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Wednesday, 21 July 1926

The CHAIRMAN - Tes; that is my ruling*.

Senator Needham - Then I must dissent from your ruling.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator will submit his dissent in writing.

In the Senate:

THE CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I have to report that, in committee, Senator McLachlan submitted a request for an amendment of the Judiciary Bill. Senator Needham, who raised the ' point that the Senate itself was entitled to make the amendment, has dissented from my ruling that the procedure must be by way of request, on the ground that there is no such provision in our Standing Orders, and that I quoted no authority for my ruling.

Senator Needham - In dissenting from the ruling of the chairman, I was. not in any way desirous of coming into conflict with the chair. The question to be determined is whether any proposal for an alteration of this bill should be in the form of a request or an amendment. All honorable senators are jealous of the rights of the Senate. I, for one, do not desire to see those rights carelessly or indifferently set aside. It would be as well for us to determine, where we stand in this matter, so that we may have a ruling for future guidance. In committee Senator McLachlan moved -

That the House of Representatives be requested to omit the following words - " Subject to the next following sub-section."

I contend that Senator McLachlan should have moved a direct amendment to that effect.' When I asked him why he did not move for the omission of these words by way of an amendment, rather than by way of a request, he replied that he could not submit his proposal by way of an amendment, . since it would involve increased expenditure; it would increase a proposed charge or burden on the people. He quoted Boydell on the practice of the Senate in regard to money bills. I am not satisfied with that authority; I want the Senate to give a decision. Let us consider the provisions of the Constitution in relation to the powers of the Senate regarding bills which it may, or may not, amend. Section 53 of the Constitution reads -

Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines, or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.

The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary an,nual services of the Government.

Hie Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden' on the people.

I have already said that there is no Standing Order to guide us in this matter. Standing Order 189 reads -

Except as to bills which the Senate may not amend, the question " That this bill be now read a first time" shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without amendment or debate.

I desire to know whether any honorable senator would have been in order in attempting to debate the first reading of this bill. My opinion is that he would not have been in order in doing so, as this is a bill which the Senate can amend.

Senator McLachlan - That begs the question. We must decide whether we can, or cannot, amend it.

Senator Needham - Standing order 190 reads -

In bills which the Senate may not amend, the question " That this bill be now read a first time " may be debated, and the debate need not be relevant to the subject-matter of such bill.

If honorable senators were to study Hansard, they would find that bills to- amend the law relating to invalid and old-age pensions had been debated, and amendments, not requests, moved. I see nothing in this bill to provide for an appropriation of money. There is no standing order to guide us, and the Chairman of Committees quoted no authority other than the late Mr. Boydell. I should like to obtain finality in this matter, as I believe a similar position has arisen before. I am anxious to preserve the rights and powers of the Senate. If we can amend bills, we should amend them, and not make requests to another place. I hope, sir, that your ruling will be that we can move amendments.

Senator Pearce - It is well that this question has been raised. In looking through the precedents and rulings I find that this point has not yet been determined. Rulings which have been given in matters similar to, but not on all fours with this one, do, however, serve as a guide. I take it that the requests outlined by Senator McLachlan should not be judged merely by their terminology. They all aim at accomplishing the same result in respect to this bill. It is merely incidental that the question is that certain words be omitted. The proposal really is to strike out of the clause the provision for a diminishing scale of pensions in a given set of circumstances. Section 53 of the Constitution has a far wider application than that mentioned by Senator Needham. It deals with two classes of bills. First, it deals with bills appropriating revenue or moneys, such as Appropriation ' or Supply Bills. The honorable senator has said that there can be a discussion on the first reading of such a bill. That is quite true, and the discussion need not be relevant to the bill itself; but if the honorable senator had attempted to discuss this bill on the first ' reading he would have been promptly called to order. Therefore, the honorable senator's argument has nothing to do with the question we are now considering.. Thu only part of section 53 of the Constitution with which we need concern ourselves is sub-section 3, which reads -

The Senate may not ' amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.

The position could not be more clearly stated.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are there not certain provisos?

Senator Pearce - There are certain explanations as to the procedure to be adopted in dealing with requests, but there are no qualifications. The question is, therefore, a very simple one. AH we have to decide is whether Senator McLachlan's proposal would increase a proposed charge or burden on the people. That is the only test that has to be applied.

Senator Needham - We have moved amendments to bills dealing with invalid and old-age pensions.

Senator Pearce - I do not think so. In reality this measure provides for two sets of pensions - the one on the higher scale and the other on a lower and diminishing scale. Senator McLachlan's proposal is to delete the provision for the payment of pensions on the lower and diminishing scale, and it is obvious that if that were adopted the proposed charge or burden on the people would be greater. Sub-clause 5 of clause 3 reads -

The pensions of the justices of the High Court shall be a charge on and paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

It will, therefore, be seen that under this bill a charge is made upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I submit that if the lower rates of pensions are deleted the charge or burden on the people must be increased, since in either case the same number of persons - the same number of justices - are involved. If my reasoning is correct the committee must, therefore, proceed by way of requests for amendments of the bill. I am as jealous as is the Leader of the Opposition that the full privileges of this chamber shall be retained, but at the same time, when it is proposed to amend a bill of this kind, we need to be very careful that, in amending it, we shall be acting constitutionally. If we were not we should only weaken the position of the Senate. It will be admitted that the procedure of submitting requests for amendments to another place in the past has been as effective as if the amendments had been made by the Senate itself. We have to consider whether we should 'be on safe ground in submitting a direct amendment. The question for your consideration I sub mit, sir, is whether in making the amendment we should be increasing a proposed charge or burden on the people. To do that would be to impinge upon section 53 of the Constitution.

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