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NOTES FROM THE FEDERAL CONVENTION.

THE DEADLOCK QUESTION.

[From a Corp.es i-omjext 1

Since the despatch of my letter to you last week the position as to Federation has altered materially and for the best. Up to the time of writing then there was a dull as ditch-water flavor about everything connected with the Convention, which led to the conviction that if the delegates themselves had so little interest in the subject for which they were met-it was not to be expected that the general public would supply the deficiency. J’cople would smile superiorly when you mentioned Federation and remark ; “ Ah ! my dear boy ; dead as Julius Caesar. And really they appeared to he right. But the last week has changed all that. We have had a fight, and when there is a 6ght, be it only between two dogs, public interest will always be e igaged. EQUAL REPRESENTATION IX THE EEXATE. . When my last letter closed the Convention had practically settled the fact that the Senate was to represent the States in equal proportions, and that the House of Representatives shou ! d le supreme as to money matters i e , should have the power alone to introduce taxation and appropriation Bills, though the Senate might suggest amendments or, if necessary, throw out a Bid in tola It is very clear, then, that though the popular or Lower House was to be top dog, so 10 speak, in a way, the smaller States, by virtue of the fact that they would have the numerical majority in the Sena e, would finally be able to upset anything done by the big majority of the larger States in the Lower House. Under "the Bill, as it erme from Adelaide, this position was to be final, but the Legislatures of. the larger States made a great song about it, especially that in New South Wales. Consequently they set about devising schemes for THE PREVENTION OP DEADLOCKS, in which the referendum played a prominent part. Herein, then, lay the makings of a nice complication, and a trouble which at one time appeared to be likely to wreck the whole, work of the Convention. It brought the large and ■ the smaller States into' line in deadly earnest in a way which had not happened-previously in Sydney. The representatives of the larger States knew that it was essential to Feder.tion that there should be equality of representation in the Senate, and they conceded it with a good grace. Equally well, the men from the small .States knew that they had to give the House of . Representatives the ohi6f financial control. And

they gave it, (hough not without a murmur But this deadlock business was a different matter. The smaller States’ delegates almost tea man regarded it as an attempt to neutralise the equality of representation' given to them in the Senate, and they fought it step by step, while the delegates from ITew South Wales and Victoria, looking upon the attitude of the others as indie iting a desire to take the control for the smaller. States, got really at times. Certainly the debates which, took place upon the subject gave an entirely different tone to the whole gathering, and they at times reached a degree of brilliancy which was not observable previously, either in Adelaide or Sydney*

THB HERO OP THI3 GREAT FIGHT was Mr Symon, Q. 0., of who jumped to the very highest position in .the Convention, and shared with Messrs Battohand.Reid the honor of being a foremost and powerful debater. He led the forces of the smaller colonies, and quite overshadowed his own presumptive leader, Mr Kingston, who, for intellectual grasp and force, was not in the running with him. The whole subject became such a complicated tangle at onetime that it was difficult even,for. the delegates themselves to knpw just how they stood, and, as a matter of fact, so mixed up did they get that it was thought best to adjourn for a time. As the ultimate decision arrived at, however, is 1

ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE IN CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERIMENTS,

it may be worth while to try and unpick the -knot. The New South Wales Assembly wanted the mass referendum —that is, a referendum on a population basis, irrespective of State boundaries -to be applied in the event of a deadlock. The effect of this, of course, would be to give to the large_ States the final settlement of any dispute. Sir George Turner came el eng with an alternative proposition of a double dissolution of both Houses, and if that did not result in a solution of difficulties that there should be a referendum But he made the stipulation that there must be two majorities—a .total majority of the whole voters, together with a majority of the people in a majority of States. This was described as the dual referendum. Mr Reid opposed this scheme, and proposed a further adaptation of the referendum principle, to be applied to what are termed national, as distinct from State, issues. The difficulty about this was that it would necessitate the specification in the Commonwealth Bill of what were national and State questions. The prospect of complications involved in such a scheme frightened off many delegates.

TUB FIRST MODIFICATION

was brought about by Mr Symon, who, while agreeing to tho dissolution of both tho Senate and House of Representatives, moved that they should not take place concurrently, but that the House of Representatives should first go to the country, and it after the election the two Houses

should still disagree the Senate should be dissolved. This was carried, but afterwards the Victorian and New South Wales delegates, believing that this showed a combination of the smaller colonics against them, became verynasty, and practically threatened the Bill as a whole if it were not altered. The chief ground of objection to this scheme was that it meant practically the pena ising of members of the House of Representatives by sending them to the country when it might be that the Senate was to blame. Eventually, the amendment was

over-ridden, and the principle of A DISSOLUTION OP BOTH HOUSES CONCUR- _ RENTLY was adopted. This cleared the way to an extent, but only in so far as it left it open for all the variations of the referendum to be discussed at leng hj, together with alternative propositions to the effect that the Norwegian system of both Houses sitting together should decide disputed questions, or modifications of the same. Then came the tangle. Dual referehdums, mass referendnms, national referendums, the Norwegian system, and a few other fads rolled together on the floor of the Chamber in inextricable confusion, and it became a must difficult matter to sort them out. There was evidently at a very early stage of the discussion a considerable majority against THE MASS REPEBESDUM, though this was supported by Messrs Reid, Barton, and others a’s the only possible means of arriving at a definite conclusion outside the two Hous s themselves. But to the delegates from the smaller States it was equally clear that if it wore adopted they would in the end be but appanages of New South Wales and Victoria, and they voted it down with great heartiness Sir George Turner’s dual relerendum fared no better, and before long it became evident that the Conservative element was so far in the ascendant as to "jareclude any hope of the referendum being adopted in any shape. This proved to be the case, and the only alternative remaining was that the matter should be left to the double dissolution of the two Houses and the common sense of their members, or that the Norwegian system or a modification of it should be adopted. THE NORWEGIAN SYSTEM pure and simple meant practically the same as the mass referendum, for, in the event of a bare majority of the two Chambers, sitting together, being given the power to decide questipns, the larger would win every time. It then became a question of mathematical calculation as to what majority of the two Houses sitting together would be a fair thing for both sides, and ultimately three-fitths was stiuck as a happy medium. Then it came down eventually to the adoption of

