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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1743

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr WHITLAM - In accordance with proper manners in the House I acquainted the Opposition with the fact that I proposed making this statement. On 22 September 1973 both Houses of Parliament passed Bills containing proposed laws to alter the Constitution. The Bills were the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill and the Constitution Alteration (Incomes) Bill. Under the provisions of the Constitution a proposed law for an alteration to the Constitution must be submittted to the electors not less than 2 months nor more than 6 months after the proposals have been passed by both Houses. The Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act provides that if within 4 weeks after the passage of a proposed law through both Houses there are forwarded to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer arguments in favour of or against the proposed law he shall print and post a copy of the proposed law to each elector. The Government is presently arranging for the arguments in favour of the proposed laws to be prepared and submitted to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer on behalf of those who voted for the proposals. No doubt those who voted against the proposals will also be arranging for arguments to be prepared for submission to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer.

The Chief Australian Electoral Officer is required to post pamphlets containing the arguments to electors not later than 2 weeks after the issue of the writs. In the circumstances the Government has decided that the referendums should be held on 8 December 1973. The Government will recommend to the Governor-General that the writs for the referendums should issue on 12 November. The rolls for the referendums will close on the day the writs issue.

Mr Wentworth - On a point of order, Mr Speaker, might I ask the Prime Minister to clarify his statement. In view of the fact that he himself was personally opposed to these proposals but has accepted them in his Caucus will he prepare the case for or against the referendums?

Mr Whitlam - On the point of order, Mr Speaker, I understand that the honourable gentleman has been away from the House with a most distressing complaint. We are all relieved that there were no complications, so one cannot describe his argument in terms of such complications. I have been in favour of every referendum mat has been put to the people except that which was put in 1951. I believe that any Australian government would bc able to govern better in the interests of the Australian people if every referendum, other than that of 1951, had been carried. I have supported referendums on prices on the occasions they have been put to the people. I would have supported a referendum on incomes on any previous occasion. I will support it on this occasion. I should have thought that nobody in the Parliament would have doubted my belief that the Australian Parliament should be vested with any power that the people could be persuaded to confer upon it. I should not have thought that after 20 years in public life the Australian people would be in any doubt as to my attitude on that matter.

Mr Wentworth - Mr Speaker, may I apologise to the Prime Minister. I did not understand his position. I was misled by Press reports to the effect that he, at a Caucus meeting, had opposed putting the matter to a referendum at this stage.

Mr Whitlam - The honourable gentleman was not so specific in his first intervention. Any such Press reports would have been erroneous. In fact, in the Caucus I have consistently supported the idea that there should be an incomes as well as a prices referendum.

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