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Thursday, 15 November 1973

Senator BYRNE (Queensland) -I move:

That the words proposed to be inserted be omitted and in lieu thereof the following words be inserted:

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I take a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Have you not got to put now a resolution that the words which Senator Prowse 's amendment proposes to be inserted be inserted before you take any other amendment?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- That is the question before the Chair to which Senator Byrne is proposing an amendment. I call Senator Byrne.

Senator BYRNE - I move:

That the words proposed to be inserted be omitted and in lieu thereof the following words be inserted: is of the opinion that an assembly of all members of the Federal Parliament be convened forthwith within Parliament House, to determine by vote of such assembly the site of the new and permanent parliament house. '

This might appear to be casuistry but it is of very real significance. Both Senator Marriott and Senator Lawrie raised a certain point, namely, that the projected formula for a joint sitting of both Houses is a formula that has existence and legality within the Constitution and is available in certain situations for certain purposes. After a double dissolution a joint sitting of the Houses may be convened if the rejected Bill is again presented. That is a constitutional situation. When this matter was debated before Senator Cavanagh was prominent in that debate and took that very point, that a joint sitting of both Houses was not a desirable thing. My recollection is that he said that the Senate as a House would be swamped and overborne by the House of Representatives which has a greater number of members and that therefore in a joint sitting that House could overwhelm this House. My proposition is that we should take- and this is a term the meaning of which the honourable senators on the Government side would know readily- a plebiscite of members whether they are members of the House of Representatives or honourable senators in this chamber. All of us should meet as a college, as an assembly of elected representatives to the Federal Parliament, irrespective of and divorced from our membership of either House, to decide by resolution at that common convocation where in our opinion, should be the site of the national Parliament so assembled in assembly- on Camp Hill, Capital Hill or elsewhere.

I know that, to use a colloquialism, that may be considered by many honourable senators to be hair-splitting. But it does appear to me, firstly, that it does not import into this suggestion a type of meeting that is contemplated in the Constitution and only for a constitutional purpose. Secondly, it will not bring the 2 Houses into any type of traditional or emotional conflict because members will be meeting as elected representatives of the people and not as members of the Senate or members of the House of Representatives respectively. Thirdly, it will give the opportunityand I do not want to limit the possibilityof debate, discussion and the ventilation of opinions at such an assembly. It could proceed as an ordinary debate with representatives of parties being given, if they wished, an allotted number of speakers and other members, independents and others, electing to speak if they so desired. The matter therefore could be rationally discussed and the consensus of opinion would be thereby determined.


Order! The question before the chair is that the words proposed by Senator Prowse 's amendment to be inserted be left out.

Senator BYRNE - I see.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Sub.sequently if you are successful with that amendment, we will be able to move to insert other words.

Senator BYRNE - Should I wait to move this formally? The advice that I received very quickly from the Clerk, as I conceived it, was that I could move it at this stage and in the terms indicated.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- My advice from the Clerk is that that is the question before the Chair.

Senator BYRNE -At what stage shall I formally move my amendment and in what terms?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- If you are successful with the proposition that you have before the Chair, that the words which Senator Prowse 's amendment proposed be inserted be left out, then you may move to insert the words that you want to insert.

Senator BYRNE - Should I delay this until that resolution has been presented? Is that it? I got other advice.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The advice from the Clerk is that it can be moved as a whole but will be put in 2 parts.

Senator Wright - I do not understand that.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- He can move it as a whole but it will be put in 2 parts.

Senator BYRNE - What do you mean 'as a whole'?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- That is that the words will be left out and that the other words will be inserted. It will be one motion but 2 votes.

Senator BYRNE -Then I should move 'that the words proposed to be inserted by Senator Prowse 's amendment be left out', and having done that, I should then move 'that in lieu thereof the following words be inserted'. Is that correct?


Senator BYRNE -The words to be inserted would be these: is of the opinion that an assembly of all members of the Federal Parliament be convened forthwith within Parliament House to determine by vote of such assembly the site of the new and permanent parliament house.

I was arranging to have the amendment reproduced and circulated but there was not enough time before the debate concluded. I move that amendment in the hope that this may be a way of resolving the matter. If the Bill projected by Senator Wright is presented and passes this place it may well find a fate in the other place which may not be the fate for which we are looking. In those circumstances and in view of the experience of the resolutions of both Houses whereby there was a strong opinion in this place for Capital Hill and a bare majority in the other !>lace for an alternative site, I think this is a very logical proposition; and in the light of the history of the Parliament on this matter in recent times it is the most practical way of resolving the problem and discovering what is the assembled view, the consensus, by a plebiscite of members of the Parliament of Australia in this unique situation.

Senator McLaren - If your amendment is carried and this meeting of the assembly takes place and a verdict is arrived at, what procedures do you envisage taking from then on?

Senator BYRNE - Senator McLarenasks me whether there would be any compulsion within that executive government to implement such a decision. Of course there would not.

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - On a point of order, Mr Deputy President, could I have your ruling. The honourable senator has moved that the words proposed to be inserted by the amendment moved by Senator Prowse be left out. They read: While not agreeing to the resolution transmitted in message 20 1 from the House of Representatives'. I contend he is moving a direct negative. He is moving that the Senate agrees to a joint meeting. I ask for your ruling.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I do not think it is a direct negative.

Senator BYRNE - I am indebted to you, Mr Deputy President, and to Senator Lawrie 's intervention in the debate. Senator McLaren was asking whether any resolution, other than a matter that is resolved by a Bill passing in the normal course through both Houses or otherwise prescribed by statute would have any compulsion upon the executive government. Honourable senators will recall that on the last occasion when motions were moved in both places I said that there was a very small majority in the other place for the site of Camp Hill and that there was a substantial majority in this place for the site of Capital Hill. I remember saying to Senator Cavanagh at the time- perhaps we had a little wager- that the executive government would move in immediately and within 7 days, I think I said, would select Camp Hill as the site. It actually happened within 24 hours. That happened in spite of the strong resolution of this chamber and the rather flaccid resolution in the other place. Therefore, whether it is a resolution in that place or this, I agree with Senator Wright that in the absence of a Bill, a statute, there is no compulsion on the executive government. But if such an assembly of such moment and in such unique circumstances were convened, and after deliberation and debate a resolution were formally and seriously arrived at, the Government would be required, I think, by convention and by the logic and demands of the situation, to take notice of such a resolution. That appears to me to be a logical and reasonable way. I think this type of assembly divorced from the presence of both Houses as such, or members and senators as such, but as representatives of the people in the federal Parliament to determine what would be the site of the House that represents the political hopes, desires and aspirations of the people, would meet the wishes of the elected persons in another place. It is in that spirit and in that purpose and in the fond hope that it may succeed that I present my amendment.

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