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Wednesday, 1 September 1920

Mr BAMFORD (Herbert) .- The attitude of the Government upon the proposed new clause places a few of their supporters, including myself, in an awkward position. Together with the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) and the Prime Minister himself, we stood shoulder to shoulder and fought on public platforms all over the Commonwealth to persuade the people to agree to an amendment of the Constitution which would confer just such powers as the High Court now says we have possessed all along. The Prime Minister not only framed the very arguments which we launched, but also went out in strenuous public advocacy of the cause. I have a hazy recollection that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was one of those who opposed this very proposal which he is now advocating, on the ground that it would involve an infringement of State rights.

Mr Ryan - No; the honorable member is absolutely wrong.

Mr BAMFORD - The honorable member's memory may be no better than my own. However, I recall that State Premiers fought against it, since they considered that it would involve an infringement of the rights and powers of the States; and it was mainly in deference to that point of view that the people turned down the proposition. At the recent referendum, when the proposals of the Government were again refused, this specific proposition for the inclusion of State railway servants was purposely omitted in "order that it might not wreck the prospects of the other proposals. My personal view is that it was unfortunate that the proposal should have been omitted. Obviously, however, we have been sleeping on our rights ; we have been appealing to the people in vain to grant that power which we held all the while. I suggest - and I sincerely hope the Government will agree - that consideration of the proposed new clause be postponed, and that the Bill be sent to another place. Meanwhile, the Minister in charge (Mr. Groom) will have acquainted himself with the decision of the High Court; and then it would be for the Government itself to insert the proposed new clause while the measure is under discussion in the Senate. I repeat that I find myself in a most delicate situation. I ask the Government to consider the position of those of its supporters who, in the past, have fought strenuously in advocacy of the case of the railway men, and I again ask that the position of the Prime Minister himself be made clear.

Mr Ryan - But the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) suggests that, even if the Government should 'be persuaded that the power lies within our Constitution, he would not agree to the exercise of it.

Mr BAMFORD - I can understand and appreciate the attitude of the Treasurer, who has always been hostile to the proposition.

Mr Makin - No; that is not so.

Mr BAMFORD - What of the position of the Prime Minister, however? What of the position of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) ? What of the position of all those supporters of the Government whom I have indicated? I have been a good party hack ever since I entered this Parliament. I have sat behind and voted with the Government very often when my sympathies have been in an entirely opposite direction. Now I am again to be asked to stultify myself. Where is the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) in this matter?

Mr West - What about the Government Whip (Mr. Burchell) ?

Mr BAMFORD - I think he also is " in the soup." Unless the Minister is prepared to adopt my suggestion, I unhesitatingly say that I shall vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney.

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