27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I desire to inform the House that we have in the gallery this afternoon the distinguished Chief Justices attending the Fourth Asian Judicial Conference in Canberra. I might say that Sir Garfield Barwick, a former member of this House and a Minister and now the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, is the Chairman of the Conference.I am sure that all honourable members will join with me in welcoming them to this House.
Honourable members - Hear, hear!
Mr KIRWAN presented from certain electors of the State of Western Australia a petition showing that the national economy until very recent times has relied principally upon rural industries for export income and these industries have responded and attained a high degree of efficiency and productivity.
Attention is directed to the parlous conditions now confronting rural and agricultural communities.
The petitioners pray that immediate action be taken, using all possible constitutional means, by using the State and national resources (a) for immediate relief of those in distress; (b) to stabilise these industries and preserve a security of tenure to the land holders; and (c) to request assurances that these situations will not occur again.
Petition received and read.
Mr BEAZLEY presented from 12,270 electors of the Commonwealth a petition showing:
Your petitioners respectfully request consideration to be given to:
The petitioners pray that the House will legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
Petition received and read.
Mr FOX presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes the population of kangaroos, particularly big red, the largest living marsupial has been reduced to a level which places their survival in jeopardy. None of the States have sufficient wardens to detect or apprehend people breaking the inadequate laws in existence. Only uniform laws, brought in at Federal level, and a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can ensure the survival of the kangaroo. It is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter, to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
Petition received and read.
Mr HAMER presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species, is now so low that they may become extinct. There are insufficient wardens in any State, to detect or apprehend anyone breaking the inadequate laws which exist. As a tourist attraction, the kangaroos are a permanent source of revenue to Australia. It is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the control of kangaroos and other wildlife be brought under Federal jurisdiction.
Mr HOWSON presented from certain residents of the State of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes the population of the kangaroos, particularly big red, the largest living marsupial has been reduced to a level which places their survival in jeopardy. None of the States have sufficient wardens to detect or apprehend people breaking the inadequate laws in existence. Only uniform laws, brought in at Federal level, and a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can ensure the survival of the kangaroo. It is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter, to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. Does he accept that spastic centres provide treatment and training that is professional and specialised and can properly be regarded as medical or para-medical in nature? Will he undertake to consider the inclusion in the national health scheme of a category of benefit to cover these services so as to assist the day to day work of the centres in the same way as it is proposed to assist their capital expenses by means of the provisions of the Handicapped Children (Assistance) Bill?
– I, like many honourable members, have received representations from the very worthy bodies running the spastic centres and am considering those representations. There is some suggestion in the representations which have been made in relation to medical treatment covered by our health insurance scheme that there is some differentiation against spastics. That is not correct. However, the answer to the specific question is that I am currently considering the point that the honourable member raised.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. As the Budget allocation for war service homes has already been spent, causing the re-introduction of a 4 months waiting period, will the Government give consideration to a no-waiting period for those who have served in the Vietnam war as distinct from those who served in earlier wars and who have delayed applying for their rehabilitation rights and benefits under the Act until this financial year?
– Mr Speaker, war service homes are provided for those who have returned from serving this country in time of war. It would, I think, be very difficult - and it could lead to great injustice - to establish preference within the war service homes scheme for those who have served this nation in one war rather than in another. I think, if the honourable and gallant member reflects on this, he will see that it could indeed cause injustice if those who had fought for this nation in Korea or in Malaya during the emergency or, for that matter, who suffered with him in Changi during the Second World War should be put in a category, as it were, of second preference. I think that the suggestion could lead to grave difficulties.
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Territories whether it is true, as alleged in one of the morning newspapers, that Dr I. H. Khan has not yet received his visa to go into Papua and New Guinea to take a position on the staff of the university there.
– As the result of an item that I saw in the Press, I made inquiries in regard to the permit for Dr Khan to enter the Territory. My inquiries revealed that the Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi was requested to make this permit available to Dr Khan on 14th March. A subsequent inquiry has elicited the fact that Dr Khan had changed his address and so far he had not been located. But I think that this has been remedied in the past few days.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, concerns what appears to be a growing tendency on the part of some militant unions to take the government of the country out of the hands of the constitutionally elected Government by an attempt through so called ‘black bans’ to circumvent the policy of the Government of the day. Will the Government strongly stress to the Australian Council of Trade Unions that it is not prepared to have the government of the country taken out of its hands by a small unelected minority? In particular, will the Government see that the partial lifting of the merino ram export ban, asked for by the Australian Wool Industry Conference and agreed to by the Government, is implemented at the earliest possible moment?
– A statement was made by my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, in March of last year about the partial lifting of the merino ram export ban. My recollection is that, after he made his statement, the spokesman for the Opposition replied and then the matter was put on the notice paper. It was expunged from the notice paper by the dissolution of the Parliament. Shortly after March 1969, the matter was raised in the Senate and a debate ensued. I think, speaking from memory, that it was a longer debate than the debate which occurred in our House. Since then, a general election has been held. A new Parliament has been formed. I think that it is now in its fourth week of sitting.
As I understand it, from published reports, a ban has been imposed on the export of merino rams and will continue to be imposed until there is parliamentary discussion on the lifting of the ban. Well, from what I have said, it will be clear to the honourable gentleman that there has been parliamentary discussion. Further, as far as I can recollect, there has been no issue raised by the Opposition in relation to this export ban. lt seems apparent that the trade union movement, at the time it imposed the ban, was anxious that there should be an opportunity for discussion in the national Parliament. That opportunity has been present all the time. I believe that the position has been reached where there is just no sense in maintaining the ban.
I have asked for discussions to be held between representatives of my own Department and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Those discussions are in process. I would not wish to give any indication as to their nature or how they are progressing. At this point of time there is really no justification for a continuation of the ban. That view has been put strongly on my behalf. I hope I will be able to report to the honourable member that sense has prevailed and has prevailed very quickly. As to the opening part of the question, I think I should say very forthrightly that the constitutionally elected government would not be prepared to allow minorities to take control of the conduct of its business.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. He will remember making a ministerial statement in March last year on the proposal to lift the 40-year-old ban on the export of merino rams and that the debate on that statement was adjourned on 27th March last year on the motion of the Government Whip. The honourable gentleman will also remember that a year ago a motion was carried in another place against the ban being lifted. I now ask the Minister: Will he again make a statement in the House in this new Parliament on this issue so that this House may debate it and decide the issue?
– This matter was debated in this House last year. Although the debate was not concluded there were a good many speakers from both sides of the House and the matter was left on the notice paper. But I think that more important possibly than the discussion in this House is the reaction of the Australian wool industry, which probably is more familiar with the need or otherwise of amending the embargo which has been in existence for a long time. The House will recall that the statement in this place revealed that the embargo was to be lifted on, I believe, 1st June. We deferred acting on that decision because of the debate in the Senate and because there was a difference of opinion amongst some of the wool industry organisations.
During the next month people who had strong feelings on this matter saw the Deputy Prime Minister who gave them an assurance that there would be no implementation of the scheme until those dissident groups had had an opportunity to submit their point of view to their own wool industry organisation, and their organisation had an opportunity to submit it to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which is the supreme authoritative wool organisation in Australia. The matter was left in abeyance for a period of about 6 months. I saw the executive of the Wool Industry Conference and asked its members what their attitude was and whether they had considered, or would consider, resubmitting the matter to their Conference for re-examination. They informed me that they had made a firm decision, after a great deal of consideration and with the best advice they could obtain throughout Australia, and that is where the position remains. Until the wool industry changes its point of view I see no point in altering the statement already made in this House.
– Will the Prime Minister advise what action has been taken by the Cabinet in reply to recent representations made by the Queensland Government for further assistance in coping with the extremely serious drought situation now existing in Queensland?
– The State of Queensland has indeed been seriously affected by drought for several years past. The Commonwealth, as the honourable member will know, has provided very considerable assistance to Queensland for this burden of drought which it bears and I think that it is now estimated that for the full financial year 1969-70 the provision will be some Si 5m. The Premier of Queensland has written in suggesting some changes in the assistance which is being given and some extra assistance which might be provided. This letter came to me. It was examined by the Treasury which made a report upon it. The report has now been sent back and it is and will be treated as a matter of urgency.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister in his capacity both as Prime Minister and as Acting Treasurer. Is the Commonwealth aware of the serious financial difficulties and vastly increased indebtedness of local government all over Australia? Are heavy and inequitable burdens being imposed on ratepayers to meet the greatly increased responsibilities loaded onto local government? In recent and current Commonwealth-State financial negotiations has the Commonwealth indicated any willingness to take over any substantial part of local government debt and to provide a share of interest free revenue for capital works, as I understand was promised to the States?
– The honourable member will know that local government has always been a field which has been dependent upon State governments. What we will do in our relations with State governments I have no doubt will result in more money being available to State governments for them to spend according to their own judgment in their own States. If there is such additional money available then clearly there is an opportunity for State governments to make more of that money available to municipal governments but I would emphasise once again that this has always been a matter for the State governments concerned.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ recent decision to accept the invitation of the Soviet trade union organisation for the ACTU President to visit the Soviet Union, and in view of the ACTU’s favoring a reciprocal visit by the Russian union leader, can the Prime Minister say whether that person would be given a visa by this Government? The person concerned is Alexander Nikolaevich Shelepin, who for 2 years from December 1958 was chief of the Soviet Union secret police and who retired from the position to one of less obvious connection but no less influence with that infamous organisation.
– I do not know of my own knowledge whether an invitation has in fact been extended to the individual named by the ACTU. Nor do I know of my own knowledge whether in fact he has been the head of the Soviet secret police under whatever name it might have gone - the CHEKA or all the other names and initials which that infamous organisation has been described by over the years. Nor indeed do I know whether he is still associated with that secret police organisation, an organisation which I would have thought some of those objecting on the other side would regard as most insidious, invidious and dangerous to ordinary citizens. Therefore the matter that is asked of me is one to which I cannot give a decision at this time but I do believe that the Government would need to look very carefully indeed at an application by anybody to come into this country if that person had been the head of an organisation such as the Soviet secret police or was still working for it or associated with it.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that, although the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party gave an undertaking to those wool growers seeking the retention of the ban on merino ram exports that the ban would not be relaxed until they had an opportunity of obtaining reconsideration by the Australian Wool Industry Conference of their objec tions, that undertaking has never been carried out? Is it a fact that the Australian Wool Industry Conference never reconsidered the matter and never examined the objections made by those seeking the retention of the ban? Is it a fact that the Executive of that Conference declared that it saw no point in re-assembling the Conference for this purpose. Is it therefore the position that the ban was relaxed in breach of an undertaking given to those seeking the retention of the ban and that the action taken so far to maintain the ban is in accord with the only vote ever taken inside the Parliament of this country?
– There was certainly no breach of the undertaking given by the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Austraiian Country Party. I happened to be in Dubbo on the same day as that group saw Mr McEwen, who on that occasion listened to their point of view and said that the Government’s decision would not be implemented until they had had reasonable time to go to their industry organisations and put their point of view to them. The Deputy Prime Minister said that they could not expect to have unlimited time - he may correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the period of 6 months was mentioned - to go to their industry organisations and in due process for those organisations to refer the matter to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which is the supreme body. As far as I know, these people may have put it to their industry organisations but the industry organisations have not forwarded it to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, which is the executive. The controlling body of that Conference told me that it had no intention of referring the matter back to the Conference because it had been considered for a period of 12 months.
The Australian Wool Board had been asked to prepare a White Paper stating all the pros and cons of whether there ought to be a lifting or not. The Paper was prepared after seeking the best information possible from the International Wool Secretariat, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and other bodies. The White Paper was given to the Conference and was circulated to all the wool organisations in Australia. Thirteen of the 16 national and State organisations supported the partial lifting, and the Conference took a vote. I recall now that the result was 16 to 34 in favour of the proposal. The Government was asked to implement the decision and it has acted on the request. It did not act immediately because all these groups felt that there was a strong feeling within the industry that there should not be any movement, that there should not be any partial lifting. The Government delayed action for a period of almost 9 months before the decision was brought into effect. J think that that was pretty fair and considerate. If the industry wishes to change its mind the Government would be quite prepared to look at the matter.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, also relates to the partial lifting of the merino export ban. ls it a fact that many years ago the Australian Labor Party introduced its ban some hours after a shipment of many thousands of merinos left this country for Russia? Is it a fact that this ban applied to pedigree merinos only and that non-pedigree merinos continued to be shipped for many years afterwards? Is it also a fact that no inspector can tell the difference between zenith, polwarth and other merino-type sheep on export? Finally, is the new tsar of the Labor Party, the ambitious somewhat power hungry President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, behind the infamous action to prohibit delivery of perfectly legal sales?
– The information provided by the honourable member relating to the imposition of the embargo is perfectly correct. A Labor government was in power at the time. It was newly elected and due to the serious circumstances in the wool industry at the time it took a decision on a matter which had not been referred to it by industry organisations. There was no referendum. It was purely an authoritarian action by the government of the day to impose a complete embargo on the export of all stud sheep. It did not matter whether they were merinos, dorset horns or any other breeds. It was a very blunt, almost ignorant, decision on the part of that government. Of course, it had to relinquish its decision because the great parent studs of breeds other than merino - lincoln, dorset horn and romney marsh - were in other countries. So the government applied its decision to stud merinos only, ignoring the fact, as the honourable member for Angas has pointed out, that polwarths and zeniths are 85% merino. Of course, no consideration was given to the fact that when these breeds are mated the offspring can be up to 90% merino. It was 5 years before somebody woke up to the fact that it is not very difficult to make a stud animal a flock animal. Nobody could say that the embargo imposed by a Labor government was absolutely effective. My only comment on the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question is that it ill behoves the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Minister for Primary Industry to incite trade unions to act against a decision of the industry simply because a minority opposes the decision of the industry and the Government.
– Will the Minister for the Army say when the transfer of Australian troops from Malaysia to Singapore began and when it was finished? Has the rotational unit to be posted in Malaysia gone to Butterworth? Where will this unit be housed and where will it train? What will its duties be while stationed at Butterworth?
– The movement of troops from Malaysia to Singapore was completed by the end of January. The company has not yet gone on rotation to Malaysia. It is awaiting completion of the exercise Bersatu Padu. When the details of the movement in Malaysia are worked out I will supply them to the honourable member.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that due to the serious decline in wool prices a mass meeting of more than 2,600 wool growers held recently in Moree voted unanimously for the sale of the entire Australian wool clip by a central marketing authority? What action is being taken by the Government and the Australian Wool Board to examine the reasons for the disastrously low prices obtained for wool? What action should be taken to restore profitability in Australia’s greatest single industry?
– I am aware that a large meeting was held at Moree. From all accounts it was a very effective and worthwhile meeting, with some excellent addresses being delivered. I have even read the address delivered to the meeting by the honourable member. The outcome of that meeting was a motion, which was carried unanimously, that there should be established a single marketing authority to market the entire Australian wool clip. I am also led to believe that there are going to be other meetings of this nature in places such as Narrandera and Tamworth.
I would like to tell the honourable member and the Australian Wool Industry that the Government is very concerned at the low prices prevailing in the industry at the moment. These are the lowest prices for 20-odd years. The Government is examining this question and is looking at ways and means by which the position might be managed. At the same time the Australian Wool Board has set up an advisory committee representing all sections of the Australian wool industry - the leaders of those sections - and the committee will be making recommendations to the industry and to the Government.
In addressing the group last week I said that one of the things that we would need to know quickly is why the price of wool has declined to such an extent in the last 12 months. We want to know whether this is due to economic factors in other countries or to a weakness in the wool marketing system. I want the committee to report to the Government and to make any suggestions that need to be made. I would like to tell the honourable member that we treat this whole matter as a matter of urgency and I have asked the committee to make its recommendations on this question by the end of May. if not earlier.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. Has the right honourable gentlem;ri noted that $100 Commonwealth bonds issued only the month before last are already selling at only $90? What explanation can the Acting Treasurer give for the substantial fluctuations in bond prices over the last two weeks in particular?
– As I am sure the Leader of the Opposition would know, the general interest rate structure has an effect upon the prices at which bonds are sold. So do the operations and the magnitude of operations of, for example, the Reserve Bank in the market. I have no doubt that the interest yield which is available in other fields and the general tightness of money would have an effect in the field in respect of which the Leader of the Opposition asked a question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Is he aware that there are many social benefits available for people on low incomes and in indigent circumstances from Commonwealth social services, the State services and church and other organisations? Is he or the Government doing anything to assist deserving people to get this assistance?
– I am aware of the wide spectrum of social services available from the 3 sources that the honourable member has named - the Commonwealth’s own services, the services of the various States and the services provided by excellent voluntary organisations. The Commonwealth has already taken certain steps towards making these services more widely known. Honourable members will remember that I have circulated to them and to other people improved pamphlets showing the services available from the Commonwealth and I have caused these to be circulated fairly widely and advertised in the Press and over television stations.
So far as the State services are concerned, these differ very much from State to State. But in every State we have a system of social workers who are available and who endeavour, insofar as it is their proper duty to do so, to direct applicants to those sources of State relief which are available. We have also improved and we are in the process of extending our regional social service offices and this is something to which I attach great importance. However, the difficulty of the bottleneck in expanding them further is the shortage of skilled officers who are capable of taking charge and giving to the public the sympathetic and efficient service which we would desire and which I am sure honourable members on both sides of the House would desire to be given. The third thing is the matter of voluntary organisations, and again honourable members will recall that the Government is putting a new emphasis on co-operation with these excellent voluntary organisations. I shall be considering ways and means of making their various but worthy contributions in this field better known throughout the whole community.
-I would like to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. Bearing in mind the occurrence during the visit of the United States Vice-President and bearing in mind the forthcoming Vietnam Moratorium campaign, can he tell the House whether his attention has been drawn to a statement at Monash University by the Secretary of the Victorian Police Association, Inspector W. D. Crowley? Was Inspector Crowley reported as saying that the most effective way of dealing with demonstrators was nonaggression and that they should be treated with the greatest possible tolerance? If so, could he draw the attention of the Australian Capital Territory police and visiting New South Wales police to this statement? Further, could he invite Inspector Crowley to lecture to the Australian Capital Territory Police Force?
– My attention has not been drawn to a statement by Inspector Crowley relating to police behaviour at demonstrations, but I think implicit in the honourable member’s question is a criticism of the Australian Capital Territory police and their behaviour at demonstrations during the visit of the Vice-President of the United States. I want to say publicly here in this House that in my view the police acted with a great deal of restraint and in fact ought to be congratulated for the restraint that they showed in the face of some provocation on the day of the visit.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to the latest and worst of a long series of political terrorist attacks on diplomats in Latin American countries, the kidnapping and murder of the West German Ambassador to Guatemala? Am I correct in asserting that we have embassies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, 2 of which are kidnapping territory? What steps are we taking to ensure the safety of our representatives in those un-Australian and unpredictable areas?
– I want to express deep regret both on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government about those frightful events which took place in Guatemala City. They are to be regretted, and our sympathy goes to the relatives of those people who have suffered. As to the safety of our representatives in some South American countries - and I would not like to identify them - we have instructed each of the posts to let us know whether they feel that any special precautions should be taken and whether there is any help we can give by . communicating with overseas governments or by advising our diplomats on what precautions can be taken. 1 have already received at least 2 cables in answer to the cables we have sent to them. Those who have replied have assured us that they do not feel any danger and that for the moment they do not want any special action to be taken. As soon as I get answers to the other cables we have sent 1 will advise the honourable gentleman.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. It follows on a question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Sturt and the reply given to him by the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that waterside workers were recently granted 4 weeks annual leave and that it was granted, I emphasise, with the agreement of the employers? Does the Prime Minister agree with the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Labour and National Service that Commonwealth public servants are less deserving of this leave than are waterside workers? Does he agree that the employers of waterside workers are more enlightened employers than this Government? Will he follow the lead of other enlightened employers and immediately grant 4 weeks annual leave to Commonwealth public servants?
– It would be quite impossible for me to agree with the alleged remark of the Minister for Labour and National Service which was quite untruthfully put into his mouth by the honourable member, because the Minister yesterday did not at any time use the words which it is now stated that he used. So it is quite impossible to agree either with the alleged words or with the motives which led the honourable member to put them in his mouth. In regard to the rest of the question, I do agree with what the Minister for Labour and National Service said yesterday, which was that the question of 4 weeks leave for Commonwealth public servants had been carefully examined by the Government and had been discussed with representatives of the various unions but on the grounds of the cost to the community generally and on other grounds in relation to shift work, which the Minister mentioned, the Government decided not to grant this leave. This, I can only repeat, is not to be distorted in the way in which the honourable member for Banks sought to distort it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I ask: Is it a fact that facilities for the establishment of containerisation are, at least for some time to come, to be confined to 3 ports in Australia? Is he aware of the fact that the future of the fast expanding deep water decentralised port of Portland, in Victoria, is doubtful if denied this modern means of shipping? Will he make investigations, and I suggest an inspection of this port, with a view to establishing containerisation facilities at this export outlet for the products of all western Victoria, the south east of South Australia and further afield?
– I know full well the concern of the honourable member and, indeed, of anyone who is associated with the wool industry, that there should be adequate outlets for our wool exports, in particular at Portland. In association with the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I have arranged to visit Portland on Friday week to have a look at the facilities available in that port and to ascertain the particular problems that face shippers there. At the same time I would point out to the honourable member that there are extreme difficulties, at a time when increasingly the cargoes to and from Australia are carried in container ships, in providing adequate residual vessels to service the outports around Australia. It is in this area at this stage that one of the critical problems arises for Portland, Albany and, indeed, the ports in Tasmania and north Queensland.
I can assure the honourable gentleman that continued discussions are being undertaken between the Government, representatives of shipper bodies and the shipowners themselves in an effort to ensure that there will be an adequate outport service. As far as Portland is concerned, I have been advised that they expect the same tonnage to be available, moving in and out of Portland, at least up to the end of 1970 as there has been on average over the last 3 years.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Government received a pessimistic and alarming report from Sir Keith Waller, the new Head of his Department, of sweeping changes in United States foreign policy? Does the report claim that President Nixon and his advisers have sharply downgraded the threat of Communist inspired aggression in South East Asia and United States military and economic involvement there? What is the attitude of the report to the validity of the SEATO and ANZUS treaties? Does the report state that Mr Nixon now considers the Middle East and not Asia to be the basic threat to world peace? Will the Minister release the report to the House? Is he even prepared to communicate itscontents to the Joint Foreign Affairs Committee for its consideration?
– The honourable gentleman will be disappointed to learn that no report of this nature was made by Sir Keith Waller, the former Ambassador to the United States. I did see a report in a reputable weekly newsletter to this effect. It is incorrect. It is true we did receive through normal diplomatic channels and staff sources a commentary on the Nixon report that had been made to the United States Congress. It would take me a whole second reading speech to go through it, but I can assure the honourable gentleman that the interpretation that he has placed upon it is wrong. In fact I have read to this House from the report the exact paragraphs relating to South Vietnam. As to whether there has been a downgrading of any country, I do not think this is a fair interpretation to make. As has been pointed out by the United States authorities, this is a world review. I do not think for one moment that the sequence of presentation can be taken as indicating the order of priorities of President Nixon. I want to point out that he does not state that the major theatre of danger in the world is the Middle East countries. If we take the order of presentation of ideas we see that he would give priority to Western Europe and would give it importance over any other area. The fact that he does not mention such matters as the ANZUS treaty or does not deal in detail with the problems of Vietnam must not in any circumstances be taken as indicating that he is not interested in or has a lesser interest in these areas. The Nixon Doctrine, the Guam Doctrine, is sufficient indication of his interest and the statement that I made to the House on Thursday, 19th March last, shows that it is a clear indication of his opinion of Vietnam.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Stores Complex for 2 Base Medical and Dental Equipment Depot at Randwick, New South Wales
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
I deeply regret the situation which has obliged me to move this motion. I regret it all the more because of the special nature of the position held by the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). This motion may or may not be carried. The very fact that it has been moved, however, gives it a force and significance of its own. The whole basis of effective orderly conduct of the business of the House is one of trust between the Leader of the House and the Opposition. I speak with some experience of this matter. For 6 years I made arrangements with a former Leader of the House, the late Harold Holt. During 2 of those years, the numbers between Government and Opposition were very close. It was quite essential to be precise with matters of pairs and other arrangements. Never throughout that time was it suggested that we should need to move a motion of censure on the Leader of the House at that time. It is not just the fact that Mr Holt had a sense of decorum or propriety or that he was an urbane man, a decent man. The fact is that he was a professional and a gentleman. The House worked well in those circumstances.
Earlier, the present Leader of the House had his chance. Last year, he was relieved of the post of Leader of the House. One would have thought that he would have been chastened as a result of that demotion. This year, he has been given a second chance. He has betrayed it. We have withdrawn the trust between the Leader of the House and the Opposition which is essential if the House is to work effectively or amicably.
The Leader of the House is the only Minister since federation to have faced 2 motions of censure on his personal conduct. Other Ministers have faced motions of censure reflecting on their competence, their conduct of official affairs or the fact that something has gone astray for which they are answerable to the House whether personally they were involved or not. This Minister is the first man in our Parliament ever to have been censured twice. This second censure motion, like the first, has been moved for actions involving his use of positions where trust was the crucial issue.
On 20th May 1964 when the Leader of the House was Attorney-General, the then Leader of the Opposition, now the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), moved:
That the Attorney-General lacks the confidence of the House because he deliberately misled it while purporting to give it official information in his position as Attorney-General and as MinisterinCharge of security when, as he subsequently admitted, his statement was based solely on a report which appeared in the Communist newspaper ‘Tribune’, and which even then he quoted incorrectly.
On that occasion, the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, forced him to make amends. He had to go to Canossa. The Prime Minister of our day has condoned and abetted the conduct of the Leader of the House.
This motion refers to the repeated failure of the Leader of the House to honour agreements made between the Government and the Opposition. In the short life of this present Parliament, the Leader of the House has twice disrupted the Parliament by ignoring definite understandings. He has twice reduced this Parliament to a farce and he has twice covered his arrogance by misleading statements about arrangements made with the Opposition. The first occasion was on 25th November, the day when the Parliament assembled. On that occasion, the gag was applied 7 times. The Prime Minister moved it twice. The Leader of the House moved it the other 5 times. Every member on this side understood that the sitting would last at least 2 days. So did most members on the other side. So did the officials of the Parliament.
There are 2 clear indications of this fact. When a motion such as the one that I have just moved is moved, it has to be seconded. Under the Standing Orders, it is perfectly permissible for the seconder to follow the proposer immediately. It is not usual, but it is perfectly permissible to do so. The arrangement on 25th November was that 1 should move the motion of censure as Leader of the Opposition: that the Prime Minister should be the first speaker on the other side; that then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard), should follow him, and so on that night; and that the proceedings should continue into the following day. The Prime Minister however, after quite a brief speech, himself moved the gag. He thus prevented the Deputy Leader of the Opposition from speaking. The clearest indication that this was a breach of the arrangement is that the seconder, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, would have followed immediately if there was any doubt about it but he honoured the agreement. The Leader of the House did not honour it.
The other test is the fact that the notice paper for the following day was set up in print. Some of us have copies of our questions and so on which had been put on for the following day. We have them in print. All the arrangements of the House and of the officials and motions, and the conduct of members, bear out the fact that this arrangement was not honoured. That is the crux of the matter. We of the Opposition cannot rely on the honour of the Leader of the House. In a statement the following day the Leader of the House said that the discussions about the sitting days were a contingency measure only so that people could make their travel arrangements. Accordingly they had to change their travel arrangements. The explanation is false on its face. Then he revealed his true feelings about this House of whose conduct he is supposed to be the leader. He said: ‘The Government was elected to govern and the Opposition cannot expect to force a situation where this cannot happen.’
This year we have had 11 sitting days. The gag has been moved 24 times. The Leader of the House has moved it on 21 of those occasions. This truncation of debate culminated in last night’s fiasco. The Leader of the House is the guilty man, however much honourable gentlemen opposite may try to hide behind Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker is no villain. He was not responsible. The Leader of the House produced this situation. He created it by provocation; he has tried to justify it by equivocation. The Leader of the House did himself no good, no credit, by his attempted explanations this morning. Putting it bluntly, we of the Opposition do not accept them and there are very few honourable members on the Government side who accept them. They cannot be reconciled with the statement made this morning by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz). The statements made this morning by the Leader of the House are contrary to the truth, as we all know it.
– That is right.
– The honourable member who interjects was the victim of some truculent behaviour earlier last night, about 9 p.m., by the Leader of the House. Let me recite the events which produce this situation. The culmination was that at 1 minute to midnight yesterday the Leader of the House moved the gag. He moved the gag during the Committee stage of the debate on the River Murray Waters Bill. When that gag was carried no more debate could take place in the Committee stage. It is a crowning irony that Hansard records that the Minister for National Development, who was in charge of the Bill on behalf of the Government, moved the gag. In fact he was overridden; it was the Leader of the House who moved the gag. I believe that the weekly edition of Hansard will be corrected. It was not the Minister for National Development who moved the gag at a minute to midnight; it was the Leader of the House who did so. Let me give the history of this matter. Just before 11 p.m. yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition-
– Speak up, Mr Whitlam.
– You should get and see your doctor.
– On which schedule?
– Order! The House will come to order.
– Some people would contend that lt needs 2 doctors to certify any man for the condition from which the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) suffers. At the table just before 11 p.m. yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) whether he would agree to relaxing the 1 1 o’clock rule because the Government wanted to put both Bills - not only the River Murray Waters Bill but the Dartmouth Reservoir Agreement Bill - through that night. Of course the Dartmouth Reservoir Agreement Bill could not be introduced after 1 1 o’clock without suspending Standing Orders. The Government has to learn to live with the fact that now it cannot suspend Standing Orders without the consent of the Opposition. The Bill had to come on after 11 o’clock but the honourable member for Dawson refused because he did not see why the House should sit all night in view of the long recess of the Parliament. Furthermore, this was only a dodge to have the Chowilla dam project debated in this House yesterday when proceedings were not being broadcast and in the Senate today when its proceedings are not being broadcast. After the Deputy Leader of the Opposition reported the decision of the honourable member for Dawson to the Leader of the House, the Leader of the House became quite furious and beside himself. He leant across the table and indicated that he was finished with the Bill and would gag it right through.
During the Committee stage the honourable member for Dawson moved the first amendment on behalf of the Opposition. While it was being debated the Leader of the House asked him whether he would move his two further amendments. He was told that this would not be done because the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) was still to speak on the first amendment. Honourable members will realise that no honourable member can speak more than twice during the Committee stage. Accordingly the honourable member for Dawson, who was in charge of the Bill on behalf of the Opposition, could speak only twice during the Committee stage. Therefore it was arranged that other amendments should be moved by some of his colleagues. The Minister for National Development, who was in charge of the Bill, informed the honourable member for Dawson that he would rise to answer the first amendment and that the honourable member for Dawson could immediately follow in order to move his next two amendments. This was the arrangement made between the Minister for National Development and the shadow Minister, and the Leader of the House was aware of the fact.
