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Wednesday, 10 November 1976
Page: 2582

Mr FALCONER (Casey) - I believe that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is a reasonable man. Therefore, I will make an attempt to convince him by reason that the action of the Senate late last year in refusing the Budget was appropriate and a proper use of the Senate's powers. Let me quote some constitutional experts with whom, of course, the honourable member would agree. I refer to Mr E. G. Whitlam, Q.C. Let me quote his own words. The Leader of the Opposition at some stage in the past said in this House:

Let me make it clear at the outset that our opposition to this Budget is no mere formality. We intend to press our opposition by all available means on all related measures in both Houses. If the motion is defeated we will vote against the Bills here and in the Senate. Our purpose is to destroy this Budget and to destroy the Government which has sponsored it.

Surely that was not the present Leader of the Opposition speaking! It was indeed. The date was 25 August 1970 when this House was debating the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1 970-7 1 .

Mr Martyr - He was younger then.

Mr Falconer - He was younger then and seemed to know his constitutional law at that stage. He would have tried to force a double dissolution if he had been able to obtain concurrence in his proposed action from the Australian Democratic Labor Party. There is no doubt that he sought to obtain that DLP concurrence. Let me give Mr Whitlam another 'fair go' to state his view. On 12 June 1970 Mr Whitlam said:

The Labor Party believes that the crisis which would be caused by such a rejection should lead to a long term solution. Any government which is defeated by the Parliament on a major taxation Bill should resign.

Those are his words. Let us give him a third chance. I quote his words again. On 1 October 1970 he said:

We all know that in British parliaments the tradition is that if a money Bill is defeated, as the receipts duties legislation was defeated last June, the Government goes to the people to seek their endorsement of its policies.

Let us turn now to another constitutional expert. I refer to a former Attorney-General in the previous Government, Senator Lionel Murphy, who is now Mr Justice Murphy. As reported in Hansard, he said on 18 June 1970:

The Opposition will oppose these measures. In doing this, the Opposition is pursuing a tradition which is well established, but in view of some doubt recently cast on it in this chamber, perhaps I should restate the position.

He continued:

The Senate is entitled and expected to exercise resolutely but with discretion its powers to refuse its concurrence to any financial measure, including a tax Bill. There are no limitations on the Senate in the use of its constitutional powers, excepting the limitations imposed by discretion and reason.

He went on to say:

The Australian Labor Party has acted consistently in accordance with the tradition that we will oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill or other financial measure wherever necessary to carry out our principles and policies.

Is it not amazing that in those days honourable members opposite, including the present Leader of the Opposition, saw with such clarity the constitutional principles involved? It was only late last year that some new light suddenly shone in their consciousness and they were able to recognise some other principle. We on this side of the House can only assume that the difference was that in 1970 they were in Opposition and were trying to defeat the then Liberal-Country Party Government. When they were in government they were prepared to use whatever means and whatever tactics were available to them to stay in power, including putting pressure on the private banks to provide funds, which was suggested at one stage. We look with interest at the record and the record shows that honourable members opposite have supported the principle that the Senate has the power to refuse Supply and that if it does that an election should follow.

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