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Wednesday, 15 May 1957


Mr DRUMMOND (New England) . - I always listen with very great interest to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and, because of his great legal knowledge, one always feels, as a layman, very loath to cross swords with him. Perhaps I may be imagining things, but it seemed to me that at the critical moment when the honorable member began to read a section of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, he suddenly faltered as though a blinding flash had come to him and he realized that perhaps he had " put his foot in it " as it were. It is quite true that the honorable member pursued that argument with great courage and considerable persistence, but the point that he did not make clear - and as one of the uninitiated laymen of the committee I should like to have some clarity upon it - was that in the case of a disputed return the matter may be referred, by resolution, to the Court of Disputed Returns. What would happen if Parliament decided, after hearing all available evidence, not to refer the matter to that court? That was a point which the honorable member for Werriwa seemed to fail to bring before the committee. It seemed to me that he suddenly realized that those fateful words " may be referred " were the Achilles heel of his argument and he saw that the Parliament - which in the Territory would be the Legislative Council - would decide whether it was a matter that was worthy of being referred to the Court of Disputed Returns.

The opposition to this particular measure surprises me because it is obviously trying to clear up certain possible weaknesses in the present position and to extend the powers of the Legislative Council step by step. If Australia is to command the respect of other countries in its treatment of Papua and the incorporated trust Terri tory of New Guinea, it must show that, step by step, it is widening the powers of local self-government in that area. Perhaps I may be lacking somewhat in my knowledge of the particular point under dispute. I simply followed the arguments raised by the honorable member for Werriwa and from them I deduced, as the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has, I believe, correctly said, that there is really no difference between the procedure which is followed, and will be followed by the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea and that which is followed in this Parliament.







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