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Wednesday, 30 July 1902

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is hardly necessary for me to speak on ' this question, because the views that I hold have been so ably advocated by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. But I regret that a principle of such importance, and of such far-reaching results, should be discussed in this haphazard manner in committee. It is a constitutional point of the greatest importance, and it is rather unwise for us to discuss it and settle it, as it were, in committee on an Electoral Bill. I think that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo's position is unassailable, and that any such alteration as that proposed by the honorable member for Grampians would be subversive of the spirit of the Constitution. I fully and thoroughly indorse al] that the honorable and learned member for Bendigo has said. If we destroy the distinction between the Senate and this House - as we should do by adopting this proposal- we shall really strengthen the position of the Senate and weaken the position of the House of Representatives. I regret that the Senate has been constantly referred to in this House as a kind of upper chamber, just as are our Legislative Councils under the old colonial Constitutions. But it is not so. As the honorable and learned member has said, the Senate is a States House representing State interests, while we in this Chamber represent the people of the Commonwealth. Any attempt to alter the present system would be. ultimately to alter it at the expense of the powers and privileges of this House when we come into conflict. I do not fear the position of equal State representation in the Senate. From the very outset of the federal movement I accepted the fact as a logical one, that if we were to adopt federation the States must be equally represented in the Senate, and that any attempt to divide them into electorates for that House- would be to destroy the symmetry and harmonious construction of the Constitution. It seems to me that the only difference between the two Houses is, that this House represents the people of the Commonwealth, while the Senate represents the States in federal union. I think the question is so important that it is a pity that we should enter upon its consideration and attempt its solution in a proposal for a new clause in an Electoral Bill. I sincerely hope the committee will not adopt the proposal, because it is totally subversive of the whole of the design of the framers of the Constitution.

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