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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - Mr. Chairman, a similar position arose once before, in 1941, when the late Mr. Chifley, as Treasurer, had to accept an amendment by a hostile Senate in similar circumstances.

Mr Harold Holt - The honorable member knew that I would bring that up if he did not. In fact, I told him about it.

Mr CALWELL - That is right; the Minister did. He reminded me of it. And fellow-feeling doth make us wondrous kind. That is why I have come to his aid in these rather difficult circumstances. I know his difficult position.

I think that at some time or other this chamber will have to assert its rights to control of the public purse. In that respect, it will have to assert its rights over the Senate. Over the years, and in quite recent times, particularly since proportional representation in Senate elections was introduced, there has grown up a tendency by senators to assert what they regard as the principle of equality of rights. I was responsible for the introduction of proportional representation.

Mr Harold Holt - I bet the honorable member regrets it now.

Mr CALWELL - At times, when I watch the performances of a mischievous senator from Tasmania, I do have some pangs of regret, because I think that he is making a farce of the parliamentary institution.

I have very great misgivings about a lot of things that are happening with respect to the relationship of the two chambers of the Parliament, and I hope that the Government will at an early stage consider submitting to the people the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee, particularly those concerning the relationship between the two Houses and the proposal for an amendment of the Australian Constitution to provide for a joint sitting to be held in order to try to resolve difficulties before the government even has to consider a double dissolution. Such a procedure would cut some people down to size.

I do not know that, this evening, we can do much more than protest about what has happened in this instance. The Senate has been behaving pretty badly for quite a considerable time. In this instance, some people who pose as the defenders of the primary producers took action in such a way as to suggest that members of the House of Representatives were entirely indifferent to the needs of primary producers. Not only was our right to impose taxes usurped or interfered with, but also an attempt was made to portray us as being unconcerned about the rights of primary producers. What my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), has said is quite relevant and quite right, and the passage from the report of the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry which was quoted by my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), was very much to the point. What the report stated is correct, and that view has my support.

I sympathize with the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), who has been placed in an impossible position. He is made to appear as if he has been trampled on by Strawberry, the cow. That does not present him in a very good situation to the eyes of the electors in McMillan.

The Government has done something which, I suppose, was inevitable in all the circumstances, but I hope that it will find in the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee a solution to these problems of the relationship between the two Houses of the Parliament. If the Government will put those recommendations to the country at a referendum, it will have the wholehearted support of the Opposition. As I have said before, Labour accounts for the votes of about 40 per cent, of the people, even with the existence of the Australian Democratic Labour Party to worry us. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the days of his declining importance, has only to persuade about 8 per cent, of the people to give their support, and the combined vote in support of these constitutional proposals will total 51 per cent, or 52 per cent. Accordingly, we shall be able to amend the Constitution beneficially and in the interest of this Parliament and of the Australian people.

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