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Thursday, 19 November 1959

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- I desire to make a protest against what the Government is now proposing to do. The ordinary member of this Parliament does not have many opportunities to raise matters of great concern, both to his own electorate and to the community generally. This would appear to be the last occasion on which we can have a grievance day until the Parliament reassembles, because I understand the Government intends to end this sessional period at the end of next week, and the Parliament will not sit again until, probably, the end of February or the beginning of March next year. It has already been announced that the Government intends to prorogue the Parliament, and that the new Governor-General is to open the next session of the Parliament. As the Governor-General designate will not arrive in this country until February next, it is most likely that the opening of the Parliament will not take place until the end of February or the beginning of March.

I believe there are so many important matters that should be ventilated in this Parliament that the Government's action on this occasion is quite unwarranted. Why this haste to close the Parliament up, to prevent criticism of the administration of the various departments and of the legislation that is being enacted in the name of the Government? There has never before been a government of this country which has run away from its responsibilities to the extent that this Government has, and which has neglected to give Opposition members the opportunity to function as they should, to bring matters of concern to the community before the attention of the House, and to question Ministers.

Honorable members are fully aware that although the Standing Orders provide for a debate on the motion to adjourn the House every sitting day, a practice has grown up since this Government has been in office of not permitting debate on the adjournment motion on the first sitting day in each week. Already, therefore, the Government has curtailed the opportunities of ordinary members to raise important matters from time to time. Not only on the first sitting day in each week has this become the practice; there have been many occasions on other days when the Government has used the gag to prevent adjournment debates. The Opposition has gradually been manoeuvred into a position in which it is practically begging the Government to give it the right, which the Standing Orders provide, to raise important matters in the House.

It is no exaggeration to say that in my office are papers concerning at least SO different important matters which I want to have the opportunity of raising in this Parliament. How often have we had a Grievance Day? Even when we have had one the Government has had the audacity to say to the Opposition, " We will permit two or three speeches from each side of the Parliament", instead of allowing a full and complete opportunity for all members to raise matters that they regard as important.

What is the need for the haste? The sitting of the Parliament yesterday was continued until half-past three this morning, with the House exhausted, 75 per cent, of honorable members asleep and the same proportion of Ministers incapable of knowing what was going on in the chamber. Why must this happen? It happens simply because the Government has decided to end the sittings next week. I do not think any member, and certainly no member who has any thought for his obligations to the people whom he represents, would mind if the sittings of this Parliament were extended for another week or even two .weeks, so that we could conduct our business in a proper and orderly manner.

We have often heard members of this Parliament regretting the fact that reflections are cast upon the Parliament and its members, and that this institution is being held in contempt by the Australian community. Who is responsible for bringing it into contempt? The responsibility rests on this arrogant and over-bearing Government, which believes that an Opposition is only an irritating body, and that the sooner the Government can close up the Parliament and stifle and muzzle the Opposition the better. Although the Government has the numbers to prevent us expressing our views in this Parliament, thank goodness it has not yet got the authority to prevent us telling the people, outside the Parliament, exactly what is hapening in this country to-day. I enter my protest, and I hope that other members of the Opposition will join me in this protest.

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