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Thursday, 14 June 1906


Senator Best - The paragraph in this speech makes use of the term " the estimates of expenditure originating from you." .

Senator MILLEN - It appears to me that little by little the constitutional powers and functions of the Senate are being whittled away.

Senator Pearce - It is a constitutional fact that the Estimates of Expenditure originate there.

Senator MILLEN - Exactly; and I. do not quarrel with the use of the term " originating from you." What I say is that this appeal to the gentlemen of the House of Representatives alone is wrong. m Any remarks which His Excellency may desire to make regarding the Estimates of Expenditure should be addressed to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In addressing such a paragraph to both Houses I have no objection to His Excellency stating that the Estimates of Expenditure originate with the other House, which is merely stating a fact.

Senator Playford - This is the practice which we have followed since we started.

Senator Best - It is simply a slavish! adherence to custom.

Senator MILLEN - I am afraid that it is something more than that. I am told by the Minister that it is an old practice.

Senator Playford - So it is. Look at the different speeches.

Senator MILLEN - But we have had so many promises from Ministers that it would be altered.

Senator Playford - Not that particular practice.

Senator MILLEN - I cannot believe that this procedure is unintentional, and when I run through the various speeches perhaps honorable senators will see that there is some justification for my appeal to them, not to-day in connexion with the Address-in-Reply, but later on, to take some action which will secure a proper recognition of the constitutional rights of the Senate. In the speech delivered at the opening of the first session of the first Parliament, with Mr. Barton as Prime Minister, the paragraph relating to the Estimates of Expenditure was addressed to the House of Representatives, and at the close of that session that House only was thanked for the granting of Supply. In the session of 1903 the paragraph in the opening speech relating to the Estimates of Expenditure was addressed to the House of Representatives alone. On the 26th June Senator Neild moved that, in proroguing Parliament, due recognition should be given to the fact that the Grant of Supply is the joint act of the two Houses. Senator Drake, the PostmasterGeneral, after a good deal of discussion, in which no one disputed my contention that the Grant of Supply is the act of the two Houses, promised to carry out the wish of the Senate, and the motion was withdrawn. At the close of that session, in accordance with that promise, both Houses were thanked for the Supply being granted. If any precedent were wanted for the course I am about to suggest it is to be found in that fact. In spite of what had happened in the previous session, the Governor-General's speech again addressed remarks dealing with the Estimates tothe House of Representatives only. The matter was again referred to in the debate on the AddressinReply, as I am referring to it now, and there was some more or less definite assurance given that what was complained of would be remedied in future. But on the 14th April a motion was moved by Senator Neild praying the Governor-General that, when opening or proroguing Parliament, his speech should give " due recognition " to the constitutional fact of Supply being granted by" both Houses of the Legislature." Senator Playford, who was then in charge of the business of the Senate, asked Senator Neild to withdraw that motion, and promised that, if it were withdrawn, what was complained of would not happen again. He said -

We old politicians are in the habit of using the old forms without taking into consideration the altered position of the Senate on the one hand find the House of Representatives on the other.

Senator Playford - That was in reference to the speech at the close of the session.

Senator MILLEN - Yes. The remark I have quoted was reported in Hansard. 14th April, 1904, page 946. These " old politicians," it appears, are not merely used to old forms, but they are also afflicted with treacherous memories ; and I say that the continuation of this process of forgetfulness rather induces me to think that - not on the part of Senator Playford, but of other Ministers - they are not 50 acting merely out of forgetful ness, but from design. The Governor-General's speech this year was prepared by the Government, as usual, and Senator Playford, as a member of the Government, agreed to it.

Senator Playford - It is the duty of my secretary to keep me up to my promises.

Senator MILLEN - I am pleased to hear the honorable senator speak in that way. I should like to point out that the motion to which I have referred was carried by the Senate, although the Minister had asked that it should be withdrawn ; and I venture to say that it was carried, not out of any discourtesy to the Minister, not through any doubt as to his promise, but because it was felt that, though having had various promises, through a chapter of accidents they had not been redeemed, and that it was wiser for the Senate to place its opinion on record. The motion, as I say, was carried, the following senators voting for it: - Senators de Largie, Findley, Fraser, Givens, Gray, Guthrie, Henderson, Higgs, Macfarlane, Millen, Pearce, Staniforth Smith, Styles, Walker, and Sir William Zeal. The senators who voted against the motion were Senators Dobson, Drake, Playford, Trenwith, and Turley. The majority was large, and I think we may assume that those who voted against the motion were not opposed to it on principle, but thought that, after the assurance of the Minister, it could be withdrawn. At any rate, it stands on record that the Senate on that occasion, by a large majority, thought that the time had arrived for taking some definite action. When that session closed - and, I think it may be said, in consequence of our action - the speech of the Governor-General thanked the Senate and the House of Representatives for Supply. That was the last session in which Mr. Reid held office. At the opening of the following session, in 1905, when Mr. Reid met Parliament again, the GovernorGeneral's speech contained no reference to Supply. As honorable senators will remember,the speech was historically brief. Consequently, the point at issue did not arise. When the session of 1905 was being closed, the Governor-General's speech again thanked both the Senate and the House of Representatives. But now we come to the present occasion, on which the House of Representatives alone is addressed. I have now put before the Senate the history of the matter. I feel convinced that honorable senators will agree with me as to the view I have expressed, and that we have all expressed, either by speeches in this chamber or by the reso- lution which was agreed to on the occasion I have indicated.

Senator Playford - Does not the honorable senator see that the phraseology used in the Governor-General's speech this year is quite different from any phraseology used before? It says -

The Estimate* of expenditure originating from you.

Senator MILLEN - To whom were those words addressed?

Senator Playford - To the House of Representatives.

Senator MILLEN - Exactly.

