Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 5 September 1906

Senator HENDERSON (Western Australia) . - I had no intention of speaking to the Bill until Senator Gould so very forcibly emphazised the considerations that were paramount in the minds of those whom we regard to-day as our Constitution builders. The honorable senator has emphasized the view that the members of the Federal Convention contemplated that the elections of senators and members of the ot'her House would always be concurrent. I differ entirely from that view. I recognise that a very large percentage of the members of the Convention were old and practised politicians.

Senator Walker - With the exception of one who had never been in Parliament.

Senator HENDERSON - Probably there may have got in, unthinkingly, one or two who had never been in Parliament, but generally the members of the Convention were 'men who knew every point that experience in politics could teach them, and they fully recognised that there could be no possibility of the elections for the House where Governments would be made and unmade being always concurrent with the elections for a House like the Senate. It is by the merest providential turn of the political wheel that for the third time in a period of six years there is a possibility of such elections taking place concurrently. But, during the next six years we may have several elections in connexion with the other House. The question which concerns a very large section of the people is the advisability of having the elections for the Senate in such seasons of the year as would render it possible for the greatest number of electors to conveniently vote. This Bill has been introduced at a very opportune time inasmuch as we all recognize the enormous amount of work which is necessarily incidental to the submission of a proposal for an alteration of the Constitution. If this attempt be put off, either a delay of three years must elapse, or a considerable sum must be expended in order to ascertain whether the people of the Commonwealth are in favour of the proposal. The measure is in perfect harmony with the spirit oft the Constitution. If the people feel that they are labouring under a grievance which can be redressed by an alteration of the Constitution, they are practically invited to make known their desire. Surely, we do not fear that the people would commit such an error1 as to alter the Constitution when they have no such desire, and see no reason or necessity for taking that step. I take it that the convenience of the people in exercising their franchise should be the paramount consideration. If they feel that the convenience they now possess is sufficient to serve them in time of need, I venture to say that they will vote at the referendum against the introduction of an amendment in the Constitution. But if, on the other hand, large sections of the people find, and still larger sections recognise, that there are disabilities which can only be overcome by an alteration of the Constitution, then I feel satisfied that the vote at the referendum will be a plain indication to the Parliament of the opinion of the electors generally. I see no reason why any strenuous opposition should be offered to the measure. It is merely a proposal to ask the people who are our masters whether the inconvenience which has, been voiced by a very large section of the electors is sufficiently great to justify an alteration of the Constitution. For these reasons I intend to support the second reading of the Bill.

Suggest corrections