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Thursday, 13 October 1927

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Duncan (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rule that the point of order taken by the Minister cannot be sustained. The amendment moved by Senator Ogden is in order. Neither this Senate nor Parliament itself is, under the Constitution, charged with the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution. So far as my knowledge goes, it has always been the practice in the Senate foi the President, when a point of order affecting the interpretation of the Constitution has been raised, to declare that it is within the power of the Senate to do as it pleases so long as its standing orders are observed. The standing orders do not require the Senate to interpret the Constitution. That is the function of the High Court. As has already been pointed out, Ave have on other occasions added to the grounds on which certain persons may be prevented from voting at an election and from taking their seats as members of this parliament. In sub-section 4 of section 39 of the Electoral Act it is provided :: -

No person who is of unsound mind and no person attainted of treason or who has been convicted and is under sentence for any offence punishable under the law of any part of the King's dominions 'by imprisonment for one year or longer, shall be entitled to have his name placed on or retained on any roll or to vote at any Senate election or House of Representatives election.

Senator McLachlan - That is contained in sub-section 2 of section 44 of the Constitution.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is nothing in that sub-section relating to persons of unsound mind. That sub-section is an additional disqualification imposed by parliament.

Senator OGDEN - I have brought forward this amendment with the object of drawing public attention to what I consider is a great weakness in connexion with the representation of electors in the Senate. To accomplish my objective by an alteration of the Constitution would be difficult ;. but believing - a belief which is now an assurance because of the ruling of the Temporary Chairman - that there is power under the Constitution for Parliament to alter the qualifications for membership of the Senate, I adopted this method of endeavouring to make the Senate what the framers of the Constitution believed it should be. It may be said that I have departed from the democratic principles which I held at one time. That is not so. In my opinion there should be an" alteration of the existing practice of filling vacancies in the Senate by a vote of the members of the State legislature.

Senator Graham - That is not democratic.

Senator OGDEN - The members of the Senate should be elected by the people.

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