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Tuesday, 22 March 1927

Senator GIVENS - I leave the honorary minister to answer that question himself. No Government could submit to Parliament a proposal such as that embodied in Senator Kingsmill's proposed new clause, which is not in accordance with the Constitution under which we are working. . I quoted the Constitution to show that the State debts must be taken over in due proportion to. the population of the several States.

Senator Kingsmill - Exactly. That would suit nicely.

Senator Givens - But the honorable senator proposes a different system. His proposed new clause reads -

If no agreement is made in pursuance of the last preceding section and adopted by Parliament before 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 bc represented by the respective proposed payment (as set out in the 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.

The Parliament could not constitutionally pass such a proposal. Therefore, I say that the new clause would have no effect, and, in accordance with May, which I have quoted, should be ruled out of order.

Senator Kingsmill - I am becoming somewhat tired of knocking down these men of straw which honorable senators persist in placing before me. The portion of a section in the Constitution to which Senator Givens has alluded relates to the taking over of State debt" on the basis of the population of the State. That is necessarily what would happen in this case, as the payments by the Commonwealth would be in lieu of payments to the States on a per capita basis. Therefore, there should not be much doubt concerning the relevancy of my proposal. If it is to be defeated, it should be on its merits, and not on a technicality.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Duncan - Senator Givens has submitted that the amendment moved by Senator Kingsmill is out of order on several grounds. The first point taken by him is that it is a direction to future governments, and, therefore, not allowable. There can be no objection, in my opinion, to the amendment on that ground, since all statutes are, in effect, directions to future governments. If this clause is passed and the bill becomes law, it must necessarily become a direction to future governments - a direction that must be observed until the law is amended or repealed. The second objection raised by Senator Givens is that it is not in keeping with the context of the bill. I find it somewhat difficult to arrive at a decision on that point; but feel that the amendment is not quite consistent with the context of the bill. The third objection is that the amendment, even if carried, could have no effect; that point, in my opinion, is not sustained. A fourth objection raised by Senator Givens is in regard to the constitutionality of the amendment. I agree with the VicePresident of the Executive Council ('.Senator Pearce) that it is not for the chairman to interpret the Constitution. I do not intend to rule whether the amendment is, or is not, within the Constitution. I come now to the fifth objection, namely, that the amendment is irrelevant and beyond the scope of the bill. That is a vital objection. It has been submitted that clause 6 already provides for action somewhat similar to that contemplated by the amendment. It does so, however, only in the event of Parliament adopting a certain line of action in the future. I rule that the amendment is out of order on the ground that it is irrelevant and beyond the scope of the bill.

Senator Kingsmill - I have to thank you, sir, for your ruling, which I very much regret; but I do not intend to question it.

Bill reported without amendment; reports adopted.

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