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Thursday, 2 September 1999
Page: 9807


Mr ANDREN —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact the government has committed some $7 million to the yes and no campaigns for the republic referendum but not a cent to educate the public about the proposed preamble? Given there are significant concerns about the preamble, should not resources be available to argue both the yes and no cases, otherwise isn't there a huge risk the preamble question will be regarded as insignificant and little more than a deliberate diversion from the republic question?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The answer to the first part of the question is yes, we have. The answer to the second part of the question is that the government has to date not decided to allocate resources to publicise the case. One of the factors taken into account—one of them—was that the proposition in the ultimate received overwhelming support in the parliament. In the interests of always ensuring that the electorate is fully informed on these matters, I will give thought to the suggestion that is inherent in the honourable gentleman's question. But I would enter a caveat to that response by saying that if the level of disagreement within the parliament is a measure of community view on this issue and also on the issue of a republic, then there is a difference. And, with no disrespect to the honourable gentleman—who, of course, voted against the preamble resolution—my recollection is that it ended up being passed with a very heavy majority in this place.


Mr Melham —That is not right at all. It was in the caucus.


Mr HOWARD —The caucus is not this place, I am relieved to note. Let me put it another way in terms that even the member for Banks can understand. It is my understanding that the federal parliamentary Labor Party is not going to oppose the preamble. Is that right?


Mr Melham —That is right.


Mr HOWARD —That is right. So, if the federal parliamentary Labor Party is not going to oppose it and the government is going to support it, I think that is different from the stance taken in relation to the issue of the republic. I will give consideration to what the honourable gentleman said, but I do have to make the point to him that, for the reasons I have outlined, there are some differences. I want the preamble carried because I think it will very effectively express the views of the Australian people on a wide number of issues. I am very keen that it be carried, but I am equally conscious that public money is public money and that none of us should capriciously commit resources to these matters without being satisfied that the expenditure is entirely justified.