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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr WARD (East Sydney) - I support the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. I am not at all influenced by the arguments submitted by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). He said that the Standing Orders of this Parliament are so framed as to permit of statements being made by Ministers in a convenient form to the House as circumstances render them necessary, but I have yet to learn that they were designed for the purpose of allowing honorable members on one side only to be heard whilst other honorable members are stifled. I remind the Attorney-General that on very few occasions in this Parliament, has leave been refused to the Prime Minister or to the Leader of the Opposition to make a statement on any matter considered to be of urgent public importance. Everybody should recognize that the mere fact of leave having been refused to the Acting Leader of the Opposition to make a statement is serious enough in itself; but when we take into account that the object of the refusal is to prevent the Oppositionwhich in my opinion, at the moment, represents more than half the electors of the Commonwealth - from expressing the Opposition opinion at the right time with respect to a very serious alteration of the control of the parliamentary business of this country, it becomes very much more serious.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I regret very much that I have had continually to remind honorable members of the nature of the motion before the How,: The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is now making statements concerning the reason why leave was refused. That is quite out of order. I hope I shall not have to refer to the matter again.

Mr WARD - With due deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I am endeavouring to give reasons why the decision that has been made should be reversed.

Mr SPEAKER - That cannot now be done.

Mr WARD - The Opposition is well acquainted with the Standing Orders of the House. It does not say that the procedure adopted is not in accordance with the Standing Orders. We assert, however, that the Government is seeking to use the Standing Orders so as to stifle the voice of the people.

Mr SPEAKER - I shall not remind honorable members again of what I have already said ; and I shall ask the honorable member to resume his seat unless he discusses the motion before the Chair.

M.r. WARD. - I hope that a sufficient number of honorable members of this House will pay such respect to the form of parliamentary government of this country as will show that they do noi think that the Government, or what the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) referred to as " a coterie of the Government," should be permitted to take away the right of the Leader of the Opposition to express the view of the Opposition on such an important matter. The departure from policy announced a few moments ago by the Prime Minister was of a most important character. This is the first, occasion in this country on which a. government has been openly prepared to say, in no uncertain terms, that it believes the democratic form of government shall cease and be replaced by what is, in effect, a Fascist grand council.

Mr SPEAKER -The honorable member will resume his seat.

Mr.FORDE (Capricornia). - in reply - I ask honorable members, even at this late stage, to consider calmly and dispassionately the purpose of the motion, and to permit the Acting Leader of the Opposition to make the statement that he desires to make. The matter at issue, in effect, the establishment of an inner-group dictatorship in the Government to dominate public policy, is of such grave importance to the Commonwealth that we should be permitted to say what we think about it.

Mr Ward - It is a Fascist council.

Mr Baker - It is five dictators instead of one.

Mr FORDE - I realize the difficulty in which you find yourself, Mr. Speaker, and I have no wish to transgress your ruling in any way whatever. I appeal to the democratic instincts of the Prime Minister and also of other honorable members opposite to give impartial consideration to my motion. I assure them that I moved it with the greatest reluctance, and only because no other way is open to the Opposition to express its view at this moment on a change of such a revolutionary nature as the placing of the affairs of the Commonwealth in the hands of a dictatorship of five.

Mr Green - It is like Hitler walking into Austria.

Mr FORDE - We might expect to read about such an action as this in a newspaper as mere kite-flying on the part of an imaginative journalist, but we could hardly ever have thought that it was likely to be taken.

Mr Lyons - I rise to a point of order. Is the Acting Leader of the Opposition discussing the motion?

Mr SPEAKER - I was about to call the honorable gentleman to order. He is now discussing the allocation of portfolios.

Mr FORDE - As the Prime Minister has taken a point of order, I can say very little more on the subject at the moment; but a good deal more will be heard of it subsequently. I appeal to honorable members to vote for the suspension of the Standing Orders .so that, as Acting Leader of the Opposition, I may have the opportunity in a democratic Australian Parliament to express the views of the Opposition upon the revolutionary and dictatorial changes that have been made by establishing an inner Cabinet dictatorship.

Question put -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent him from making a statement to the House.

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