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Wednesday, 23 November 1938

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) .- The argument the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) advanced in support of his amendment should be sufficient to convince the majority of the honorable members of this House that the action of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) in interrupting the consideration of the budget and Estimates at this stage, covering an expenditure of approximately £93,000,000, is unreasonable.

Mr Rankin - What about the adjournment motion moved by the honorable member yesterday?

Mr FORDE - That was brought forward as a matter of extreme urgency, affecting 160,000 pf our workless people, many of whom are in dire distress. I make no apology for having moved the adjournment of the House yesterday, and I take this opportunity once more to record my protest against the manner in -which the Government stifled the debate on that motion. I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should have thought fit to curtail a debate in which the hazardous condition of 160,000 workless people was to be ventilated, and that another Minister should now interrupt the budget debate in order to permit him to make a secondreading speech for the purpose, as the Leader of the Opposition said, of catching the afternoon press. As I have said, the budget and Estimates provide for an expenditure of £93,000,000, and it is only reasonable that we should be given a full opportunity to consider the Estimates without interruption item by item, without being asked to sit all night to do so, and without honorable members being expected to speak, as the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was, at two o'clock in the morning. I protest against this interruption of the budget debate, particularly when we consider that since the" last elections thi3 Parliament has sat only 62 days . out of a total of approximately 356 days. The Government hesitates and halts, moves backwards and forwards in fits and starts, not knowing, where it is going, bungling and procrastinating,, until now it finds itself on the verge of the Christmas recess with a list of twenty bills still to be rushed through at a time when honorable members are exhausted. Is it any wonder that the Opposition protests against this further interruption? I feel sure that in its protest against this it has the backing of an overwhelming majority of the people outside. I do not think for one moment that honorable members, no matter to what side of the House they belong, will support these tactics of the Minister for Commerce. The Government has been backing and filling now for days. First, the Minister for Commerce took away in one corner of this building his little coterie of the Country party members, and then the Leader of the United Australia party took his members away into another corner, in order to try to pacify them, and retain the reins of office. So confused have matters become in recent weeks that Cabinet does not know where it is going, lt was only because of this shuffling that honorable members were denied an opportunity to discuss my motion for the adjournment of the House to consider the plight of the unemployed.

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