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Wednesday, 1 September 1920

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It is strange that it has taken the best minds of Australia twenty years to recognise that this power exists. I wish to put one or two practical points for the consideration of honorable members in their representative capacity.No one has yet said that the decision of the High Court represents the intention of the men who gave us our Constitution. Some of the Judges on the Bench were responsible for the Constitution which was adopted twenty years ago, and in the interval they have never expressed themselves in the way the

Court has just found. I am pleading for ordinary decency, respect and courtesy for the State Governments of Australia from the National Government; and such feelings do not suggest haste in asking those Governments to part with their present power. I call the attention of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) to the fact that he, and many others associated with him, have desired and asked for this power for a long time ; but whenever a referendum has been taken on an alteration of the Constitution, the power involved in the decision of the High Court has been rejected by the people most definitely. I plead with honorable members to show that consideration which is due to the State Governments of this Commonwealth. The proposal before us strikes at the very root of popular constitutional government - at the very root principle of sovereignty. The various State Governments have accepted enormous responsibilities under powers which, until the present moment, they believed they possessed. There is only one clear duty for the House, and that is to show sufficient respect and consideration for the six Governments of Australia.

Mr.Fenton. - How long do you propose we should wait, now that we know where we are?

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I certainly would not proceed to-day - I would not be in a hurry.

Mr Ryan - The provision I propose was placed in the Act of 1904 ; what more waiting is required?


Mr Ryan - It was held to be invalid ; but the States knew all about the question then.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I ask the honorable member whether, if he were in the position he held a little while ago, and if he were on the other side of the fence politically, he would not complain.

Mr Ryan - I never complain of anything that is right.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - I am quite sure that the honorable member would complain. He is enough of a sport to like things done in a decent fashion.

Mr Ryan - It is well known that for years the Labour party has stood for what I have moved this afternoon.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - I know all about that, and the people of Australia have for years decided against you in an overwhelming fashion. However, I hope there will not be a vote taken on such an important question without a full House.

Mr Ryan - I have no objection to that.

Mr RICHARD FOSTER - It is only due to our colleagues to give them an opportunity to vote.

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