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Tuesday, 22 November 1960

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HigginsTreasurer) . - The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has done his best to put on a show for his troops. He has whipped himself up into the synthetic passion he usually shows on issues of this sort. He knows as well as those who sit behind him that, having regard to the very important measures in the programme ahead of this Parliament for the remainder of this session, this is a very reasonable, indeed, a liberal allocation of the time available.

Mr Ward - Why not go on sitting?

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Members of the Government including the Cabinet will be in Canberra up to .Christmas time on one item of business or another and it would be no great discomfort to us if .the Parliament were to sit at the same time. But it is well known that honorable gentlemen opposite regard this session as having been abnormally heavy and are feeling the strain of it. In order to make a case, the Leader of the Opposition has, of course, quite distorted the picture. He mentioned that the Attorney-General had 22 amendments. He knows that only six of those amendments are of substance and that the others are entirely consequential. An analysis of the Opposition's 44 amendments would show a similar state of affairs.

No Minister has been more considerate to the Parliament and to the public on measures which he has brought before the Parliament than the Attorney-General. The manner in which he dealt with the matrimonial causes legislation, the manner in which he allowed this bill to lie without debate for a considerable time so that public judgment could be formed on it, and the patience and the care that he has given to suggestions and to proposed amendments which have reached him from all manner of people, all suggest a Minister and a parliamentarian who has a deep respect for the principles of democracy.

What is the position now? A debate which we had thought - and not without some good grounds - might have concluded to-night is going to be allowed by the Government to extend until dinner time to-morrow. In these circumstances the Opposition has very little to complain about.

I want to make one other point. In this Parliament, as, indeed, in all democratic parliaments, it is desirable that there should be some collaboration between the spokesman for the Government and a spokesman for the Opposition in the organization of a programme covering the whole session or, as the session proceeds, a day-to-day programme. I say, not in criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), but as a matter of fact, that during the time when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) was acting in this way as spokesman for the Opposition, we were able to make arrangements which, having regard to limitations of time available to the Parliament, were as satisfactory to both sides as could be contrived. It is no fault of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but is merely symptomatic of the deep divisions which currently exist within its own ranks, that the Opposition will not give its Deputy Leader authority to come to some arrangements with me, as the Leader of the House and as the spokesman for the Government. So the honorable gentleman has to come along and ask, " What is it that the Government has decided? "

I would much prefer a situation in which he and I, acting with full authority for the respective sides of the Parliament that we represent, could say, " Here is the programme. Here is the time available, and this is the best disposition of the time that we can arrange in an attempt to meet the requirements of both the Government and the Opposition." But until honorable members opposite cease behaving like a lot of school children and consider these matters quite realistically, and until they show a disposition in .debate-

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