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Thursday, 8 November 1973
Page: 1696

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - The Senate is indebted to Senator Wright for placing this important matter of a new and permanent parliament house before us in a way that invites us to give renewed contemplation to the whole matter. It is a challenge to our thinking and invites us to re-examine our views as to the procedure and other matters relating to a decision on the matter. We have listened to the motion which Senator Murphy has put before us and we have listened with considerable interest to the argument which Senator Cavanagh has put forward. I am indebted to him for drawing my attention to the previous debate on a new and permanent parliament house which took place on 29 May 1 969.

Senator Murphyput a long resolution to the Senate on that occasion. The first three or four phrases spelled out some considerations and recommendations. But the basis of it, as I pick it up from the debate on that day, was that the resolution included the words:


(   1 ) that the proposed joint meeting -

To which earlier reference has been made- be held on a day and time to be fixed by Mr President and Mr Speaker and that the joint meeting consist of senators and members of the House of Representatives;

(2)   that Mr President and Mr Speaker be joint chairmen . . to draw up regulations for the conduct of such joint meeting; and

(3)   that as such a joint meeting there be no debate on the subject matter of the alternative sites and that the question be decided by a majority of votes;

Then followed a fairly long debate lasting for some considerable time and taking up quite a few pages in Hansard. Then just prior to 1 o'clock the President of the day, Senator Sir Alister McMullin, put the question, the Senate divided, and 25 senators voted in favour of the motion and 27 voted against. There was a majority of 2 votes on that occasion opposing a joint sitting. I know it has been pointed out that the composition of the Senate is now different and will be different on other occasions. It is interesting to record as we reopen this important subject of debate that this was the decision of the Senate at that time. I have dealt with the matter fairly simply and quickly and it may be that I have missed some points, but I leave it at that.

I have only one or two other observations to make. I come down in favour of a legislative measure such as that proposed by Senator Wright because it deals with this matter in what I call a parliamentary manner. It may be argued that a joint sitting held somewhere in the buildingI hope not in the refreshments rooms- may just as well be a parliamentary matter. I still prefer that an issue of this nature be decided in the forms of which the Senate already enjoys provision, and that is in a legislative measure in the form of a Bill. A Bill will enable us to debate the matter. A Bill will enable us to make amendments to the issue. A Bill debated in this chamber has procedures which are already laid down and already agreed to. There are Standing Orders which exist and work. There can be no doubt at all about those matters.

However, in the event of a joint meeting regulations will have to be prepared and there will always be issues on which there is debate and division of opinion. So, I support a decision by legislative measure, such as by the introduction of a Bill and I look forward if such a decision is carried to its being part of an amendment to Senator Wright's proposed legislation which will provide for the Capital Hill site.

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