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Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1731


Senator MURPHY (4.39 p.m.) —I wonder why Senator Kemp's motion has been moved at all. It seems to be without foundation. With regard to this country's constitution, I think it is important to note—


Senator Knowles —Why don't you just read the constitution into Hansard for 10 minutes?


Senator MURPHY —It might be good for me to read the constitution to Senator Knowles, because it is obvious that she does not understand it and has never read it. The beginning of the constitution says:

  The Australian Constitution is contained in an Act of the British Parliament. This is because the British Parliament was the only body in 1900 which could make laws for the whole of Australia; the parliaments of the various colonies, as they then were, made laws only for their particular colonies.

  Senator O'Chee interjecting


Senator MURPHY —Maybe Senator O'Chee would like to tell us a bit about bellboys and prostitutes. He knows all about them and also knows how friendly they are. Why does he not tell us about that?

  I do not disagree with the comments made by Senator Kemp in this debate that the constitution and the flag have served this country very well. If we look at how the constitution was initially formed, we see that a referendum was held in 1888. The various states voted on the draft proposal for the constitution for this country. In March 1900, the delegates drafting the constitution went to Great Britain to negotiate with the British government the final make-up of the constitution.

  It is very important that we as a nation consider what we have been doing. Our constitution has been amended on eight occasions, and we will continue to amend it. This will not be the first time it has been changed and it will not be last. Those opposite want to know what the Labor Party's alternative is. We at least have sought to promote thinking in the community that will lead to our maturing further as a nation. We believe that that is the responsibility of a forward thinking government. I say to the few people in the gallery, who are obviously very bored with this debate, that this is a question—


Senator Ferguson —Well, sit down then!


Senator Burns —He is talking about your mates!


Senator MURPHY —That is exactly right. I think it would be very interesting to take account of how many people have actually read Australia's constitution. I took the opportunity to talk to some 45 high school students participating in junior parliament which is run by the Parliamentary Education Office. I asked how many of them had ever read or partly read the constitution of this country. Not one had read it. Not even the teacher had read it. I asked how many of them had seen a copy of it. Not one.


Senator Ferguson —Had you read it when you were their age?


Senator MURPHY —Yes, I had. I had not entirely read it at that age, but I certainly had seen it. I think it is only proper that we encourage people in this country to read it, understand it and understand its history. I am no expert on it. Honourable senators opposite are right. A lot of its history I do not understand. But at least I admit it. I do not make out that I do and I do not try to be something that I am not.


Senator O'Chee —Paul can't.


Senator MURPHY —Listen bellboy Bill, keep going with the bellboys. That is the best thing you have done all week.

  This country will continue to develop. It is a changing country. The constitution has been changed to meet the needs of a maturing nation and will continue to be changed. I think as a country, we need to look at the needs and aspirations of the young people of this country and we need to meet those changing needs that we will see develop in time. Some senators opposite seem to want to live in the Stone Age. We started off with Adam and Eve and then moved on to the Stone Age and a few other ages. Of course, we do not still use the horse and plough to plough fields. We have progressed somewhat. Unlike Senator Kemp, I am not going to stand in this parliament and say that I will never change anything.


Senator Kemp —I did not say that.


Senator MURPHY —That is exactly what Senator Kemp said. He will not stand for change. If he were back in the days—


Senator O'Chee —Mr Acting Deputy President, I take a point of order. I have been very tolerant but I am tired of people putting words into my mouth. I did not say that I was opposed to change.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McGauran)—What is your point of order?


Senator O'Chee —If the honourable senator is going to quote me, would he kindly get the quote correct?


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. It is a personal explanation.


Senator MURPHY —I do not particularly want to continue with this debate much further, other than to say that on this side of the chamber we do support change. We support encouraging the people out there to discuss what will be in the best interests of this nation in the future. We will not be locked into the rubbish and the nonsense being espoused by the opposition with regard to the constitution and the flag of this country. We will continue to encourage people to participate in debate about these matters. Hopefully, our nation will one day become a republic. I think that will ultimately lead to the maturation of this nation.

  With regard to the nonsensical notion Senator Kemp has put up, the Prime Minister has every right to express a point of view—no different from the right of any senator who comes in here to express a point of view. Honourable senators opposite seem to think that they are the repository of all wisdom with regard to constitutional matters, the flag and anything else. I am sorry, but that is not what the Australian public think. They do want to participate in debate and they will vote for change ultimately.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I call Senator O'Chee.


Senator O'Chee —I have a point of order first, Mr Acting Deputy President. Pursuant to standing order 195, I ask that the question be read.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I am advised that there is no question before the chair. Did you mean the matter of public importance itself?


Senator O'Chee —Yes.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Would you like to go a little more in depth on that point of order?


Senator O'Chee —Yes. On the point of order: the other side of the chamber seems to be under a misapprehension as to what the topic of debate is. Quite clearly, there is a debate in progress. For the elucidation of the chamber I would like this matter to be read before I proceed to the debate.


Senator Chris Evans —Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator O'Chee will have the time available to him as the next speaker to debate the issue. That is clearly what he is seeking to do. He will be able to extend the time he has available to do that. I suggest that there is no point of order and that he ought to debate the question in his allotted time.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I am again advised that there is no question before the chair, Senator O'Chee. Perhaps you could raise the matter in your speech.