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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 3636


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The question is: That the question be now put'.


Mr McMahon - But I was given an assurance bv the Prime Minister to the effect that I would be able to reply.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The question is: That the question be now put'.


Mr Whitlam - If that is the right honourable gentleman's understanding we will withdraw the motion.

Motion - by leave - withdrawn.


Mr McMahon - Mr Chairman-


The CHAIRMAN - Order! As there are other honourable members rising in their places I am obliged to call them.


Mr McMahon - Speaking very quickly-


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The right honourable gentleman will have to ask for leave.


Mr Whitlam - He has leave.


The CHAIRMAN - Leave has been granted. 1 call the right honourable member for Lowe.

Mr McMAHON(Lowe)- The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has made 2 comments which I believe I should now correct. The first refers to my tenure of office responsible for the Department of Primary Industry and later on the Department of Labour and National Service. The honourable gentleman expressed the view that it would have been much easier for me to carry out the administration of those 2 departments if constitutional changes had been made. I can state emphatically that I do not believe - and I think I have in fact administered as many departments as has any other person in Australia's history - that changes of the kind which are contained in clause 2 (c) of the Bill would in any way have improved my capacity to administer either of those 2 departments. I would never like to say who ever administered any department that I am the greatest, but at least I think I am able to say that in those days the departments were administered with at least some degree of efficiency. Different people will come to different conclusions as to what the degree of efficiency might have been. I admit immediately that I held the strong view that there should have been at those times 2 amendments to the Constitution - one relating to industrial relations and the other giving to the Commonwealth more complete power relating to interest rates and monetary policy. But since the concrete pipes case I have come to the conclusion that the second one was not necessary.

The suggestion has been made - I will deal with this later - that the provisions contained in clause 2 (c) would facilitate changes to the Constitution. I do not believe that we should go to any great lengths to facilitate changes unless there is a clear and unmistakable expression of opinion on the part of the Australian people who are themselves qualified to vote - the people of this country in whom the sovereign or quasi-sovereign power resides - that a change is necessary or desirable or unless the Government has clearly and honestly come to the conclusion that these qualified people themselves desire that an amendment to the Constitution be made.

Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Question put:

That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr McMahon's amendment) stand part of the clause.







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