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§ 116. “Increasing or Diminishing.”

The Federal Parliament, like the Canadian Parliament, is authorized to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives, but in both cases there is a constitutional limit to the exercise of that power. The Federal Parliament cannot increase the representatives to any number beyond that as “nearly as practicable twice the number of the senators” for the time being. When the senators for each State are increased by Federal legislation, then the number of members of the House of Representatives must be correspondingly raised to a number “as nearly as practicable twice the number of the senators.”

The provision for equal representation of all the Original States in the Senate makes it impossible to increase the senators for one Original State without a similar increase for all the others. It follows that any alteration made by increasing the number of senators for each Original State must increase the whole number of senators by a number which is some multiple of the number of Original States; and the corresponding increase in the House of Representatives will be twice that number. Except therefore by admitting or establishing new States, the House of Representatives can only be enlarged by a number which is some multiple of twice the number of States. For instance, the number of Original States being six, the number of members of the House of Representatives can—except as stated—only be increased by twelve, or twenty-four, or thirty-six, or some other multiple of twelve.




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Duration of House of Representatives.

28. Every House of Representatives shall continue for three years117 from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved118 by the Governor-General.

CANADA.—Every House of Commons shall continue for five years from the day of the return of the Writs for choosing the House (subject to be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General) and no longer.—B.N.A. Act, 1867, sec. 50.

HISTORICAL NOTE.—In the Constitutions of the Australian colonies, the duration of the Legislative Assembly has sometimes been computed from the day of the return of the writs, and sometimes from the day of the first meeting. By the Constitution Acts of New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, and New Zealand, the duration of the Legislative Assemblies of those colonies was formerly five years from the day of the return of the writs; but by amending Acts in each of those colonies the duration is now reduced to three years from the day of the return of the writs. (See Triennial Parliaments Act, 1874 [N S.W.], 37 Vic. No. 7; Constitution Amendment Act, 1890 [Q.], 54 Vic. No. 3; Constitution Amendment Act, 1890 [Tas.], 54 Vic. No. 58; Triennial Parliament Act, 1879 [N.Z.].) In Western Australia, under sec. 14 of the Constitution Act of that colony, the duration of the Legislative Assembly is four years from the day of the return of the writs. In Victoria, under sec. 19 of the Constitution Act of that colony, the duration of the Legislative Assembly was formerly five years from the return of the writs; but in 1859, by the Victorian Act 22 Vic. c. 89, sec. 2 (now re-enacted in the Constitution Amendment Act, 1890, sec. 127), the duration was limited to three years from the day of the first meeting. In South Australia, under the Constitution Act of that colony, the duration of the House of Assembly is three years from the day on which the House “shall first meet for the despatch of business.”

In the Sydney Convention of 1891, the clause as first drawn followed the practice in vogue in a majority of the colonies by providing for a duration of three years “from the day appointed for the return of the writs for choosing the House.” In Committee, Sir John Bray pointed out that in some of the colonies the writs were made returnable on different days, and as long as the elections were governed by the Electoral laws of the States there would be confusion. Sir Samuel Griffith urged that the practice in some of the colonies was erroneous, and that in England the writs were invariably returnable on the same day. After debate, the clause was amended, on Sir John Bray's motion, to make the duration date from “the day appointed for the first meeting of the House.” (Conv. Deb., Syd. [1891], p. 643–52.)

At the Adelaide session, 1897, the clause as introduced provided for a duration of “four” years from the date appointed for the first meeting of the House. In Committee, on Sir. Geo. Turner's motion, this was altered to “three” years. (Conv. Deb., Adel., p. 1031.) At the Sydney session, a suggestion by the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia, to make the term four years, was negatived. (Conv. Deb., Syd., 1897, p. 463.) At the Melbourne session, the clause was verbally amended after the fourth report.

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