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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I express regret that the Government should have been so churlish in connexion with a question which I asked this morning. The people should know the procedure to be adopted should the proposal to be submitted to the people by means of a referendum be agreed to. I asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General (Senator Brennan) the following questions: -

1.   In the event of the marketing referendum being carried, w ll r the altered constitution become automatically applicable?

2.   Or will it be necessary for Parliament to meet in order to pass special legislation to put the altered constitution into effect, as far as interstate trade in dried fruits, &c, is concerned ?

The reply I received was to the effect that it is not customary to give information on matters of law in answer to questions. If the Attorney-General' (Mr. Menzies) declines to answer the question, perhaps the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) or the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) will do so. I do not know whether there is any prescription of the freedom of the Attorney-General to answer questions of that sort. Very many people in the community desire to be informed of the actual position. If the proposal be carried at the referendum, it will be interesting to know whether or not the measures that have been rendered invalid by the Privy Council decision will be validated automatically. If that is not. to happen, Parliament must meet to deal with the matter and pass the necessary legislation to permit the continuance of the marketing schemes. Honorable senators will then have an opportunity to discuss how far that legislation will go in its effect upon marketing generally; and the arguments advanced by Senators Grant, Payne, and others who are opposed to the referendum, will be undermined. In those circumstances, it . is desirable that we should have a frank statement from the Government; the members of the Ministry should not be continually giving evasive answers to questions asked by members of the Opposition in all sincerity. Proper answers to those questions might have gone a long way to assist the Government in having the, referendum proposal carried.

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