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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2355


Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(10.00) —Mr Speaker, I wish to move for the suspension of Standing Orders-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The question before the House is that the House do now adjourn. A motion for the suspension of Standing Orders cannot be proposed at this stage.


Mr PEACOCK —Mr Speaker, I wish to take the time that is available to me to ask the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) to attend the Parliament and to explain the extraordinary events of the last few hours which led to an announcement only a short time ago that one of his Ministers has informed him in writing that he will be unable to support the Cabinet's recommendations on the uranium industry at Monday's Cabinet meeting and, in line with what is deemed to be in the Prime Minister's statement entitled 'Cabinet Arrangements' adopted at the first meeting, he will now step down from Cabinet. There is a fundamental element in government in this country. It derives from the Westminister system and that is that all Ministers are bound by Cabinet decisions. They cannot selectively adopt personal views as to whether they can support one matter or another.


Dr Theophanous —Where did you get that from?


Mr PEACOCK —I will take the honourable member to it. He may well be the apotheosis of a Greek ruin so he ought to bring himself up to date with the British tradition which formed the very element of government here. I quote from the most up to date version which is Mr Pettifer's edition of the House of Representatives Practice. On page 81 under the heading 'Collective Cabinet Responsibility' it is stated that Cabinet means Ministers and that all Ministers are bound by Cabinet decisions. Mr Pettifer says:

. . . it is required by convention that all Ministers must be prepared to accept collective responsibility for, and defend publicly, the policies and actions of the Government or else resign.

That is one source. The honourable member asked for it. Does he want us to go back further? I shall quote from Sol Encel's book Cabinet Government in Australia on page 107.


Mr Chynoweth —Who wrote that?


Mr PEACOCK —Is the honourable member not aware of Sol Encel? That shows how much he understands political science in this country. In chapter 12 under the heading 'Collective responsibility' it is stated:

'For all that passes in Cabinet', said Lord Salisbury in 1878, 'each member of it who does not resign is absolutely and irretrievably responsible'.

In consequence, writes Jennings-

a great authority on Cabinet Government-

a Minister who is not prepared to defend a Cabinet decision must, therefore, resign'. The principle of collective responsibility means, moreover, that a minister must vote with the Government, speak in defence of it . . .

And so on. They are the authorities and I could go on with more. The extraordinary situation today is that a Minister has indicated, not only to the Prime Minister but also through him publicly that he cannot support a Cabinet decision. What sort of debauchment of our system of government is it that he simply steps out of the Cabinet and into the so-called Ministry? The only conclusion to be drawn, with this Government in tatters, is that every Minister outside the Cabinet can say what he likes when he likes on any issue. Gone is that basic element of Cabinet responsibility. It strikes at the very heart of our system because henceforth Ministers outside the Cabinet are not bound at all . It is also interesting to note in this extraordinary debasement of the system a comment of Fin Crisp in the fifth edition of Australian National Government. On page 365 he says:

after Whitlam in 1975 'sacked' three senior Ministers, Caucus in 1976 made new rules requiring the Leader in future to carry the other three Parliamentary Labor leaders and then Caucus with him before dropping Ministers or Shadow Ministers.

This man has been dropped from the Cabinet and into the Ministry. What do other leaders think about it? What does the Caucus say about it? There has been no Caucus meeting. Honourable members opposite are supposed to be in the Caucus room electing their Ministers. They elect them in order. They elect their Cabinet. What has transpired now? We do not know. All we know is that a Minister cannot support Cabinet decisions and cannot support Government policy. That means that Minister has but one course-to resign from the Ministry. The Government should not just reshuffle the deck chairs and honourable members opposite know it. They are debasing the system without explanation. They are not only embarrassing their Government but also debauching the very system itself. The Minister ought to resign and take his place on the back bench. Let us test it. We will see whether the Left has the numbers to get up another left wing member. Now there is not an acknowledged member of the Left in the Cabinet. What will the Government do? I come back to the basic principle of Government responsibility.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.