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Tuesday, 10 November 1953

I appreciate the honour that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has conferred upon me in permitting me to move this motion. At this particular moment in our history its wording is no mere constitutional formality but is filled with a wealth . of meaning. Her Majesty's coronation, only five months past, is still fresh in the mind of every one. Many millions of her subjects, whether listening in their homes, or present in that ancient shrine of our race, the Abbey Church of Westminster, will never forget the manner in which she consecrated herself to the cause of religion and to the welfare of her people. And now, within a fortnight, Her Majesty and the

Duke of Edinburgh will depart on a prolonged tour of distant parts of the British Commonwealth, most of which will be pent within our own shores.

Those of us who were privileged to represent this Parliament at the coronation will realize, perhaps in a double sense, the significance of Her Majesty's impending arrival. It is not so much the historical fact of this being the first occasion on which a reigning sovereign will have come to Australia, but rather is it the influence which her presence amongst us will exert on our national life and the cause which we serve. Every visitor to the mother country this year must have been quick to perceive Her Majesty's effect on the people of Great Britain during the opening phase of her reign. England to-day is illumined by a new light - a light of hope, confidence, determination and efficiency. These enlivening rays cannot be explained simply in terms of politics or a dramatically improved economic position. They are due in a great degree to the personality, the example, the leadership and the inspiration of the Queen and of her eminent consort, the Duke of Edinburgh. The effect on Australia of these two remarkable personages will be as electric as in England. Their presence will establish a direct personal relationship between sovereign and people never previously experienced by this nation. I think that every honorable member will agree with me that the more Her Majesty moves throughout the British Commonwealth the stronger will become the unifying power of the throne. Seldom before has the need for this unity been so urgent.

Looking in retrospect over the last 25 years it is, I feel, a legitimate criticism of various Dominion governments to say that they have been unduly absorbed in asserting their separate rights and privileges. Every honorable member must hope that that phase is over. It is one thing to be master in our own house; it is quite another thing to be touchy about the fact and to be continually emphasizing it. Surely all will agree that nationalism is an old-fashioned notion, quite out of sympathy with the idea of a collective international society which the world must establish if it is to avoid the extinction of our civilization. What we need now and in the future is to forget about Balfour Declarations and cumbersom complexities such as the Statute of Westminster, and instead redirect the helm and create forces which make for imperial cohesion and organization.

Happily, the Government has given evidence that it is thinking along those lines. The Prime Minister, as we know, has urged repeatedly, in season and out of season, an interchange of personalities between Commonwealth countries and conference rotating in various Commonwealth capitals. The fruits of this policy are already apparent in the cavalcade of British Ministers and others who are coming to our country which will culminate, in January next, in the Commonwealth Economic Conference to be held in Sydney. Further evidence that the Government is working for a policy of Empire integration is the reference in His Excellency^ Speech this afternoon to the revision of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This agreement was originally a well-intentioned but somewhat doctrinaire concept smacking to my mind, of nineteenth century utilitarianism, but it has proved in operation not nearly so beneficial as was anticipated by its progenitors. It is clearly detrimental to some of our exports, and in the intensifying competition for markets, some increase of imperial preference will be necessary if the sterling area is to augment its strength. Her Majesty's presence in Australia will, I believe, give impetus to this principle of unity among the British peoples of which the foregoing are merely examples. Let us hope that it will cause us, irrespective of party alinements, to turn our backs upon the unduly nationalist policy of the past, particularly of the period between the two world wars and immediately after World War II.

And so far as the Queen and her Australian subjects are concerned, is it too much to ask that Her Majesty, having once come amongst us, will return after an interval of only a few years? When we greet the Sovereign in February, we shall accord her a Royal progress, but Australia would like to feel that periodically, Her Majesty comes to fee .amongst us -as a matter of course, without undue 'fuss and preparation, and in the discharge of her office as Queen, il am well aware «of the difficulties of .this proposition. One [hesitates to .add to the burdens of Monarchy in a period when, already, they are .becoming too .complex. Canada, South .Africa, New Zealand .-and thu new Federation of Rhodesia .and Nyasaland would .rightly claim .their share of the Royal favour, and .one would wish lt so. But if devolution of functions is possible in the Dominions - or, as the lovers of irritating circumlocution would insist, ,in the independent nations of the Commonwealth - surely the [process .could be made to work on reverse., and .the functions of the .Sovereign months .-from the United Kingdom by in 'Viceroy or Council of State.

