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Tuesday, 22 November 1960


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- The Opposition is willing to spend as much time in debating this bill as is necessary for the proper scrutiny of it. I certainly have never adopted the attitude - and I do not believe my leader, when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition, ever adopted the attitude- that the Opposition should help the Government to hurry into recess. We believe that the Government's job is to bring in legislation, and that it is the job of all parliamentarians, on both sides of the House, to scrutinize that legislation. We have not been given the opportunity to scrutinize this legislation.

The Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) said that 38 members, less than a third of the membership of the House, less than the number required to constitute a quorum, debated this bill in its secondreading stage. I remind the House that at the second-reading stage there was no opportunity to debate the 22 Government amendments or the 44 Opposition amendments that have now been circulated. We are expected to debate those 66 amendments - some of them, admittedly, in the same terms as others - in the course of two and a half debating days.

We had last Thursday to debate this matter in committee and during the course of the debate there were eighteen divisions. Nine of those divisions were on the application of the gag, and there should have been one other division on the application of the gag. In the course of the day We disposed of nine Opposition amendments out of 44, and two Government amendments out of 22.

I will give the House three examples of how the debate on this measure will be truncated. We have until twenty-past five to-day to deal with three Government and seven Opposition amendments. We then have until ten minutes to nine, 90 minutes at the most, to deal with 20 Government and 25 Opposition amendments. Tomorrow afternoon we will have from the conclusion of question time and the presentation of statements and other formal business until a quarter to five to dispose of ten Government and thirteen Opposition amendments.

Let me give honorable members an example of how cavalierly the Government has treated this debate. On Thursday there were five Opposition speakers and none at all from the Government side on a section of the legislation concerned with the death penalty. This is a provision which occurs in only one other place in Commonwealth legislation. The death penalty is a matter upon which all State parliaments and the British Parliament have spent days at a time. Yet this Government will not put up a single argument on the point.

The sharp practice which the Government is introducing on this occasion can be seen very clearly when one realizes that if there are no Opposition amendments voted on by the time set down for the expiry of debate on any of these items, then there will be no vote at all on those Opposition amendments. That is, the Government is ensuring that there will be a minimum of divisions. It will never have to apply the gag, and unless we ourselves ration our debating time it will never have to stand up and be counted on the very great number of matters of principle which are involved in the Opposition amendments. If this is liberal government, then the people have had a very good exposition of it.

In economic matters and in matters concerning civil liberties we have seen disgraceful .performances by the Government during the last week. We have seen sharp practice and unexpected devious dealings, and we are therefore voting against this proposal for the allocation of time. It will give completely inadequate time for debating a very great number of amendments. There have been no bills, at all events within the last decade, to which so many amendments have been moved. The amendments aTe concerned with matters of great importance and they should be properly debated, even if the Parliament has to sit for another week.







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