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Tuesday, 22 November 1960

Mr HASLUCK (Curtin) (Minister for Territories) . - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has spoken in heroic terms, but I think he has overlooked the well-established usages of the House. From the way in which the honorable member has spoken one would imagine that the use of the guillotine is a most novel procedure, and that it is hot one of the customary methods adopted by governments of both political complexions to deal with situations that arise.

A proper judgment on this matter can be made by any one who cares to go back over the debate that has taken place on this bill. Although it is true that the. gag has been applied on a number of occasions, any one who reads the record of the debates carefully, and with a reasonable sense of fairness, will see that argument has been exhausted and irrelevancies have arisen on every occasion before the closure has been moved.

My colleague, the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), referred to the patience that the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), who is in charge of this bill, has shown. I think that patience is obvious to any one who reads the record fairly and sees the points of time at which the closure has been moved, and who asks himself, "Was there anything more that remained to be said on the particular point under discussion? Was there any argument that had not been repeated more than once? " It is only because, for reasons of its own - and reasons which are acceptable in this place - the Opposition wanted to prolong this debate by obstructing the passage of the various clauses, that the Government has been forced to adopt a procedure which is also acceptable and customary in this place, and which would be adopted by any government responsible for the conduct of the business of the House.

Let me point out to honorable members opposite that the guillotine on this occasion will prove an economical measure. Under the proposal now being discussed honorable members will get far more, time for debate, in the time now remaining available, than if repeated divisions were called for, each of them taking two, three or four minutes to complete. If we think of the period between now and dinnertime to-morrow, the. effective debating time will be much greater as a result of the use of the guillotine than it would be if, in the face of Opposition obstruction, we had to move the gag on each clause, vote on it and then vote on the clause itself.

The Leader of the House also referred to the fact that it is necessary, in order to preserve orderliness in the proceedings of the Parliament, to have consultation between representatives of the Government and the Opposition. In other days, when the person nominated by the Opposition to conduct negotiations with the Leader of the House had the backing of members of the Opposition, it was possible to bring such negotiations to an orderly conclusion and make satisfactory arrangements. But of course the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been repeatedly placed in a position which must be embarrassing for him, and which must make his task very difficult. He has been obliged to say, " I cannot enter into any agreement with the Government ".

Mr Whitlam - We have never discussed it with you at all.

Mr HASLUCK - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is of short memory. I can remember that during the periods when it has been my responsibility to act for the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I have met behind the Speaker's chair and I have said, " Will we agree to this?", and he has said, " No. The Government must make its decision". He is obliging us to make a decision, because he knows full well - we sympathize with him in his humiliating position. - that if he made an arrangement, he could not be certain that he would have the backing of the members on his own side for carrying it out. He knows full well that on his own side there are some who would smile broadly at his public humiliation while they did something contrary to the arrangement which he had made with the Government.

We accept the responsibility of making the decision. As the Government, we have charge of the House. We are responsible to all members of the House for the orderly conduct and the progress of its business item by item. Discharging that responsibility and avoiding unnecessary procedures of frequent closures, and without truncating the debate unduly-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister's time has expired.

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