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Petition Disallowed Committee's Report

Minority Request

LONDON, May 24.

West Australia's secession peti- tion has been disallowed. The joint  

Parliamentary Select Committee, in its report, says:

"West Australia's secession peti- tion is not proper to be received by Parliament, as the prayer asks for legislative action which, in the committee's opinion, it is con- stitutionally incompetent for the United Kingdom Parliament to take, except upon a definite re- quest from the Commonwealth conveying the clearly-expressed wish of the Australian people as a whole; also because the petition is presented by the Government of West Australia, which, as a State, is not concerned with the subject matter of the proposed legislation."

Tho committee states that although it was appointed to report on whether the petition was propor to be received by the Imperial Parliament, it inter- preted that duty as going beyond mere investigation of the petition's formal   correctness, or its genuineness in regard to signatures of those who signed for or on behalf ot the people ot West Aus-

tralia or their authority so to sign.

The committee does not consider its duty was limited to reporting merely on the propriety of the form of the peti- tion for the purpose of its reception by the Imperial Parliament. There ls no question as to the undoubted and an- cient right of the United Kingdom Par- liament to receive whatever petitions it thinks flt, or the historic right of subjects of the Crown to present peti- tions to Parliament, but these rights, like the abstract right of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for the whole Empire, are only exercised in relation to the affairs ot the Dominions in ac- cordance with certain long-established and clearly-understood constitutional principles to which the Imperial Parlia- ment more recently has given its for- mal and statutory approval in the Stat- ute of Westminster. It is in the light of these principles that the committee conceives it to be its duty to report for the information of the United Kingdom Parliament as to whether its opinion was that the petition is one which it would be proper for Parliament to re- ceive. That is the full extent ot the committee's responsibility.

lt is only by legislation in the Parlia- ment ot the United Kingdom that the dissolution of the Commonwealth or secession of any of its constituent parts can be effected. It is, however, a well established convention of constitutional practice governing the relations be- tween the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the other Parliaments of the Empire that interference in the affairs of a Dominion or self-governing Stale or Colony should take place only at the request of such a Dominion, State or Colony, speaking with a voice which represents it as a whole, and not merely at the request of a minority.

West Australia, in joining the Com- monwealth, surrendered all the powers previously enjoyed by it as a self governing Colony, which under the Commonwealth Constitution Act of 1900 were vested in the Commonwealth, and that, since coming into operation that Act has continued to exist as a political entity in respect only of the powers which remain vested in the States.


Tho Prime Minister of Australia (Mr. J. A. Lyons), commenting on the Com- mittee's report, says:-"I am pleased, of course, with the substance and unanim- ity of the report, not because I have any desire to suppress discussion of West Australia's special problems, but be- cause I feel strongly that any such dis- cussion should take place in the proper forum-namely, the Commonwealth Parliament, or before any commission, such as the Grants Commission, estab lished for that purpose. The Commit- tee's report recognises and acts upon the view of Dominion status, which is in line with that commonly entertained in the Dominions, and marks out the re- spective jurisdictions of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Parliaments of the Dominions in such a way as to avoid future embarrassment to any of them. It is notably a contribution to modern understanding of the constitu- tional future of the British Empire."


The secession delegation, in a joint statement, says:-"The report will occasion the greatest widespread dis- appointment, and, we fear, much re- sentment, in West Australia. Its adop- tion by the Imperial Parliament might be fraught with grave consequences. The delegates prefer not to discuss the report until after it has given it the closest consideration over the week-




PERTH (W.A.), May 24.

"This is not the end of the matter as far as West Australia is concerned," said the Premier (Mr. Collier) to-night.

"There will have to be a change of mind and attitude on the part of the Federal Parliament towards the smaller States, and serious consideration will have to be given to the making of amendments to the Constitution. I feel certain that the people of West Australia will fight on until they re- ceive a measure of justice from the Federal Parliament. The position as it exists to-day, and has existed for years past, is intolerable to the people of that State, and unless great changes are made, Federation, as we know it to- day, will not last another 10 years."