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Thursday, 18 September 1958

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Since the message was received from the Senate, I have given consideration to the appropriate course to be followed in this chamber. I think all honorable members are aware in general terms of the provisions of section 53 of the Constitution. This section provides, in part -

The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys- for the ordinary annual services of the Government.

The Senate may at any stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.

In this case, the message does not fit into that pattern at all. It is not an amendment to any bill or even a request relating to a bill of this chamber. The Senate motion was one for the printing of papers, and attached to the terms of the motion was an expression of opinion on behalf of the Senate. Even an expression of opinion would not normally pass without comment from this chamber, both as a matter of courtesy and in the normal constitutional relations between the two chambers. But, Sir, in this instance the terms of the opinion are clearly covered in substance by the previous proceedings in this House, when the Leader of the Opposition submitted a motion of censure. The debate on that motion covered in very specific terms the items that are included in the expression of opinion from the Senate. Honorable members will recall that the committee of this House, by a vote of 57 to 36, rejected the censure motion of the Leader of the Opposition.

So it will be seen that the message received from the Senate merely refers to this House an expression of opinion. There is nothing of a novel character raised in that expression of opinion which would call for further consideration by this chamber. That seems to be the substance of both the constitutional position and of this actual episode.

I have refrained from making any comment on the circumstances in which the majority view of the. Senate came to be expressed. We are all aware of the normal relations that exist between members of the Labour party in the Senate and their colleagues in this chamber, and that decisions taken in caucus are binding on members in both Houses. What happened in the Senate was merely that a resolution was agreed to which amounted to a repetition of views that had been expressed iri this House. This episode clearly amounted to a somewhat theatrical and, indeed, callous propaganda move that has made no more impression on the general public than it has made on Government supporters in both Houses.

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