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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4308


Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - I support the remarks of the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) and I support the amendment which has been returned from the Senate and which was originally moved in the House. I support the form of the original Bill, particularly clause 2 (a), which would omit the words 'in each State' from section 128 of the Constitution, thus allowing Territorians, in both the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, to have their votes counted at a referendum. However,1 regarding clause 2 (c), I strongly support the amendment and read again briefly what two legal men in the Northern Territory and one professional man had to say about it in the Northern Territory Legislative Council. At the time it was being discussed, they did not know that the Prime Minister or the Government had included in the Bill clause 2 (c), which seeks virtually to lower the number of States that would have to show a majority in favour of a referendum proposal from four to three.

They did not know that when they made these remarks.

Still, Mr Withnall, a leading lawyer in the Northern Territory, found it somewhat odd, in view of the fact that this provision in the Constitution is to come under very careful scrutiny by the Standing Committee of the Constitutional Convention, that we should be asking the Commonwealth Parliament to put before the people a referendum in advance of the decision of that Convention. Mr Withnall would like to see the people of the Northern Territory have a vote. So would I, and so did the Opposition when it moved the amendments in this House and in the Senate. However, these legal men in the Northern Territory have their reservations. Mr Withnall said that he would like to see them have a vote, but that it ought to be on terms more carefully considered, on terms that seek to determine the exact way in which section 128 is to be amended. Mr Withnall was supported by the Leader of the Labor Party in the Northern Territory Legislative Council, Mr Ward, who said that he agreed with the honourable member's remarks. Mr Ward said that this matter should be brought to the attention of the right authorities, but that it was a question of who the right authorities were. These are the legal men in the Northern Territory spelling this out. He said: 'We certainly could not by-pass in any way the Australian Constitutional Convention'. Why is the Government hurrying the Bill through the House? The Country Party Leader made the following remarks, which are well worth quoting:

Undoubtedly the collective wisdom which will be brought together in the executive of the Constitutional Convention should arrive at a better and more balanced decision and one which will carry more force in an Australian referendum on the subject than a decision of one Parliament or one man (the Prime Minister) or the Federal Parliament.

Those are the people of the Northern Territory. I heartily support the amendments as they were introduced and spelled out to the House and to the Senate when the Bill was before the House on an earlier occasion.

Question put.

That the amendments be disagreed to.







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