Thereupon the Leader of the House overrode the Minister who was in charge of the Bill and moved the gag. He gagged the
Minister as well as the shadow Minister. In addition, the honourable member for Dawson informed both the Leader of the House and the Minister for National Development that there would be a further amendment which would be moved either by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) or the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) who were concerned about alterations to the Menindee Lakes scheme. It is now alleged that the Leader of the House did not know that amendments were proposed other than the one which was gagged. The Leader of the House was reported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission this morning as having said that he had no knowledge of the Opposition amendments. In the House this morning he clarified that report bysaying that he did not know of the nature of the amendments.
It is quite obvious he knew that there were amendments to be moved. He is extraordinarily absentminded, extraordinarily neglectful of his duties, if he did not know the general nature of the amendments. I. repeat that it was one minute to midnight - not the best hour for the honourable gentleman - when he gagged the Committee stage so that no amendments after the first amendment, which had then been gagged, could be moved, lt was not a question of just cutting off debate. It was not a question of seeing that a mo; ion was put immediately.
It was a case of preventing any motions being put at all. At 5 o’clock that afternoon - 7 hours before - the honourable member for Dawson had given a fair idea of the amendments and particularly those which would supersede Chowilla forever. Then 2 hours beforehand the honourable member for Adelaide had detailed the amendments. He had specified the amendment which in fact was moved and had also stated that amendments would be moved in the Committee stage to delete clauses 10 (a) and 1 3 (a) of the Schedule to the Bill. The Minister for National Development knew this. He followed it quite clearly. Clauses 10 (a) and 13 (a) can be picked up. The intention of them is quite clear. If the Leader of the House had been paying attention, if he had been doing his job, he would have known that in the Committee stage we were going to move for the deletion of clauses 10 (a) and 13 (a). But he says that he had no knowledge crf the amendments. Further, he told the House that he had no knowledge of the nature of the amendments. Does anybody believe this man? Two hours before, the 2 precise clauses were identified and in fact 7 hours before that the general nature of them was indicated.
Then there is the general conduct of the Leader of the House. I have said how many gags have been moved. The most irksome use of the gag has been on every matter of urgency raised this year. There have been 7 moved - all of considerable moment. I will detail them. Firstly, there was the matter of the Commonwealth Public Service, its pay and conditions; secondly, the crisis in primary industry; thirdly, the malnutrition among Aboriginals exposed by the Australian Medical Journal; fourthly, the rising interest rates as they affect home builders in particular; fifthly, the denial and delay of entry permits for New Guinea academics - and this is still continuing today, as we found out during question time; sixthly, the rise in urban land prices; and finally, the rein traduction of a waiting period for war service homes. In each case when the second speaker for the Opposition rose he was gagged and every member of the Government voted for it except one - and this is to the credit of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) who in the debate yesterday on war service homes walked out rather than vote against a matter in which he believed strongly. With that honourable exception every member of the Government has voted to gag any more speakers on each of these matters of urgency, none of them trivial, all of very considerable moment. Now, I want to draw a contrast with earlier history.
Throughout the 1960s the average number of speakers for the Government and for the Opposition on every matter of urgency has been between 3 and 4. It has never been less than 3. Last year when there were 26 matters of urgency raised the average number of speakers on each side was 4. We have had 7 matters this year. Of course the average number of speakers on each side has been 1. The unfortunate truth is that the attitude of the Leader of the House to the Parliament is only part of the general malaise infecting the Executive, beginning at the very top. Last night during the suspension of the House until the ringing of the bells and while the Speaker was absent from the chair in the early hours of the morning the Prime Minister made yet another of his wild statements asking for law and order. This is the great Liberal issue. He issues it. He said that I was inciting disorder in Rabaul. He has climbed down on that because he knows that I did exactly the opposite. Secondly, a couple of weeks ago he said that my colleague the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) was inciting riots and strikes in the streets of Melbourne, and he used the term ‘storm trooper’. If one were to look for storm troopers in this Parliament one could find a few on the other side even in addition to the Leader of the House. I am not attributing racist attitudes so much to the Leader of the House. One can to other members of the Government beginning at the very top. But this is an extraordinary attitude by the Prime Minister, referring to violence. He himself is the most violent man in this Parliament. He is the only member in either House who has ever used physical violence on another member of either House, and he did it in the precincts of the House. He is a man illiberal in his attitudes and intemperate in his actions. It is no wonder that he condones the actions of the Leader of the House. I was rather surprised to see the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) get in on the same act. He issued a long statement - one would expect it to be a long statement - during the same period and he even hinted that the police would have been called in to remove the honourable member for Wills. The Deputy Prime Minister said:
The Government will not accept the situation such as exists tonight in which the Parliament could only be restored to operation by the Speaker requiring the police to enter the chamber to remove Mr Bryant.
I repeat that it was not the Speaker who brought about this situation; it was the Leader of the House. I would not have thought that even in his reformed days, even in his benign seniority at present, the Deputy Prime Minister would always hide behind Speakers in this way. After all, he was once put out and in the process he called the Speaker a gangster. He is unrepentent and he says that he was never more right. The significance of the genuinely and incurably intemperate remarks by the Prime Minister and the rather forced intemperance of the remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister is that on this occasion they were backing up the Leader of the House who had in fact broken agreements. They were abetting htm in this course of provocation which he follows industrially and politically. After all, he has proved himself a professional provocateur already in his new position as Minister for Labour and National Service. We remember the well-publicised Press statements, television appearances and so on in which he has been condemning the lawlessness of the Australian Council of Trade Unions because it backed the waterside workers of Australia in wanting to get increased wages from ship owners in Australia, particularly as greater increases in wages had been granted by the same ship owners and their agents to dockers in Britain. That is, they wanted the same people to pay at least something similar. This is grossly disorderly and an incitement to violence and breach of the law. He has followed the same practice in this House. We know that he is not a man of honour and that he does not even break his word gracefully or effectively, because he is exposed when he breaks his word. He does not cover his tracks. We know that he was either not on the job or he was deliberately telling untruths to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and to the House this morning.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr Speaker. We know how much we can rely on the word of the Leader of the House both as to what he says and as to what he does. Industrially and now in the parliamentary sense his provocations have been exposed. Industrially he has been a failure; politically he has been a failure. I ask honourable members to vote in accordance with their consciences on this occasion because they know that the terms of this motion are accurate and that this man has repeatedly broken his word and that his conduct on affairs in this House makes the workings of democracy in this country much more difficult and much less decorous than they should be.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I move:
One expected that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in this debate would have directed himself to reasons which he believed justified him in censuring the Leader (Mr Snedden) for the way in which the Leader of the House has carried out his duties. Instead, we witnessed a personal attack by the Leader of the Opposition on the Leader of the House, much of which had nothing whatever to do with the conduct of the business of the House, much of which had no basis in fact, and all of which tended to be spiteful and malicious. 1 believe that the object both of the motion and of the way in which it was presented was an attempt to divert attention by the Leader of the Opposition from the most serious scenes which he aided and abetted and, if rumour is right, instigated in this House last night to the great detriment of the institution of Parliament.
Before 1 develop that theme I would like to examine the puling case put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and what he advanced as a reason for this attack upon the Leader of the House. He claims untruthfully that the Leader of the House broke an agreement made with the Opposition on the first day that this House sat after the election. I am assured that there was no such agreement or arrangement made by the Leader of the House with any member of the Opposition. What is the evidence adduced by the Leader of the Opposition?
It is that the Government had made provision for a 2-day sitting and that the Government had made provision for printing a blue sheet in case Parliament sat on the second day. That was a reasonable action to take. It does not in any way whatsoever constitute any kind of proof that an agreement had been made to sit on 2 days. If no such agreement had been made then, quite clearly, such agreement could have been broken. Thus the first unsubstantiated charge against the Leader of the House must fall to the ground.
What is the next petulant complaint? It is a complaint that the Leader of the House moves the gag when motions of public importance are brought forward. It is a privilege and a right of the Opposition to raise matters which it considers to be of public importance in this House and to have them debated. Always in the past this has been done at intervals. Having been done at intervals, then it was debated by 3 or 4 speakers on each side. Clearly, if a Leader of the Opposition wants to be silly and to prevent Parliament from functioning and to prevent the business of the Government from going through the Parliament he can, as he now seeks to do, on every day of sitting move a matter which he says is a matter of public importance. If on every occasion they were to be debated by 3 or 4 speakers on each side then he would be, as he is seeking to be, a man who is obstructing the business of Parliament. Should these motions be spaced then the Opposition knows that full time will be given to them. If they are going to be sought to be brought forward on every day of sitting then every reasonable person will know that it is ridiculous to suggest that they should on every day take the time of the House.
This is a spurious attempt, but above all it is a spurious attempt to pin the blame for this on the Leader of the House whose duty it is to move the closure when the forms of the House are being abused as the Leader of the Opposition has sought to abuse them. These, other than the events of last night, are all that I can gather was put forward as evidence by the Leader of the Opposition for his personal attack on the Leader of the House. He made his usual spiteful comments about the performance of the Minister as Minister for Labour and National Service, which has nothing to do with this motion at all. He adverted to a previous occasion when the present Leader of the House pointed out, slightly incorrectly, that the then honourable member for Yarra had spoken at a Communist dominated meeting from the same platform at the same time as a member of the Communist Party. He was slightly incorrect, because there was a Communist who spoke from the platform and the then honourable member for Yarra also spoke from the platform at that meeting but at a different time. So the Leader of the House was incorrect but he was man enough to agree he was incorrect on that account. This is put forward as some kind of suggestion that he is therefore not acting properly in leading the House.
I would have thought that if this motion was expected to be treated with any real significance then there would have been instances after instances put before us where these alleged agreements had been made and had then been broken. There were no such instances put before us, except for the spurious one suggested on the first day of sitting and the allegations that one was broken last night. What is more important than this is the action which was taken by the Opposition last night, because I think that action strikes at the very roots of parliamentary democracy and such action has never been seen in this Parliament before. I doubt if it has ever been seen in any Parliament in Australia before or in other parliaments of the English speaking world. 1 think, to see the significance of this, we would all agree that if a citizen is to live a full and free life then he must live in a society which has conditions of order and protection for him. The alternative to that is anarchy. It has been proved over the years that that institution which best provides that order along with freedom for the citizen is the institution of Parliament, where decisions are made by a majority of those elected by a majority of the people of the country at regular intervals. If this is so the very existence of the kind of society which we know depends upon the proper functioning of a parliament. That is why parliamentary government has reached the position it now holds as a champion of the freedom of all people in the countries which they rule. If that institution is as important as that - and I believe it is - it is essential that the institution itself must be allowed to function and must function effectively or it gets destroyed or it turns into riots or it reaches a situation we have seen in some parliaments in some new countries overseas where shots are exchanged - where violence is used. If that is not to be done the Parliament must function with the order and according to the rules which its members themselves have made and agreed to as standing orders.
Only by adherence to those rules and only by adhering to the instructions of the Speaker in the Chair can a parliament function effectively. If that is disrupted the very institution on which all depends will not work and will be disrupted. We saw such an attempt at disruption last night. The very great significance of this is that were this kind of conduct to continue, were there to be these repetitions - I quote from the statement I made last night which the Leader of the Opposition did not like - were the Opposition under the direction of the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam) again to resort to planned disruption verging on riot, were they again to refuse to obey the rulings of the Chair, were some of them again to refuse to leave the service of the House when named in accordance with standing orders which they have accepted and adopted, were they all to rise in a body as they did last night and shout and defy the ruling of the Speaker and thereby prevent the business of the Parliament from proceeding - were that to become the order of the day then the institution of Parliament on which so much depends would indeed have been beaten and broken and ground into the dust. It is because the first steps on this road were taken by the Leader of the Opposition that he sought to divert attention from it by making this mean attack on an individual with no basis in fact to back it up.
Let us look briefly, because this is not as important as the basic fact of what the Opposition did last night, at the excuses - the feeble excuses - put forward by them as a reason for what they did last night. There was a Bill on the Murray waters before the House which had been debated for a number of hours, brought to the second reading stage. There was an amendment moved by the Opposition member in charge of the Bill. It was debated for some time and the closure was then moved. It is claimed - I speak with no personal knowledge whatever either way - that the Opposition member in charge of the Bill had other amendments which he wished to move. It is said that he indicated this in broad terms. But they were pretty secret amendments. They apparently had been typed out, given to the Clerk, put in a drawer, not circulated. Nobody had seen what in fact the contents of these alleged amendments were.
Let us say they were there. I believe they were there. Nobody had seen what the amendments were. A strange way, in any case, to go on because the object of an amendment, I would have thought, would be to have it circulated in sufficient time for it to be able to be examined, to bc able to be analysed, for discussion to be able to take place on it on the Government side to see whether it was acceptable or not instead of it being kept secret and sprung only at the last minute. But not only was it secret but there was an indication from the honourable member that he did have these amendments. What they were was not spelled out, as I understand it, but he did have some amendments. Having said that, it having been suggested to him in that case why not get up and move them, he decided not to do that until somebody had spoken and for all anybody knew somebody else had spoken after that and somebody else had spoken after that.
While I agree that it is essential and a function of a government to protect the right of an opposition to move amendments it is not the function of a government to allow an opposition to use the moving of amendments in order to waste time and delay and use tactics in order to prevent this happening. This is true. This is necessary and in each case a judgment has to be made on that matter. But this, which is not of great significance, is the excuse that was given for the riotous behaviour that was seen here. All I can say is that I hope the House will vote for the amendment I have moved because that amendment clearly points out that the Leader of the Opposition in this place did not seek to restrain the Opposition from following a course, from refusing to obey your ruling, Mr Speaker, from standing and shouting in this House in such a way that the Parlia ment could not properly continue. Anyone with a feeling for history, anyone with a knowledge of how politics work, above all any lawyer who knows the rule of law must know the enormity of this and I think because he does know the enormity of this, this small motion is moved improperly against the Leader of the House.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– Order! The honourable member for Yarra has not spoken on this matter. Does he wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes. In view of what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said I wish to avail myself of any opportunity to deny his allegations.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Some years ago the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) claimed that I had spoken at a meeting from the platform occupied by a member of the Communist Party. Today the Prime Minister said that the Leader of the House, in making that claim, had made only a slight mistake - that in fact a member of the Communist Party had spoken from the platform before or at some other time and that this was the only thing wrong with the statement made by the Leader of the House. In fact no member of the Communist Party spoke from the platform at any time or at that meeting at all There happened to be a member of the Communist Party in the audience. I suppose even the Prime Minister has had a member of the Communist Party in his audience on occasions but I should imagine that anybody with any discrimination might not attend the right honourable gentleman’s meetings at all. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the House must have had some opportunity to check these facts. They were put before the House at the time. The then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, accepted the facts that were put and the suspension of 24 hours that had been imposed upon me for calling the Minister for Labour and National Service a liar was, for the only time in the history of this House, I think, lifted. The Leader of the House, who was then a Minister, was brought into the chamber almost under escort by the then AttorneyGeneral and the then Prime Minister to make a very meek and mild withdrawal of his accusations.
The point is that I have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister, who should know better if he has had any consultations on this matter with the Leader of the House. No member of the Communist Party spoke from that platform in the course of that meeting. This fact was made perfectly clear at the time. The Leader of the House must know this. If he has given any other impression to the Prime Minister he has knowingly misled him. If the Prime Minister got his information from anywhere else he is following his usual course of accepting rumours and misleading statements as facts in order to launch attacks on members of the Opposition.
– With regard to the personal explanation of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns), knowing the practices of the honourable member and sometimes the mistakes he makes I do not at this stage accept what he has said as the truth but I willi certainly examine whether it is the truth or not.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Lalor)- I wish to make a personal explanation arising out of what the right honourable gentleman has just said.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Well, I would suggest to the honourable member that this is a personal explanation and cannot be debated.
– I am not debating it at all. I am simply claiming to have been misrepresented by what the right honourable gentleman said since I sat down. I am asking for an opportunity to make a personal explanation about that.
– You have that opportunity.
– Thank you. The Prime Minister inferred that I have the habit of making mistakes, which had the overtone that I would do it deliberately. He said that he is going to check on this and eventually make a report to this House on what he finds. This is a misrepresentation of my position and I challenge the Prime Minister to produce any evidence whatever to support it.
– Support what?
– That 1 am in the habit of making mistakes on matters of this kind and that I would do it deliberately. That is the overtone that he gave to mislead the House. That is a misrepresentation. I ask him to take up the statement he has just made without any delay and report to the House on his findings.
-Order! The honourable member is going beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
Mr GORTON (Higgins- Prime Minister) - 1 wish to make a personal explanation. I feel I have been misrepresented in that the honourable member for Yarra has read overtones into what I said which were not there; but I also feel I have been misrepresented and would like to answer a question that he asked me as to inaccuracies because I think that only about a fortnight ago he made a statement that 1 was in a scuffle with Senator Willesee about 2 years ago. He is about 10 years out, if I remember, which seems to be some indication that it is not accurate.
– I rise to order. Standing order 173 states that every amendment must be relevant to the question which it is proposed to amend. I submit that the original motion was a motion of censure on the Leader of the House. The amendment is a motion of censure on the Leader of the Opposition. In support of my point of order I quote from a booklet published by authority of the Parliament and entitled Business and Procedures of the House of Representatives*. At page 23, in Part 20 of this publication, under the heading ‘Amendments’, the following appears:
An amendment is an alteration proposed or made in a motion or Bill It must take the form of a proposal to (a) omit certain words, (b) omit certain words to insert or add other words, or (c) insert or add other words (S.0.171). It is permissible, by way of amendment, to move to leave out ali the words of a motion except the initial word That’ and substitute other words relevant to the motion.
On page 24 it goes on to say:
Every amendment must be relevant to the question which it is proposed to amend (S.0.173), except that irrelevant amendments may be moved to the second reading of Appropriation and Supply Bills and to the Grievance Day question.
I further quote from May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’. At page 416, on the chapter headed ‘Amendments to be relevant’ it is stated:
The fundamental rule that debate must be relevant to a question necessarily involves the rule that every amendment must be relevant to the question on which the amendment is proposed.
Stated generally, no matter ought to be raised in debate on a question which would be irrelevant, if moved as an amendment, and an amendment cannot be used for importing arguments which would be irrelevant to the main question. Thus, the Speaker has ruled that on the third reading of a bill (a stage on which debate is limited to the contents of the bill) a reasoned amendment should not urge the rejection of the bill on the ground of what it omits. The effect of moving an amendment is, rather, to restrict the field of debate which would otherwise be open on a question. This is not obvious in the case of the type of amendment which proposes to leave out all the words of a question and substitute a different (but of course relevant) proposition. But it is true even in this case. For such an amendment, by concentrating debate on the main question and the amendment as alternative propositions, lends to exclude the consideration of other relevant alternatives.
It would be impracticable to attempt here to classify of the grounds on which amendments have been held to be irrelevant to a question. Some examples are given in connection with specialised forms of procedure such as bills particularly in committee, votes in supply and business motions.
The Speaker has ruled that to a question declaring the expediency of establishing a tribunal for the purpose of inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, which followed the directions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, an amendment to add another subject for inquiry would not be relevant, but an amendment relating to the constitution of the tribunal has been allowed.
It was not until comparatively recent times that the House would consent to be bound by the obligation of relevancy which it had imposed on its committees.
An illustration may be given of the former licence in amendments. To the question for the Speaker’s leaving the chair for the committee on the Reform Bill, 16 August 1831, an amendment was moved for the production of papers on the state of Poland: and on an analogous proceeding, 9 May 1834, the Speaker stated that, according to the forms of the House and the law of Parliament, there was no necessity that an amendment should be akin to the question.
I suggest that standing order 173, the relevant portions that I have read from the Business and Procedures of the House of
Representatives’ and the portion I have read from May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ shows clearly that this is an irrelevant amendment. It allows for new subjects to be brought into this debate and changes the whole subject matter of the original motion. It is a complete and utter political trick. It is one, Mr Speaker, that you, in upholding the dignity of your office, must recognise as such. You must appreciate that the Opposition has not blamed you at all for the situation that developed last evening. The Opposition today is endeavouring to nail to the wall the Minister who was responsible for the completely dictatorial manner in which the Opposition has been treated in this House.
-Order! The honourable member cannot go on to debate this.
– I suggest, Sir, that you have no option at all, if you wish to uphold the dignity of your position, but to uphold the point of order that I have raised.
– This is a question simply of relevance and whether the motion is relevant. We all know that the original motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, both in its wording and in its origin, arose out of events of last night. The Opposition seeks to get this House to agree that this arose from a mishandling of the business of the House and some breach of agreement by the Leader of the House, whereas the fact is that what happened last night arose - it is asserted and the Prime Minister expanded on this in his remarks to the House - from actions of the Leader of the Opposition himself. These are the 2 sides of the event, and it is a question of relevance to that event and the construction to be placed upon it. I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that the amendment is entirely relevant to the subject matter that has been put forward in the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I want to support my colleague the honourable member for Lang in his submission. The Minister for Education and Science has just referred to a matter of relevance. A censure motion is a censure motion. It is one of the rights still remaining to the Opposition. I would submit to the House that it is now being asked to debate simultaneously 2 censure motions. If honourable members opposite want to bring in rebuttal to the proposition that has been put forward by the Opposition that somebody acted improperly that is fair enough. But it cannot be put as a separate proposition during this debate. Surely the merits of Jones cannot be argued by submitting the merits of Smith as an alternative.
We have taken the initiative in this matter, as my colleague said, because we want to draw attention to what we regard as the extraordinary way in which the business of the House is being conducted by the person whom the Government has chosen to designate as its Leader of the House. It is our Censure. Honourable members opposite have the right to vote against it but they do not have the right to put in its place another censure motion. I submit that if this so-called amendment is allowed to stand - and it is surely a sacred right for members of the Parliament to move a censure motion - it will make a farce of any censure motion around a particular subject in the future.
We are in effect being asked to debate 2 issues at once. The second issue raised is not an amendment. It is not entirely a negative, because such a proposition cannot be effectively negatived. The House has before it a proposition to decide in terms of numbers whether it should censure the Leader of the House. I submit it is erroneous altogether to submit that you, Mr Speaker, can allow as a reasoned amendment an amendment which brings into the matter a different name altogether. I am one who is proud of the institution of Parliament, as you know, Mr Speaker. 1 regard you as the custodian and the keeper of the rights of the House. At times things can get strained on more sides than one, and there may be very relevant reasons for their becoming strained. We have taken the chance today to submit our opinion that certain relations became strained last night. That is the proposition we want to have debated. I submit that if the Government wants to move a censure motion against the Leader of the Opposition it should be brought in as a separate measure. I submit that it cannot be moved as an amendment to the proposition that has been put in the way in which it has been put.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has put forward an argument that the amendment has nothing to do with the motion. I do not wonder that the Opposition has put up the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to put this side of the case because he is one of the most reasonable members on the opposite side of the House. But that does not say that his argument is correct, because the whole of the foundation of the censureship of the Leader of the House, as the Minister for Education and Science said, was that he was responsible for the most unparliamentary procedure I have ever seen in 43 years in the House.
-Order! The honourable member is out of order in referring to this. He must confine himself to the point of order.
– It was on the question of who was responsible for this that the Leader of the Opposition moved his original motion of censure, and 1 submit very strongly that it is relevant that the amendment should be moved because I believe it was the Leader of the Opposition and not the Leader of the House who was responsible for that very unparliamentary business. Therefore the amendment must be relevant.
DrJ. F. Cairns - I think it is very clear on what the honourable member for Chisholm has said that he is confusing 2 ways of submitting his argument. It is perfectly legitimate for him to say that the cause of the trouble last night was not the Leader of the House but was the Leader of the Opposition. He may do so in this debate, as may the Prime Minister or anyone else who wants to speak in it. But the only question at issue is whether it is correct to move that proposition as an amendment. There is no question other than that. The authorities that have been consulted - our own Standing Orders and May - indicate that this is not the case. When the conduct of one member of Parliament is in issue, the authorities state that that matter must be confined to the conduct of the member concerned and that it is quite improper and irrelevant to say it was not Smith who is to blame but it was Jones. Two censure motions cannot be moved at the one time, nor can any Parliament be expected properly to determine 2 censures at the one time.
The essential feature of this procedure is that the Opposition has moved a censure motion and the House has to determine whether that censure is justified or not. In ascertaining whether it is justified no-one is entitled to move an amendment saying that somebody else ought to be censured. The one issue should be decided first in a very narrow and restricted procedural way, although the argument can go anywhere. The argument can be that someone else was to blame, but the blame cannot be attached to that person procedurally while a first issue is still being debated. The authorities that have been quoted at length by honourable members from this side of the House are not authorities we need to look at any more. The Minister for Education and Science made no reference whatever to them. He made no attempt to show that what the honourable member for Lang had said was wrong or in any way inaccurate. I submit that on the authorities the argument is clear, and there should be no doubt in the minds of anyone in this House what procedure we should follow. We should deal with the censure against the Leader of the House, and if anyone on the other side of the House wants to censure anyone else he will have ample time and opportunity to do it when this matter is disposed of.
– [ put it to you, Mr Speaker, that the authority of May is quite clear in this case. I will read from page 417. This section has previously been quoted but the import of it may not have been entirely clear. It reads:
The effect of moving an amendment is, rather, to restrict the field of debate which would otherwise be open on a question. Thi; is not obvious in the case of the type of amendment which proposes to leave out all the words of a question and substitute a different (but of course relevant) proposition. But it is true even in this case. For such an amendment, by concentrating debate on the main question and the amendment as alternative propositions, tends to exclude the consideration of other relevant alternatives.
It seems to me that the proposition put by May in this case has a complete relevance to the question at present before the Chair because it is clear for the reasons that the Minister for Education and Science gave earlier in the debate that what we are in substance talking about is the incident in the
House last night. That is clear indeed from the terms of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in introducing his motion.
– I will not take long because I do not think one needs to take long to show how stupid and ridiculous is the amendment, or so-called amendment, moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). If it is in order for the Prime Minister to move the kind of amendment which he has proposed, then if the Opposition moves that this House has no confidence in the Government and sets out to debate a motion of want of confidence in the Government presumably the Government can move an amendment to the effect that the House has no confidence in the Opposition. It is as simple as that, and I leave it at that.
– Mr Speaker, I hesitate to come into discussion on this point of order to which I can only contribute a mass of inexperience, but in spite of the fact that I have had no experience of the Standing Orders I think I can apply the same commonsense that would be applied in the ordinary organisations with which all honourable members have been associated. Applying that approach I put to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House that the essential error made by both the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Bowen) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was in avoiding the question put to the House in the main motion. The Minister for Education and Science put it to us that the motion before the House relates to events that took place in the House last night. But it does not. The motion relates to the conduct of the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), and the fact that the events in the House last night were introduced into the comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) by way of illustration does not change that central point.
I put it to you, Mr Speaker, by way of illustration that if we were to propose a motion of censure against the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for failing, among other things, to cancel the Fill contract on favourable terms it would be appropriate, if the present amendment before the House is accepted as appropriate, to move by way of amendment that not the Minister for Defence but Joe Bloggs should be censured for our failure to cancel that contract on favourable terms, Joe Bloggs being the lawyer on our side who allowed us to enter into that contract on unfavourable terms. That amendment would have nothing to do with the area of responsibility with which the House was then concerned. In that case we would be directing the attention of the House to the responsibility of the Minister, and questions as to what someone else said would be irrelevant.
In this case we are directing the attention of the House not to the events in the House last night but to the conduct of the Leader of the House not only last night but on other occasions. The events of last night were only brought in by way of illustration and are by no means central to the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! I think there has been some confusion in respect of this motion. I would say that this is not a censure motion in the sense of standing order 110. This is simply a censure of an individual member and is no different from any ordinary motion. Therefore I rule that the amendment is relevant to the circumstances of the case and the substance of the matter.
– I move:
That the ruling be dissented from. (Mr Stewart having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling) -
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
- Mr Speaker, I regret very much having taken the action that I have taken. I regret it because last evening in this House we had incidents that I have never seen in the 16 years that I have been here and that most of the officers of the Parliament have not seen while they have been here. When I was speaking to my point of order I quoted from the Standing Orders of the Australian Parliament. Standing order 173 says quite clearly that every amendment must be relevant to the question it is proposed to amend. There is absolutely no relevance at all in the amendment we are now discussing.
The original motion is a censure of the actions of the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) not last night but in his mishandling of the business of the House and his repeated failure to honour agreements made between the Government and the Opposition. The amendment takes the debate away from a general subject, the activities of the Leader of the House, and makes it a specific subject, the activities of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) last night in the House. There cannot be any relevance at all between those two topics. The standing order is quite clear. I submit that it is your duty, Mr Speaker, to interpret the Standing Orders and, according to standing order 173, an amendment must be relevant to the question it is proposed to amend.
I quoted May to show that in the House of Commons rulings have been given which are similar to the one which I asked you to give earlier. In the booklet ‘Business and Procedures of the House of Representatives’, published by the Parliament, at page 24 the following passage appears:
The following amendments are out of order:
an amendment which is merely an expanded negative.
It does not refer to a direct negative. 1 do not claim that the amendment is a direct negative at all, but I do claim that it can be regarded as an expanded negative. It takes one topic and changes it completely to negate the original topic. Either Parliament is run in accordance with the rules of debate and in line with the description of business and procedures of the House of Representatives, or it is not run at all. Last night’s incident occurred because the conduct of the House has been taken completely and utterly out of your hands, Mr Speaker, by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. You have no jurisdiction over the number of times the gag is moved. You have no jurisdiction at all over what business will come into the House. When they move the gag they look at you and they look at us with supercilious grins on their faces saying, in effect: We have the numbers; what can you do about it?’ We showed last night what we can do about it.
We regret what we did last night, but unless the Government changes its attitude towards this democratic institution and this democratically elected Opposition there will be more incidents like last night’s. Unless you exercise your authority - I have every reason to believe that you are a man of some honour, integrity and bravery, but you must show it in the chair - not only you will be derided but this House of Parliament will be derided. It is up to you to exercise your authority. Admittedly you have been appointed by the Government. It elected you at a party meeting but once you became-
– Order! I should like to correct the honourable member. I am not appointed by the Government; I am appointed by the House.
– You are selected by the Government and appointed by the House, and having been appointed by the House your subservience to any political party no longer exists. You are a completely independent and impartial person in the chair. We pay you our respects when we leave the House and when we come into the House. We treat you generally with the utmost respect and honour but unless you uphold the traditions of the House and the Standing Orders you will have many more dissent motions moved against you and you will find that this Opposition will not be nearly as tame as it has been in the past.
– I raise a point of order. The words that have been addressed to you in the last few minutes would suggest that this is a motion of censure of the Chair for not acting properly. I suggest it is totally out of order in this context.
-The honourable member is getting away from his explanation.
– For the benefit of the honourable member for Evans I point out that this is a motion of dissent. I am dissenting from an opinion expressed by the Chair. If the Chair is wrong I am entitled to suggest it is wrong. I was about to say that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) interjected. In this House there is nobody tougher; there is no crueller Minister alive. Look what he did to the-
-The honourable member is getting completely away from the motion of dissent.
– I come back to the motion of dissent, Mr Speaker, and say that the ruling you have just given, on the advice you have received, is completely contrary to the facts of the situation and to every parliamentary procedure that I have quoted. I refer back to standing order 173 which says most clearly and precisely that an amendment must be relevant to the motion.
