Resource Sheet 4

Western Australian Parliamentary Debates

Should the people vote on the Constitution Bill?
Mr Conolly

In this question is involved a constitutional principle… But I should like also to state that, had the people in this colony previously had a reasonable opportunity of expressing their views on federation… they would not have demanded a referendum so warmly or with such vigour. Had the Government of this colony in the first place adopted the proper constitutional course, in allowing the representatives of this colony at the Federal Convention to be selected by the people, probably to-day the people of this colony would not be crying out so loudly… to vote on the question of federation itself.

Mr Wood

There is no power in the world to prevent the Bill going to the people: it is the people’s question, and the people alone are the tribunal which must deal with it… When we anti-federalists and federalists meet on the battle ground of our constituencies, I shall do my best to have the Bill thrown out altogether. I shall influence my constituents, if I can, to vote “no.” At the same time I shall do all I can to have the Bill sent to the people, and let them be the judges.

Hon F. Whitcombe

I consider that, as their representative here, I am called on not to vote or go with one portion of my constituency… I have a right to use my own judgment… I intend to oppose this Bill being sent to the referendum, because I do not think that a safe course. Assuming we are the custodians of the interests of this colony, we are in the same relative position as a parent to a child; and would a child be allowed to approach drugs or medicines which might be harmful, and of which the child does not know the consequential effects? For the same reason I think the people of Western Australia do not yet appreciate the disadvantages of the proposals placed before them, and I will do my best to keep the question from them until they can understand what those disadvantages are.

Adapted from Western Australian Parliamentary Debates, 1899.