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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2359


Mr HOWARD(10.20) —Tonight the Australian Labor Party, not only in this House but all around, is in a very deep crisis. Not only does this miserable half-resignation delivered to the Australian people tonight represent the end of an abject retreat by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) from the responsibilities of leadership given to him not by the Caucus, not by the Australian Labor Party, but by the Australian people on 5 March. It is the Australian people to whom he must account just as it will be to the people of New South Wales that the discredited Federal President of the Labor Party, Mr Wran, will have to account the next time an election is held in New South Wales. The honourable member for Burke (Dr Theophanous) said that he is a qualified political scientist. So he is. All I can say is that after the way in which the rules of the Westminster system have been rewritten tonight by the Prime Minister he will have to rewrite all his lectures; the rules of the Westminster system have been totally turned upon its head.

How many other members of the outer Ministry of the Hawke Government will have the right of a free vote next Monday? Will the Minister for Defence Support (Mr Howe) support the Government line? Will the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) support the Government line? Will the Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones) support the Government line? Will the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) support the Government line? Will the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) support the Government line? The Minister for Territories and Local Government even goes one better. He stays away from the Cabinet meetings so he does not even have to write a letter. What a pathetic situation. What a pathetic retreat this is for that proud, boastful Prime Minister standing in front of the largest assembly of the Australian business community we have seen for many years at the Regent Hotel. In the presence of many witnesses-the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock), the Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) and many others-he said: 'Look, brethren, don't worry; it is all in my hands. I have been authorised by the Premier of South Australia to say on behalf of him and on behalf of the Federal Government that Roxby Downs will go ahead; nothing will stop Roxby Downs'. What a pathetic retreat. What confidence can the Australian business community have in a a Prime Minister who has been forced into that humiliating retreat? We have the total and absolute evidence of it here tonight.

He does not have the power to sack a Minister who has defied a properly concluded Cabinet decision on a matter of fundamental national importance. The true Westminster principle is that a Minister is under an obligation to resign from the ministry if his continued presence in that Ministry is an embarrassment to the Government. One has a situation in which he must resign from the Ministry . He must cease to hold office under the Crown if his continued presence is an embarrassment to the Government. There has been a Cabinet decision and a debate. There is a situation in which, as part of that Cabinet decision, this man's view -the view of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West)-has been overruled. What has happened? He is still a Minister of the Crown. He is still prepared to have the car; he is still prepared to have the staff; he is still prepared to take the salary; and he is still prepared to take the allowance. That has been allowed to happen. This is being allowed and one cannot really blame the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for the fact that he still has his car, his salary and his staff.


Mr Hand —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. My point of order is that the Deputy Leader is misleading the House. We have not had the debate. That is to take place on Monday.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.


Mr HOWARD —The honourable member says that his Party has not had the debate. It has been going on ever since the election. The honourable member should not be ridiculous. It has been going on inside his Party ever since the election. The fact is that this half-Minister who wants to have it both ways, still has his salary, still has his allowance, still has his staff and still has his car; but he is not really to blame for that. The person who should really be brought to book for this, the person who should really answer to the Australian people for a total failure of leadership on this matter is not the honourable member for Cunningham, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs! It is the Prime Minister of Australia who has totally failed to deliver on the expectations of him by the Australian people. He owes an apology not to the Labor Caucus or to the parliamentary Labor Party! He owes an apology and an account to, and he will be taken to account at the next available opportunity by the greatest bar of opinion, and that is the people of this country.


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