DrJ. F. CAIRNS (Lalor) [4.43]- Mr Speaker, I seconded the motion. I did so after I had tried to follow the reason for your ruling. As I understand it you have held that the censure motion is not a motion under standing order 110, which says:
A motion of which notice has been given which expresses a censure of or want of confidence in the Government and is accepted by a Minister as a censure or want of confidence motion shall, until it is disposed of by the House, take precedence of all other business.
Clearly this is not a censure of the Government and, if we were forced to read this motion as a censure not under that standing order, it could be argued that the amendment would not bc excluded and therefore could go in. If this was an ordinary motion, like any other motion moved in the House, an amendment could certainly be moved. I would think, if that was the reasoning behind your ruling, it would be sound.
– That is the reason I gave.
– I do not think that has to be the reasoning behind a ruling in this case. It seems to me the cases quoted from May indicate that when the conduct of a person or persons is in question before a tribunal - the same principle should apply to the House - that matter has to be decided exclusive of other matters and it is not legitimate for anyone to assert some other question involving a lack of confidence or censure of the conduct of some other person or persons. This is my understanding of what May has to say. I think the only question you have to decide is whether the principle stated in May is a principle that should apply to this House as well as to other bodies. I submit it should. If it is possible to answer a motion of censure moved upon a person by shifting the ground completely to the examination of the conduct of some other person, as a form of procedure, the object of the initial motion is defeated altogether.
Mr Speaker, 1 think the purpose of moving the amendment is to make it possible for members of this House to avoid voting on the censure that has been moved in the House. In other words, the purpose of this amendment is not to suggest some view which may deviate in some degree from the motion; it is a complete alternative. It has no relevance to the motion at all. It directs the attention of the House completely away from the motion and to something else. It would allow any member of the House who may be willing to vote to censure the Minister to avoid doing so by voting for an amendment that wants to censure somebody else. That is the precise purpose behind the moving of this amendment. Therefore 1 submit that it is out of order and it is not made in order by arguing that it is not a motion under standing order 110. This is not an argument that would allow the amendment to be accepted. The motion does not have to come within standing order 110 to allow the principle that has been expounded in May to apply to it. It does not have to be under standing order 1 1 0 to allow the argument that this in terms of our Standing Orders is not an amendment relevant to the motion at all but is a totally different question. It allows the House to vote on a totally different question and therefore avoid the whole content and meaning of the motion. I submit this makes the amendment completely out of order and makes your ruling that it is in order an incorrect ruling.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to support your ruling. In so doing I want to say something about the contribution made to this debate by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart). I regret to say that on this occasion he departed from the high standards of debate that we have come to expect of him in this House. I was particularly sorry, if I may say so, to hear the honourable member, who has long been a member of this House and who was a Temporary Chairman of Committees, express a threat that if Opposition members on some future occasion felt that they had been unfairly treated they would not hesitate to resort to conduct such as we witnessed last night, and it was conduct of a disgraceful kind. I could expect those words to be uttered by other Opposition members - propriety prevents me from naming them - but I would not have expected to hear them coming from the honourable member for Lang. The other point which caused me regret when I listened to his words-
– I raise a point of order. With all due respect, the Attorney-General’s views of the honourable member for Lang have very little to do with the dissent motion before the Chair. Previously you called honourable members to order and directed that their remarks be relevant to the point before the Chair, and that is a dissent from the Speaker’s ruling. I cannot see why the Attorney-General, who should understand the Standing Orders, has to talk about the attitude-
-Order! I can appreciate the point of view put by the honourable member. But this is a debate on the one motion. I allowed the honourable member for Lang to speak in these terms. The Attorney-General is only answering the matters raised by the honourable member for Lang in the debate. I would suggest that the Attorney-General might come back to the main purpose of the motion.
– If I may say so, Mr Speaker, I will bear in mind your suggestion. I wish to say only this before I come to some other aspect of the remarks of my honourable friend from Lang. The contrition that he expressed for the events last night was, if I may say so, rather less than an act of perfect contrition because it was tempered by that threat, and a most regrettable threat it was.
– You are a nasty fellow.
– Well, other people do not think so, you know. The proposition that has been put by honourable members on the other side of the House in moving dissent from your ruling, Mr Speaker, stripped to its bones, amounts to this: The Opposition invokes the provisions of the relevant standing order which prescribes that an amendment must be relevant to the motion which it is designed to amend; and, having invoked the relevant standing order, the Opposition adopts as the principle for interpreting it this argument: That the motion is construed as a piece of English standing by itself in a perfect vaccum devoid of any reference to the surrounding circumstances, including, of course, the very circumstances that give rise or are alleged to give rise to the motion - in this case a motion of censure.
– Is this the sort of argument that the Minister uses before a court?
– This is the type of argument that I use towards courts of appeal, not common jurors like you. Then, so the argument runs, we go to the amendment and we construe the amendment in the same technical, unreal way. The point thai 1 wish to make that is this is an erroneous approach to the interpretation of the standing rule. lt is erroneous in point of principle because what one must ask in considering the question of whether the amendment falls within standing order 173 is whether there is a sufficient identity of circumstances, common both to the motion and to the amendment. That is the test to apply. It is the test enunciated in May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’. The relevant rule - it is not, 1 think, a standing order in the United Kingdom but it is a rule derived from long practice - is to the very same effect as our standing order. This expresses the point in the same words - that there must be a relevancy between the two things, the motion and the amendment. The honourable member for Lang said to the House this afternoon - and this was the starting point of his argument - that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition had nothing to do with the events or the alleged events in this House last night.
– He did not say that at all.
– Oh, yes, he did, as the honourable member would know if he listened carefully. That was the proposition. He said that the attitude adopted to my colleague, the Minister for Labour and
National Service, was not founded on anything that the honourable gentleman did last night.
– No, not based.
– Well, I am prepared to accept the word ‘based’ because it is the same in sense and meaning as the word founded’. I use the word ‘founded’. The point that I wish to make - and make as well as I can - is that when the Leader of the Opposition led for his Party on this censure motion this afternoon, he devoted - leaving aside the spiteful and catty parts of his speech, the flourishes that we have come to expect from him in the course of parliamentary debate, and taking out that fustian stuff - not less than half of the time that he spent discussing the motion substantially to criticising the conduct in this House last night of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service - or, should I say, more accurately, the alleged conduct in this House last night of my colleague. The point that he sought to make - failed miserably to make, I may mention in passing - was that it was the Minister for Labour and National Service who was responsible for what happened last night.
Of course, the motivation behind the censure motion moved against the Minister for Labour and National Service is easy to see. It is a pathetic attempt on the part of the Opposition to divert attention from its own disgraceful conduct last night and to try to fasten the blame on the Government. 1 mention that-
– I rise to a point of order. I have listened carefully to the Minister. It seems to me that the Minister is debating the subject matter before the House in the motion and the amendment. I cannot see any relevance to your ruling as to whether the amendment is relevant or not in the remarks of the Minister.
-Order! I suggest that the Minister come back to the ruling given by the Speaker. I can see the relevancy in some cases of the remarks of the Minister to this matter. I do not think that the Minister has dealt with the main cause of the dissent.
– 1 was seeking to establish a point and, to do so, I thought that it was relevant to examine in passing the motivation behind the Opposition’s censure motion. What I wish to go on to say is that the amendment poses for the consideration of the House in truth this question: Who was responsible for the disgraceful behaviour of the Opposition, that is, the contravention on the part of the Opposition last night of all accepted norms of parliamentary behaviour? Was it the Minister who is now under censure or the Opposition as an organised body of near anarchists led into the battle by its Leader? If that does not constitute-
– I again take a point of order. This is obviously an argument as to whether the House should or should not support the motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It has no relevance, I submit, to whether your ruling is correct or not.
– I thought that I was coming to the point on the point of order.
-I suggest to the Attorney-General that he might come to the point.
– I take a point of order.
– AM points, if they are to be well come to, require a little preliminary work.
– A point of order! Have a look around you, Mr Speaker. Some of us are here also.
-Order! What is the honourable member’s point of order?
– I ask the Attorney-General to withdraw the statement that the Opposition is a body of near anarchists. The statement is absolutely unparliamentary, is an insult to the Opposition and is completely untrue.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I cannot ask the Minister to do that. The House wilt’ come to order. I suggest to the Attorney-General that the motion before us is the dissent from the ruling by the Speaker. This does not allow the AttorneyGeneral a complete canvass of the proceedings of last night’s debate. I am afraid that the Chair has been a little tolerant in this regard on the matter of the relevancy of his remarks. I would suggest that the Minister confine his comments to the motion that is before the Chair.
– I am obliged to you for your indulgence. I merely say that what I have sought to point out - and I think I have done so to the satisfaction at least of some honourable members of the House, those on this side - is that the circumstances giving rise to the motion are identical with the circumstances giving rise to the amendment. If anything establishes relevancy, that does. Therefore, Mr Speaker, your ruling deserves to be supported by this House.
- Mr Speaker, I submit with all respect that the conduct of this House as well as being governed by the Standing Orders and by invocation of Sir Erskine May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’, should be governed also by commonsense. This morning, we had some discussion about certain amendments that were not circulated. I ask the honourable members on the Government side of the House to read the amendment circulated this afternoon in the name of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). It is headed: ‘Motion of censure of the Leader al the House’. That heading appears under the title ‘House of Representatives’. It clearly indicates that it is a motion of censure of the Leader of the House. I submit, with all respect, that if this sort of amendment were proposed in even a branch of the Australian Labor Party the chairman would rule it out of order. If a person put forward one proposition and the other side tried to avoid the debate by putting up an entirely alternative one, the chairman would rule the second proposition out of order.
Mr Speaker, as I have said, I have great respect for you and for the institution of Parliament. I ask you to reconsider this matter. The opposition does not want to move dissent from your ruling. As I see it, it would make a mockery of things in the future. There may well be reasons in the future for Ministers to be censured. It would mean that if a motion of censure were moved against a Minister for Repatriation, somebody could rise and put an entirely different proposition. I submit that this is all wrong. At the moment. Mr Speaker, you are trying to resolve 2 questions simultaneously. Not even your wit can accomplish this. The 2 questions are, firstly, a motion of censure against the Leader of the House and, in rebuttal, an amendment aimed at censuring the Leader of the Opposition. Those 2 questions cannot be resolved simultaneously.
I submit that this is contrary to commonsense. If you would like to suspend the sitting for a few minutes in order to take counsel with you learned advisers then we of the Opposition would be quite willing that that course should be followed. I do not want to see an unfortunate precedent created now which will set difficulties for us in the future - a precedent which is contrary to commonsense. The Government has the numbers to defeat the original motion but it seems to have adopted a shabby, schoolboy, smart guy trick to get out of facing up to the proper proposition. You, Sir, I am afraid, have abetted the Government by regarding the Government’s action as coming within the terms of an amendment.
-Order! Before we proceed any further in this debate may 1 say, firstly, that it is not my responsibility as the Speaker of the House to look behind the motives of an amendment, whether it is moved by the Opposition or by the Government. It is my responsibility to interpret the Standing Orders of the House as I see them. As I have said - the honourable member for Lalor agreed with me - in relation to standing order 110, this is simply a censure motion directed against an individual member; it is not a censure motion directed against the Government. Therefore it is no different from any other ordinary motion that may come before the House.
– But if it is a censure motion directed against one individual how can it be made a censure against another individual?
-The amendment, therefore, is relevant to the circumstances of the original motion.
– 1 address myself, Mr Speaker, entirely to the subject before you. I would like to make some observations which bear upon the question as to whether this is a relevant amendment. During the past few years there has been a tendency to widen the scope of amendments in this place. I think even during Budget debates the traditional form of amendment, that is that proposed expenditure be reduced by Si or £1, has given way to a far wider and much more embracing type of amendment. From time to time we have seen amendments moved in this place which have virtually constituted a complete negation or obstruction of the intention of the original motion. This was so last night during the debate on the Bill we were discussing. The motion called for the ratification and approval of a certain measure. The amendment commenced with the words shall not be approved until so and so’. I simply make that point in passing. I believe very wide freedom has been given in the terms and nature of amendments moved in this place. 1 turn now exactly to the matter under scrutiny. A motion was proposed which called for the censure of the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) because of certain things which took place and which gave rise to certain other unhappy events, it is a motion of censure relating to one person. When the facts are analysed we should be able to come to some conclusions as to the guilt or otherwise of the person mentioned in the censure motion. We should be able to draw conclusions as to the provocation or otherwise of that person, as to the types of events that gave rise to it, and as to the reactions of others. Surely all these are relevant circumstances. Having scrutinised all these things, it is now being suggested to you, Mr Speaker, that it is not proper that the House should come to the conclusion that in this fracas, this contretemps, there was another party who was more guilty and who, indeed, in an elementary sense, was responsible for what occurred. I suggest, Sir, that the purpose of the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is to show that there was a more guilty party.
The Prime Minister suggested that it was not the Leader of the House who was primarily responsible for the deplorable things that occurred last night or early this morning in this place, and that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) should be censured, in the terms of the amendment, for his failure to respond to your request.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Speaker, is it relevant to discuss matters related to the motion and the amendment? I put it to you. Sir, that the honourable member for Evans is not discussing anything relevant to your ruling or to the reason for it.
-Order! The honourable member for Evans may make some passing reference by way of illustration, as has been permittted always in this House. However, as I said before, it should not become part of the main debate on the motion. I suggest to the honourable member for Evans that he confine his remarks to the immediate question.
- Mr Speaker, really I was reading out the amendment proposed by the Prime Minister which is being queried and which is before you at the moment. the Leader of the Opposition should be censured for his failure to respond to Mr Speaker’s request that he use his influence with the honourable member for Wills to obey the decision of the House directed to him by Mr Speaker and thereby became a party to an attack on the institution of Parliament by members of the Opposition whose disruptive and unruly behaviour was designed to make impossible the conduct of the business of the House.
It is suggested that this is an improper amendment and that the Leader of the Opposition’s behaviour was not a relevant factor or a relevant corollary to the circumstances surrounding the censure motion directed against the Leader of the House. I suggest exactly the opposite, Mr Speaker. One should look at the events that gave rise to these circumstances. I suggest there were 2 phases to the incident. Firstly, there were the circumstances leading to the most unhappy display which arose out of a battle of parliamentary tactics. The Leader of the House was faced with an obstructive process that was Initiated because of an election which it is suggested will take place in South Australia. In these circumstances political heat was engendered.
-Order! The honourable member will confine his remarks to the motion.
– I rise on a point of order. I submit that as you have said before, Mr Speaker, it is not your function to rule on the motives of motions or amendments and it is also not your function to rule on events which gave rise to them and I ask that this ruling be enforced in the case of the honourable member for Evans.
-I have not ruled in the manner in which the honourable member for Capricornia has suggested.
– I will confine myself to a very brief statement which I think is entirely relevant to suggest why this amendment was proposed by the Prime Minister. The circumstances in which the Leader of the House was being criticised were ones of parliamentary encounter. Each opportunity, according to the forms of the House, was being exploited quite properly and reasonably and with all the understanding of parliamentary process by the 2 sides that were engaged in this debate. In the circumstances which arose it was known that there were certain amendments to be moved and certain agreements have been made.
– Mr Speaker, it is starting all over again.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Evans that he confine his comments to the moving of the dissent motion. I think that the Chair has been rather lenient with the honourable member. It has warned him on 2 occasions and I suggest that he confine his remarks to the dissent motion.
– I will conclude by saying that I believe that the proposed amendment by the Prime Minister is one which is a corollary - the obverse side - of the motion which was proposed by the Opposition. It is totally relevant to the circumstances, it arose out of the circumstances as did the motion, and I believe it is a fitting response of those who have sat and judged the circumstances to come to the conclusion so adequately and clearly and succinctly set forth by the Prime Minister, which will be, I believe, the reaction of the majority of members.
– I shall confine myself strictly to the dissent motion because, quite apart from all the other issues raised in this
Chamber last night and today, the issue now raised whether the House will uphold or dissent from your ruling, Mr Speaker, will affect for very many years the ability of the Parliament to conduct its business.
It is an essential right of the Parliament to censure any one of its members. It is a deprival of that right if a member is denied the opportunity of voting for the censure of one member because he may believe also that another member is worthy of censure. There are now 2 propositions before the House: firstly, that the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) should be censured; secondly, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) should be censured. These are not alternatives. One may well believe that both members of the House deserve to be censured and one should not be deprived of the opportunity of voting for the censure of 1 member by the necessity to vote for or against the censure of another member. Of course the 2 propositions are separate.
– Do you foreshadow another amendment?
– No. There is no need. I will tell the honourable member the kind of amendment that could be moved. There could be an amendment moved to say that instead of the Leader of the House being censured he should be fined, or that he should be reproved, or that he should be shot. Those would be relevant amendments. But it is not an amendment to the question whether the Leader of the House should be censured to put the proposition that someone else should be censured. Instead of that being an amendment it should be a subsequent motion. If you, Mr Speaker, would preserve - as 1 know it is your aim to do - the rights of the House and of all members of Parliament you should have told the Prime Minister when he mistakenly moved this as an amendment that it is of course a separate proposition and that if he wished to move it he should do so later as a separate motion.
It is, of course, conceivable that a House could first carry a motion of censure on A and then carry a motion of censure on B. It may be that both persons might be regarded as deserving of censure, but your ruling, Sir, has prevented the House from exercising this right.
Your ruling says, in effect, to members: Although you may believe that the Leader of the House should be censured you can only achieve your aim by declaring by your vote that the Leader of the Opposition should not be censured. These are not opposite matters. As I have said, the opportunity should be given to the House to censure any of its members. The House should not be deprived of the opportunity of censuring1 member by having to consider alternatively the question of whether another member should be censured. Indeed, this is not an alternative question but an additional question.
Reference has been made today to the fact that the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) expressed regret at the action taken last night by the Opposition. That expression of regret was construed as being an act of contrition but an imperfect act of contrition. Of course, it need not bc either. 1 am certain that on every occasion on which you, Sir, name a member you regret that you have to do so but you do not apologise for your action. You are not making an act of contrition in acknowledging that you do so with regret.
I refer now to a matter which 1 think is strictly relevant to this debate on the motion of dissent. In the life of a parliament there will always be times when disorder may be the only means of preserving the rights and order which should prevail in the Parliament. It is suggested that what we are doing here is unprecedented, or that what has happened in the last day and night is unprecedented, but the fact is that it is in accord with traditions which go right back through the whole history of this Parliament and through the whole history of the mother of parliaments. Once an opposition believes, rightly or wrongly, that the Government is abusing the forms of the House, preventing the proper conduct of the proceedings of the House, and denying the Opposition the opportunities which it should have, then it becomes obligatory upon the Opposition, if Parliamentary rights and procedures are to be preserved, for it to use every means in its power to make it plain to the Government that those tactics will not succeed.
-I want to address myself briefly to this discussion.
One thing that makes me think that you, Mr Speaker, are completely wrong in your ruling is the support given to you by the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). I hope that if I am ever prosecuted he will act as the prosecutor. In the course of a rather discourteous remark he referred to me as a common juror. I just want to correct the learned Queen’s Counsel and tell him that under the Jury Exemption Act No. 13 of 1965 in accordance with section 4 (1) I am not eligible to serve at all on a jury. You, Mr Speaker, have ruled under standing order 1 10 that this is not a censure motion, t has been said that it has been circulated as a censure motion.. I believe that that is beyond doubt. However, one thing that you have lost sight of is that in our motion we are trying to protect you above all people from a Government that is ruthlessly using the power of this Parliament. I do not want the Attorney-General to butt in again because I think he has done the Government case enough damage already.
What you do not seem to realise, Mr Speaker, and what we are pointing out, is that this Government by its ruthless use of the forms of this House is making you the bunny, if I may use that expression, for its misdemeanours and its actions.
-Order! I would suggest that the honourable member should moderate his language somewhat. I might say to the honourable member that it has always been my aim in this House to be strictly impartial to both sides. I do not think that there has been any great criticism of this over a period of time. I assure honourable members that any ruling that I give in this House is given conscientiously and not in relation to whether the Government or the Opposition treats me as a bunny or otherwise.
– Not for a minute, Mr Speaker, would I reflect upon your impartiality or interpretations, although I might disagree with them. The point 1 want to make is that the Government by its actions last night made you take full’ responsibility for what happened in the House and now, by bringing forward this motion which you have ruled to be in order, is trying to evade its responsibilities and what I see is the embarrassment which it has caused to you.
I referred to standing order 110. Let us, as ordinary people, have a look at what this ordinary standing order says:
A motion of which notice has been given or an amendment which expresses a censure of or want of confidence in the Government and is accepted by a Minister as a censure or want of confidence motion or amendment shall, until it is disposed of by the House, take precedence of all other business.
As other speakers have said, it has been accepted as a vote of censure. We have before us the papers that have been distributed, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said. It is worth reading the motion of censure of the Leader of the House. The Leader of the Opposition said:
I give notice that at the next sitting 1 shall move that the Leader of the House should be censured for his mishandling of the business of the House and his failure to honour agreements made between the Government and the Opposition.
If anyone here does not think that that is a vote of censure I think he is a case for medical examination. Looking at it in practical terms, 1 cannot see how, by drawing even the longest bow, one could say that that is not a censure of the Parliament. It should be quite obvious to honourable members that the Government is in a real jam. It does not want to support the infamous actions of the Leader of the House last night and it has reverted to the usual manner of evasion by employing a diversionary tactic. It is for this reason that the Government is doing these things.
-Order! During the course of this debate on several occasions I have had to ask honourable members on both sides of the House to confine their remarks to the ruling of the Chair. I suggest to the honourable member for Grayndler that he should not debate what happened last night. He may make some passing reference to it to illustrate a point, but it should not become the main subject of his discussion.
– I will not debate the main subject, Mr Speaker. I just point out, as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Allan Fraser) has done, that this is a ruling that will have an important bearing on future discussions in this House. I have in mind your ruling that if one refers collectively to honourable members it is not an insult no matter what one says. What is to stop an honourable member on the Government side adding to this resolution now, as a further amendment, the individual names of every honourable member on this side of the Parliament? Would that not make a farce of the matter of censure? Every person on this side would be included. If this ruling is upheld it will mean that that can be done. We may be brought to the farcical position where a censure motion is brought against the Minister for Primary Industry, for example, and then every member of the Australian Country Party is named with him. Would anything be sillier?
I just point these matters out, as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro has done, to show that it is an important motion. I hope that the House will uphold the dissent, as such a ruling could have a very far reaching effect on this Parliament. As the Leader of the Opposition has just mentioned to me, would it be in order, for instance, when a member of the Government moves that an Opposition member be suspended for us to substitute by way of amendment, the name of one on the Government side whom we did not like? This is precisely what could be done. There is no end to the possibilities of a ruling such as this. I am obliged to the Leader of the Opposition for that commendable thought, because I may give it a go one night.
I regret very much to have to speak against you, Mr Speaker, knowing your impartiality and your endeavours to do the right thing; but on this occasion I feel that you have been misled in your judgment and that you have misinterpreted completely the attitude of the Government and the embarrassing position which it has put you in. I believe that at this stage you should suspend the sitting as you did last night, reconsider the question and come back to the House and say that the Opposition is right in this case, that the Government has failed to do the right thing, and that the amendment should be ruled out of order.
– This debate, for the first time in a very long period - in fact it is almost the first time I can remember - started with an honourable member of this House rising and quoting May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’. This was often done in the State House in Victoria when I was a member. Members on both sides of the House generally referred to May when taking points of order, as the honourable Member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) will remember. We were in the House together. 1 listened with great interest to the discussion on this matter. I hold that, according to May’s “Parliamentary Practice’ your ruling is entirely in order, Mr Speaker. May, at page 406 of that book, refers in paragraph (3) to this particular form of amendment and says:
This is effected by moving the omission of all or most of the words of the question after the word ‘That’ at the beginning and by the substitution of an alternative proposition (which must, however, be relevant to the subject of the question).
When discussing a previous motion I referred to what I considered to be the relevance of the question. The paragraph continues:
In the case of amendments of this type the proposal of the question ‘That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question’ places before the House two alternative propositions, contained in the motion and in the amendment respectively, between which the House has to make a preliminary choice before deciding finally to agree to either of them. Consequently, if the words proposed to be left out are ordered not to stand part of the question, this vote does not by itself express a decision against the motion, but only a preference for taking a decision upon the alternative proposition contained in the amendment. If, however, the words of the amendment are added, and the main question, so amended, is agreed to, the original motion may be regarded as having been negatived by implication. This depends both upon the fact that the amendment has been agreed to and upon the fact that its terms are such as to imply disagreement with the motion. A motion, from which all or most of the words after ‘That’ have been left out without other words having been added, has not in strictness been decided and may be submittetd again in substance to the decision of the House. 1 think that makes it quite clear that your ruling, Mr Speaker, is in order. Finally, I quote from page 407: lt is important to observe that the question whether the proposition contained in a superseded motion has been decided depends, not upon the fact that its words have been omitted, but rather upon the nature of the amendment by which the motion has been superseded.
The proposed amendment should not be confined to a mere negation of the terms of the motion, as the proper mode of expressing a contrary opinion is by voting against a motion without seeking to amend it.
I hold that the amendment is not just a direct negation, but contains other things besides. Therefore, Mr Speaker, according to May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’, which was quoted originally in the first part of the discussion, I hold that your ruling is quite in order.
– This is a most serious matter. The motion before the House is one which seeks to censure the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) moved a further form of words which if accepted mean that it would be a motion of censure directed against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). I was impressed, and I think all honourable members must have been impressed, by the cold, hard logic of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). When he speaks in this House he usually speaks with considered logic. He spoke this afternoon with logic that must be heeded unless we are to make a mockery of this Parliament. What he pointed out was that by seeking a censure of one person you use a form of words to cause a result which in effect means an examination of a censure of another person. In other words, it becomes a trial of the Parliament as to who is the guilty person. This was not under any circumstances the logic behind the amendment, nor is it the logic behind Standing Orders.
To illustrate the absurdity of the situation r- I say this with all respect to you, Sir, and your ruling from which we dissent - there are some people, hypothetical, who might consider that it was the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who was at fault. So I submit that there is nothing to stop my moving a further form of words that the Minister for National Development be censured. As some very vocal honourable members probably think it was I who caused the problem last night, because the operative word according to your ruling is relevancy’, it would be open for somebody to move another form of words seeking to censure me. That would be 4 censure motions. We could take this to absurd lengths with respect to other people. This would be a mockery. It would become a trial of the entire Parliament to find out what happened last night or at some other time and would be far removed from the intent not only of the motion but also of
Standing Orders. If the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) would cease talking to you, Mr Speaker, and let me continue-
-Order! The Chair will be the judge of this matter. The honourable member for Dawson will continue his speech.
– I am sorry, but I am treating this matter very seriously and am addressing all of my remarks to you.
– And I am listening.
– If you can listen to two people at the one time you are good, and I know you are. I have tried to follow the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in logic because, after all, it is logic which formulates Standing Orders. It is logic upon which you base your decision. This is not a trial of the Parliament to ascertain the guilty person. Firstly, we have a motion of censure against the Leader of the House. If the Government believes that the Leader of the Opposition or some other honourable member is guilty let it move a separate motion and have that debated. But it is absurd in logic to suggest that we might go through the list of honourable members, seeking to censure one after the other. This would become a trial in the Parliament to decide who is the person to be censured.
– I wish to make a few observations. I think they will be very much to the point. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has referred to this vote as being a trial to find out who is responsible for certain things. The simple truth of the matter is that the Opposition elected to make it a trial and all of the Opposition’s argument as far as the motion of dissent from your ruling is concerned turns on the question of relevance. I will deal with the question of relevance. The basic issues on which the Opposition moved its censure motion were the events of last night. This is not denied. It is not denied by any honourable member opposite. Certainly this was the gravamen of the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in moving his censure motion and the honourable gentleman does not deny it. If the events of last night were relevant in determining the form of the censure motion then an amendment to the censure motion is certainly relevant. I say to the honourable member for Dawson that it is the Opposition which has elected to make this a trial and the Opposition is now hoist by its own petard. The Government says that if you are to look back and dwell on the events of last night and to say that the Leader of the House was responsible for those events and should be censured, that is the wrong assessment of those events and that the right and proper assessment to be made is that the Leader of the Opposition is the one who should be censured, for he was the one who gave rise to the most undignified and unruly display this House has ever known.
– 1 will be brief. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) moved a motion of censure against the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). Without worrying about historical precedents set down in ‘May’s Parliamentary Practice’ or the Standing Orders, any normal and sensible chairman of a committee would see that the amendment moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is a complete negation of the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and would immediately rule the amendment out of order. What concerns me is that here we are setting precedents. The pressure of numbers is being applied in this Parliament to set a precedent. You, Mr Speaker, will be setting a precedent to defend the Government and the Prime Minister. This is not in the best interests of the Parliament. If you set such a precedent you will regret your decision.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate on the motion for dissent. Nobody on the Government side has yet answered the proposition advanced by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who asked how a censure motion could be moved against a censure. Quite clearly the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) was a motion of censure against the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden). The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has now moved what is obviously in effect a motion of censure against the Leader of the Opposition. As the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has pointed out, Mr Speaker, you are being asked to establish a precedent. One could give a number of examples to show clearly how significant your ruling on this matter will be. No motion which is, as the Prime Minister’s amendment obviously is, a direct negative may be moved to another motion. I emphasise - this is very important - that if the Government wanted to move a motion of censure against the Leader of the Opposition it was entitled to do so, just as the Opposition is entitled to move a motion of censure against the Leader of the House.
Whatever transpired in this Parliament yesterday was due to the attitude and activities of the Leader of the House. Everybody in this Parliament, even Government supporters, knows that the Leader of the House not only broke agreements but transgressed the generally accepted decent practices in this Parliament. So the issue this afternoon which was raised quite properly, in the opinion of the honourable members on this side of the House, is a well deserved motion censuring the Leader of the House. This is not the first occasion on which a motion of this kind has been moved against the Leader of the House. This is the second occasion on which the Opposition has had to take this course of action. It is quite clear why Government members are supporting the amendment moved by the Prime Minister to the censure motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Quite clearly honourable members on the Government side of the House did not want to vote in a way that would support the Leader of the House.
Let me put it to you, Mr Speaker, that there are members on the Government side who were entirely dissatisfied, and quite properly so, with the attitude and the activities of the Leader of the House yesterday. If they had to vote today on the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition they would have in effect been voting for the Leader of the House. They preferred not to do this. One can assume that, if the motion had been put as it most certainly would when the debate had been concluded, there would have been members from the Government side who would have walked out and not participated in the vote. Their names would not have been recorded in a division.
-Order! 1 would suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he is going a little beyond the bounds of the dissent motion at present. He is debatthe happenings of last night and its consequences and not the dissent motion.I request him to come back to the motion before the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. Having made that point, let me conclude on the points that I made initially: No-one has yet answered the proposition that has been put or the argument that has been made by honourable members on this side of the House that this is in effect a censure motion moved against a censure motion. The Prime Minister’s amendment is a direct negative. It would not be accepted in the normal course of debate and in these circumstances it should not be accepted by the Parliament on this occasion.
That the Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 942).
– It would be extremely difficult for one to recall after the suspension of the sitting for dinner all of the points that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made when he replied to the censure motion that had been moved earlier this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in these terms:
That the Leader of the House should be censured for his mishandling of the business of the House and his repeated failure to honour agreements made between the Government and the Opposition.
