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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7375


Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 14/08/1988

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 7375

one hundred years ago next week a group of Townsville
workers gathered at Grosskoff's Family Hotel here in
Townsville for an historic meeting.
The bricklayers, carpenters, seamen, wharfies, builders,
laborers, tailors and butchers who came together on 23
August 1888 carried this motion: " That they form themselves
into a branch of the Trades and Labor Council of
Queensland." Tonight we celebrate the one hundred years of hard work,
commitment and solidarity which that resolution initiated.
The Townsville Trades and Labor Council has played a major
role since 1888 in defending and enhancing the interests of
the working men and women of North Queensland. It has also
played a massive role in all aspects of the labor movement
at the local, State and Federal levels.
This century of achievement gives us much to celebrate at
tonight's dinner and I am grateful for having been invited
as your guest of honour to join with you in these
celebrations. It's appropriate on such an occasion to reflect on what it
was that motivated those pioneers of the Townsville Trades
and Labor Council not for the purpose of engaging in idle
speculation, but with the serious intention of measuring our
achievements against their expectations, and of using the
experience gained over the last one hundred years as a guide
in preparing ourselves for the next century.
We can establish with the invaluable assistance of
hindsight that these pioneers were motivated, first, by a
perception that prevailing conditions, in their work place
and in the broader society, were unfair and unjust.
And second, they recognised that this unfairness and
injustice is not insuperable but can be overcome through the
processes of peaceful reform if people of goodwill work
10% 9i6

That is the truth contained in the wards chosen as this
Trades and Labor Council's motto: " Strength United is
Stronger". our pioneers saw that by working together we can
achieve goals far larger than can be achieved by working
separately. This is the great truth of the Labor movement, which
provides the founding principle of every branch, every
union, every Trades and Labor Council.
And it is the truth which underlies the historic Prices and
1 incomes Accord that currently exists between the industrial
and political wings of the labor movement.
It can fairly be said that never in the history of the labor
movement has there been such a close and constructive
partnership between the two wings of our great movement than
there has been since 1983 in the form of the Accord. This
partnership has allowed your Federal Labor Government to
create one million new jobs, to implement massive
improvements in the social wage, and to establish the
foundations for genuine, sustainable, long-term prosperity
in-this country.
The third factor which must have motivated the founders of
this Trades and Labor Council is related to the previous
two: they were determined to seek industrial and political
reforms which would benefit not just their immediate
supporters but the wider community; they were determined to
achieve not gains which could be quickly eroded by time but
permanent gains which would help build a better Australia.
Over our entire history, the Australi'fi Labor Party and the
Australian trade union movement, in all their levels and in
all their forums, have been dedicated to seeking reforms of
that nature.
Just as we have always done, Labor'today is seeking
improvements not just for the present but for the future
achieving reforms in today's world which will make a better
and more prosperous world for our children tomorrow.
I speak to you tonight as Prime Minister of a Government
unashamedly proud of its achievements in this labor
tradition of reform.
we are creating a more efficient and effective economy, a
more efficient and effective industrial relations system and
taxation system, a more efficient and effective system of
educating and training young Australians, and of ensuring
the health and welfare of all Australians.
J There have been reforms achieved in the interest of all
Australians and achieved with the cooperation of all
Australians. Tonight I want to speak to you about another essential
reform task facing Australians: the task of creating a more
effective and relevant Constitution. 1097

When the six Australian colonies federated in 1901 and
created the Commonwealth of Australia, they established a
system of Government which solved pretty successfully the
problems and rivalries of that process of nation building.
But they did not establish nor could they realistically be
expected to have established a system which would stand
unchanged through the next century.
As Australia becomes a more complex and mature society, and
as the demands of economic decision-making become sharper,
the limitations and shortcomings of the Constitution become
more apparent.
The need for Constitutional reform becomes more pressing.
On 3 September, Australians are being asked to vote on four
referendum proposals. if they approve these proposals,
Australia will be able to enter the 21st Century with a
Constitution which provides a fairer and more up to date
basis for the system of Government we inherited in 1901.
That is why we are seeking support for four proposals which
will: provide for four year maximum terms for both Houses of
the Commonwealth Parliament;
establish fair and democratic Parliamentary elections
throughout Australia;
recognise local government as an integral part of the
system of government in this country; and
extend rights already in the Constitution so that they
effectively cover all Australians.
These proposals cover four separate areas of our
Constitution, but they share one key and overwhelming
element: they are about benefiting people, rather than
empowering governments.
That is the theme which unites these proposals, and it is
the fact which gives me greatest confidence the four
referendums will succeed.
Since 1945, a federal election has been held on average once
every two years. This is universally recognised as too
c ostly, not only in terms of the $ 50 million that is now
spent to hold each election, but also the increased economic
instability and the restraint on good government imposed by
the ever-present prospect of an election.
It is a fact of life that where as in Australia's case at
present and for some time to come economic reconstruction
is needed, the pain always precedes the gain.
So the first referendum seeks 4 year maximum terms for both
Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament.

