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Wednesday, 3 September 1902

Mr BARTON (HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for External Affairs) - If my honorable friend thinks it is a politic thing to do, and he moves an amendment, I will accept it,

The representatives of the smaller States were jealous of any mark in the Constitution of the superiority of the House of Representatives, and I, therefore, to prevent any possible misapprehension, thought that it was politic to move the reinsertion of the words, and they were reinserted. Those words are all-important in this connexion, and I will show honorable members why. Let me indicate as best I may what the whole meaning of the provision is. It means that in certain Bills which are intimately connected with the constitutional principle, and essential to the true conduct of responsible government, you cannot have a divided care ; you cannot have divided opinions on the details of a measure, although you properly allow the second Chamber to say " Yes " or " No " to the measure as a whole. The Senate must take the responsibility of accepting or rejecting such measures as a whole. As was pointed out in a State Parliament by a distinguished member of the Convention, the object of the provision is this : Whereas, under the States Constitutions, second chambers have had to take the responsibility of the rejection or acceptance of financial measures without being able to avail themselves of any recognised formal method of acquainting the public with the reasons of their action, a means is here given to communicate with the other House, and to ask for an expression of its real, deliberate will in regard to any provision which does not commend itself to the Senate. When the Senate, at any stage in its consideration of a measure, communicates its difficulties to the House of Representatives, and asks us whether we really in- . tend to adhere to our proposals, we may either say, " Yes," absolutely, or agree to amend or modify those proposals. The measure must then go back to the Senate, and their power of suggestion in regard to it is exhausted, so far as that stage is concerned. Repetition of the request converts it into a demand. If, at a future stage, other difficulties present themselves, it is quite possible, though I pronounce no definite opinion upon the subject, that it may be intended by the Constitution that the Senate shall have another opportunity to formulate new requests for further light as to the will of this House ; but it has no right to again challenge the decision of this House in respect to matters in regard to which it has made requests, and has received . a definite answer

Mr Glynn - --The only precedent we have is the South Australian precedent.

Mr ISAACS - That precedent was created under a Constitution which places both Houses on the same footing, except with regard to the power of originating appropriation and taxing Bills.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What does the honorable and learned member understand by the words " stage of a Bill," as applied to the consideration of a measure by theSenate 1

Mr ISAACS - The meaning of the words is thoroughly understood in the parliamentary procedure of both England and America.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I know what is understood in the procedure of the State Parliaments. I ask what, in the absence of joint standing orders, is the meaning of the words as they occur in. the Constitution 1

Mr ISAACS - We are discussing not. standing orders but the Constitution. As the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne rightly said, no standing orders: can alter the Constitution. The word "stage" is ordinarily employed in connexion with the consideration of a parliamentary measure. It will be found inMay's Parliamentary Practice on pages 444' and 445. For instance, it is there statedthat the second reading is "the most important stage " through which a Bill is; required to pass. The word will be found also in Story's Constitution qf the United States. Speaking of the procedure of passing a Bill through three readings and the committee stages, he comes to the question of its engrossing and reading a third time. That is the time usually chosen by opponents of a measure, lie says, to attack it, though

Attempts are indeed sometimes made at previous stages to defeat it.

Lower down, he states -

The two last stages of the Bill, namely, on the questions, whether it shall have a third reading, mid whether it shall pass, are the strong points of resistance and defence.

Then Cushing, in his work on The Law and Practice oj Legislative Assemblies, has a chapter headed - " Of the several stages through which a Bill passes."

Mr Conroy - The word " stage " is not confined in its application to the first, second, and third readings 1

Mr ISAACS - That is doubtful. I am not prepared to say that it is so confined. But there has been no subsequent stage in regard to the consideration of the measure with which we are now dealing.

Mr Conroy - The Senate went into committee upon it again.

Mr ISAACS - The Bill had reached a certain stage when the Senate first made requests iri regard to it, and it has not advanced beyond that stage. Certain matters have been reconsidered, but the Bill is in the same stage as it was in before. Cushing, on page 829, says -

Bills thus received, whether presented by members, reported by committees, or sent from the other House, are, in all substantial respects, to be proceeded with in the same manner, through the several stages which have been established by usage for the passing of Bills. At each of these different stages every Bill, in a parliamentary sen.-)e, presents a new question, although it may, in fact, be the same which has been formerly considered. These /several stages have never been departed from, although they depend, upon usage merely, and are as much in force und as fundamental in our Legislative Assemblies as in Parliament. The nature of the different stages through which each Bill must pass in its progress, before it becomes a law, will be stated more fully as we proceed.

In earlier times, when reading and writing were not universal accomplishments, the members of the House of Commons required to have the provisions of measures read out to them, so that they might understand them. In this way arose the term - " The reading of a Bill." It .requires' very little research to discover that the firstreading stage was preceded by several preliminary stages, intended to acquaint honorable members with the purport of the measure. Then came the first and second readings, the consideration in committee, and the third reading stages. Altogether there are several stages in connexion with the consideration of a Bill, though it is a matter for each House to determine what the stages shall be.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Does the honorable and learned member admit that the consideration of a Bill in committee is a stage t

Mr ISAACS - I think that it is, but I do not make any admission on the subject.

Mr V L SOLOMON (SOUTH AUSTRALIA, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Then, if a Bill is referred several times to a committee, it passes through several stages ?

Mr ISAACS - Certainly not, if it is referred to the same committee. Until a Bill has passed beyond the committee stage, it has not entered another stage.

Mr Kingston - What about a recommittal t

Mr ISAACS - That is a going-back to the same stage. It is not a going-forward to a further stage. It is not making another stage on the journey from Melbourne to Adelaide to go to Serviceton, and then to return to Melbourne. There can be no doubt that the Bill is still at the same stage as it was at when the matter was last before us, and that the requests now before us are the same. Consequently, it seems to me beyond argument that their consideration is forbidden by the Constitution. I have endeavoured to place distinctly, and, I hope, convincingly, before honorable members the reasons why I think we ought not to agree to the motion. I think that a fundamental breach of the Constitution, in no unimportant, but in a very central point, is about to be committed. I hope that I have said nothing to offend the susceptibilities of any honorable member. I cannot recognise as a fair and legitimate reason for laying down a new line of policy utterly foreign to all sense of responsible Government as understood and practised in Australia, the ground of expediency advanced by the Government, or the party reasons which may perhaps operate with honorable members opposite. I do not think that it will be any party triumph for the free-trade members if they secure the consideration of these requests. They will not change the character of the Tariff, if they carry every resolution in favour of acceding to the requests of the Senate.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why does the honorable and learned member suggest that we are guided by party considerations 1

Mr ISAACS - I am only pointing out that my honorable friends may think that they are gaining something, but that their hopes will not be realized.

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