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Tuesday, 26 May 1903

The Address in Reply was read by the Clerk as follows : -

May itplease your Excellency -

We, the House of Representatives of the Par-, liament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech" which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

Mr. L.E. GROOM (Darling Downs).It is with some considerable emotion that I rise to move -

That the Address in Reply to His Excellency^ Speech, as read by the Clerk, be now adopted.

It affordsme much pleasure to submit this motion and to emphasize the continuance of a great deal of that federal legislation which I believe has done much to cement the union of these States into one splendid Commonwealth. At the beginning of the federation much was said of a hostility towards the union. Hints were made, and suggestions were repeated, that the people as a whole were not in sympathy with the federal compact which had been adopted. After having moved about considerably amongst the citizens of my own and other States, my own impression is that the federal feeling throughout the Commonwealth is stronger now than at any period of our national life. The legislation which has been enacted by this Parliament - and I do not say that the Ministry can claim the whole of the credit attaching to it - has done much to accentuate that ' feeling. Even persons who formerly were opposed to federation have, by reason of the work accomplished, now become ardent federalists. Further, I believe' that the spirit of the Constitution itself is becoming deeply implanted in the very lives of our citizens, in the laws of the community, and in .the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth as a whole. I think it is a happy augury that we can start the legislation of this second session of the Commonwealth Parliament with the consciousness that we have the good will of the people at our backs. Fortunately, too, the general outlook is considerably better now than it was some little time ago, inasmuch as the serious drought which worked such terrible devastation has passed away. My experience is that it is very difficult to dissociate the results which are said to have flowed from federation, from those which arose from the drought alone. Most of the evils under which Australia laboured are alleged to have been caused by federation, whereas a majority of them, I believe, are entirely due to the drought itself. However, good rains have now fallen throughout the Commonwealth, and in Queensland and the other States there is greater promise of prosperity than there has been for many years. I believe that this Parliament by its legislation will promote the peace, welfare and good government of the people as a whole. In the GovernorGeneral's speech the Ministry have foreshadowed certain measures of vast importance to us. Foremost amongst them I place the Bill dealing with the establishment of the High Court of Australia. Until that tribunal is established we have not fulfilled the whole of the federal plan. The idea underlying the scheme of federation as devised by the Federal Convention was that there should be three distinct branches of government - that legislative, executive, . and judicial functions should each . be discharged in their proper sphere. But all that we have done is to establish our Legislature and Executive. Until the High Court is established we have not fulfilled the design of those who drafted the Constitution. It is an absolute necessity that that tribunal should be set up. It is not for this Parliament to say whether or not it shall be established. The Constitution which provides for its creation was submitted to the people, and it was part of the scheme which they adopted. Therefore, we have an absolute mandate from the people of the Commonwealth to establish the High Court. The experience of the last few months has emphasized the need which exists for its creation. During that time a feeling of uncertainty as to outlaws has been operating throughout the various States. Various decisions have been given by various State Supreme Courts, and consequently those responsible for administering the law do not know whether they are bound by those decisions. The question of whether the Commonwealth has power to tax State goods has been decided, so far as New South Wales is concerned, by the Supreme Court of that State, whilst as to whether or not the federal agencies can be taxed has been decided by the Supreme Court of Victoria. These are questions which strike at the very foundation of our Government, and upon such important and vital matters, involving the interpretation of the Constitution, serious doubts and perplexity exist in the minds of those administering the law. It is our duty to put an end to that condition of uncertainty at the earliest possible moment. I would further point out that as the result of the recent conference of the Premiers of the various States claims have been set up by them in respect of State rights. We are told that this Parliament is invading State rights, and I hold that it is highly unsatisfactory that under existing conditions the Legislature has to decide for itself upon matters involving the interpretation of the Constitution. The States AttorneysGeneral are putting forward other claims. They have raised the question of whether or not the section in the Commonwealth

Electoral Act which deals with the time and place for holding elections for the Senate is valid. We think that we have legislated properly upon that subject, although, personally, I .do not express any opinion upon the matter. There may be considerable room for doubt upon it. But what is the position? We have antagonism existing between the States and the Commonwealth, where, instead of recrimination, we ought to have co operation. Therefore, it is absolutely incumbent upon us to establish the High Court in order that these matters may be determined. The very idea underlying its creation is that we should have a body which is absolutely impartial, ' which cannot be controlled either by this or any other Legislature so long as it interprets the spirit of the Constitution, and the Constitution itself, in accordance with the oaths of its members, " without fear, favour, or affection." The idea underlying its establishment was that it should be a body set apart - that it should keep each Parliament within its own distinct sphere, and that it should decide as to the jurisdiction of each of the respective sovereign bodies. The position of the States which Chief Justice Chase laid down, in his judgment in the case of Texas v. White, was that under the Constitution of the United States there was an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States. That probably is the correct interpretation of our Constitution at the present time. But we are in the position that we do not know how the Constitution will be interpreted. Is the interpretation -to be left in the hands of our own Parliament, a body which, I submit with all deference, is not constituted for the purpose of deciding delicate constitutional questions 1 And it should not be left in the hands of the States Parliaments, which are also unfit for the performance of such a duty; nor should it be left to the Executive Ministers of either Commonwealth or States. The idea of the Constitution was that we should have a judicial body to decide such questions, thus allaying friction, and putting an end to all antagonism by a fair and impartial construction of the Constitution. Further, I believe that, constituted as we i are at the present time, it is highly unsatisfactory not to have an Australian Court of Appeal. It was urged that there should be an Australian Court of Appeal composed of men trained under Australian law, versed in Australian history, and appointed by an

Australian Parliament. Our position now is that if we want a question of our own Constitution interpreted, so that it may be binding on the whole of the Commonwealth, we have practically to first get a decision by a State Court, and then take that decision across the seas in order to have it interpreted by the Privy Council. The idea above all others was that when we were constituted an Australian Federation, with an Australian Parliament, we should have an Australian Court of Appeal. If we are to have a High Court constituted, that court must be composed of the very best men the Commonwealth can produce.

Mr Conroy - Then there must be no politicians in the court.

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