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Thursday, 18 October 1973
Page: 2321

Mr THORBURN (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the likely campaign by local government in New South Wales to win public support to assist in its efforts to gain loan funds direct from the Federal Government, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald' of Saturday, 13 October, will the Prime Minister confer again with the State Premiers before holding a referendum into this matter and will he discuss the matter with the chief antagonist, the Premier of New South Wales?

Mr WHITLAM - While it would be true to say that the present Premier of New South Wales is opposed to the Australian Government's proposals it would not be true to say or to believe that he is the only Premier opposed to them. The Government was elected on a party platform which had been framed in this regard in July 1971 and on a policy speech which I delivered last November, committed to the proposition that local government in each State should have a voice and a vote on the Loan Council. Related legislation to enable local government, on a regional basis, to receive assistance from the Australian Government by way of topping up revenues was passed in the form of the Grants Commission Act in the autumn session of this year. The whole proposition of giving local government a voice and a vote on the Loan Council could, in the opinion of the Solicitor-General, be achieved by amending the Financial Agreement of 1927 pursuant to the referendum which was carried in 1928. However, to amend the Financial Agreement requires the unanimous agreement of the 7 Australian governments. It is impossible to get that agreement. I would not propose to discuss the proposition again with the Premier of New South Wales or with all the Premiers. It is clear that unanimity cannot be achieved. It would be a waste of time. It would be a deferment of the legitimate hopes and aspirations of local government not only in New South Wales but throughout Australia. Accordingly-

Mr Snedden - Can we have the statement after question time?

Mr WHITLAM - I thought the right honourable gentleman would be on his best behaviour today, not only for the luncheon but also for the dinner.

Mr Snedden - Why don't you turn round and act like a man instead of standing there snivelling?

Mr WHITLAM - Snivelling Snedden!


Mr WHITLAM - Accordingly, as I mentioned as a contingency at the Constitutional Convention at the beginning of last month, there will be a referendum put to the people at the time of the Senate elections.

Dr Forbes - You are an arrogant cur.

Mr King - Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. This is the second occasion on which I have had to ask the Prime Minister to address this side of the chamber at question time. After all, we on this side of the House also are interested in the proceedings.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the honourable member for Barker to withdraw the remark he just made.

Dr Forbes - I withdraw, but I also -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I do not want any qualification; I asked you to withdraw. I do not want any speeches.

Mr Lynch - Mr Speaker, I take the point of order that the Prime Minister has used in this House a terra which was quite unparliamentary and unnecessary.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I heard every word that passed and there was provocation. But in regard to the other interjection which I heard quite plainly, it was very unseemly and not fitting for a person sitting on the front bench.

Mr WHITLAM - Mr Speaker, I was answering the question while facing you; I am sorry that the honourable member for Wimmera could not hear. I am only too happy for him to hear what I have to say in my answer. As I forecast as a contingency at the Constitutional Convention at the beginning of last month and as I told the Premiers a week ago, the Australian Government will now be asking the Parliament to pass a Bill for a referendum on this matter to be held at the time of the Senate elections, which have to be held before the end of next June and the proposition in essence will be that the Australian Government should be able to make the same agreements with elected local government bodies in respect of raising their borrowing programs, meeting their borrowing programs and guaranteeing their borrowing programs as the Australian Government has been able to make with all the State governments since 1927.

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