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Tuesday, 15 October 1974
Page: 1716

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate) - Mr President, Senator Sir MagnusCormack was kind enough to inform me a little while ago that he proposed to raise this matter in the adjournment debate. It is true that the country is faced with a great number of problems which to most of us transcend the problem which he has raised. Nevertheless, I suppose it is correct to say that each of the questions which are raised, whether they be little or great, must be dealt with in their own way. The honourable senator raised the issues of tradition and the proper procedures in dealing with questions of this nature. He is entitled to do so. There are other bases upon which such questions ought to be approached. One of those is fair dealing between the 2 Houses, the members of the Senate and the members of my Party. On 25 September 1974 a luncheon was held for the Shah of Iran in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. That day of the week was also the day on which traditionally the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party meets in its conclave called the Caucus. After the luncheon I was asked a question by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) on this subject. He said:

My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is there any substance in the allegation, or rumour, to put it at that level, which is about the Senate that the Government is contemplating any change in the Table of Precedence affecting the longstanding tradition of the Parliament that the President of this chamber take precedence over the Speaker of the other place?

I answered:

Mr President,I should be quite frank with the Senate. There has been some uncertainty, let me say, in this matter. I inform the Senate that there has been no change in the Table of Precedence. I inform the Senate that the present position is that the President takes precedence over the Speaker in accordance with longstanding tradition.

Mr President,as you and my colleagues know, there had been a meeting of my Party on that day, prior to the luncheon for the Shah. I had good reason to believe that the statement that I made to the Senate following the luncheon for the Shah reflected the position as I understood it. I had good reason to believe that that was in complete accordance with the decision which had been taken by my Party. This evening, shortly after this matter was drawn to my attention, I had the opportunity to consult Senator Wheeldon, who was intimately acquainted with the matter, and he confirmed my belief that what I put to the Senate was correct. I had no intimation before this evening that there had been any change in the circumstances.

Mr President,I have had some discussion this evening. I do not propose to acquaint the Senate with it, but I take the view that apart from tradition and precedence there is a question also of fair dealing as between members of this House and members of my Party. My understanding of the position is, as I stated on 25 September 1974, that the President take precedence over the Speaker in accordance with longstanding tradition.

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