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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2583


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 07/05/1972

Release Type: Interview

Transcript ID: 2583

With Messrs Bob Baudino and Brian Johns, Perth, 7 May 1972
PM The Leaders of the Federal Parties in the Commonwealth
Parliament to find out if they would take part in a convention.
I wrote to the Leaders of the Country Party, the Labor
Party and the D. L. P. and I havenow received letters from
each of them expressing their willingness to take part in a
Conference. But the Government also made a decision, at
least we made a decision, as the Government, that we would be
represented. Shortly afterwards, on 19 April to be precise,
we considered a submission by the Attorney-General., and I
was given authority to convey the decision to Sir Henry, to
make an announcement at the appropriate time
Q You have done that
PM I think a letter is ready now. I had to wait until we
got one additional letter at that time, and I received tlat
just before I came here. I think I can stress the importance
of. this Convention because of the rapid change in conditions in
Australia, and the need to develop a Constitution that is
appropriate to the times, both from the point of view of the
Commonwealth and the States, and the desirability of giving
some voice to Local Government Authorities.
We took our de6ision against the background that the
fundamental Constitutional role must lie with the Commonwealth
Parliament because only the Commonwealth can take the necessary
action to have a referendum presented to the Australian people.
So that whilst we are willing and anxious to participate, we
must do so on the basis that the convention could not bind the
Commonwealth. Shortly I will be submitting a paper to the Leaders ol.
the other Parties so that we can have preliminary discussions
. prior to having the proposals submitted to the members of
each Party for consideration. I've already told the States,
after receiving a question in the House, that there was a
strong-feeling that Local Government should be represented.
Q Can you tell us in the Sir Henry Bolte letter,-the
points he made
PM Well, fundamentally, we would ask the Leaders of the
various Parties in the Parliament....
Q Would you spel out where he would like thd Constitution
PM No, so far it's only in a preparatory stage. I'd like
very much if subsequent matters could be dealt with in depth.
Q You don't expect anything this year
PM We'll have meetings, yes, but to establish the kind of
forum, to establish the rules and the framwork and the number
of representatives from the States and Commonwealth, I. doubt
whether we can get on to the subject this year. ./ 2

Q So this is a long term -it will be right at the
top level?
PM Yes.
Q It will be yourself, and the State Premiers
PM Yes.
Q All State Premiers involved
PM Yes. I think we will find though there will be
Parliamentary Delegations, for example, we have been
thinking of this Preliminary Conference that there should
be probably as many as fifteen or eighteen representatives
from the Commonwealth Parliament, but th~ at would be-witliout
prejudice to larger representations, at a later date.
Q Eighteen representatives from the Commonwealth
PM Fifteen to eighteen
From the Comm*' nwealth alorie
PM Yes. We are thinking of it. I'm not saying we are
committed to it yet.
Q This is designed to cover all avenues of the Constitution-
All possible points of discussion.
PM Well, that's going too far yet. I think we wouldn't
touching subsequent matters just at the moment, but this is
the number of peoplethat we think we could cope with at a
preliminary conference.
Q Well, could I ask what would be the breakdown on this
party would it be Ministerial or official levels?
PM No, it would be members of both Houses, and members
of each of the Parliamentary groups, each of the Parliameneary
Parties: drawn from each of-the Parliamentary Parties.
QWhen do you think this meeting might take place
PM I could not tell you when it's. likely to be, but I
~ understand, THIS PART IS OFF THE RECORD, I rang Greenwood
yesterday, because he had been at a conference sbme time in
April, and he'd written to meq telling what happened at
the Conference and making several recommendations to me.
Q That was the Conference in Adelaide -Attorney-Generals.
just looking at Constitution review
PM Yes.
Q And this follows on from that I take it -obviously
Sir Henry's Attorney-General has gone back and briefed him?
./ 3

PM This followed this must have happened in the last
few weeks because this is the Attorney-General's meeting
and I have not yet recehived I've seen the press release
made by the Attorney-General, but I haven't yet got a report
from the Attorney as to what happened, or any recommendations
that he m ay have made.
Q What I'm questioning is the timing of Sir Henry Bolte's
letter. Sir Henry Bolte wrote to you after the Attorney-
Generals' Meeting?
PM No, before. He wrote to me on the 22nd March.
I don't have the date the Attorneys met, but it would have
been in the lastcouple of weeks. U

Transcript 2583