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Thursday, 4 October 1906

Senator DRAKE - There should be some means whereby the Senate could assert its rights.

The PRESIDENT - It was because I wished to enable the Senate to assert its rights that I ruled yesterday that an amendment should be moved. I consider that when a Bill contains a clause which it should not contain, we ought to resent that fact by amending it. If the Senate wish me to reconsider the question, I am willing to do so.

Senator Pearce - I think, sir, that you should.

Senator DRAKE - I feel sure that I am voicing the opinion of the Senate when I say . that I hope you will bring your long constitutional experience to bear again on the point.

The PRESIDENT - I see no other way out of the difficulty than to say that although I think the proper course is to move an amendment, either an amendment or a request, as the Senate thinks fit, may be moved.

My personal opinion is that, this being a Money Bill, we cannot amend it. There is nothing in the Standing Orders relating to Bills which we may not amend, to the effect that in respect to some provisions we may make either a request or an amendment. As no provision is made for the amendment of a Bill such as this, I hold that we may deal with it only by way of request. I take the view that the Bill is very much on the lines of the Excise Tariff Bill of 1902, which related to a number of subjects, including sugar, and provided that sugar should bear an Excise of 3s. per cwt., less a rebate to those employing white labour of 4s. per ton on sugar-cane. If the Government had framed the presentBill in the same form, it would have provided that the Excise duty on stripper-harvesters should be£6 each, less a rebate of £,6 where such harvesters had been made by manufacturers paying certain rates of wages, and employing their men a certain number of hours. I take it that the provision regarding payment and hours of labour are conditions in connexion with the imposition of the Excise, and that if the alteration of these conditions is desired, we must request the House of Representatives to amend them. I submit that ruling for your consideration, sir.

SenatorClemons. - To some of us, it seems that a clear distinction can be drawn between an amendment in the operative part of clause 2, which you have ruled would be out of order, and an amendment in that part of the clause which in no way provides for the imposition of any tax or burden, but merely enumerates conditions. I wished to move the omission of the words " are in accordance with terms which, in the opinion of the Minister, are fairand reasonable," from a provision whichdoes not relate to the rates of duty, but merely to the terms and conditions of labour. Such an amendment ought, I contend, to be well within the powersof the Senate, inasmuch as this proviso has no relation to the imposition of a tax or burden. So far as I am capable of making an analogy or of instituting what I venture to say is a close parallel, I discern no difference between the effect of the clause I now propose to amend and the effect, intent, and purpose of clause 4 of the Customs Tariff Bill, which we are considering in conjunction with this measure, and in which case it was. decided by you, sir, that the correct course was not to request, but to amend.

The PRESIDENT - It seems to me that in dealing with this question we should not consider this Bill merely, but what would be the position of the Senate if a Bill somewhat analogous to this were to be sent up to us in the future. This is a Bill which first of all imposes Excise duties, and allows certain people to get exemption from the payment of those duties under certain conditions. They must get a certificate, and that certificate will depend on the rate of wages. Has the rate of wages necessarily anything to do with the imposition of Customs or Excise duties? Is this' not a. Bill by which under the plea of imposing Excise duties it is sought merely to fix rates of wages? If it is, ought such a Bill to he sent to the Senate underthe provisions of section 55 of the Constitution ? I know there is great difference of opinion on that point. I do not think that these provisions should be in the Bill. Others take a different view, and no doubt there is room for difference of opinion. Suppose this practice is established, and we get another Bill by-and-by. in which Customs or Excise duties are imposed, and there is a. clause, in it proposing the diminution of the remuneration of members of the Senate from£400 to , £100 a year. I do not think that we ought then to request the House of Representatives to strike out such a provision. I think we should have power;to strike it out ourselves. We. ought to say to the House of Representatives, " You have infringed the Constitution, and we resent it, and will strike out the provision which infringes the Constitution." I admit that, under the wording of the Constitution, this being a Bill to impose duties, perhaps my ruling is wrong ; but I do not think it is wrong, according to the spirit of the Constitution, and what I say now is that the Chairman of Committees can put either a request or an amendment in reference to this part of the Bill. I point out that that is not my ruling; it is the ruling of the Senate. I gave a ruling last night, and the Senate adopted it, and, having adopted it, it has become the ruling of the Senate.

Senator Clemons - Might I respectfully ask to which ruling you refer?

The PRESIDENT - The ruling I gave last night that an amendment could be moved in that part of the Customs Tariff Bill which, in my opinion, had no reference tothe imposition of taxation. That has become the ruling of the Senate. I think the Chairman is not justified in refusing to take the amendment.

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