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Wednesday, 30 July 1902

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) - It will be admitted that the case in support of the amendment has been very fairly and ably put by the three honorable members who have spoken in its favour. But the view which I take, is that the provision contained in section 7 of the Constitution is not a blot, but one of the most important features embodied in that instrument of government, and should not be lightly interfered with. I venture to say that the view which has been submitted seems to fail to recognise the real constitutional position of the Senate in the scheme of federation. The argument seems to regard the two Houses as if they were two Houses of a unitarian system. If ours were a unified system of government, one could hardly object so strongly to the proposal, but I 'venture to remind the committee of the real position of the Senate as delimited by the Constitution. The Senate, as provided by the Constitution, is not merely a second chamber of revision and review, not merely a Chamber representing what has been described as the sober second thought of the nation, but a Chamber in which the States of the Federation are represented in their corporate capacities. As to the evil which has been referred to, if the position of the Senate were altered as suggested by this amendment, it would become a more formidable rival of this House than it is at present. If the Senate recognises its true constitutional position as a States House, as it ought to be made to do - and will, no doubt, have to do when the contest begins in earnest; - it will have to realize that it represents State interests, State views, and State rights. That is its proper position so far as it is a States House. But if the Senate is to be taken from the exalted position which it occupies at present as representing these States as corporateentities, and made to represent mere fragments or sections of States, it will be in a much stronger position than it occupies at present as a States House. It will be able to say that it represents, not merely the States, but electorates or divisions, of the Commonwealth in the same way as does the House of Representatives. I would draw attention to section 7 of the Constitution, which says that the Senate shall be composed of Senators " for each State," showing that Senators are elected to represent not sections or fractional territorial divisions of States, but the States as corporate wholes. We can only maintain and preserve that fundamental position of the Senate as a States House by insisting that the senators for each State shall be returned by the electors of each State as a corporate unit. This proposal would destroy utterly the corporate unity of the Senate as a States House. Stress has been laid by the honorable member for Grampians upon the fact that no country representatives were elected to the Senate. I venture to say that the Constitution never contemplated the election of either "city or country representatives to the Senate. It contemplated the election of men representing the States as wholes, and if we take away that provision and say that senators shall be elected by six, or even three electorates, we will destroy that fundamental principle of the Constitution. Men will be returned representing divisions carved out of each State, and will consider themselves to be mere territorial, instead of State, representatives.

Mr Sawers - The privilege of doing so was extended to Queensland.

Sir JOHN QUICK - The fact that Queensland did not exercise the power is a strong argument in favour of allowing the constitutional provision to remain as it is. I would remind honorable members that it was not thought necessary to provide for the division of two of the smaller States into electorates for the House of Representatives; that it was considered preferable to allow the constitutional provision to remain, showing that the State authorities thought there must be some convenience in the system. Apart from that fact, however, I venture to take this opportunity of reminding the committee of the real position of the Senate in our constitutional system as a States House. The reason why the Federal Convention insisted upon one State one electorate, was to provide a constitutional security that the Senate should be constantly reminded of its real place in our parliamentary system - that it does not occupy the position of a mere second chamber of review in the ordinary sense of the term, but that of a States House charged with the duty of watching State interests. It will be much better for this House if that position is maintained. To some extent it limits the position of the Senate instead of enlarging it and increasing its dominant power. Consequently, in every contest which may arise between this House and the Senate the real touchstone will be this : Is the attitude taken by the Senate intended to preserve a State interest or a State right ? If the Senate can show that its attitude is intended to vindicate a State interest or right, then its position will be a strong one ; but if it relates merely to the right of an individual within the Commonwealth, or rights and interests common to the whole Commonwealth, the position of this House will be much the stronger one. The proposal which has been submitted is intended to strengthen the position of the Senate at the expense of this House, and to deprive it of its corporate capacity as a House for the representation of the States. In fact, it would be the first blow levelled at our federal system, and a most serious one indeed. The time is not yet ripe for the adoption of any system of unification such as some people desire. We have launched on a Federal Constitution, but I consider the amendment, if carried, would be in the direction of unification, and a serious blow to the autonomous position of the various States. I do not think that it would in any way improve the position of senators. They would not occupy the same position as they do now, but the amendment would tend rather to bring about a position of affairs calculated to promote conflicts between the two Houses, instead of promoting unity and harmonious working. This House represents every cranny, nook, crevice and corner of the Commonwealth. Every possible interest that is entitled to representation is represented here.

Mr Skene - Why should any part be disfranchised in the other place ?

Sir JOHN QUICK - The whole includes the part. The people vote as a State.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - What is the position in Victoria, where they have taxed the country lands and allowed city land to go free?

Sir JOHN QUICK - I do not think there is any such danger to be feared. The Senate is intended to preserve State rights and interests as a whole, and this House is designed to represent urban, rural, and city electorates. All interests are represented here, and we do not want to take any action to convert another place into a House representing sections or terri- tories. We want it to be not .merely a replica of this House, but ' a House differently constituted from this, to operate as a ' House of review. The principle of State unity is secured in the United States of America by the election of the senators by the various legislatures.


Sir JOHN QUICK - Certainly not. The Federal Convention considered that. The only way to insure State unity was to provide for the election of the senators by the States - one electorate one State. It would be a serious revolutionary change in our Constitution to adopt the amendment, either for dividing the States into six or three electorates for the Senate.

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