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Thursday, 27 September 1906

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) . - It is very undesirable that we. should make an alteration of the Constitution by an amendment of the text. It should not be made, as proposed, by striking out words and inserting others, and adding words, but by an additional provision which would exactly express the intention. If that plan were adopted, it would leave the text of the Constitution unimpaired, and that would be exceedingly useful for historical purposes. Every one would then know exactly what it was originally. If, however, it be amended from time to time in the undesirable way I have indicated, I presume that the printer would be instructed to reprint the Constitution with the alteration. It would become very confusing after a time, and extremely difficult to ascertain when alterations were made. The time will come, I think, when, as in the United States, the Constitution will be printed and used as a manual in the State schools. We should follow the example of that country, so that the young people may always have the Constitution as it was agreed to by the people, and the various amendments set out separately, with' the dates upon which they . were made. Otherwise our children and their children would feel a certain amount of contempt for the

Constitution tinkerers who came along after its founders. The Bill proposes to amend section 87 by striking out words and inserting others, and by adding words. Suppose that those alterations be made, the Constitution must be looked at, I suppose, from that time as though it had been originally printed in that way. The alterations are to be made with a view to provide forthe imposition of special duties of Customs, but section 89, sub-section 1, says -

The Commonwealth shall credit to each State the revenues collected therein by the Commonwealth.

The revenue to be collected from special duties of Customs would have to go to the credit of the State, because, I presume, that as it comes later in the Constitution, section 89 would override section 87 as amended. Then there is section 93. I have not carefully gone through the whole of the Constitution to see how it would be affected by the proposed alterations. There may be other slips of a similar nature. The better plan, in my judgment, would be to frame a new section of the Constitution, embodying the whole purpose intended. The course which I suggest seems to me to be preferable to that pursuedby the Government, because it avoids altering the text of the Constitution, and makes the issues to be submitted to the referendum of the people much simpler. Under the Bill I presume that the question submitted to the electors would be, "Are you in favour of the Bill to alter the Commonwealth Constitution with respect to the appropriation of special duties of Customs and Excise?" That question would have to be answered " Yes" or " No." The candidates at the elections will presumably have the duty of endeavouring to explain intricate constitutional amendments, in addition to discussing political issues of a broader character. Indeed, under the proposal of the Government, if the candidates satisfactorily expound all the amendments to be submitted to the electors they will not be able to talk much about what Parliament has done in the past, or what it is to do in the future. If the proposed amendment of the Constitution is submitted in the form of that Bill, most of the electors will be mystified as to what it is all about. If, however, the proposal is put before them in a clear and definite shape, they will be able to vote "Yes" or "No" upon it without difficulty. I therefore move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - ia. The Constitution is amended by the addition of the following section : - The Parliament of the Commonwealth may for a special purpose impose duties of Customs or Excise upon goods of a description not liable to Customs or Excise duties on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seven, and may expend for such special purpose the whole of the amount so raised.' "

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