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C. The House of Representatives.

The Constitution contains throughout elements which suggest unity, and elements which suggest union merely. Writers on the Constitution of the United States, which presents the same phenomena, speak of these respectively as the national and federal elements in the Constitution. Using the terms in this sense, we have seen that the Senate is the Federal Chamber; and we now come to the House of Representatives, which is regarded as the National Chamber. As the name “Commonwealth” has been objected to on account of its Republican associations, so the title “House of Representatives” has been criticised as too American. It is not, however, altogether new in Australian Constitutions. Earl Grey's Act of 1850, giving Constitutions to all the Australian Colonies, empowered them to substitute for their single-chambered legislature “a Council and House of Representatives.” None of them adopted the name House of Representatives; but in New Zealand the General Assembly does consist of a Council and House of Representatives. There were sufficiently good reasons for not following the Dominion of Canada in establishing a “House of Commons”; you cannot translate the thing or its traditions, and without these the name in Canada or Australia is meaningless or misleading. If we look to history, we see that it is the Senate rather than the House of Representatives which recalls the communitas communitatum—the assembly of the organized political communities. It is indeed a signal merit that in the Senate the constituency is such an organized body, and not a mere electoral district formed ad hoc. If we look to practical politics we shall hardly find that the Lower House can successfully maintain the same supremacy which the House of Commons claims in England and Canada.

The national character of the House, the federal character


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of the Senate, are intended to be emphasized by the different terms used in respect to their constitution. The Senators are directly chosen by the people of the States (sec. 7); the House is composed of members “directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth” (sec. 24). But even in the case of the House the State is for many incidental purposes an electoral unit.

The number of members of the House is regulated by provisions which have reference to two matters—the distribution of seats, and the relation of the House to the Senate.

By Section 24 the number of members chosen in the several States is in proportion to the respective numbers of their people; and until the Parliament otherwise provides, is determined whenever necessary as follows:

1. A quota is ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators.

2. The number of members to be chosen is determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State. But five members at least shall be chosen from each Original State. By a provision suggested by the Fourteenth Amendment (sec. 2) to the United States Constitution, if the law of a State excludes the people of any race from the franchise, such race is not to be reckoned in computing the population of the State (sec. 25).

The distribution of seats among the States is thus subject to change. The total number of seats in the House, however, bears a fixed relation to the number in the Senate—the number of members is as nearly as practicable twice the number of the Senators (sec. 24). This provision has more than one reason. In the first place it was inserted with a view to measuring the strength of the House on a joint sitting should that ever be necessary;


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and in the end the scheme for avoiding deadlocks does involve such a joint sitting. In the second place it serves to maintain the tradition of the Lower House as “the more numerous House,” and at the same time it maintains the relative proportions of the Houses which without it might be upset by the increase of members of the House of Representatives which may become advisable by the increase of population. It will be remembered that the Parliament may increase or diminish the number of senators, but cannot diminish the representation of Original States below the present number—six (sec. 7).

The representation to which each State was entitled in 1900 was ascertained during the passage of the Bill through the Imperial Parliament, and section 26 provides for the number of members to be returned from each State at the first election as follows:

           
New South Wales, . . . . . .  26 
Victoria, . . . . . . . .  23 
Queensland, . . . . . . . 
South Australia, . . . . . . 
Western Australia, . . . . . . 
Tasmania, . . . . . . . . 

“Subject to this Constitution,” the Parliament may make laws for increasing or diminishing the numbers of the members of the House (sec. 27)—i.e. so that it does not alter the proportion of members to Senators, and does not bring the number of members returned from an original State below five. By section 128 no alteration of the Constitution altering the proportionate representation or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.

In respect to the constitution of electoral divisions there are three possibilities. The Commonwealth Parliament may provide; in default of any provision, the State Parliament “may make laws for determining the divisions in each State for which members may be chosen, and the number of members to be chosen for each division,” but a division is


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not to be formednote out of parts of different states. In the absence of provision by Commonwealth or State each state is to be one electorate (sec. 29). Under the powers of this section and sec. iv. of the Act, four of the States passed laws dealing with this subject; but at the first general election South Australia and Tasmania voted as single electorates.note

Any provision corresponding with that referring to the Senate under which the House may proceed to business, notwithstanding the failure of a State to provide for its representation, is of course unnecessary in relation to a national chamber; and it has been thought unnecessary to provide directly for the failure of electoral divisions to return members. By sec. 39, until the Parliament otherwise provides, the presence of one-third of the whole number of the members of the House is necessary to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers. In respect to its duration, the House is assimilated to the popular House in all British colonies. It is liable to dissolution by the head of the Government—the Governor-General—and if not dissolved it expires three years after its first meetingnote (sec. 28). (Three years is the term assigned to the Lower House in all the Australian Colonies, except Western Australia, where it is four years.) The House has thus no permanent existence, and it is made of course more sensitive to public opinion than the Senate by the fact that a general election sends all the members to their constituents at the same time.

The Governor-General may cause writs to be issued for general elections, and after the first general election writs shall be issued within ten days from the expiry of the House, or the proclamation of a dissolution (sec. 32). Casual


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vacancies are filled by election on the writ of the Speaker, or, in his absence, of the Governor-General (sec. 33). Until the Parliament otherwise provides, but subject to the Constitution, the laws in force in the States respectively regulating the conduct of State elections for the “more numerous House” are to govern the conduct of elections for the House of Representatives (sec. 31). A member may resign his seat (sec. 37); and his seat becomes vacant if for two consecutive months of any session, without leave, he fails to attend the House (sec. 38).

The House, before proceeding to the despatch of business and as often as occasion arises, must choose a member to be Speaker. The Speaker ceases to hold his office (a) if he ceases to be a member, or (b) if he be removed by a vote of the House, or (c) if he resign his office or his seat (sec. 35).

Questions arising in the House of Representatives are determined by a majority of votes, and the Speaker has no ordinary vote, but has a casting vote where the numbers are equal (sec. 40).

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