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Thursday, 16 May 1957


Mr SPEAKER - Order! Did the honorable gentleman's question contain a request for an expression of opinion?


Mr Turner - No, sir. I asked for administrative action by the Government to combat certain matters that are important in this community, and which come within the administration of the Minister for External Affairs.


Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - On the point of order: As I understood the substance of the question asked by the honorable member for Bradfield, he raised what I think is an important matter for this country, namely, whether a systematic campaign is being pursued by a Communist government of inviting influential persons to visit Communist China in the hope that on returning to their home countries they will spread propaganda favorable to that regime. The question of whether or not that is a desirable thing may be open to debate, but surely the honorable member is entitled to ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the information in his possession indicates that that practice is being pursued.


Dr Evatt - In reply to the argument of the Leader of the House, who has just spoken, I say that it is clear that the question of the honorable member for Brad field was intended to invite the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to this matter and to have him express an opinion on it. Since the question relates to the activities or objectives of other persons, it cannot relate to a matter of fact and must involve an expression of opinion. Of course, if such a question can be asked in this House in reference to one country, questions can also be asked in reference to other countries. I submit that this form of questioning is completely out of order. There is a growing tendency in this House to have these pre-arranged questions asked.


Mr Casey - Nonsense!


Dr Evatt - I do not say that this is a pre-arranged question, although the right honorable gentleman, almost every day, hands prepared questions to his back-benchers. This question is intended to extract from the Minister for External Affairs an expression of opinion, and I submit that that is completely contrary to the Standing Orders.


Mr Turner - I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. It has been suggested that my question to the Minister for External Affairs was pre-arranged. I wish to say that I have not discussed the question at any time with the Minister for External Affairs.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! I submit that there has been a tendency to ask for expressions of opinion from Ministers, and I rule that the question, in its present form, is out of order.


Mr Beale - I wish to raise another point of order, Mr. Speaker. After the honorable member for Bradfield-


Mr SPEAKER - Is the Minister questioning my ruling?


Mr Beale - No, sir. I am raising a point of order on another matter. After the honorable member for Bradfield-


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister is out of order. He will resume his seat.







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