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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) (5:23 AM) .Mr. Chairman,the Minister is stubborn to the bitter end. He has given the most sustained exhibition of stubbornness that I have witnessed in a Minister for a very long time. The Opposition has asked the Government to agree to sensible amendments to-night, and has had the support of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber for a number of those amendments, but the Minister has just turned a deaf ear to all of us. He has his script before him and he does not deviate from it one iota. He knew about 4 p.m. on Wednesday, or even earlier, what he would say about this amendment.

I should just like to recount to the committee the history of the limit on election expenses which we are discussing. I think that the limit in respect of elections for the House of Representatives was first fixed in 1918 at £100, at which level it stayed until 1946, when it was increased to the present level of £250. For the last fifteen years this limit has remained unchanged, although, under the administration of the present Government, inflation has raged madly throughout Australia almost as Hitler's Panzer divisions raged through Europe in World War II. The expenses incurred by members of Parliament during election campaigns have increased in every way.

We now find the Minister attempting to put the responsibility on to our party organizations in his efforts to evade his responsibilities to members of this Parliament. I am indeed surprised at the excuses for not accepting the Oppositions amendments that he has invented. This excuse that even if the limit for House of Representatives elections were increased to £500, as we suggest, the law would still be broken, is a fantastic argument for him to advance at this early hour of the morning. The limit on election expenses has been increased only once in the 43 years since it was first imposed in 1918.

Mr Jeff Bate - What about the case against Sir Percy Spender that failed?

Mr DUTHIE - Let us not worry about him. He is not here any more. I am thinking of those who are with us, including the honorable member and his colleagues,, who are forced to break the law if they want to do their jobs as members of this Parliament. This Government is encouraging us to break the law, Mr. Chairman. It is not prepared to accept a sensible suggestion by the Opposition that the limit on election expenses be raised to a realistic, level in relation to the cost, of living, which has risen greatly in recent years, and in relation to present-day electioneering cost.

Mr Stokes - Does the honorable member subscribe to the principle of candidates in the. Senate elections being allowed to spend more on electioneering than are candidates for the. House of Representatives?

Mr DUTHIE - Yes. I supported in caucus the move to have that principle adopted. We on this side of the chamber have been a little more frank about these things' than Government supporters have been to-night. They sit on their benches like a lot of dummies. All they can do. is interject, thereby breaking the Standing Orders in addition to a lot of other rules. At this hour, the Government should be a little gracious. After all, we have sat here all night. The attendants, the " Hansard " staff and the press staffs have been on duty all night. Could not the Minister at this late stage agree to this amendment which would bring the permissible limits of election expenses to realistic levels?

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