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Thursday, 10 July 1930


Senator LAWSON (Victoria)

I do not desire to speak at length on this motion, nor do I wish to justify or explain the vote which I recorded lastnight or the statement I made that the repudiation of this agreement by the Senate would, in my judgment, mean a breach of faith with the Government of Western Australia. I understand that certain honorable senators took exception to what I said, and contended that the argument was plausible, but upon examination appeared to have nothing in it. I ask if any honorable senator is able to quote a precedent where any Parliament has failed to ratify a bona fide agreement made in good faith between two governments. The Government of Western Australia was induced to give this guarantee of financial assistance as set out in the agreement which has beensigned and which forms the schedule to the bill. The agreement has not been impugned on the ground of impropriety, and I cannot recollect an instance where an agreement entered into in this way has failed to obtainthe endorsement of Parliament. The practice of the Parliament is to endorse the actions of its ambassador. There is one startling case - the conditions are not at all comparable; - in which the Senate of the United States of America refused to support its ambassador by ratifying the Treaty of Versailles. I cannot, however, recall any case in which the Prime Minister or the Government of Great Britain has in good faith entered into an agreement with another government, and the British Parliament has not duly ratified that agreement. There may be criticisms and objections and some honorable senators may take a view different from my own; butI personally refuse to take the responsibility of breaking faith with the State of Western Australia in regard to this agreement. At the same time, I should like to say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) that I do not think that such agreements should be entered into and Parliament morally committed before Parliament has had a real opportunity to consider them. The Government of Western Australia should have been informed' that a bill would be submitted asking the Federal Parliament to ratify this agreement, but that the Commonwealth would not be committed until the bill had been passed. If this course is to be followed without reference to Parliament, the Government, whatever government it may be, must not, because of precedent, rely upon the endorsement of Parliament. Greater care should be exercised in entering into agreements of this kind. I do not propose to debate the merits of the matter. Governments should buttress themselves against political pressure and attempts to obtain grants, and should make it impossible for Ministers to be tempted by political pressure to give bribes. I know the way in which such things may develop. I am not suggesting impropriety in this case, but the Government should protect itself against such a position arising and against undue political pressure. That was the aim of my observations last night. They were objected to in certain quarters, and I have taken this opportunity to indicate the grounds on which I based my decision.







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