May.
– There is no harm in that.
– I think it is an advantage.
– I wish the Minister of Defence would not interpose his irrelevant interjections. It is true that we have a six months’ recess now, but we have that as a recess. We have not a three months’ recess between prorogation and going before the electors. What I urge is that we are not justified in wasting three months of parliamentary time for nothing. Parliament is moribund from the moment the prorogation takes place, and there cannot be a dissolution until a later period.
– Has that practice been found to work disadvantageously in the States where the same system obtains?
– The same system does not obtain in the States.
– In South Australia Parliament rises before Christmas, and the, general election takes place sometimes in March or April. There is a three months’ interval.
– Yes, but the intervening period is occupied with the election. Under this proposal of the Government, however, the election would not take place in April, but in May.
– Do not the elections in South Australia sometimes take place in Mav?
– We have had them in March and April. But the Federal Parliament is in an entirely different position. It is our duty to occupy parliamentary time in legislating for the country, and not to take this sort of extra recess immediately before a general election. The effect of this proposal will be that Par- li’ament will not meet until about the month of June. There must be ten days for the issue of the writs, sixty days between the issue of the writs and the election, and thirty days within which the return must be made. So that if this idea is carried out, the result will be that, however important it may be that Parliament should meet early in the year, it will not be able to meet until, it may be, the month of June. I cannot understand what objection there is to the present arrangement. The debate which has taken place makes it plainer and plainer that the existing provision of the Constitution is a wise one, which was inserted with great care and after much deliberation - far greater care and deliberation than I am afraid we are going to exercise over this proposed change. Under the existing arrangement it is possible to have the meeting of Parliament, if the Executive chooses, early in the year ; whereas if we adopt this new method the possibility of Parliament meeting, is postponed, it may be until the month of June.
– That is when we usually meet.
– Yes, except in the case of a new Parliament.
– A new Parliament meets for a few days earlier in the vear.
– It must meet within thirty days after the return of the writs. After the last election the new Parliament met early in March.
– How long did it sit?
– I do not care how long it sat. It is a constitutional principle that a new Parliament shall come together at the earliest possible moment. After the first session we usually meet in June, but that is because the GovernorGeneral does not call us together earlier. The first meeting of a new Parliament is determined by the express language of the Constitution, which provides that we shall meet within thirty days after the election is complete.
– And then adjourn for a month or two.
– The constitutional principle is that the Ministryshall either be confirmed in office or removed from office by the new Parliament; and another reason is that after the election’ of a new Parliament it is essential that it should come together as soon as possible, in order that all grievances may be presented. But if we postpone the first meeting of a Parliament fresh from the constituencies, we postpone the opportunity of ventilating grievances and also continue in office a Ministry which may have been defeated.
– There is no proposal to do anything of the kind.
– The result of the proposal of the Government, in my view, is that, as it is desired to bring about the elections in the autumn instead of the spring or in the middle of the harvest, that change cannot be carried out without postponing the first meeting of the new Parliament until about the month of June. That is very dangerous and undesirable.
– That would be just as close to the elections as at present.
– That is not the question. The question is the closeness to the last meeting of the Parliament and the assembling of Parliament at the earliest possible moment in the beginning of the .year. The Minister does not. see that it would not be an ordinary recess, with a real live Parliament representing the constituents, but a sort of interregnum, with a moribund Parliament which did not represent the people, and was not called together. Therefore, I say that the clause requires much more serious consideration than it has received. It would be well for the Minister to explain the effect the clause will have on those usages as to the sitting of Parliament to which Senator Keating referred, and also explain the constitutional position that will be brought about by the suggested change. What I have indicated would be the result, and not merely the cutting down of the term to two years and nine months, which I think is very much the position now. I do not wish it to be thought that I am viewing this matter from a partizan stand-point. The important consideration is that the clause will prevent the possibility of the meeting of the new Parliament until as late as June, and there will be an enforced recess of at least three months, when Parliament will be dead and ought to go before the constituencies.
– There is one point to which Senator Symon has not referred. After the general election, if Parliament meets in May or June, and the term for senators does not expire until the 30th of the latter month, there will be two sets of senators - those whose term expires on the 30th June and those whose term commences on the j st July.
– The position is similar now.
– At present the term expires on the 31st December; and I suggest to the Minister that this matter should receive further consideration, because it is undesirable that there should be these two classes of senators.
– And the senators who meet in June, will have a voice in the election of the officers of Parliament for three years.
– That is so; and in justice to the country the Ministers ought to reconsider the position.
– It is the present position.
– At present the term expires on the 31st December.
– The new senators are elected before that date.
– Yes ; but the Parliament never meets.
– If we have the elections in October we shall’ be in precisely the same position.
– I have done what I conceive to be my duty of calling the attention of Ministers to this point.
– The position will1 be exactly the same as now.
– There is one strong argument in favour of our meeting in the summer months. There is evidently a desire that Dalgety shall be the capital, and it would be much better to meet in summer than in winter at that place.
– Exactly the same difficulty as that indicated by honorable senators opposite might arise under the present system. It is admitted, even by those who oppose the. Bill, that the object is to have the elections either before or after December, on the ground that it is not advisable to have them in the middle of the harvest. Senator Symon and others who have spoken against the measure, admit that that is a reasonable proposition ; and they suggest that the elections should be held in October. But I ask Senator Walker how he proposes to avoid precisely similar difficulties to those which may arise at the present time. If the elections were held in October the defeated senators would still retain their seats, and some national crisis might ren’der it necessary to call Parliament together before the end of the year, when of course those defeated senators could take their seats. It is all very well for Senator Walker to make a silly objection of the kind ; but he ought to remember that exactly the same position is possible at the present time. The whole argument for altering the date of the elections is that it is not convenient to have them so late in the year as December; and that is the only point which weighed with me in voting for the second reading. I believe it has been shown that it would be far more convenient for a large section of the electors if they were not compelled to go to the poll either late in November or early in December; and the only object of the Bill is to make it possible to hold the elections in April or the beginning of May. The whole of the objections raised by Senator Symon against the Bill apply to the present system. The ‘ honorable and learned senator seems to imagine that some great evil will arise if Parliament be dissolved in December and there is an interval of two or three months before the elections - that is to say, if there is a six months interval between the end of the one Parliament and the first meeting of the new Parliament. The honorable and learned senator did not reply to a question I interjected as to what evils ha<d been found to arise in any of the States where there is a similar condition of affairs.
– I tried to answer the honorable senator by saying that that is not the position in the States.
– The last election in South Australia was, I believe, held in May.
– There is no instance, so far as I am aware, of a six months interval.
– Did not the old Parliament in South Australia terminate somewhere about December on the last occasion ?
– In November.
– In that case the elections were not held until the beginning df May; and I ask whether Senator Symon can point to any inconvenience or injury that resulted. A similar system is followed in other States. In Tasmania, for instance, Parliament met about the middle of last year, and sat until the end,’ when it went into recess, the elections being held at the end of March. It has been the general custom in several States to hold the election at that time, or it might be in April ; and I do not see how it is likely that any inconvenience or wrong could result from a similar system in the case of the Commonwealth Parliament. Until some evil has been shown to result from the practice I have indicated, I shall support the clause.
– Either I must be getting very dense or honorable senators opposite are losing their power of explanation, because the more they talk the hazier I become. Those honorable senators have taken a very great deal of trouble to ignore the position placed before them by the Minister of Defence, who explained that before any action is taken by the House of Representatives, it is wise to see whether the electors are prepared to make the suggested alteration. That is undoubtedly the correct view to take, because if the electors decide against the alteration, matters will go on as at present. Would Senator Walker complain about that?
– Every three years the House oT Representatives, under such circumstances, would experience the same difficulty about which honorable senators opposite have been howling. Those honorable senators profess to be very anxious about the House of Representatives ; but, in my opinion, it is our duty, first, to do our business as well as we are able, and, if possible, meet the convenience of the majority of the electors, as proposed by the Bill. Senators Walker, Gould, Symon, and Millen have raised the objection that a great deal of time will be wasted if Parliament be dissolved in December, and the elections do not take place until April or May. But that happens every year now; although 1 do not regard the. time as wasted, because in that interval the representatives of the people have any amount of work if they are prepared to do it. -That system has not done any harm in any of the States ; and I do not see that it would do any harm in the case of the Commonwealth. A great deal has been made df the fact that the writs must be issued ten days after the dissolution of Parliament.
– Within ten days.
– That is exactly the correction I desired the honorable senator to make.
– I hope it will assist the honorable senator.
- Senator Gould will see how much it will assist his argument. The writs must be returned within sixty days, and Parliament must meet within thirty days of the return of the writs. The writs could be issued three, four, or five days after the dissolution, and they could be returned fifteen, twenty, or forty days after their issue.
– No; that would not give time for the elections.
