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Wednesday, 3 September 1902

Mr CROUCH (Corio) - I think that all Government supporters who are prepared to vote against the motion should express their convictions, as it is important that in a first step of so vital a nature, those who vote against the Government should make no uncertain sound. I do not think I can add much to the weighty words which have fallen from the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and the honorable and learned member for Indi, who have enlightened the House very considerably, not only as to the legal, but as to the constitutional position.- I sympathize with the Acting Prime Minister in the difficulties which he has had to face, and which have impelled him to adopt a course which although supported by considerations of expediency, may imperil the rights of this House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why does the honorable and learned gentleman suggest that our rights may be imperilled 1

Mr CROUCH - The resolution itself, and the statement accompanying it, show that the Minister does not wish the action taken in this case to be regarded as a precedent, and it is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that he regarded it as dangerous. I am sorry that some members of the Opposition are not supporting us. I feel the greater regret because I find that all those who have spoken against the Government proposal are members of the protectionist party.


Mr CROUCH - Yes ; it is worth noting, because this is now a party question, and it is regrettable that the Opposition will sink the interests of the people in order to secure a mere fiscal triumph. I may mention that my sympathies and the interests of my constituents would have led me to support three of the requests of the Senate, but I am not viewing this matter from a party point of view. The members of the Opposition should not view it from a party stand-point either, as they profess to believe that if a dissolution were to take place they would be able to sweep Australia clear of all the protectionist members of this House, but those honorable members on the protectionist side who are opposing the Government in this matter show that they are ready to face the chances of a dissolution, not that they want it, but in the interests of the democracy, which this House represents. I take it that the Government have climbed down almost before they were shot at. I think that before taking such action we should have returned this Message to the Senate to ascertain if it persists in the position which it has assumed. If it did, there would have been time enough then to consider the expediency of making a compromise. The proposal to receive its message at the present stage, even at the sacrifice of our constitutional rights, is not calculated to induce the

Senate to take a proper view of its position in the future. If we have no regard for the rights of this House, we should certainly endeavour to conserve the rights of the people. In speaking just now, the honorable' member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, implied that we were quibbling about the rights of this Chamber. Nothing of the sort. It is the people's rights that we are protecting, and I consider that upon a question like this we ought to support the democracy of the future rather than the areas represented by the other House. We are really sacrificing that for which our forefathers fought for many years. In connexion with almost a similar movement they faced a civil war. Rather than imperil democratic rights, I would rather have no Tariff. Such a misfortune would be temporary. Our action to-night creates a, permanent precedent. However, I shall content myself with having entered my protest against the proposal of the Govern-, ment. There are various ways in which a protest can be recorded. I have looked up May, and I find that whenever the Commons protest against the encroachment upon their privileges by the Lords, they enter it upon the journals of the House. The Lords have done precisely the same thing. We might go still further. Our rights are set out ia a written Constitution, ' and I think that even the AttorneyGeneral's opinion is that the Senate in this connexion has overstepped its powers. It is of no use doing a thing " without prejudice," unless it is so communicated to the other party, and I should, therefore, like to see a very strong protest recorded, by incorporating in the Message, when it is returned to the Senate, the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. We should clearly set out that we have considered only the matter under the' exceptional circumstances existing, and with-' out prejudice to the rights of this House.

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