A -DOUBLE AND 'CONCURRENT DISSOLUTION of both Houses in the event of a deadlock, and if subsequent ly to the dissolution there is no agreement the matter will bo left to a threefifths majority of the two Houses, sitting together, to decide

HOW IT WILL WORK. It is interesting to look into the probable effects of this scheme, should it unfortunately happen that no other solution is praofcicab’e thau an appeal to the arbitrament proposed. The whole thing is, of course, a matter of figures,' and to a great extent the position of the large or small States will depend upon whether Queensland enters the Federation, The estimated population of tho six colonies, based On recent developments, for the coming few years is most essenm• , a . consideration of the subject. An official estimate gives it as follows;

End of End of End of New South Wales... 1,343.450 iJIbfiOO 3,087, Victoria 1,191,150 1,263,310 1,907,340 &\ nS i am l' r - f 6 - 590 677,890 1,665 540 South Australia 6 .. 36b,060 331,140 538,280 WesternAustraha... 164,730 220.690 749140 Tasmania 169,970 182,070 291,710

Total ... .... 3,731.950 4,118,620 8,242,160 With Queensland in the Federation at the outset, the larger colonies of New Si-uth Wales and Victoria would have 26 and 23 members in the Lower House respectively, together with their 12 Senators, making a total of 61. The other four colonies in their order of population would have 10, 7, 5, and 5 respectively in the Lower House, or a total of 27, and 24 ia the Senate, or a grand total of 51 In 1900 Victoria would have one less representative in the House of Representatives, but the larger States would still constitute a majority of both Houses. In 1921 the representation of New South Wa'es in the Lower House would have increased to 27, and that of Victoria decreased to 17, making a total of 44, or with their joint Senators £6 In the same period Queensland’s representatives would have risen to 15 and Western Australia’s to 7, the other colonies having the same as before. It will be seen, therefore, that in 1921 the smaller colonies would have 32 members in the Lower House and 24 m the Senate, or a grand total of 56. The representations of the two sets of colonies would thus be exactly equal at this time. These figures are based on the assumption that Queensland will come into 'the Federation, as now appears probable. Should it not do so the proportion of representation of the larger States in tho Hoiise of representation at the outset would bejt7, as against 17, and this proportion would not have varied very appreciably in 1921. It will thus be seen how very greatly the position of the smaller colonies is affected by

THE ATTITUDE OF QUEENSLAND, she joins they will form a respectable minority of the two Houses, and may poislbly be_ able to hold their own should trouble At present the signs are more favorable than they have been for a long time. Sir Horace Ti zer was supposed to be the stumblin'* block, as it was believed that he declined to join on account of a personal sifront offered to himself a year or two back by Mr Keid, during a tour with some of our Labor party in South Australia, That was said to have incensed Queensland politicians against our Premier, who was the Leader of the Federation movement, and there is no doubt it had a great deal to do with the matter. But Sir Samuel Griffith has been mediating, and as a result of his efforts the Acting-Premier of the northern colony has so far modified hia viewa as to agree to bring in a Bill to allow delegates from that colony to be elected direct by the people. It may bo remembered that the Labor party and some other politicians opposed the previous Federal Enabling Bill which was introduced because it ' provided only for the election of delegates by the A-sembly, and, complications following, the whole matter was allowed to drop. But it is expected that a Bill to permit of popular representation will bo carried, and the presence Q aeensla ?d delegates at. the final sittings of the Convention will exercise a marked effect on the whole movement. For instance, in New South "Wales many people were very averse to joining the Federation without Queensland, as in its absence New South Wales would be the northernmost colony cf the group, and the capital would probably bo in oue of the southern colonies. But for the coming in of Queensland at the last moment, the Convention would probably have finished its work this session. As it is, though, the position is probably better than it would have been in every way. The financial question will be fully discussed in the interim between now and January, and one or two other disputed questions more thoroughly considered. The whole movement has undoubtedly received

A CONSIDERABLE IMPETUS by the later debates of the Convention. For instance, at the earlier sittings the attendance of the public was very bare, but latterly it was almost impossible to obtain tickets of admission. Tht subject has come forward again' as one of general interest, and the man in the street gives his opinion upon the question of deadlocks and referendum with wonderful assurance. In fact, people are beginning now to get some grip of the subj ;ct.

A HEALTHY ODTLOOK. I venture to predict that, notwithstanding the opposition of our local politicians, who are asainst Federation because they know that for the most part they will be nobodies if it is brought about, the vote of the people, to be taken next year, will bo iu favor of the adoption of the Commonwealth Bill. Sydney, September 24, 1897.

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Bibliographic details

NOTES FROM THE FEDERAL CONVENTION., Issue 10441, 9 October 1897, Supplement

Word Count
2,337

NOTES FROM THE FEDERAL CONVENTION. Issue 10441, 9 October 1897, Supplement

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