– I know all about that as well as Senator Gould. The honorable senator need not try to instruct his grandmother how to perform a certain operation which we have heard about in Punch. The provision for the return of the writs within sixty days has been made to enable their return from any portion of the Commonwealth. As the facilities for the return of the writs increase, Senator Gould should know that the time allowed may be shortened. Then Parliament might meet within five or twenty days after their return. So that all these arguments about extending the time for so many months, weeks, and days, fall to the ground. They may be useful to some honorable senators for the purpose of delaying the business of the country after they have been defeated in an effort to prevent the carrying out of the wishes of an important section of the community they often pretend to be in sympathy with. Senator Symon has lost sight of what transpires in the State from which he comes. It has always been the practice there to prorogue Parliament before Christmas whether the recess be an ordinary one or a recess before an election. The elections there generally take place between March and May. In years gone by there was no arrangement between the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly of the Parliament of South Australia that their elections should be held on the same day, or even in the same year. But, as a result of a certain reform movement which was started in the State, an endeavour was made to secure that the elections for the two Houses of the State Parliament should take place, not only in the same year, but in the same month, on the same day, and at the same polling places. That may be news to some honorable senators, but it ought not to be news to Senator Symon. The difficulties in the way of such an arrangement in connexion with the State Parliament of South Australia were greater than those which exist in connexion with the Federal Parliament. The tenure of office of Legislative Councillors was a fixed term which could not be shortened but by an alteration of the Constitution. If an election for the Legislative Council took place at a certain time this year, there could not be another until some time in the third year following. The elections were being held later and later every year, and the Parliament of South Australia cast about to find out how they could remedy this. They said, “ We can take a lesson from the Federal Parliament.” Honorable senators will admit that that was a strange thing for a State Parliament to do. They fixed a permanent’ time for the expiration of the term of office of Legislative Councillors. The same thing had to be done in connexion with the House of Assembly, and it was done because that was the only way in which they could arrange for the holding of the elections for the two Houses concurrently. For just the same reason it lias been possible to hold the elections for the Federal Parliament in November or December up to the present time, because the term of office of members of the Senate was fixed to close on the 31st December1 in a particular year. A majority of the members of the Senate have agreed that it would te tetter to hold the elections in the autumn, and we now seek to do ‘that under this Bill. Honorable senators opposite are anxious about the House of Representatives, but I can tell them something about that House which thev appear to have forgotten, and which shows that honorable members in another place are well able to look after themselves, and are in a position to do so. Originally, under the Constitution, the allowance to members oft the House of Representatives did not take effect until the meeting of Parliament. That was found to be very unfair to members of that House, and more unfair than it would be to members of the Senate^ because Parliament might be dissolved in November, and might not meet again until March or the end of February in the following year. As a result, honorable members would be elected to represent the people, and their allowance would not commence until Parliament met. In the circum- stances, what did the House of Representatives, in the exercise of their powers, do? They made provision that their allowances should commence from the date of their election as it does in the case of members in most of the States Parliaments. If we pass this measure, and it is accepted by the people, do honorable senators believe that the members of the House of Representatives who have shown their ability to do so much will not be able to overcome the little difficulty of providing that their elections shall take place concurrently with the elections for the Senate? In doing so, even under the Constitution, they would only te doing justice to themselves because they would merely be taking back what they had given away on a previous occasion. If this Bill is adopted by the people, and the House of Representatives expires by effluxion of time in1 March, the dissolution can take place in that month, and they will still be within their rights. Thev can do as has been done in South Australia, and as we have done already, and provide that the elections shall take place at as short a time as possible before the senatorial term will expire, and there will then be no difficulty. If a penal dissolution takes place, there will be no greater difficulty in the future under the provisions of this Bill than there would be under existing circumstances. It would be the duty of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, in the interests of economy, to do all thev possibly could to have their elections on the same day, and I am sure that should the difficulty arise honorable members in another place would make efforts to overcome it.
– Will the honorable senator deal with the difficulty of senators belonging to two Parliaments ?
– A man possessed of so keen a mind as that of Senator Walker should have reached the solution of that difficulty long ago. We would be in no worse position in that respect under this measure than we are in now. Senator Symon suggested that the proper course would te to leave it to the Administration, and to hold the elections in September or October, and Senator O’Keefe pointed out that Parliament would then have to come together under the Constitution before the expiration of the term of office of honorable senators. No worse position would be created if the elections were held at the latter end of April or the beginning of May, and Parliament met in the first week in July. What difference would it make if in one year out of three the House of Representatives and the Senate met in the first week in July ? The difficulties which have been raised by honorable senators have been got over in the State, and they could be overcome in any circumstances that might arise in connexion with the Federal Parliament. Holding these views, I believe that the Committee will be wise in permitting the Bill to pass as rapidly as possible.
– In the course of the remarks which he addressed to the Committee prior to the dinner adjournment, Senator Keating laid some stress on what he alleged to be a practice that was becoming general in the several States of terminating the States Parliaments at practically the same period of the vear, quite irrespective of whether their term had expired by effluxion of time ©r not. Knowing that that was contrary to the practice in New South Wales, I interjected that the experience in that State proved the fallacy of the argument. During the adjournment I have taken the opportunity to look up the records, and I find that eighteen elections in New South Wales were held in ten months of the year. There are only two months of the year in which elections did not take place in that State.
– But there are no Legislative Council elections in that State.
– The fact that there ave no elections for the Legislative Council has nothing to do with the matter.
– It shows that the cases are not analogous.
– We wish to provide that the elections for the two House’s shall take place at the same time.
– I am dealing now, not with interjections, but with the statement made by Senator Keating that there was a practice general throughout Australia of terminating the period of existence of the popular Chamber of the States Parliament, irrespective of the fact that a Parliament might not have expired by effluxion of time on practically the same date at the end of each third year. I repeat that in the case of eighteen elections in New South Wales they have been held in ten months out of “the twelve, and September and October are the only two months of the year in which an election does not appear to have been held in that State. I looked into the facts with respect to Ohe State from which Senator Keating comes. We might have expected when he made such an emphatic statement that the honorable and learned senator had at least some knowledge of the history of his own State. I find that for the last six Parliaments of Tasmania the elections took place respectively in July, May, December, January, February, and April. It has not been possible for me to ascertain what has been the practice in the other States, but the practice in New South Wales and in Tasmania completely disposes of Senator Keating’s argument that there is a growing tendency for States Parliaments to run to a. certain period a little short of their full term. The facts I have submitted will show that, whilst we may propose something, there are always accidents connected with politics that make it utterly impossible to calculate when a Parliament will have to go up for election. I want to draw attention now to a point which I ‘think requires some thought. Paragraph d of the clause provides for the omission of the word “ January “ wherever it occurs in section 13 of the Constitution, and the insertion in its place of the word “ July.” The section reads in this way -
For the purposes of this section, the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first clay of January following the date of ‘ his election, except in the cases of the first election, and of the election next after any dissolution of the Senate, when it shall begin on the first day of January preceding the day of his election.
The substitution of “ July “ for “ January “ seems to me to open up this possibility : that the senators who will be elected in November next would find that, under this amendment of the Constitution, their term of service would commence, not on the ist January next, but on the ist July following. Of course, that is not the intention, but it seems to me to suggest that something has been omitted from the Bill. I take iti that it is intended that the ist July shall apply to all elections to be held in future, except the forthcoming one.
– But this Bill will not be in operation when the new senators are elected.
– It may be in operation before they are sworn in.
– I think not.
– If the honorable senator will look at the provision, he will see that the election of new senators is to date from the ist July preceding.
– That is only in the case of a dissolution of the Senate. If the term of a senator’s service is to commence on the 1 st July following the day of his election, and he is elected in November next, it seems to me that there is a period of six months for which the Bill makes no provision.
– If the honorable senator’s contention is, correct, one very short amendment can be inserted in the Bill to get over that.
– The interjection of the honorable senator, that it is possible to remedy the defect, is to my mind a recognition on his part that the Bill, as it stands, is defective.
– I said that if the honorable senator’s contention is correct, an amendment will be necessary.
– Of course, it may be said that, even if, technically or legally, there was a defect, no one would bother about the matter when honorable senators were sworn in. But, in dealing with a document of this kind, especially with the High Court at the service of any objector, one never knows what troubles or difficulties might arise if the clause were allowed to go through in its present doubtful form. I recognise some difficulty in suggesting an amendment. Senator O’Keefe said something about a simple amendment, but the more experience I have with Bills, the more diffident I become about suggesting the form which an amendment should take, especially when I am on my feet. Unless the Ministry can furnish an answer, 1 think it will be incumbent upon the Committee to take such time as may be necessary to frame a proper amendment to cure the defect.
– -What is the honorable senator’s difficulty? I have not exactly caught his point.
– Suppose that “ July “ was substituted for “ January “ in section 13 of the Constitution, and that the honorable senator was re-elected in November next. According to this Bill, his term of service would only commence on the rst July next. Does he suppose that I could stand calmly by and see the country deprived of his services for six months, because of a faulty provision in this ‘Bill ?
– If he has taken his seat, what then?
– The Bill, if approved at the referendum, would have to be reserved for the assent of the Crown; but it is quite possible that that assent might reach here before the new Parliament had assembled and the honorable senator had been sworn in. It is also possible that the Parliament might assemble before the Bill had become law. When there is a doubt about the matter it is our duty, I submit, to amend the clause so as to make it abundantly clear that the provision decreeing that the term of senators shall commence from the ist July shall only apply after the forthcoming election has been held.
– I have had some difficulty in following the contention of Senator Millen. What he claims is that the first part of section 13, as proposed to be amended, namely -
For the purposes of this section the term of service of a senator shall be taken to begin on the first day of July following the date of his election - would apply to honorable senators who would be elected under the Constitution as it stands. The Bill, if passed, would be submitted to the electors at the same time, tout the mere approval of the Bill by a majority of the voters in a majority of the States would not complete the business, because section 128 says -
If in a majority of the States a majority of the electors voting approve the proposed law. and if a majority of all the electors voting also approve the proposed law, it shall be presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent.
After the election of the senators had been held the writ would have to be returned within a period of thirty days, and the new senators would take their seats as soon as the Parliament was called together.
