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Thursday, 8 November 1973
Page: 1699

Senator BYRNE (Queensland) -I think it is important that this matter be resolved and resolved quickly. On the last occasion on which I spoke on this matter I put a proposal to the Senate and Senator Murphy put a proposal to the Senate. Ultimately the 2 propositions emerged as a single proposition. Obviously one of the difficulties which is presenting itself to honourable senators is the fact that if a joint sitting of both Houses were held in some way the Senate may submerge its dignity lose its independence and, in the vote that is subsequently taken, be overwhelmed by the House of Representatives. I think that is a very artificial reason for resisting the proposition put forward by Senator Murphy. This is a matter of concern not just to one House of the Parliament but to both Houses of the Parliament. Surely the 2 Houses could meet on this occasion. I know that constitutionally there is only one situation in which a joint sitting of both Houses is provided for. But this would not be a joint sitting in the constitutional sense. It would be merely the 2 Houses meeting together for a common purpose to determine a matter of great national importance.

To those honourable senators who feel that in some way the dignity of the Senate is going to be trespassed upon or that in some way its opportunities are going to be submerged I foreshadow an amendment that I propose to move to Senator Murphy's motion. I will move it formally when the opportunity arises. It relates to paragraph (b) of Senator Murphy's motion, which states that a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives should be convened to determine the matter. As I have said, I see no objection to that happening, but there are some honourable senators who have some objection to the motion in that form. Therefore I will propose that the following words be substituted for the words contained in paragraph (b) of Senator Murphy's motion:

A meeting of all federal parliamentarians be convened in Parliament House to determine the matter.

In other words we would not meet as 2 Houses meeting together; we would meet in what might be called a collegium of elected representatives in the Federal Parliament, as an electoral college, to determine this matter once and for all. That, I feel, should reassure the honourable senators who, to my mind, have an oversensitive regard for the position of the Senate on this occasion. I suppose there would be nobody who, on other occasions, has protected the rights and dignities of the Senate more than I have or who has defended them more enthusiastically than I have. But to try and propound that proposition in this circumstance is I think completely artificial and totally indefensible. I feel that if my form of words were adopted and the elected members of the national Parliament were to meet, as it were, in one great plebescite, in a collegium, in an assembly of elected persons to determine this matter and the identity of the 2 Houses was submerged in the totality it would overcome even the most sensitive resistence of those who feel very strongly about this matter. I will not pursue the matter any further at this stage beyond saying that I agree that all members of Parliament should get together on this issue. I have no objection to the 2 Houses meeting in the terms of Senator Murphy's proposal. For the benefit of those honourable senators objecting to an assembly in those terms and in that form I will propound my alternative proposition. Apart from that I agree with paragraphs (A) and (c) of Senator Murphy's motion. I do hope that this matter will be quickly, effectively and satisfactorily resolved.

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