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Wednesday, 15 May 1957

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- This clause is one to which the Opposition raises objection. Despite all the fine words of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), it shows that the Government has had some reservation in regard to the attitude of the Minister in suggesting that nothing improper could happen, that every act of the council ought to be supported and that it would not be possible for anybody who might act improperly to be elected or nominated to the council. The clause shows that the Government is not so sure. Proposed new subsection (3.) provides -

A member of the Legislative Council who is a party to, or has a direct or indirect interest in, a contract made by or on behalf of the Commonwealth under which goods or services are to be supplied to the Commonwealth or the Administration shall not take part in a discussion of a matter, or vote on a question, in the council where the matter or question relates directly or indirectly to that contract.

Proposed new sub-section (4.) reads -

All questions concerning the application of the last preceding sub-section shall be decided by the Legislative Council, and a contravention of that sub-section does not affect the validity of anything done by the Council.

Under this peculiar provision, although it may appear that the Government provides, in the first instance, that a representative on the Legislative Council cannot exercise a vote in respect of any matter concerning a contract that he has for the provision of goods or services to the Commonwealth, on the other hand, if the Legislative Council decides that he was qualified to vote on the issue, any decision made by the council as a result of the participation of such a representative in the voting shall not be invalidated. That is a most extraordinary provision. The point is that, if it is discovered beyond doubt that a person has wrongly recorded a vote in the deliberations of the council, although his vote may have decided the issue before the council, and although it is subsequently proved to the satisfaction of any reasonable person that that was the case, any decision of the council so arrived at shall, nevertheless, be valid. I would probably have agreed with the Minister for Territories - and so would other Opposition members, doubtless - if it was provided that, where there was a substantial majority in the voting which could not possibly have been affected by the vote of a member interested in a contract to supply goods or services to the Commonwealth, the decision of the council should not be invalidated. There might be some justification for that. But what will happen where the vote or votes of such persons could have affected the council's decision? The Government says, in effect, " Regardless of the fact that, according to the act, they were not qualified to vote, the decision of the council shall not be declared invalid ".

This is an extraordinary provision, and we should like further enlightenment upon it from the Minister. I think that the Minister is burking the issue when he says that the Government believes that, eventually, there must be self-government of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, or that that ought to be our objective. That is the way in which tories always talk, but they never do anything about attaining that alleged objective. The difference between Labour and anti-Labour administrations in this respect is that Labour really believes in giving self-government to these territories. If we had remained in office, we should have seen that progress was made towards giving them self-government. Experience throughout the world shows that the tories always talk about the objective of giving self-government to territories, but selfgovernment is given to them only by Labour governments.

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