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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 968

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - I listened carefully to what was said in this House this morning and it seemed that 2 propositions were put to the House. The House so far has decided that the original proposition is not acceptable, a majority of members having voted for the alternative proposition. Having said that, I believe that it is desirable that the House now proceed to a decision. It seems that there is no alternative before the House; there is only one proposition and that is the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I shall probably vote for the amendment. In my view, this is a very controversial question. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) this morning put the matter rather clearly, if emotionally. This is an emotional question and anybody who denies that is not understanding what the issue is all about. It is probably a sad reflection on this House that on 10 May a proposition was put to the House but it was not prepared to take a positive stand at that time. It chose the alternative of having an inquiry into this issue.

One can always quarrel with the terms of reference of an inquiry. However, it is in the interests of the community to have this sort of inquiry take place. This morning I voted for the original proposition because I cannot be persuaded by the argument that it is necessary to have a multitude of people conducting an inquiry so that they can put their respective points of view. It has always been my view that an impartial person - such as a judge, as was originally suggested - should conduct an inquiry. He or she in turn should receive advice from those who are putting contrary points of view. If we load the decision-making body with too many committed points of view, probably we will not get an unbiased opinion on the whole matter. However, the House already has determined that matter and has said that it is not satisfied that there should be only one inquirer, such as a judge. It has said that there should be a multitude of inquiries. Having reached that stage, it seems to me that there is no good purpose to be served by prolonging a decision.

I take issue with the honourable member for Griffith (Mr 'Donald Cameron) who said that debate was stifled. I do not think it was. This is not a matter that was suddenly sprung upon this House of Parliament. It is not a matter that was suddenly sprung upon the community. It has been very well canvassed. In fact, my rubbish tin is full of letters from the Right to Life Association on the matter. Many points of view have been put. Those with which I agree I take cognisance of and those with which I disagree go into my special filing cabinet, the rubbish tin. That is where the correspondence from the Right to Life Association finished after I had read it because I could not agree with it. My point of view was not agreed with by this House on the previous occasion and I now intend to support an inquiry, but to say that the House has not had sufficient time to discuss the matter is wrong. This is an important matter, I agree; but to take up the time of this House which has very many matters as important as this to discuss is procrastinating on the issue. If there is any honourable member in this chamber who has not yet had his mind made up on this issue, I very much doubt that the persuasive eloquence and rhetoric of those who would speak in the chamber on this subject would be able to do it. Honourable members' minds are made up and it is unfair and sniping from a distance to say that debate in this chamber was stifled. We should now get down to doing what we must do, and that is decide whether on the record we will have simply the word 'that' and nothing else as the motion which was agreed to or whether we will do something positive. I think the House should move now towards taking a vote on the amendment. Whether honourable members vote for or against the amendment is a matter for their own consciences. Rather than procrastinate on the issue, we must move to a decision almost immediately.

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