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Thursday, 27 September 1906

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . -DoIunderstandthattheMinister proposes to accept Senator Drake's amendment?

Senator Playford - Yes.

Senator CLEMONS - With great respect, I think that, instead of offering a mild rebuke to Senator Drake for not having his amendment printed, the Minister . ought to have expressed his gratitude to that honorable senator for pointing out a mistake for which the Government are responsible. Senator Drake, in a way that demands the admiration of the Committee, has pointed out that the Government, in proposing an alteration of the Constitution, have made a great error ; and I am sorry that Senator Playford did not receive the amendment in a spirit more in harmony with his usual acceptance ofl suggestions which are made with the intention to improve any Bill he may introduce. I am not quite sure, however, that the amendment will entirely obviate the difficulty which has been suggested. Unless some alteration is made in section 93 of the Constitution, it may be found that the amendment and that section do not harmonize.

Senator Playford - Whether they harmonize or not is a matter of no importance, because, as the latest expressed will of the Legislature, the amendment must prevail over any section of the Constitution which conflicts with it.

Senator CLEMONS - In using the words the " latest expressed will of the Legislature," is the Minister not confusing two ideas ? Has the honorable gentleman not in his mind the fact that the latest provision, even in a Constitution, is always held, as a matter of interpretation, to override any provision which precedes it, and with which it may be in conflict?

Senator Playford - The amendment here will represent the latest provision passed by the Legislature and by the people.

Senator CLEMONS - I doubt whether Senator Playford is right in applying the word " latest " under the circumstances. Where is it proposed to insert the new clause? The Constitution will be read as a whole, as if made at one time.

Senator Playford - The proposed new clause will be inserted as the last in the Constitution.

Senator CLEMONS - That may be; and, if so, there is something in the Minister's contention. But no indication has been given as to where the amendment will be inserted; and it is extremely doubtful if the fact that it is latest in date will give it the overriding effect that the Minister intends and believes it will have. In my opinion, it is almost a matter of public ' reproach that this Bill should have come to us in such an incomplete form. We are in great danger in undertaking so serious a task, if we are not perfectly certain that the amendments we insert will have the effect intended. It is not in accordance with his position as leader of the Senate, for Senator Playford to pay this matter such slight attention. It would be better to devote five minutes, or even an hour, longer to' the proper carrying out of our intention, than to have slip-shod legislation. I have great doubt whether, with the proposed amendment inserted, the conflict between, it and section 93, is not one. which ought to be avoided. I have done my duty by pointing out the difficulty, because, after all, the responsibility is largely with the leader of the Senate, though, of course, no honorable senator should shirk his share of that responsibility. I doubt whether the amendment, admirable as it is. goes so far as it ought to go.

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