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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2889

Mr CHYNOWETH —Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the Government's response to the vote taken by the joint sitting of the Tasmanian Parliament last Friday?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for Dunkley for his question. I would point out the simple and unarguable fact that the actions of the Tasmanian Government represent a failure on its part to ensure that Tasmanians are adequately represented in the Senate. To that extent, it is a serious dereliction of its constitutional responsibilities. Delaying a resolution of this matter until July simply means that as a result of the action of the Tasmanian Government, the people of Tasmania will be denied their full representation in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The proper action that should be taken by the Tasmanian Government is to accept the nominee of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labor Party, which, of course, is precisely the course that has been followed on every occasion-I remind the honourable member that there are 13 of them-since the Australian people voted overwhelmingly in 1977 to effect this change in the Constitution.

It is significant, I would suggest, that that constitutional amendment in 1977 was made necessary because of the hypocrisy of the conservative parties in this country. What we witnessed was the great hypocrisy of the conservative parties, which are always the advocates of law, order and convention-the Liberals in New South Wales and the National Party, under Bjelke-Petersen, in Queensland-which have flouted the constitutional convention that had operated since 1901 by not appointing to the Senate replacements from the Labor Party in those instances. That constitutional vandalism in New South Wales by the Liberals and in Queensland by the National Party culminated in the ultimate constitutional vandalism by the combined conservative parties in this place in November 1975. Because the people were tired of that constitutional vandalism by the conservatives, they voted overwhelmingly in 1977 to change the Constitution. On the 13 occasions since then, the course which was envisaged explicitly by the people of Australia has been followed.

This renewal of constitutional vandalism by the Tasmanian Premier for purely parochial reasons has been strongly condemned not only by this Government but also, I am pleased to say, by the Leader of the National Party. Where we have had strong condemnation by everyone else, what have we had from the Leader of the Opposition? As one would expect, he has made some feeble utterances, not having the guts to come out and condemn his Liberal colleague in Tasmania. The sad fact is that the Leader of the Opposition, as we know, is not only lacking in policies and principles but also increasingly, as in this case, he has been revealed as having a total lack of authority in his own party.