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Wednesday, 26 September 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - A little while ago we listened to a speech which, if it had been made by a member of the other branch of the Legislature, would have caused thirty-five members of the Senate to rise in protest. Until I heard that speech, I should have said that thirty-six members would have protested against such sentiments; but I have come to the conclusion that there is one member of the Senate who has absolutely failed to grasp the fundamental fact that this is not a subordinate Chamber under the Constitution. The statement that this Chamber is less representative than the other branch of the Legislature appears to me to show that

Senator Best,if he will allow me te say so, has not yet studied with profit the Constitution under which the Senate moves and has its being. To say that he himself is less representative of the electors of Victoria than a member of the House oF Representatives, who has been elected by a very small percentage of the electors, is, I think, to ignore a very important fact. That Senator Best may represent the electors less efficiently is another matter; but I do claim that any one who understands the purpose for which this Chamber was called into being, and the basis on which it rests, must dissent from the views expressed by Senator Best. I also object to the view which Senator Best Has put forward, that because the States Premiers have arrived at a certain conclusion, or are alleged to have done so, the suggestion may, therefore, be made that we are to be merely a recording Chamber.

Senator Styles - I do not think that Senator Best said that.

Senator Best - Of course not, and Senator Millen knows it.

Senator MILLEN - Did Senator Best not affirm that this Chamber is less representative than the other Chamber.

Senator Best - The honorable senator knows what I said, and what I meant - that, irrespective of population, six of us represent each State

Senator MILLEN - Senator Best said that the Senate is less representative than the other Chamber. The honorable senator said that this Bill had passed the other place; and what was the good of telling us that unless to impress on us that, therefore, we need not deal with it so carefully. And he went on to say that the Senate is less representative than the other Chamber. I absolutely deny that statement; and I go further, and say that if there is a matter in which the Senate is called on to exercise its special functions, it is one which affects the States finances. I claim, both for myself individually, and for the Chamber as a whole, that when we deal with States finances, the Senate is called upon to exercise particular vigilance in seeing that the interests, not merely of particular States, but of the Federation as a whole, are conserved. Another argument of the honorable senator, if I may so term the statement he made, was that this Bill merely sent the question on to the people. Such an argument seems to me to be a shirking of the responsibility which rests on' this branch of the Legislature. Is every proposal which anybody likes to make to be sent on, and, if not. where are we to draw the line ? The line must be drawn by every one of us. Unless we are convinced that a proposal is for the good of the people, and that there is an overwhelming majority of public opinion in its favour, it is not dur duty to put the country to the trouble and expense of a referendum. Senator Best had something to say on the interesting subject of allies; and he spoke somewhat despairingly of an alliance with honorable senators on this side. Let me inspire the honorable senator- with a little hope, and, in doing so, I shall make only one brief reference to quite modern history.. Not long ago, when the honorable senator sat in alliance with myself, when a proposal to tax kerosene was made, he decided with me that it was an imposition which would fall unfairly on the poor of the community, and he voted to keep it free. I am not now discussing the question of whether it is right or wrong, but I want to assure my honorable friend that he need not despair that in the whirligig of politics he will find himself once more in alliance with those who have, so far, upon this point, been absolutely consistent. The honorable senator informed the Senate that he believes, with a great many of those who have criticised the Bill adversely, that old-age pensions should be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue. Believing that, and in order to give effect to his belief, he proposes to vote for a Bill which will insure that oldage pensions, which he thinks ought .to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue, shall be paid out of the special fund proposed to be collected under this Bill.

Senator Best - Hear, hear; for three or four years, when I assume there will be a re-adjustment.

Senator MILLEN - Could there be anything more illogical ? For an honorable senator to say that he believes old-age pensions should be paid from one fund, and then to vote that they shall be paid from another, is as near a flat contradiction as anything I have ever heard.

Senator McGregor - This Bill does not provide for two funds.

Senator MILLEN - No, it provides for one, and the other is already in existence.

Senator McGregor - This money will go into the Consolidated Revenue.

Senator MILLEN - Senator McGregorknows perfectly well that it will not, or he ought to know it. The Bill provides that the revenue raised under it shall be treated as a special fund to be devoted to special purposes only. I quote the words of the measure itself, " To be imposed expressly for specific purposes." The purpose must be specified, and, therefore, the money raised under this Bill, if il should ever become law, will be kept apart as sacredly-

Senator Playford - It will go into the Consolidated Revenue.

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