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Thursday, 24 November 1927

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- On behalf of the Opposition, I enter my emphatic protest against the manner in which the Government is conducting the business of this committee. For almost two years we have been kept outside Parliament by the Government. We met for only three weeks during a period of fifteen months. During this session we have endeavoured to assist the Government to make up as much leeway as possible by sitting long hours. Notwithstanding that, the Prime Minister comes- down with the guillotine on the most important business with which we shall have to deal this session. He has laid it down that we shall have only two and a half hours in which to deal with the departments.

Mr Bruce - There would have been more time but for that expended in the discussion of the budget.

Mr CHARLTON - The honorable gentleman refers to the time occupied by the general discussion. The time spent in that discussion was more than justified, but I would remind the right honorable gentleman that most of the time was taken up by honorable members on his own side of the Committee. Immediately it suited the Prime Minister, and he could get some of his docile supporters to withdraw from the debate, he put the closure on the Opposition.


Mr CHARLTON - Because every honorable member, after being shut out of Parliament for twelve months, has the right to air his views now. From one end of Australia to the other the financial position of the country is being criticized in the press. It is impossible to deal with the Estimates in a general discussion on the budget. The Prime Minister spoke of the time given to discussing the Estimates at some period in 1910 or 1911, but I venture to say that during no session has so little time been given to them as now, and never was there a time when the finances of the country were in such a bad way. We borrowed, and got no better terms than98½ per cent. This, the Prime Minister attributed to Mr. Lang then being in power in New South Wales. The Government has placed a loan for £7,000,000 on the market at97½, showing that even though a Nationalist government is in power in New South Wales it cannot get money on favourable terms. Two years have gone by since the last federal election, but notwithstanding all the promises made by the Prime Minister, very little has been achieved. How can the committee deal adequately with such subjects as shipping, the public service, and the Migration Commission in a general discussion on the budget? I suppose we shall be told that the time allotted for the discussion of departmental expenditure has been occupied in referring to the conduct of the Government; but the honorable members of the Opposition are surely entitled to protest against the manner in which the Government, with the assistance of its servile majority, is "bludgeoning" legislation through Parliament. As members of His Majesty's Opposition we expect reasonable treatment from the Government, particularly when we have endeavoured to meet it by sitting right through the ordinary luncheon adjournment, and later in curtailing the ordinary meal hours. The responsibility for the confusion which now exists rests upon the Government. During most of the time Parliament has been in recess its duties have been delegated to costly boards and commissions, some of which regard themselves as superior. to Parliament. Parliament is becoming a farce.

Mr Bell - Yes, particularly during the last hour.

Mr CHARLTON - Does the honorable member think that we are to allow the Government to act in thi3 way without protesting?

Mr Latham - The procedure is in accordance with the rules of committee.

Mr CHARLTON - But I have never' known an instance in which a government has stifled discussion on the Estimates in the manner now proposed. The application of the closure on the budget debate may be excusable in some instances; but the curtailment of debate on the Estimates cannot possibly be justified It is impossible for honorable members to criticize items of departmental expenditure.

Mr Bell - Why not get on with the job?

Mr CHARLTON - I do not. intend doing so while the Government is stifling discussion and "bludgeoning" through £70,000,000 of the taxpayers' money.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member has exhausted his time.

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