§ 248. “The Senate may not Amend.”

The second paragraph of sec. 53 takes from the Senate absolutely the power to amend tax bills and annual appropriation bills, whilst the third paragraph restricts its power to amend other appropriation bills. The financial disabilities of the Senate may be thus classified and reviewed seriatim:—

  • (1.) The Senate cannot amend proposed laws imposing taxation:
  • (2.) The Senate cannot amend the ordinary annual appropriation bill:
  • (3.) The Senate cannot amend any bill so as to increase proposed charges or burdens on the people.

PROPOSED LAWS IMPOSING TAXATION.—We have had occasion, in our notes on the first paragraph of this section, to discuss the requirement that a proposed law imposing taxation shall not originate in the Senate. It is manifest that a “proposed law” is a bill, in course of passing through Parliament. The next point to consider is the meaning of the expression, “imposing taxation.” May a bill providing for the raising of taxation contain auxiliary provision for the enforcement and collection of the tax? Mr. Barton expressed the view that, as a tax could not be collected without subsidiary provisions, a bill imposing taxation could embody, not merely the bare imposition of the charge, but all the machinery clauses, referring to matter, manner, measure, and enforcement, essential to make the law effectual and completely operative. This opinion is supported by the following passage in Cooley's Principles of Constitutional Law, p. 64:—“The power to tax includes the power to make use of all customary and usual means to enforce payment. But legislation must prescribe these means and give full directions for their employment, and it is essential to the validity of the proceedings that a statute in all essential particulars shall be followed.” The authorities cited in support of this proposition are Stead v. Course, 4 Cranch, 403; Williams v. Peyton, 4 Wheat. 77; Parker v. Overman, 18 How. 137.

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The question of construction involved is one of substance, seeing that if a law imposing taxation can include all the details and incidental matters necessary to constitute a complete and workable scheme to raise revenue, those details and matters are then placed beyond the power of the Senate to amend. It would seem that this practice is recognized in the United Kingdom. According to May, the Lords may not amend bills which they receive from the Commons dealing with aids and supplies, so as to alter, whether by increase or reduction, the amount of a rate or charge—its duration, mode of assessment, levy, collection, appropriation, or management; or the persons who pay, receive, manage, or control it; or the limits within which it is leviable. (May's Parl. Prac. 10th ed. p. 542.) It is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint in such bills the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to be changed or altered by the House of Lords. (Id.)

LAWS NOT DEEMED TO IMPOSE TAXATION.—By the first paragraph of sec. 53, a proposed law is not to be taken to impose taxation by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition of fines or other pecuniary penalties or for the demand or payment of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed laws.

ORDINARY ANNUAL APPROPRIATION BILLS.—The Senate is precluded from amending proposed laws appropriating revenue or money for the ordinary annual services of the Government. Public expenditure may be divided into and considered under three separate headings:—

  • (1.) The costs and expenses of maintaining the ordinary annual services;
  • (2.) Fixed charges on permanent appropriations:
  • (3.) Extraordinary charges and appropriations.

(1.) Ordinary Annual Expenses.—The ordinary annual services include the various public departments manned and equipped to carry on the general work of the Government departments, such as customs and excise, posts and telegraphs, light-houses, light-ships, and quarantine, naval and military defence, the money to pay for which is voted by Parliament from year to year. At the beginning of each session a message from the Crown, especially addressed to the House having the initiation of money bills, demands the annual grant of aids and supplies for the services of the year, intimating that the estimates will, in due course, be laid before the House, specifying the amount required with full particulars and items of expenditure. During the session, estimates are laid before the House, showing all the details of expenditure, for which provision is required. The Crown is responsible for the preparation of these estimates, which are presented through its Ministers.

“The ordinary sessional estimates are presented in three parts or divisions, comprising the three branches of the public services—the army, the navy, and civil services; and each estimate contains first a statement of the total grant thereby demanded, and then a statement of the detailed expenditure thereof, divided into sub-heads and items. These estimates should embody the total amount of the expenditure which is required for each financial year; and accordingly, by way of example, when an increase over the demands made by the annual estimates for the army and navy was requisite, revised or additional estimates were presented, specifying the amounts ultimately found necessary for those services.” May's Parl. Prac. 10th ed. p. 517.)

