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Friday, 6 March 1942
Page: 249


Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- While I was listening with great attention to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) addressing himself to this question,I concluded that this was an opportunity to air one's views on any subject regarding which one had a grievance. I have not been so sure of that since hearing the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins), and after noting with some regret the difficult passage of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). However, I am speaking now conscious of the fact that, as a kind of vicarious discipline, you would insist upon future speakers keepingmore rigidly to the point than did those who have already spoken. I remember on previous occasions speaking to motions similar to this one. I have spoken to them while I was a member of the Opposition, a position I have occupied more often than the one in which I now find myself. On those occasions, I said that Parliament should meet regularly, and that especially it should meet in times of crisis. I repeat that it is due to every elector of the Parliament of Australia that he should feel that his representative is in consultation with his fellow members and with members of the Government. I am firmly of opinion that the Government should be carried on from the Capital City of Australia. There is nothing which the Government can do, or which any Minister of the Crown can do, which cannot be done from Canberra. As I have said to Ministers of other governments, so I say to the Ministers of the present. Government, if they imagine that they are serving the national interest by interfering in matters of detailed administration which they can only imperfectly understand, they are in error, and are doing a grave disservice rather than a service to the people of Australia at this time of grave emergency. I think that this Government stands well in public estimation. I am not going to pursue that point, but a passing reference should not be out of order. If a plebiscite should be held, I believe that the Government would receive the endorsement of the people.


Mr SPEAKER - Order !


Mr BRENNAN - I am not threatening you in any way, Mr. Speaker.


Mr SPEAKER - I ask the honorable member to discuss the subject before the Chair. So far he has not touched it.


Mr BRENNAN - I feel neither surprised nor hurt to hear your comment on my behaviour. What I wish to say - subject, of course, to your approval - is that one reason why Parliament should meet frequently is that, though the Government is the creation of Parliament, it has not yet received the endorsement of the people. I made that point more than once when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was leader of the House before he had received the endorsement of the people. It is very important to remember that the Government has not yet received popular endorsement, though I think it enjoys public esteem. However, until it has been endorsed, Parliament, which created it, should be frequently called together for the purpose of public discussion. I heard with great interest the honorable member for Eden-Monaro say that this Government, which is a Labour government-


Mr Archie Cameron - Is it?


Mr BRENNAN - Well, it was elected by a majority of that party. You may have noticed with regret, Mr. Speaker, that I am not a member of it, but that is by the way.I heard with interest the honorable member for Eden-Monaro say that this Labour Government had gone so far as to implement certain phases of Labour policy. That is a very serious charge, and I am glad that the honorable member called my attention to what the Government had done, because I had not previously noted it. It is all the more important that Parliament should be the sooner called together because, during the sitting yesterday, there was a large a mount of criticism, and active dissent, from this side of the House in respect of a measure then before the House. I did not have, owing to the rush of business, an opportunity to speak on that measure. I apprehend, after listening to the honorable member for Wentworth, that it would not be entirely out of place if I made that speech now.


Mr SPEAKER - I assure the honorable member that he would not get far.


Mr BRENNAN - It should be borne in mind, too, that the parties are not holding meetings, as they normally do. That is an additional reason why Parliament should meet more frequently.


Mr Anthony - We held a meeting this morning, because we are not frightened to do so.


Mr BRENNAN - If the Labour party met this morning all I can say is that I was not invited to attend. However, I do not think that it met. It is most desirable that the parties should hold meetings from time to time, because all such gatherings form part of that consultation, collaboration and active cooperation which should be the distinguishing features of action in these days. I shall not submit without protest to the theory that the Government can get along very nicely without Parliament, and without party meetings.. I do not agree with that view. The Government must meet Parliament; and it must have discussion. We owe that to the electorate. I do not expect Ministers to remain in the House during the whole of the proceedings. Admittedly they are working very hard. Occasionally they make declarations over the air; but those declarations should be made more frequently in Parliament, Ministers should also submit themselves to questioning, though I do not want them to be embarrassed in any way. Sometimes I have heard on the air matters that I should like to discuss in this chamber; and I regret to say that on occasions the public has been hectored and lectured by speakers. One responsible Minister intimated that he would not submit to argument upon certain phases of public affairs. In this Parliament it is the fate of every Ministry-


Mr Curtin - Let Parliament decide, any minute, whom it wants to be the head of the Government, and I shall accept the situation.


Mr BRENNAN - Surely the Prime Minister will acknowledge that Parliament may indulge in argument?


Mr Curtin - There is a proper time to argue.


Mr BRENNAN - The Government must admit that the persons who created Parliament, and governments, have the right to express their opinions; butI must not be put in a position of censuring or challenging the Prime Minister. I did not rise for that purpose. I am speaking for Parliament, the creation of the people and the instrument of democracy, which we are fighting so strenuously to maintain. If we drag the parliamentary institution into contempt, we cannot expect others to respect it.

I am not at all pleased to learn that, as the result of murmur ings and mutterings in the lobbies, the meeting of Parliament has been advanced by a fortnight. Why should we not meet to-morrow, if necessary, or next Wednesday as usual? If we assembled for a couple of hours, several days a week, honorable members would have an opportunity for consultation and collaboration which, I insist, are necessary for the proper functioning of Parliament. I am dissatisfied with the proposal to adjourn Parliament until the 25th March. I am not at all pleased with the fact that the date has been brought forward by a fortnight. The representative of an industrial democratic electorate under the direction of accredited Labour organizations in that constituency, I speak particularly as the spokesman of the Thornbury branch - a very advanced branch - of my electorate,which has directed me to protest against the fact that Parliament does not meet more frequently. Consequently, I appeal to the Government to see that Parliament is not neglected and that no attempt is made by Ministers to evade their responsibility to Parliament.







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