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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 3631

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - It is perfectly true that the Opposition as a whole has not had an opportunity to consider my amendment because it was submitted by me only a few moments ago. Of course the Opposition in the Senate may have an opportunity to consider it at greater length as more time will be available to it. I can understand the dilemma of the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) who just has not had time to think about it and realise what it is all about. I can understand and appreciate his position. I do not want to press it any further than that.

However I address myself to the remarks which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was good enough to let fall from his lips in this chamber. His observations do not seem to me to be terribly logical. I would be quite happy to accept as an amendment to my amendment the inclusion of the words 'and any Territory'. I do not think it is necessary but if he would like it I would be very happy to meet the honourable gentleman in that way. It does not seem to me to add to or detract from the thought that was in my mind when I moved my amendment. Of course one has to look to the future. I do not think it likely that the Australian Capital Territory will be erected into a State. If it were, quite extensive alterations would be necessary to the Constitution. If the Australian Capital Territory became a State I suppose it is possible that there would be no Territories but if this were so the Constitution, not only in this respect but in other clauses, would require significant alterations. So I do not think that this is a contingency which we need to consider. But even if we were to consider it, let us look at the position. Suppose the Prime Minister is right in forecasting that at some date he will make further States, perhaps of the Northern Territory and perhaps even of the Australian Capital Territory so that they would cease to be Territories and become States. If this were so and there were no Territories my amendment would still stand. The wording would be 'should be submitted in each State and Territory' and if there were no Territories there would be no Territory to which to submit a question. But if the Prime Minister wants to put in 'and any Territory' that is fine. If there is no Territory the clause still stands even though its operation becomes nugatory. It may be at some later date .that there shall be no Territories as there are at present.

We cannot forsee history. There still might be some part of Australia which could become an Australian Territory. For example, at present the Northern Territory is a Territory but when the Constitution was drafted the Northern Territory was part of the State of South Australia. So, in point of fact, a new Territory was created in the past. It may be that this will not occur again. I cannot foresee it occurring again, but even if the possibility remains at least the drafting that I have suggested would be better than that proposed by the Government. I ask the Government not to press this matter of foolish pride. If we can improve the wording, let us improve it. If the Prime Minister wants to say 'and any Territory' let him say that. That would be no skin off my nose. I should be perfectly happy if he were to take that course and to accept the amendment which would read 'and any Territory'. It is not often it occurs but the honourable gentleman and myself would be ad idem on the matter. Our minds could work together. Surely the Prime Minister is not going to stand fast on a drafting matter when obviously what he is putting forward is less intelligible to the public. It means less. It is perhaps capable of being twisted.

As I listened to the honourable gentleman I was wondering what was going through his mind. I know that he talks about creating more States but the policy of his Party, in the background, is to abolish the States. That policy is first to abolish the Senate which is the States Mouse. That is written into their platform and constitution. The Australian Labor Party wants to abolish the Senate - the House of the States. It wants to centralise all power in Canberra. That is not only contained in the Party's constitution; it is shown in practice. It is what the Government has been doing in the past few months. If it wants to abolish the States perhaps it will stick to its drafting. If that is so it will take the States out of the Constitution everywhere it can. It will omit the words 'in each State'. This may be just a little straw in the wind - it may not mean very much - but if the Government has nothing to lose by making itself plain and by retaining the words 'in each State' and putting after them, if it likes, 'and any Territory' that would surely satisfy the quite chimerical fears expressed by the Prime Minister in this House a few moments ago. Surely there should be some reason in this. Surely the Government is not so proud that it will not look at an amendment on its merits. My Party-

Mr Daly - You never did.

Mr WENTWORTH - Will you be quiet? I know that you are Leader of the House but will you let somebody else talk for a moment?

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