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Wednesday, 30 October 1974
Page: 2169

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I rise on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to say that it is a matter for regret that the Constitutional Convention scheduled to be held in Adelaide next week has been postponed. Possibly the use of the word 'regret' is too moderate an expression of feeling. The postponement need not have happened, but the fact that it has happened dashes the hopes of those who saw in this Convention a real hope for an impetus to desirable constitutional reform. The Convention ought to have been regarded as a forum for the expression of differing views, as a place where consensus could have developed, as a place where a great deal of work which had been done could be brought to realisation. It could have been a forum which could have provided a stimulus for action. Both yesterday and today Senator Murphy used the forms of question time to express himself strongly in saying that the

Constitutional Convention had not taken place because of the action of the Opposition. He used today the expression 'the pigheadedness of the Opposition'.

The editorial in this morning's 'Australian' newspaper likewise sought to place the entire blame for the fact that the Constitutional Convention was not being held upon the Opposition. Both accusations are totally false. They are made in defiance or in ignorance, and possibly both, of the true facts. The Opposition will not sit back tamely to have a totally false picture deliberately pervaded by the Government and its uncritical lackeys in the newspapers. One is accustomed on occasions to speaking to an empty Senate and substantially empty Government benches but I will not be daunted by that fact. All I say is that there ought to be a record of what has taken place, and this is the occasion on which that record can be made.

I refer to the editorial in today's 'Australian' because I would have thought that that editorial would take a lot of beating for the sheer falsity of the accusations which it makes. In the first place there was the allegation that the obstinacy of the Opposition members had caused the Convention meetings to be abandoned. This is a statement which, on the face of it, is plainly untrue. Insofar as it reflects an opinion, it is an opinion which cannot be based on fact. It discloses a completely one-sided view which accepts either that the Government can do no wrong or that the Opposition can do no right. Why, one might pose, is the Government's insistence on a point of view unquestionably correct? Why is it that the Opposition 's insistence on its point of view is unquestionably wrong?

Another point which is made in the editorial is that Opposition senators knew better than the Government and used their numbers to reject Mr Whitlam 's arrangement of a 16-member party simply because Senator Hall was included as an Opposition representative. The Government knew, as proved to be the fact, that the Opposition would not accept that the Government should nominate who should be one of the Opposition's representatives, particularly when the representative it nominated was not a member of the Opposition. The Government knew that the Opposition must resist any such assertion by the Government to determine who were the Opposition members. Accordingly it must have known that the course it was pursuing was a course which would lead to the deadlock which ultimately occurred.

The third point which arises from the editorial is the reference to what has happened in the past as in some way determining the Opposition's attitude. It refers to an incident which took place during the Joint Sitting and says specifically that personal insults were poured on Senator Hall by the Opposition members during his speech. I have looked at the Hansard record and I find that that statement just has no basis on which it can supported. But there are certain facts which I would repeat again for the record, and that record is something which ought to be replaced because, even if the newspapers give no credence to the Opposition's viewpoint, there is a subsequent time at which one ought to be able to refer back to what the actual facts were. The fact simply is that Senator Hall is not and does not claim to be a member of the Opposition. He is not recognised as a member of the Opposition. He claims to be and is a member of the Liberal Movement and he is its leader in this place.

Senator Wheeldon - Are you saying that' the Democratic Labor Party was in the Opposition? Its members were included amongst the Opposition previously, were they not? Why was the DLP in the Opposition and Senator Hall is not in the Opposition?

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