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Thursday, 6 May 1920

Mr ATKINSON - The people have on several different occasions rejected proposed amendments of the Constitution.

Mr LAZZARINI - Proposed amendments have been rejected on three different occasions, for the simple reason that party spirit has been engendered, and the people have been completely misled by means of ride issues raised by interested 1878 Amendment of the [REPRESENTATIVES . ] Constitution. politicians who have no desire for any alteration of the Constitution.

Mr Atkinson - Is that not an argument in favour of the election of a nonparty Convention ?

Mr LAZZARINI - The honorable member knows as well as I do that it will be quite impossible to secure a non-party Convention, but he sees only one side of the question, and, therefore, his argument is consistently reiterated. It is an undoubted fact that an alteration of the Constitution is needed. Every member of Parliament who has had any experience of its workings feels the necessity for amending it.

I come now to the question as to the means by which . the Constitution should be altered. The honorable member for Eden -Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) proposes the election of a Convention to make recommendations. The original Federal Constitution was passed by a Convention, and, without desiring to reflect in any way on the personnel of that Convention, I would remind the House that as the outcome of its labours we have a cumbersome instrument of government which at every turn stifles the activities of the National Parliament. I am convinced that the same result will follow from any future Convention summoned to deal with the Constitution. The Government of the day, comprised as it is of men most of whom have been in this Parliament from its inception, ought to know in what respect the Constitution has failed. They ought to know what they want, and should be prepared to state boldly what alterations should be made. The Nationalist party, the Country party, and the Labour party should each be prepared to say what alterations they consider necessary in order to give effect to the principles for which they stand. They should put their policy- to the people by means of a referendum, and stand or fall by it. It is quite possible that men will be elected to this Convention with but little experience of parliamentary systems and the working of parliamentary machines, with the result that the alterations recommended, although arrived at possibly in the best of good faith, will be of little real benefit, and, if adopted, will' leave us with a Constitution practically as cumbersome as that under which we are governed to-day.

The proposed Convention, I make bold to say, is undemocratic. With all respect to State Righters, I claim that to have in that Convention -ten representatives of each State would be undemocratic.

Mr Atkinson - Why?

Mr LAZZARINI - Are a few thousand people in one small State - a. few thousand people living within certain geographical boundaries^ - each to have a vote equal to every .ten votes cast by the people of a large State?

Mr Austin Chapman - Then the honorable member is opposed to the principle of one man one vote.

Mr LAZZARINI - On the contrary, I am arguing for its recognition. The Convention should be elected on the basis of one. vote one value. It should be based upon the principle of adult suffrage favoured by the Australian Democracy.

Mr Atkinson - Regardless of the different interests.

Mr LAZZARINI - Does the honorable member refer to vested interests? We members of the Labour party have no regard for vested interests in dealing with a national question. This Convention will have to do with great national principles, calculated to make or mar the Commonwealth. The petty vested interests of some particular commercial activity or institution in an embryo state in any of the smaller States should have no more voice in the election of this Convention than has an ordinary individual, whose only interest is that of good citizenship.

Mr Mcwilliams - When New South Wales is divided into provinces, the honorable member will be a representative of one of the smallest States in the "Union.

Mr LAZZARINI - I am not approaching this question from the point of view of State rights. New South Wales may be divided into ten provinces, if by so 'doing we shall conduce to theĀ« better working of the National Parliament, and democratic New South Wales will not complain.

In the proposal which the Labour party put forward, we stand for the abolition of the Senate, which is practically the most undemocratic institution in the world. '

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