The Prime Minister experienced great difficulty in refuting the charge of the Leader of the Opposition. Instead he moved an amendment to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, an amendment which one can accept only as a censure motion against the Leader of the Opposition. This was quite an unprecedented course of action. I do not want to recapitulate at this stage all the arguments that were advanced this afternoon in relation to this matter. Nevertheless the Prime Minister has chosen to move an amendment which one must accept, as I have indicated to the House, as a motion of censure against the Leader of the Opposition.
I want to make it perfectly clear that whatever motion is moved in this respect aimed at the Leader of the Opposition must necessarily include every member who sits on this side of the House. Whatever responsibility one expects the Leader of the Opposition to accept in these matters must be accepted by every member who sits behind him. This was a course of action adopted by every honourable member on this side of the House. Certainly it was an unprecedented course of action, I submit to this House, with extenuating circumstances which led to the decision that was made last night by you, Mr Speaker. The Opposition does not hold you responsible for what happened last night but submit that it was the direct result of the attitude and the actions of the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) yesterday in relation to the Bills that this House then had before it. So the whole of the blame for whatever happened in this House last night must be the direct responsibility, and must be accepted as the direct responsibility, of the Leader of the House.
I said this afternoon when speaking to the motion of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling that the Prime Minister chose to move his amendment to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition because there were obviously some members on the Government side who were dissatisfied with the attitude and the actions of the Leader of the House yesterday during the course of the debate on the 2 measures to which I have already referred. One can accept - and I believe it would be reasonable to argue in this way - that there were some members on the Government side who, because of this dissatisfaction with the attitude of the Leader of the House yesterday, would not have voted on the motion which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. Indeed they would have refrained from exercising their right to vote in the division when the question was put. This means in effect that they were not prepared and would not have been prepared to accept the attitude and the actions of the Leader of the House.
So as I have said, this is a most unprecedented action that the Opposition was forced to take against the Leader of the House. I want to make it clear at the outset that I do not put the whole of the blame for the intolerable situation which has arisen in this House on the Leader of the House. I believe that he is under extreme pressures from the Prime Minister, and this is obvious not only from what happened in the Parliament yesterday. I ask the honourable members who may disagree with this point of view to recall the 1 day session of this Parliament towards the end of 1969 when an agreement that had been entered into between the Leader of the House and myself, accepting the responsibilities in this way on behalf of the Opposition, was broken. It was quite clear at that time and fully understood by myself as well as by members on the Government side that an opportunity would be given to honourable members to debate a censure motion the following day. Quite clearly the Leader of the House had accepted this proposition and had agreed to the debate being continued the next day, but as a result of the pressure exerted on him by the Prime Minister he capitulated and the motion for the adjournment was moved that same day. That was a clear case of an agreement being broken by a responsible Minister - indeed the Minister who is charged with the responsibility of organising the business of this House, entering into arrangements with myself and seeking agreements in this way. This was one instance of the pressure applied by the Prime Minister.
I had the experience of working for 2 years with the present Leader of the House from the beginning of 1967 to the end of 1968. I acknowledge that during this period he conducted the business of the House in a rational and generally fair way. Certainly there were no disgraceful attempts to coerce the legislature. This is the only interpretation which can be put on the course of events in this House late last night and early this morning. The whole organisation of this chamber depends in large measure on co-operation. There must always be some flexibility in the flow of the legislative process in this House. For this reason there is a need for continual negotiation between the Government and the Opposition. In the past I have conducted these negotiations with the Leader of the House, in the main, on a basis which has been satisfactory to both sides.
When the present Leader of the House was abjectly sacked as Leader of the House last year the business of the House was negotiated on a successful basis with the former Leader of the House and former Minister for Air, the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin). For the whole of last year the honourable member for Ballaarat proved a most successful Leader of the House, certainly in every way a better one than the present Minister for Labour and National Service. Since the Minister for Labour and National Service resumed as Leader of the House on 25th November last year he has undergone a remarkable transformation. The desire he had in the past to negotiate and to compromise has been replaced by a bullying, hectoring and, I regret to say, even untruthful attitude. The Minister wants to prove himself a big and tough man. This has been evident in his public statements on industrial matters and in the whole tone of his dealings in this House. The Leader of the House will find that the Labor Party will no more accept this high-handed attitude than will the leaders of the great Australian trade unions.
However I do not want to dwell at great length on this. I believe that the real villain responsible for this flagrant disregard for parliamentary forms is the Prime Minister. Quite clearly the Leader of the House has been returned to his post under very humiliating circumstances. The tone for a policy for complete suppression of the parliamentary and legislative process was set on 25th November last year. The House resumed for the historic 1-day session with a radically reconstituted membership. The 30 or so new members were edified by the sight of a panicking Executive and a debilitated Government in action. In the course of the day the gag was moved 7 times. The Leader of the House set the pace by gagging the debate on the election of the Speaker. I do not know what political point this was intended to serve, but it was done. This was not a political debate but a debate on a machinery measure. Traditionally it has been the occasion for light- hearted debate by members of both sides of the House. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that having experienced this kind of debate you would have appreciated the situation. It is not intended in a serious spirit and it is the custom for the debate to proceed without interruption until the vote is taken. The Leader of the House chose to set an anxious note by gagging even this traditional debate. He did the same thing with the debate on the election of the Chairman of Committees. More seriously he gagged the debate on the appointment of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise.
After the suspension of the sitting for dinner the Prime Minister got in on the act when he gagged a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition, censuring the Government for its failure to pl’ace business before the Parliament. The Prime Minister made a most inadequate reply to the case put by the Leader of the Opposition and he tried to get himself out of trouble by applying the gag. The Leader of the House then moved the adjournment of the House, although he had given a clear and unequivocal undertaking before dinner that the sitting would continue on the following day. There can be no doubt about this: The clear impression was given to me, as a representative of the Opposition, by the Leader of the House that the sitting would be continued. This was reflected in reports of the national Press.
During the dinner suspension of the sitting it seems that the Prime Minister leant heavily on the Leader of the House and it was decided to stop the Government’s embarrassment by adjourning the sitting and the session. When we attempted to debate the motion for this special adjournment the debate was gagged by the Leader of the House. There was then a debate on leave of absence tor all honourable members until the next day of sitting. This was gagged after the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister spoke. Finally the adjournment debate was gagged. In all, on the first day of a new parliamentary sitting, after the Government had scraped back into office, the gag was moved 7 times. The Government was so anxious to avoid exposure and to get out of the public eye for 2 or 3 months that it gagged everything that came before the House that day. I suggest that there is no precedent in this Parliament for such indiscriminate use of the gag on the first day of a new Parliament.
The pattern so dramatically established on 25th November has been repeated in the past month. On 4th March the gag was moved twice; on 5th March, twice; on 10th March, twice; on 1 1th March, twice; on 12th March, twice; on 17th March, twice; on 18th March, twice; and on 19th March, 4 times. In the first 3 weeks of the sitting the gag was moved 18 times - 16 times by the Leader of the House. When the House resumed on Tuesday last the Leader of the House had a day free from the gag, but only because of the adjournment of the House following the death of the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. I do not suppose that even the Leader of the House would have the effrontery to gag a motion of condolence. However this momentary restraint was shattered yesterday when the gag was moved on 5 occasions. It was moved 3 times by the Leader of the House, once by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) and once by the honourable member for Angus (Mr Giles). On the first occasion the Leader of the House gagged, for the nineteenth time this sitting, an Opposition urgency motion. Every matter of public importance raised by the Opposition has been summarily chopped off after only 1 Opposition speaker. On the first occasion the gag was applied in this way it was moved after what I had assumed was a clear agreement between the Leader of the House and myself for at least 2 speakers from each side. The matters of public importance raised by the Opposition have not been trivial. They have ranged over industrial issues. New Guinea, Aboriginals and serious deficiences in the war service homes legislation. Yet only 1 speaker from each side has been able to debate these issues in the House.
I do not want to talk at length about the remarkable sequence of events in this House late last night and early this morning. The Opposition was subjected to quite intolerable provocation by the Leader of the House. Through a lapse of memory on his part he did not provide for the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule so that a Bill which was part of a cognate debate, could be introduced. This was entirely the fault of the Leader of the House. Whether I sympathise with his problem in this respect is another matter; it was entirely his responsibility. When the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) quite properly refused the Leader of the House leave to waive the 1 1 o’clock rule the Leader of the House cut loose in a most extraordinary exhibition. It was a remarkable fit of pique intended to show that he was the boss of the House and that he would chop off discussion of crucial amendments to a most important piece of legislation.
The honourable member for Dawson outlined the sequence of events relating to the amendments of which the Leader of the House claims he was unaware. The case of the honourable member for Dawson was vindicated substantially by the statement made this morning by the Minister for National Development who delicately left the can with the Leader of the House. The Minister for National Development made it quite clear that the honourable member for Dawson had informed him that there would be other amendments. Quite firmly he dissociated himself from the claim of the Leader of the House that he did not know of the amendments. The plain inference of the Minister’s remarks was that the Leader of the House had been rather less than frank in his explanation this morning. The Leader of the House seized on the technicality that the amendments had not been circulated and were in a drawer at the Clerk’s table. This is an accepted process; amendments are kept in this drawer until the mover asks that they be circulated. In the same way the amendment moved earlier in Committee by the Minister for National Development was kept in the drawer until he asked for its distribution to the House. As the Minister well knows, this is done on every occasion when legislation is amended.
It is remarkable that the Minister for National Development knew that the amendments had been printed and were to be moved and circulated while the Leader of the House claims to have been completely ignorant of their existence. It is beyond credence that the Leader of the House did not have this knowledge. Even if he were incompetent enough not to know of their existence - and I do not accept this - his action in going ahead and bulldozing the Bill through the Committee stage was even more reprehensible. The legislation at issue was of extreme importance. It concerns a matter in which many members from both sides of the House are crucially interested. Further it is an issue with wide ranging implications in the politics of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia as well as the Commonwealth. Yet despite the significance of the legislation the Leader of the House took the responsibility of shouldering amendments aside and gagging all attempts by Opposition members to state their case. This pattern of provocation was continued to a degree which could not be accepted by any responsible political party. The Opposition had no recourse but to act in the way it did this morning. Had we accepted the gross abuse of parliamentary procedure performed by the Leader of the House we would not have been worthy of our places in this chamber.
The gag is a traditional part of the parliamentary process but by the same tradition it has always been used sparingly and, I believe, responsibly. In the past it has usually appeared late in the sittings when there is pressure on the passage of legislation. I want to say something about the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) because he had to accept much of the responsibility for what happened in this Parliament. No honourable member who sits in this chamber would be prepared to deny that the honourable member for Wills since he has been a member of this House has always shown that he believes in the rights of the individual members, and that he is prepared to protect their interests. He has been just as adamant - indeed he has seized every opportunity - to protect the interests and what he felt to be the rights of Government supporters as he has of honourable members on this side of the House. There must be many honourable members on the other side of the House who would sympathise with the honourable member for Wills and who would have accepted what he put forward as the proper course to take under provocation of this nature.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I speak to the amendment which is before the House. It reads:
The Leader of the Opposition should be censured for his failure to respond to Mr Speaker’s request that he use his influence with the honourable member for Wills to obey the decision of the House directed to him by Mr Speaker and thereby became a party to an attack on the institution of Parliament by members of the Opposition whose disruptive and unruly behaviour was designed to make impossible the conduct of the business of (he House.
To the best of my knowledge it is an unprecedented situation to have a motion of censure directed at a Leader of the Opposition because of his unwillingness to contribute to Mr Speaker’s authority in the management of the orderly affairs of the Parliament.
This is a very serious charge and one would have thought that the Australian Labor Party would have been most anxious to come to the defence of their Leader and explain if they could his conduct or his failure to act. But what has happened? So soon as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) sat down at about 4 o’clock after making his speech and moving the amendment the Labor machine went into operation to try to frustrate discussion of it. There were points of order, challenges to the Speaker, motions of dissent and almost 2 hours of a desperate attempt to prevent debate on the issue relating to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which was brought before the Parliament by the Prime Minister. This is the historic fact and no-one can deny it. It shows the Labor Party as utterly unwilling to participate in a debate on its performance last night. The Labor Party is not to be allowed to get away with trying to prevent a debate in the House. What I am saying of the pre-dinner situation is confirmed by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) and others who are trying to muzzle me by constant interjection. Trying to muzzle me is an uphill job. The action of the Labor Party in the House-
– I rise to order. I do not know whether to call an honourable member a dog is parliamentary.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The action of the Labor Party in the House of Representatives last night represented a determination to make the House unworkable. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) with the obvious full vocal support of the whole Labor Party defied the authority of Mr Speaker and refused to heed the request of the Serjeant-at-Arms to obey Mr Speaker’s direction. This created a situation never before known in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament. In the nature of things tempers are raised here - occasionally by a man or two, occasionally by quite a number of people. But this was not a sporadic flare of temper last night. It was a violent challenge - these are not extravagant words - by members of the Labor Party who comprise the alternative Government, to law and order in the place where laws are made. This is conduct dangerous to the maintenance of a workable atmosphere in the Parliament. At no stage did the Leader of the Opposition take any steps to request his followers to observe the authority of Mr Speaker.
At the final stage when all the Labor members present were standing and shouting and challenging Mr Speaker to name them - we recall quite clearly th,is incredible spectacle - the Leader of the Opposition was himself standing as part of the shouting crowd. I do not say that he was shouting but he was aligning himself and standing there obviously associated with this incredible situation which is unprecedented in the Parliament of Australia and, I believe, unprecedented in any Parliament in this nation. The Government will not accept a situation in which the elected Government is prevented from performing its functions in Parliament and Parliament is prevented from proceeding with the carriage of legislation in the interests of the people. Let us face it. There is increasing evidence that the Labor Party in and out of Parliament is set on a course of defying the whole structure of democratic government. There is an analogy between the defiance of authority by the Labor Party in the Parliament and the conduct of the foolish and ill-informed university students and others who have invented this stupid business of sit-in. This was the first evidence of a sit-in in the Federal Parliament. It was a deliberate and, for a substantial period of time, an entirely successful attempt to reduce this Parliament to impotence by general, planned shouting, by defiance of Mr Speaker and by defiance of the Standing Orders.
It so happens curiously that the principal character, the honourable member for Wills, who is not with us because of his continued defiance of the Standing Orders, is, believe it or not, a member of the Standing Orders Committee. This Labor Party defiance of Parliament is frankly in the same line of conduct as that of the Victorian President of the Labor Party. The pattern is becoming apparent. He had a motion carried calling upon the Australian troops in Vietnam to mutiny. We are not asked to like all the laws. It is not in the nature of democracy that we all like the laws that exist. But it is the very essence of democracy that we respect the laws and that we follow nothing but constitutional procedures in our attempts to alter our laws.
This is a picture of the Australian Labor Party starting a pattern to prevent this Parliament of the nation operating. It is a picture of the Labor Party starting a pattern to attempt - a successful attempt last night, let us remember - to reduce the Parliament to unworkable impotence. This is consistent with the campaign of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and others to bring industry and transport to a complete halt on a certain day by so-called Vietnam Moratorium demonstrations. These demonstrations are due to take place in a few weeks time. Here again is an example of a member of the Australian Labor Party who, I have no doubt at all, would be an important Minister in a Labor government, inciting people to cease work, to mass in the streets, to stop industry, to bring transport to a halt-
– What about your farmers? What about them?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Reid will cease interjecting. I suggest to the House that, for particular reasons that honourable members can understand, I would be loath to take action against any honourable member during this debate.
– Particularly after last night.
-Order! But I would also suggest, quite frankly, that honourable members show an appreciation of this situation and behave accordingly.
– Well, let us-
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will cease interjecting. I call the Minister for Trade and Industry.
– 1 will not go through a long category of illustrations and reminders right across the scene to demonstrate my point. I will take the case of my own association. 1 mention one that was referred to in the House today, the ban on the export of merino rams. In accordance with the law as it exists, this ban has been lifted partially. So, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Transport Workers Union, the Waterside Workers Federation - all elements of the Australian Labor Party - say: ‘The Australian Government has made a legal decision, lt involves nationals of foreign countries with whom we have friendly relations and trading relations. It involves very considerable sums of money. But what does al’i that matter when we can set out to embarrass the Government by making arrangements to ensure that what the Government has agreed to on a legal basis will not be permitted to operate.’
I say that the Government will not accept a situation such as existed last night. It will not accept a situation in which the Australian Labor Party will not operate in the Parliament in accordance with the Standing Orders. I remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) as well1 as the honourable member for Wills sit as members of a Parliamentary Committee which composes and brings to the Parliament recommendations as to the Standing Orders that should be adopted, approved and applied. They are as much a party to the Standing Orders as are the Prime Minister and myself. These are not Government Standing Orders. The Government has not a majority on that Committee.
Yet, these honourable members come into the House and say: ‘Well, sure, we helped to make the Standing Orders but if it suits us for purposes of harming and embarrassing the Government to hold up legislation that we do not like, we will throw the Standing Orders out of the window, we will defy Mr Speaker and we will bring business to a halt.’ If the Australian Labor Party could choose the most total and complete manner to convince the Australian public that it is not fit to govern, I could think of nothing so effective as the course that has been followed in this regard. 1 am sure that that will be the assessment of the public. I repeat that the Government will not accept a situation such as existed last night in which the Parliament could be restored to operation by Mr Speaker only if he had on the occasion resorted to bringing police into the Parliament, into this chamber, to remove the honourable member for Wills.
The simple facts of what happened last night are these: Under the Standing Orders, Mr Speaker named the honourable member for Wills. The House carried a resolution that the honourable member should be suspended. Mr Speaker ordered the honourable member to accept this resolution and to remove himself from the House. He declined. Mr Speaker, following tradition, requested the Serjeant-at-Arms to escort the honourable member out. He was defiant. Labor members surrounded him so that no-one could get near him. Mr Speaker very properly took the attitude that he, having acted in accordance with the authority with which he is clothed, should not proceed with ordinary legislation in the face of this defiance. Had he done so, all the authority of Mr Speaker on future occasions would have been finished.
So, with incredible patience Mr Speaker appealed time and time again to the honourable member for Wills to remove himself. Eventually, Mr Speaker suspended the. sitting of the House for, what the Americans would call, a cooling-off period. This lasted for approximately an hour and a half. Then Mr Speaker returned to the House. The defiant member for Wills, supported by every member of the Australian Labor Party, was still showing his defiance of the authority of Mr Speaker and disrespect for the Standing Orders.
What is the last resort in such a situation? It is not to be found in the Standing Orders. But it is to be found in the practice of British parliaments. If a member in the Parliament is taking such a course of action as to prevent the operation of Parliament, it is recognised that Mr Speaker may invoke any course that he chooses to bring about a state of affairs in which the Parliament can resume operations. Of course, that is right. What was the only remaining course available to Mr Speaker to remove such a member and to allow Parliament to resume? It would be to bring in the police. I am glad to say - I am appreciative of this fact - that Mr Speaker had the wisdom and tolerance not to take that extreme step. But let us never forget that these gentlemen opposite, these members of the Australian Labor Party, produced a state of affairs where, for the purpose of enabling Parliament to proceed with its business at that time, there remained no alternative but to bring the police into the House of Representatives. This is totally unacceptable. It must never be repeated. lt would be incredible if, on the resumption of the House today, the Parliament were not to express in the strongest possible terms its condemnation of those who were responsible for this unbelievable and unprecedented state of affairs. None of us who are Party leaders - the Prime Minister, myself or the Leader of the Opposition - is fit to be a Party leader if we accept in our own parties a situation which is wrong and intolerable and take no action whatever to correct that situation. This was the position of the Leader of the Opposition last night and it is still his position today. The honourable member for Wills apologised. Should not the 50 or 60 men who incited him, encouraged him and were prepared to protect him be apologising also? They should be. The whole community must recognise the great seriousness of this extreme and unprecedented conduct of the Labor Party. The fact is that the Leader of the Opposition, who seeks to be the Prime Minister of Australia, took no steps whatsoever to uphold the dignity and authority of Parliament.
Australia is a respected country but it would no longer be respected if it came to be accepted that the Opposition in the Parliament could reduce the Parliament to impotence so that it no longer could follow its legislative procedure. So. Mr Deputy Speaker, it would have been unthinkable if this course that has been taken today had not been followed at the earliest opportunity. I hope that, when we take the vote, the House will recognise the enormity of the position and will make it a lesson for the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, on 5th November 1947 this Parliament was debating the Banking Bill and this report of the proceedings appears at page 1732 of Hansard:
– I rise to order.
– The honourable member for Indi is not entitled to take a point of order now. He only wants to interrupt the Minister’s speech.
I point out, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the honourable member for Indi is now the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen). The report continues:
-(Mr Clark)- Order! There is no unparliamentary language.
– I refer to the Minister’s words knowingly false’-
-I ask the honourable member for Indi to resume his seal, or I shall name him.
– The Minis:cr said that I have slated something which was knowingly false.
-Order! I name the honourable member for Indi. He is only irving to interrupt the Minister’s speech.
– I rise to order.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. I have named the honourable member for Indi.
– You are just a gangster, that is all.
These are the words of the Deputy Prime Minister, the great reformer, the great disciple, the upholder of the dignity of Parliament. That is not the end of the extract that I want to read: it acts better as it goes on. Mr McEwen continued:
The Minister said that I had knowingly made a false statement. Me is not entitled to say that, and I am entitled to deny it.
The report continues:
Mr HOLLOWAY; Mr Deputy Speaker, may I make an appeal to the honourable member for Indi-
– No. The honourable member’s conduct since I named him does nol warrant his receiving any consideration.
Yet this same man has used terms such as reprehensible conduct’ and ‘unparliamentary conduct opposed to all the principles of democracy’. Then Mr Holloway, a kindly man, said:
Knowing that the honourable gentleman can, at the proper time and in the proper place, make a personal explanation, I know that he did not have any right to take the attitude that he did. Therefore, very much against my will, I shall have to move:
That the honourable member for Indi (Mr McEwen) be suspended from the service of the House.
This is the recent lovely speaker. Then Mr McEwen said:
Do not apologise. This is common practice.
These are the words of the great upholder of law and order. He seems to forget that I also have been in this Parliament for a long time. I have a good memory. I remembered that incident because on that occasion we witnessed one of the most reprehensible displays of conduct by members of the Country Party that I have seen since I became a member here.
Members of the Country Party at that time, including the present Deputy Prime Minister, were thrown in and out of Parliament so often for disorderly conduct that they almost required letters of introduction when re-introduced. I say to honourable members that in the history of this Parliament - and I have been here for 27 years - there has never been a more disruptive personality than the man who leads the Country Party today and who made that speech a few moments ago. Disruption and disorder in this Parliament was his policy and the policy of members of the Country Party when they sat in the corner of this chamber and did everything possible to stop the workings of the democratic government of that time.
The present leader of that Party is the man who spoke a few moments ago. Now look at him. I do not like to use the words but he reminds me of a reformed reprobate. The fact is that he has done all the bad things - it was lovely while it lasted - but now he claims to bc a law and order man. No one pays any regard to what he said. As a matter of fact he even spoke about calling the police. Did you ever hear anything like it? And why should he not call the police? He is a member of the same
Party as ‘Shoot-em-down Thorby’. Do honourable members remember him years ago? He was the Country Party man - he has now gone on - who wanted to shoot people down because they would not enlist, or something to that effect. But the Deputy Prime Minister spoke about bringing the police into the chamber. He told honourable members and the people of Australia that last night members of the Australian Labor Party staged a violent challenge to law and order. He said that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) would not do anything about it. He said that we of the Opposition endeavoured to bring to this Parliament demonstrations such as are happening throughout the community today. I wonder whether the Deputy Prime Minister would mind if we brought the farmers into this place. I wonder. I wonder what he will say when that militant pro-Communist farmers’ union marches on Canberra. Will that be another demonstration? What will he do about the disruption that will take place?
The Deputy Prime Minister is the maker of men. He picked the the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and now he is cranky because he realises the mistake he made. The fact is that he is always picking Prime Ministers. Why would he not tonight attack the Leader of the Opposition? Surely the Deputy Prime Minister wants to get away from the mess and destruction that is sitting behind him now. He wants to get away from the attacks being made on the Gorton Government and the Gorton Ministry. He wants to take the minds of honourable members away from the way in which the Country Party has let down the primary producers and the fact that farmers are marching in their masses. He wants to get away from anybody raising in this Parliament something which cannot be said in public - that is, what he thinks of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) and what that Minister thinks of him.
The Deputy Prime Minister quoted a lot of things. I could go on for a long time about this goodie goodie now leading the Country Party. He accused the Opposition of last night bringing this Parliament to a stop because of the disruptive tactics adopted. This Parliament has lost the respect of the people because of the conduct of this Government. It is a rubber stamp government which gags through everything. The Parliament not having sat for 5 months some time ago, the gag was applied 6 or 7 times in 1 day when there was no business before the House. To its eternal credit there is, on the other side of Kings Hall, another place where the gag has not been applied for 7 years. But in this chamber, day in and day out, the policy is gag, gag, gag. and that is the policy of the democracy that the man who has just spoken wants in this Parliament. He wants a democracy which wields a ruthless mailed fist on members of this Parliament irrespective of its effect on the Australian people.
Mr Deputy Speaker, last night in this House the Speaker was made the scapegoat of the Government for its infamous conduct in handling the affairs of the Parliament. Tonight I take my hat off to the Leader of the Opposition for the inspiring lead that he gave to the people of Australia in this respect. I also take my hat off to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who refused to leave his seat. He would not have been worth his salt if he had not refused to do so because of the treatment meted out to him by a Government which is lucky to be in office. The Government does not represent the Australian people, because the Australian Labor Party received 250,000 more votes than it did at the last Federal election. The Deputy Prime Minister, this reformed character sitting at the table, is hardly recognisable to me tonight. He sounded so good while making his speech. It was pleasant to rekindle the memories of his wild days. It is good to think that the old rebel is dying hard and that he is going to show these boys coming up, such as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) - the messenger boy, as he is described by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull)- that the old chap can still fight. Honourable members, do you know what? I think tonight’s speech means that we will get another year out of him before he retires.
The Government has accused the Leader of the Opposition of not taking any action at the request of Mr Speaker to get the honourable member for Wills to leave the chamber. That is a deliberate misrepresentation - as I shall prove - of the facts of the case. I do not think the Deputy Prime
Minister was present at the time. I do not think he was up at that time. If I do him a disservice, well and good. However, I will quote what happened as it is reported at page 884 of last night’s Hansard. Mr Speaker made his appeal for the Leader of the Opposition to do something about the honourable member for Wills in order to salve the situation. The Hansard record then reads: (Mr Whitlam rising in his place.)
I remember it well. He looked concerned, as all members were, at the conduct of the Government and the position the Opposition had been forced into because of that reprehensible conduct. Mr Speaker said:
Order! There will be no debate on the question.
Do not forget he had asked him to say something. He must have thought our Leader was in the Liberal Party because all of its members follow blindly. Mr Speaker went on to say:
I am making a request to the honourable member for Wills to decide whether or not he will leave the chamber. I would remind all honourable members that the sitting was only suspended and that there is still business before the House.
Then the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party rose and said:
Mr Speaker, during your remarks to the House in relation to the honourable member for Wills you referred frequently to the Leader of the Opposition. I think in these circumstances, having regard to decency-
Then the Prime Minister jumped up and said:
I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Do not forget that after the Speaker had asked the Leader of the Opposition to do something not only was he refused the right to talk but also the Prime Minister of the country wanted to make sure that he did not say anything at that time. The record continues:
– Sit down.
First class speech! The Prime Minister was just as good:
– Sit down yourself.
– You sit down. I have the floor.
– Sit down when Mr Speaker is on his feet.
He was speaking to the Prime Minister. But we can see that the Leader of the Opposition was trying to get to his feet to explain to the House what could be done but the Speaker who asked him to say it would not let him rise and members opposite, from the Prime Minister down, were making sure that he did not. They did not want law and order. They wanted things to be done their way and they were resentful of this. The record continues:
-order! Will both gentlemen resume their seats. It is customary when the Speaker is on his feet for all members of the House to resume their seats. There is no point of order. I am merely making an appeal to the honourable member for Wills-
– And you did to me also, Mr Speaker.
That is a fair question. The record continues:
– And to the Leader of the Opposition. I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition to use what influence he should have. tfe must think that the Leader talks braille or something of the sort.
- Mr Speaker,I think that I am entitled to make the point that you referred frequently-
– During the course of your remarks, Mr Speaker, you referred frequently to the Leader of the Opposition. I think that in all decency the Leader of the Opposition ought to be able to speak on behalf of those honourable members who sit on this side of the House.
– There will be a time and a place for that.
That must be today, I suppose, yet he wanted something done last night.
– I hope you will not deny to the Leader of the Opposition this right to speak on behalf of the honourable members who sit on this side of the House.
I am repeating this at length because of the misrepresentation from the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and others on the Government side.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. As t pointed out, I am making an appeal to the honourable member for Wills and to the Leader of the Opposition. It is a question that is strictly within the ambit and the responsibility of the Chair. There is business before the House. The sitting had only been suspended. To allow any further speeches or comment on this matter at this stage would be out of order.
And that would be a remarkable decision - to find out what a man has to say and then not let him say anything when he rose to his feet.
-I am prepared to speak.
The Deputy Prime Minister should remember that, as also should those over there who say that the Leader sought to do noththing to end that which was called anarchy last night. Let it be recorded in Hansard that he did his very best and was refused permission from the Speaker and even the Prime Minister got to his feet to stop him.
– Yes, I know you are prepared to speak.
– Since there is no business before the House, I now move:
That the Leader of the Opposition be heard.
– Order! I am sorry, I cannot accept the motion.
– The motion that the Leader of the Opposition be heard has been proposed and seconded.
This was after asking the Leader to do something and it was moved, proposed and seconded that he be heard. Then there was a remarkable decision.
– The motion is out of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Grayndler that he be very careful in making comments in regard to this matter and that there be no reflection upon the Chair and its decisions.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you know from long experience that I have never reflected on Mr Speaker’s ruling or his integrity. The record continues:
– I move:
That Mr Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
– Order! I have not given a ruling. Will the honourable member for Wills leave the chamber?
I do not know what I was moving against but evidently it was an expression of opinion. The record continues:
Opposition members - There is a motion.
– We have business before the House. Wile there is business before the House no other motion can be moved. There was business before the House, and the sitting was suspended. Is the honourable member for Wills prepared to leave the chamber? Order! The sitting is suspended until 10.30 a.m. this day.
I put that on record word for word to she that last night the Leader of the Opposition was asked to do something and he was prevented with Government co-operation from showing what could be done from his point of view in respect of what the Government described as anarchy. This has completely disproved the vile charge of the great reformer who sits in repose at the table.