If the British 'Commonwealth is to continue its development as a vibrant, living organ-ism, we must evolve our constitutional usages in keeping with means provided by scientific inventions. When Queen Victoria travelled from London to Balmoral, the journey occupied the best part of 24 hours. That was only '60 years ago. But progress has been such that the journey from London to Sydney will be accomplished in 1954 in only 24 'flying hours, or, in sum, less than two days. What seemed fantastic to our grandfathers appears 'both practicable and necessary to us. War the character, the personality, the -goodness and the inherent spirituality of Her Majesty are such that she is not simply the titular head of her scattered peoples; quickly, she is becoming their actual leader. If her adviser.* .mould circumstances so that she may dwell amongst us, and, 'by precept and example, directly influence us, this will be a force for imperial unity far more compelling than any military .considerations, trade .pacts, statutes, markets, or the usual appurtenances -of politics and commerce.

In a speech as comprehensive as tha* made by Has Excellency, it is impossible for me to allude to all the salient points. During this session, the time of the Parliament wall 'be occupied principally with consideration of , the .National Health Bill. I think -.that jail "-honorable members are :aware of -its provisions. It 'is, in essence, a 'consolidating measure, .based upon three years' experience. The Minister for -Health (Sir Earle Page.) has had long .experience in public .life, and .may .be termed the " Eather of the House ". But in the many .and varied contributions that he has made to Australia's progress none equals in magnitude .his national health plan. He .began shortly after taking .office by improving the basic .nutrition of the people with .the provision of free milk for young .school children. He then instituted the distribution to -everyone .of free life-saving drugs Next, he succeeded in winning the co-operation -of -doctors ,and chemists - :a cooperation which the previous Government had failed ito obtain. He has devised a system which avoids the pitfalls ;and extravagances ..into which Britain blundered after the last .war. To the needy, especially the ^pensioners, lie has given much. To those in somewhat more fortunate circumstances, medical and hospital assistance, in part, is provided, conditional upon a measure of self-help. In general, the provisions magnum opus,, .and I believe that the House and the country will be :quick to acknowledge the fact.

His Excellency has also made various references to the state of the national economy. No one,can possibly survey the Australian scene with a degree of impartiality without coming to the conclusion iiib at during .the last four years, in .spite of all the intervening controversies, this Government has done well in the result. National income continues to rise; 0111 overseas funds are -satisfactory; the balance of trade lias been rectified to such a degree that one may now ask for the abolition of import restrictions within « relatively short time. The main inflationary 'forces in the community have 'been halted. ^Recent -rises in the C series index were .due to 'seasonal factors, such as the price of -meat and -potatoes, which are 'not likely 'to >recur. Anis tralia has -en-joyed a record period -of industrial peace, due to

Some degree to 'the (Government's -secret ballots legislation a-nfl also to the sympathetic and tactful 'administration of the Minister for 'Labour and National 'Service (Mr. Holt). Unemployment is lower here than in any .other country. Indeed, the demand for labour considerably exceeds the -supply. (Direct and indirect taxes .'have 'been sharply lowered in two successive (budgets by «n 'amount of £200-000,000, and those reductions, together with other substantial concessions, have made Australia the envy of many countries.

But despite these .successes, inevitably t'here are clouds on the horizon. Has the economic outlook of any country .ever been free from 'blemish? The determined onrush of 'German and Japanese industrial competition is already manifest, and it .will surely increase within tfe next two years Swollen internal costs are threatening the competitive power of many of -out manufacturers and some of our smaller primary industries. More mid -more we are coining to depend -upon the maintenance of high wool prices for don turned prosperity. Already a cry has gone up for : higher tariffs, and there are rumours in various parts of Australia and a'broad -of -currency devaluation. I hope the 'Government will stand firm- and refuse to take either course. It was 'reassuring to hear, in His .Excellency's 'Speech, this afternoon, -that Ministers would continue to be guided by the advice of tlie Tariff Board in relation to the tariff. All honorable members who pay -serious attention to this subject will agree, I think, that we 'will not get out of our difficulties by manipulating tariffs or 'by juggling with currency. The five components 'of the industrial realm - management employees, investors, industrial tribunals and governments - must solve this problem by frank, fearless and honest means. It is inescapable -that, -ki the process, some people will be hurt, hut we must propound a solution which will be for the ultimate good of Australia.

Once again may I say how deeply I appreciate the honour of "having 'been asked to propose this motion. It is particularly -pleasing to 'me, as I am sure it is to the House, to know that the Address.inReply w'hen approved, will be presented to so gallant, 'so distinguished and so forthnight -a gentleman as His Excellency, who is already widely a eel aimed as une of the finest representatives o.f the -Sovereign ever to hold office in tins country.

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