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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - by leave - Mr. Speaker, I ask for your indulgence - or semiindulgence - to say a few words on what is a most auspicious occasion for the right honorable member for Higgins (Mr. Harold Holt). On behalf of the Opposition and, I hope, on behalf of every honorable member, I extend to him personal congratulations on becoming the seventeenth Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia - a particularly great achievement. There have been only 17 Prime Ministers over 65 years. It has been on the average a long time between Prime Ministers. One lasted only seven days, another nine days and another nineteen days. So the occupancy of the office is rather greater than the average would suggest. Of course, we do not propose to allow the present Prime Minister to hold his position for 16 years or even 16 months if we can prevent it. Today we come to praise the new Caesar, not to bury him. We are turning history upside down. We will bury his policies as soon as we can. But while he occupies the high, honorable and great position of Prime Minister of Australia, he can be assured of the courtesy of this side of the House and its co-operation in the discharge of the business of the Parliament.

The parliamentary institution is our great safeguard against tyranny of all kinds. If we are parliamentarians and if we have any respect for tradition, then obviously we must do all we can to maintain the traditions associated with the office. There will be times, of course, when we will disagree with each other, but on those occasions we must remember the dignity of Parliament, its importance and the significance it has in the life of people and in the defence of their liberties, their rights and their privileges.

The right honorable gentleman has exhibited remarkable patience. He has served his party for a great many years. He was loyal to his former leader for 16 years and he has received his reward. He exhibited the patience of Job and he has been given the same kind of reward that Job received, although I am not now so sure what that was. But, of course, Job was not in line for the Prime Ministership of Australia. The Prime Minister starts in his office with the goodwill of many Australians. It is for him to justify the choice of his party and for him to justify his policies. It is for us, the Opposition, to show, where we believe it is right to do so, that his policies are wrong and that a change of Government is desirable and necessary in the interests of the Australian people.

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