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Thursday, 27 September 1906

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) . - I listened attentively to Senator Trenwith and it seems to me that, whilst he has argued entirely in favour of the amendment, he does not propose to vote for it.

Senator Trenwith - I am in favour of old-age pensions being provided for in the way proposed, but I am not in favour of limiting the Bill to that purpose.

Senator DRAKE - The honorable senator's speech went to show the dire necessity of at once introducing some system to provide old-age pensions, and yet apparently he is prepared to risk that by refusing to accept the amendment.

Senator Trenwith - I do not object to Senator Drake's amendment.

Senator DRAKE - I am speaking of Senator Millen's amendment to fix the purpose of the measure.

Senator Trenwith - To limit it.

Senator DRAKE - Yes, to the object which Senator Trenwith has in view. The honorable senator should accept the amendment, because it will certainly improve the chance of the Bill becoming law. I cannot understand the honorable senator stating that he is going to oppose the amendment after giving the strongest possible reasons why it should be accepted. If I could bring myself to believe that the principle of having special duties ear-marked for special purposes was a good one, I should say that in amending the Constitution in the way proposed we should make the amendment as wide as possible, so as to take in all special purposes. But I hold the absolutely contrary opinion. I think the principle is a bad one, and that nothing could possibly have commended it to the members of the Committee if this measure had not been put forward as a possible reason for providing old-age pensions. Whilst ] I do not in the slightest degree retract my contention that the Bill 1 is wholly bad, I am prepared to vote for the amendment, because it seems to me that it supplies the only justification which honorable senators have for passing the measure. Whilst I object in toto to the ear-marking of any fund for any sspecial purpose derived in the way proposed, I wish to give the Committee a reason why, if there be any justification for the measure it is to be found in the purpose for which the Bill has admittedly been brought forward. We know that the payment of old-age pensions would be a form of expenditure absolutely fair for the whole Commonwealth, and it would relieve some of the States of expenditure which they are now incurring. It seems to me that we could not have money expended on a more worthy or desirable object, but possibly I could not say the same if the proposal were to spend this money on scene other special purpose. It is not difficult to imagine the introduction of a measure applying special duties of Customs and Excise for a specific purpose which would not commend itself to honorable senators.

Senator Trenwith - Then Parliament would not pass the Bill.

Senator DRAKE - It might not; but, seeing that our Constitution is a contract between the States, we should not leave too many loopholes which would enable Parliament by means of a mere casual majority to pass measures which we would consider unfair to the States. I have raised the question as to the way in which these ques 1 tions are to be submitted to the people. I find in a Bill, which perhaps I should not refer to, the form of the writ to be issued directing a referendum to be taken on any. question. It is laid down that the writ must contain a copy of the proposed law or a statement with regard to it. Who is to be responsible for the issue of the writ? Are we to have a writ issued for the taking of a referendum on this Bill with a statement as to what the object of it is ? If so. I have no doubt that the statement will be that it is intended to raise a fund for old age pensions. That, it seems to me, would, be a most improper course to adopt. I hold that if the purpose of this measure is to provide a fund for old-age pensions we should put that in the Bill. Senator Mil Jen's amendment suggests a clear-cut pro position that if the people would consent to the raising of special duties of Customs under the provisions of the Bill all the. money rraised in that way should be devoted to the payment of old-age pensions and to no other purpose whatever. Honorable senators are agreed that the only justification for the Bill is that it is to provide a fund for old-age pensions. Then why nnot say so? Why lleave a loophole in the future for this pernicious practice of raising special funds for special purposes when we know that the money might be used for a purpose which, at the present time at any rate, the Senate would not approve?

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