PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 3892


Photo of Whitlam, Gough

Whitlam, Gough

Period of Service: 05/12/1972 to 11/11/1975

More information about Whitlam, Gough on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 21/09/1975

Release Type: Broadcast

Transcript ID: 3892

Embargo: 5 pmS1
Sunday 21 September 1975
Once again the press has been full of noisy
speculation about the Opposition rejecting the Budget and
somehow forcing another election. It is important to put
an end to this talk because it is ill-founded and damaging
damaging to the whole process of good government and
administration, damaging to the stability and confidence
of the entire community. I noti'ce Mr Fraser was quoted as
the other day that a bit of uncertainty about elections
helped boost business confidence. You can draw your own
conclusions from that sort of reasoning, but at least
it helps to explain Mr Fraser's shameful silence on the
basic issu& k. saying
First let me make the Government's position
perfectly clear. I've spelt it out before. We were
elected last year for a three-year term. We intend to
serve out that term. Everything we have done, all our
policies and decisions have been based on the assumption
that the Government would complete the normal term allowed
by the Constitution. So it's not the Government that is
causing this uncertainty it's the Opposition and its
supporters. From the way the press carry on you would think
that Mr Fraser only had to snap his fingers and an election
would follow, That's by no means certain for a number of
reasons. For a start, it's not clear whether the Opposition
senators would all do as Mr Fraser tells them. Only this
week Senator Jessop, a Liberal senator from South Australia
stated publicly that he wouldn't have anything to do with
blocking the Budget in the Senate. The independent senators,
Senator Hall and Senator Bunton, have said the same thing.
They have all taken the honourable and proper view that
this isn'It the Senate's f unction. But let's assume f or the
moment that the Opposition could force an election in this
way. Let's consider how thoroughly destructive that would
be to our whole system of government.
Once we accept the idea that the Senate can
force a Government to an early election, the whole system
breaks down. Once the precedent is established any future
Government not just this Government would be at the
mercy of vindictive senators, of a chance majority in a
hostile Upper House. Mr Fraser knows this perfectly well.
Every Government has its ups and downs its spells of
popularity and unpopularity.-That' s inevitable in politics.
The Liberals went through these ups and downs when they were
in office, and we've had more than our share of them ourselves.
A Government contending with difficult economic conditionswith
problems of inflation and unemployment shared by every
other comparable country -a Government forced to take

difficult and sometimes tough decisions in the national
interest -will be especially vulnerable to shifts of
fortune and chan-ging moods in the electorate. It would
be monstrous to suggest that a Government in these
circumstances should be forced to the polls whenever
it suited the Opposition. No Government would be free
t ' o plan ahead, to take decisions for the future, to
take tough measures when necessary.
I can best illustrate'this point by reference
to the Budget. The Budget we brought down last month was
framed in the ccntext of long-term planning, as the
second of the t-hree annual Budgets in the term for which
this Government was elected. It iwas framed in the context
of present economic problems, national and international.
It is part of a steady, long-term attack on inflation.
The essential point is this: the Budget must
be given a chance to work. No one pretends that it will
work overntght. No Budget works overnight. Mr Fraser
himself has said that there is no quick, easy solution
to our economic problems. The overriding need is for a period
of steady, stable government while the Budget takes effect.
The next few months are crucial. Any interruption to the Budget
strategy, any disruption to the process of recovery, any
attempt to bring ab~ out a wholly unnecessary political crisis,
would have disastrous effects on public confidence and
economic planning.
0 The real question of course quite apart
from anything the opposition might like to do is what
they could do. The Constitution says-nothing on this
point and there are absolutely no conventions or precedents
to guide us. ' The Senate has never rejected a money bill or
a Budget in its whole 75-year history that alone will
give you some idea of how irregular, how monstrous, the
idea is. There is actually no provision in the Constitution
or any precedent to suggest that an election must follow
the rejection of a Budget at all. In fact there are good
grounds for believing that the Senate's rejection of a
Budget would be in itself unconstitutional. After all,
the Constitution specifically-plays down that the Senate may
neither originate nor amend a money bill. It hardly seems
likely that the found ' ing fathers intended that the Senate
should reject bills which they are forbidden even to amend.
Mr Fraser seems to be falling into exactly
the same trap as Mr Snedden on this issue. Three weeks ago
he said the Budget would be passed. He has more than once
expressed the view that an elected Government must be allowed
to govern. He stated this principle on the very day he was
elected as Leader of the Opposition. Indeed, one of the
reasons his colleagues elected him was to put an end to the
constant speculation, the damage done to his party and the
country by Mr Snedden's endless and irresponsible threats of
an election. People were sick and tired of Mr Snedden
harping on the subject. We saw what happened last year when
/ 3

the Liberals knuckled under to Country Party pressure and the
Senate threatened to reject supply. The people wouldn't wear
it. I called an election myself on that occasion so that
our Medibank bills and other important measures could get
through Parliament afterwards. The people re-elected the
Government. The Liberals turned to a new leader who
professed some respect for constitutional principles,
for political decency, for the rules of the game.
People shouldn't assume that just because there
was an election last time the Senate abused its powers,
there would necessarily be an election if they did it again.
It's obvious that Mr Fraser is under exactly the same
pressures as Mr Snedden. He's looking more like another
Snedden every day. He knows the proper course; the
question is whether he will stick to his guns. It takes
a special sort ofE courage real political guts to
stand up to the jackals in the Opposition and resist their
demands. If Mr Fraser has-any self-respect, if he has any
shred of honour, he will make it clear, once and for all,
that an election is just not on. He will show his party
and the country that he really is the Leader of the Opposition
and not a stooge of the Anthonys, the Courts, the Lynches,
the Bjelke-Petersens and the various unscrupulous
pressure groups that surround them. Every day he dithers
on this issue adds to the nation's uncertainty, weakens our
democratic system, jand reinforces the impression that when
the heat is really on, Malcolm Fraser is just as weak and
compromising as his unfortunate predecessor.

Transcript 3892