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Thursday, 21 April 1904

Mr MCWILLIAMS (Franklin) - I am sorry to say that an ulcerated throat will make my speaking unpleasant to honorable members and exceedingly painful to myself. ' I should like, however, to deal with one or two points in connexion with this motion, which I regard as one of the gravest importance - much more important and .far-reaching than the fate of this or any other Government. Some honorable members seem to think that too much about States rights has been introduced into this discussion ; but I am afraid that if we pass this amendment we shall hear a great deal more on that subject. I differ entirely from those who, although in doubt as to its constitutionality, think that we should pass this amendment, and allow the High Court to decide. The High Court may be quite a proper tribunal on many subjects, but I ask honorable members to remember that we are now dealing with a distinct compact entered into between two parties. The States have surrendered to the Federation certain rights and privileges.

Mr Deakin - On certain conditions.

Mr MCWILLIAMS - I am not a constitutional lawyer, and I do not pose as a constitutional authority ; but if there is one point on which all writers on the American Constitution are agreed, it is that, Federal power being a delegated power, all rights not delegated are conserved to the States. Some honorable members take the position, "We do not say whether or not we have this power, and we shall go to the High Court for a decision." But my friend, who makes that proposal as a member of Parliament, would be the last to propose it as an individual. By our being asked, as we are now asked, to take deliberate advantage of the

States, this Parliament is placed in the position of a man who, having made a bargain, finds, when it is reduced to black and white, that there is a chance of getting something more than he bought, and who says, " I will take that something, if the laws allows it." The man who would do such a thing is not honest, but is .1 cheat. I am glad that the honorable and 'learned member for Northern Melbourne did not pretend to say that when he submitted the motion on this question in the Federal Convention he had the slightest idea that States servants would be included. If the honorable and learned member had that idea, he would have been placing himself in the position of submitting a motion, while hiding " up his sleeve " the most important factor in that motion. He would have to say that when the delegates, after the Convention, toured the States and asked the people to enter into this compact on lines deliberately laid down, they were keeping " something up their sleeves," and entrapping the States into an agreement. We should now be saying to the States, "Whether you gave us this power knowingly or. not, we \yill go to law ; if the law will give the power we will take it." That is not a proper position for Parliament to assume. As it was my duty to do at the time, I followed very closely the debates in the different Conventions, and I ask any honorable member who holds that there is any doubt on the question, to point out one line in the whole of the official reports to lead the Convention or the States to believe that the practical control of the States Public Services was being handed over to the Commonwealth. It may be said th.nt the amendment does not mean taking over the control of the States Public Services; but, as our greatest writer says -

You take my house, when you do take the prop That doth sustain my house ; you take my life When you do take the means whereby i live.

The moment we deprive the States of one power, however small, which they have not deliberately surrendered, we take from them a State right ; it is only a question of degree. But apart from that, which I regard as a most important point, what would be our position if the High Court should decide that we have power to practically revise the Estimates of the States Parliaments? A State Parliament having passed the Estimates, and the Treasurer having made provision for the year, the Federal High Court would be able to come in and say, "You have not given sufficient wages to your railway men." It will be seen that under such circumstances the control of the State's Estimates would be removed entirely from the State Parliament. I ask any honorable member who supports the amendment whether the States intended, when the people were asked to vote on the Convention Bill, that any Court established by the Federation should have any control whatever over the Estimates of a State Parliament?

Sir John Forrest - No.

Mr. Fisher._Yes.

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