Let us have a look at the Government opposite. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) who is sitting at the table is Deputy Prime Minister at least for the time being. I hope that he makes the last of his term there before he retires. Many more will retire with him but they do not seem to realise this. He said: ‘This has got to stop. We will not stand for it.’ Are you going to bring in the police? Are you going to bring in the Army? Are you going to bring in some Fascist machine? Are you going to create an army to control Parliament? Are you going to use force in this Parliament by vote and set up an army of some kind? Why did you not proceed, Mr Deputy Prime Minister, and tell the people of this country what you intend to do to the Opposition? Will it be that every man who raises his voice in protest against the monstrous policies and actions of your Government in this Parliament will automatically be thrown out of the Parliament and refused the right to speak. Will protests on this side of Parliament be described as anarchy? I think the public is entitled to know whether this Government is going to introduce physical threats and force in order to try to subject this Opposition to its kind of rule in the Parliament. To me it is a matter for regret that sitting on that side of Parliament are men who call themselves democrats. They sit over there silently and put up with anything in preference to giving justice to the people who represent this country.
The people of Australia should discard completely the remarks made by the Leader of the Country Party tonight. This action of the Government is a camouflage to take the public’s mind off the internal dissension and disruption that exists from one end to the other in the Liberal-Country Party today. The Government is riddled with dissension. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) is not talking to the Deputy Prime Minister, who is sitting at the table.
The Deputy Prime Minister told the Liberal Party that, if the former Treasurer were elected to the Prime Ministership he would walk out on the Government. Honourable members know as well as I that sitting behind the present Prime Minister in this place are men whose knives are a foot long and they are just waiting to see when they can get him. This motion has been moved against the Leader of the Labor Party in an endeavour to distract public attention from the people who are struggling along in Government and completely betraying all the principles of democracy in this country. I do not want to say any more. 1 know that what I am saying must be very hard for you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to take as a member of the Country Party. But at the same time I could not let go unchallenged this great reform speech tonight which brought tears to my eyes, and I thought of this great man crying for a democratic institution and crying for approaches to be made to politics here when in his day he would have laughed at them if they had been brought up. He was the leader of a band of people who had been kicked out of the Parliament. When I was here years ago members of the Country Party took pride not in how many speeches they made but in how many times they went through the door. That was their policy and tonight the Deputy Prime Minister tries to tell the people of this country what the Labor Opposition should do. I do not make a threat now. 1 say as a fact that this Party here and in another place will fight tooth and nail for the restoration of democracy in this Parliament. If the Government, with its slender majority for the time being of 7 or 8, thinks that it can whip into submission the members on this side of the House by the ruthless use of the gag and the threat of police action, it has another think coming. The Labor movement in this country will forever fight for the things that are democratic, be they demonstrations against Vietnam or injustices to those on the farms who are demonstrating today. But above all else in this Parliament we will fight for a restoration of democracy against the type of leadership that the Leader of the House gives to this Parliament. Irrespective of what the Press might say, what the Country Party might say and what members on the other side of the House might say, we will restore democracy. We will fight for it in the face of whatever our enemies on that side of the Parliament might do to destroy it.
– 1 reject the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and I support the amendment which has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who has just resumed his seat, has no peer as a political humourist. Most honourable members are prepared to suffer his buffoonery with good humour and tolerance. This does not alter the fact that last night the standard of behaviour in this, the House of Representatives of the Federal Parliament, sank to the level of a fourth rate local council.
– You are the greatest fox in the Parliament.
– I can cope with you. I was saying that last night the standard of behaviour in this, the House of Representatives of the Federal Parliament of Australia sank to the level of a fourth rate local council. In making that comparison I realise that I am probably being very unfair to fourth rate local councils. Whatever may have been the cause of last night’s disgraceful behaviour - it was disgraceful - whatever reputations may have suffered, I believe that the greatest casualty was that of the institution of Parliament. Last night Mr Speaker had occasion to name the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who saw fit to defy his ruling and refuse to leave the House. I believe that no member regrets that more than does the honourable member for Wills, and he expressed himself to that effect earlier today.
At a time when the Leader of the Opposition had a wonderful opportunity of increasing his own stature in this Parliament, and certainly in the rank and file of his own Party, by endeavouring to persuade the honourable member for Wills to obey the Standing Orders of this Parliament, he saw fit to condone and support the defiance of the Chair by some members of his Party. This was a great pity, not only for him personally - because I believe that in the eyes of those members of the community who take an interest in Parliament he lost a very considerable amount of ground by his failure to act with responsibility - but also for the Parliament itself. The failure of the Leader of the Opposition to take appropriate action to persuade members of his Party to respect the Standing Orders was in itself bad enough, but he now seeks to divert attention from his own shortcomings by trying to shift the responsibility for the damage which Parliament has suffered onto the shoulders of the Leader of the House.
The issue that we ought to be debating now is not that moved by the Leader of the Opposition but the loss suffered by the institution of Parliament by last night’s performance in this House. I believe that the blame for this must be laid at the door, not of the Leader of the House but of the Leader of the Opposition because of his failure to make even the slightest effort to persuade the honourable member for Wills to obey the Chair and the Standing Orders of this Parliament, or to make even a token effort to uphold and maintain the dignity off Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition, by his motion, is seeking to make the Leader of the House the scapegoat for the unprecedented unruly behaviour of a very considerable number of his own Party who openly defied the Chair.
We in Australia pride ourselves on our parliamentary system of government, but there was nothing whatsoever in last night’s performance to justify that pride. No-one expects an opposition tamely to accept all government legislation. An opposition it quite within its rights to oppose - indeed, it would be failing in the exercise of its proper function as an opposition if it did not strenuously oppose with every means in its power within the Standing Orders of this Parliament - legislation with which it did not agree. This is the right and duty of any opposition worthy of its name. It is equally the right of the Government to use every means in its power to see that the business of government is not taken out of its hands by the Opposition. The Minister charged with this responsibility is the Leader of the House. He would be failing in his duty if he did not attempt to anticipate all the delaying or frustrating tactics which the Opposition may seek to employ. It is only natural in circumstances such as this that tempers can sometimes become frayed and members sometimes become extremely edgy, but at all times I believe that honourable members on both sides of the Parliament should endeavour to conduct themselves with dignity so that the institution of Parliament is not brought into disrepute.
It is the duty of the Speaker to maintain order and decorum while acting within the Standing Orders of this Parliament, to interpret those Orders in an impartial manner and to be fair in his treatment of members on both sides of the House. This. I believe, Mr Speaker has always endeavoured to do. although it is not possible for him, any more than it is for any of us, to please all people at all times. I believe that Mr Speaker is entitled to expect the co-operation of every member of this House, particularly that of the leaders of the respective parties, in his endeavour to maintain the dignity of Parliament. The tactics employed last night by the Leader of the House were obviously entirely unacceptable to the Opposition and it was entitled to show its displeasure but not, in my opinion, at the expense of the institution of Parliament. To the extent that the Leader of the Opposition failed completely to make even the slightest endeavour to assist the Speaker to maintain dignity and decorum in this House, he deserves the strongest censure of this House.
– 1 entered this debate to say one or two things about the background of the deep and abiding respect that I have for the institution of Parliament, and 1 say that very sincerely. Every honourable member who comes to this chamber makes a considerable effort to get here. He has to command a great deal of respect and confidence from a lot of people ever to reach this Parliament. Last October I was one of 26 new members on this side of the House who came into the Federal Parliament for the first time. We came to apply ourselves to the problems of the people that we represent, to their present conditions and to the future of the nation. Some of us had served in other Parliaments. I had the privilege of serving in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, which is the mother parliament of the nation.
We came here to Canberra to find that our opportunities In the service of the House and the people were limited by a combination of empty ritual and lazily accepted procedures. The 26 new members on this side of the House took their desire to serve their country and their constituents to the fullest extent in a more intensive way. They took that desire to their parliamentary party. The fact was readily recognised that the procedures of the House, even at the best of times, have in many instances, outlived their usefulness. They belong to an era of perhaps 2 generations ago.
As far as new members of this House are concerned the past 5 months have shown that we have extremely limited opportunities to make contributions in this national Parliament. Until we met last Tuesday we had had only 10 sitting days in 5 months. The first session of the new Parliament following the general election lasted for only 1 day, which was dominated by ceremonial. The first day of the current session - many months after the first - also was dominated by ceremonial. In the remaining 8 days before Easter opportunities to speak were strictly limited by the use of the gag. More speeches by new honourable members on this side were delivered to the bathroom mirror while shaving than in the Parliament because the opportunity to deliver them here just did not arise.
Question time is a key time in the Parliament, but we find that it lasts for only 43 minutes each day. This is not long enough to provide opportunities for all the new and younger members who are fired with the enthusiasm that comes from a first time of service. At the beginning of each day we engage in the magnificent exercise of jumping up and down trying very hard to get the call so that we may ask a question. I cast no reflection on ‘ the Chair in what I say, but how could the situation be otherwise with only 45 minutes each day for 125 members to ask questions? What of the adjournment debate? In the New South Wales Parliament I always regarded the adjournment debate as the one safety valve available to an honourable member to ventilate something of pressing moment - something terribly important to his constituency or to the nation. We have an adjournment debate here, but lo and behold, we who are supposedly fresh and enthusiastic are told that we cannot speak on the adjournment on Tuesday nights because everybody is far too tired from having travelled to Canberra that day. We are told that we may speak on the adjournment on Wednesday night but not for very long on Thursday night because everybody is tired from his week’s labours and those who are not tired soon would be tired if we spoke.
In the adjournment debate on the Thursday night on which we rose for the Easter recess there were 2 speakers and then the gag was applied. It was applied during the course of a debate on the problems of rural industry. In a Press statement since that time the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said that the rural situation is horrible. That is the word used by the head of the Government and leader of this nation. But when we wanted to probe these issues in this Parliament we were told that only a couple of speakers would be allowed and that would be it. I had the privilege of speaking for 10 minutes. This is the limit imposed by the Standing Orders. Most of my colleagues who sit behind me and who co-operated to allow me to speak on that occasion had no opportunity at all to speak. They went home and into the Easter recess having said nothing. When we got back to our constituents and were asked how was the Federal Parliament - that greatest forum in the nation, that powerful institution - and what had we done about this, that and the other thing, what answer could we give? All we could say was that we had enjoyed the openings of the Parliament - both of them. We enjoyed listening; we enjoyed the ceremonial. We told them that the Government was very concerned lest we get too tired on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Against this background a great deal of frustration has arisen on this side of the House. It stems from a desire to serve better or as well as we can. Let me come to the events of last evening. The important matter before the chamber was the River Murray Waters Bill, which vitally affected honourable members on all sides of the Parliament. Some honourable members on the Government side and some on the Opposition side made their contributions in the debate. Some referred to the desirability of constructing various storages and some referred to the technical reports that they had read. A list of speakers to take part in the debate had been drawn up and accepted by those concerned. Mine was the last name on the list. That may be appropriate; I accept the situation, but at least I was there. I waited patiently. I prepared my notes. I spent several hours listening to the debate and assessing the points made because the people in my electorate who sent me to this place are deeply involved and very concerned with the issues that were before the Parliament. Those constituents would have deemed it an act of betrayal if I had not spoken out in a serious and reasoned way.
I waited for a long time, because the debate lasted for some considerable time. I was patiently awaiting my turn to speak when I was informed that the plans had been changed, the debate would be gagged and I would not be able to speak. I said to the honourable member from the Government side who conveyed this information to me: ‘I do not care what you think you will do but I have a responsibility to the people who sent me here and I will speak in one way or another. I will speak in Committee; I will speak on the third reading; I will speak on the motion for the adjournment if necessary, but I will make my speech.’ Incidentally, that is why I was sent here by my constituents. This is the reason for my election to this place. Perhaps I would have spoken for 20 minutes - not more. Surely that would have been little enough in a debate that lasted several hours and dealt with a matter of economic life and death to many families in my area. When I was told that I could not speak I expressed my deep resentment against the decision. To give him his due, the honourable member who conveyed the news of the proposed gag to me said: ‘If you take that course of action that is your privilege and your right’ I said ‘good’, and warned the honourable member that I thought proceedings would take far longer to conclude because of this capricious use of the gag than if the Government had been prepared to let us make our speeches as we felt it should have done. The honourable member shook his head and said: ‘That may well be.’ Thus ended the first chapter - the gagging of the second reading.
In the second chapter we came to the Committee stage. A great deal has been made of the fact that the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) did not know what was happening; that he was not sure what was to occur. His deputy knew very well what was to happen. I am sure that the Leader’s messenger told him: ‘The honourable member for Riverina is very annoyed. I think he will try to make a speech some time somewhere somehow but I dare say we can manage him all right.’ It was not a case of managing one honourable member; it was a matter of managing all honourable members who wanted to make a contribution to the debate. So in the Committee stage I approached one of the Clerks, after conferring with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) and the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick), and said: ‘We will have to have an additional amendment in the Committee stage because the Minister for National Development seems to be confused about his English dictionary meanings. He is not clear what he wants to do about the disposition of the Menindee Lakes so we must take some action in the matter’. The Clerk said: ‘The hour is late and this is difficult.’ But with good spirit he said: ‘We will prepare the amendment.’ It was done with all good dispatch. He did it precisely and well and eventually a copy was delivered to me. After all, I am not really very close to the table. I am up here. So there were copies floating around; and I have the copy of the amendment that T was going to propose in Committee. It has nothing to do with the general principles of the political situation in this part of the world or in South Australia but is a technical matter about which I was very concerned and about which other honourable member, I am sure, on all sides of the chamber were very concerned. All right, we wanted to present a number of amendments. I had the responsibility-
– Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Riverina that he does not rehash the earlier debate and the speech that he made, or that somehow he was able to make in spite of the gag.
– I accept your guidance, Sir. I know what your worry and concern are. I do not intend to rehash a debate. All I intended to do was to give you a sequence of events so that it would be quite clear in your mind and the minds of all honourable members why there was concern at the action of the Leader of the House.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member that while he is describing the sequence of events we do not have sufficient time for him to make a second reading speech.
– 1 had the privilege of doing that at the third reading stage of the Bill and I would not want to trespass again on the generosity of the Chair.
I just want to continue and say that in terms of the events - not the debate because the events are what we are concerned about in the motion before the Chair - the amendment to be proposed by me came up here in duplicated form. Other copies were made of my amendment. The honourable member for Darling and I conferred and he said: We had better move this as quickly as we can’. The honourable member for Dawson had already made certain arrangements. He had jumped, I think the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) had jumped and I had jumped to get the call because 1 wanted to move the amendment. It docs not really matter, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, when one does this in Committee. It does not matter whether it is one honourable member or another, or whether there are 2 or 3 amendments. When the opportunity arises, an honourable member gets up and moves his amendment. There is no difficulty in doing this because the legislation is at a technical stage of consideration anyway. So I rose with my amendment in my hand and said: ‘Mr Chairman, I propose . . .’Of course, I did not get very far because not long after that the whole of the debate was gagged.
This is a shocking incident in the lives of 26 new members of the Federal Parliament who came here to do a job. It is a terrible incident. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am putting to you quite sincerely that this just is not good enough in the national Parliament. There are only 125 members here anyway. They represent every conceivable facet of the life of the nation. They come here in good will - I am sure of that - to serve. We all serve in our different ways; we all have quite different dedication. But surely to great goodness the opportunity to serve should be granted. I am going to say quite bluntly and definitely that the opportunities to serve have not been made available to us. A sense of shock has been felt by former members of assemblies and new members who have come from outside the parliamentary system on learning that the procedures have been so inadequate.
The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) referred to a fourth rate local council. I am sorry that he has fourth rate local councils in his electorate. I have not. The councils in my electorate are all pretty good. 1 might say that when one joins a local council there are opportunities which are limited, and in some cases very limited, by standing orders. But the opportunities are there to enable one to put a point of view at a time but within the framework of the standing orders. This opportunity is certainly not deferred for months on end and then constricted by old, outworn traditions that seem to indicate a tiredness on the part of Government and Executive. Surely this is not good enough for an Australian in 1970. This Parliament should be the heart and soul of the nation. The heart and soul of the nation in these last 5 months has been dead, Sir. Dead! This is a terrible thing to say and it is an indictment of the system that has grown up here
I think the time has come for some reform. Certainly the time has come to protest. I do not think there was anyone on our side of the Parliament - certainly not the Leader of the Opposition - who wanted above all things to end the proceedings of the House; but I submit that the proceedings of the House had already been ended by the incredible decision to crush all opportunities for debate. This was the decision taken even on a technical matter. It just seems to me that this was a day of infamy, without rhyme or reason, based on capriciousness. One can understand this happening if there is force to be exercised in a ruthless way and in an efficient way. But one cannot understand - certainly we cannot understand - the use of force without rhyme or reason.
This was the thing that hurt us all because we have not come here, as I have said, to fill in our time in meaningless rituals. We have not come here simply to make obeisances, to go through a charade and to go back to the 4 points of the compass in Australia to say: “Well, we were in Canberra’. When people ask: ‘What was it like?’ we have not come here to say: ‘Well, the leaves are changing colour and the weather has been crisp in the mornings. The Hotel Kurrajong forgot my breakfast.’ These are not important things. Are honourable members merely on a visit to Canberra? This is not really good enough at a time of great change in the nation, it is not really good enough at a time of great change in the world and at a time too when young Australians everywhere are asking for some kind of leadership and inspiration for the future. We come to Canberra and find that the opportunities for service are limited by rituals; they are limited by the lazily accepted traditions of yesteryear and then all of this is compounded by a dictatorship of the gag. It is a moment of sadness, and 1 think that the incidents of the last 24 hours should be a salutary lesson to everyone who is in this House tonight.
J speak more in sorrow than in anger, because some of the things 1 have said 1 intended to present to the Parliament perhaps at an early opportunity. Goodness knows when that would have been. I would have hoped it would come. I would have said: Please let us have a look at this’. I would have made a plea and a protest. But tonight as a postscript to some of the fine addresses that have been made on behalf of freedom of expression in this national forum 1 can now say: ‘Please let us consider these things; please not let us go home tomorrow and have as the most important thing we can say when we get home, “ Well, there was a bit of an argument, you know, and the weather is still good “ ‘. Let us all tonight take note of the great deficiencies of an institution which we all prize. It is irreplaceable. But, of course, if we do not cherish it and use it properly it will die.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) has given a rather picturesque, albeit a lachrymose account of his trials as a private member of this Parliament. I sympathise with my honourable friend. I just want, if I may, on the basis of one who at least has spent IS years in this place to offer one word of advice. But before I do so, may I tell him about the first word of advice I received when I came to this Parliament from a former Leader of the Australian Country Party, a former Deputy Prime Minister of this country and indeed, a Prime Minister. I hope it is of tolerable relevance. It was Sir Arthur Fadden. He said to me: ‘Most of the advice you will get in this place will be dubious. The only advice 1 ask you to take from me is this: All the good bowlers are not in the one team’. I want my honourable friend from Riverina to bear that in mind. The advice I want to offer to him this evening is this: If there is one superb way of destroying a convention that is useful, or an institution that is worth while, or a habit that is of value, then you will seek to debase it.
– That is what you did.
– The honourable member should not over exert himself. Mr Deputy Speaker, if you wait about 5 seconds you will hear the honourable members thinking. I want to say to the honourable member for Riverina and all honourable members opposite that if there is one superb way of debasing anything - habit, institution or convention - it is to abuse it. If there has been one thing which has been patently clear during the course of this Parliament it is the fact that the Australian Labor Party has sought to debase the right to raise matters of public importance.
– We have sought to be heard.
– My dear friend should go back to his slumber. The raising of a matter of public importance means, as I apprehend it, that some matter is urgent, but to resort on every possible occasion to submitting urgency matters when a pointed question, tolerably well phrased, would serve the case seems to be an abuse of the convention, habit and custom of raising matters of public importance. The whole business of the country could be reduced to a state of nothingness if on every imaginable occasion Parliamentary Government business was to be introduced a matter was submitted for discussion as a matter of public importance in its place. If we are to accept the logic which has been pressed upon us with such indelicate care by the Opposition - ‘do not disrupt and do not gag urgency debates’ - then we would have the spectacle of debates on matters of public importance representing the businesss of the National Parliament from one session’s beginning to that session’s end. That is the logic of the Labour Party. I only hope that those honourable gentlemen opposite who understand that proposition will come to grips with it, and that most certainly would exclude the rather vocal and articulate member for Sturt (Mr Foster).
– I have not opened my mouth.
– The honourable member has certainly not opened his brain. I want to come to the basic charge which has been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) - the censure motion. There have not been many censure motions, my friend would agree, in my time in this Parliament during the last 15 years. A censure motion against a Government is certainly not to be taken lightly, but a censure motion directed against an individual and with stronger force against a Minister is to be taken with absolute seriousness. What is the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition? The honourable member for Sturt who is seeking to interject makes me think that some yodeller has got into this place under the guise of being a member of Parliament.
I want to come to the charge. I turn to my honourable and learned friend, the Leader of the Opposition, and say that I treat it as a charge - a charge to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. Admittedly I know that my honourable friend has had a rather meagre practice in those tribunals where charges have to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, despite what discomfiture may spread over my honourable and learned friend’s face I will proceed to an examination of the charge that he has presented.
– Tell him that you are magnificent.
– I would agree with the honourable member in complete and utter modesty. The charge that the honourable member made against the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) is that he has mishandled the business of the House.
– That is correct.
– I say to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that it is not customary for jurymen to start interrupting. The only evidence that the Leader of the
Opposition offered to this House this afternoon in its corporate sense was that there had been a breach of agreements. That I suppose was a sub-charge. No evidence was offered in support of it though. He merely said that the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) had entered into an arrangement regarding amendments. He said that the amendments were in the drawer. Thinking for myself on that occasion - I know that thinking would certainly be a phenomenon for the honourable member for Sturt - I thought it a rather quaint place to put amendments. I can look back on 5 or 6 rather substantial pieces of legislation to which I moved amendments when a private member. The legislation ranged over the Trade Practices Act, the Matrimonial Causes Act, the Extradition Act and, speaking for the benefit of 1 or 2 conspicuous South Australian members, the Bankruptcy Act. On each and every occasion it has been my practice to circulate amendments so that every person can have an opportunity of looking at the amendments and considering them for what they are worth.
But in this instance what did the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) do? He put his amendments in the drawer. He gave them into the custody of the Clerk. The honourable member for Dawson is so hard up in his command of invective or of abuse that he had to resort to calling the Leader of the House a dingo - a most unfelicitous description, I would have thought. The honourable gentleman may be a little disturbed by this, but these are the facts. I am dealing with the charge that the Opposition prosecutor presented against the Leader of the House this afternoon. That is the evidence and the evidence alone that the honourable gentleman had to offer. Beyond that he had nothing at all.
So in terms of proving his charge beyond all reasonable doubt it would seem to be a rather quaint form of standards to which the Leader of the Opposition conforms if he believes that this is proof, and proof beyond all reasonable doubt. The simple truth is that Opposition members, having been disturbed, as they may well have been disturbed by the events of last night, sought to create a diversion - this is the truth in my view - to try to drag public opinion away from one of the most dis graceful, shabby and undignified performances that this Parliament has seen during the whole of its history. I am talking about Parliament in terms of the Australian Federation. I come now to the charge which the Government makes against the Leader of the Opposition. The amendment moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) is as follows:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the Leader of the Opposition should be censured for his failure to respond to Mr Speaker’s request that he use his influence with the honourable member for Wills to obey the decision of the House directed to him by Mr Speaker and thereby became a party to an attack on the institution of Parliament by members of the Opposition whose disruptive and unruly behaviour was designed to make impossible the conduct of the business of the House’.
Before 1 look at that charge, may I for the purpose of my argument assume that the Opposition’s charge was well founded? Let me take that as an assumption. 1 hope this will excite the attention of the Leader of the Opposition who is surrounded by some new-found friends. For the purposes of my argument I want honourable members to assume that the Opposition charge was well founded. What would it prove? Could it possibly excuse the behaviour of the honourable gentleman last night? I would have thought that one who had any regard at all for the customs of Parliament, for the authority of Parliament, and certainly for the rule of law, would have said: We have been outraged. We have been denied the opportunity to speak on this occasion. We have been gagged. But we will use such forums as may be available to us throughout the country to ensure that the sovereign wil’l of the Australian people is informed as to the blemishes created by the Government and we will seek redress.’ But no, what the Labor Party did last night - I hope everybody in this House understands it - was to take the law into its own hands. That is what it did. This is what the Leader of the Opposition did - one of Her Majesty’s counsel. The rule of law! Has the honourable gentleman ever appeared in a court when, for some reason or other, a judge has said to him: T think your argument, Mr Whitlam, is irrelevant’? He may have taken the view that it was highly irrelevant, and if the honourable gentleman sought to press upon the court that it was relevant and he was told to keep quiet and he threw up his arms and excited the litigants to stand up with him he would have been committed for contempt of court. But if, on the other hand, the honourable gentleman were right and an argument that had a high sense of relevance was not heard, it would have been heard on appeal. The honourable gentleman’s appeal last night would have been not merely beyond this Parliament; in my submission it would have been plainly to this Parliament - to this House. It most certainly would have been to the sovereign will of the Australian people. But, no, the honourable gentleman rose in his place and he exhorted people to stand as though it were an annual parade of the Australian anarchist society. 1 come now to the charge that the Government makes against the Opposition. I ask honourable gentlemen opposite to look at the elements in the charge. The first element of the charge is that the Leader of the Opposition failed to respond to Mr Speaker’s request. No person in this House last night who heard the Speaker-
– He was not allowed to speak.
– Oh! What humbug the honourable member indulges in. The opportunity was afforded last night for the Leader of the Opposition to quieten his Party, to say to the Opposition: ‘Steady on’. But he did not do that. Is that an element which is without doubt? The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has just handed me a glass of water, which I do not need. The artesian bore of Australian politics is a great user of water in this place.
I come to the second element of the charge - the influence that the honourable gentleman has. I suppose this is a rather dubious form of influence. It seems to waver on occasion from one quarter to another. For a leader of the Opposition in any Parliament in the Commonwealth of Nations to behave as he did last night undoubtedly would be conspicuous in that there would simply be no example to rival. The third element is that when directed by Mr Speaker to use his influence with the honourable member for Wills he did not encourage him in the least to obey Mr Speaker’s direction. What, in short, happened was that he whistled up the guard. Distinguish them as we like by any adjective at all, the guard sat on the left and on the right of the honourable member for Wills to obstruct the Serjeant-at-Arms, by custom the officer who intervenes on such occasions. I thought it was a thoroughgoing display of cowardice. If a man in this Parliament took the view that he could defy the authority of the Speaker he would not beckon to anybody from the left or from the right; he would say: ‘I defy the authority of this Parliament. I defy your authority.’ But he sat there with those on the left and on the right - covered by the guard. It was one of the most shameful exhibitions that this Parliament has ever seen.
Opposition members - Oh!
– Honourable members cannot jeer these things away. They may try to jeer them away but the simple truth is that they cannot do so. The last element of the charge is that the Leader of the Opposition himself was involved. Who, who was in this chamber last night, can forget the honourable gentleman - the whole 6 feet 6 inches of him - standing up? I have just knocked the water over the table; members opposite are lucky I did not knock it over them. Who can forget the Leader of the Opposition standing and exhorting, as though he were leading the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ at Easter time. ‘Rise up, rise up, rise up’ the honourable gentleman said, and one by one they stood up. Then I saw about 3 of my honourable friends opposite who have a great feeling for Parliament sit down. They were disturbed. T thought it a rather extraordinary thing for one who has had the advantage of being tutored in the discipline of law to invite everybody on the Opposition to rise and say: ‘Well, name him, name us an;
If any form of words has ever been put together which is deserving of support, the Government’s amendment to the censure motion is deserving of support. The Leader of the Opposition has been responsible for having developed on of the most ugly, one of the most distasteful and one of the most unredeeming displays ever involved in the history of parliamentary government. Our people have travelled a long way and the system of parliamentary government will not survive while people such as the Leader of the Opposition pretend that they have an affection for it.
– The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), when I interjected during his speech and said (hat the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) rose and was told he could not speak, gave me an ‘Oh’. Let us have a look at the record in Hansard, at page 884. This is where the Speaker appealed to the Leader of the Opposition. He said:
Indeed, I think that the Leader of the Opposition ought to use his influence as a man of Parliament and whatever influence he may have in relation to the membership-
He was referring to the membership of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and he went on to make other statements. The Hansard record then reads: (Mr Whitlam rising in his place.)
-Order! there will be no debate on the question.
Precisely the same thing happened this morning when the Speaker appealed to the Leader of the Opposition to speak to the honourable member for Wills who was, in fact, about to make his apology. And when the Leader of the Opposition rose again he was told he could not speak. That is evidence, Mr Lawyer, in Hansard, and it cannot be disputed. Here is the record of the proceedings of the House.
The Minister has very carefully avoided the statement of the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) this morning. In the debate this morning the Minister for National Development said that he had an arrangement with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that the honourable member for Dawson should be permitted to move 2 amendments. The Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) same into the chamber last night and moved that the question be put so that the amendments could not be moved. The Leader of the House, not knowing what the Minister in charge of the Bill had arranged with the Opposition simply violated the arrangement that was made with the Opposition.
Now I am not particularly concerned about the tip of the iceberg. I am concerned with all that went before. In this Parliament for the first time since 1961 the Labor
Party has an infusion of new members - 26 of them. One of them is 26 years old. I have been in this Parliament for 25 years. I have become used to everything in this Parliament. 1 have become used to the fact that the gag is always moved. The public outside does not know what the gag is. It is the motion: “That the question be now put’. Carried by the Government’s majority, it prevents any other honourable members from speaking. I do the Leader of the House this credit: He does not use the gag in the most despicable way of all Ministers. There are 2 Ministers who do. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) used it in this way. After making an insulting and defamatory speech directed at Opposition members on the war service homes question, he moved that the question be put so that no-one could reply. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), both when he was Treasurer and now when he is Minister for External Affairs, habitually makes personally insulting statements and before anybody can reply he moves that the question be put. I do say of the Leader of the House that he moves his gags from a mistaken concept of proceeding with the business of the House.
I do not think the Leader of the House is a big enough man for his job. He does not relax his rules at all. The plea has been made that if a matter of public importance is raised every day, the Government is justified in gagging it every day. ls there no place for intelligence? Is there no room to see whether in the opinion of the Leader of the House it really is a matter of definite public importance. Let us consider one of them, lt was not moved as an attack on the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) whose concern for Aboriginal affairs we on the Opposition side profoundly respect. A situation was revealed in the Medical Journal of Australia. It showed that out of 2,250 Aboriginal children surveyed in Queensland half were suffering from starvation. A good many of them had shrunken brains. The comment in the article was that some of them 6 years old had the physical development of 3-year-olds.
In raising this matter, far from displaying a lack of confidence in the Minister or using a personal insult, we asked him to use the new powers of the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with the situation in Queensland. The starvation in Queensland was found on the Government settlements in that State. They should have had the resources. It was not found on the mission stations which, however they might have been limping along financially, had the intelligence to use supplementary feeding and so produce Aboriginal children with the same growth rates as European children. That matter was raised for debate. The Minister replied and the Government’s decision was that thereafter it be gagged. I suppose we went on to a Bill for a bounty on picric acid as if that was the important issue with which we ought to proceed. I am not sure that that is what it was but if I remember rightly it was something of that significance.
