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Thursday, 28 March 1957

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - I move -

That the Senate's modification be adopted.

It will be recalled by honorable members that we carried a motion in this place for the establishment of a joint committee to review the Constitution. That had as its purpose the continuance of the useful work that had gone on during the life of the Parliament in its earlier session, and we sent it along to the Senate for endorsement. In the Senate, the amendment was proposed and adopted, and it now comes back to us with the words " recess or " to be inserted before the word " adjournment " in clause 8.

The effect of the Senate's modification is that not only will this committee of both Houses of the Parliament, of all sections of the Parliament, be able to carry on its work during any adjournment of the Parliament, but also, in point of fact, when there has been a termination of a parliamentary session by prorogation.

When the resolution was drafted in its original form, we followed the practice which had been established in the House of Commons, for which there are quite obvious and constitutional reasons, that if a session is terminated by prorogation, then it was natural to expect and to provide that committees of Parliament should also come to an end, and there are precedents in the House of Commons which suggest that this has been the regular practice there. But 1 think that there is some practical merit in the suggestion that has come to us from the Senate, and that is the view taken by members of the Government parties. Although we follow quite regularly the rulings and practices of the House of Commons where they appear to accord with the needs of our situation in Australia, each Parliament, of course, has its own way to make and its own problems to resolve. We having decided that henceforth we shall have a session of the Parliament annually, and it being the desire, I think, of all members of the Parliament that committees such as the Constitution Review Committee, which has a valuable public service to perform, should continue to function in any period of recess between the prorogation of one session of the Parliament and the formal opening of another, there is sound practical sense in the suggestion that these committees be enabled to continue during any such recess. That is the view that we have taken, Mr. Speaker.

I have mentioned the point of practice because there is some logic in the notion that the Parliament having ceased to exist in legal form, the committees of that Parliament also have ceased to exist. We live in a practical and swiftly moving world, and although the prorogation may legally bring to an end a session of the Parliament, it is assumed that if we are to have a session annually the Parliament will go on and resume in a new session shortly after the New Year according to the kind of programme that I outlined last week.

Sir Wilfred Kent Hughes - Would the same thing apply to the Foreign Affairs Committee?

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I should like notice of that question, but I do not see any reason why the same thing should not apply. However, I am dealing at the moment with a particular matter, and it is the only one that I would at this stage accept authority to deal with. I have stated our view of the modification that has come back to us from the Senate, and I now recommend it to the House for adoption.

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