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Wednesday, 5 September 1906

Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) . - Two points of extreme importance have been raised by the discussion which has taken place within the last few minutes. The first was raised by Senator Gould, and, I think, previously by Senator Millen, that senators elected at the coming election will be subject to this Bill with reference to the commencement of their term of office as senators, if the Bill be indorsed by the people. I am inclined to think that that contention is wrong. There are three factors to be considered in any alteration of the Constitution. First of all, Parliament must, by an absolute majority in both Houses, agree to pass a Bill for the purpose. Then the people, by an absolute majority in a majority of the States, must agree to the proposed alteration of the Constitution. It will not then, become law, because there is still another factor to be considered - that until the Crown has given its assent to the proposed alteration, it will nots become law. I hope that Ministers will give the point some attention, because it seems to me to be of very great importance. It has been urged by Senator Gould that it might happen that, between the election - which, I think, is complete on the day of election, even though the writs should never be returned - and the time at which senators, under the Constitution, would have become entitled to sit, the Crown might have given its assent to the amendment, and if that were so it is the opinion of the honorable and learned senator that that, if it would not vitiate the election, would at least preevnt the senators elected at that election entering into their office before the 1st of July.

Senator Lt Col Gould - Assuming that the Royal assent was given before the end of the year.

Senator TRENWITH - Just so. That is a nice point, and one well worthy of the consideration of Ministers. If the election takes place, and Parliament meets before the Royal assent is given, I should have no doubt of the legality of the position of the newly-elected senators; but there is a possible doubt presented in the contingency suggested by Senator Gould. The point raised by Senator Millen is also a matter on which there may be some doubt. Any alteration of the Constitution should certainly be effected on the soundest and safest possible lines. I admit that I see some conflict between the latter part of section 7 of the Constitution and the intention of this Bill. We are, I think, indebted to Senator Millen for raising the point, but there should be no difficulty in removing the conflict. I urge Senator Keating to give the difficulty suggested his earnest consideration, and to say whether he is so clear on these points that we can go on, notwithstanding the objections presented, or whether there is raised in his mind such a doubt that he would prefer to have until tomorrow to suggest some way in which the difficulties may be overcome.

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