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Tuesday, 10 December 1974
Page: 3330

Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation) - in reply- I was told before the debate started this evening that it would be very brief, that Senator Carrick would say a few words on the subject, that the Bill would not be opposed by the Opposition and would go through without delay. I must confess that I had a rather uneasy feeling about the matter from the very start before I came into the chamber. It was only as the debate progressed that I realised what gave me this sense of diquiet. Lurking in the back of my mind were memories of the Chowilla and Dartmouth debate- an issue which has riven Australian society. Few other issues since 1788 have divided this country into such factions. There seems to be a sort of romantic quality about the River Murray that brings out the passions of those who frequent its banks. This has certainly been illustrated this evening. I would not wish to dwell on the matter because Senator Carrick has complimented the Government, Senator Davidson appears to agree with the Government, Senator Laucke was casting strictures in various directions but I took it they were not in mine -

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - You have not heard Senator Poyser and me in the Committee stage yet.

Senator WHEELDON - I am looking forward to that with eager anticipation. It would be nice to go back to the Dartmouth-Chowilla debates. They had a certain soothing feeling for those of us who did not come from that part of the country. Senator Laucke, I think, has told us we should keep politics out of water. I gather that was his message to the chamber this evening, but it was a little difficult after hearing the exchanges between Senator Hall and Senator McLaren. The only issues that have been raised to which I feel I need reply- the others referred to the South Australian Government, for which I am not responsible, and to past causes which have already been fought and won or lost- were matters which were raised by Senator Hall. He asked that there should not be any change in the River Murray Commission. There is no intention that there should be any change in that Commission. No change is proposed in this Bill, nor has it been suggested, so far as I know, by anybody at all. So if Senator Hall, who looks very worried at the moment, is seriously concerned about this I should like to allay his fears; he really has nothing to worry about.

He also offered us a few other apercus during the course of his remarks on the subject. He said that the Australian Labor Party was the most conservative and reactionary Party in Australia. The only 2 things I would say about that is that it is an interesting departure to be outflanked from the left. Generally people have been telling me to go back to either Moscow or Peking, so to be outflanked from the left in this way by Senator Hall is a new experience. The other thing I would say about this is that if the Australian Labor Party is the most reactionary and conservative Party in Australia it must be a most reactionary and conservative Party indeed. Senator Hall said that the Australian Labor Party was unable to match 'the moving scene in front of it'. The moving scene in front of it at the time I was looking seemed very passive indeed. I must say again that if I could not match the moving scene I was looking at at the time when he made these observations to me then I must be totally paralysed. All I would say on this matter in conclusion is that I am glad that, despite the sharp exchanges that have occurred- reminiscent of earlier days gone by- there is so much unanimity on this measure. I think that the Opposition has -

Senator Marriott - Still waters run deep.

Senator WHEELDON - Still waters indeed do run deep but they do not run very silently. It is to be noted that this important legislation is the product of an Australian Labor Party government. I am glad to see that for once the members of the Opposition are following a constructive course of rallying behind the Government and not pursuing their usual obstructive role. It is quite a red letter day in that sense although I suppose that, in view of what Senator Hall has said, it would be rather surprising for me to be using the word 'red'. I thank the Opposition for its cooperation in the passage of the Bill, although in future I would suggest that when Opposition senators are supporting a Bill it might be better if they were to put in writing any other remarks they wished to make.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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