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Thursday, 27 September 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) . - When Senator Pearce yesterday pointed out that under certain duties on tea and kerosene, Western Australia would have a considerable surplus of something like £30,000, after providing for old-age pensions, he seemed to anticipate this amendment by contending that that revenue would not be subject to section 93 of the Constitution, and would be available for pensions in other States. When the honorable senator was speaking, I asked - " What about the bookkeeping section?" To that Senator Pearce replied that the bookkeeping section would not apply. I think, however, that the point is far from clear. I agree with Senator Playford, that if the proposed amendment conflicts with the Constitution, the amendment, as coming last after an interval of five or six years, must prevail. But it is not a question of contradiction ; it is a question whether the revenue is to be chargeable to the States, subject to one of the fundamental principles of the Constitution. Wise legislators and good draftsmen ought to take care that any addition is not subject to the Constitution, or state that it is not meant tcn be so subject.

Senator Trenwith - If the addition be contradictory of the Constitution, it cannot be subject to the Constitution.

Senator DOBSON - But the addition does not contradict the Constitution; it alters the Constitution by giving an additional power.

Senator Trenwith - The addition cannot be subject to that which it alters.

Senator DOBSON -The addition alters the Constitution by giving power to impose specific .duties, the revenue from which is to be applied to specific purposes. Supposing that in one year there was, under these specific duties, a surplus °f £50,000, would it not lie with the State which had raised the larger sum per capita to claim it, and, if necessary, to enforce its claim in the High Court? This question was raised by Senator Pearce when he made the remarks to which I have already referred. If my honorable friend had said yesterday that all could take a share of it, I would have expected that our hands would have been held up in horror. Why should we propose an amendment which would enable us to take £30,000 of the revenue belonging to Western Australia?

Senator Playford - Does the honorable senator object to the amendment?

Senator DOBSON - I congratulate Senator Drake upon the amendment, and thank him for the clear statement he has made as to the manner in which we should amend the Constitution. I am in favour of the amendment, but in order that it may be made absolutely clear, it is my intention to move the addition of the following proviso -

Provided that any special duties when raised shall not be subject to section 93 of the Constitution.

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