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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) .- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) did not employ his usual diplomacy in approaching this question this morning. Evidently the honorable gentleman has had a very exacting time in Cabinet and in the party meetings; because he set out to say that the honorable members who had taken advantage of the forms of the House to move motions for the adjournment of the House in order to provide an opportunity for the discussion of important questions of definite urgency were wasting the time of the House. I remind the honorable gentleman that those motions were to deal with the urgent and important questions of the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia, standardization of railway gauges and unemployment.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The Chair has already ruled that there can be no discussion outside the motion now before the House.

Mr FORDE - The Treasurer criticized the Opposition for having moved adjournment motions which I repeat were completely justified.

Mr SPEAKER - Order!

Mr FORDE - Now the honorable gentleman asks us to rush through in a comparatively few hours Estimates' which cover an expenditure of over £93,000,000. On Friday last honorable members were told they would have to forgo the right of having the usual luncheon and tea adjournments to-day. We are asked to pass the huge vote of approximately £16,000,000 for the Defence Department in three hours, and the votes for the important departments of the Postmaster-General and the Commonwealth railways in another three hours. Only last week the Prime Minister and the Treasurer suggested that, before the 10th December, we would have to pass no less than 27 bills in addition to the budget and Estimates. Now the Treasurer says that it is extremely urgent that the Estimates, the resolutions, and all stages of the Appropriation Bill should be rushed through to-day. What is the reason for this extreme urgency to-day? What would happen if a business house managed its affairs in this way? If everything were left until the eleventh hour and then the directors and shareholders were asked to approve of the expenditure of huge sums of money without careful examination, any business house would quickly find itself in the insolvency court. Only a Government noted for its hesitation and procrastination would have the effrontery to ask honorable members to rush these Estimates through without providing appropriate time for the discussion of the huge expenditure involved. This House has sat only on 65 days out of the 361 days that have passed since the last elections. Is that the fault of private members or of the Government? Why was not Parliament called together earlier to consider bills which we are now asked to rush through and to discuss the budget and the Estimates? I shall not be silenced by the Treasurer's statement that, ' of the 32 hours devoted to the budget discussion, 18 hours were occupied by Opposition members. That is not a sufficient reason for the introduction of the guillotine. We know that the Government has the power to discipline its members, and to prevent them from speaking, but it has no right to attempt to subject members of the Opposition to similar treatment. As representatives of the electors, Opposition members have their rights. In occupying 18 of the 32 hours of the budget discussion Opposition members acted within their rights. Indeed, more of them would have spoken had time permitted, and doubtless other Government supporters would have spoken had the Government not prevented them. The action of the Government in prolonging one sitting last week until nearly 7.30 a.m. and continuing for a further twelve hours with only a short interval was outrageous. Honorable members were not physically fit to discuss the important matters which were before them. We cannot condemn too strongly the attempts of the Government to stifle discussion on such important matters as the Estimates. Opposition members are justified in using the forms of the House to bring before Parliament urgent matters of public importance. The opportunity to discuss the important subject of unemployment, has already been denied to Opposition members, and under the guillotine provision no further opportunity will be available to them. Because the Government has fallen down on its job the representatives of the people are to be denied their right to discuss the financial proposals of the Government. Such action is deplorable and cannot be too strongly condemned.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's time has expired.

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