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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1543

Mr SINCLAIR (Manager of the Opposition Business)(10.02) —From the Opposition's point of view, there are a number of aspects of the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the House (Mr Lionel Bowen) that are of interest. The first matter of interest to all honourable members is that last night we had a guillotine motion. How unnecessary that was when the Acting Leader of the House has come along and has moved a motion, under the first item of Government Business, to ensure that we can sit for an additional week. Why on earth could we not have had an adequate debate on the identity card legislation of the Australian Labor Party? There was plenty of time.

We all know that the Government has an ability to call this House back. We are all in total favour of sitting next week. Indeed, we would like to sit every week. The more the Government comes into this place and starts to acknowledge some of the problems that exist in the Australian community the better. Mind you, I would hope that the Government would start answering questions. I find the Government's behaviour during Question Time nothing less than deplorable. We have fewer questions and Ministers seek to evade answering; they do not provide answers. They are not giving to the Parliament or the people of Australia the responses that are necessary to our critical scrutiny of the way in which they are spending taxpayers' money, the reason taxes are so high, the reason trade unions exercise such power and the reason they are generally allowing the Australian people to run out there without any chance of overcoming the burden of high interest rates and high inflation that their economic programs impose on them.

While welcoming the measure, I suggest to the Acting Leader of the House that it would be a very good idea if he looked to extending further the sitting hours during the period he is a custodian for the Leader of the House (Mr Young). I gather the Leader of the House is out there trying to get the Labor Party's campaign together. He has a fair job ahead of him. What about going back to some of the promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) before the 1983 election? Honourable members will remember that he said that fuel prices would be reduced by 3c a litre. What has happened? The excise has gone up from 5c to about 17c.

Mr N.A. Brown —The capital gains tax.

Mr SINCLAIR —As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, the Prime Minister said something about a capital gains tax. He said: `There will be no capital gains tax'. We hear the hollow laughs. I can tell the Leader of the House that there is no need for him to go off. All he needs to do is read some of the Prime Minister's rhetoric. He would get a laugh a line, and the laugh a line would be for all the broken promises that the Prime Minister has perpetrated. There is no need for the Leader of the House not to be in the House. However, we are delighted to have the Acting Leader of the House here. If he were to keep the House sitting a little more, we would be even more pleased. I suggest to him that, if he plans to have the House sitting longer, he could consider the extent to which the guillotine is used. We do not want an aborted debate on matters that are of prime importance to the people of Australia. The guillotine was used yesterday on legislation which will create 2,000 more Public Service positions. The Government just wants to introduce more and more public servants, take more taxes, borrow more funds and see our overseas debt rise more. This is all part of what its program generally entails. We all know there should not have been a foreshortened debate on the identity card proposal; it should have been one that allowed a proper consideration in the House of Representatives. For the life of me, the Labor Party seems to think more and more that the Senate is the place where important debates should take place. I rather thought it was still part of the Government's program to abolish the upper House.

Putting that aside, I hope that notwithstanding the guillotine and other ways of shortening debates there is an opportunity for all honourable members to adequately make their contribution. I know that we are about to go into a very important debate on equal employment opportunities. It is a measure to which we on this side of the House would like to give consideration. We do not want to have a very short opportunity to examine what seems to us to be a measure which, yet again, does not meet up to the Government's rhetoric. That is the Government's problem. It says one thing but every time it brings in another piece of legislation business has an additional financial obligation and there is yet a further consequence for the poor old small businessman and woman who are out there trying to battle for survival. We want to have an adequate opportunity for debate. We do not want to see the Government cutting debate short. I hope that by acceding to this extension of a week in the sitting hours of the House of Representatives we can see the Government being more charitable in its attitude towards members' speaking time and speaking opportunities.

I hope also that while the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) is in his temporary position as Leader of the House he will approach all his ministerial colleagues and suggest to them that the abuse of Question Time, which is becoming worse and worse, just continues no further. If the Government wishes, it could provide more opportunities for ministerial statements. We are quite happy to debate, for example, the abuse by Mr Kelty of his entitlements for travelling abroad. We are quite happy to debate the analysis of the economy which the Treasurer (Mr Keating) brings in day by day. He tries to excuse those secret minutes that somehow get dropped off the back of trucks for which he has no answer. We would be delighted to talk about them. We do not want to have long, protracted answers from Ministers outside the normal procedures and requirements of this place.

I am delighted to know the Deputy Prime Minister is asserting his authority. He is enabling us to have more debating opportunity. I suggest that he go to a few of his ministerial colleagues and say to them: `Look, Bob, Paul, you really are abusing Question Time. It just does not go down well in the electorate. If you really want to go to the polls, people would like to think you are nice guys. Don't carry on as you are because, frankly, everybody is seeing you as you really are. It is not much of a picture'. We accept the extension of a sitting week. I appeal to the Deputy Prime Minister to use his best endeavours to try to get some measure of responsibility from his front bench because it has been pretty notably absent to date, significantly in Question Time.