– But the assent of the Governor-General might be given.
– Is it to be supposed that the Governor-General’s assent would be given to an amendment of the Constitution ?
– I should certainly think so.
– Even if it were given, I do not think that the provision would apply to those senators. At any rate, the alteration would not be law until the King’s assent was given. My contention is that at the time when the election was held the Bill would not be law. How could the election be subject to a provision which was not law when it took place?
– Does the honorable and learned senator mean to say that the tenure of honorable senators who were elected three years ago for a sixyears’ term cannot be affectedby this Bill ?
– Undoubtedly their tenure can be affected by an alteration of the Constitution which is made in the prescribed way subsequent to the date of their election. For instance, it is possible, by complying with the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution, to alter the term of such senators to three years, because within the limits of the Constitution the power of Parliament is omnipotent. In the case under consideration, however, an election would have taken place pursuant to the law then in force, and without any contemplation of what might subsequently be substituted.
– Does the honorable and learned senator mean to say that the Bill would not affect the senators to be elected in November next?
– Because it would have been assented to after their election?
– Quite so.
– Then how can it affect them to the extent of giving them an extra tenure of six months?
– Undoubtedly the Parliament can, if it chooses, pass a law in order to extend the tenure.
– My point is that while putting six months on at the end of the tenure, the Bill is taking off six months at the beginning. .
– The new senators would have been elected under the then, existing law, and this Bill would have come into operation subsequently. If it attached a benefit to them-
– But if it attached a disadvantage it would not affect them?
– It could not attach a disadvantage to a new senator, because he would have been elected before it began to operate. This Bill comes into operation subsequently to its being submitted to the electors. In addition to that. I urge that if it were possible it would be a complete breach of faith for any Government to at tempt to present the Bill to the GovernorGeneral, whose duty it is to present it to the King for his assent, so that it might come into operation in time to affect the coming elections. If the Governor- General considered that it was necessary to send the Bill to England for the King’s assent, it would take six months.
– Is this a Bill which has to be reserved?
– The Constitution requires that it shall be presented to the GovernorGeneral for the King’s assent.
– There is no proviso regarding a special presentation. It will be presented just like any other Bill.
– I think the words are much stronger in the case of an amendment of the Constitution. For the moment, I do not remember whether there is any special provision as to the reservation of Bills amending the Constitution. Undoubtedly, the Governor-General gives his assent to many Acts of Parliament on behalf of the King.
– The Governor-General may reserve the Bill if he likes.
– There are only certain Bills, dealing with Imperial concerns, which the Governor-General is instructed to reserve.
– No doubt that is so. But no Government would be guilty of advising the Governor-General to give his immediate assent to the Bill if, by doing so, it resulted in such a serious parliamentary anomaly as has been suggested.
– Hear, hear.
– Does the honorable senator argue that if this Bill becomes law it can add six months to the term of a senator who is elected at the next elections, but cannot take a portion of his term away ?
– It could, if the Bill specifically stated so.
– Could it make his term begin from the 20th July next?
– Yes, if that were provided in the Bill. But it is not capable of that construction. I do not think that any Government would be capable of creating such a parliamentary anomaly. As to the other contention which has been made, I look upon the Bill from one stand-point only. I have regard to the almost universal opinion in mv own State that March, Anril, or Mav would be more convenient months than December for holding the elections. Conservatives, Liberals, and members of the Labour Party alike have subscribed to the opinion that it is desirable that greater facilities should be afforded to electors to vote by holding the elections in some other month than December.
– If the people of the other States objected to this change, would the honorable senator help them to .make another alteration in the Constitution?
– I am now speaking for my own State. The only objection to the month of March has come from the Queensland senators. That objection undoubtedly has to be regarded. They tell us that April or May would suit them better than December. As the Bill proposes to offer facilities to hold the elections in April or May, we must take it for granted that the Government will suit the convenience of all the States. That is the sole justification for the measure. It has been argued that if the Bill is to work it means that the term of the House of Representatives must be curtailed bv three months. No doubt that would be the case. The House of Representatives on a previous occasion yielded to the suggestion of economy, and curtailed a portion of its term. Subject to the objection that the Bill entails a sacrifice on the part of that House, there is no reason why it should not be passed.
– Does the Bill provide for the elections for the two Houses always being concurrent?
– It could not do so; neither does the present law.
– -Why not make an alteration of the Constitution that would effect that purpose?
– I do not think it is possible. We are getting as near to that as is possible by this Bill. It .gives a certain degree of advantage, whilst it maintains some of the objections attaching to the present law.
9-12]. - With much that Senator Best has said upon the point raised by Senator Millen I agree. But a great deal of difficulty still has to be apprehended in connexion with the Bill. It is perfectly true that when a proposed law is passed by both Houses of the Parliament bv the requisite majorities, before it can come into effect it has to be submitted to the people of the various States to receive their sanction, and that it then has to be submitted to the GovernorGenera! for his assent. But from the day when the Governor-General gives, his assent there is no question that the Bill will become effective. It is understood that the general election is to take place before the end of November. This amendment of the Constitution will Le submitted to the people then. As soon as they have ratified it, the duty will rest upon the Government under the Constitution to present the Bill for the assent of the GovernorGeneral. Is the Government to exercise a discretion as to when it will submit the Bill to His Excellency?
– It cannot be submitted after the election.
.- The decision of the people upon this proposed alteration of the Constitution will be known simultaneously with the declaration of polls at the end of November. How long; will the Government be justified in withholding the Bill from the GovernorGeneral ?
– Suppose it is submitted to him at once?
– It will then be the duty of His Excellency to signify his assent or to intimate that he withholds it. Is it to be supposed that the returning officers mav exercise a discretion as towhen they make known the decision of the people, that the. Government mav exercise a discretion as to when’ it submits the Bill to the Governor-General, and that -His Excellency may exercise a discretion as to when he gives his assent? It has been suggested that the Governor-General may reserve the Bill for submission to the King. His instructions, however, do not contain a word regarding the reservationof any measure of this kind. Section 128’ sms that the proposed law shall be presented “ for the Queen’s assent “ : and* section 58 says that when the proposed lawis passed by both Houses of the Parliament,, and is presented to the Governor-General,. His Excellency shall declare - according to his discretion, but subject to this: Constitution, that he assents in the Queen’sname, or that he withholds assent, or that he reserves the law for the Queen’s pleasure.
The Governor-General will be guided asto whether he reserves the” Bill for theKing’s assent by its nature and importance.
– He will consult theAttorneyGeneral.
– No doubt. But the Governor-General will have nodifficulty in assenting to this measure, be– cause it is one that “fs clearly within our competency. It was never intended that a Bill simply amending the Constitution should be withheld for the King’s assent after it had been subjected to the requirements which attach to an amendment of the Constitution. It would, therefore, be the duty of the Government, having had the decision of the electors reported to it, within a reasonable time to submit the Bill to th« Governor-General ; and it would be the duty of ‘His Excellency, within a reasonable time, to give his assent on behalf of the King. Assuming that his assent was given before the 31st December, the Bill would take effect immediately. The senators elected at the November elections would be affected by the amended section of the Constitution. Their election, it must be remembered, would not in any case date until the ist January following the election. But before that date had arrived the word “ January “ would have been struck out of the Constitution, and the word “ July “ would have been inserted in lieu thereof. My contention is, therefore, that if the assent of the Governor-General were given to the Bill before the ‘end of the year the senators who were elected in November would not be entitled to take their seats until the 1st July following, because the date ist January would have been altered to a date six months later.
– God help the Government that did that !
.- But there has been no attempt to show that that is not absolutely the legal position. If the Government do their duty in regard to an amendment of the Constitution, that amendment ought to be submitted without undue delay ; otherwise, there is brought about a state of affairs necessarily dangerous in am nation. The;ne would be placed in the hands of the Government the discretionary power to say when a Law is to come into force. In this particular case, the Government might take the view that Parliament never intended to have such an extraordinary alteration, and decide to hold the Bill back until after January, so that there might be no doubt or difficulty. However that may be, the Government would be put in the position of exercising the discretionary, power I have indicated.
– The ‘Government would be put in a position to exercise common - sense.
– If it is desired to make the Bill perfectly clear, nothing could be simpler- than to state that the law shall not take effect until after the 31st December, 1906, or apply to the commencement of the term of senators elected during this year. As a matter of principle, I shall always object to giving any Government a1 discretionary power to say when an Act of Parliament shall be brought into force, unless Parliament expressly prescribes such a course.
– That is a good “ getout.”
.- The honorable senator knows perfectly well that what a principal does by his agent he does by himself. If we fixed the time, or gave the power of postponement, that would be another question; but the point raised here is most important, and the interjections from lime to time show that honorable senators have failed to grasp the position, in consequence of not having given the matter the attention they would have liked, or on account of an inability on the part of those who have foreseen difficulties to make their explanations clear. It is a serious mistake to push a Bill of this character through too quickly.
– Whether the Bill will become law before the next Parliament assembles is quite immaterial, because Senator Best and others have admitted that there is a possibility that it may become law. It is in view of that possibility that I have already addressed the Committee, and seek to do so again. I shall take a case which would happen if the Bill had become law, and show that the mere fact of the elections having taken place previously is quite immaterial. That has been admitted by Senator ‘Best, who says that a candidate electee! in November, prior to the passage of the .Bill, would” get the benefit of the amendment of the Constitution, so far as it extended his term from January to June, but would experience no disadvantage of the amendment in shortening his term by a corresponding six months at the commencement. I could understand any one contending that a candidate elected under the Constitution as it stands would hold his seat for the full term of six years, but I cannot understand the contention that, if a candidate be elected under the Constitution, and there is an amendment subsequently made in that Constitution, certain portions of that amendment shall apply, but not the whole of it.
