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Friday, 6 March 1942


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) . - All honorable members must recognize the ready and democratic manner in which the Prime Minister has assented to the request that Parliament should not adjourn for five weeks. I am not clear, however, whether the Government proposes in future to summon Parliament one week in every four. If that be so, I join issue upon that point. We are the elected representatives of the people and our appointed place at the present juncture is in Canberra, sitting as the Parliament.

At the time of the evacuation of Dunkirk, the House of Commons met regularly three days a week. I remind honorable members that the Prime Minister referred recently to happenings in the Pacific war as being " our Dunkirk ". The evacuation of Dunkirk commenced on the 29th May and ended on the 3rd Tune. The House of Commons met consistently three days a week from the 21st to the 23rd May, from the 28th to the 30t,h May, from the 4th to the 6th June, and from the 11th to the 13th June. That happened at a time of what was described by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, as a " colossal military disaster ". As Australia is facing a colossal military disaster in the Pacific, I urge that Parliament should, as far as possible, be kept in session. Admittedly, Ministers have heavy responsibilities to attend to, and perform a good deal of work of which private members see nothing; but if Ministers in England could attend to their parliamentary duties during the evacuation of Dunkirk, it is reasonable that Ministers here should do the same. It is particularly desirable that we should meet at a time when new laws are being made, not in the ordinary manner, but by regulation. I am much in accord with the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) regarding this matter. I consider most definitely that in the guise of national security regulations, certain things are being done which are of a purely party political nature. In that opinion we may be right or we may be wrong, but at least it is desirable that honorable members who hold those views should have an opportunity to express them in this chamber. When a regulation is promulgated, it is laid upon the table of the House and the initiative has to come from those who wish to criticize it. In the interests of democracy it is most desirable that the elected representative.0 of the country should have an early opportunity to criticize in Parliament such regulations, and, if necessary, move for their disallowance.

I am substantially in agreement wilh what has been said by the honorable member for Eden -Monaro (Mr. Perkin?) and I hope that the Prime Minister will fully consider the matter. Supporters of the Labour party, when in opposition, criticized the previous Government because Parliament was not summoned frequently, thus denying to them an opportunity to express their views upon the acts of the Administration. Times arc immensely more critical now. Parliament is our appointed place, and this is where we, as the elected representatives of the country, should have an opportunity In express our opinions.







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