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Thursday, 3 March 1932

Mr SCULLIN (Yarra) .- Although the amendments to clause 6 constitute an attempt to meet some of the criticism offered to the bill, they do not remove the fundamental objection that may be taken tothis clause. The criticism levelled against the bill has resulted in numerous amendments being submitted, and to that extent it has not been in vain. As this clause was originally drafted, it provided simply for a certificate by the Auditor-General, resolutions by both Houses of the Parliament, and action to attach the revenues of a State. It was pointed out by a number of speakers during the second-reading debate, beginning with myself, that under the bill no approach to . the court was provided for; but now it is made mandatory that the AttorneyGeneral shall make application to the court within two months. That, however, does not meet the fundamental objection that this Parliament is being asked to take judicial action, and declare, without recourse to the court, that certain money is due and payable by a State. It is one of the greatest outrages ever attempted upon the sovereign rights of a State, under any federation, for a Government to assume the right, merely by resolution of the Parliament, to declare on the certificate of the Auditor-General that a State owes a certain amount, and then to proceed to attach its revenue.

Mr R GREEN (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are no sovereign States.

Mr SCULLIN - The honorable member has said that before; but that does not give truth to the remark.

Mr Gregory - The States have sovereign rights.

Mr SCULLIN - Of course, they have, and they have certain limitations within the Constitution. I warn the committee that the Government proposes to adopt a dangerous principle. I am not pleading merely for a recognition of the rights of the States; but such rights as they have ought to be respected. I believe we should have one sovereign power: but we should bring about the necessary change by the will of the people, who accepted the Constitution, and not by a resolution of this Parliament. If we do something which is either unconstitutional or suggestive of sharp practice, it will be resented by the people. I indicated, in discussing clause 5, that alternative methods of achieving its object were available to the Government. I made certain quotations from Sir Edward Mitchell's book, What Every Australian Ought to Know, and I told the committee frankly that I had made excerpts from his observations. I understand that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) endeavoured to convey the impression that I had deliberately suppressed a passage that was of some significance. I have never been guilty of knowingly suppressing any part of a quotation relevant to a matter under discussion, and I resent the right honorable gentleman's suggestion. I read excerpts that had been typed for my convenience, and I purposely eliminated what I regarded as redundant, because my time was limited. The passage I left out is contained in the latter part of this paragraph -

I can see no reason why that last specific provision should be cut down, so as to relieve an officer who happened to be the Premier or the Treasurer, or any other highly placed Minister of State, from suffering the ordinary consequences of contempt of court, if he were guilty of wilful disobedience of the injunction. It might suit some highly-placed Minister of State for ulterior purposes to pose as a martyr and go to gaol rather than obey something the court had ordered, but which he was politically pledged to oppose.

I understand that the right honorable gentleman ceased quoting fromSir Edward Mitchell's book at that point; but Sir Edward Mitchell went on to say -

But I can hardly visualize all the members of a Ministry, especially the Attorney-General, flouting a mandatory order made against each of such Ministers under the said section 60.

The right honorable gentleman did not read that, and I assume that the point that he was making was that Sir Edward Mitchell showed that a State Premier might go to gaol and frustrate all efforts to recover the money due. Sir Edward Mitchell goes on to say -

Nor can I see how a Premier or other Minister of a State against whom such an injunction had been made under section CO and who wilfully did executive acts in disobedience of it, could continue to act as a responsible adviser of His Majesty's representative in that State.

I eliminated the words referred to and many others in making extracts from lengthy statements, because of the limited time at my disposal; but I strongly resent the suggestion that I did so because I was afraid to quote them. As a member of this Parliament, I shall never be guilty of quoting an authority and deliberately leaving out any part of his remarks that does not agree with my views. If that is the best case that can be put up for this class of legislation, all I can say is that the Government is hard pressed for arguments. This is the urgency clause, which it is obvious the Government proposes to use. It violates every fundamental principle of justice between equals. There is no authority in the agreement for it. Is there one honorable member who believes that if the provisions of this bill had been put in the agreement, any State would have signed the agreement?

Mr Beasley - It is a trick.

Mr SCULLIN - Not one State Government would have signed the agreement had such a provision been embodied in it. This is legislation not to enforce an agreement, but to amend the agreement. It gives to the Commonwealth powers not given to the States, which are partners to the agreement. I am not offering any defence on behalf of any particular State, nor am I attempting to justify default. There are already ample powers to deal with defaulting States. Merely because we desire to reach one State we have no right to deprive the States of their undoubted rights. Such legislation only invites resentment and resistance. Should the Government persevere with this one-sided legislation it must accept the full responsibility for the consequences.

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