– If, on the interpretation, it could be made to apply, df course it would; but that is the question.
– The Bill proposes two things - to extend the term from December to June, and to make the term commence on the ist July. How can it be said that one portion of the amendment shall be effective, although the Bill is only finally passed into law after the election, while the other portion, which states that the term shall commence on the ist July, is to be inoperative? That passes my comprehension. I desire to draw attention to another portion of the Constitution, which it is not proposed to amend, but which to my mind is vital, bearing in mind the argument I have just addressed to the Committee. The last portion of section 7 of the Constitution says that the senators shall be chosen for a term of six years. Now, this Bil) does not say one word about making the term any other but six years. Clause 3 provides that the senators whose term, but for the Bill, would expire on the 31st December, 1909, shall remain in office until the 30th June, 1910, and that those senators whose term would, but for the Bill, expire on the 31st December, 191:2, shall hold office until the 30th June, 1913. The Constitution, it will be seen, declares that the term shall be six years ; and that section remains unaltered. Now I refer to another portion of the Constitution, which we are asked to amend by making the term commence on the ist July. In the amending Bill we have a declaration that the term shall commence on the ist July, and end on the 30th June; and vet in the Constitution the term is set down at six years. How then can we read six years and six months into the Constitution ?
– When the Bill is passed and forms portion of the’ Constitution, we cannot eliminate clause, or, as it will be then, section 3, which makes a specific extension.
– What I am endeavouring to impress on the Committee is the unfortunate fact that clause 3 is in the Bill. That clause says that the end of the term shall be extended, but it says nothin? about lengthening the period.
– T think the arguments of the honorable senator might be more appropriate when we are considering clause 3.
– With all due deference, I point out that we were dealing originally with the effect that this Bill will have, in view of the last words of paragraph d of clause 2, if the word “January “ be omitted, and I am referring to clause 3 only as illustrating what might happen if we approve of substituting July for January. I do not desire to discuss clause 3 ; but the whole of my argument is intended to show that the substitution of July for January will have the effect that, while it alters the times for the commencement and the ending of the term, it leaves a period from the ist January until the 30th June, when there will not be the full number of senators. I hope I have made it clear that there is an absolute defect in the Bill, and my present purpose is to arouse rather a thin Committee to a recognition of what appears to me to be the patent fact that there is some necessity for amendment. If I were not convinced on that point there would be no possible object in occupying time over a measure of this kind. If there is any doubt in the minds of honorable senators’, I appeal’ to them to obtain from the Government, by an expression of opinion, some assurance that an amendment will be submitted. I propose in clause, 3 to insert at the commencement the words “ Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in section 7 of the Constitution.” That will make it clear that, while the Constitution limits the period to six years, it shall be six years and six months in this special instance.
– That is already provided in clause 3.
– As I pointed out before, clause 3 says nothing about six years and six months, and I take it that the object of the Bill is to extend the term by six months.
– Only temporarily.
– The Constitution says that the period shall be six years altogether.
– We are seeking to amend that.
– I hope that Senator Givens is speaking seriously. Whilst an honorable senator may see a defect in a Bill, and feel some responsibility to point it out, he is, I think, under no obligation to immediately draft an amendment to a document designed to amend the Constitution. I have not the slightest doubt that
Senator Givens, and, possibly, some other members of the Committee, can throw off amendments ad infinitum at a moment’s notice ; but I admit that I cannot do so. Whilst there is nothing in this Bill to provide that a senator shall have a term of office of six years and six months, there is an absolute prohibition in the Constitution against the term being extended to more than six years. All that this Bill does is not to make the six years’ term six years and six months, but to provide that, instead of starting on the ist of January and ending on the 31st of December, it shall start on the ist of July and end on the 30th of June. I think that is not what is wanted. Honorable senators who are convinced that there is substance in my contention will support my request to the Government, and honorable senators who are in some doubt on the subject, will, I hope, determine that the matter to which I have referred shall be placed absolutely beyond doubt before the Bill is passed.
– Two points of extreme importance have been raised by the discussion which has taken place within the last few minutes. The first was raised by Senator Gould, and, I think, previously by Senator Millen, that senators elected at the coming election will be subject to this Bill with reference to the commencement of their term of office as senators, if the Bill be indorsed by the people. I am inclined to think that that contention is wrong. There are three factors to be considered in any alteration of the Constitution. First of all, Parliament must, by an absolute majority in both Houses, agree to pass a Bill for the purpose. Then the people, by an absolute majority in a majority of the States, must agree to the proposed alteration of the Constitution. It will not then, become law, because there is still another factor to be considered - that until the Crown has given its assent to the proposed alteration, it will nots become law. I hope that Ministers will give the point some attention, because it seems to me to be of very great importance. It has been urged by Senator Gould that it might happen that, between the election - which, I think, is complete on the day of election, even though the writs should never be returned - and the time at which senators, under the Constitution, would have become entitled to sit, the Crown might have given its assent to the amendment, and if that were so it is the opinion of the honorable and learned senator that that, if it would not vitiate the election, would at least preevnt the senators elected at that election entering into their office before the 1st of July.
– Assuming that the Royal assent was given before the end of the year.
– Just so. That is a nice point, and one well worthy of the consideration of Ministers. If the election takes place, and Parliament meets before the Royal assent is given, I should have no doubt of the legality of the position of the newly-elected senators; but there is a possible doubt presented in the contingency suggested by Senator Gould. The point raised by Senator Millen is also a matter on which there may be some doubt. Any alteration of the Constitution should certainly be effected on the soundest and safest possible lines. I admit that I see some conflict between the latter part of section 7 of the Constitution and the intention of this Bill. We are, I think, indebted to Senator Millen for raising the point, but there should be no difficulty in removing the conflict. I urge Senator Keating to give the difficulty suggested his earnest consideration, and to say whether he is so clear on these points that we can go on, notwithstanding the objections presented, or whether there is raised in his mind such a doubt that he would prefer to have until tomorrow to suggest some way in which the difficulties may be overcome.
– I listened with attention to Senators Gould and Millen when offering objections to the Bill on account of what appeared to them to be its incompleteness. Although I admit that they have maintained their arguments very strongly, I have not been forced to the conclusions which they seem to draw from them. It seems to me that their contention is that if this Bill is passed,’ adopted by the people, and receives the Governor-General’s assent before the 31st December next, the operation of the ‘Constitution as amended by the provisions of this measure will establish what might be called a hiatus for the next six months. In other words, that eighteen senators who will be elected towards the end of this year will take office not from the ist of January, but from the ist July next, and that during the period intervening between those dates there will be only eighteen senators, comprising those who are not required to go to the country at the end of this year. I do not agree with honorable senators opposite in that. First of all, the election would be held simultaneously with the submission of this proposed amendment to the people. Consequently the proposed amendment would not then be law, and would not govern the election. Further, for what purpose would the election be held? It would be held under the existing provisions of the Constitution, and under section 13 of the Constitution it is provided that -
The elections to fill vacant places shall be made in the year at the expiration of which the places are to become vacant.
Eighteen places are to become vacant on the 31st December next. Prior to that date a senatorial election must be held to fill those vacant places, and the moment the eighteen new senators are elected, they are elected to fill the places vacant from the 31st December next, and will hold office as from the ist January next. We will assume that on the same day the proposed law is submitted to the people, receives the ratification of the electors as required by the Constitution in a majority of the States, is subsequently submitted to the Governor-General for the Royal assent, and is assented to. I maintain that it can have no effect to make vacant the places which the eighteen new senators will have already been elected to fill. The vacancies will have been filled by the election.
– Filled as from the ist January following, and the day before that date the Constitution is altered, so that the senatorial term shall be counted as from the ist July.
– No; the newlyelected senators will have been elected to nil the places vacant on the 31st December, and neither the Constitution nor this proposed amendment of it contemplates the creation of any such hiatus as the honorable and learned senator suggests.
– Suppose that Parliament and the people desired that there should be such a hiatus, could we alter the Constitution to provide for it?
– Not at the next election.
– We could certainly do it if we thought fit.
– If honorable senators will permit me to continue my remarks, I will say that so far as the vacancies are concerned which must be in contemplation at the time the Senate election is held, they are vacancies which date from the termination of office of the eighteen senators who are required to go before the electors .before the 31st December next. And unless we were to expressly provide that we were going to make that radical alteration in the Constitution which would involve the existence of only half the Senate for half a year, it must be taken that the Constitution and the proposed amendment of it contemplate no such abnormal condition of things. With respect to clause 3, which has been referred to for the purpose of illustrating the argument built up on clause 2, I would say that it is competent for us to amend the Commonwealth ‘Constitution by providing with respect to particular sets of senators that their term of service shall end on a certain date. I may be permitted to analyze clause 3 to some extent, in order to illustrate the argument used in connexion with clause 2. The clause provides that-
The terms of service of the senators whose places would, but for this Act, become vacant at the expiration of the year One thousand nine hundred and nine, are extended until the thirtieth day of ‘June, One thousand nine hundred and len.
