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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) (9:15 AM) . - Mr. Speaker-

Mr Curtin - I rise to a point of order. I submit that, in accordance with practice, the Treasurer, having replied to the debate on the first item of the Estimates, closed the general debate.

Mr Fadden - The Chairman has ruled against that.

Mr Curtin - "Well, the Chairman is entitled to a second thought, the same as any one else. For the first time in this or any other Parliament, it is proposed to continue a general debate after the Treasurer has replied. I submit that the question should now be put, the Treasurer having concluded the debate.

Sir Earle Page - My experience in this Parliament extends over 23 years, and I know that the practice is that the Treasurer is at liberty to intervene in the budget debate as often as he wishes.

Mr Frost - Not on the first item.

Sir Earle PAGE - Yes, on the first item, and it will be found by any one who looks up the records that Treasurers have frequently intervened- during budget debates for the purpose of elucidating various points, and that the debate has continued afterwards.

Mr Makin - I have been a member of this House for as long a period as the right honorable member for Cowper, and I have had the privilege of occupying a position - that of Speaker - which gives me some justification for offering an observation on this point. It has been the constant practice to regard a debate on the first item of the Estimates in the same way as a second-reading debate. The position of the Treasurer is that he moves a motion, speaks to it, and at the conclusion of the debate has the right to reply. The point of order taken by the Prime Minister has been logically argued by him, and is supported by the practice of this Parliament ever since I have been a member of it. It would be contrary to practice to allow the debate to continue after the Treasurer has replied.

The CHAIRMAN - The Chair was under the impression that as Ministers have the privilege at all times to rise, the principle would apply to the Treasurer during the debate on the first item of the Estimates. The Treasurer and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) rose simultaneously. The ruling of the Chair was not opposed to the Standing Orders, but it was evidently opposed to the practice of the House, and I believe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) have stated the position correctly. Had I realized that the Treasurer would close the debate, I should have called on the honorable member for Corangamite when he rose. I have been advised- that the debate had been closed, but I allowed the honorable member for Corangamite to speak because he had been shut out owing to a misunderstanding. I now rule that the debate has been closed.

Mr Ward - I think that there has been discrimination.

The general debate having concluded -

First item agreed to.

Progress reported.

Silting suspended from 9.22 a.m. to 2. SO p.m.

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