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Wednesday, 3 May 1939


Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has said that the action taken in Great Britain eight years ago has made this bill necessary to-day. If this measure could wait for eight years, it could surely wait for a. few more months. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and I support his amendment. The Minister promised that the question of the adoption of the Statute of Westminster would receive early consideration. Possibly he has some justification for making that assertion, but he did not say that the Government would take early action regarding it. Does the Government intend to take early action ? I remember very vividly a speech on this particular matter made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he was Attorney-General, in which he expressed his personal opposition to the adoption of the Statute of Westminster by this Parliament. I am beginning to think that the so-called Loyalist or some other monthly journal bearing that kind of name, which is circulated free to every member of this Parliament, and, I suppose, to every member of every other British parliament, indicating that substantial funds are behind it, is having its effect. That journal not only opposes the adoption of the Statute of Westminster by Australia, but also claims that such action would be rank disloyalty for Australia and would practically amount to dismemberment of the Empire. Evidently it is making some impression on this Government. I am inclined to think that the attitude of honorable members opposite towards the amendment indicates that they are almost frightened of their Australianism, and that wherever possible they are content to allow Australia to be pushed backwards. If it is necessary to give British troops who should visit Australia carte blanche to do anything on Australian soil, I. remind honorable members opposite that the British Army Act still provides for the death penalty, whilst no Australian act contains such a provision. It cannot be denied that that act is one of the most brutal pieces of legislation that can be found in the archives of the world. The adoption of this legislation will allow the application of the death penalty in Australia, unless some safeguard be provided as would probably be achieved if we first adopted the Statute of Westminster. If it were possible I should like to see an amendment along these lines inserted in every piece of legislation brought down by this Government. Possibly in that way we might awaken some Australian sentiment in honorable gentlemen opposite who think more of travelling overseas and spending their time in Great Britain than of doing their work in Australia. If we could do that and make them, realize that they are elected to this Parliament in order to do an Australian job, we should probably have the Statute of Westminster adopted without delay.For these reasons I' support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), whom I congratulate on his tenacity in endeavouring for years to get this Parliament to adopt that statute. For that work he should be commended, not only by members of this Parliament, but also by every one with any Australian sentiment in his breast. I am not satisfied with the mere statementby the Minister that the Government will give early consideration to the adoption of the statute. That assurance is thrown to us as a. sop; it is of no use to me; I want something more. We on this side of the chamber want the Government to take action in this matter. I urge the committee to realize the necessity for adopting the amendment, and I hope that when the vote is taken on it honorable members opposite will be sufficiently Australian to east a vote in the interests of their own country, rather than worry about the interests of any other country.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Brennan's amendment) be so added.







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