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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 3308

Mr DALY (Grayndler) (Leader of the House) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:

That in relation to the proceedings on the following Bills, so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the House making one declaration of urgency and moving one motion for the allotment of time in respect of all the Bills: The Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill 1974, the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill 1974 and the Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill 1974.

Speaking briefly to this motion as I do not wish to take up the time of the House, the 3 measures which are covered by this motion for suspension of Standing Orders are all important measures of Government policy. They seek the agreement of this Parliament to proposals to put before the people of Australia 3 important changes to the Australian Constitution. It is vital that they be passed promptly in order that the people themselves have the opportunity to express their views in referendum.

I cannot see why there should be any opposition to letting the people decide these issues. In these Bills - although they are very important - we are seeking not to change the laws of the land but to give the people the right to express their views. Yet I understand, by bush telegraph and other means, that the Opposition for its own selfish and spurious reasons of which we will no doubt hear shortly, do not want the people to have the right to decide what they want in these matters. I understand that honourable members opposite are going to oppose all 3 Bills which means, of course, that possibly every honourable member on that side as usual will submit his name on a list for speaking. Not only is this a completely unprincipled and undemocratic attitude; it is also doomed to failure and this is the reason amongst other things, why we moved for the suspension of Standing Orders, namely, for speed. If the Bills are obstructed in another place they will be passed again in due course by this House and the referendums will then be held in any case in accordance with section 128 of the Constitution.

All that the Opposition can hope to achieve by opposing these Bills, no matter what the length of the debate is, is to waste the time of the Parliament and to delay the timing of the referendums. I cannot see why - nor can anybody on the Government side see why - honourable members opposite should be allowed to waste the time of the House in this purposeless and obstructive way. Honourable members opposite cannot hold up the legislation except for a time. To my mind, there has already been too much of this sort of obstruction and time wasting. If the Parliament had passed the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2)- which this House has passed on 2 occasions and which the Senate has twice rejected - one of these Bills would not now be necessary and the people of Australia would have equality of voting power. I would remind the House that in the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) almost unlimited time was given to those opposite to enable them to express their views, no doubt precisely the same views as they will be expressing again in this measure.

If this House were to agree promptly as it should that the important proposals in these Bills should be put to the people, we could get on to debating other important measures which must be passed before the House rises. I repeat: This is not legislation to bind people by law. It is a proposal to give the people the opportunity to decide whether they want these laws enforced, and for that reason it is urgent and necessary that the matters be put to the people without delay. I like Parliament. I like being here a lot, but I warn the House that unless the Opposition is willing to adopt a reasonable attitude on measures of this kind and to approach them not merely for the purpose of wasting time and delaying the business of the Government by indulging in obstructive tactics, we are doomed to a much longer session than has been anticipated. Much as I like this Parliament, there are many other places where I should prefer to have my turkey dinner this Christmas. These are matters which the Opposition might well keep in mind. We have an important program of legislation before us in addition to the measures I have mentioned today, and all the other Bills will take a considerable time to put through. People in Parliament must be realistic. While every one of us would no doubt like to speak on every measure brought before the House, such a course would not be possible in any Parliament in the world. Therefore reason must prevail. Members must have an equal opportunity to put their views on measures of this nature. I have endeavoured to ascertain what can be done about these Bills, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has been co-operative to this extent, but the matters I have mentioned are of such importance that it would not be possible, without limiting the time for debate, to have them put to the people when they should be put.

I am not unmindful that honourable members opposite would like unlimited debate on the substantive motions so that they could prevent the Government from putting these proposals to the people by way of referendum when the Senate elections take place. We cannot afford to be sidetracked in that way. Adequate time will be available if members use it effectively to put every point of view on these 3 constitutional measures. We propose to allow debate on them to proceed for the rest of this week, which is a fair proposition if members apply themselves to those conditions. I repeat that every argument that was advanced on Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) will be brought forward again in tedious repetition, particularly by members of "the Country Party. Consequently, to say that there will not be adequate time for debate on these measures is begging the question. I have no wish to delay the House any further before it gets on with its important deliberations on these measures, so I commend the motion to honourable members. I hope, in the interest of the people, "that the proposals for submission to referendum will be accepted with a minimum of criticism and unanimously adopted by the House.

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