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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) - I rise to make a personal explanation. I point out that the letter addressed to me by the Prime Minister, and read in the House a few minutes ago, was not received by me until this moment, when it was brought to me here. The Prime Minister referred to a "discreditable incident but I did not think any Prime Minister would refer in Parliament to something which happened at Government House during the swearing-in of Ministers.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must confine his remarks to a personal explanation.

Mr WHITE - When I heard the names of the Ministers read out I asked whether a mistake had not been made, and I was assured by the Prime Minister that there had been no mistake. I pointed out how embarrassing the position was for me, as that was my first opportunity to inquire. I accepted the position, however, was sworn in, and worked in Cabinet to-day. The inner group policy I read of in the press and, arising out of this matter of principle, I left the Cabinet. I told the Prime Minister when I resigned that my resignation had nothing to do with the incident of yesterday. I am sorry that the Prime Minister has dragged in a personal matter to obscure the real reason for my resignation.

Mr. FORDE(Capricornia). - I move -

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent him from making a statement to the House.

I have submitted this motion to enable me to ma ku a statement regarding the reconstruction of the Cabinet, and the subsequent statements concerning it. 1 intend to put forward -

Mr Harrison - The honorable member has no right to make party political capita] 011 t of this.

Mr FORDE - - 1 am speaking now to the motion. I regret exceedingly that the Prime Minister and the Government refused to give me, as Acting Leader of the Opposition, permission to make a statement, seeing that the Opposition considered it quite proper for the Prime Minister to make. a statement and for one of his chosen Ministers to speak also. Later the Prime Minister made a further statement, and one of his chosen Ministers also was permitted to do so. I offered no objection to that, because the Opposition felt that, as Leader of the Government, the Prime Minister was entitled to make the statement. I submit, as Acting Leader of the Opposition, with all respect to the Prime Minister and the Government, that I am entitled, in fair play, as the mouthpiece of the Opposition-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Acting Leader of the Opposition is not speaking to the motion. He is stating reasons why he should have been given leave to make a statement.

Mr FORDE - I wish to point out the reasons that have led up to my submission of this motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. If the Prime Minister had agreed to my making a statement, it would have been unnecessary for me to table this motion. In this democratic Parliament, constituted of representatives from all parts of Australia, I believe that in their hearts honorable members do not wish to deny the Opposition this opportunity-

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is not confining himself to the motion. He may not criticize the House.

Mr FORDE - I cast no reflection on the House, because I do not know how it will vote on this motion, and I do not blame the House ; I blame the Prime Minister. It is necessary to suspend the Standing Orders to give the Opposition an opportunity to state its views regarding the proceedings to which we have listened this afternoon, and which reminded one of the proceedings in a divorce court action, or in a breach of promise case, with the bitter recriminations on both sides between the Prime Minister and his ex-Minister. Surely this Parliament is the place in which the Opposition ought to be permitted to state its views. The Prime Minister has had such an opportunity. Why should he stifle discussion on the part of the Opposition?

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is now criticizing the action of the House in refusing him leave to make a statement.

Mr FORDE - I have no desire to do that, but I do wish to criticize the action of _the Prime Minister.

Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!

Mr SPEAKER - It is not a matter for the Prime Minister. If one dissentient voice is raised, leave to make a statement is refused, and the right of the House to refuse leave cannot be debated later.

Mr FORDE - In view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to proceed further at the moment, but the Prime Minister will have reason to regret his refusal to grant leave to the Opposition to make a statement.

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