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Wednesday, 1 October 1958

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (Prime Minister) . - I lay on the table the following paper: -

Report from the Joint Committee on Constitution Review. and move -

That the paper be printed.

I should like, in the first place, to pay a very warm tribute to the staff who assisted the committee in its work. They were all excellent, as I have heard on all hands, and I think the members of the committee would wish that I should mention particularly the work of the legal secretary, Mr. Richardson. I feel, Sir, that he was to this committee of no less value and assistance than was the late Sir Robert Garran at an earlier stage in the history of this country. This report - which I think is a first report and not necessarily a final report - will endure as a very fine record of the work that has been done.

Secondly, I would like to thank my colleagues for the cordial and co-operative attitude at all times displayed by them, drawn as they were from all sides of the Parliament, in respect of a number of very contentious matters. The document that is now presented to the Parliament is not claimed to reach anything like perfection. I have myself not arrived at any individual conclusion about it, but I have been agreeably surprised to realize the extent of agreement that has been reached. That is, of course, very important in all ritters of constitutional change. No doubt there have been compromises, but there has also been a very high degree of unanimity. Perhaps that is a rather dubious expression. I look at the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and I see that he is saying to himself, " What is a high degree of unanimity? "

Dr Evatt - lt is a contradiction in terms.

Mr MENZIES - It is a contradiction in terms, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) says and, therefore, I withdraw and apologize.

It is hoped by the committee that its report will receive full consideration. I am sure it will. We of the Government will consider it very closely. I am sure that all honorable members will, and I hope that what the committee has said will receive the widest publicity in Australia. It is not entirely to our credit that, over so many years, we should have devoted so little attention to the chief instrument of government in the country and have voted upon it, when we have been called to do so, in a rather rash fashion.

This report represents a very long period of work by a committee drawn from all sides of politics. For myself, I would like to say that I believe the report is of outstanding value. I shall read it with great care and, I hope, with great advantage. I hope, too, that as a result of the investigation that has been made, much good will come to this country and that progressive and positive proposals will emerge in this Parliament.

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