That refers to honorable senators who were elected to fill places which became vacant on the 31st December, 1903. There can be no doubt as to the commencement of the term of service of those honorable senators. Under the terms of the Constitution, it commenced on the ist January, 1904, and in the ordinary course, under the existing law, the expiration of their term would take place on the 31st December, 1909. But we propose specifically with regard to those honorable senators - and the specific mention of them excludes all others - to extend their term from the. 31st December, 1909, to the 30th Tune, 1910, in order to carry out .the general principles of this Bill. I £do not think it can be said that that part of the clause is in conflict with the Constitution. The second part reads -
The terms of service of the senators whose places would, but for this Act, become vacant at the expiration of the year 1012, are extended until the 30th day of June, 1013.
The very statement in that sub-clause that the terms of certain senators would expire at the end of the year 1912 but for this Act shows by way of implication that the commencement of their terms would be on the ist day of January, 1907.
– The Minister’s argument would be good but for the fact that we expressly alter the date on which the term shall commence.
– That is where my honorable friend and I come into conflict. 1 do not feel any doubt about what would be the construction of the Constitution as amended by this Bill, if adopted by the people, and subsequently assented to by the ‘Governor-General. I have listened to the argument which has been put forward by other honorable senators, and I must say that I realize that there certainly is room for a legitimate difference from my opinion. If - we do not always find that our belief is founded upon facts, we all like to believe that our Constitution has at least been made so plain that practically he who runs may read it. I know that all honorable senators desire that our characters should above everything else be free from ambiguity. I have no objection to an amendment for the purpose which they have suggested. 1 have said, however, that so far as the proper construction of the clause goes, I think that it is quite clear. But as doubts have been expressed, we have no’ objection to offer to an amendment to make the intention abundantly clear. It will be remembered that when introducing the measure some time ago I said that the Government would welcome the assistance of honorable senators all round the Chamber in endeavouring to perfect its provisions as much as possible, so that the object which we had in view, and which we hoped we shared with honorable senators on the other side, would be best and most clearly attained.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [9 47]. - I wish to reply to the contention of the Minister about the effect of the amendment of section 13 of the Constitution upon any honorable senator who mav be elected in November next. Let us assume for the sake of argument that the Bill, if approved at the referendum, was assented to by the Governor-General on or before the 31st December. If I followed the Minister correctly, he contends that, the elections having taken place under section 13 of the Constitution as it now stands, the Governor-General’s assent to the Bill would not interfere with the right of the new senators to take their seats here on the 1st January. Take the case of a law which is repealed. So far as future matters are concerned, the law has to be taken as not to have had any existence.
The repealing Act only validates anything which may have been done under the old law. But when a law has been altered to make a senator’s term of service begin on the ist July following the date of his election, the true construction would be that a man who had been elected before the end of December would have to conform to the altered circumstances.
– Would the honorable senator say that the retiring senators would hold office up to July, even although they had not been re-elected?
– No; because the law is clear that a man vacates his seat at the end of a! period of three or six years, as the case may be. We want to amend the law so that a senator’s tenure shall take effect as from the 1st January - that is, directly a vacancy arises. But suppose that we pass a law which says that a man shall not take his seat until the 1st July. The mere fact of the man having been elected under a law which would enable him to take his seat on the ist January would not get over the difficulty which had been raised. Let me now put the position in another way. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that, in the middle of a senatorial term we wished to provide that the senators who were elected in January should only hold office for a peroid of two years. Surely we have the right to make that provision if we can get the Constitution amended. The position would be exactly parallel, only that the Parliament would not be required to sit during the whole of the time when an amendment of the Constitution was in process of submission to the electors. After it has done it work the people have to do their work, and the GovernorGeneral has to perform his duty. From the time His Excellency has given his assent to a measure, I contend that it is the law of the land, and that any rights or privileges which were given under the repealed law have ceased to exist. But anything which, has been done legally cannot be interfered with. So soon as the alteration is made the whole aspect of affairs is changed. Suppose, for instance, that the Parliament should pass a law giving me certain rights for a period of five years, and that two years later it should come to the conclusion that it had made a mistake, and decide to limit the concession to three years. It would be acting perfectly within its powers. In this case we are not to consider, what the Parliament intended when we have clear and distinct words to guide us, because the Minister said, “ Unless the matter was expressly provided.” Here it would be expressly provided. Although the Parliament, when, enacting that the term should only commence from the ist July following, the date of election, might have intended the provision not to apply to the senators just elected, still I hold that, if it did not see fit to use apt words, we must take the ordinary natural construction of the words used. If we were to put the Bill into the hands of a stranger, and say to him, “ Here is an Act which says that when a man1 has been elected he shall not take his seat until the ist July,” would he not come to us and ask was there a law under which this person obtained rights? Even if there was such a law, it would be quite competent for Parliament to take away his rights, or to take away rights granted to him under the Constitution in its original form. I am glad that the Minister recognises that it may be desirable to insert an .amendment in order to prevent the possibility of any difficulty occurring hereafter. It would be a very serious thing if, when the new Parliament met in February, the senators who took their seats in the Senate for the first time were called upon to show by what right they were there. They would have to say, “ We are here by virtue of our rights under the Constitution.” The dispute would be referred to the High Court, and in its turn it would say, “ The Act means that these men have no right to be in Parliament until the ist July.” Consequently, the new senators would be excluded for the intervening period, but during that period one-half of the representatives of the people would be shut out. If there is a possibility of such a peculiar position arising it ought to be guarded against by means of an. amendment, I admit that this objection and others are capable of being met in that way. I hope that the Minister will take such steps as will enable us to get over the difficulty which exists in the minds of some honorable senators. It may be that Senator Best is quite right in his contention that the true construction of the Constitution, as amended, would be that the term of (he new senators would be extended’ by six months. At the same time, is it not just as well to overcome the possibility of any difficulty by inserting a few words?
’ - Without saying that I can accept the argument of the Minister, I must saythat I appreciate the spirit in which he has accepted the suggestions which have been made by honorable senators from this side, and by Senator Trenwith, as to the desirability of making absolutely clear the proposed amendment of the Constitution. I propose, therefore, to submit an amendment which cannot, by any effort of imagination, be said to affect the principles of the Bill, and which, I think, will put at rest the doubt which has been raised. I propose to move, either as an amendment tn this clause or as a new clause, the insertion of these words -
This Act shall not be taken to alter the time of the beginning of the service of any senator elected in the year 1906.
– That would make it absolutely certain that his term began on the ist January next.
– Yes. It would leave the present Constitution operative whatever the effect of the Bill otherwise might be. I have had the advantage of conferring with the draftsman of the Bill, and it is on his suggestion that I propose to move the amendment in that form.
– I would prefer the honorable senator to move the amendment as a new clause.
– Very well.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
– - I should like to hear the opinion of Senator Keating on a doubt which has arisen in my mind. This clause lays down the date to which the terms of the two sets of senators shall be extended. The Constitution provides for the possibility of a double dissolution. A doubt has arisen in my mind whether clause 3 of the Bill will become inoperative in the even? of a double dissolution; or whether it could be held that after the passing of this measure the term of those senators who are hereafter elected will expire on the date fixed in the Bill. We lay down a definite date for the retirement of two sets of senators in a certain order, and it appears to me that that date will apply, notwithstanding a double dissolution. At any rate, the Bill is open to that construction. A double dissolution might make the term of some senators shorter. It might happen in the second year ; and those senators who were elected after this amendment of the Constitution might find that their term of service expired at the end of 1909, instead of in 1910. There may be nothing serious in the point, but I should like to know what the effect will be.
– I do not think that Senator Pearce need be apprehensive of any difficulty such as he has suggested. The object of clause 3 is patent. It is to substitute for the existing constitutional term of certain senators, a term six months longer. The provision of the Constitution with regard to a double dissolution - an event which my honorable friend appears to be ‘able to speak of with the greatest equanimity - is that the GovernorGeneral shall in certain circumstances dissolve the Senate. He does not under those circumstances take any action which specifically abridges the term of certain senators individually. It is the Senate as a body that is dissolved. No senator holds his position after such a dissolution.
– Do I understand that in the case of a double dissolution clause 3 would cease to have any effect?
– Quite so. Section 7 of the Constitution, which provides that a senator shall be chosen for six years, is, of course, subject to the dissolving power of the Governor-General, and this is only an extension of that provision, and is for a like reason subject to the same dissolving power.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the following new clause be added - “4. This Act shall not be taken to alter the time of the beginning of the term of service of any senator elected in the year 1906.”
– As intimated when I was discussing the matters raised in clause
– It has occurred to me that there is a still stronger argument in support of the amendment which the Minister has intimated that the Government accepts. Under section 7 of the Constitution the term of office is six years. But this Bill, without varying that term, alters the date of commencement and the date of termination. I also point out that it re-affirms the term of six years by the alteration which we are asked to make in the first portion of section 13. It alters “third year “ and “sixth year” to “ three vears “ and “six years,” and’ thus inferential ly re-affirms section 7 of the Constitution, which says that the term shall be six years. For this reason I am doubly pleased that the amendment hasbeen accepted.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
– By leave of the Senate, I desire to give notice that tomorrow I shall move that a call of the Senate be made on a date to be fixed.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 4th September, vide page 3858) - Schedule.
Postmaster-General’s Department: - Sydney to Melbourne Telephone Line : Plant for Printing Postage Stamps : Wireless Telegraphy.
Division 5(Postmaster -General ‘s Department), £217,722.
– There is an item regarding the New South Wales portion of the trunk telephone line from Sydney to Melbourne. A portion of the vote is a re-vote. May I ask the Government if it can give any information to the Committee as to the progress or lack of progress of this work? As the Bill discloses, money has been voted for the purpose before, but apparently not one penny has been expended.