Senator Playford - They only describe the face of origination.

Senator MILLEN - Surely the Senate will not be misled by that excuse. Those are the very words of which I am complaining. It is admittedly a fact that they are addressed only to the House of Representatives.

Senator Playford - It' is an absolute fact that is stated.

Senator MILLEN - I admit that. But they ought to have been addressed to the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate ought to have been joined with the House of Representatives in the allusion to the grant of Supply. The paragraph should have been worded -

Gentlemen of the Senate and gentlemen of the House of Representatives, the Estimates of expenditure originating from the House of Representatives will be framed with economy.

We have as much right as has the other place to know how the Estimates will1 be framed. We have as much right to know whether the Estimates will be presented at all, as has the House of Representatives. The mere fact that the Governor-General, in his courtesy, goes out of his way to tell us where the Estimates originate does not matter at all. He tells us what we all knew from the Constitution and from practice. But the matter complained of is that the Governor-General addressed the House of Representatives only, as' though that House is responsible, and responsible alone, for the grant of Supply. I was surprised when Senator Playford interjected in the way he did just now, because if he reads his own speech on the former occasion to which I have referred, he will find a full indorsement of every word I have said, and a full and clear recognition that the grant of Supply is the act of the two Houses'.

Senator Playford - Hear, hear; there is no doubt, about that.

Senator MILLEN - Then the honorable senator need not trifle with the word " originating." His own Government, in closing the last session, thanked both Houses for the grant of Supply. Why thank both Houses if the Government does not think it necessary to ask both Houses for Supply ? The two things go together. The Government should either ask both and thank both, or should ask one and thank one. But the Government of which the honorable senator is a member last session thanked both Houses for Supply, because the granting of Supply is the act of the two Houses. I do not think that the Government can take exception to the way in which I am dealing with this matter. I have not brought it forward in any party interest. If I had desired to do so, it would have been easy for me to propose something bv way of an addition to the Address-in-Reply, reminding His Excellency of the resolution which the Senate has previously passed, and which has been presented to him by address. But I have not. done that because I want honorable senators to deal with the matter absolutely, apart from conflicting interests. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an assurance to the Senate that what has occurred is an accident, and that, so far as the present Government is concerned, he will see that greater attention is devoted to the preparation of- the Governor-General's speeches in the future. If that is done, it will be accepted by the Senate as an assurance, and it will not be necessary as time goes on in the session to ask the Senate to re-affirm the position set out in the resolution to which I have referred. The same remark applies, to the 13th paragraph in the Governor- General's speech. I only just refer to it. for fear it might be said that I had overlooked it. The paragraph to which I allude deals' with the redistribution of electorates, and it is addressed only to the House of Representatives. I recognise that here again the old traditional track has been followed, the assumption being that the lower House only is concerned in the electoral machinery which elects it. But what is applicable to a State Parliament has1 no possible bearing here: because honorable senators must recollect that our Elecoral Act itself expressly provides that these matters have to be referred to the Senate for its approval.

Senator Keating - It is stated in the paragraph referred to that the resolutions will be submitted to Parliament, not merely to one House of the Parliament.

Senator MILLEN - But what I complain of is that those remarks are addressed to one House only. An obligation rests upon the Senate, imposed by the Constitution, that does not rest upon a State Legislative Council. Let me say, also, that the division of a State into electorates is vital to the interests of a State in its entirety.

Senator Keating - I admit that, but in addition to the interest which each House, in common, has, in the redistribution of electorates, the other House has an extra or special interest.

Senator MILLEN - A personal interest.

Senator Keating - More than a personal interest.

Senator MILLEN - I dispute that. I see only the difference of a personal interest between the position of the two Houses. Let me point out how grave a thing it would be under our Constitution if we allowed the idea to grow that only the other Chamber was concerned in the division of a State into electorates for the House of Representatives. It might happen that a scheme of division was extremely convenient to the sitting members of that House, but be disastrous to a State as a whole. I say that it ig here where the interests of a State as a whole are voiced, and are supposed to be protected. It is possible *o conceive of a case where a number of members in the other House, finding the existing subdivision extremely suitable and convenient to themselves, though most unfair to a State as a whole, might desire to continue it. Or put the matter the other way. The other House might adopt a scheme which, being highly injurious to a State as a whole, taking it as an entity, was extremelv suitable to the members themselves. In such a case the Senate would be called upon to exercise the responsibilities cast upon it by the Constitution. For that reason, and because the Electoral Act itself recognises and affirms that the scheme shall be submitted for our approval, I say that we have a clear proof that ihe Governor-General's speech was wrongly drafted when it addressed His Excellency's remarks upon this matter to the House of Representatives only. I say again that what I have remarked in reference" to this matter has not been said out of a desire to criticise the Government, or to find fault with the speech. Mine is criticism which I hope they will accept from me in the way it is intended. The sole object I have in view is to defend the rights and privileges of the Senate. When our Constitution was adopted, it was predicted that a seat in the Senate would come to be regarded as the blue ribbon of Australian politics. But I venture to say that the history of Federation has gone to show that, in public estimation, and in press estimation, the Senate is quite a subordinate factor. It can only take and keep its proper position permanently by those who occupy seats in it being determined to maintain its dignity. I will not say that we should merely maintain its dignity - because that is quite a secondary consideration. But we can only lose our position in reality by showing that we are absolutely incapable of looking after the responsibilities which the Constitution has imposed upon us. lt is for that reason that I earnestly invite honorable senators to recognise the drift of things, and to realize how, little by little, this Chamber is being pushed into a subordinate position ; and I especially invite the co-operation of those who made strenuous efforts to secure equal rights for the States in this Chamber, in order that we may not forego, in substance, what has been obtained in form in the interests of our respective States.

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