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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr FROST (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) (Minister for Repatriation) - Does not the honorable member realize that we are at war?

Sir FREDERICK STEWART - Yes, and we are fighting for freedom, something of which the Government's action is an abrogation. Of course, we know that the reason for the Government's action is to ensure the continuity of contributions to its funds for party purposes. It is amazing that a government which is prepared to depend on Voluntary contributions for financing the war effort should not be prepared to admit the same principle in the case of contributions to party funds.

I was glad to note in the Treasurer's speech a reference to the proposal of the Government to introduce measures for constitutional reform. I welcome the suggestion. In this respect I am out of step with some of my colleagues, who have criticized the proposal on the ground that it' is inopportune. I do not share that view. For many years I have believed that there is no need for seven separate governments in. Australia. That was my opinion as a private citizen. It was confirmed when 1 became a member of this Parliament, and was further strengthened as the result of my experience as a Minister of the Crown. However, I hope that the Government will lift the issue above party politics. I know that the fears expressed by some honorable mem-' bers on this side of the House rested on the feeling that the Government's proposals savoured of party politics. For my part, I believe that the issue is too great to be the plaything of party politics, ft, is nearly half a century since thefederal convention framed the Constitution. Important scientific and economic developments have occurred since then, and it is time that the whole basis of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States was reviewed. In order that thi* matter may lie placed above party, the Prime Minister should call together a convention similar to that which was responsible for the framing of the Constitution. If that be impracticable, at least let the proposals which are to be submitted to the people be formulated by an all-party committee. I shall support any government which attempts to obtain wider powers for the Commonwealth. The more power which the Commonwealth is able to assume, the better pleased I shall be.

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