– Tenders were invited for the construction of the work in question, but the price of copper went up so much that the Government did not feel justified in accepting any tender at the time.
– The price of copper is likely to continue high.
– We cannot help that.
– As long as the price of copper remains satisfactory to the owners of copper mines, does the Government intend to make no progress with the work?
– We have to obtain from ‘Parliament a larger sum of money. Last year we only obtained £19,000. Owing to the high price of copper that amount was insufficient. The Government did not feel justified, after having asked Parliament for £19,000, in going on with the work when we knew that it would cost more than £20,000.
– Although the Minister has not expressly said so, I take it that as soon as Parliament has passed this Bill, the work will be gone on with?
– The explanation is quite satisfactory ; but I should have thought that that explanation would have applied equal lv to the Victorian side as to the New South. Wales portion of the line. But so far as I understand, this extra sum is only for “the New South Wales portion ; and, as I do not suppose the price of copper has gone up in that State and has not gone up in Victoria, I should like some explanation.
.- We are not dealing with Victoria at the present moment, but I can inform honorable senators that this is a re- vote on precisely the same lines as before. I have explained that owing to the price of copper we could not get the work done for the money originally voted in the case of New South Wales; and similarly in the case of Victoria, the original sum voted was only £11,000, but it was necessary to increase that amount to £14,000.
– But there is no explanation in the case of Victoria.
– The only explanation is that the money is marked as a re-vote, but there is an additional sum.
– I should like some explanation of the item of £1,302 for additional plant required for printing postage stamps, pos tal notes, money order forms, &c, under the heading of South Australia.
– This money is required for additional plant so as to permit of the whole of the postage stamps, postal notes, and so forth being printed at one particular place.
. -As to the item “ Wireless Telegraphy, £10,000,” I should like to know whether it is the intention to open communication between Thursday Island and New Guinea?
– It is proposed now only to ask honorable senators to pass this as a preliminary vote. It has not yet been decided where the stations, masts, and so forth shall be erected. But I should imagine that one of the first efforts will be to connect Thursday Island and New Guinea. The Postmaster-General has supplied me with the following memo. : -
This amount has been placed on the Estimates as a first instalment of the cost of introducing the wireless telegraphy system into the Commonwealth. It has not yet been determined in which part of the Commonwealth the system will first be introduced, but full inquiries will be made into a number of proposals which have been submitted to the Department, and when a decision has been arrived at, tenders will be invited to inaugurate the system.
– Is it the intention of the Government that any wireless telegraphy system adopted shall be owned and controlled by the Commonwealth, or is it the intention to leave this to private enterprise?
– It will be owned and controlled by the Government, certainly.
– I am rather alarmed at the statement which the Minister has made. We have been informed that the amount of£10,000 under the very indefinite heading of “Wireless telegraphy,” is meant as an instalment towards some vague, and, as far as we know, unlimited scheme in which the Postmaster-General proposes to launch.
– The PostmasterGeneral will not be able to spend more than £10,000 without comins; to the Parliament for permission.
– The Minister may speak in that very haphazard fashion, but we ought not lightly to place a sum of £10,000 at the disposal of any Minister without some knowledge of what his intentions are, and what further commitment he may render us liable to on the strength of this preliminary instalment. If we pass the item, I take it that it will be competent for the Minister to use it as a preliminary deposit in view of a much larger expenditure.
– I do not think the Postmaster-General would be justified in doing, that without the consent of Parliament.
– What does the Postmaster-General want the money for?
– In order to inaugurate wireless telegraphy.
– He could not inaugurate a system for£10,000.
– I think a system between New Zealand and Australia could be inaugurated for that sum.
– I take the liberty of saying that the Minister is absolutely wrong.
– A lot can be done with £10,000.
– That is so, when there is the right to expend it unchecked. Let the Postmaster-General make his arrangements with a wireless telegraphy company, and afterwards come to Parliament for the money.
– The PostmasterGeneral cannot call for tenders for work for which no provision has been made, when Parliament might afterwards refuse to make provision.
– Is the Minister of Defence not rather giving the case away when he says that we cannot expect the Postmaster-General to enter into a contract for the purchase of a system, when Parliament may afterwards repudiate the arrangement? On the other hand, if the Postmaster-General gets the money first, he will be in a position to say that it does not matter whether Parliament approves of the scheme or not.
– We do not pay for a scheme; we pay for apparatus.
– The reason advanced by the Minister of Defence is a reason why we ought not to vote this monev. We ought to know to what system the Postmaster-General is committing us. It is a most brilliant idea in departmental finance to ask for the money beforehand ; but I doubt whether in the case of railways or any other work, such a pro posal was ever made in any of the States Parliaments. I suppose that, as a matter of fact, the Postmaster-General desires this £10,000 in order that he may make any purchases of which he approves after looking round ; but I see no reason why Parliament should divest itself of its control and responsibility. When the PostmasterGeneral comes to us with a businesslike proposal, he may, with confidence, look to Parliament to make the money available ; but we ought not to sign blank cheques for large amounts.
– The circumstances surrounding this case are somewhat peculiar, and are not in any way similar to those ot proposed railways, either in the survey on the construction stage. Wireless telegraphy has only recently been discovered, and, so far as we are concerned, is in the experimental stage. In the Commonwealth, there is a large area of territory, portions of which are not connected by ordinary systems of land telegraphy, while other portions are not connected by submarine wires. From time to time this Government and their predecessors have been approached by representatives of different systems of wireless telegraphy, with a view to inducing the Government to adopt one or other of them. In this regard, the Postmaster-General today is, financially speaking, practical ly powerless. This vote of £10,000 is not proposed to enable the Postmaster-General to enter into any contract with any particular company ; but it is recognised that on the north-eastern coast of Queensland, in Papua, and on the different islands in Bass Straits, there are communities for whom it might be practical to establish a system of wirelesp telegraphy, either permanently or experimentally. It might be possible to establish wireless telegraphy for communication alternately with the present system, say, between South Australia and Western Australia, or South Australia and the Northern Territory. And it will be necessary, before we commit ourselves to anything like a wireless telegraphy policy, to enable the Department to carry out something in the nature of experiments, and to enter into negotiations with personsprepared to treat with us. The sum of £10,000 would be verylittle to establish any system commensurate with the needs of the Commonwealth ; and what the Postmaster-General desires is to have a sum of money ear-marked to enable the Government, as the representatives of the Commonwealth, to take their part in ascertaining the practicability of the system under Australian conditions. It is proposed to apply this money in certain directions in the establishment of a permanent means of communication between our outlying communities and the centres of population, or, it may be, in the erection of experimental stations. The question for the Committee is whether £10,000 is too large or too small a sum for the purpose. I think that honorable senators, on reflection, will admit that it is necessary that the Postmaster-General should be equipped with sufficient funds to enable him to keep the Commonwealth abreast of the times in this regard. I have no doubt that we shall have to adopt some system of wireless telegraphy in the very near future, and it is not too much to ask that the Government should be equipped with the necessary funds to keep them in touch with what is being done, and to make experiments on their own conditions to discover the best course to adopt before they can frame anything like a comprehensive policy which thev can ask Parliament to indorse.
– It appears to me that £10,000 is a very large sum to vote for experiments. I do not think that the Minister has done very much to advance his cause. Honorable senators may remember that I have, on several occasions, strongly urged the Government to establish a system of wireless telegraphy to provide communication between Northern Queensland and New Guinea. I think it is most desirable that that should be done, and if this vote were submitted for that purpose, I should feel quite justified in supporting it. What we are asked to do now, however, is to vote £10,000 merely for experiments.
– I intend to vote for this item. I have been very much astonished at the exceedingly illiberal and unprogressive sentiments uttered by honorable senators who are opposing the vote. As Senator Keating has very well put it, the whole question of wireless telegraphy is in the experimental stage. I have no doubt that a large number of experiments must be made before the Government can commit themselves to any definite policy on the subject. I believe that wireless telegraphy is to be the tele graphy of the future, and that it will save the Commonwealth perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds. The system, in my opinion, contains vast possibilities,, especially if applied in a country like Australia. Senator Pulsford has been advocating this very thing for a long time, but because the Government will not come forward with a proposal for the establishment of wireless telegraphy between New Guinea and Northern Queensland, which he has himself been advocating, the honorable senator opposes the vote. That is a position which no private member of the Committee should take up. We must place some confidence in the Government and in their officials.
– We shall require a few installations to carry on communications with ships.
– Private members of the Committee are not in a position to say where, when, or how these changes are to be effected. These matters must be left to the Government and their officials. I can understand the leader of the Opposition opposing every proposal emanating from the Government, but, as I have pointed out, the Government are the only persons in a position to say how these experiments can be carried out. If we are to wait until the Government have matured their proposals, we may have to wait for a very long time. We might have to wait until next session, and. in the interval, I suppose the Government would be busy formulating, their policy. Even that would require the expenditure of some money. This is a proposal to promote the progress of the Commonwealth. . If Australia is to be up-to-date and I am sure that honorable senators desire that it should, the sooner we get information on this subject the better. The Government cannot get reliable information, and cannot formulate a policy on the subject without the command of some money. I shall gladly support the vote of £10,000 asked for. What is it but a mere bagatelle? We waste more money in connexion with many proposals much less serviceable.
– The honorable senator is now wasting his breath.
– I should not have thrust myself upon the Committee at this hour if I had not been shocked at the parsimonious spirit displayed by some honorable senators. We are here to vote money for the progress and development of Australia, and the furtherance of every proposal calculated to improve the means of communication required by the people of this sparsely-populated country.
