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Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 108

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I briefly associate the members of the National Country Party with this motion. As has been said by both the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) the Commonwealth is a voluntary association of nations. Its continued relevance in the modern world is sometimes questioned, yet its survival is not. The Commonwealth has brought together a quarter of the world's population in a loose affiliation, in a way which preserves the traditions of the past in the modern conflicts of today. However, there are elements of the Commonwealth which I find disturbing in that there are divisions emerging between members of the Commonwealth to the extent that some members of the Commonwealth fail to observe those principles to which we all subscribe as members of the United Nations. Obviously there are problems in the exclusion of some former members of the Commonwealth. Although we might have difficulties over the policies of countries such as South Africa and Rhodesia, I think it is to be regretted that they are not still members of an association where it would be possible to discuss, in the same manner as other issues, those things which are of concern to participating members.

I welcome this motion. I believe that it sets down Australia's continued concern for the character of the Commonwealth and our belief that it has a role not only in the past but in the future. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the extent to which there has been alone amongst the member countries of the Commonwealth, a maintenance of some dependence upon the United Kingdom by both Canada and Australia.

I think it worth noting that it was a Commonwealth Government of Liberal-Country Party persuasion that first took initiatives to remove the right of appeal in Commonwealth matters to the Privy Council. However, as to gubernatorial appointments, I think that it is in that that the principal differences on the Australian Constitution and its future relevance lies between our side of the House and the Opposition. We see in the maintenance of an association with the Monarch a preservation of the rights of the Australian citizen. In that respect the Commonwealth tradition not only establishes so much the inheritance of the British parliamentary system of which this Parliament is part, but also preserves the opportunities for each of us as citizens of this country through the monarchical system to participate in determining the government which we desire and the representatives for whom we vote. I also note with pleasure paragraph 1(e) of the motion which refers to the presence of Her Majesty the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth in Australia on Commonwealth Day. I believe it most fitting in this jubilee year that Her Majesty is in our country and so recently has been able to share with us in this Federal Parliament part of the Westminster tradition of which she is so much an intrinsic part. On behalf of the members of my Party, I endorse the motion and commend it to the members of this House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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