This will allow Governments to take those tough decisions
without being deterred by the short-term criticism those
decisions almost inevitably inspire.
In other words, success for this proposal will ensure that
governments can get on with governing. That is why, over
the last few years, four-year terms have been adopted by
every State Government except perhaps not surprisingly
Queensland. If this referendum succeeds, it will not alter the powers of
the Senate, including its powers to review, amend or reject
legislation. For better or worse, the Senate's power to
force a Government to the polls will remain untouched. But
in such a circumstance, a Senate would itself have to face
the electorate at the same time.
And the proposal will remove one of the chief causes for
early elections in recent years the need to bring the
timing of elections of the two Chambers back into line.
The second proposal for fair elections goes even more
directly to the issue of democracy.
At this point in the late twentieth century, as we celebrate
our Bicentenary, you would think it would be taken for
granted that a democratic government should be based on
equal representation of its citizens.
Yet this is not the position ini'Australia today at least
not in Western Australia, Tasmania and, starkly, here in
Queensland. Indeed, some of the most extraordinary imbalances in the
Queensland electoral system occur here in Townsville:
one of the three most populous Queensland State seats
Thuringowa is located here in Townsville, 1500
kilometres from Brisbane;
it takes more voters to elect the member for Thuringowa
than it does to elect the three members for Roma,
Gregory and Balonne combined;
three seats based in Townsville contain only 10,000
fewer votes than the eight seats which comprise the
Western and Far Northern Zone; the Townsville seats have
an average enrolment of just over 23,000 voters while.
the eight Western and Far Northern seats have an average
of just under 10,000 voters; and
the vote of a Townsville elector in the Thuringowa
electorate is worth only half the vote of a resident of
Charters Towers, one hour's drive away.
The proposed amendments to ensure fair and democratic
elections are simple. 1099
~ 3.

They will ensure that the number of voters in each
electorate is within 10 per cent of the average number of
voters in all electorates in each State and Territory.
The huge imbalances, the unfair elections, the blatant
denial of individual democratic rights, the Queensland
gerrymander, will all be consigned to the history books.
Redistributions will occur at least every 7 years, or more
frequently when required.
This point must be clearly understood by people in North
Queensland one of the fastest growing regions of
Australia. Without electoral redistributions, for every new
person who decides to settle here, the existing voters
effectively suffer a reduction in the value of their
electoral representation in State Parliament.
In other words without redistributions, Townsville gets
electorally punished for its success as a growth centre.
These amendments do not impose Commonwealth laws on the
States. They impose constitutional requirements on
Commonwealth and State governments alike.
what they will do is protect the rights of the people by
ensuring that their voices are heard equally on election
day, in Federal elections as in State elections, includingfor
the first time in many decades here in Queensland.
Residents of rural Australia do not need a gerrymander to
recognise their invaluable !, contribution to the ' lifestyle and
the prosperity of this State and this nation.
Indeed, it should be seen as an insult to country people
that a gerrymander has for so long been seen as the
substitute for relevant and effective rural policies.
it is my proud claim our proud claim that no Government
more than this Federal Labor Government has provided those
policies to protect and enhance the true welfare of
Australians living outside the major cities.
This proposal also seeks to fill one of the more glaring
gaps in the Constitution its failure to guarantee the
right to vote. Currently, the qualifications for voting in
any election for a parliament are whatever that parliament
chooses. A " yes" vote for this question will ensure that all
Australians have the constitutionally-guaranteed right to
vote, subject to existing legal disqualifications such as
mental incapacity or imprisonment.
In 1988, it is surely tine to enshrine the right to vote in
the document that is the basis of our democratic government.

The third referendum proposal seeks to provide, at last,
constitutional recognition of the third tier of government
local government.
There are more than 850 local councils around Australia. In
the last financial year they spent more than $ 6.5 billion on
providing the basic community services that only local
government can provide.
The fact is that local government exists, as a valid,
democratic, accountable and respec~ ea-ETer of administration
in Australia. This referendum will provide a long overdue
and thoroughly legitimate recognition of its status in the
Local government organisations throughout Australia are
backing this referendum wholeheartedly not least in
decentralised Queensland, where local government has always
played such an important and constructive role in
administration. The Mayor of Brisbane, Sally-Anne Atkinson, has declared her
support for it.
Townsville of course is where the Minister for Local
Government, Senator Margaret Reynolds, cut her teeth in
local government.
So I was particularly pleased to hear that in the last
month, the Townsville City Council lent its support to the
proposal and is now giving practical assistance through
public statements and media releases.
The fourth and final referendum proposal is as simple,
modest and practical, and as equally deserving of support as
the previous three.
This question asks voters to ensure the rights of:
trial by jury for people facing serious criminal
charges; fair compensation for property taken by any government;
and freedom of religion.
The Constitution does not give a right to trial by jury for
offences against State or Territory laws or for a number of
serious Commonwealth offences; and it gives no right to fa * ir
compensation when property is taken by a State, Territory or
local government or by the Commonwealth in a Territory.
There is no common law protection of the right to religious
freedom. This referendum will rectify each of these shortcomings. 1101
, FJ