“Besides the ordinary sessional estimates for the service of the current year, to meet the requirements of the Executive Government, estimates for grants on account, for supplementary grants, and for excess grants, are presented each session, and occasionally an application is made for a vote of credit to cover extraordinary naval or military charges, or for such other object of exceptional expenditure as may have arisen during the session.” (Id.)

“Owing to our financial system, and the conditions of Parliamentary business, the presentation of estimates for grants in advance upon the estimated departmental expenditure of the year, before a complete sanction has been given to that expenditure, is an annual necessity. These grants are known as “votes on account.” (Id. 518.)

“According to established usage, demands for grants on account are restricted to such services as have received the sanction of Parliament, though an exception is

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occasionally made to this rule in favour of trifling, or non-contentious new services.” (Id. 519.)

“Until a grant of supply has been appropriated by statute to the service and object for which the grant is destined, the treasury, unless otherwise authorized, is not capable of making an issue of the sum so granted from the Consolidated Fund. The introduction of the appropriation Bill cannot, however, take place until all the grants have been voted for the service of the current year—a process usually ranging over the period of six months. A more prompt issue must therefore be made of the money granted from time to time for the current service of the Crown. Accordingly, from time to time bills are passed during each session, known as the Consolidated Fund Bills, which empower the treasury to issue out of the Consolidated Fund, for the service of the departments for whose use the grants are voted, such sums as they may require, in anticipation of the statutory sanction conferred by the Appropriation Act.” (Id. 526.)

(2) Permanent Appropriations.—The fixed charges are those items of the national expenditure which are provided for by permanent appropriations. In the Government of the Commonwealth these permanent appropriations may be made, partly by the Constitution, and partly by Acts of the Federal Parliament. The constitutional appropriations already made are the salary of the Governor-General (sec. 3); allowances to members of the Federal Parliament (sec. 48); and salaries of the Queen's Ministers of State (sec. 66). There is no constitutional limit to the authority of the Federal Parliament to make permanent appropriations. It seems, however, to be assumed that the money necessary to pay for the ordinary annual services of the Government will be voted from year to year. Certain charges which customarily belong to and are included in the annual Appropriation Act could, no doubt, be removed from that Act and placed in special Appropriation Acts. The costs and expenses of the defence department could be made the subject of special appropriation. The policy of special appropriation, in matters which legitimately belong to the ordinary annual services, is justly regarded with disfavour. The Constitution of the United States (Art 1, sec. 8, subs. 12) provides that no appropriation of money for military purposes shall be for a longer term than two years. There is no such limitation in the appropriating power of the Federal Parliament, but it is not likely that the policy of special appropriations will be largely favoured, because it removes expenditure from the annual supervision and control of Parliament.

(3.) Extra ordinary Expenses.—Extraordinary charges, which do not come within the meaning of ordinary annual services, are appropriations of revenue or loan money for the construction of public works and buildings, and for the application of revenue or loan money to public purposes of a special character. As examples of these exceptional grants May mentions the following:—Cost of an Imperial undertaking which forms no part of the current services of the year, such as the £20,000,000 granted to facilitate the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies; loans to foreign countries, and to Ireland; or the grant for the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. Demands also for pecuniary aid are made by a message from the Sovereign, bearing the sign-manual; the object of the messages being usually to obtain a grant for the maintenance of the dignity and well-being of the Crown, or for the reward of men who have rendered distinguished service to the Empire. (May's Parl. Prac. 10th ed. p. 524.)

From the above enumeration and discussion of the various kinds of appropriations it will be seen that the Senate is denied the power to amend only one of the three kinds of bills appropriating revenue or money. It is true that annual appropriation bills constitute by far the largest and most important of all appropriation bills, embracing, as they do, the expenditure necessary for the maintenance of the ordinary administrative departments of the Commonwealth. Whilst the Senate, however, could not amend an ordinary annual appropriation bill, it could with unquestionable constitutionality amend a public works bill, a railway construction bill, a harbour improvement bill, a bill relating to the salary of the Governor-General, a bill relating to the salaries of ministers of state, a bill relating to the allowances of the members of the Federal Parliament, a bill appropriating fines or other pecuniary penalties, a bill for appropriating fees for licences or fees for services under a proposed law. This power of amending appropriations must be read in conjunction with the limitation prescribed by paragraph iii. of the section.

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