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Thursday, 8 November 1973
Page: 1681

Senator MURPHY -Yes, seeking the majority viewpoint of persons, irrespective of the Houses and irrespective of the parties. It could be a fair ascertainment of the views of the people concerned, again, as I say, without any constitutional significance in the sense of an operative constitutional or legislative decision. It could be a fair way to get a decision, and presumably the decision would be between Capital Hill and Camp Hill, although I imagine there is no conclusiveness as to that. If somebody wanted to propose some other site, that is a matter for those who would deal with the arrangements. I suggest that this is a reasonable and fair proposition that we should accept.

Prior to May 1971 the then Prime Minister indicated that this matter ought to be determined by the members of the 2 Houses. In this way the members can be brought together and they can make a decision in a fair manner. I suggest that if this proposition is agreed to, the arrangements for the meeting ought to be such that there should be no debate on the issue. This can be conducted elsewhere outside the chambers. It is proposed that we should come back into the chamber, have a vote and put an end to a matter on which there has been a great deal of debate and discussion. I hope that this proposition is agreed to.

I know there are some people who have fears about any meeting together of the Houses because it may serve as some precedent. I do not think we should shy at shadows on a question such as this. A decision as to where the new parliament house should be needs to be made, and I think we ought to have enough sense to regard this as being primarily a matter for senators and members. This was the point of disagreement previously when, there having been a difference of opinion between the 2 Houses, the matter was treated by the then Prime Minister as one for executive decision. I think that was resented greatly because, when one added the individual votes, there was a preponderance in the direction other than that which was determined by the then Prime Minister. I suggest that this procedure is similiar to that which was used on an earlier occasion when there was an ascertainment, as I understand it, of the views of members of the Houses. I suggest that the Senate ought to agree to the proposal of the House of Representatives. We suggested it in May 1971. Now the House of Representatives has come round to the viewpoint that there should be such a meeting.

Senator Drake-Brockman - What happens after there is a decision?

Senator MURPHY - We would expect that the Government would act in accordance with the decision as to the site. Work would proceed, happily we would think, without the necessity for the approval of the National Capital Development Commission. Senators and members, as individuals, could determine the question. I feel confident that the Government would act in accordance with the decision. As far as I know, there has been no Cabinet decision either as to site or as to the whole question, during the life of this Government. The basis upon which I believe that members of the Government would be proceeding is that if there is a meeting and if there is a decision one way or the other it would be acted upon. I can say no more than that.

Senator Greenwood - There could be a counting of heads without a joint meeting.

Senator MURPHY -I think that is right. One could have a counting of heads. If people are away- some might be away- and if there is a close vote, there will be problems. The motion seems a reasonable way out of what has become an impasse. We could meet together, have a vote and be done with the matter. If it is accepted on all hands that that is the way in which the matter is to be resolved, we meet and count the heads then and there and let it be decided. After that it would be difficult to argue further about the matter. I suggest that it is a common sense way to resolve the matter. It is consistent with what we requested of the House of Representatives. I would ask the Senate to concur in the motion.

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