My friends,
Each of these four proposals stands as a valuable and
significant element in a much overdue renovation of
Australia's Constitution.
Together however they represent something even larger what
I referred to earlier as their shared intention of
benefiting not Governments, not Canberra, not any political
party but, simply, the people.
Since federation, thirty eight referendums have been put to
the Australian people, of which only eight have been
approved. I have never believed that this poor track record accurately
reflects the capacity of the Australian community to achieve
sensible and vital Constitutional change.
in the past, referendum proposals all too often seemed to
emerge from on high, without prior consultation with those
who were being called upon to vote on them.
It was a process almost guaranteed to arouse the suspicions
of the political opponents of the Government of the day, as
well as of those cynics who automatically interpret any
change as a plot to enhance the power of Canberra.
They were seen as having been fornulated by politicians for
politicians. our proposals have been developed by the people for the
people. In 1985 we established the Constitutional Commission a
bipartisan community-based group to study what could be
done to achieve essential constitutional reform.
Specifically, they have been developed by the Constitutional
Commission, chaired by the former Solicitor-General, Sir
Maurice Byers, on the basis of an unprecedented process of
public consultations.
Contrast this against the stance being taken on these
referendums by the opposition.
I can't help thinking of Robert Menzies, efforts in 1944,
during the Curtin years, to create the Liberal Party. In a
speech in Canberra in that-year he had this to say of the
contribution the conservative Opposition had been making:
far too many questions we have found our role to
be simply that of the man who says there is
no room in Australia for a party of reaction. There is
no useful place for a:. policy of negation."

That was Robert Mlenzies in 1944. But there must be a large
number of Liberals who agree with those sentiments today,
and who are appalled to see their party's current position
on these referendums.
Because now the Liberals have turned the full circle; here
they are again, more than four decades later, as the party
of reaction, confronting new challenges with the oldest word
in their dictionary: " no"
what is even more astonishing is that they are saying " no"
to proposals which they actually support.
The Federal Liberals in the past have urged constitutional
recognition of local government. Now it is actually
proposed in a referendum, they oppose it.
They have urged extending the rights of trial by jury for
serious offences and fair compensation for property acquired
compulsorily by government but now these are proposed in
referendum, they oppose them.
The Liberals have supported longer parliamentary terms. But
now, asked to support a referendum to achieve that very
reform, they oppose it on spurious grounds about an
alleged attack on the powers of the Senate.
The Liberals have also supported the concept of one vote
one value. But again, given the chance to achieve that
reform, their support has turned to opposition.
That's a reversal of policy that a number of Liberals
including the Queensland Liberal leader, Angus mines,
haven't been able to stomach.
As in so many issues, what the leaders of the Party say is
being questioned and undermined from within the Party.
The reason for this series of reversals and somersaults
attests to the leadership vacuum in the Federal Liberal
Party quite simply, John Howard was rolled in the party
room by the Nationals. His principled support for
constitutional reform like so many of the erstwhile Howard
principles has been jettisoned in favour of shortsighted,
self-defeating determination to oppose for the sake of
opposing. To hide its cynicism, the opposition makes the extraordinary
claim that these proposals constitute a grab for power by
Canberra. As I have said in the past, the truth is that opposition to
the proposals means reann the privileges and -poweorfs
politicians and entrhig the inefficiencies of the
present system: 1103

Opposition to the four year term proposal means support
for disrupting the nation with elections far more
frequently than even our Constitutional founders would
have expected or ever intended.
opposition to the one vote-one value proposal means
allowing politicians to retain the power to manipulate
electoral boundaries.
Opposition to the local government proposal means
turning a blind eye to the existence of the third tier
of government and refusing the benefits of closer
cooperation among Local, State and Federal Governments.
opposition to the rightd and freedoms proposal means
allowing State politicians to retain the capacity to
deny people a number of essential rights.
For too long, the people have been absent from the
mainstream of the Constitution-making and
Constitution-changing processes of this nation.
On 3 September, I believe the people will return to that
mainsttream. By giving constitutional reform back to the people, we have
ensured that the issues being put on 3 September reflect
their priorities.
if these four proposals succeed, the real winners will be
the people of Australia.
My friends,
one hundred years ago, with the foundation of this Trades
and Labor Council, oiar forebears showed they were men and
women with a vision of the future.
They were determined to ensure they were not hidebound by
the unsatisfactory patterns of the past.
Subsequent generations have been the beneficiaries of their
vision and determination. Today, we are their beneficiaries
and that gives us a responsibility to continue their work
of reform.
This referendum campaign offers us a tangible means of
fulfilling that responsibility and it is an opportunity we
cannot afford to forego.

Transcript 7375