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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 3311

Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (Minister for Secondary Industry and Minister for Supply) - We see once more the Opposition determined to prevent or at least to make it difficult for the Government to achieve any significant social reform. Whatever measure can be tested by reference to what should be done and what should be brought about in this House one can predictably gamble on opposition from the Libera] Party and the Australian Country Party These proposals for these constitutional-

Mr Katter - There is no gamble.

Mr ENDERBY - I ask the honourable member to listen. The proposals for these constitutional reforms can be traced back virtually to the turn of the century. However, the present proposals go back in more immediate times to 1959. What is the Government's proposal? That the people of Australia - not this House - should be given the chance to consider whether they want to change their Constitution. That is the gist of it. The Government's proposal is not that the Constitution be changed here and indeed it cannot be changed here.

Opposition members interjecting -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I intend to maintain order during the rest of this debate on whether Standing Orders should be suspended. I ask honourable members from both sides of the House to contain themselves.

Mr ENDERBY - Thank you, Mr Speaker. The anger, the frustration and the intemperate language are predictable from the

Opposition. All the Government seeks to do is to give the people of Australia at a referendum the opportunity to consider 3 propositions that have been put forward and argued about by writers on political science and by writers on constitutional reform virtually ever since this nation came into being. The matter has been stirred up from time to time and was put forward and discussed as recently as a month ago in Sydney at the Constitutional Convention. Where does the opposition to the people having a chance to express their views come from? It comes predictably from the Liberal Party and the Country Party.

One should see what these 3 propositions are that the Government wants the people of Australia to be allowed to consider - propositions which the Oppositions opposes. It says that the people should not be allowed even to consider them at a referendum - perhaps one of the most democratic ways of deciding things in a democratic society. The first is the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill. Reflect on those words, Mr Speaker. The proposition is that the people should be allowed to think about democracy. Who opposes the Bill? The Country Party is foremost, predictably. Who joins with it in its opposition? The Liberal Party, predictably.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister will now debate the reason why Standing Orders should be suspended and not get on to the substantive motion.

Mr ENDERBY - I am indebted to you for your guidance, Mr Speaker. The reason why Standing Orders should be suspended to deal with these urgent Bills is that they are essentially important. Nothing could be more important than the democratic processes of Australia and nothing could be more important and indeed urgent than that the people of Australia should be entitled to consider these propositions. If one wanted another reason for declaring these urgent Bills it is the obvious entrenched Opposition determination to prevent the people being allowed to think about them and to express their views that comes from the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party.

Consider the second Bill, Mr Speaker. It seeks to let the people of Australia consider the role that local government should play in their own affairs and the relationship between local government and the State Parliaments and the relationship between local government and this Australian Government. What could be more important than that? What could be more urgent that that? Predictably the opposition comes from the Liberal Party and the Country Party.

Mr Corbett - Why not?

Mr ENDERBY - I do not mind the Opposition saying that local government people should have no say in their own affairs. That is predictable and understandable. We have seen enough of Opposition members to understand this. They are always saying that. But what is wrong and scandalous is that the Opposition says that the people of Australia should not even be allowed to consider these proposals in referenda. That is the proposition that the Opposition is putting up and that is what we seek to prevent.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister's time has expired.

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