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Thursday, 26 September 1901

Mr BARTON - The instructions to the Governor-General are void of any such category, and do not deal with the question of what class of Bills he should reserve for the Royal assent. But the Constitution provides that in case of Bills being presented to him for assent, he should either give that assent, or withhold it, or reserve the Bills for His Majesty's pleasure to be made known ; these three courses are in the GovernorGeneral's own discretion. That is the position on the face of the Constitution; but I have already explained that there is, and must be, so long as we belong to the Empire, one class of Bills which no Governor.General and no authority representing the Crown, can ever fail to reserve. These are Bills dealing with matters affecting the internal and external relations of the Empire beyond the bounds of the State which makes the law. That is the constitutional position, "from which we cannot get away.

Mr Reid - Does not this Bill affect the relations of the Empire with other nations ?


Mr Reid - I think it does.

Mr BARTON - It does not, because it is laid down on lines which the right honorable gentleman himself adopted, and which were assented to, in a Bill of this class.

Mr Reid - But still it does affect other nations.

Mr BARTON - It does not affect other nations in that degree, or on those principles which appear to His Majesty's Government to contain objections. If it appears to go to a limit or a length which might at first sight appear to be one to which the Imperial Government might take some general exception, the answer is. that it is precisely of the class of Bills which have been allowed in the past, and that as we have been led to understand the British Government will not take exception to such Bills, we are content to abide by their decision that they will not be embarrassed. "We are not studying Japan or any European or other nation. We are studying our relation with the Empire ; and it is by that relationship that we ought to shape our course. We have an alternative. We can leave the Empire. We have another choice besides. We can take up repeatedly such a position in relation to the Empire as to cause both it and us to think that our continuance within its folds is not agreeable to either. I do not want to see that point reached.

Mr Reid - Hear, hear. Nobody does.

Mr BARTON - When honorable members talk so roundly - and surely everybody has the right to talk roundly - of the position they mean to take up in wresting assent from the British Government - which, by some sort of implication, is said to be a hectoring or selfish n Government, instead of one which extends uniform protection over all parts of the Empire- by declarations of the kind proposed, let us consider the position for a minute. Of course, we have no wish to leave the Empire ; but if we imperil our relation with the Empire, or create friction which may ultimately lead to severance, let it be remembered that it is under the protection of the British fleet that we make our proposals - under the protection of the first line of defence, which all can assume as an everyday right of their own, forgetful that it is nearly all paid for by the taxpayers of Great Britain and Ireland.

Mr Reid - Does the Prime Minister propose to alter that state of things ?

Mr BARTON - I hope to make a proposal for altering that state of things before long, but I cannot make a proposal of that kind now. The right honorable gentleman has a colleague, the right honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, who has imposed on the Constitution a provision in the 89th section, which prevents our doing what we want for defence, either by land or sea.

Mr Reid - Surely the Prime Minister does not make the Opposition responsible for that ?

Mr BARTON - I do not make the Opposition responsible, but I know that the leader of the Opposition has by his side daily the answer to his question. He does not need to ask me why we do not do things for which the Constitution, at the instance of the venerated and respected right honorable member, does not make provision. We cannot build a fleet, and the world knows that we cannot. We cannot obtain the money necessary for such a purpose without - if I may use a vernacular expression - " bumping up " against the Braddon blot.

Mr Reid - AVe can always be liberal.

Mr BARTON - AVe can always be liberal, and that is the sort of liberality I want to say a word about. We can be particularly liberal in attempting to dictate the functions, operations, and relations to other powers of the Empire, so long as, snug under the Braddon section, we do not have to pay money for a fleet. In any case, if we had the money, we have not the fleet. I say that the tendency of such amendments as that now before us is gradually to break down the security of our relations, because they strike a blow and says at once - " You have told us there is one way and only one way in which, if we observe consideration towards you and the rest of the Empire, we can get our will. But we propose to get it in another way - by a declaration which puts you at any rate in a position of embarrassment, and which may involve our being longer in the carrying out of our object." I say that that is both dilatory and futile. That is not the way to deal with the Bill, and so far as I am concerned, I am bound to oppose this amendment with all my strength. The honorable member for North Sydney asked me a question about the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Indi. I cannot exactly say what course the Government will take, as honorable members will readily appreciate, until I know what is to be the fate of this amendment. If this amendment is carried, I shall have to consider whether I have any more advice to offer on this or any other subject. But, if this amendment is not carried, I will say as to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Indi, that I do not like it, and that I shall probably vote against it. If, however, I had to discriminate between that amendment and the amendment now before us, inasmuch as the former does not put in the forefront of the Bill a declaration which I now consider, after all that has passed, unnecessarily offensive, I should be inclined to support it. But I should advise honorable members, if they wish to get effective, certain, and speedy legislation on the subject, not to carry either of- the amendments. If they do carry either, there is more chance for the Bill with the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Indi ; but I am not sure how great the chance is. I shall make this amendment a vital point, and for the reason J have given, namely, that it affects our relation with the centre of the Empire.

Mr Reid - Which amendment t .

Mr BARTON -The right honorable and learned member knows well enough that when I say " this amendment," I ordinarily mean the amendment before the committee. I am opposing the amendment of the honorable member for Bland, and I say that, in my humble belief, it affects our relations with the Empire, or has a tendency to affect them in a way which we ought not to favour. If we are right in the position we have taken up in the last two years with regard to the rest of the Empire - that that which touches or invades one part touches the whole - we must allow the rest of the Empire to hold a similar opinion ; and more especially must we allow the head and centre of the Empire, which has ultimately to take decision until we are independent, to regulate the external relations of the Empire and those internal relations which we have no right to effect ourselves. Now, we can get our object in one way, and we ought to do it in the way proposed by the Bill. As to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Indi, I have already said that it is not subject to the main objection I have to the amendment now before the committee, and on which I make that amendment vital. The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Indi does not lay down in- the forefront of the Bill colour or race objections, which proclamation, I think, endangers the passage of the Bill. I am sure that such a proclamation will delay the passage of the Bill, and if reluctantly the Royal assent were given, it would be given with grief at the other end of the world, and with a wondering sigh as to why this course was insisted on when we could have got our way with another. The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Indi is devoid of objection on this ground, but it will not help the passage of the Bill, and the honorable member would be well advised if, after the present amendment has been dealt with, he withdrew his own. I want to say no more 15 p except that it is not often I trouble the House at great length, and I must ask honorable members to bear with me on this occasion. I have listened to a great deal of discussion, and have been very quiet under it. I am sure I had enough to say to justify me in addressing myself at some length on so important a matter. I again ask honorable members, in voting on this measure, to take such a course as will give them the legislation that they desire - as will carry out and not defeat their wishes, as will not lead to delay and heartburnings, not in one but in many quarters, the inevitable result of an amendment which I most earnestly deprecate.

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