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Tuesday, 22 March 1927

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Aus tralia) . - I move -

That the following new clause be inserted to follow clause 6 : - " 6a. If no agreement is made in pursuance of the last preceding section and adopted by Parliamentbefore the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, the Treasurer shall submit to Parliament a proposal that the Commonwealth shall take over from each State an amount of its public debt equal to the respective principal sum that would be represented by the respective proposed payment (as set out inthe schedule opposite the name of the State) if such respective proposed payment were applied in respect of such debt in payment of interest at current rates and a sinking fund of one per centum."

Senator Givens - I rise to order. I submit that the proposed new clause is out of order because - (1) it is outside the scope of the bill; (2) it is irrelevant; (3) it could have no effect; and (4) it is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. The effect of the proposed new clause is to give a direction to a future government that its treasurer shall submit certain proposals to Parliament. Clearly, then, it is out of order. I have had a fairly long experience in Parliament, and have had the opportunity and the occasion to study the constitutional practice of this and other legislatures. I have never seen in any act of any Parliament a provision containing a direction to a future government. Let us look for a moment at the bill itself. As its title makes clear, it is a States Grants

Bill. That is the form in which it has been passed by the committee. Is there anything in it which would justify our embodying an instruction to a future treasurer or government? The present Parliament has not, and cannot have, any control whatever over future governments or parliaments. They can act as they please, no matter what provisions we may place in this bill.. There is not in the amendment one word about grants. It is merely a direction to a future government, and, therefore, is outside the scope of the bill. I shall now deal with the second point, that the amendment is ir- relevant. I invite honorable senators to read clause6. It is as follows: -

Subject to the terms of any agreement made between the Commonwealth and all the States, and adopted by the Parliament, the Treasurer shall, during the financial year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven, make payments to each State, in equal monthly instalments, to the amount specified in the schedule, opposite to the name of that State.

We have agreed to make certain payments to the States for one year only. The amendment does not refer to the making of grants to the States.

Senator McLachlan -In short, it would be an appropriate amendment to any proposal that might be brought down in the future.

Senator Givens - I do not profess to be a prophet, and cannot say what proposals are likely to be brought down in 1928 or any other year. Honorable senators are concerned only with the bill that is before them. Perhaps I had better quote the general practice with regard to amendments, according to the highest authority to which we can look. At pages 404 and 405 of the 13th Edition of May's Parliamentary Practice, the following appears: -

An amendment must be coherent, and consistent with the context of the bill.

The amendment is not consistent with the context of the bill, because the latter proposes to make grants to the States. I shall also endeavour to prove that it is not coherent -

When a proposed amendment has been so amended as to form an incoherent question, the chairman stated that, if no further amendment were proposed, he should proceed with the question which next arose upon the clause. Amendments cannot be moved which are based on schedules or other provisions, the terms of which have not been placed before the committee, or which are otherwise incomplete.

Senator Kingsmillhas based his amendment upon a schedule that the committee has not considered. Continuing, May says -

Amendments are out of order if they are irrelevant to the bill or beyond the scope of the bill, or of the clause under consideration; governed by or dependent upon amendments already negatived; inconsistent with, or contradictory to, the bill as agreed to by the committee; inconsistent with a decision to which the committee has come upon a former amendment; offered at a wrong place in the bill; or tendered to the committee in a spirit of mockery. An amendment which is equivalent to a negative of the bill, or of the clause under consideration, is out of order. Amendments have also been ruled out of order on the ground of vagueness, or because they were trifling. The chairman would decline to propose such amendments from the Chair. Amendments to a bill proposing that the address or resolution of one House of Parliament should affect the repeal of the bill have been ruled out of order as unconstitutional, while an amendment proposing that a bill relating to England alone should not come into force until a similar bill should have been passed for Scotland has been ruled to be irrelevant.

It will be seen that in that case the House of Commons took a very strong stand; it ruled out of order as irrelevant an amendment that at first glance would appear to be relevant. Another passage reads -

An amendment proposing that the provisions of a bill should be subject to a referendum has been ruled out of order. The Chairman also, in the case of an amendment offered to a bill that was limitedin scope to the repeal of a clause in a statute, ruled that the amendment was out of order, because its object was the continuance and the extension of the clause to be repealed.

I do not think that I need road any further. I shall now proceed with my nest point. The amendment could have no effect even if passed by the committee, and, therefore, it should be ruled out of order. It is obvious that no provision which we might insert in this measure would be regarded as a direction by any future treasurer or government; yet that is Senator Kingsmill's proposal. Nobody has ever attemptedpreviously to have such a provision inserted in any bill. A futuregovernment or treasurer could entirely ignore it. They would know that a previous parliament had no right to instruct them in any measure that it had passed.

SenatorNeedham. - If that were so, would it not apply also to any bill, amendment, or resolution?

Senator Givens - No; because when we pass a resolution it becomes a part of the law of the land.

Senator Needham - If this is incorporated in the bill, it will become a part of the law of the land.

Senator Givens - But we cannot insert a provision controlling the policy of a future treasurer or government.

Senator Kingsmill - Why not?

Senator Givens - Because it has never been done, and such a proposal has always been ruled out of order.

Senator Kingsmill - When has it been ruled out of order?

Senator Givens - I have lost the reference for a moment, but I shall give it to the committee later on.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - To what effect is it?

Senator Givens - That an amendment which can have no effect is out of order.

Senator Kingsmill - But that is not enough to show that my clause is out of order.

Senator Givens - It is. I can quote innumerable cases to prove that it has been the practice of the House of Commons.

Senator Kingsmill - But I claim that my proposed new clause would have an effect.

Senator Givens - That is for the committee to say. It certainly could have no effect on a future Government. It proposes to control the policy, not the administrative acts of future Governments in regard to this matter

Senator Kingsmill - That is so.

Senator Needham - The honorable senator might advance the same argument on clause 6, which provides for certain action, subject to any agreement made between the Commonwealth and the States.

Senator Givens - Clause 6 provides that, subject to any agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, the States shall be paid certain moneys for one year only. It controls the Ministry for one year on an administrative basis, but not on a matter of policy. I contend, further, that the proposed clause is entirely irrelevant. The bill does not contain a single word about State debts, whereas the whole of the clause is directed to a consideration of the attitude of the Senate towards State debts.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - But the purpose of the bill is to afford financial assistance to the States.

Senator Givens - It is a States Grants Bill. The proposed clause is also entirely contrary to section 105 of the Constitution, which provides -

The Parliament may take over from the States their public debts, as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or a proportion thereof, according to the respective numbers of their people, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, and may convert, renew or consolidate such debts, or any part thereof; and the States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of the debts taken over, and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debts shall be deducted and retained from the portions of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth payable to the several States, or if such surplus is insufficient, or if there is no surplus, then the deficiency, or the whole amount, shall be paid by the several States.

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