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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2267

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is he aware that the Prime Minister yesterday refused to say what action he would take if the prices and incomes referenda on 8 December were carried? Did the Prime Minister say that he would not make firm commitments until after the industrial peace conference on 1 1 and 12 December? Does this not indicate that the Prime Minister is deliberately asking the people to vote yes on the referenda issues without knowing what is involved? Why does the Prime Minister choose to keep the electors in ignorance on 2 issues which are extremely important to the people and the nation?

Senator MURPHY - I assume that the answer to the first 2 questions is yes because I accept that the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate is probably quoting the Prime Minister correctly. As to the other questions, why should the Prime Minister commit himself to exactly what legislation is going to be introduced? That is a question of policy, it is a matter for legislation, and it is liable to confuse the issue. The Leader of the Opposition is laughing. Yes, I repeat that it is liable to confuse the issue. The people of Australia are being asked to make a permanent alteration to the Constitution of Australia to enable laws to be made by this Parliament in respect of those subject matters. Those laws may be made over the years by the various governments representing the various shades of political opinion and responding to what the Australian people want them to do over presumably a very lengthy period of time. The issues should in no way be obscured by putting considerations to the people as if this constitutional alteration depended upon specific legislative measures. We do not know, of course, whether they would get through Parliament, but when the constitutional power is available to the national Parliament it ought to be given proper consideration.

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