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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 4401

ADDRESS AT TOWNSVILLE REFERENDUM MEETING -17 MAY 1977

Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 17/05/1977

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 4401

WMnARGOD UNTIL DEL-TvERY: PRIME MIT STEZ
ADDRESS AT TOWiISViLIX REFEREWU
This is thelatweofte ef rn'capin Thopin-ls
show that in every State, thpre, ir significant support for the
referendums. The polls show that in Queensland, there is a solid
majority yes vote on all four questions, notwithst.;-ding the
expensive campaign by the State Government. This is not surprising.
The four referendum proposals are sensible, just and well considered
refomns. They will strengthen our constitution, a constitution of
which we may-all be justly proud. The founding fathers carefully
provided us with the means to make necessary changes.
They specifically built into the Constitution a mechanism for an ndix
it, To en~ sure that the Constitution remains a livinig reality,
continuing to meet changing needs.
In the referendums on Satorday we shall all ha. ve t cbh=-e -to
contribute to timely and necessary constitutional reform. Quinsi; W
have traditionally taken a leading role ' in coilstitutiona. l reform.
Queensland h~ as voted in favour of 18 of thd 32 refefndums since
Federation. I feel confident that by Saturday evening, that figure
will be increased to 22.
The reason these referendum proposals are being put to you is that
they are fair and necessary, and because they were considered and
endorsed by the H~ obart Constitutional Convention. At which all
the Statea the Commonwealth and local Goveranment were represented.
The Convention was initiated by a State Government, by the Victorian
Liberal Government under Sir Henry Bolte, a stronger anti-centralist
could not be asked JCor. The' Hobart Convent-ion was dominated by the
States which had 72 of the 92 votes. It passed the principles of all
four referendum proposals over-Whelm~ ingly.
The proposals have the support of all major federal political
parties. The four proposals are * also distinguished by a nuzber-of
special features, N~ one of them seek to increase the power of the
Coimonwealth, none will weaken the powers of the States or the
Senate, none iaeek-s miore power for politiciauis.
If the four referendums are passed, the balance of powers between
the Commonwealth and the States will remain unaltered. This is why,
Of course, thei' State dominated constitutionatl convention supported
all four propo~ 3als.

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There have been attempts to mislead voters by Port-raying the
referendum proposals as in some way an attack on the States or
the Senate. Nothing could be fuzrther from tile truth. If there
were any truth-ln it, th4 proposals would never have received the
support of the States at Hobart. And they would not have received
the support of Sir Gordon chalke, Dam~ Annabelle Rardd-n and Charles
Aclermann. They would niot have the support of the National Party Organisation
in Queensland. We deoplore the Queensland Goverrnents use of public
money to run an intensive advertising campaign against the
referendum. The A. B. C. provides equal time for publivising both sides of the
case. Two hours for the yes case to be put and two. hours
for advocates of the no case to put their views. No Federal funds
are being spent on advertising the yes case.
Yet the Queensland Government is spending huge amounts of taxpayers
funds to mount an advertising campaign which qrosvly distorts the
facts. We all know that. Job-Bjelke-Petersen put the iritercsts of
Queensland first when he fought against the Labor Government's
attempts to invade areas of States rights. And we applaud thiis.
But his opposition to these referendums is completely urnjustified.'
The only way it can be explained is that having onoe, justifiably,
got on the anti-Canberra horse be finds it difficult to got off,
and this is tragic.
These referendums are our opportunity to ensure that the Corstitutic
which we are all rightly proud of is strengthened and continues to
serve the needs of our nation.
The four proposals on which we shall be voting ne Saturday are
thewse. First, that elections for the Senate and Rouse of
Representatives shouldbeheld simultaneously. Thbis proposal was
supported unanimously at the Convention. Those in favour included
Mr. Knox, Mr Hewitt, sir. Lickiss, Mr. Porter, Sir Charles Court,
and significantly Mir. Bjelke-Petersen.
Every representative of the Quecnsland Goverrnment supported
the sismultaneous elections prooosa. just 7 mloths ago. It is a
matter of regret that those deiegates have reversed their position.
Because it is simply coi= Kon sense that both elections should be
held at the same timze.
This proposal means you will not have to vote in as many rederal
elections.-That you will only have to vote in a Federal election whoen
you have to choose Australia's Governmen~ t. Simultaneous elections
protect the less populous states like Queensland.
Whe * n there are separate elections for tho Ylouse of * Representatives,
political leaders will be temptod to confine their campaigin to
New South Wales and Victoria, which bave over 60 per cent of the
seats.