The Minister for Labour and National Service was not the Leader of the House in the last Parliament. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen), who has just spoken, knows as well as I do that in the last Parliament when the Labor Party was outnumbered by 82 to 41 it was normal for debates on matters of definite public importance to go practically their full time or at least for 3 honourable members on both sides to speak. But this man is so afraid of his job - granted that he might think that some are not really matters of definite public importance - that he cannot differentiate between significant and insignificant matters. He has a blunderbuss conception of stopping every debate on every subject, no matter how important it is or how humanitarian it is. Why is it that the Senate can proceed for 7 years without the moving of the forcible closure, while in this House it is moved 7 times in 1 day and 24 times in the comparatively rare sittings? I have been in 11 parliaments and I have been fortunate enough not to .be thrown out or suspended in any of them. But I say the honourable member for Wills was justified in the face of the provocations which he has suffered. He rose to move dissent from the Speaker’s ruling. Whether there were good grounds for that dissent or whether there were not nobody knows because the Leader of the House moved the gag.
No-one is allowed to say anything about the Standing Orders; no-one is allowed to say whether he thinks the Speaker is correctly applying them; honourable members cannot even open their mouths. So the gag was moved. Do not give us this stuff about the rule of law; this is the rule of numbers. Government supporters cannot tell me they are vindicating the rule of law when they do not allow a discussion on whether the Speaker’s ruling is in conformity with Standing Orders. The honourable member for Wills was dealing with standing order 400. What he wanted to say about it we know privately but we do not know in the parliamentary setting. This is supposed to be the rule of law; but he is told to shut up, that he cannot move any motion of dissent, that he cannot say a word. He continued to stand. That is what the Prime Minister used lurid words to describe. I remember how he did the same sort of thing in New Guinea. He claimed that we were in favour of extremists. One of the extremists. Councillor To Rangis, has been vindicated by the Territory court which held that he suffered exactly the grave injustices we said he had suffered. But the Prime Minister fired his volley of abstract nouns about extremists and the rest of it and he gained his headlines.
When the honourable member for Wills stood up, we did not have a riot like that in the Japanese Diet where members stood up and threw ink wells, which might be a salutary method of protest. He refused to sit down; he wanted to persist with his motion of dissent and to explain it. The Prime Minister comes in and uses such expressions as ‘Mob violence; use of force; verging on riot’. I do not know that anybody who saw the proceedings last night could suggest that any honourable member used violence against any honourable member of the Government side, threw anything, used fisticuffs or threatened anybody. There was a demonstration on the proceedings of this House. We have come to a pretty pass here. The Parliament of Canada has taken special steps to make the Speaker the member for the Parliament. He can come from anywhere. He is elected by members of Parliament and it cannot be a controlled party vote. The Canadian Parliament is righting to get neutrality in the Chair.
Professor Gordon Reid, the former Serjeant-at-Arms in this House, has published a study of the consistency with which Speakers allow questions defamatory of the Opposition and rule them out if they are asked of the Government. We get repeatedly from the Speaker that a subject is not within the jurisdiction of any Minister. Can any honourable member tell me that it was within the jurisdiction of any Minister to say whether the Leader of the Opposition did or did not attend a moratorium meeting in Brisbane? No, of course it was not. But defamation is consistently permitted in this Parliament. This is the submerged iceberg, the tip of which was shown last night. We have the consistent, stifling of Opposition voices. Matters of definite public importance in the last Parliament had a fair go and if the Government regards those matters as irresponsible it is perfectly competent for it to say why. Does the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs regard the matter of definite public importance concerning the starvation of Aboriginal children which was gagged, as either a personal attack on himself that had to be silenced or an irresponsible motion? It was neither, lt is just the contemptuous stifling of any Opposition voice, of anybody who wants to say anything about anything.
The unfortunate Leader of the House is governed by a slogan and the slogan is simply that we cannot take the business out of hands of the Government. Of course we cannot take the business out of the hands of the Government but that does not rule out intelligence and sensitivity in dealing with the questions that are put before him. It does not rule out the fact that Parliament is just not a door mat for the Executive. It is supposed to have certain rights of its own as a forum of discussion. When the gag is being moved consistently, as the Government is moving it at present, it ceases to be a forum of discussion.
If the Minister has quite a lot of urgent legislation why does he not use his brains and introduce the guillotine? If he docs that, he can say that a Bill must pass its second reading stage at a certain time and that consideration of certain clauses must conclude at a specific time. Every one of them knows that the debate will last for a certain period. But no. The Minister for External Affairs and other Ministers including the Minister for Health - not all Ministers are in this category, but certainly those two Ministers are - abuse the Standing
Orders of the House in the craziest way by making defamatory speeches and then moving the gag so that nobody can reply. 1 suppose that the right that members have by way of redress, if they wish to use it, is the personal explanation. I remember the Minister for External Affairs speaking in the recent debate on the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He said that I sank my teeth in blood in his buck. What a marvellous, rational statement he made. He said that I sank my teeth up to the blood in his back. I wanted to know what the occasion was when I was so misguided about my diet, but I was not able to find out because the gag was moved. That was the end of the proceedings on that occasion when we were debating the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The 26 new members who have come into this House have not had the iron enter their souls. They have come in as ordinary outsiders and they had the revelation of the Parliament as conducted by the present Leader of the House. The revelation is that un honourable member is not allowed to speak. The supine Government majority always will vote for any gag without any debate. Let us not forget the real way in which this is done. We all come into the House to vote and, half the time, we do not know what the issue is before the House. Hardly any Government members are present now. If a vote was taken in a few minutes because somebody takes exception to what I am saying and it is proposed that I should be put out of the chamber, those honourable members would not know what they were voting on. But this is the rule of law. We must all respect it. It will be respected insofar as it is real. If real debate is allowed in here, there is no doubt that Parliament will be respected.
Of course, the Australian Parliament has not got good traditions. It has not had them for a long time. The man who initially debased this Parliament was William Morris Hughes. He did something that no-one has done since Cromwell. In the Commonwealth Parliament in Melbourne in 1917, he brought in troops to seize the speech of James Catts, a member of that Parliament. The Clerk of the House refused to co-operate with the troops. But the supine majority voted that it was in order for the military to raid Parliament. William Morris Hughes did the same thing in the Parliament of Queensland. As I have said, no-one has done that in any English-speaking Parliament since Cromwell. When it was done at that time, there was a reaction against it. But here it is still supposed to be some great achievement of William Morris Hughes.
This Parliament of very poor standards may begin to get better standards. I sat behind a government and it used the gag. If honourable members look at the statistics they will find that the Liberal Party as the Government in 1950 - its first full year - moved (he gag more times in that year than the Chifley Government had done in 6 years. I remember how that Liberal Government made very good political capital out of certain gags such as gagging the debate on food for Britain, lt is the sign of the failure of the Leader of the House to handle the affairs of this House properly that the gag is being moved all the time.
What is the truth about the proceedings of last night? The truth about the proceedings of last night is that, politically, the Liberal Government in South Australia is in danger on the issue of non-procedure with the Chowilla Dam. This Parliament passed legislation dealing with the Chowilla Dam. A former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, spoke in favour of the Chowilla Dam. Many of the people speaking against it here were on record as being in favour also. Wilh the FU 1, the Chowilla dam was the big issue of the election of 1963. Whether or not the Government was right or wrong in dumping Chowilla, it was politically embarrassing, so, the debate was put on on a non-broadcasting day. Then, anything raised by the Opposition that was likely to be embarrassing was gagged. Tempers began to rise. We have this pious statement that every time the Government uses its parliamentary majority to stop debate it is the rule of law and that, if anybody objects to it, it is riot, mob violence and the rest of the nonsense that the Prime Minister spoke.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I think that the House might return to reality when it considers the events of last night. The events of last night were important. We must see that they are never repeated. This is the important matter before the House. Each one of us here has great privileges. With those great privileges we have great responsibilities. Each one of us is here because certain procedures have been gone through in an election. It is important that those procedures be inviolate, that there should be a vote, that it should be a free vote and that it should be properly counted. Unless those procedures are inviolate, the foundation of this House goes.
But it is true also that in this House there are mechanisms and procedures which must be considered inviolate. We do not just give an ordinary vote here. We, as a House of Parliament, give a vote and it is an effective vote because we are representatives of the people. Because we have been brought here as the consequence of an electoral procedure, what we do in this House has a force in law which does not accord normally to proceedings of other assemblies. We have a responsibility. That responsibility means that certain mechanisms must be considered inviolate. lt. may be that honourable members on one side or the other may feel that they have been badly treated. It may be that they feel injustice has been done. Well, there are available to them methods of protest which have been accepted by custom and which are part of the traditions of this House. If: an honourable member feels, as 1 have felt on occasion, that the ruling of Mr Speaker in his own case is a wrong ruling, he can go to the point of being thrown out of the House. This is a normal and accepted procedure. But he must not defy the ruling of Mr Speaker and refuse to go.
The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) said a moment ago that there was no violence in the House last night. There was a threat of violence when the Serjeant-at-Arms in response to the command of Mr Speaker came down and asked the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) to leave the chamber; the honourable member, flanked by his guards, refused to do so. A situation had been created where the normal procedures could be applied only if there were violence in the House - and nobody wants that.
Let the House think of the way in which it has come to the edge of the abyss. Last night the House could have gone over the edge. It was only the remarkable forebearance and wisdom of Mr Speaker which, I think, saved us from that kind of disaster.
– That was only a hypothetical case
– It was not a hypothetical case. This happened last night. I want honourable members to face up to the enormity of what happened last night and to resolve that it should never be repeated. The House cannot work unless there is the sanction of honourable members obeying, in the final analysis, the command of the Speaker in regard to their conduct and in regard to their leaving the House when told to do so in accordance with normal practice. Mr Deputy Speaker, I want honourable members to remember that we are living in a state where there is an infection of anarchy round about us, not only in Australia but in other countries. There is a breakdown of authority and people are endeavouring to exploit this situation. It has been exploited in other countries. The Communists are waiting to exploit it today. This is how they arc working. I ask honourable members, including members of the Opposition, not to co-operate in this plan to break down authority.
Let us consider the events of last night. I shall not go into the conduct of the honourable member for Wills. He has apologised and I think we should leave it at that. However I do think that the conduct of the Opposition as a whole has to be examined, particularly since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has boasted that it is a matter in which the whole Party is equally implicated. That is what he said and I accept his words. But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is particularly implicated. What did happen last night? There was a defiance of the Speaker by the honourable member for Wills who refused to leave the House when called upon to do so in accordance with law and custom. The Speaker, because he did not want to apply physical force - the only thing left to him - suspended the sitting. Then the honourable member for Wills remained in his place and a kind of caucus meeting was held on the Opposition benches. The Leader of the Opposition participated in that meeting. [Quorum formed]
Mr Deputy Speaker, I was saying that after the suspension of the House last night by the Speaker there was some kind of sub-caucus meeting in the House at which the Leader of the Opposition was present. Then the House met again. The Leader of the Opposition had had plenty of opportunity to bring his influence to bear on the honourable member for Wills and to get him to withdraw from the House. The Leader of the Opposition had not done so. In the House he made no indication that he was going to do so. It is perfectly true that he was not allowed to debate the issue but this was not essential. All that the Leader of the Opposition had to do, if he has authority in his caucus, was to turn around and tell the honourable member for Wills to obey the command of the Speaker.
This morning, as I understand it, a meeting of the Parliamentary Labor Party was held and perhaps later on we shall learn what line was taken at that meeting by the Leader of the Opposition. I do want to point out that he had all the opportunity in the world to bring what influence he had to bear on the honourable member for Wills. There was a period of about li hours during which he could have done this. I am afraid we have to say that the Leader of the Opposition feels that he has to make up to the left wing element in his party. This is a most dangerous situation because he himself, perhaps as a weak man, goes left and he has the reputation, whether deservedly or not, of not being fully left wing. He is able to mislead people and allow them to think that the Labor Party has in it an inherent bastion against a left wing policy. But when the boys in the band really run the show, as they apparently are running it, then, as I have said, it is a dangerous situation.
There is only one other thing of which I want to remind honourable members and that is the most peculiar shift which has occurred in the standards of the Labor Party. I want to remind honourable members of something that occurred in the debate earlier today. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) rose and said that in the past he had been traduced because he had been accused of being on the same platform as members of the Communist Party and, of course, this shocking slander had to be withdrawn. He said it was a shocking slander. Yet today the honourable member for Lalor is appearing openly in full collaboration with members of the Communist Party in such things as the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. He is a collaborator with Mr Carmichael, the Communist, in a matter which is in the Communist interest. Now, this is a shifting of standards. A few years ago the honourable member for Lalor was able to pretend that he had been traduced because he had been accused of associating with Communists. Today he associates openly with Communists and finds no harm in it. This shifting of standards has taken place insidiously and gradually and Australia may not have realised how far the disease has gone in the ranks of the Opposition. That is all I have to say.
– We have heard tonight from the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) the usual type of speech that we have come to expect from that honourable gentleman. It either starts with a tirade of abuse against imaginary Communists or it must inevitably finish with one. This speech finished with a tirade of abuse against imaginary Communists. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) was one of them mentioned and the other is possibly a real Communist - I do not know - but no more real than the Communists with whom the Minister conspired in his lounge room in Wollongong on the occasion of May Day 1936 when he arranged for the Communistcontrolled waterside workers team in the marching competition on Labour Day of that year to win the ‘Illawarra Star’ Cup, when in fact it was probably only about fourth in rank. The cup had to go to a Communist team because the Communists then controlled the south coast trade unions.
The Minister owned the ‘Illawarra Star’ newspaper which had started to go broke and would have gone broke but for the enormous wealth which his greatgreatgreatgreat grandfather brought into this country. The Minister thought: ‘Well, why draw on my reserves when by presenting a cup to the Communist team on May Day I can buy them off?’ That was the cunning scheme embarked upon. It was announced that the cup would be presented, and on May Day the march duly took place and who do you think won the cup as arranged with the Communist Ted Roach? The winning team was the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation team. Who do you think presented the cup to the Communist official of that Federation? It was none other than the Minister for Social Services who, when presenting the cup, according to my friend the late Eddie Ward, genuflected to Mr Roach. I do not know whether this is true. But I do know that Mr Dan Curtin repeatedly stated that he knew that the Minister was an undercover member of the Communist Party at Port Kembla and held ticket number 1.16. That is a statement that the Minister has never denied and perhaps there are good reasons why he would not deny it. It may be that right in our midst we have got people who have no respect for law and order. How do we know that we have not sitting in our midst a spy from the Kremlin using anti-Communism as a means of trying to get people off their guard and so that he can have cups of tea with the honourable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and his friends, talking about Formosa and gathering valuable information for the Kremlin? How do we know this is not so? Is not this the way in which real Communist spies always behave?
– Order!I point out to the honourable member for Hindmarsh that we may not know whether or not this is so, but this is not the subject of debate beforethe House.
– I rise to order. May I say that the honourable member is saying things which are completely and utterly false and without foundation.
-I point out to the Minister for Social Services that the honourable member for Hindmarsh did not actually say anything in confirmation and I would suggest that the Minister might withdraw the remark that he made to the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– No, I will not.
– No, we understand. We understand that you have no respect for the Standing Orders or for law and order.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will come to order. It is not a matter of whether or not the honourable member for Hindmarsh understands. I suggested to the Minister for Social Services that as he made a remark that is not relevant to the remarks that were being made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh the Minister should withdraw his remark.
– I will take the opportunity to make a personal explanation later on.
– I rise to order.
-Order! I understand that the Minister for Social Services has withdrawn and he has said that he wil’l make a personal explanation at a later stage.
– I rise to a point of order. That is not satisfactory. Last night the honourable member for Oxley was suspended from this House because he was not prepared to give an unqualified withdrawal. We want the same undertaking.
-Order! The present situation is not parallel to the situation referred to. The Minister for Social Services has withdrawn the remarks which he made and which the Chair asked him to withdraw. What the Minister says in making a personal explanation at a later stage will be considered by the Chair at that time.
– We want an unqualified withdrawal.
– I rise to order. We want a little bit of law and order from the Minister.
– If it will help, I will withdraw.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– I am glad you succeeded, Mr Deputy Speaker, in making the Minister comply, however grudgingly, with the Standing Orders. I was terribly touched by the Minister’s reference to the need for law and order - very touched indeed. I seem to have a recollection - I am sure he will not deny this in his personal explanation - that during the war the honourable gentleman who has such a high regard for law and order on one occasion actually blew up one of His Majesty’s bridges at Cronulla in order to prove a point that a bridge could be blown up if one had sufficient dynamite. The honourable gentleman did this and I believe that he was quite surprised at the result of his little exploit but he was certainly very pleased with it at the time. Since that time he has appeared to be rather shamefaced every time that I mention this matter, but it is a fact that this did occur. I recall another occasion when he showed his great respect for law and order by dressing up a platoon of servicemen under his command. At the time he was in charge of a Home Guard section. He dressed them up as tramway men, marched to the Redfern Police Station, got alongside each police officer, pulled a gun and said: ‘You are under arrest’. They took charge of the Redfern police station. This is the gentleman who talks about law and order. What would happen to people in any civilised country who went to a police station dressed up as a team of gangsters, pulled out guns and took control of the police station?
The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) went to Garden Island dressed up as a Communist and found to his great surprise that a sentry had seen him. The honourable member found himself looking down the mouth of a sixshooter. He then wondered why he was being arrested. He, too, finished up at the Redfern police station where he remained incarcerated until the then Minister for the Navy, Mr Jos. Francis, went to the then Prime Minister and said: ‘What will I do with him?’ The Prime Minister said: ‘Let him stew in his own juice. A night in gaol will do him good.’ Here is another person who represents the Party that believes in law and order.
I say nothing about the highwayman who many years ago came to Australia to escape the normal penalty imposed upon highwaymen in order to become a doctor at Norfolk Island. I say nothing about it. We cannot blame the Minister for what happened in those dim and distant days. A gentleman by the name of Paul Johnson seemed to have an eye for things to come and in anticipation of the pretence of wanting to stick to law and order about which we have heard tonight from the Government side he wrote this little comment. It fits very perfectly the remarks made by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) who is the Leader of the Australian Country Party. The Country Party people can think of the honourable member as 1 talk and the Liberals can think of the Leader of the Country Party as I quote what Paul Johnson said about this kind of people:
In his tiny brain there is the strong conviction rhat, somehow or other, violent crime, permissiveness, student demos, instant sex . . .
Whatever that means: . . and football hooliganism can be stirred together into an anti-Labour stew, it is, to be sine, powerful saloon-bar stuff; and provided Selsdon Man can keep the argument at the level of ill-informed rumour, ignorant prejudice and gut-reaction, there may be some electoral mileage in it.
– Order! The honourable member will cease to read.
– I beg your pardon, Sir.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Earlier in this debate 1 made a comment in regard to the subject matter under discussion in the debate. The honourable member for Hindmarsh has been a member of this House for some considerable time and I suggest that he should keep in mind the remark that 1 made and, neither by innuendo nor any other way. reflect upon any other member of this House.
– I came into this House on the same day as the Minister for Social Services. So perhaps if 1 deal with the things he talked about I will be in order, since he was not stopped from doing so. The Minister had a lot to say about the fact that there should be a free vote in the Parliament. Does anybody in bis wildest dreams imagine that there is a free vote in this Parliament from the other side of the House? Of course not. Time and time again we see members on the other side being whipped into line by the Whip to support things that they do not believe in. Time and time again members on the other side of the
House have been forced to vote for the gag. Time and time again they have been forced to vote for candidates for the Speakership whom they do not like and whom they would prefer to vote against and try to prevent from being selected. Time and time again we see this. I hope that this is so, because I would not like to think that every member on the other side willingly votes for the gag every time the Leader of the House chooses to move it. If they do, then they are far worse than I thought they were.
Procedures should be inviolate, says the Minister. Of course procedures should be inviolate but how often do we find traditions - using the word ‘traditions’ in place of the word ‘procedures’ - being trampled on by this Government? This is not a Parliament. This is not even an imitation of a Parliament. Tt is just an instrument to be used as a rubber stamp for a handful of arrogant, ignorant men who sit in the Cabinet and make the laws.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member for Hindmarsh should consider the remarks that I made just a few moments ago.
– Yes. If the honourable gentleman wants to guarantee that last night’s episode is not repeated then he must guarantee that we will never again witness a repeat performance of the kind of arrogance shown by the Leader of the House last night and in the days preceding it. This Parliament is not a Parliament any more. It is a joke. We might as well all stay at home, save our fares in coming here, and send a telegram each time the Parliament meets and say: T am going to vote against such and such a matter on the notice paper’, and let the Liberals go on and do what they are doing here, walking to this side or that side of the chamber.
The Government has brought the Parliament into disrepute. The Government has treated the Parliament like a dirty rag. Is it any wonder that the Parliament is beginning to lose respect for itself? It could not help it. When something is prostituted in the way in which this Parliament has been prostituted for the last 20 years is it any wonder that people lose respect for it? If the Government wants the Parliament to gain some self respect let it treat the Parliament like a
Parliament. Let it give to the Parliament the right to express the views that the Parliament is entitled to express.
A few weeks ago 1 proposed an urgency motion here, and what happened? The gag man immediately moved the gag as soon as I had finished speaking. No other member of the Opposition was able to speak on it. 1 wanted to talk about the failure of the Government to give professional engineers a proper increase in their salaries. I wanted to talk about the refusal of the Government to allow the surveyors, and the architects and draftsmen to get the rise that they are entitled to. I wanted to talk about the Government’s refusal to increase annual leave to 4 weeks. After more than 60 years of federation we find that our public servants still have the same amount of annual leave. I wanted to talk about equal pay. But the Government said: “These are of no consequence’, in spite of the fact that 320,000 people are either directly or indirectly employed by the Government. There were 320,000 voters interested in what I had to say, and what did this man do? This arrogant Leader of the House, who will not allow the Parliament to function as a Parliament, moved that no further speakers be heard on the question.
We know very well why the Prime Minister has resorted to the ruse of moving the amendment directed against the Leader of the Opposition. We know that he is doing it in order to take the heat off his own Leader of the House. He knows that members of the Opposition are just seething with discontent. Many of us have been looking at the people who occupy the cushy ministerial seats in the front bench - and flashy black limousines - on which they think their posteriors would be more comfortably situated than the backsides of their rivals. And how do they get there? There is only one way to become a Federal Minister in a Liberal Government and that is to be a good crawler to whoever happens to be the Prime Minister. Since the Country Party members seem to be smiling at that, although there are sombre expressions on the faces of their Liberal colleagues, let me say: The same thing seems to go for you, too.’
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hindmarsh, as I mentioned earlier, that he should not reflect upon the Chair. The reason why I did not mention anything to the honourable member was that 1 was checking on the motion and the amendment just to make sure that that is the subject under discussion by the House at the moment. I suggest that the honourable member for Hindmarsh should keep more to that which is relevant to the subject matter under discussion.
– Certainly. The Minister for Social Services talked about the caucus meeting in the Parliament last night at which the Leader of the Opposition spoke, and somebody - I think it was the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) - said he looked as though he was conducting a hallelujah choir. Since it was not a caucus meeting 1 am free to say what did happen. The Leader of the Opposition told his admiring followers - we are great admirers of him - that we ought not to blame the Speaker for the mistakes of the Leader of the House. He implored us to show proper respect to the Speaker and pointed out to us that by blaming the Speaker instead of the Leader of the House we were blaming the wrong person. We were so impressed with the logic of his case and with the way in which he presented the case about respect for the Speaker that all of us went out and decided that we would go into our caucus this morning and support him unanimously. That is why we came in this morning to support the Speaker and that is why the honourable member for Wills rose and apologised to the Speaker. We were impressed by the oration and the logic which he gave to his Party at what the honourable gentleman had the audacity to imply was a caucus meeting held inside the chamber.
I think the Parliament will benefit from what has happened. I hope that this rebellion inside the Parliament against the brutal use of power by an arrogant Leader of the House will produce a different kind of Parliament in the future. Unless those who have been elected by the people of Australia to come into this place, speak their minds and take an intelligent part in the debates on our laws, even the Minister cannot expect us or anybody inside or outside the Parliament to have any respect for it. If this Parliament crumbles then the Government will be responsible for it. Last night as 1 looked at the frightened expressions on the faces of the Ministers opposite when the shemozzle was at its height I realised that they were frightened because they were witnessing what could be the crumbling and crashing of their symbol of power. Parliament is their symbol of power and without it no government could govern without military dictatorship and martial law. Once you decide to go out in the streets and govern by mob law, brute force and violence, the people who are going to win will not be the people on the Government side, because the people on that side have too few friends ever to win. We do not want to see that. We want to see the Parliament act as a proper alternative to brute force and the rule of mob law in the streets of the cities.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar- Minister for Social Services) - Mr Deputy Speaker, may 1 make a personal explanation?
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The personal things which the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said about me are completely untrue. In particular it is completely untrue that I have at any time held membership in the Communist Party. The claim that I held such membership is a fabrication. The honourable member’s version of what was said about a certain cup was complete fabrication. His story about the blowing up of a bridge was complete fabrication. In point of fact I characterise as fantasy and fabrication all that was said by the honourable member.
– Nothing in what the honourable member for Hindmarsh said about me was true.
– I rise to order. I happen to know that the statement-
-Order! There is no substance in the point taken and the honourable member for Grayndler will resume his seat.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, tonight the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) ranged from Cromwell to Billy Hughes and the back of Bourke. He spoke about standards. The standards of this House will be only as good as the standards of the individual. Having regard to what we witnessed last night and early this morning we cannot hope for very great standards in the future. The honourable member said that the gag had not been moved in the Senate for some 7 years. If he had paused to think for a moment he would have realised that in the other place there are only half as many members as there are in this place. This is a house of initiation. Much more is accomplished here. If the Senate stuck to its job of being a house of review it would be much better for Australia and the Parliament.
– I rise to order. Is the honourable member entitled to reflect on the upper House?
– There is no substance in the honourable member’s point of order.
– We have been treated to a burlesque show in this place tonight in order to divert the attention of those listening to the debate from the central facts of what occurred here last night and early this morning. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) gave expositions of soap box oratory the like of which we have not heard in this chamber. Their sole purpose was to gloss over one of the most wretched and damnable episodes ever perpetrated in this House.
Claimants in the courts of our land must appear with clean hands. Before bringing this matter before the House the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) should have made sure that he had clean hands - that he could come in as a man of honour and move this motion of censure. If we go back through the annals of this Parliament since federation we find that we had our Doctor Moloney, our King O’Malley, our Eddie Ward and our Brennan. But we have never had anybody who has so degraded, depraved and denigrated the Parliament as has the
Leader of the Opposition. He has used the great Australian adjective in addressing a very senior Minister in this Parliament. He used a most vile four letter word to a former Attorney-General.
The Leader of toe Opposition chided a former Minister for External Affairs because he came from the lowly home of Salvation Army parents. The former Minister, with great dignity, replied with a sting that must have hurt. What did the Leader of the Opposition do? In a dirty sly manner he picked up a glass of water. He did not do it impetuously, but took aim and threw it at the Minister. No more vile act has been perpetrated in this Parliament than what the Leader of the Opposition did on that occasion. I am informed by a learned friend at the bar that had he acted in this way as a barrister in the Supreme Court he would have been expelled for at least 5 years. Had he committed the act in the South Sydney Rugby League Club he would have been expelled for life. Yet he has the audacity to move this motion ag inst the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), whom the Leader of the Opposition was trying to drag into a certain situation.
Let us get back to what happened: It was a battle of tactics and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) was playing his hand very shrewdly and cunningly. He had the amendments tucked away in the Clerk’s drawer and he would not reveal their contents or when he intended to move them. These are the facts of the matter and it is good that listeners to the debate should know them. When the honourable member for Dawson was beaten at his own game he squealed like all those people who can give it but cannot take it, and the gag was moved. Means were open to the Opposition to take exception to this action if it were necessary or desirable but not one honourable member opposite who has spoken tonight has mentioned the great dignity, patience and decorum exercised by Mr Speaker last night in very difficult conditions. Let me read from Hansard so that listeners may be aware of the dignity and patience which Mr Speaker exercised last night. The report reads:
– The honourable member for Oxley certainly overrode the bounds of decency but he did it under severe provocation and I ask, if he agrees to withdraw-
-Order! I requested the honourable member for Oxley on 3 occasions to withdraw and 1 regret that the honourable member for Oxley did not see fit to comply with my request. Therefore 1 will not withdraw my naming of the honourable member.
– Mr Speaker, will you give the honourable member for Oxley another opportunity to comply with your direction to withdraw unreservedly the objectionable words? I ask you to direct him again.
-If the honourable member for Oxley requests the Chair to do that and apologises unreservedly 1 will consider the position. As he has not done so I now put the question, ‘That the honourable member for Oxley be suspended from the service of the House’.
What a wonderful demonstration of dignity and patience, yet we saw the mob gang together and as they gathered around the honourable member for Wills it looked as though it was a graveside scene. Of course it was a graveside scene. It was a sad scene. We saw democracy being buried and the chief perpetrator was the Leader of the Opposition. Afterwards I was so attracted by his sanctimonious manner in addressing the Press Gallery that I had a sketch made of the scene with the Leader of the Opposition holding both arms up and pleading with them to treat him lightly because they had heard what he had said at the graveside ceremony in the House.
No, Mr Deputy Speaker, this Parliament was degraded and brought lower than at any stage of its history. I have spoken of the tactics that were adopted here last night. Because the Opposition was beaten it took up a point against a Speaker who was in no way involved. Members of the Opposition had many other ways in which they could have dealt with the situation. I support the amendment moved by our Prime Minister and I congratulate the Leader of the House on his management of the House. He has done his job quite well. All yesterday afternoon the bells were ringing because the Opposition called quorums. Members of the Opposition used delaying tactics the whole time because they did not want a Bill to go through just as they do not want the proposed health Bill to go through. Yet under this Bill people will not have to pay more than $5 for the most expensive operation from 1st July. No, members of the Opposition would rather have the proposed health Bill delayed for many months so that people in indigent circumstances will not be able to have this advantage.
Unfortunately, yesterday and early this morning was a black period for democracy in Australia. Events in this period of time were led and abetted by the Leader of the Opposition who has depraved, degraded and denigrated Parliament more than any other member of this House since federation.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I was rather reluctant to enter the lists, if I can phrase it in that way, in this debate, but as a new member elected to this Parliament on 25th October last year I was then under the impression that I was coming to an honourable place to follow an honourable career, and to make an honourable contribution to contemporary society.
– That is what you are doing.
– I would suggest to the honourable gentleman on my left who has just interjected that perhaps he might be better served by looking after the interests of the party that sent him to this place, namely the party which represents primary industries.
There have been many adjectives used in this debate on this extraordinary sort of double censure motion which I cannot accept at all. We have had expressions from the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) like ‘anarchy’ and ‘anarchists’. We have had great talk about law and order. But let me, if I might do so, say that you cannot have it both ways.
– Wrong. We can.
– There, you see, is a manifestation of Liberal thinking. It would be, I think, fair to say that the man who established the Liberal Party, and who in fact created and led it with some distinction for a number of years, would be mortified to see the way that Party is traducing the democratic principles of the Parliament that he respected. I suggest that honourable members on the other side of the House give this some thought.
