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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [4.25]. - I move: -

That the addressing to the Members of the House of Representatives only of paragraphs 12 and 13 of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral's speech, at the opening of the present session of the Parliament, was in derogation of the position assigned to the Senate in the Commonwealth Constitution.

That as the constitutional status of the Senate has, on more than one previous occasion, been ignored in Vice-Regal speeches delivered to the Parliament, this Senate records its determination to, in future, decline consideration of any such speech containinga similar disregard of the position which this Senate occupies in and under the Commonwealth Constitution.

I submit this motion with an expression of great regret that it should be necessary for the Senate over and over again, by resolution and by deliberate action, to demand a due recognition of the position which it occupies in the Federal Constitution. In the four or five years that have passed, there has been sufficient action on the part of this Chamber of its insistence on its constitutional position being recognised, to have in all reasonableness rendered it needless for me to take the course which I feel it my bounden duty to take this afternoon. I do not wish to arrogate to myself the position of defender of the Senate, but, somehow or other, it has fallen to my lot on previous occasions to take action in this connexion. I do so again to-day in consequence of the remarkable manifestation of - I suppose the least offensive phrase I can use is - ignorance or neglect of the position to which this Chamber is entitled. I refer to paragraphs 12 and 13 of the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General at the opening of Parliament in this Chamber a few days ago. The paragraphs are as follow: -

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives :

12.   The Estimates of Expenditure originating from you will be framed with economy, having due regard to the magnitude of the area and interests under control.

13.   Plans for the redistribution of your electorates throughout the Commonwealth have been prepared by Commissioners appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, and resolutions for the purpose of giving effect to the Commissioners' recommendations will be promptly submitted to Parliament for ratification.

When the question of addressing the House of Representatives only with reference to the Estimates was before this Chamber two years ago, special attention was directed by the present Minister of Defence to the words "your control," which them appeared. As the word " your " has been omitted on the present occasion, while some portion, at least, of the old objectionable paragraph has been retained, it seems clear that now there is no question of oversight or forgetfulness on the part of those responsible for the framing of the paragraph. Clearly they had the previous speech of the Governor-General before them, and on the present occasion omitted the word " your," to which the present Minister of Defence directed attention two years ago. While there has been previous evidence of the ignoring of this Chamber's constitutional position in reference to finance, I think paragraph 13 in the speech is infinitely more objectionable. It is addressed to the House of Representatives wholly and solely, with reference to the representation of the people in that House. There is not the most impalpable basis of an excuse in the Constitution for any person, in framing a speech to be placed in the mouth of His Excellency, to cause him to address solely to the House of Representatives a message or words relating to that matter. Surely the Senate is not absolutely without power and without authority of representation. I think it as well to have at least half-n-doz'en honorable senators in the Chamber when a question of this kind is being discussed'. [Quorum formed.}

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