– Including the Western Australian railway ?
– We are not talking of the Western Australian railway now. I mav say that if it were to run through fertile territory I should be prepared to vote, for it to-morrow, but that and several Other things in connexion with it have still to be proved. I intend to support the vote, and I hope that other members of the Committee will be moved by the same spirit.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [10.40]. - At first I felt very much inclined to oppose this vote, as I was under the impression that the object was to give the Postmaster-General an opportunity to enter into commitments, the end of which we could not foresee. Senator Keating has explained that it is only intended that the Postmaster-General shall be enabled to make experiments in connexion with wireless telegraphy, and to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the merits of the different systems. As I understand that the Senate will be afforded an opportunity later to deal with any definite proposals submitted, I think the vote might be allowed to pass. It is very desirable that the Commonwealth should be brought into line with the rest of the world in the matter of telegraphic communication. So long as we are assured that there will be no commitment beyond the amount of the vote, I am willing to intrust the Government with the expenditure of the amount asked for on experiments to enable us later to inaugurate a system of wireless telegraphy, which will be of great value to the Commonwealth.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales ^ [10.42]. - I am not impressed with the arguments used by Senator Gould. The time for experimenting with wireless telegraphy has passed. It is one of the established facts of the day, and we do not require to vote ,£10,000 for experiments to find out whether it can be made use of or not. If the Government had come down with a straight-out proposal to expend this money on the establishment of wireless telegraphy between New Guinea and Northern Queensland there would have been something in it. A sum of ,£10,000 is too much to vote for experiments. “I am prepared to consult the desire of Senator Stewart and others that experiments of the kind suggested should be made, but in order that there should not be too large a sum of money lost in that way I move -
That the item “Wireless Telegraphy, £10,000,” be reduced by ^’5,000.
– On this occasion I must differ from my honorable friend and colleague Senator Pulsford. If we cannot trust Ministers with the expenditure of ,£10,000 they should not be allowed to continue in office for a single day. I think that this money might be well expended in testing the value of wireless telegraphy for communication with war-ships and other ships on our coast, and to discover whether it can be worked as satisfactorily here as in the Northern Hemisphere. I have heard that there have been some communications between the Government of New Zealand and the Commonwealth Government, raising the question whether some system of wireless telegraphy should not be established between the Commonwealth and New Zealand. I hope that the Government will not forget the necessity of connecting King Island with Tasmania by wireless telegraphy. I am prepared to support the vote.
, - When Senator Millen first raised his objection to the item I thought that there were some good grounds for it. If it were intended that the vote should enable the Government to enter into contracts there would be a very strong objection to their being entered into in this form. I take it that we can rely on the assurance of the Minister that that is not intended, and that any contract entered into iri connexion with wireless telegraphy will be submitted to Parliament, and at a time when our hands are not tied. Senator Pulsford has said that we know all about wireless telegraphy, and there is therefore no need to spend money in experiments in connexion with it. I remind the honorable senator that there are several different systems of wireless telegraphy, and it is necessary that we should adopt the best. We have in Australia a monopoly of electric telegraphy. The business of the Post and Telegraph Department represents a sum of about ,£2,500,000 a year, and if Senator Pulsford were running a business with such a spending power, and he was informed that a new system had been introduced, which, if adopted, would considerably lessen his expenditure, he would not as a business man object to the expenditure of ,£10,000 to determine whether the new system should be adopted. We can deal with this vote on the same principle, and can very well permit the Government to spend this money in experiments designed to enable them to adopt the most perfect system of wireless telegraphy.
– I understand, from the remarks of Senator Pearce, that he, and probably others, are satisfied with Senator Keating’s explanation that this sum is required for the purposes of experiment.
– With the undertaking that it will not involve any contract.
– There are certain facts which render it necessary that the Government should offer a further explanation. In the first place, Senator Playford said that it is required for experiments, and he pointed, out that it was undesirable that the Postmaster-General should enter into an arrangement and then come to Parliament for the money, because it might not approve of his action.
– No. I did not say that.
– The honorable senator read a minute by the PostmasterGeneral which clearly affirmed that the money is required for the purchase of an instalment, and not for the purpose of experiments. Then Senator Keating said that it is required for the purpose of experiments.
– They cannot experiment without an instalment of some kind.
– That is all very well; but I take it that when the PostmasterGeneral, through his colleague, tells us in a mintue that the money is required for the purpose of an instalment, it means something more than experiments. Senator Keating: practically admitted that? when later on he interjected, “ We want certain installations for the purpose of communicating with shipping.” There appears to be, not a difference of opinion, but a difference as to facts. Is this money required to demonstrate whether a system is workable, or which of two systems is the better, or is it required for the purchase of a system straight out, to be installed as the minute of the Postmaster-General would suggest? The Committee has a right to know which of the two purposes the money is to be devoted to.
– It might be required for making experiments, and also for doing useful work
– I can quite understand that if honorable senators make up their minds to vote any sum which the Government like to ask it does not matter whether they are furnished with any reasons for giving that vote or not. But seeing that we have these contradictory opinions from the Ministers, we ought not to vote the item. Would any honorable senator, if he were running a business or on the directorate of a company, hand over to the manager a cheque for ,£i 0,000 when all he could get out of the man was contradictory statements? If there is one obligation resting upon a House of Parliament, it is to keep a careful watch over the expenditure of public money, and in no sense to be niggardly where an expenditure is required. On that point I join issue with Senator Stewart. I am in no sense opposed to the adoption of any improved methods of communication between the States or between the States and other portions of the world. It is no sign of progress, as the honorable senator would suggest, to recklessly vote money without knowing the purpose for which it is required, and the connexion in which it is to be expended. I intend to support the amendment, unless the Government furnish a clearer statement as to their intention. If they can show that thev contemplate purchasing a system to be installed anywhere, I shall not object to the item, though I think it is insufficient for the purpose. One Minister says that the £10,000 is required for the purpose of making experiments.
– Hear, hear.
– I take it from that remark that Senator Smith believes that the sum will be sufficient for that purpose. If he holds that belief, I should like him to hear the minute of the PostmasterGeneral, in which there is a distinct affirmation that it is required for the purpose of an instalment.
– Where is the instalment to be made?
– No one knows.
– What are they going to purchase an instalment for?
– I want to elicit some information on that point.
– The minute of the Postmaster-General contains no statement to that effect, and every word of it is absolutely consistent with everything I said.
– Would the Minister mind reading the first paragraph of the minute ?
– It is as follows : -
This amount has been placed on the Estimates as a first instalment of the cost of introducing the wireless telegraph system into the Commonwealth.
That is exactly what I said.
– Is that the first minute written ?
– Yes, as the honorable senator can see for himself. It is exactly in consonance with what I said.
– The minute bears out the construction I put upon it, and I shall leave it to honorable senators to say whether it bears out the statement of Senator Keating, that the money is required for experiments when we know what the word ordinarily means, or the statement of Senator Playford that it is required as a first instalment for the purchase of a system.
– I never said that. I read the minute, whatever it says.
– In reply to an interjection, the honorable senator said that it was a first instalment. I was not paying any attention to his remarks until I heard that statement, and then I at once wanted to know how much it would commit the Commonwealth to. We have the Minister’s frank statement, made when a number of honorable senators were not here, that the reason’ why the Government came down for the money in this way, ‘rather than make an arrangement to purchase a system first, and come down here afterwards, was that if they did Parliament might not approve of the arrangement, and that therefore they wanted to get the money before thev stated what they were going to do. It was the most brutally- candid statement I have heard in or out of the Parliament.
– And the honorable senator proposes to take advantage of it.
– The honorable senator would hold me guilty of a dereliction of dutv if, knowing what he proposes to do, I allowed the matter to pass without notice. The minute reads as follows: -
This amount has been placed on the Estimates as a first instalment of the cost of introducing the wireless telegraph system into the Commonwealth. It has not yet been determined in which part of the Commonwealth the system will first bc introduced, but full inquiries will be made into a number of proposals which have been submitted to the Department, and when a decision has been arrived at tenders will be invited to instal the system.
Is there anything about an experiment in the minute? Is it going to take .£10,000 to make the inquiries as to which system would be the best one to adopt?
– Is it not clear that the ,£.10,000 will be utilized on experiments after the tenders have been received ?
– Any one who could read that into the minute could read anything into it. There is not a single word about experiments in the minute, but there is a great deal about making inquiries.
– For the introduction of a system.
– That confirms the remark made by Senator Playford that the purpose of the vote is to enable the PostmasterGeneral, without unfolding his proposal to Parliament, to commit the Commonwealth to the purchase of a system. He could come down afterwards, and sayto the Parliament “ Whether you like my system or not, I have committed the Commonwealth to it.” We know that the representatives of the rival companies are not only desirous of giving information, but have sent representatives here for that purpose. One of them has already gone to the expense of installing a system at Queenscliff, and I venture to say that the others would be only too anxious to do the same thing. A sum of ,£10,000 is not required to invite the representative of the Marconi system to demonstrate what it can do. He has already done that. He is here waiting to do business with the Commonwealth. Again, is ,£10,000 needed for the purpose of ^inviting tenders ? I suppose that a sum of ,£100 would pay for all the advertisements and cablegrams necessary for the purpose of inviting tenders throughout the world. The purpose for which the money is required is admitted in the first paragraph of the minute.
This sum has been placed on the Estimates as a first instalment of the cost of introducing the wireless telegraph system into the Commonwealth.
