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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 1865

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I rise to speak to this amendment in the belief that someone may get the impression that it is something new and therefore may vote for it. Originally we received a message from the other House requesting a joint meeting. Senator Murphy moved that we comply with the request and have a joint meeting. I am opposed to such a meeting for reasons I have stated. We have just decided by vote to agree to part of Senator Prowse 's amendment. Obviously the Senate was against the proposal of Senator Murphy and did not support it. Honourable senators would be entitled to think that any motion concerning a joint meeting had been disposed of. Now we get the same goods wrapped in a different parcel for us to accept as not being a commitment to the House for a joint meeting and therefore a precedent is not being established. We are asked to have a plebiscite which will be called not by the House but, I think, by the Executive, whereby there will be a meeting of members of both Houses. Of course this comes about as a result of this Senate being in session. Whatever the procedure is called, the functions of the Senate cannot be altered. This matter is being debated because the Senate has decided to debate it. We are trying to avoid the setting of a precedent. We are asked to adopt a subterfuge and do the very thing in Senator Murphy's motion which we rejected. The same motion is being moved but it is now being called something else.

Senator Byrne'sown words are that we attend as elected representatives of the people. We are elected representatives of the people by the very fact that the people voted us into a House of the Parliament, and my plea is that we uphold the dignity of that House. As elected representatives of the people that is a duty that we have. The other method having been rejected, the same formula is contained in Senator Byrne's amendment in an attempt to bring about a joint meeting for the purpose of getting the majority of the members of the House of Representatives to decide this question. Mr Gorton said that the Executive would decide if the Houses could not agree. I think that attitude was not proceeded with because there was so much hostility to it. If there was known to be an overwhelming majority of all members in favour of one site the Executive would go ahead with a proposal knowing that it would be supported should it be criticised. If we want a plebiscite there is nothing to stop the Executive from sending a written notice to every member of the Parliament asking for his or her choice of a site for the parliament house. That could be done without having a joint meeting. If there has to be a joint meeting it would be better to have an equal number from each House than to go into a chamber where members of the Senate would be swamped 2 to 1. We should see through this amendment and reject it as we have just rejected Senator Murphy's proposal.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call the Leader of the Opposition.

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