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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) (Prime Minister) . - I shall be glad to submit this matter to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration during the recess, together with quite a number of other aspects of procedure, which I consider require restatement, and, in some instances, clarification. I think that certain rules may be required in order that practice may be made clear, and I shall be glad to request the Standing Orders Committee to consider this matter. With reference to the episode which occurred this morning, all that I have to say is that the practice as I understand it is that the first item on the Estimates is regarded as admitting of a discussion, analogous to that which would mark consideration of the second reading of a bill. Such a discussion may cover, not only the range of everything that is in the budget statement and the Estimates, but also matters that are beyond them, which means that it may be much wider than a second-reading debate. Also, the practice is that the Treasurer, who has introduced the Estimates, may speak in reply, and his reply closes the debate.

Mr Spender - That seems to be right, because after all the discussion is upon a motion.

Mr CURTIN - That is so. That the detailed consideration of the Estimates is not involved is made clear by the fact that we are now dealing with the re- mainder of the first item. At this stage the Treasurer is free to speak any number of times, as is any other Minister when the Estimates for his department are under discussion. That is to say, he can answer every critic immediately if he feels so disposed, and you, Mr. Chairman, will give him the call. If that practice were adopted in respect of the consideration of the first item as such, we should have the extraordinary procedure, as each honorable member who had criticized the Government sat down, of the Treasurer rising to reply to him. That would be rather ridiculous, and therefore practice has given to us a form of procedure which, until a standing order explicitly deals with the matter, ought to be observed in the interests of efficient and satisfactory parliamentary deliberation.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Proposed vote- Prime Minister's Department, £838,500- agreed to.

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