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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Sir EARLE PAGE (.Cowper) .- As the decision given earlier to-day upon a point of order was one of great public importance, I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that the matter be submitted to the Standing Orders Committee for review during the approaching recess. I have always considered that during the long debate on the financial statement, opportunity should be given to the Treasurer to clarify points that are raised. Very often new issues arise, and sometimes interpretations are placed upon the statement by outside organizations. The Treasurer is the only person who is thoroughly cognizant of all the details, and a further explanation by him is imperative. If my memory be correct, when Mr. S. M. Bruce was Treasurer he dealt very fully with the financial proposals in a second speech which he delivered in the course of the budget debate. I am not in a position to say what is actually meant by the existing Standing Orders dealing with this point - I know only what has been done in the past - but I suggest that if they were examined by the Standing Orders Committee, which is an impartial body with a great deal of experience, this matter could be seen in its proper perspective. I point out that if it were desired that the Treasurer's second speech should not close the debate, it would be necessary only for some member to move an amendment, to which the Treasurer would have the right to speak. That, of course, would be simply inviting members to move amendments. I consider that it, would be in the interests of the Government, the public generally, and members themselves, and would improve the standard of debates, if reform along the lines that I have suggested were done. The Standing Orders provide several methods by which debates can be terminated should the Government so desire. Those methods are explicit and direct, and it would be far better to employ one of them than to use a cumbersome and indirect method. My views on all-night sittings have been welT known for many years. I am in favour of the use of the guillotine, provided a reasonable time is allocated to each subject, and I should be prepared to support its use with a view to obviating all-night .sittings. That, however, is apart from the original question to which I addressed myself, namely, that the Treasurer should be permitted to intervene in the debate on the financial statement, in the same way as a Minister may intervene when the estimates for his department are under discussion.

Mr Conelan - If what the right honorable member .for Cowper suggests were done honorable members would be kept up .all night waiting for the debate to close.

Sir EARLE PAGE - If the Government wishes to close a debate the Standing Orders provide many methods whereby that can be done. In the interests of the public and of the Government itself, it would be far better if the Treasurer were permitted to intervene at any time during the debate upon the financial statement.

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