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Friday, 31 August 1906

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) . - I think that more alteration of the Constitution will be necessitated by this Bill than Senator Higgs imagines. On examination, the arguments against the Bill seem rather to multiply than otherwise. In 1902 we passed an Act relating to the allowance to members of the Federal Parliament, and providing that the pay of senators should date from the day of election. If we pass the Bill as presented to us, there may be two sets of senators, and the allowance to one set, if it dates from the day of election, will mean to the Commonwealth the expenditure of a few thouand pounds. The Act to which I refer provides -

The allowance to each senator under section forty-eight of the Constitution shall be reckoned -

(b)   in the case of a senator chosen to fill a place which is to become vacant in rotation, from the 1st day of January following the day of hiselection.

It is quite clear that if we make the change in the Constitution suggested by the Bill, the Parliamentary Allowance Act will have to be repealed or amended, or it will remain as a more or less fatal objection to the measure. It is contemplated that senators may be elected some months ahead, and, as I have pointed out, that may mean considerable expenditure in the way of allowances. At present, when the elections take place towards the end of the year, the expenditure is very little; but if we pass the Bill there will be a good deal of difference in this respect. Another point is that there will be some difficulty in making the arrangement desired for the time of meeting. At present we avoid holding the session in the hot months ; but, with a general election in the month of March, we should be called upon to meet at ai very undesirable period of the year. I should like to call attention to the fact that, although the other House is nominally elected for three years, the members go for reelection about every two years and nine months. Such an arrangement is almost compulsory, in order to coincide with the arrangements of the Senate. The other House might continue for three years from the time of its first meeting ; and, if it did so, an election could not take place for three years and three months.

Senator Turley - That would mean having the general election at all times of the year.

Senator PULSFORD - It is because of that possibility that it can now be proposed to have the general election in March. But if there be an election in March, 1907, there could be an election in July in. 1910. It would seem, therefore, that there are difficulties in the way of bringing the elections for the two Chambers together automatically. In the past we have been able to have the elections together; but it must not be assumed that that will always be the case ; and I do not see how the position will be improved by the change suggested by the Bill, to which, as I said before, a consideration of the provisions of the Parliamentary Allowance Act of 1902 suggest a difficulty which is more or less fatal.

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