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Wednesday, 22 March 1961


Mr CHRESBY (Griffith) .- In view of the fact that comments have been made in the past few days about certain unfortunate events overseas in connexion with South Africa, and as charges have been made tending to suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been responsible in no small way for helping to break up the British Commonwealth of Nations, I should like to place on record and direct the attention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) and of the nation to certain facts concerning the Australian Labour Party's attitude a few short years ago. I think this is very important.

Let us consider these matters in chronological order. A recent leader of the Australian Labour Party, who is now in another place, wrote a book when he was a Justice of the High Court of Australia. His book was entitled, " The King and His Dominion Government". The author is recognized throughout the world as a constitutional authority of no small order. In that book, Mr. Justice Evatt, as he was then, directed the attention of the nation to the dangers inherent in the adoption by Australia of the

Statute of Westminster. He directed special attention to sections 2 and 4 of that statute and pointed out what could happen to Australia if any government adopted or ratified the statute.

The author's first action when he became the Attorney-General of Australia was to introduce a bill into this House, supported by the Australian Labour Party, which ratified the very document he had condemned in the book I have named. His next step, in conjunction with the introduction of the bill into this House, was to endeavour to get the Premiers of the several Australian States to agree to hand over to the Commonwealth complete powers of government in Australia. Later, as honorable members will remember, Dr. Evatt tried to push through, by referendum, a new section of the Commonwealth Constitution which would have put the decisions of this Parliament on any matter beyond challenge by the High Court of Australia.

It was perfectly clear what was in his mind. Under section 2 of the Statute of Westminster, the Colonial Laws Validity Act no longer applied to the Commonwealth, although it still applied to the States. Under section 4 of the Statute of Westminster, it was perfectly clear that by the process of petitioning the United Kingdom Parliament from the House - from the House, mark you - Australia could have become a republic.

At that stage, however - as the position still exists to-day - the necessary powers required to establish or implement complete socialization for Australia rested within the legislative constitutional control of the six Australian States. It was therefore necessary to rush through the House - and through the nation if it could be done by referendum - an alteration to the Constitution to enable all those powers to be made resident in this Parliament.

The next and third step would have been quite obvious because the sequence of actions taken was a clear indication of the objective in view. It would have meant that, without consulting the Australian people or the several States, and without an act of Parliament, the leaders of the Australian Labour Party, having got powers from the States after ratifying the Statute of Westminster, and with all those powers centralized in this Parliament and not challengeable by any court in the land, could have handed over the powers of the Australian people to any group or body they might have chosen. I ask honorable members to consider this matter closely. I have studied this question for many years and I know what I am talking about. Australia would have become a republic and in due course we would have cut the painter holding us to the throne.

I want to place these relevant facts on record so that they will be remembered by those who try to charge us with attempting to break up the British Commonwealth of Nations. Our Prime Minister is a lover of all things British - as I am - in matters of constitutional law and constitutional development. Anybody who charges us with wishing to break up the Commonwealth should bear well in mind that the alternative government would come from the ranks of the Australian Labour Party.







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