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Thursday, 21 June 1906

Debate resumed.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South mit, in as brief a speech as I could, all the facts in connexion with this matter, but it will be more convenient, perhaps, if I assume that honorable senators will look up Hansard, if they so desire, and learn for themselves what has taken place. There have been at least two motions submitted here taking exception to the omission of all recognition of the Senate in Vice-Regal speeches. One of the motions was carried and the other was withdrawn on a promise that the thing should never occur again. There have been several resolutions passed here in connexion with Supply Bills, insisting upon a due recognition of the status of the Senate. I shall, therefore, merely refer to what took place on the 2nd March. 1904. On that occasion, there occurred these paragraphs in the Governor-General's Speech, and the extreme similarity of one of them to the first of the two paragraphs to which I take exception, in the recent Speech, is sufficiently remarkable to be worth notice. On the 2nd March, 1904, the Speech contained these two paragraphs -

13.   The revenue derived from Customs and Excise has been equal to anticipations. As the incidence of duties under the Tariff contemplates the substitution of Australian for imported goods, no considerable expansion of such receipts under normal conditions is to be expected.

14.   The Estimates of Expenditure will be framed with economy, having regard to the magnitude and importance of interests under your control.

Senator Playford - That is an old stock phrase which we have been using for generations.

Senator Col NEILD - In the recent Speech we find this paragraph -

13.   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.

Senator Playford - " Originating from you " is true, is it not ?

Senator Col NEILD - My honorable friend actually proves my case by his interjection. He says that it is the same old thing. On the 14th April, 1904, the Senate resolved, on my motion -

That an address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General praying His Excellency that on all occasions when opening or proroguing Parliament, due recognition shall be made of the constitutional fact that the providing of revenue and the grant of Supply is the joint act of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and not of the House of Representatives alone.

On that occasion the Minister of Defence said -

I can assure the Senate that the same thing will not occur again.

Senator Playford - I have explained the whole thing. I have asked the Senate to pardon me. I do not think that the honorable senator need rub it in any more.

Senator Col NEILD - My honorable friend knows that I am not saying one word which has a tinge of unkindliness towards him. But I do think that we have to go somewhat further in this matter than merely rely upon the memory of a most genial companion and' most popular member of the Chamber, who, unfortunately, has shown either that he was away from the Cabinet meeting when the last Speech was put together, or that he clean forgot the matter. I am absolutely certain that he did not commit any breach of faith. I believe that had he remembered the matter he would have seen that what has happened should not take place. I am also satisfied that there must be some one in the service of the Government who is concerned in the preparation of these speeches, because there must be some one who deliberately does these things.

Senator Playford - They follow the usual formula without thinking. It is an old formula.

Senator Col NEILD - I have here the statement of Senator Downer -

It is a direct and intentional attack upon our rights.

Senator Symonsaid

Under the Constitution we are entitled to be consulted as to making the grant.

And with reference to a Supply Bill, Senator Playford said -

The House of Representatives have added words in which they claim precedence over the Senate.

My honorable friend was then in line with me in the motion that I carried for an instruction to the Committee. It was acted upon unanimously, and we sent back the Supply Bill a second time, until it was put in the form which acknowledged our status. The Minister said just now that this is only an old formula, but the very mischief is the introduction of the old formula here - the putting of old wine into new bottles. We have a new Constitution, and we are having Speech after Speech presented here, and, strangely enough, they all come from the same source of inspiration. There have been two other Ministries besides those of Sir Edmund Barton and Mr. Deakin, but these things have only occurred under their regime. They did not occur with the Watson Government or the Reid-McLean Government.

Senator Playford - The Watson Government never had a speech to prepare.

Senator Col NEILD - I am sure that if they had they would not have committed this error.

Senator Playford - The Reid Government had no show; they only brought in a surprise speech.

Senator Millen - In their prorogation speech the paragraph is in order.

SenatorPlayford. - That had been altered before they took office. We had agreed to the form, and that makes all the difference.

Senator Col NEILD - I suppose that there will be no opposition to the carrying of the first part of my motion. There may be some objection to carrying the second part -

This Senate records its determination to, in future, decline consideration of any such speech containing a similar disregard of the position which this Senate occupies in and under the Commonwealth Constitution.

That, I admit, is rather a strong phrase. It is no use to keep a house-dog merely to bark ; if he has no teeth, get rid of him and buy a fresh one. If is of no use for the Senate to pass resolution after resolution with reference to the non-acknowledgment of its status, and to be satisfied with an empty demonstration of words. I think it is necessary for the Senate to be prepared to bite as well as bark. My motion certainly will do no one any harm, if it is carried. The framers of the GovernorGeneral's speech in the future have merely to avoid that which we have over and over again affirmed to be objectionable, in order to give the dbg no chance of biting. I hope that the motion will be carried as it stands, as a declaration of what our future intentions are, because, if, time after time, we are to pass resolutions asserting our rights, and do nothing to enforce them, the assertion is but as " sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." We accomplish nothing whatever by protesting over and over again if we have not the manhood to see the thing through.

Senator Playford - We have not protested over and over again. The one protest related to His Excellency's speech in proroguing Parliament. That has been attended to. On this point action has been taken once before. This may be said to be the secondtime. It was merely because of forgetfulness on my part, and because of the time that had elapsed, that the thing occurred again.

Senator Col NEILD - We are working under a new Constitution, and if the constitutional status of this Chamber is to be constantly ignored, it can only result in our failing to receive that respect to which the Senate is undoubtedly entitled. The Senate should insist upon its position being fully recognised by the other Chamber, and by whatever Minister may be in charge.

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