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Tuesday, 9 September 1958

Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) . - I accept the assurance of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) that sufficient time will be allowed to enable honorable members to discuss matters relevant to the Territories when the proposed votes for the Territories are under consideration. At this particular stage. I should like to raise one matter which probably would not come within the scope of the general debate. I refer to the matter of constitutional reform for the Northern Territory, which does come under the proposed vote that we are now considering.

Some time ago. as a result of certain action that was taken by the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth Government invited all members of the council to Canberra to participate in a conference with selected Government members for the purpose of discussing a report which the Legislative

Council, in its wisdom, had drawn up and presented to the Commonwealth Government. At that conference, certain recommendations were formulated to be placed before the Cabinet for agreement, amendment, endorsement or some other action. Since that time - some two months ago - no further action has been taken or, I should say, if further action has been taken it has been kept within the confines of the Cabinet and no word has been released in regard to it. I should just like to say to the Minister that I have not been able as yet to get any information as to what is happening in respect to the report or the recommendations. When I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether it was contemplated that action would be taken during the life of this Parliament, or whether the matter was to be shelved, I received no satisfaction from his reply.

I just want to say to the Minister that both the members of the Legislative Council, and the people of the Northern Territory, are becoming quite restive at the prospect that no action will be taken during the life of this Parliament on the recommendations that were submitted to the Cabinet. The thought is gaining strength that the whole matter will be shelved until after the forthcoming general election, in the hope that it will be forgotten by the people and that no further action will then be required. I suggest to the Minister that if the Government does not take action on the recommendations that were submitted to the Cabinet during the remaining life of this Parliament, that is the interpretation that will be placed on the delay. I therefore suggest to the Government that it make an announcement at an early stage - preferably this week - of its intentions in regard to this matter, and say quite clearly that action will be taken to implement by legislation the proposals that have been endorsed by the Cabinet - assuming that they have been endorsed.

In raising this matter, I do not necessarily support any of the recommendations, and I shall reserve my comment until they come before this chamber in legislative form, but I want to indicate at this stage that I do not agree with the recommendations that went forward with respect to representation in the Federal Parliament. Nothing short of a full vote for the member for the Northern Territory in this Parliament will have my support.

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