However, it is very interesting, as I say, to hear some of the remarks that were made by the Deputy Prime Minister earlier tonight about anarchy, about law and order, or the disorder or the disregard for law. lt is extraordinary how these people use examples to suit themselves. I want to point out to the Deputy Prime Minister, and I only regret that he is not in this chamber at the moment, that only some weeks ago we witnessed anarchy in that radical thoroughfare of Melbourne, Collins Street, where 10,000 farmers demonstrated against the inequality and the inactivity of this Government and its policy. Was that anarchy? Was that a demonstration? Was that holding up the traffic in the streets? Was this disorder? The right honourable gentleman should get his priorities right. If it is good enough for the Deputy Prime Minister to suggest that what happened here was a legitimate protest against the denial, the abrogation of the job that we as members are sent here to do, then it is good enough to suggest that those 10,000 farmers were making a similar logical protest. That is the point I wish to make. lt is not easy for a new member in this House to come here and engage in a debate of this type. We are elected to this place by electors - in my own case I was elected by 38,500 electors. They send me to this House to do a job of work as best I can. One of the principles of democratic procedure in the Parliament is that we are allowed to do precisely that. It is an extraordinary situation that ever since this new Parliament assembled on that abortive day on 25th November 1969 the gag has been applied consistently. We address ourselves to the reason why it has been applied. It has been applied because the Government, rebuffed at the polls on 25th October, realised that for the first time in a great many years a vibrant, an energetic, a presentable, an alternative government was really hot on its heels and breathing down its neck. The Government resents that fact. In fact, the Government resents the common sense of the vast majority of the Australian public that returned the increased numbers of members to this side of the House. These are the points that have to be made.
We are essentially here to legislate and we are not being given the chance or the opportunity to do so. This is the plain, simple fact of the matter. It is no good this Government thinking for one moment that it can govern by decree or by executive decree. I suggest with the greatest respect in the world to honourable members opposite that they know only too well of the dissent, of the disappointment and of the frustration that exist on their own back benches about executive government. They themselves have said that they are dissatisfied because they are not consulted on policy matters that affect them as a Party. Do we not have exactly the same responsibility? We are the legitimate Opposition in this Parliament. We are entitled to examine every piece of legislation that comes into this chamber and we are equally entitled to have a debate on any issue that comes into this chamber.
My suggestion to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the conclave of power that he has surrounded himself with is that if they wish to govern by executive decree by all means let them do so. But let them be honest enough to say that this is the proposition they want to put forward, because it will make it much simpler for all the elected members to return to their electorates where they can be doing useful work and not wasting the taxpayers’ money by sitting in this chamber just aborting the very work of the democratic processes of elected government. If they want to govern by executive decree I suggest to them, with the greatest respect in the world, that they will then become only a public relations organisation, and this is not good enough.
If they still continue to want to govern by executive decree let them do it, but let them hand out to all of us a Press statement on what they have decided is right for this nation, and we will return to our electorates and hand out that Press statement to our electors. There is no doubt in my mind at ali that, after having been here for a short time, the whole fabric of democratic government, as I understand it, is being eroded consistently and effectively by the Government, which talks in pompous terms about law and order when it knows very well that the plain, simple, political fact is that, no matter what they do, no matter whether we behave or misbehave, it can still gag anything we want to say. The Government has the numbers. It is a plain, political, single fact of life, and the Government knows it.
– Grow up.
– The honourable gentleman over here has just made a very original and intelligent remark. He would like me to grow up. I believe that is an horticulture expression. These are the extraordinary contributions to debate.
– I raise a point of order. I was just wondering whether it is worthwhile asking members coming into the House for the first time why their own Party moved the gag 77 times in 1 day not very many years ago.
– The honourable member has raised no valid point of order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am obliged to the honourable member for that mathematical calculation, but I think his own Party has very probably exceeded that figure.
– That was in 1 day.
– In any case, that is another affair. I think that the essential point is that we have to address ourselves to the very functional problem of why we are here. I, perhaps in my own naive way, believe that I am here to make a contribution on behalf of the people I represent. This is the very purpose of my being here. If I am denied the opportunity to participate in debate, to initiate some contemporary thinking in a contemporary society that is making very great demands on contemporary thinking, I might just as well walk out that door now because I am not fulfilling the legitimate function for which I was chosen.
It is extraordinary to find that one of the things that have been most apparent in this Parliament since we new members came here is the vituperation and extraordinary hatred that has been heaped upon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). This has been manifested today by this extraordinary censure motion that has been moved against the Leader of the Opposition. As I say, honourable members opposite have talked in pompous terms about law and order and about anarchy. I suggest that they examine their own tactics and their own procedures in this House. Let me remind them that the gag has been moved some 24 times during this session and was moved another 7 times on 25th November.
This Parliament is a direct arm, if we like to call it that, of the British House of Commons. We ought to be proud of the institution that we have. We ought to be proud to serve that institution with distinction and with some dedication. I myself am quite prepared to do this. I am prepared to apply myself to it but only if the Government will allow me to do so. If it will not allow me to do so, I suggest that it be honest enough to say so. It is most frustrating, indeed quite horrifying, to a new member to come here full of the wonderful spirit of being able to make some contribution to this national Parliament and to the welfare of the people but to see the appalling tactics adopted time and time again by the Government to prevent members from making some contribution, however small it may be. This is a most frustrating and depressing experience for any member, particularly for a new member.
I would hope that the affairs of this morning and last night will fade into the background. I hope the lesson will be learned. I hope the lesson has been learned that this Government has a responsibility to all people in the Commonwealth and not only to itself, because this Government has no right to think that it has a priority on the affairs of this nation. It does not have a priority on the affairs of this nation. We on this side of the House are members of the largest single political party represented in this chamber. We have not only some rights but also some responsibilities. We are prepared to accept the responsibilities if the Government is prepared to allow us to engage in legitimate discussion and the legitimate dissection of any programme that it puts before this chamber. It is no good at all that it is completely fooling yourselves to believe that we do not understand the importance of this place. If we do not understand the importance of it and what our contribution is to be we ought not to be here. I certainly am proud to be here, but I am not proud to be a witness to the exhibition that has been going on for the last 24 hours. I like no part of it at all.
The action of the Government last night was provocative in the extreme. If it is to carry on like this the whole image of the Parliament and the image of what we are supposed to be doing here will be tarnished forever, and the blame will lie fairly and squarely on the Government side of the
House. As I said earlier, for a new member it is a very distressing thing to have to see. I am bewildered by the procedures that have gone on in this chamber. I was proud to come here to serve and proud to make some contribution to this Parliament, but now I have very grave doubts about whether I will be allowed to make any contribution at all. 1 would suggest to the Government that it reassess and make a re-appraisal of what it considers to be the role of a democratic Parliament, particularly as it applies in this chamber.
– I have great sympathy for the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry). I can imagine his confusion on a number of points: First, as to whether he will be allowed to make a contribution to this chamber; secondly, whether he will be allowed to represent his people; and thirdly, whether he will be allowed to do the things that I feel he genuinely wishes to do. I will be interested to see whether he is allowed to do the things that he may wish to do in this chamber. He will have to prove that he has the ability, courage and desire to do the things that I read into the sincerity of his voice. He said earlier: T could be doing something else’. I pay this compliment to him: He could have been an actor. As I listened to him I saw Henry V. I saw the scene by the fire before the battle. I thought he was magnificent and I think he could have made a success in some other sphere. But it is in his hands as to how he acts and as to whether he ever makes an independent speech in this chamber about the things in which he believes or whether he goes along as have successive Oppositions since I have been here with never a member moving out of line. There was one exception - the former honourable member for Batman. But what happened to him? He was expelled from the Australian Labor Party because he dared to support the defence of Australia.
I sympathise also with the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) because he said: ‘I, as a new member and we, as new members, come into this House and find it confusing.’ I took a note of his words. He felt that the enthusiasm of new members was dampened and that they had little opportunity. He said that they had moved in their caucus meeting that the Opposition should bestir itself and act like an Opposition. I hope I do not do him wrong, but I thought he compared the enthusiasm of new members with the enthusiasm of old members. What both honourable members have said about this Parliament is true. It is not the duty of members on this side of the House to attack the Government all the time. We have some loyalty to our Party. We do try to improve things that we think are wrong. We try to improve them in the right area. But we have sat here and waited for members opposite to look like an Opposition. I will give the new members some credit if they can make it look like an Opposition because there has not been an effective Opposition in this House for 10 years or more. However this is not the issue at present. The present issue relates to the proceedings in this House last night. When he moved his censure motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) referred to me and to other honourable members on this side who may or may not be discontented. Yesterday I was gagged. I wanted to speak yesterday, but I was gagged. I did not like it and in my own arena I will take the action that I consider necessary to rectify it and see that it does not happen again if I can help it.
I must give credit to the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) and to the Government. Parliament is not a forum only for members opposite to introduce matters of public importance, half of which are futile. If they want to think of matters of public importance let them come to me. I will give them a couple that would send the Government spinning. Members opposite do not seem able to think of them. However, let us just think about this. The Government has to introduce legislation. It has to govern this country. This Parliament is not just to be a forum for the whims of the Leader of the Opposition and others who, every time they are in the think tank, say: ‘What will we use for an urgency motion?’ I will never forget an urgency motion that was introduced by the Opposition in the last Parliament or the one before to the effect that some member of the Senate should be given a staff car, that he should have the use of a limousine. Now, we see things around us that no doubt are urgent and that could be raised but when this came up I realised that half the time urgency motions were only introduced be cause the Government did not have anything on the programme and the Government Whip went across to the Opposition Whip and said: ‘Can you please introduce something because we are not yet ready to introduce legislation?’ I am sympathetic to the Opposition. I know what it must be like to be in Opposition for so long and to realise that the party with the majority is the government and that the Opposition has not been able to obtain the majority. But the rule of the Parliament and the rule of law and order - even though honourable members opposite may mock it - says that those with the numbers must control the programme of the House.
– Do what they like.
– No, not do what they like. The Opposition was concerned and upset in respect of the situation yesterday. I can understand that. I was also upset. I did not like any part of what took place from last night onwards and I do not like much of what has taken place today because what is a vital matter in my opinion, that is, the standing of the Parliament in the community, was last night placed in jeopardy. I accept that the Opposition had the right to protest. The honourable member who followed the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) referred to the incident which he was concerned in in 1940-something or other. The fact is that at the end of the incident the honourable member left the chamber when so ordered. Never before have I heard of a scene such as the one I witnessed last night, when hooliganism came into the chamber. I am not saying whether the Opposition had rights or whether it did not, but last night we saw in this Parliament what we are being encouraged to see in our universities by some sections only, what we are starting to see in some of our courts by some sections only, and it is something that should concern every member of this Parliament whether he be Labor or Liberal. I think that in the amendment to this censure motion we are flattering the Leader of the Opposition because on my observation I do not give him the credit for originating it. I do not give him credit for knowing what was going to happen and, indeed, it may well have been conceived but I will guarantee that he did not originate it. It may well be denied by the Opposition, but I am told by a member of its caucus-
– That is as old as the hills.
– Exactly, but the honourable member would like to block it off.
– Who is the villain?
– He would not last for a second. I am told that the Leader of the Opposition in caucus said: ‘I arranged it. I organised it. Was it not a success?’ Surely if this is the action of a leader of a party, if this is what he wished to achieve last night and this is what he organised, how can we or how can the public, however dissatisfied it may be with the Government at the moment, accept this type of behaviour in a parliament as that of the alternative government of Australia. I was amazed to listen to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), for whom I have had some respect, say the things that he said. I know what he feels in his heart. I know what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) feels in his heart. I know what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) feels in his heart. These men have been fighters in this Parliament. These men were tough Opposition operators in their heyday before they became tired and dejected. But whatever they did in the House they did within the Standing Orders and within the dignity of Parliament. What concerns me more than anything else is that if what went on last night, which the Leader of the Opposition claims to have organised, is to be the standard in the Parliament in future this Parliament and democracy are finished. I am not saying democracy is perfect in this country. Democracy is slow; it is cumbersome. People have to fight against it.
But let us look at the situation last night. If after the honourable member for Wills was named honourable members opposite felt they had to make a protest there was one protest they could make. They could have walked out with him and that would have figured in the newspapers of this country perhaps with more credit to them than they had. But when they all got up, when they all ignored the Speaker’s cry for order, and when they had the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), front bench members, standing there like whoever it was on the bridge and looking like a pair of apes, they lowered the dignity of the whole Labor Party and the Parliament. I know some honourable members opposite would not agree with me because the standard of last night would be the standard they have come from. I think it is a pity that in this Parliament, however inadequate it may be, we reached that stage. I think the Labor Party will regret it.
I come back to the point. What did we have? I do not think for a minute that the Leader of the Opposition was the responsible party. For the first time in open Parliament we had the sign that the left wing of the Party had taken over and the Leader of the Opposition, who is a man of some education and background, realised that unless he got with it he was finished. We heard about these new members before they came here. We heard who was on the left and who was on the right. The Leader of the Opposition did not like the redistribution. He knew he would get the left wing members. We heard about them and now we see them here in force.
– You would believe anything.
– I would. After last night I would believe anything about the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party. Let us now work out what the situation is. The Leader of the Opposition has given the warning, as has the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that if there is not in this House the situation that they want we will have a repetition of this in the future. The warning was given for the Speaker, the warning has been given to the Government and the warning has been given to the people. Demonstration I accept and I think the Australian people accept it. We have heard references to the farmers. They were making a legitimate demonstration in a legitimate way having asked for and received approval to hold that march. Nobody objected to that. But what we saw last night, as was put to me by one member of the Labor Party in this place, was complete yahoo-ism and hooliganism, which has never been seen here in the roughest, toughest days of politics and I hope we will never see again.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Does the honourable member for Lalor claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) has misrepresented me and I desire to make a personal explanation. The honourable member showed just how far he will go in making the most injurious accusations he can think of without knowing the facts and without caring-
-I remind the honourable member for Lalor that he must keep to the point of his personal explanation.
– The honourable member said that when the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) refused to leave the chamber he saw the honourable member for Lalor and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) shouting and banging the table and behaving like a pair of apes. When this happened I was not in the chamber. I did not come back into the chamber until at least 5 minutes after the honourable member for Wills had refused to leave it. The truth is that I left the House with the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I had a cup of tea with him. During the whole time that the incident was happening I was not in the chamber. I did not return to the chamber until long after Mr Speaker had left the Chair. I took no part in what happened. I would not go to the trouble of putting this information before the House in other circumstances. I do not care what the honourable member for La Trobe thinks, but at that time I was not in here. The honourable member for La Trobe has told a lie and I want him to withdraw it.
– I rise to a point of order. The honourable member for Lalor has used a word which is palpably unparliamentary. I ask that he withdraw it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER(Mr Drury)I ask the honourable member for Lalor whether he will withdraw the word.
– I think now is the time for the honourable member for La Trobe to say something. If he says what I think he will say - that is if he has learned something as a result of making a recent inquiry - I will take certain action. But I think it is up to him now.
-The honourable member for Lalor did use a word that is unparliamentary and I have asked him to withdraw it.
– I want to hear from the honourable member for La Trobe before I will withdraw.
– I did perhaps say in my speech: I think that the honourable member for Lalor when the honourable member for
Wills was named- ‘. What I meant to say is: ‘When the honourable member for Wills was named and was still in the House.’ That was over a period of an hour or more. I am not talking about5 minutes later or at the split second. I am talking about when he was named and was in the House. He remained in the House for some time after having been named. I still say exactly what I said before as to the actions of the honourable member for Lalor.
– I am not at all satisfied with that explanation.
– You had better be.
– I had better be! What are you going to do if I am not? Will you bring in the police? Mr Deputy Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the honourable member for La Trobe said and took a note of it. He said that he saw the honourable member for Lalor and the honourable member for Reid shouting and banging on the table like a pair of apes at the time when the honourable member for Wills refused to leave the House. That is precisely what he said. At that time I was absent from the House and I was still absent for at least 5 minutes after that time. I want a withdrawal of that statement.
– Well, you will not get it.
-The point is that the honourable member for Lalor has made his personal explanation, as has the honourable member for La Trobe. As far as I am concerned in my position in the Chair, I ask the honourable member for Lalor again whether he will withdraw the unparliamentary word ‘lie’ which he used. As an experienced member he may substitute another word or phrase, but I do ask him to withdraw the word ‘lie’.
DrJ. F. CAIRNS - I do not desire to substitute any word. I have asked the honourable member for La Trobe to withdraw a false accusation. He has refused to do so. Consequently I have no intention of withdrawing anything.
Mr JESS (La Trobe) - Mr Deputy Speaker-
– On a personal explanation?
– Yes. The honourable member for Lalor said that I have made a false accusation. He then said that he was at tea with the honourable member for Oxley and that I made a statement that he carried out the action while the honourable member for Wills refused to leave the chamber. He is inferring that this was over a period of 1 minute or 2 minutes. The honourable member for Wills refused to leave his place in the chamber for a period of more than 2 hours. However, if it will maintain the dignity of this House, I will withdraw what I said.
– The honourable member for La Trobe having withdrawn what he said, I now ask the honourable member for Lalor whether he will withdraw the word ‘lie’.
– I will say that the honourable member for La Trobe did not tell a lie.
– Let us call it quits.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, we have just listened to one of the usual, pompous, self righteous speeches of the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) to which this House has become accustomed. We should take note of one pertinent point. That is that in years of membership of this Parliament - the honourable member for La Trobe is now one of the senior backbench members on the Government side, not necessarily in age but in years of service in this place - none of the last three Prime Ministers could see any of the virtues of the honourable member that he so obviously can see in himself.
– I can understand that. Can you?
– So can we. The position is that we have become accustomed to this type of speech from the honourable member who loves to score off his mates. In this debate on the motion of censure moved against the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden), great emphasis has been placed on the alleged lawlessness of the action of the Opposition in this place last night and early this morning. The honourable member for La Trobe, who has just made an accusation in the speech that he delivered, based his argument on the word of some anonymous person who passed certain information on to him to the effect that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) planned what happened last night and early this morning and is indeed proud of what happened. Let me say this: As a member of the Opposition, sitting at that time in front of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), I know that there was nothing premeditated about what took place last night. The reaction of the honourable member for Wills was spontaneous. Furthermore, as the situation developed, the reaction of the members of the Opposition was spontaneous against the dictatorial and undemocratic conduct of this Parliament by the Government.
The way in which the Government has run the business of this House over the years that I have been here is nothing to its credit. Anyone who sits down and examines the history of this place will find that the conduct of business here is getting worse year by year. It is much more difficult year after year for backbench members of the Opposition to raise matters that are of interest to their electorates and of interest and importance to the nation for debate in this Parliament. We continually find the Government refusing to give information to the Opposition and refusing to give information to the Parliament as a whole concerning the activities of the Government.
So far as the Government is concerned, this place is only a rubber stamp for it. We saw a blatant example of this attitude in the House last night when the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) was stopped from moving amendments. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who is sitting on the Government front bench at the moment, gave the lie earlier today to what had been said about events that took place last night. He knew that amendments were to be moved. The Leader of the House knew too that amendments were to be moved by members of the Opposition. Because of the restrictive manner in which the business of the Parliament is conducted, it was impossible for the honourable member for Dawson to move all the amendments himself. He had arranged with other interested members of the Opposition to move those amendments on behalf of the Opposition. So, from our point of view, we had business to transact.
Personally, I give full credit to the honourable member for Wills for the action which he took. As one of those members who stood in his place here this morning in protest against the actions that were taking place here - actions by Mr Speaker and by the Government - I say that I would do it again with other honourable members on this side because we are determined that democracy will be returned to this place so that honourable members will have the opportunity to bring business before the Parliament. After a record recess of 6 months - with the exception of a 1-day sitting in which we saw the gag moved on 7 occasions we have seen already in this sessional period, so far of 12 days - it is important to emphasise this - the gag moved on 24 occasions. Why? It is because the Government is afraid to allow honourable members to debate the business of the Parliament.
What is wrong with the Opposition bringing forward for discussion every Tuesday and Wednesday matters of public importance? Is the Government afraid to debate the matters that we bring forward? Does not the question raised by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) only this week dealing with war service homes concern hundreds of men in the community who have a desire to provide homes for their families? Is this not something of importance? Why was the debate on this subject gagged? For one obvious reason: The subject was an embarrassment to Government supporters who sit behind the Minister and they wanted to clamp down on it for the same reason that they wanted to clamp down on the debate taking place last night. Yesterday they wanted to push through a Bill because it was a Wednesday, when the proceedings of the House are not broadcast, so that it could be thrown into the Senate today, when the proceedings of the Senate are not broadcast and the people of South Australia could not listen to the debate and learn why they should defeat the present Steele Hall Government in South Australia.
It must be obvious to everyone in the community who is aware of the number of days on which this Parliament meets that free speech in this place is being suppressed. For example, we read that in 1969 the House of Commons in Great Britain met on 164 days; the House of Commons in Canada met on 161 days; the House of Representatives in the United States of America met on 186 days. But on how many occasions did the House of Representatives in Australia meet? It met on 51 days.
– But how many hours?
– The honourable member can work it out for himself. I have stated the facts and figures to explain the reason why members of the Opposition are demanding the right to stand in their places and to bring forward business. I ask honourable members: How is it possible for an honourable member to bring business before this place when the Government occupies practically all the sitting time with Government business? So far as opportunities to discuss matters of public importance are concerned, at one time we were allowed 3 speakers, sometimes 4 speakers and sometimes 5 speakers from each side of the House, but today the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that each side would be represented by 1 speaker only unless the Opposition reduced the number of matters that it brought forward for discussion. I refer next to general business. How often can general business be brought forward in this place? How often can honourable members speak in a grievance debate? They can do so once every fortnight. Of course, honourable members can rise in this place every night after the business of the House has concluded and raise matters in the debate on the adjournment, but they really cannot do so on Tuesday nights because all honourable members are tired on that night after travelling from their homes to meet here. An honourable member can raise matters on Wednesday and Thursday nights only, provided that he does not talk too often. If he talks too often the gag is applied, as we have seen recently. Opposition members give full credit to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) for the action that he took.
Let us consider the debate on the motion and the amendment before us today. These facts are important. First of all, how many members of cockies’ corner have spoken during the debate today? There was one, and he was the Leader of the Australian Country Party. All others have remained silent in their places and none has risen to support the Leader of the House. It is obvious where they stand in this matter. The tactical move by the Prime Minister in moving an amendment was to prevent a vote on a motion where Government supporters would have been expected and required to vote for the Leader of the House. I wonder about the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) who is sitting at the back of the chamber at the moment, smiling like a cat which has just killed a cage of prize canaries. He is having the time of his life seeing the roasting that the Leader of the House has been taking and the trouble he has been having in the last couple of days. Look at him. He cannot stop laughing even at this moment. Dudley, you really have been having a ball in here the last couple of days. You and a couple of other members of the Government parties are laughing at the predicament of the Leader of the House.
The honourable member must refer to other members by their proper titles.
– I was just being quite friendly to him, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I know that he feels the same as we do about the discomfort of the Leader of the House. There has been no attempt on the part of the Government to justify the stand taken by the Leader of the House. No honourable member who has spoken has made any attempt to justify his actions. They have not attempted to justify the way he has suppressed free debate in this chamber and the way he has continually moved the gag. Already this year in 4 sitting weeks he has moved the gag 24 times. He moved it 7 times in 1 day when the Parliament met for that farcical day on 25th November last year.
The real position is that, the Government, in order to overcome the problem and the embarrassment of Government supporters having to speak in support of the Leader of the House, introduced this amendment attacking the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition last night had the full support of every member of the Labor Party in this place. Attempts have been made to attack his credibility. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) spoke about the Leader of the Opposition throwing a glass of water. At least the Leader of the Opposition demonstrated that he was not a navigator in the Royal Australian Air Force for nothing because he was on target with his bombing attack.
The Opposition is quite happy if the Government wishes to stand its members up one by one and compare them with members of the Opposition. Let us consider the record of the Prime Minister. Government supporters should look at what Mr St. John, the former member for Warringah, had to say about him. Never mind what the Labor Party has said; just read what Mr St. John said about the Prime Minister.
– Where is he now?
– The Liberal Party kicked him out. That is how democratic it is. If honourable members on the Government side wish to know anything about their Prime Minister they should go and see Ted St. John and he will tell them about him. Perhaps they would like to know about the time that he tried to king hit Senator Willesee - the Prime Minister admits this - while be was sitting in the Senate one day. If the Government supporters want to drag out all the skeletons in the cupboard then they should go ahead. The Opposition is quite happy about it. Let us look at a few of the facts in the short time available to me.
One would believe, Mr Speaker, that the Liberal and Country Parties are made up of honourable upright gentlemen who have never been removed from this place. I have a nice little list here, going back to the period between 1944 and 1949, of people who were removed. It is worth looking at. The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) can smile because he knows what the list contains. I will go through this list of names - there are some important names on it - of people who were tossed out of the House during that period. They include Sir Thomas White, former member for Balaclava, Sir Frederick Stewart, former member for Parramatta, and Mr Larry Anthony. I do not like referring to Mr Larry Anthony but he was the father of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). He was bounced out 4 times between 1945 and 1948. He was one of the most truculent customers in the House. If honourable members would like to know the reasons, he was tossed out because of disobedience to the Chair.
– Did he have to be helped out?
– No, he did not have to be helped out. When the Labor Party occupied the Government benches the Parliament met and members of the Opposition were given the opportunity to debate the business of the House and the opportunity to bring matters forward. That is what we are protesting about today and tonight. Sir Eric Harrison was put out twice - once in 1946 and once in 1947. What associates did Sir Eric Harrison have beside some of his outside contacts who made up the new Guard, the Fascist organisation of the 1930s? He later became the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom - a most upright gentleman. He was only tossed out twice. Sir Percy Spender was tossed out in 1947 and 1948. What happened to the honourable Sir Percy? He later became Australia’s Ambassador to the United States of America. Recently he was the President of the International Court of Justice, which is also known as the World Court. Sir Howard Beale was tossed out in 1948. What happened to him after that. He became the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America. Then there was a bloke by the name of Major-General Rankin, who was tossed out in 1947. Let us look at a few of the other notables who were tossed out. Earlier tonight the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) referred to the fact - I shall not repeat what he had to say - that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen), who was then the honourable member for Indi, was hoisted out in 1947. What for? It was because he called one of your predecessors a gangster, Mr Speaker. It was shocking conduct.
– The honourable member should not try it.
– No, Sir. The late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, was removed from the House in 1946 when he was honourable member for Fawkner. Last but not least, the right honourable Sir Robert Gordon Menzies was tossed out in 1949. All 1 can say is that the honourable member for Wills is in very good company. I am certain that in the not too distant future we can look forward to his being referred to as Sir Gordon. Apparently one of the pre-requisites of a knighthood is to be tossed out of the House. I do not know whether you fit into that category, Mr Speaker. A vicious attack has been directed against the credibility of the Leader of the Opposition by the supporters of the Government, but I draw the attention of the House to the fact that although Sir Robert Menzies and the late Mr Harold Holt were removed from the House the Leader of the Opposition has never been suspended. He was removed from the House on one occasion but was brought back. It is important to bear this point in mind because it shows once again the number of mistakes which this Government has made. Some time ago the Leader of the House had to apologise when the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns), who was then the honourable member for Yarra, was removed from this place.
There are any number of arguments to support the action which was taken last night by members of the Opposition. We regret that we had to take the action which was taken, but we had to bring to the attention not only of the Government but also of the people of the country the way in which democracy is being suppressed in this Parliament. We hope that in the not too distant future the Parliament will sit on more days than it does at present so that honourable members will have an opportunity to speak on Bills in which they are interested. We saw the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) being gagged in the debate on the Dartmouth proposal by the Leader of the House. Who would be more interested and concerned with the waters of the Murray, the Mumimbidgee and the Darling than the honourable member for Riverina? But the Leader of the House came into the chamber and viciously moved the gag to prevent the honourable member from speaking any further. The House should sit on more than 51 days in a year. If the House were to sit on the number of days on which the House of Commons in Britain, the House of Commons in Canada and the House of Representatives in the United States sit there would be no need for the Leader of the House continually to come into the chamber and gag debate in order to push legislation through. I hope that in the not too distant future the House will be sitting on more days than it does at present.
– A great deal of fire and brimstone has preceded me in this debate today but, unlike some of my predecessors in the debate, my main object in speaking is not to occupy 20 minutes of the broadcasting time - mainly because the proceedings are not being broadcast at this hour. I would like to draw attention to some of the whitewashing and smoke-screening which has occurred on the other side of the chamber. I think it would do justice to the defence policy of the Australian Labor Party. My colleague from the southern Tasmanian electorate of Franklin (Mr Sherry) expressed, with a proper sense of urgency, his desire to make a splash in this chamber. He has the same problem as do many new members here and if in fact the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) would give him a little time in debates perhaps he would do better than some so far on this side of the chamber. The point of this amendment has hardly been touched on for some 2 hours past. When we get down to tin tacks what we should be talking about is in fact who was responsible for a procedural impasse which I am led to believe is without precedent in this House.
The honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Allan Fraser) earlier in the day was very worried by the fact that we could not at one and the same time pass both the amendment and the motion. That should not be of great concern to him because among other things which he said was - and I would like to quote him as directly as possible: The Australian Labor Party last night had to be disorderly to preserve order.’ That is a very difficult proposition for me to comprehend but perhaps there are people here who have been here longer than I who can understand it.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Yes. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) long ago in this debate suggested that there was no logic in having an amendment which sought alternative guilty parties. I would like to suggest that there is no exclusive prerogative of the Australian Labor Party in naming guilty parties. It is perfectly clear, among other things, that the strong line taken by the Leader of this House (Mr Snedden) in his capacity as a Minister with the fairly militant area of trade unions met with some disapproval from the opposite side of the House. The fact that he might be doing so in response to a selfnominated tough guy in the person of Mr Hawke is left aside for the purposes of this debate. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) in an extremely humorous speech read at length from Hansard and said: ‘I do so in detail, Mr Speaker, to put it on the record’. He read from the record to put it on the record, so we now have it twice. While all this was going on we have been missing the point of who is responsible for what. I would like to suggest merely this: If in fact the Opposition in this chamber is unable to control itself, or even worse, if it plans not to control itself however provoked by the exercise of procedures in this House, honourable members opposite should take another look at themselves. Any amount of smoke-screening and whitewashing as far as this debate is concerned will not obscure from those of the reading public who read Hansard or from the listening public the fact that there was irresponsible behaviour in response to whatever provocation, some slight amount of which has perhaps been admitted on this side of the House. Sir, one argument which has been left out in the number of reasons given for the application of the gag is the argument which could best be designated verbal diarrhoea. We have had to listen to a number of irrelevant speeches in this debate. Perhaps it behoves the Opposition in this chamber very well to consider the proposition that it may in fact not be able to monopolise the complete broadcasting, non broadcasting and other time which is available to members of this House. The honourable member for Riverina mentioned that there are 126 members; in fact there are 125. He should remember that if the other 124 members had as much question time and as much general speaking time and as much time at large as the honourable member for Riverina wants we would sit here about 700 days in a year.
Finally,I would like to refute in the short time that I have available just one thing from my own personal standpoint. Perhaps I may be held to these words on some future occasion. On many occasions during this debate it was suggested that there are many backbenchers here - some new and some old - who are languishing, who in fact are doing more than languishing and are absolutely burnt up with frustration and what have you. I would like to suggest from one point of view alone that I cannot in fact concur with those remarks. I am prepared, like my colleague from the south, to wait a little time to see what in fact we might make of this chamber.I do not think we have to make this too sugary and I have yet to find that the right of free speech has been denied.
