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Wednesday, 22 March 1961

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The debate is out of order.

Mr WHITLAM - There are many Geneva conventions and other conventions dealing with the treatment of prisoners of war, the conduct of war and so on. In answer to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) I say that the United Kingdom Parliament could have altered the Australian Commonwealth Constitution, or the Constitutions of the States before we adopted the Statute of Westminster, but as I understand the position it could not do so after we adopted that statute. As the monarchy is part of our constitutional setup, the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States can only be altered as previously; that is by a referendum initiated by this Parliament or by reference of State powers to this Parliament.

The honorable member for Griffith has made a valiant attempt to divert attention from the antics of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) overseas in the last few weeks. I believe that I can specify the contributions of the Prime Minister, under his personalized diplomacy, to a break-up of the Commonwealth of Nations by citing the record of voting in the session of the United Nations General Assembly which started last year and has just resumed. Australia has voted on 31 occasions in the current United Nations General Assembly. Australia has voted beside the United Kingdom on all 31 occasions, beside Canada and New Zealand on 22 occasions, beside Pakistan on sixteen occasions, beside Malaya on eight occasions, and beside Ghana and India on three occasions. Two other members of the Commonwealth of Nations did not vote on all the 31 occasions. Nigeria voted on 25 of the occasions and we voted beside that country on two of them. South Africa voted on 24 of the occasions and we voted beside her on eighteen occasions. lt is quite plain that as far as Australia is concerned under a Liberal Government, the Commonwealth of Nations might as well not exist. Nobody has done more, or has done it more vociferously and consistently, to break up the Commonwealth than has the Australian Prime Minister. He has no proper appreciation of the transition which has taken place in the middle of this century. The Commonwealth can play a better part than any other organization in retaining British ideals in. the newly emergent countries of Asia and Africa. Our Commonwealth is the only organic bridge between the developed and industrialized countries of Europe and similar countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and on the other, the newly emergent countries which are still seeking to establish themselves in the parliamentary and industrial senses in Asia and Africa. In that transition Australia, geographically and historically, could play a better role than any other part of the Commonwealth of Nations, but under our Prime Minister it has failed to take advantage of that opportunity and to meet that obligation.

I wish to refer to the remarks of two other honorable gentlemen who have spoken during this debate. The first is the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). He commented on a speech made last night by my colleague the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). It is sufficient to say that he did not have the courtesy to tell the honorable member for Hunter that he intended to comment on that speech. The second honorable gentleman is the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) who reflected, in terms with which I completely agree, on the administration of import controls by this Government which he' supports. It is significant that either he did not tell the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) that he was about to make those remarks, or the Minister for Trade failed to come into the chamber. Secondly, it is significant that either the honorable member for Mitchell did not tell the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) that he intended to speak on that subject, or if he did, the Minister, upon entering the chamber from the vestibule, withdrew when he heard the subject of the honorable member's remarks.

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