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Tuesday, 17 September 1985
Page: 626

Senator DURACK —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer him to comments made by the Prime Minister last Thursday in an interview on the Carleton-Walsh Report about his views on the Australian flag, when he said:

You wouldn't change that flag flippantly or easily. I think it's one of those things that the Australian community should think about, talk about in a relaxed and gradual fashion and if out of that process it was clear that there was a great majority of feeling that we wanted some different sort of identification then that's appropriate.

In the light of the Prime Minister's expressed attitude and the fact that the Government did not oppose my Bill in the Senate to amend the Flags Act to ensure that the flag would not be changed except by the support of the people, will the Government repudiate the statement made in the Senate last Friday by the Minister for Resources and Energy that my Bill: `has died a well deserved death in the other House'? Secondly, will the Government co-operate with the Opposition in the House of Representatives to facilitate the passage of that Bill into law?

Senator BUTTON —I interpreted Senator Gareth Evans's remark only as giving due weight to the importance of the honourable senator's Bill. Senator Evans, as a member of the Cabinet, is conscious of the very significant and important legislative program which the Government has. When we discuss the sitting hours of the Senate, I think we all become aware of that. The Government does have a heavy legislative program and in saying that I think Senator Evans was probably giving appropriate weight to the honourable senator's Bill. I would not in those circumstances, in any sense, repudiate Senator Gareth Evans. I agree with the approach adopted by the Prime Minister in the Carleton-Walsh program to which the honourable senator referred. It is a matter which should be widely discussed in the community and I see every reason for supporting that attitude. So, I do not see any reason to repudiate Senator Gareth Evans. We all have different views about this matter; I think it is appropriate, and we should discuss them as much as possible.

Senator DURACK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Leader of the Government did not answer my further question. Will the Government-in the light of the attitude that Senator Button has now expressed as well as the Prime Minister-co-operate with the Opposition in the House of Representatives to facilitate the passage of that Bill, which is now in the House of Representatives, into law?

Senator BUTTON —I think that is a matter which I should appropriately put to the Government, and not give an answer myself. When the Government dealt with the matter, my answer would be no.