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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2274

Senator GREENWOOD - I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Is it not a fact that at the Constitutional Convention held in Sydney in the first week of September this year the Commonwealth Government agreed that numerous topics suggested as involving constitutional amendment should be referred to standing committees of the Convention for detailed consideration and report? Is it not also a fact that at least four of those topics so referred with the agreement of the Commonwealth Government have now been the subject of unilateral proposals in this Parliament for amendment of the Constitution? What future, therefore, does the Commonwealth Government see in constitutional conventions?

Senator MURPHY - If I am not not mistaken the Australian Government made the position clear that by taking part in the Constitutional Convention it was not to be taken as entering on a course which would inhibit it from proposing constitutional changes or legislative measures of any kind. I am quite sure that the Australian Government has made this clear. I recollect that I have made it clear at some of the executive meetings that I have attended as well as in a number of the other areas such as standing committees of Attorneys-General, and so on. We have made very clear that our participation in discussions and so on cannot inhibit the Australian Parliament or the Australian Government from taking action. If the Australian Parliament wishes to use its present constitutional power to propose matters for the consideration of the people by way of referendum it is entitled to do so. If the price of going to a constitutional convention is that the Australian Government and the Australian Parliament are to be paralysed, the honourable senator would see that it would be very difficult for any government to agree to participate in such a convention.

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