Before we authorize the Postmaster-General - for so he could accept the voting of this sum - to enter into any contract he likes, and so commit the Commonwealth to an expensive scheme, he ought to outline his proposal. The Minister of Defence has candidly admitted that the reason why the item is asked for in this way is that if the Postmaster-General were to adopt the ordinary course of entering into an arrangement with a company for the purchase of an installation, subject to the approval of Parliament, it might be disapproved of. Therefore, from the Ministerial point of view, it is safer to get an instalment, to deposit the money as it were, to make the bargain, and then to come down and tell Parliament that, whether it likes it or not, it will have to complete the bargain or forfeit the £10,000.
– They would have to come to Parliament for a further instalment.
– But in the meanwhile the first instalment will have been expended.
– Surely the Honorable member can trust the Government to spend £[10,000 !
– To purchase an installation?
– Not necessarilyone, but three or four.
– Is that an experiment, as Senator Keating said ?
– It is partly for an experiment and it is partly for the other purpose.
– I leave the two Ministers to adjust their differences. If we are to have a monopoly of this system, it will be found that any arrangement which the Postmaster-General may make will be, not for the purchase of one set of plant, but for the Australian rights to the system. Senator Playford has just interjected that the money is required for the two purposes. If the Ministers do not know what it is really required for, that shows that it is all the more necessary for the Committee to insist upon being furnished with explicit information.
– I desire to remind honorable senators that, as the new Parliament will be meeting within six months, there will soon be an opportunity of dealins with any genuine proposals.
– When I first saw the item, I was prepared to vote against it. I have not yet seen a Parliament so willing as this one is to vote thousands of pounds without a definite statement of the object for which the money is required. We have only been told that the money is required for making experiments. One Minister has said that these are to take place between South Australia and Western Australia. It may be between South Australia and the Northern Territory.
– It may be between Queensland and Thursday Island.
– An experiment is not required between those points, because they are only separated by a distance of a mile or so. When we are dealing with a matter like this, it seems to me that the people who have the control of the various systems of wireless telegraphy will be likely to be prepared to go to considerable expense to demonstrate to the officers of the Commonwealth Government that their particular systems are better than others.
– Still, it will be necessary for the Government to experiment.
– The Government will not make any installation without experimenting. I am prepared to take the opinion of experts rather than that of the honorable senator.
– Of course the Government should be prepared to take the opinion of its experts. But only lately the Government has gone to considerable expense in sending an officer round the world to gather information on this and similar subjects. He has made himself acquainted with systems of wireless telegraphy, and I think that in his report to the Government he makes reference to the subject. I do not know that it is necessary to do more than that. We know from published reports that various systems have been tried in the old country between the shore and light-ships, and between various ships in the Royal Navy. Almost all the information that can be desired can be obtained from public reports. My complaint is that no adequate information is given in connexion with the proposed vote. Parliament is simply asked to vote this money because the Government think it necessary to make experiments or something of the sort. I have not been used to deal with public money in this way. In the State Parliament of which I was a member for some time, we were very suspicious of any Government that asked for an open cheque to do exactly as it liked. It is all very well to say that we are prepared to trust the (present Government to spend £[1.0,000, but probably if the members of the Government sat in opposition, and those who now oppose this vote were in their places, we should hear it urged that the
Government of the day was not fit to be trusted with a shilling. The more the present system of asking for votes without sufficient information continues the more resolutely I shall vote against all items upon the Estimates in connexion with which that practice is maintained.
– I suggest that Senator Pulsford should, in addition to the amendment which he has moved, add the words “ for experimental purposes,” to make it clear that Parliament votes the £5,000 for that particular object. I think that some money ought to be voted for experimental purposes. Probably ,£5,000 would be sufficient. But it should be made perfectly clear that we are not voting that sum as an instalment towards an unknown expenditure.
– Some time ago I asked a question whether the Government would defer taking definite action in regard to wireless telegraphy until the Imperial Conference was held next April, when the representatives of the Commonwealth could discuss with the Imperial authorities and the representatives of the other portions of the Empire the adoption of an uniform system. It seems to me to be almost as absurd for us in Australia to adopt a system of wireless telegraphy - the operation of which must, of course, extend far beyond the confines of the Commonwealth - and for other portions of the Empire to adopt another system, as it was in the past for the different States to adopt various railway gauges. The answer to my question was that the Government was considering the matter, or words to that effect. There was no definite reply. I then asked whether the Government intended before installing any system of wireless telegraphy to call for tenders, so that we should have an opportunity to make a contract with a firm that would give us the best service at the most reasonable cost, and also in order that we might deal fairly with the companies that desired to compete. The answer then given was that tenders would be called for. What are those tenders to be for? Are they to be for a definite system of wireless telegraphy for the erection of stations at different ports of the Commonwealth or for a system between Australia and New Zealand? If the Government intends to spend ,£10,000, surely it can tell us for what purpose the money is required.
If a sum of money were put on the Estimates for the extension of telegraph lines throughout Australia, I do not for a moment believe that Parliament would adopt such an indefinite proposal, unless the localities or States were indicated.
– It has been done this afternoon in the case of item after item.
– I venture to say that in connexion with all those items it was definitely stated for what purpose the money was to be expended. . For instance, there is a vote for a telephone line between Sydney and Melbourne. What need is there for any extraordinary hurry about the installation of wireless telegraphy ? Surely the Government can come to a decision as to what it wishes to do. Apparently, however, it is not at present in a position to determine what the ,£10,000 is required for. In. case the Government arrives at a decision during the recess we do not know how the money will be spent. It is the duty of every honorable senator to make sure that the money subscribed by his constituents is not voted without information being given as to the direction in which the money is to be spent. It is rather significant that Captain Walker, the representative of the Marconi Company, has lately gone to New Zealand. Comparing that with the statement previously made that the Government, was in communication with Sir Joseph Ward with a view to establish wireless telegraph communication with New Zealand - as was mentioned by the PostmasterGeneral - it seems to me that what is desired is that the ,£10,000 shall be voted with the definite’ object of establishing a wireless telegraph service between this country and New Zealand. If that be the case, honorable senators should seriously consider whether such a proposal ought to be entertained. In the first place, wireless telegraphy, as developed to the present time, is not so free from mistakes as is submarine telegraphy. We have already two submarine services with New Zealand. Another aspect of the case is this. The Commonwealth owns one-third of the Pacific Cable, and is responsible for one-third of the loss upon it. The annual payment made by the Commonwealth on that account is something like ,£26.000.
– When the honorable senator gets on to the Pacific Cable, he is likely to occupy hours !
– I must appeal to the Chairman to insure for me the rights of a senator who is addressing the Committee. That loss will be largely accentuated if we are going to instal a rival scheme. The Pacific Cable is a State-owned system of which the people of the Commonwealth are part proprietors. Are we going to introduce another line in competition with it?
– The honorable senator can continue his remarks to-morrow.
Motion (by Senator Playford) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales) [11. 13]. - Has the Minister considered the desirableness of adjourning the Senate until a later hour than usual tomorrow in order to give honorable senators and the officers and attendants an opportunity to visit the Royal Agricultural Show. I think it would be a pleasant thing to do, and at the same time would be paying some respect to Victoria. To-morrow is a public holiday. I know that the Minister personally is not averse to comply with my request.
– I have made inquiries of honorable senators who have private business on the notice-paper for to-morrow. Senator Pearce has business standing in his name. I asked him whether he would be prepared to consent to the Senate adjourning till 7.30 tomorrow evening, but he told me that he desired to go on with his business. Personally, I am willing that the Senate shall adjourn until 7.30 to-morrow.
– I quite understand the desire of honorable senators to get on with their business. At the saime time, if we met at a later hour to-morrow, it would give honorable senators an opportunity to visit the great Royal Agricultural Show. So far as I understand, the objection to such an arrangement is limited to one honorable senator in charge of business, the importance of which I recognise; and it might be possible to come to an arrangement to meet, say, at five o’clock or half-past five o’clock, the Government giving that hon orable senator an hour or so after the dinner-hour.
– After the small progress I have made to-day?
– The Minister puts us in a difficult position, because it is scarcely possible to test the feeling of honorable senators without submitting an amendment to the motion which the Government would resent as practically a vote of censure.
– There can be no amendment to the motion for adjournment, though, of course, Senator Playford might, with permission, withdraw the motion.
– The only means of ascertaining the opinions of honorable senators is fox them to individually express their views, and then the Government and Senator Pearce might see their way to comply with the general wish expressed.
– I should not like to stand in the way of honorable senators meeting later to-morrow if there is a general desire to that effect. But it is significant that, so far as my recollection serves me, there has never been a proposal to adjourn the Senate on the occasion of the Royal Agricultural Show during the whole five years’ existence of this Parliament. It is also significant that I have heard a statement made by a member of the Senate that the proper way to treat the Bill which I have introduced, and which I desire to deal with to-morrow, would be to talk it out, and thus prevent a vote being taken. I do not connect that statement with theexpressed desire to meet at a later hour tomorrow, but, in view of the danger of an attempt to talk out the Bill - a Bill , which has been placed in my charge by the party of which I am a member - I would not be justified in giving up one hour of the short time at my disposal. At any rate, I should not be justified in giving up any of the time at my disposal in the afternoon unless the Government could see their way clear to grant me equivalent time in the evening.
– That could not be done.
– Under the circumstances, in view of the threat made by a member of the Senate, I do not think it would be fair to ask me to give up anyof the time at my disposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 September 1906, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1906/19060905_senate_2_34/>.