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Tuesday, 8 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Prime Minister) . - by leave - I am taking this first opportunity after meeting the House to speak on some of the more significant matters with which we have been dealing since the Government took office. The new Government was sworn in on 26th January - Australia Day.- We have been in office, therefore, just short of six weeks. They have been weeks of unusually intense activity. As I give an account of the highlights of events over that period, I shall also be mentioning some important policy decisions not previously announced. Ministers who will be speaking later in the debate on this statement, or introducing statements of their own, will provide more detail on several matters which I shall only be able to touch briefly.

It is to be expected that a new Government will have a busy time in its early weeks as it takes up the reins of government. But, in addition to the tasks normally to be expected in these circumstances, we have found ourselves engaged in discussions - some of a profound and far-reaching character - in the fields pf defence and foreign policy. On the domestic front, we have concluded a review of the current state of the economy. This followed discussions with official economic advisory bodies assisting the Government and with representatives of industry. We have devoted a good deal of attention to the drought situation persisting over large areas of the Commonwealth and the problems arising from the ramifications of the drought.

Before commenting on these matters, I would like the House to know that the Government will be inviting it - on two occasions I shall mention - to give recognition to the distinguished public and parliamentary services of my predecessor, Sir Robert Menzies. Sir Robert established a remarkable record of more than 1 8 years of leadership as Prime Minister, more than double the previous record length of service in this office. Tomorrow, I shall present a resolution to the House enabling us to place on Parliamentary record our appreciation of his many years of service. On 17th March, the Government will be holding a Parliamentary dinner in honour of Sir Robert and Dame Pattie.

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