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Tuesday, 27 November 1973

Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) - I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I ask leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:

That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.

Senator Georges - I rise to order, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT - What is the point of order?

Senator Georges - In my experience, short though it may be, it is rather an unusual procedure to receive a message of this son and to bring it into the area of debate by the Senate. Mr President, have you sought advice on this? Is it permissible that this should be done? Are we likely to be faced with receiving messages from a variety of governments both within Australia and without which may lead to considerable controversial debate at great length, taking up the time of the Senate?

The PRESIDENT - I do not think that there is any substance in the point of order. The honourable senator obviously is addressing a question to me to which he asks me to respond. The facts are that I received this resolution under the hand of the Speaker of the House of Parliament in Queensland addressed to the President of the Senate requesting that the Senate be informed of this resolution of the Queensland Parliament. I received it on my desk on Sunday. I spent some time on Monday examining the constitutional propriety involved and I came to the conclusion that I had a duty, whatever the politics of it were, to table a message from a parliament to the Senate of Australia which constitutionally was created to represent the States. I then went further and addressed information to the leader of every party in the Senate advising that it was my intention to read this statement. What action the Senate takes in relation to this matter is of course for the Senate to decide. I remind honourable senators that we have received messages, for example, from the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, which have been placed before the Senate. How the Senate resolves these matters is a matter for the Senate and not for the President.

Senator Devitt - May I address a question to you, Mr President? I am wondering whether you have considered the appropriateness of referring the question generally to the Standing Orders Committee or whether that move could be facilitated in some way?

The PRESIDENT - I can answer that question with great speed. My endeavours to gain a meeting with the Standing Orders Committee are nil.

Senator Murphy - If I may speak, I think I should correct you, Mr President. I do so with great deference. I think your endeavours to get a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee have been very great but your success has been nil. I think there are certain implications in this matter. I think there is a difference between the position of the Queensland Parliament in relation to us and that of the Northern Territory Legislative Council which was established by this Parliament. I think the preferable course for us at this stage is to say as little as possible about this strange communication.

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