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Thursday, 9 March 1961

Mr HASLUCK (Curtin) (Minister for Territories) . - Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has resumed both his place in this chamber and his customary role of a band-wagon chaser. We are very glad to see him back here restored to health, but it is a pity that he has chosen to discuss this matter. I think that one could give greater weight to his words if we could expect that he himself will not accept the invitation to this evening's reception and that none of those who sit with him will accept the invitations that they have received.

Mr Ward - The Minister can guarantee that I shall not be there.

Mr HASLUCK - We shall miss the honorable member's company. May I, on behalf of us all, express our regret that he will not be present to join in the celebration of an important parliamentary occasion. These receptions, Mr. Speaker, as you yourself, as one of our Presiding Officers, know better than most, have become the traditional way of marking the opening of the National Parliament. I think that the honorable member for East Sydney has not had sufficient regard for that fact. This function celebrates the opening of the Australian Parliament.

In the course of any parliamentary year, the Parliament and its members receive from the Diplomatic Corps which has grown up in Canberra, and from participants in the official life that has developed here, a great deal of hospitality. This is one of the occasions on which the Parliament as a parliament tries to return that hospitality. Many of us as individuals play our own part in accepting and returning hospitality but there is only one occasion in the year on which, acting as a parliament, we invite people to join with us on a notable occasion.

Apart from that, there is a point that I think will appeal to all honorable members. The occasion of the opening of the Parliament is perhaps the one occasion in the year on which most of the wives of members of the Parliament are present in Canberra. I think I can say, without making too much of a cry of misery about it, that because the National Parliament meets at a location far removed from our constituencies - some of us travel across a whole continent to come here and others travel only a few hundred miles - during a great part of the year while we are carrying out our parliamentary duties, our wives become parliamentary widows, as it were. Not all the wives of members can accompany their husbands to the opening of the Parliament, but this is the one occasion on which most wives of members come to Canberra with their husbands, and 1 think it is quite fitting that on such an occasion we join with our wives and the wives of other members of the Parliament in a reception of this kind. It is something that belongs to the dignity of the Parliament and it provides an opportunity for the Parliament to return hospitality. The occasion is not one of great frivolity or excessive expenditure. It is a dignified and proper occasion which celebrates the national ceremony of the opening of the Parliament.

I feel sure that very few, if any, other members of this Parliament join with the honorable member for East Sydney in apparently rejecting an invitation to be present at this evening's reception. The honorable member having rejected the invitation, he should not be so curmudgeonly as to cry out against the innocent pleasures of those of us who do not see anything improper in rejoicing together. He really ought to be more generous in his maturing years.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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