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But if there is at the time an election for the Senate, in wh ich
all States are equally r epr sented. The campaign must be
vigorously pursued in to' a ! States. Rederal politicians will have
to be more responsive to th6' wishes of people in the less populous
States.-It is sometimes said that sim4.3 ane selections can be achieved
by bringing the House of Reprjsr: t eseeoie owadt
coincide with that of the Sen te.~-
Unless the Cons titu*_. on is cha'geci the only way to bring the
elections together would be reeatedly to cut short the term of
the House of Representatives, ' T he three year term is however,
already relatively short, one. 1of ti-#\ shortest parliamentary terms
in the democratic world. Fui4tber-educing it would damage -good
Governmnent.
Most importantly, this proposal will mnaintain anid strengthen the
Senate and its capacity to protect the States. I tell you in all
seriousness that if this proposal. is not passed, the future
of the Senat~ e will ul1tinately be put in jeopardy.
it was an accident that in 1975 there were bills enabling the
Governor-General to dissolve both Houses and make them both face
the people. Had Senators not been able to face the people themselves
so that their actions might be judged, a number of Senators
would not have agreed to block supply.
1, myself, would nevem have sought the blocking of supply from
a Senate that would not itself have also faced the people of
Australia. The Senate's powers are great, and anyone who wants them to remain
a livinPg reality will campaign for simultaneous elections and
vote for them on Saturday week.
Por unless the present situation is changed, I can foresee two
alternative consequences. The Senate might refuse to check a
bad government unless there happened to exist the circumstances
which would permit a double dissolution.
Alternatively if Senators were. to make the House of Representatives
go to an election without facing the people thems~ ives, then there
would be a public outcry against the Senate which could lead to
the Senate's powers being restricted or abolished. Either of these
alternatives would be bad for democratic Government, bad for the
States and bad for Australia. That is why it is important that
this referendum be passed.
The second referendum proposal is that whenever a Senalordies or
resigns, he will be replaced, for the remainder of his, termi of
office, by a mempber of dhe same party. This will gua-rantee that your
choice of parties for the Senate cannot be altered by accident or
desig-n.

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This will guarantee that your choice of parties for the Senate
cannot be altered by accident or design. Under the Constitution
as it now stands, a Senate vacancy can con-pltely change
the party balance.
It is fundamental to our democracy that only the people should
determine the balance of the parties in the Senate. And I
need hardly repeat that it is vital to Queensland that it be
inrpossible for any Government to tamnper withl the party balance in
the Senate. For it is in the Senate that the less populous States
have the strongest vote.
The importance of this cannot be understated, and the examiple
Evan Adermann put to me last night brings it home.
He often travels home from Canberra in the same aeroplane as almost
all the Queensland Senators. What would happen he asked if the
aeroplane were to be involved in-a tragic accident? Would the
people of Queensland, of any State, be content to make the Party
affiliation of their Sunators depend on some State Governmart
observing a conventirn that might be breached by considerations
of political advantage.
Constitutiong are supposed to na] e laws for this sort of situation.
Not allow i't to depend on the political calculations of State
Governments. Once this referendum proposal is accepted the
peoples choice will be preservad until they have an opportunity
to make another choice, at the next election.
The third referendum proposal, is that voters in the Australian
Capital Territory and Northern Territory should have a vote in
all future refcca-ndums.
This is a fundamental right all other Australians have.
I know of no rational or . reason able argument for denying
territorial voters this basic right.
TerrItorial voters have the smme obligations as other Auistralians.
They pay tayxes, they are obliged to observe the laws of the
Commonwealth, they vote for Members of Parliament, the outcome
Of refe-rendu~ zs affect them as much as they do other Australians.
All Liberal and National Party from the legislative
assewnblAes in both. territories unanimously support this referendum
and ask for our support, I believe we should give them that support.
The fourth and final referendum proposal, is to set a retiring age
for Federal Justices. High Court Justices would retire at seventy
and the retiremant acve for other Federal Court Judgjes would be
determined by Parliament.
The propova-1 does not affect the terms of Judqe5 already ap'pointed
td the bench. Mst jobs have retirement ages, and for good reason.
Judges are as affected by old age as the rest of u1s.
It is only fair that after thle age of seventy responsibility should
be handed over to younger people.

This is even more important now that the new system of Federal
Fanily Courts have been set up. All Queensland State Judges are
subject to a retiring age of seventy. That system has worked
well in this State, and would work well in Federal Courts.
All four referendum proposals are fair just and reasonable.
They meet all the requirements for success. They have been
extensively considered by representatives of all the States, they
have the support of all major Federal Parties, they do not involve
morc power for Canberra, they will make the Constitution work
better. If you agree with me that it is vital that all four referendums
should be passed on Saturday, I ask you in these few remaining
days to play your part in this campaign.
Talk to your friends, explain to them that these four simple
propositions are necessaxy fair and just and give us. your active
support on polling day.
If we all do this, then the referendums will be passed and we
will have a Constitution which serves Australia's needs more
effectively. o00o

Transcript 4401