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Tuesday, 23 November 1965


Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- I hope I can be excused for saying that I was fascinated with the historical reminiscences of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) when he informed the House that save in one or two instances he has supported every referendum held in Australia. The fact is that there have been 24 referendums held in Australia and only four have been carried. I think that the House and the country should take into account the fact that although the referendum proposal has the complete support of all members of the House of Representatives, that does not of necessity ensure its success, although I am bound to say that for my part I warmly hope that this referendum will be successful.


Mr Duthie - This is the first referendum supported by both major parties.


Mr KILLEN - No, this is not true. There was a referendum on the question of air navigation in 1937. All of the major political parties supported that referendum proposal, but it was not carried. Two States carried it and although there was an overall Commonwealth majority of 255,000 the result did not meet with all of the requirements of the Constitution. The referendum proposal in this Bill most deservedly should pass on its sheer merits - whether they are spelt out in terms of the logic of our circumstance or whether they are spelt out having relation to the tremendous change that has taken place between the two Houses of the Parliament since Federation.

One of the fictions which no doubt will be employed in the discussion throughout the country on the referendum proposal will be that there was a steady unanimity of opinion at the time of the founding of Federation concerning proposed section 24 of the Constitution dealing with the relationship between the two Houses. It will be said that the founders of the Federation were of the opinion that the House of Representatives should as nearly as practicable have twice the numbers of the Senate, and that this has been maintained since then. This is simply not the case at all. It is not true. There was a tremendous division of opinion in the Federation discussions on this particular section. We find, for example, that in the draft Constitution Bill of 1891 there was a proposal that there should be a member of the House of Representatives for every 50,000 people in Australia, and that in addition to that there should be virtually an automatic increase of one member for every 30,000 increase in the population.

In 1897 when the proposed Constitution was debated in a convention held in Adelaide, one of the members of the Constitution Convention, Mr. O'Connor, pointed out that on the present rate of increase in Australia, by 1941 if the proposed draft of 1891 were adopted, there would be no fewer than 446 members in the House of Representatives. The proposal was scotched. So as far back as 1891 there was not any unanimity of opinion at all. When we come to the 1897 convention we find that this very section was earnestly debated by none other than Mr. McMillan and the then Mr. Deakin, later Sir Alfred Deakin.


Mr Calwell - Deakin never took a title, and he never became a Privy Councillor.


Mr KILLEN - I am indebted to the Leader of the Opposition. That is the second debt of gratitude the Leader of the Opposition wrings from me on a point of history. Mr. McMillan, speaking on this particular proposed section, had this to say - 1 am rather inclined to believe now that this hard and fast rule of having double the number in the House of Representatives as in the Senate may lead to considerable inconvenience in the future.

I think that he was quite prophetic. Mr. Deakin observed -

None of us can forecast exactly what will take place in the future, but we can foresee that great changes must occur. Why, then, should we endeavour to forestall those changes and not allow the Federal Parliament to adjust itself to altered circumstances? Why should the chamber-

There he was referring to the Senate - not be free to refuse an increase if it does not want it.

The argument that prevailed at the time - and this concerned one of the essential elements of Federation - was that the position of the States would be put in jeopardy. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in asking the question: Can any person seriously contend today that the Senate is a States Houses? There is very little evidence of that at all. The original role of the Senate has in fact changed completely in the 65 years since Federation. The centripetal forces that have been at work within the Federal system have brought more and more power to Canberra. The role of the Senate, as originally conceived back in the days of the Federation debate, has completely gone. If there was any validity at all in the arguments put forward at the Constitutional Convention debates of the 1890's, I submit with respect that that validity has completely gone today. I am not reflecting on the Senate. Indeed, one could with relish join the exhortation of Alcibiades in " Timon of Athens " -

Honour, health and compassion to the senate.

But in terms of the nexus, the link between this House and the Senate, one could, I believe, adopt the language of Pericles -

Who shuns not to break one will sure crack both.

Surely the arithmetic of the nexus between the two chambers must commend itself to the people. If we allow the present position to remain there is no inhibition at all for this Parliament to raise the House to a completely absurd number, and consequently the Senate would have to be raised to a number as nearly as practicable half that of the House. This is something that the people of Australia would not tolerate at all. I believe that if we fail to crack the nexus between the Senate and the House of Representatives we will put both Houses very much in jeopardy in terms of public esteem. What about the arithmetic? I do not want to delay the House very long on this matter. If the Senate were to be increased by two representatives for each of the States, that would mean an increase of 12 senators. I am not arguing the meticulousness of the figures I am giving, I am just giving them as illustrations. If the Senate were to be increased by two from each State that would mean there would have to be an increase of the numbers in this House by twenty-four. If there were three extra senators from each State it would mean an increase of thirty-six in the numbers of the House of Representatives. An extra four senators from each State would mean an increase of forty-eight in the House of Representatives. So one comes to quite absurd conclusions.

The major point that I refer to is the anxiety genuinely held by many people in the matter of new States. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that there is a notion that this referendum will strike across the concept of State rights. This is not the case, as is dramatically illustrated in a consideration of the position of new States. I do not suppose the doctrine of new States commends itself to all honorable members, principally because of the tremendous change that has occurred in the Federal system of government. Until such time as there is a clearer relationship between power and responsibility and until the financial relationship of the States vis-a-vis the Commonwealth is put on a new basis, the prospect of having new States is not very real.

I direct the attention of honorable members to what would be the position of new States. If new States are created they cannot claim as of right any representation either in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. The wording of the relevant section deserves to be examined. It is -

The Parliament may admit to the Commonwealth or establish new States, and may upon such admission or establishment make or impose such terms and conditions, including the extent of representation in either House of the Parliament, as it thinks fit.

Many supporters of the new State movement take the view that because each State in Australia today has 10 senators, if a new State of New England or North Queensland were created it automatically would have 10 senators. This is not so. If section 24 remains undisturbed the position of the new State movement is made very difficult because section 7 provides -

Until the Parliament otherwise provides there shall be six senators for each Original State.

Well, the six original States now have 10 senators each. The section continues -

The Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State, but so that equal representation of the several Original States shall be maintained and that no Original State shall have less than six members.

SO, no matter what you did about the numbers coming into the Senate from the States, you must maintain equal representation of the six original States. So if the ratio of two to one is to be maintained I submit for the consideration of those who support the new State movement that their prospects of getting senators from their States would be very remote. This is to be readily illustrated by taking the notional figures and applying them to the proposed new States of New England and North Queensland. If one takes a notional figure of two from each of those States it would mean a membership of the Senate of 64, and so membership of the House of Representatives would have to be increased to 128. If, on the other hand, each of the new States sent 10 senators into the

Senate it would mean that the Senate would increase in numbers to 80 and the House of Representatives would have to be increased to 160. So the prospect of State rights being carried forward in any new State movement in terms of the practicalities of the Constitution would seem to me to be very remote.

One of the commendable features of this proposal is that it gives a sense of reality to the new State movement. I say, with great respect to all those who have supported the movement in the past, that it has had a strange sense of unreality about it in terms of representation in the Senate. The absurd position would have been reached where the six original States would have had the same number of senators as they have now but, due to the sheer arithmetic postulated by the Constitution, new States would have been faced with the likelihood of having no representation at all. I commend the Bill. I hope that the proposal will be warmly supported throughout the country. This is one referendum which most deservedly should pass.







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