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Thursday, 17 March 1966

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- I support the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) in this matter. We will see that it is attended to after the next election. I wish to raise a matter which I think is of great interest to the people of Australia, this House and its members. I refer to the decision of the Government not to proceed with the referendum proposed last year. The Government's announcement that it does not intend to proceed at present with the referendum is an arrogant assumption of rights which do not reside with the Cabinet or Executive Government and ought not to be tolerated. On 15th February last the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) announced that Cabinet had decided to inform the Parliament that the Government would recommend to the GovernorGeneralinCouncil that he not issue a writ for the holding of a referendum and so on.

The Constitution is precise on the subject. It states that after certain procedures have been carried out and the legislation has passed through both Houses of Parliament, the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote. No power of discretion lies with the Government in this matter. It is a provision of the Constitution and the Government cannot properly make a decision of this nature. It is significant that in section 128, which relates to the situation where only one House passes a law, the word used is " may ". The Government has no discretion in the matter.

This Parliament is accepting the decision lying down, in a way which should not be tolerated. All the procedures have been carried out and the law has been passed by both Houses. The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives on 11th November last and was passed with an absolute majority on 23rd November. It was returned by the Senate on 2nd December without amendment after being passed by an absolute majority and was forwarded by Mr. Speaker to the Governor-General on 13 th December with a certificate in these terms -

This proposed law originated in the House of Representatives on the second day of December One thousand nine hundred and sixty-five and finally passed both Houses of the Parliament. There was an absolute majority of each House to the passing of the proposed law. In accordance with section 128 of the Constitution the proposed law is required to be submitted to the electors.

The certificate was signed by Mr. Speaker. The failure of the Government to proceed in this matter is offensive to the Aboriginal people. I am referring particularly to the proposed amendment to section 127. The Government's decision is contrary to the Constitution, because the provision of the Constitution is precise. I believe that it is an arrogant assumption of rights which do not lie within the Cabinet. It might be said that it is a piece of dictatorship which ought not to be tolerated. I believe that it is a breach of privilege.

The correct procedures have been followed and the requirements of the Constitution have been carried out. I believe that it is a breach of privilege.

I believe that members of the Parliament would be remiss in their duty if they allowed the Executive Government of this country to get away any longer with its proposed action. I have had only a few minutes to grieve on behalf of the citizens of Australia.

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