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Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 106

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) (Prime Minister) - by leave- I move:

1.   That this House,

(a)   notes the agreement of governments of the member countries of the Commonwealth that from this year the second Monday in March shall be observed throughout the Commonwealth as Commonwealth Day;

(b)   notes the common heritage which member countries of the Commonwealth share;

(c)   commends the maintenance of the institution of the Commonwealth as a unique forum for discussion and the exchange of ideas between member countries, irrespective of race, creed, culture or colour;

(d)   commends the observance of Commonwealth Day as an opportunity for all Australians to re-affirm their commitment to the Commonwealth and

(e)   notes with pleasure that her Majesty the Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, will be present in Australia on Commonwealth Day in 1 977.

2.   That the terms of this resolution be conveyed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Mr Deputy Speaker,as a result of an initiative taken at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Kingston in 1975 the member countries of the Commonwealth have decided that a day should be set aside each year to mark the existence and significance of the Commonwealth. That day, the first of which we shall celebrate next Monday, 14 March, shall be called 'Commonwealth Day'. The Commonwealth is a unique and important institution. Its 36 member nations are spread throughout the world and comprise nearly one quarter of the world's population. The Commonwealth is a free association of nations characterised by a great diversity of race, language, culture and economic backgrounds. It is bound together not by force or legal restraints but by a long standing history of co-operation at many levels of government and by a continual exchange of knowledge and experience. The very informality of the Commonwealth structure means that there is no encroachment of the sovereignty of individual members. The Commonwealth is more intimate than the United Nations and the rivalries brought by superpower relations are more distant. The Commonwealth provides a major forum in which free and uninhibited discussion can take place in a sympathetic atmosphere of friendship and equality of the problems and alternatives that face modern international society.

Nowhere else, not even in the United Nations, do more than 30 Heads of Government come together- as they do at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting- and spend a week or so discussing major issues concerning the world. The Government regards the Commonwealth as a significant force for co-operation and understanding in the international community and believes it should be used to make a real contribution to resolving contemporary international problems. We believe that the matters to be raised at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London are so important that we have established a task force comprised of all relevant departments to examine the issues and advise on how we may most effectively approach them. The Government has also initiated consultations with Commonwealth leaders in our region so that we can have the benefit of all their views. The Commonwealth is an active and important organisation that can contribute significantly to international affairs. I believe it is most fitting, that in the year of Her Majesty's Silver Jubilee, and at a time when Her Majesty is here in Australia, a decision be announced that, as from this year, Commonwealth Day will be universally recognised as being the second Monday in March. It is with much pleasure that I inform the House that Her Majesty the Queen, will deliver her Commonwealth Day message for 1977 on 14 March.

I commend the motion for the consideration of the House.

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