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very important measure. Having passed through this six-fold ordeal,
ordeal, “THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA CONSTITUTION Act," as it is called, passed through the Imperial Parliament in June of this year, and received Her Majesty's signature on the 9th July, 1900.
The preamble of this Act is impressively worded :“Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the constitution hereby established :
“And whereas it is expedient to provide for the admission into the Commonwealth of other Australasian colonies and possessions of the Queen. Be it therefore enacted," etc., etc.
The terminology of the body of this Act is more after the model of the American Union than that of the Canadian Act. Each colony is called a “ State," and the “Original States” are those which shall have united before the proclamation of the Commonwealth.
As Western Australia voted in July for Federation, in the last stage, namely, on the referendun or plébiscite, that colony, its Agent-General informs me, will be regarded as an “Original State."
Clause 5 informs us that, “This Act, and all the laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, shall be binding on the courts, judges, and people of every State, and every part of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding anything in the laws of any State; and they shall be in force on all British ships, except those of the Navy, whose ports of first clearance and of destination are in the Commonwealth” (abridged).
The Federal Parliament shall consist of the Queen,
acting through her representative, the Governor-General of Australia, a Senate, and a House of Representatives. Here we notice the American style of designation.
The Senate, or Upper House, is elected directly by the people, six being chosen for each Original State by the whole body of electors voting as one electorate.
The Senate of the Commonwealth is thus differentiated from that of the United States, where senators are selected by the Legislature of each State; and from the Upper House of the Canadian Dominion where the senators are nominated by the Governor-General. There is no property qualification for a Senator, as in the Dominion. For both Senator and Representative the qualifications are merely those of an ordinary elector in each State, namely, adult age, three years' residence in the Commonwealth, and being a natural-born or naturalized subject of the Queen. A Senator's term of office is six years. The Senate is a permanent body, only dissoluble in the event defined by Clause 57, of a prolonged disagreement with the Lower House, causing a block of legislation.
This Senate elects its own “President," whereas, in Canada, the Speaker of the Senate is appointed by the Governor-General, and in the United States the VicePresident of the Republic is, ex-officio, the President of the Senate.
The Lower House of the Commonwealth, called “House of Representatives,” is to be elected by the people on the lowest franchise existing in each State, and its term is tò be three years. The principle of “one elector, one vote"
. is adopted. Clause 41, to protect the right of women to vote which now exists in South Australia and in New Zealand, provides that no adult person who has acquired a right to vote for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State, shall be prevented by any law of
the Commonwealth from voting for either House of the Commonwealth Parliament. Each Senator and Representative will receive £400 per
The first Senate of the Commonwealth will have thirty-six members, and the first House of Representatives, seventy-five. To the Lower House, New South Wales will send twenty-six members; Victoria, twenty-three; Queensland, nine; South Australia, seven; Tasmania and Western Australia each five. The number of Representatives chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people, but aboriginal natives, and persons of any race disqualified by any State law from voting, shall not be counted. This provision has distinct reference, I believe, to the Chinese and Japanese. It is expressly declared that the number of Representatives shall be twice the number of Senators, in order that the preponderance of voting power may be given to the Lower House in the case of a Joint Sitting, while the Senate is still to be sufficiently large not to be regarded as a mere Council. As to legislative power, the Senate's duty is revision rather than initiation. Laws appropriating revenue, 'or imposing taxation, shall originate in the Lower House, and, in the former case, only if the purpose of the appropriation has been recommended by message of the Governor-General. The Senate is debarred from even amending proposals of taxation or of money votes for the ordinary annual services of the Government, nor may it amend any proposed law so as to increase any charge or burden on the people.
The Federal Capital is to be situated in a special district of 100 square miles (like Washington, the U. S. Metropolis, in the District of Columbia) within the State of New South Wales, and distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney.
The Executive Government of the Commonwealth is vested in a Governor-General and a Federal Executive Council chosen by him, from which he will choose seven Ministers of State. The Governor-General, who will receive £10,000 a year, will be Commander-in-Chief of all the naval and military forces of the Commonwealth, and will have a large amount of personal patronage at his disposal, for in him will be vested “the appointment and removal of all (other) officers of the Executive Government until the Parliament otherwise provides.” The first to occupy this high and very responsible office is a nobleman who won the good opinion of the colony of Victoria as Governor, namely, the Earl of Hopetoun, K.T., G.C.M.G., whose selection by the Queen has been received with enthusiasm by the Australians. He will make Sydney his temporary residence. Great éclat will be given to the new Commonwealth Parliament, by the permission given by the Queen, just announced, that her grandson, the Duke of York will open it in Her Majesty's name. He will be accompanied by the Duchess of York, and it is expected that the royal pair will visit most of the Australasian colonies, New Zealand included, and perhaps return home across Canada.
Her Majesty's message, with its finely-worded appreciation of Colonial loyalty, has sent a thrill of joy throughout Australasia. I quote a few lines :
Although the Queen naturally shrinks from parting with her grandson for so long a period, Her Majesty fully recognises the greatness of the occasion which will bring her colonies of Australasia into federal union, and desires to give this special proof of her interest in all that concerns the welfare of her Australasian subjects. Her Majesty at the same time wishes to signify her sense of the loyalty and devotion which have prompted the spontaneous aid so liberally offered by all the Colonies in the South African war, and of the splendid gallantry of her Colonial troops.
After his arrival at the temporary seat of Government, the first duty of the Governor-General will be to fix a date or dates upon which the posts, telegraphs, telephones, lighthouses, quarantine, and defence forces of each of the six colonies shall become transferred to the Commonwealth; but the departments of customs and excise in each state shall immediately pass to the Commonwealth.
A boon to travellers and commercial men who have felt the great inconvenience of baggage examination and duties levied on the borders or seaports of every separate colony will be the promise in the Act that, within two years from its establishment, the Commonwealth will impose uniform customs and duties throughout Australia, so that there will be absolutely free trade and commerce within the limits of the Commonwealth, whether by land or sea.
After five years of uniform duties, the Commonwealth will pay out to the several States, on a fair basis, its surplus revenue. But clause eighty-seven, “Braddon's blot,” so-called by some, inserted to protect the weaker protectionist States, hampers this provision by ordaining that “during the first ten years, the Commonwealth Government shall not expend annually more than onefourth of its net revenue from customs and excise, the balance being returned to the States, or applied towards payment of interest on colonial debts taken over by the Commonwealth." No doubt this heavy liability will have to be met by special taxation, for by clause 105, Parliament may take over from the States their public debts, and may convert, renew, or consolidate them, or any part thereof, being safe-guarded by an indemnity from each State, and strict provision for the regular payment of interest. So that our holders of Colonial bonds need not feel at all apprehensive.
To each federated State are left its lands, mines,