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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Senator SPICER (Victoria) . - I express my unqualified opposition to the whole' of the measures now being debated in this chamber. That attitude is not actuated in my case by any prejudice whatever in favour of our present form of government. As long as I have been interested in politics, I have been a declared unificationist and as such I have no doubt that I shall find many honorable senators on the opposite side of the chamber who would agree with me on that subject. I have no prejudice in favour of federation, but that is not the issue with which we are concerned in this debate, except to the degree that, whilst the measures now before the Senate are not designed legally to alter the Constitution, they will have the effect of destroying the States as a part of our federal structure. I do not believe that it is wise or proper to meddle with constitutions in that way. Constitutions are extremely important documents. Our Constitution is the basis on which the peace, order and good government of this country are founded.

Senator Arthur - In peace-time.

Senator SPICER - In war-time also. The nonsensical argument is heard that, because we are at war, we can disregard the Constitution; but that seems to run counter to all the ideals for which we are fighting. If there is anything in respect of which the communities on our side in this war differ fundamentally from our opponents it is that we believe In the rule of law. We do not consider it to be within the province of any Ministry to disregard the law, and far less for any Parliament in this federation to disregard the fundamental constitutional provisions upon which the Commonwealth is founded. It is important to bear in mind that the real foundation for the successful operation of any constitutional instrument is the consent of the governed. We know that, far from flic people of certain parts of Australia being prepared to accept unification, the people of Western Australia not long ago were prepared to go to the length of presenting a petition in order that they might secede from the federation.

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