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Tuesday, 9 November 1976
Page: 2495


Mr YOUNG (Port Adelaide) - I do not wish to respond to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr). Apparently he has had second thoughts about his speech last week. As he is a former shearer, one would have thought that he was better trained. We must have missed some of them. This week, obviously as will be known to all honourable members, thousands of Australians will take upon themselves their right to participate in demonstrations and to discuss in meetings the impact upon their future Lives as a result of the actions taken in this country just one year ago. I have seen many contributions to that debate and to what Australians might have to discuss in the future and about which parts of the Constitution may have to be amended to safeguard the rights of this House. A little while ago I was given the latest contribution to the debate, a book called The Makers and the Breakers. I do not wish to comment upon the authors' particular and specific comments about the events but it is interesting to note the way in which they have drawn together quotes of the people who drew up the Constitution. I think it is of interest when looking through these to see that obviously what happened last year in Australia was never seen as likely to happen by the people who framed the Constitution of Australia.

There can be no doubt that whilst the demonstrations perhaps express the rage of the people, nonetheless there will have to be a very serious discussion in this country about the changes which are necessary to see that the House of Representatives, maintains its position as the governing House of Australia. Until such time as that debate is concluded satisfactorily to the House of Representatives no doubt we will see people in the Senate being quite cavalier about the way in which the powers in the Constitution may be interpreted and used by the Senate. Obiously it would mean that if that action was to be continued we could not look forward to a parliamentary democracy in Australia. As one of the founders of the Constitution said, there is a very thin line between what is right and revolution. I think that if honourable members opposite and honourable members on our side of the House were to sit down and look at the record of discussions that took place and the conference minutes of the framers of the Constitution they would see that what happened last year was not envisaged. I quote what Alfred Deakin had to say about the role of the Governor-General:

A Governor-General will be required to act in this as in other matters on the advice of his executive. In no case is he to be endowed with the personal power to act over the heads of Parliament and the ministry.

Obviously Deakin did not see the GovernorGeneral ever taking the decision which was taken in Australia in 1975. Sir John Downer, who was a very conservative politician in that day and age, had this to say:

We are not prepared to interfere with the cardinal principle of our constitution, and that is that the nominal head of the Government should be only the nominal head of the executive and not become a real substantial legislative force in the community.

If conservative politicians in that day and age like Sir John Downer held those views, again this is further evidence that what happened in Australia last year was wrong. Dr Coburn, who was also a participant in those discussions, had this to say:

The Governor-General's highest function would be to be a dummy and although he was the only link between us and the Crown, in being that link he was less than the least in the whole of the colonies, a useless image and bauble.

Finally, I wish to quote Alfred Deakin again on the question of the Governor-General. I want to repeat this because I think it is terribly important in terms of what discussions take place in Australia in the future. He said:

The Governor-General will be required to act in this, as in other matters, on the advice of his executive. In no case is he to be endowed with the personal power to go over the heads of the Parliament and the Ministry.







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