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Thursday, 27 April 1961


Mr FORBES (Barker) .- I have risen because of the gross distortion of the facts of the situation by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in relation to the debate on decentralization this morning. To-night he made an assertion that I have heard before. He made it when he spoke this morning. He said that not one member of the Liberal Party in this House was prepared to advocate decentralization on the motion of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows, because he is the person on the Opposition side who was responsible for dealing with the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) in relation to arrangements for this debate, that that is a gross distortion of what actually happened. He knows the time limit that was placed on the debate. I believe, Sir, that he is perfectly well aware that both my friend the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) and I were on the original list of speakers, and that I was squeezed out quite early because the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) quite properly exercised his right to speak as seconder of the motion. The honorable member for Ballaarat was actually on the list to speak until such time as the Labour Party, for purely political purposes in an election year, and for the first time since I have been a member of this House, began to talk about decentralization and to pretend an interest in country areas.

The Opposition put up the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) to propose a completely spurious amendment to the motion of the honorable member for New England, which was magnificent, well thought out, well framed in every way, with constructive suggestions in every line of it. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo did not add a single thing to the points made in the motion framed by the honorable member for New England. The honorable member for Bendigo rose for two reasons, first, to back the Labour campaign in an election year, and to try to create a spurious impression that the Labour Party was interested in decentralization in this country whereas, as all members of this House and, I think, the majority of people in this country, know, the Labour Party thinks of decentralization only at election time. For the rest, it pursues a policy that is directed towards pleasing the people who put it in Parliament, that is, the people who reside in the metropolitan cities of this country. The other reason why this completely useless and spurious amendment was moved was to enable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to exercise his right to speak as the seconder of the amendment, squeezing out of the debate, as he well knew, my honorable friend from Ballaarat who, in my view and in the view of well qualified judges, knows more than any one else here about decentralization in this country.


Mr Cope - I rise to order. Is the hon- _ _orable .gentleman in order, in-reflecting- upon. judges?


Mr SPEAKER - There is no substance in the point of order.


Mr FORBES - When I was so rudely interrupted I was saying that this was just a spurious political trick on the part of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to prevent the one man in this House who really knows something about decentralization - the honorable member for Ballaarat - from stating his views and pointing out how much this Government has done during its ten years in office to further the objective of decentralization.


Mr Daly - Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in discussing the question of speeches on a motion which is still on the notice-paper and on which, for all we know, he may still get an opportunity to speak?


Mr SPEAKER - I think the honorable member is in order. He is replying to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who made reference to this matter.


Mr FORBES - I shall continue, despite this obvious attempt to muzzle me and pre- vent me from making points which arc obviously getting under the Opposition's skin. The Opposition, Sir, is aware of the impact which the honorable member for Ballaarat has made on his electorate because of his devotion to the cause of decentralization. I believe that the action of the Opposition in this case was a deliberate attempt to prevent the honorable member for Ballaarat from speaking on that subject this morning. The honorable member for Lyne, who co-operated in the framing of this admirable motion, which was thought up and moved by the honorable member for New England, a member of the Government parties, had except for the honorable member for New England himself, more right to speak fully on the motion than any one else. However, he deliberately limited himself to ten minutes so that the honorable member for Ballaarat and, perhaps, myself, could speak. The Opposition's amendment was, I contend, moved purely for political purposes. The intention of the Opposition was to squeeze out the honorable member for Ballaarat, as it were. The honorable. member_for Lyne, who, as I_ have said, co-operated in the framing of the motion, confined himself to ten minutes, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could have done the same.

I conclude on this point: The Opposition, a few months before a general election is due, has started again to talk about decentralization. I have not heard from members of the Opposition a single reference to, decentralization in five years, except in the few months immediately prior to the general election of 1958. Now the subject has come up again. The honorable member for Bendigo, who holds a seat in an area where decentralization matters-


Mr Daly - Mr. Speaker, I invite your attention to Standing Order No. 86 and I take the point that the honorable member for Barker is infringing it.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The point of order is not upheld.


Mr FORBES - My honorable friend from Moreton (Mr. Killen) makes the point, that the Opposition is attempting to muzzle me. In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, despite the efforts by the Opposition before each general election-


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.


Mr Whitlam - I wish to make a personal explanation.


Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr Whitlam - Yes. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) said that I had squeezed the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) out of the debate. He also used words such as " spurious " and " trick ". I think I must explain that four persons spoke this morning to the motion to which the honorable member for Barker has referred. Two of them, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) and the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), respectively moved and seconded the motion and spoke in sequence in favour of it. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) and I followed in sequence, proposing and seconding an amendment. There were two speakers from each side, and the first two speakers took at least five minutes more than the others.







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