Motion (by Mr Giles) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Friday, 10th April 1970
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Gorton’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
-The question now is:
That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is:
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Address-in-Reply: Acknowledgment by Her Majesty The Queen
-Order! I desire to inform the House that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following communication in connection with the Address-in-Reply:
I have to inform you that the substance of the Address-in-Reply which you presented to me on 19th March 1970 has been communicated to Her Majesty The Queen.
It is Her Majesty’s wish that I express to you and Honourable Members her warm thanks for the loyal message to which your Address gives expression.
Message received from the Senate concurring in the resolution of the House relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, and agreeing that the resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I propose to speak for only a few minutes on the subject of law and order particularly because in this House of recent times we have heard this ideal espoused in a way which makes it seem that the only kind of law and order that deserves respect is the one that is laid down in a book. I want to put the proposition which has not been put recently in this House, that there is a higher law. There is a duty among just men to disobey an unjust law. There is a time when this must be recognised and when it must be acted upon. Many examples have come to our attention in recent times to prove that the people of this country and of the world are waking up to this fact. Authority has been called in question not only irresponsibly, which I admit, to an increasing degree, but it has been called in question with the very highest kind of responsibility.
Because references have been made in debate after debate in this chamber to something called the Vietnam Moratorium in particular, I want to touch on one aspect of disobedience which relates to it, namely, the question of disobedience to the National Service Act. In this country men of high courage are serving gaol sentences because they have disobeyed this law in the belief that it is unjust.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. My point of order is that the clocks are out of order.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– Objections have been made to this Moratorium on the ground that there are leftwingers who support us, that there are Communists who support us and that it will assist Communists. We equally could object to some laws which have been discussed in this chamber today and which assist Fascists, which are supported by Fascists and which are supported by the racist regime of Rhodesia.
Mr Speaker and honourable members, it is no argument to condemn the action of any person because he disobeys a law. That law must also be shown to be just. There is no ground for condemning a member of the Parliament or any person for any action he takes which resembles that of an unjust person, a Communist, a Fascist, a dictator or a totalitarian unless that action is unjust. I object to the doctrine of guilt by association which has been implied repeatedly in this chamber today. I object to the doctrine that law and order must be obeyed according to the book and according to the letter, and that this is the only test of democracy, because all too often it is the very means by which democracy is destroyed and democracy is prevented from emerging. The whole history of democracy is one of disobedience to law - of disobedience to unjust law. When members of this Opposition, united, protest at such unjust laws, they do if in that very spirit.
– I will not take up the time of the House for wry long, I was driven to this House at 9 o’clock yesterday morning by a car driver who finished at 4 a.m. and had to report back at 7.30 a.m., and as far as I know he is still on duty. This situation has to cease. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) to talk to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) about arranging the business of the House so that if there is legislation we have to consider we will sit for as long as is necessary every week to consider it. We could sit for 4, 5 or 6 days a week. The point I want to make is that working class bosses are the worst bosses of all, and that members of this Parliament who by some fortuitous circumstance find themselves here have no right to demand that the employees of the departments shall serve us to the detriment of their health and to the danger of their lives and our lives.
I believe that every man or woman who serves this Parliament is entitled to a 9- hour break between periods of employment. I believe that that is only human. I say that not only in respect of the car drivers but also in respect of the officers of the House, the Hansard reporters and the people who work in the refreshment rooms. Everybody is entitled to at least a certain time for rest. We must not endanger the lives of people or the happiness of their families. I know that the Minister for the Interior is a kindly man. 1 know there is a difficulty in getting people to work for the Department. We are not paying them enough. We are not doing enough. I do not blame him, but the fact is that the people who work in the car pool are not as well paid as people who work outside it. The people who work in the refreshment rooms could get better employment or at least better payment for their services than they get here.
This whole question ought to be looked into. Let us sit 4 days a week for the rest of the session if the Government has so much business for the consideration of honourable members. I do not care about those who want to run away, particularly to Sydney and Melbourne. They put up the plausible excuse that they have commitments in their electorates. The people who come from Western Australia often have to stay here over the weekend. People from South Australia on occasions have to stay here over the weekend. Not everybody is able to go on an hour’s flight such as the flight from Canberra to Sydney or from Canberra to Melbourne. After all Sydney and Melbourne are not Australia. They are not the only important places that count in Australia. The whole community needs services and the whole community is entitled to consideration. I would not mind sitting on Sunday if necessary.
– Break it down.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh has not been to church for many years. He is a pretending Christian but in his heart he is a rationalist. I say to the Minister for the Interior: Let us give some consideration to the needs of the people who work for us and not demand that they shall always be at our service when we want to get out of Canberra at the earliest possible moment and come in at the latest possible time.
– Tonight we have seen how supporters of the Government are willing to make injurious accusations against members on this side of the House without taking the slightest care to ascertain whether they are true or not. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) said tonight that I had been shouting and banging the table when the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) refused to leave the House. The truth is that I was not in the House at the time and I was not here for some 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour after that incident happened. When I got back to the House the Speaker was out of the Chair. Everything was silent and nothing- was happening. The honourable member for La Trobe does not bother to take any care to ascertain the troth. He just churns out his accusations almost by habit. This is becoming a characteristic feature of the Government and its supporters. It is a very common characteristic of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and of course of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden).
Earlier today the Prime Minister chose quite deliberately to say that when the Minister for Labour and National Service a few years ago alleged that I had spoken at a meeting on the same platform as a member of the Communist Party he had been wrong only in that a member of the Communist Party had spoken on the platform some time before I did. I immediately followed the Prime Minister and said that no member of the Communist Party had spoken from the platform at any time during that meeting. The accusation that the Minister for Labour and National Service had made led me to call him a liar, and I was suspended from the House for so doing. The following day the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, told me that the Minister was ready to withdraw and that I would be re-admitted to the House before the end of my suspension. Immediately after the 2 o’clock call, with hardly a member on the Government side of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service came in with Sir Robert Menzies on one side and Sir Garfield Barwick on the other side. They walked him up to the table. He made his withdrawal. I was admitted to the House at about 10 past 2 that day, with more than half the day’s suspension still to go. That is what happened. Why, if there was not something seriously wrong with the Minister’s accusation was this action taken?
I explained that today in my personal explanation, in the presence of the Prime Minister, who then chose to rise again and say, as best I can recall - I have not had access to the greens - something about my having a record of making mistakes. At the same time he inferred that I would do so deliberately. He said that he would now check to see whether or not I had done so in this case - in the case of the accusation that I have just described and which was dealt with by Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister in the way which I have described. The Prime Minister said that he would check on that occasion to ascertain whether or not that was another time, that I might have made a mistake, the implication being that I was willing to make mistakes to mislead the House, and that I had done so in this case. I see the Prime Minister nodding assent to that interpretation, or was he nodding his head for some other reason?
– I will answer you when you have finished.
– The Prime Minister chose to make this statement. He said that he would check to see whether or not I had done so in this case - in the case of this accusation - to ascertain whether or not I had misled the House in some way in saying that I had not spoken from the same platform as a member of the Communist Party. He said that he would inform the House of what he found out. This means that the Prime Minister of Australia has accused me of being prepared to make mistakes which may, conveniently, give a wrong impression to the House. That is putting it lightly. At the same time he said: ‘Look, I do not know whether or not this is an example of it, but I will go out and check’. He is prepared to make the accusation first and then to promise to go out and check the facts later.
This is not the first time that he has done this. He did it last week but made no attempt to check the facts. He made a public attack - based on a newspaper report, I presume, which was inaccurate and which was wrong in every quoted particular. As a result of that report I twice telephoned the newspaper concerned. No correction was published in that newspaper, but correct statements were published in other newspapers under letters over my signature and in other ways. Presumably the right honourable gentleman was prepared to go on the national news network and make accusations about storm troopers and anarchy and so on without going to the trouble to check whether or not the report that he had seen in the newspaper, or which some member of his staff had brought to his notice, was accurate, lt was not accurate. He made the accusation that I mention now about 3.30 this afternoon. That is about 9 hours ago. He said that he would check, after he made the accusation, to see whether or not there was anything in it. 1 want to know now whether or not he has checked the facts as to whether J spoke on this occasion from the same platform as a member of the Communist Party or whether I did not. J would like to know whether or not he has gone to the trouble, in the hours he has had since he made the accusation, to try to find out whether or not 1 spoke from the same platform as a member of the Communist Party on this occasion. Some time ago I sent a message to his office to inform him that I intended to speak now. I suppose that is why he is here. I ask him now: Has he made any inquiries and, if he has, what has he found out? If he has not yet made any inquiries 1 should like him to tell us why he has not done so.
– I think if the honourable member has access to the greens to which he says he has so far not had access he will discover that I did not say he spoke from the same platform as a member of the Communist Party on this occasion. I think he will find that quite clearly set out, because that was the statement that I understood was previously made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) and the statement to which the honourable member took objection. So let us dispose at once of the suggestion just recently made by the honourable member that I repeated that. I did not. Indeed, I pointed out that there was a difference here because, as 1 .understood it, the honourable member spoke from a platform at this meeting and a member of the Communist Party at a different time-
– Well, that is quite untrue.
– I am sorry; 1 said I am endeavouring to tell you what I believed to be the situation this afternoon and that was that the only difference was this, as I believed, that at this meeting the honourable member for Yarra, as he then was, spoke from the platform and a member of the Communist Party at a different time, not on the same platform, spoke from it.
– Well that did not happen.
– Never mind; that was what I am trying to show you was in the greens to which you said you had no access and which you misunderstood when you made your first statement. There is some difference, in fact, because I have looked at some of the facts iu the time that has elapsed and it appears that the true situation is that there was this meeting which - again I must check this completely, but perhaps the honourable- member will remember - was something called the Yugoslav Settlers Association or something of that kind which I believe could accurately be described as a considerably left of centre organisation. The honourable member for Lalor spoke from the platform at that meeting at that time. A leading member of the Communist Party spoke at that meeting at that time but not from the platform - from the floor. This then, Mr Speaker, is the matter on which the honourable member for Lalor chooses to make such a song and dance. Surely the significant factor is this, that at that meeting the honourable member spoke from the platform and at that meeting a leading member of the Communist Party spoke from the floor.
I have not yet had time to properly check whether the general tenor of the speeches, whether the general suggestions advanced in the speeches, the general arguments - were the same in both cases. They were similar in both cases. Perhaps the honourable member for Lalor will even remember that, but he will not enlighten us on that at this time apparently. But I do remember this afternoon, Mr Speaker, that the honourable member for Lalor did say: ‘Oh, there was a member of the Communist Party at that meeting’. He did not mention that he had spoken. He said: ‘No doubt perhaps the Prime Minister might have a meeting and there could be a member of the Communist Party sitting in the body of the hall’. Of course there could, but he would not get up - I am quite sure of this - this leading member of the Communist Party, at any meeting 1 had, and speak from the floor and, as I believe, advance the same kind of ideas.
What is at issue here? What is at issue here is simply this: That there is an attempt to pretend that there is an enormous and significant difference between a member of the Communist Party speaking from a platform at a different time from the honourable member for Lalor and a member of the Communist Party speaking from the floor while the honourable member for Lalor spoke from the platform at the same meeting at the same time. That, Mr Speaker, is what I would say in reply to the honourable member’s question as to how much I have been able to discover to this point of time.
– I was in the House this afternoon when the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made his statement regarding the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). He said - and 1 heard it clearly - that the only particular on which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) had erred was when he said that the Communist was not on the platform, but that in fact he had spoken from the platform at a different time. I think we agree on that.
– That is right.
– Very well. I believe from time to time the Prime Minister has been smeared unfairly and, believe it or not, on occasions I have even defended him. But it does him little credit when he uses terms loosely and makes accusations against other colleagues. If a person outside the House defames an individual and wants to lessen the defamation, he will make sure that at the earliest possible time a rectification of that defamatory accusation is made. The Prime Minister is a busy man, but he has a large staff available to help him. If the Prime Minister throws in a loose accusation and he finds that he has made a mistake, it is about time that he was man enough to get up and say: ‘I am wrong’. I will have more respect for the Prime Minister when, if he makes a mistake, he rectifies it. From time to time I know that I have made mistakes, and I have tried to rectify them. When I say that I have made mistakes I mean that I have used the forms of this House to make accusations against persons. I have made those accusations under privilege. I have learned from certain experiences through which I have gone, and I might say that it was a very difficult period. In consequence, I have done my best to ensure that when I have erred in making an accusation I have tried to rectify it.
I know that the Prime Minister has to bear great responsibilities, but it is time that he set the standard of decorum in this place. If he makes an accusation and he is challenged on that accusation, he should have it checked quickly and properly, and if it is wrong, it is time that he came into this House, apologised and corrected the mistake. I think that this Parliament and the country will have more respect for the Prime Minister when he does that.
Mr GORTON (Higgins- Prime Minister) - I wish to make a personal explanation because I believe I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) unwittingly. Mr Speaker, I believe I made it quite clear - I hope I made it quite clear - that the statement that the Communist spoke from the same platform at the same time as the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) was wrong; that, in fact, he spoke from the floor at the same meeting. I have corrected that and made that clear.
– And apologise.
– I see no significant difference - I am sorry, I do not. But I do see that it is necessary to correct the fact that he did not speak from the platform - he spoke from the floor - and I have done that.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Lalor)- What the Prime Minister has just said and what he said before is a misrepresentation and I want to make a personal explanation about it.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. What the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said this afternoon was that the only error the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) made was to say that the Communist had spoken from the platform at the same time as I did. The Prime Minister said that if the Minister for Labour and National Service had said the Communist had spoken from the platform before I did it would have been accurate. That is the statement I am complaining about.
– At a different time.
– That is what you said this morning.
– I think you said ‘before’.
– Yes.I am arguing about whether he spoke from the platform or not. If you suggest, as you suggested this morning, that he spoke from the platform at a different time, that is also wrong.
– You said he spoke from the floor.
– You said this morning that he spoke from the platform at a different time.
-I corrected that and said he spoke from the floor.
-Order! I think the private debate across the table should cease.
– I want to make this point clear. The statement that the Prime Minister made this morning was that the Communist spoke from the platform at a different lime. That is the statement 1 want him to check. Whether he has checked it or not 1 do not know but he has come into the House now and has said that the Communist spoke from the floor not from the platform at a different time. This is a contradiction of what he said this morning, but as the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) pointed out. there is no explanation or apology. The Prime Minister said it amounts to substantially the same thing, but it is not the same thing.
; I have great sympathy for the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) because never have 1 heard a man misrepresented more In any sphere. There is never a newspaper that quotes him correctly; there is never anything that is accurate about him. This is a reason for considerable sympathy. I must admit that I do not care whether the Communist was swinging from the chandeliers, was on the platform or on the floor. The point is: What did the Communist say, what did the honourable member for Lalor say and what was the common policy they were propounding? That is what we and the people would be more interested to know. The honourable member for Lalor is an expert in taking points of order. Whereas other people who unfortunately have not got his ability appear to be restricted to 2 or 3 words, he is able to speak for 5 minutes on an adjournment debate. He seems to be able to do this and always have the end word. He started off referring to me and the Prime Minister. He made reference to something which I had withdrawn earlier. He then enlarged on it and again said that during this particular instance he had been out having tea with one of bis close and intimate friends and only came into the House at some later time for a period of 7 minutes. If he likes to check the newspapers he will find that they described who sat in the seat opposite the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and his name is amongst them. Obviously he was misreported again.
I am concerned about the honourable member for Lalor. I cannot suggest, nor would I suggest, that he is going round the bend, but I would suggest that he has been through a fairly traumatic experience just recently and we all sympathise greatly with him. I would like to feel that he was getting the justice to which he is entitled. I understand that a man was charged with a felonious offence which was committed against him. I saw only one small 3 line paragraph in the paper that this gentleman did not appear when he was called before the court. 1 have not heard anything more since then and I would like confirmation of what has happened. I would like to feel that the police and the justice of this country were taking all steps possible to find this man and bring him to justice so that the harm he has done to the honourable member for Lalor may be rectified.
As the honourable member for Lalor knows, there are some unfortunate remarks and suggestions going around which concern me and which, I think, concern him.
This man should be brought to justice. 1 am anxiously waiting for information about the reason why the party was held and who was at the party at the time. 1 believe that this is something that the man in question can give information about and the police can confirm. I forgive the honourable member for Lalor for all his indiscretions and for his actions over the last day or so because obviously 1 do not think he is well.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS (Lalor) - Mr Speaker-
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, 1 claim that everything that the honourable member for La Trobe has said has been a malicious and dirty misrepresentation. On the morning of 1st September I was seriously assaulted in my home by a man who was arrested by the police. He was charged wilh attempted murder, with inflicting grievous bodily harm and with wounding with intent to murder. After a lengthy hearing before the Melbourne Court of Petty Sessions he was committed for trial. The trial was listed for 5th February but the accused did not turn up. This is noi unusual when an accused is lacing a very serious charge about which a great deal of evidence is available. He was later arrested and ihe case has been listed to come on within a few weeks. This matter is in the hands of the Victorian Police Department and the Crown Law Department. Yet this gentleman tonight chooses to stand up in the House and make the suggestion that 1 have been in some way at fault in this matter. He suggests there is some sinister fault. He makes .some filthy, unsupported, malicious accusation, lt is the dirtiest piece of misrepresentation I have ever heard in this House. Had it come from anyone else ] would have asked for a withdrawal but I have so little regard for what the honourable member for La Trobe says that I would not ask in any circumstance for him to withdraw.
- Mr Speaker–
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I accept in entirety what the honourable member has said. What I did say was that I have not heard anything about the event. 1 am looking forward to hearing about it.
today becauses you are trading with China. In addition to that, as honourable members would be aware, the Labour Party has always advocated trading with any country irrespective of its politics because although one trades with a country one does not necessarily accept its ideology. But the fact is that this Government would have been bankrupt in overseas credit if it had not been for trade with Red China. The fact is that this Government - the anticommunist government - has been selling wheat to Red China on a time payment basis on terms better than those available to our sister nation in the Commonwealth of Nations, India. Yet. this is supposed to be an anti-Communist Government.
Let us look at a few other matters. The Prime Minister spoke of the Communist being on the floor, not on the platform, and speaking from the floor, lt is the same thing. The Prime Minister had a colleague in the Senate, Senator McCallum. I have mentioned this matter before to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth!. One of the Prime Minister’s good friends in the Senate was Senator McCallum. He knew that Senator McCallum’s daughte was a Communist Party candidate. But that did not make any difference to his friendship with Senator McCallum. Just imagine what would have been said in this House if it had been the daughter of a Labor senator who was a Communist Party candidate. 1 will leave that to the imagination of all fair thinking people.
On the subject of guilt by association, I point out that when the late Harold Holt was Minister for Labour and National Service he had to meet on many occasions with the Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation at that time, Mr Jim Healy. As honourable members know, the late Mr Healy was a leading Australian Communist. Mr Harold Holt used to take him to dinner and to supper. If I had taken Mr Healy to supper, I would have been described as a Communist. When Sir Hubert Opperman was Minister for Shipping and Transport he used to take Mr Elliot Elliott for a meal. Is Sir Hubert Opperman a Communist because he associated with that man over a cup of tea or lunch? Of course he is not. Yet, this Government says that it is democratic.
I remember when, during the 1966 elections, the Liberal Party, authorised by its Federal Secretary, Mr Carrick, issued a scurrilous leaflet to the effect that the people of Australia should be afraid of China. That leaflet showed red arrows pointing down from China to Australia to illustrate the aggression that we were to expect. At the same time Australia was trading with China. I asked the then Minister for External Affairs, Mr Hasluck as he then was, whether China was an enemy of Australia. If it was, I said that he must introduce legislation relating to trading with the enemy. The Prime Minister knows that that must be done. The fact is that the then Minister for External Affairs said that China was not an enemy of Australia. But the propaganda of the Liberal Party said that it was. The Liberal Party did this to get votes. This is the way the Liberal Party works its dirty, scurrilous propaganda at election time. It puts a fear complex into the people. If it was not for the Communist bogey, the Liberal Party would not get a vote. That is the position. It has built up this fear complex in the people. That is what the Australian Labor Party has been putting up with all these years.
Not one member of the Australian Country Party has ever complained about trade with Communist China. I will say one thing for the Deputy Prime Minister, the
Minister for Tarde and Industry (Mr McEwen). Not once since I have been a member of this House has he ever used the Communist bogey. He has stated publicly from the election platform that he does not believe that there are any Communists in the Australian Labor Party. At least he is fair. He does not use the Communist bogey.
The Prime Minister has used it. The Prime Minister said tonight that a Communist speaking from the floor of a meeting was the same as a Communist speaking from a platform at a meeting. What a ridiculous assumption to make. Of course that is not true. Why, I was a trade union official myself before coming to this place and I know that association with Communists in this field is inescapable. In the trade union movement, a man cannot dissociate himself from Communist officials when it comes to speaking on various occasions.
I mention Mr Shortell, an extreme right winger, who was appointed by this Government as a member of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. I have seen Mr Shortell several times on the same platform as Communists. This was because he was President of the Trades and Labour Council. But does that make Mr Shortell a Communist? Of course it does not. The policy of this Government is to use these snide methods to try to create a fear complex in the minds of the people of Australia. What shoddy methods it uses. I know that the Minister for Social Services intends to follow me in this debate. If he does, let him explain this situation. I remind him that I spoke about this matter a few weeks ago. When I referred to the Illawarra Cup he said, and it is recorded in Hansard, that he did not know what the Communist Party was up to. Does anybody believe that for one minute? That is the only answer he had to offer to what I had said, and it is recorded in Hansard.
– One or two things of importance have emerged in this debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, particularly from the remarks of the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) and the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). I think the honourable member for Sydney has a point when he says that an association between a member of !he Labor Party and the Communist Party is not necessarily a guilty association. That is true, but what one looks for is the nature of the association, it is not just the juxtaposition which makes the guilt. lt is the nature of the association. The important factor is the co-operation between the Labor Party and the Communist Party for Communist ends.
The honourable member for Lalor was apparently very affronted because in 1964 somebody suggested that he had had an association wilh members of the Communist Party closer than in fact it was, and that there had been some community on a platform which involved a guilty association. He said at the time that it was an untrue kind of accusation to make. I invite honourable members to look at what has happened subsequently. 1 understand from published material that the honourable member for Lalor is the Chairman of a Vietnam Moratorium Committee in Melbourne. Included in that Committee is a man called Laurie Carmichael who is, 1 am credibly informed, a member of the Communist Party. This association is not just an innocent juxtaposition. It is an association for a guilty purpose.
– Guilty of what?
– Of co-operation between the Communists and the Labor Party in a matter initiated by the Communist Party and of great importance to it. The Communist Party has succeeded in bringing the Labor Party over to its way of thinking and is now actively engaged in organisation in parallel with the Labor Party. As 1 understand it, there is considerable intermingling of ALP left wing and Communist Party personnel in this particular organisation. This would seem to indicate that there has been a considerable change in public standards. I say that, because in 1964 it was apparently a matter of great sensitivity on the part of members of the Labor Party that they should have any alleged guilty association with Communists, but today their guilty association with Communists is right out in the open.
In organisations such as the Vietnam Moratorium Committee they are cooperating with Communists in a matter which is Communist policy, initiated by
Communists, and which used not to be Labor Party policy but which the Labor Party has taken over from the Communists. This shows the way in which the Labor Party is dragged at the heels of the Communist Party and goes left - leftward the course of Labor takes its way. lt happens gradually and insidiously. Perhaps the electorate does not yet realise the way in which the Labor Party has sold out its soul and policy to the Communist Party.
– M.r Speaker, I have learnt a great deal this week. 1 spent some time in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - 4 years in fact - as an Australian representative. I thought I had learned a great deal about Communist tactics. However, I am appalled, Mr Speaker, by the Communist tactic of smearing which the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has adopted. It is an evil innuendo to suggest that any man in public life can be held responsible for whoever happens to be in the audience at a public meeting which he is addressing. The Prime Minister has just done that. It would seem to me that any man appearing on the same platform as a Communist would be subject to the very same smearing tactic of the Prime Minister. Well, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister had better begin with his own ministers. I have here a report published by the Institute of Political Science which held a meeting in Canberra from the 27th to 29th January 1968. On the same platform at that particular function were Mr Laurie Aarons. Secretary of the Communist Party of Australia, and the Minister for Externa! Territories (Mr Barnes).
Opposition members - Oh!
– I knew he was a Com. I have always known it.
-Order! I would suggest to honourable members on the left hand side of the chamber that they might maintain a little bit more dignity and decorum at this stage and not howl like a pack of wolves.
– I thank you, Mr Speaker. I can well appreciate the views expressed in that particular way by my colleagues. We can see, Mr Speaker, that if the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) had been found to have spoken on the same platform, after the
Prime Minister had had his Australian Security Intelligence Organisation agents check the facts, he would have been damned forever. This, Mr Speaker, is the state of society to which Australia has come where, as I have said before, dissent is equated with treason. I came into this Parliament, Mr Speaker, with perhaps the idealistic notion that a parliamentarian had one of the higher vocations of life. I thought that we came here to represent our fellow men. I think there is no higher calling. I am appalled, Mr Speaker, by the tactics adopted by the man elected to be the Prime Minister of this country. I think it is a crying shame that he, as Prime Minister of Australia, has lowered himself to adopting the tactics of a group of people to whom he considers himself opposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.4 a.m. (Friday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Benefits to indigenous inhabitants of the Territory who served in special units with the Defence forces during the war, are provided under the Native Members of the Forces (Papua and New Guinea) Benefits Regulations made under the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act, which are administered by my colleague the Minister for External Territories.
Officers of my Department have been made available as required by the industry to assist in the deliberations.I am unable to say at this stage whether time will permit the introduction of an agreed scheme in 1970. However, I can assure the honourable member that all concerned are proceeding urgently, with the aim of submitting the proposal to the Government at the earliest moment consistent with a proper examination and evaluation of the likely effects of the introduction of a scheme along the lines of the present draft plan as outlined by the industry.
A resident company for taxation purposes is a company which is incorporated in the Territory, or which, not being incorporated in the Territory, carries on business in the Territory, and has either its central management and control in the Territory, or its voting power controlled by shareholders who are residents of the Territory. Any company which does not meet these criteria is classified as a nonresident company.
Investmentincome payable overseas by companies in the Territory in 1967-68 was$ 14.0m. Further details are contained in a publication issued by the Territory Statistician on 21st October 1969 a copy of which is available in the Parliamentary Library.
Expenditure by the Administration on General Administration and Law and Order is not included in the above figures. Expenditure incurred by the Christian Missions from sources other than government subsidy is also not included.
Chargeable income tax of $429,000 included in theincome tax revenue of $17.2m is paid predominantly by indigenes. The great bulk of income tax is paid by non-indigenes.
In how many instances in each category were successful tenders made by (a) indigenes and (b) expatriates in -
(a) The allowances paid depend on the scheme under which the student is being trained. Dentils of the assistance available to indigenous students under the various schemes arc as follows:
Full salary; $50 book allowance per year; all compulsory fees.
Salary for clerical range Class1 $700- 1180 where an age or previous service governs commencing salary; normal public service needs allowance for married officers;$60 book allowance per year; all compulsory fees.
All compulsory fees; one return fare to student’s home per year; $40 book allowance per year; cash allowance and board and lodging allowance ($2.50 per week and $6.50 per week respectively subject to means test).
What was the number of New Guineans to -
Apprentices indentured for 5 years receive -
Apprentices indentured for 3 years, after having previously completed 2 years training at a technical college receive -
In private industry minimum rates prescribed for New Guinean tradesmen are set out in (5) above. There is considerable variation in expatriate rates and no prescribed awards. Information on. expatriate ‘ tradesmen’s rates in private industry is not included in regular statistical collections but it is believed that they would be similar to those for expatriate tradesmen in the Public Service.
Will he outline the qualifications which were considered in appointing to the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education live senior executives of large private companies and three senior university academics, but no representatives of any education, medicine, engineering or science faculty, the Australian National University, any non-university college or any organisation representing students or teachers.
Members of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education are not appointed as representatives of any institutions, industries or groups. They are chosen by the Government for the contribution they might be expected to make to the work of the Committee in fostering the development of advanced education throughout Australia. Some of the present members have served on the Committee for some time, others are new appointments. The Head of a School within one of the Colleges is a member.
Under the Commonwealth University and Advanced Education Scholarship Schemes, fulltime scholarship holders may receive a living allowance subject to a means test bused on their parents’ incomes. The maximum rates of allowance ave payable where the adjusted family income does not exceed a specified figure termed the Marginal Adjusted Family Income. The adjusted family income is determined by taking the full income of the scholar’s parents in the financial year immediately preceding the year in which living allowance is desired and subtracting:
In assessing the living allowance of a scholar who is the only child in a family enrolled as a full-time student in a course approved under the Commonwealth University or Advanced Education Scholarship Schemes, the maximum living allowance is reduced at the rate of $2 for every $10 of the adjusted family income between the Marginal figure and twice that level and at the rale of $3 for every further $10. Additional concessions are made in the means test where there ure two or more children in a family enrolled in approved university or advanced education courses and one or more hold a Commonwealth scholarship under either Scheme. The minimum living allowance payable is $12 per annum.
Thus the maximum adjusted family income al which living allowance is paid may vary as a consequence of changes in the maximum rates of living allowance, the rate at which this allowance abates or the level of the Marginal Adjusted Family Income. The actual income at which living allowance is paid depends on such factors as whether the scholar is living at home or away from home, and the number of children in the family studying in university or advanced education courses.
The following table shows the years in which changes in scholarship benefits have resulted in changes in the levels of the adjusted family incomes at which maximum and minimum living allowances are paid. The information provided applies where the Commonwealth scholarshipholder is the only child in the family enrolled in a university or advanced education course. This would be the case in so far as the majority of scholars is concerned. If more children in a family were enrolled in these courses living allowance would be payable at higher incomes.
The Commonwealth Statistician publishes figures of average weekly earnings per employed male unit, which may be expressed as an annual equivalent. However these measure the average earnings of an individual employee and as such do not represent the total family income. For example they do not combine the earnings of husbands and wives; they do not include income from sources other than wages and salaries; and they do not take into account the income, from earnings or other sources, of self-employed people.
For these reasons I do not think that a valid comparison can be made between the levels of adjusted family income set out in answer to part (a) of this question and average annual male earnings.
Government Tcachers-in-Training (Question No. 91)
What steps have been taken to obtain sufficient data to make estimates of the number of teachers required in (a) Catholic and (b) other nonGovernment schools in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975.
The Australian Education Council, which comprises the State Ministers for Education, is sponsoring a survey of the educational needs in each State for the period 1970-1974. This survey which commenced last year is still in progress. Independent schools are participating in this survey by conducting their own investigations. Representatives of these schools are working in close contact with those responsible for the survey of government school needs.
An estimate of the number of teachers required by non-government schools during the ‘ 1970-1974 period is one aspect being examined in this survey. Although there has been no specific requirement for an estimate to be made of teachers required in 1975 the results of the survey should provide the basis for estimating educational needs for that year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 April 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700409_reps_27_hor66/>.