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Wednesday, 24 May 1939

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) .- The Opposition will oppose the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that government business shall take precedence over general business at the next sitting. Private members have very limited opportunities to initiate discussions on important matters affecting their electorates and the country. Private members' day affords one of those opportunities, and I know that several honorable members were looking forward to to-morrow so that they might take part in the debate on the three motions standing in the names of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), respectively. The honorable member for Balaclava has advanced convincing reasons why the House should be afforded an opportunity to-morrow to discuss anomalies in the Repatriation Act. This concerns all of us, and many honorable members on this side of the House had intended to speak on the subject. The motion of which the. honorable member for Lilley has given notice, urging the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee, is also of importance, involving as it does the idea of a searching investigation into public expenditure. I hope that the Prime Minister, so early in his career as Leader of the House, will not adhere rigidly to the decision that he has evidently taken in haste to close down on private members' business to-morrow. What does he propose to do when the ordinary grievance motion, " That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair " is moved ? No doubt he has arranged for some one to jump up and make a speech, and then move the adjournment of the debate. The Government should not restrict the rights of private members in this way. There has been much criticism, some of it justified, regarding an inner group dictatorship of the Cabinet, and of the little opportunity that private members have 'to express the opinions of the minority. I ask honorable members on the Government side whether it is reasonable that this opportunity should be taken away from private members. It is not the fault of private members that the Parliament is not to sit for a longer period. Why should we be deprived of this opportunity for discussion merely in order to facilitate the early closing of Parliament for the convenience of a government which has discovered, from a ripple seen on the surface to-day, that there are rocks ahead which spell danger for it? For that reason, no doubt, it is anxious to make for shelter. I appeal to the Prime Minister to withdraw his motion.

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