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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- This motion is not agreed to by the Opposition. The Minister gave no reasons for the House having to sit, for the remaining two weeks which are projected in this sessional period, after 11 o'clock at night. From my recollection of the speech delivered by His Excellency the Administrator when opening the Parliament, there is only one piece of legislation which has not yet been introduced. That is the Patents Bill. Admittedly, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) promised last session to bring in the Patents Bill this session. Earlier this session, he made hrs third statement on the subject, but he is now overseas and will not be back in time to launch the measure. What other legislation which is not already on the noticepaper has to be introduced?

It is sometimes said that towards the end of a session it may be necessary for the Parliament to sit after 11 o'clock at night in order to receive messages from the Senate, to process legislation originating there, or to consider amendments made by or requests emanating from that chamber. But the Senate is not sitting this week, so that excuse cannot yet apply. As I recollect what he had to say, the Minister did not. forecast any new legislation coming before us.

It is a matter of constant wonder to the public and of chagrin to members of the Parliament itself, that the Parliament cannot get through its business even if it sits till 11 o'clock on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. That is not a satisfactory hour at which to debate anything. Members on the opposite side from a speaker as well as those on his own side object to speeches m the small hours of the morning. There is no free debate at all after 11 o'clock at night. Why do we have to sit after 11 p.m. for the rest of the sessional period? The motion seeks to enable new business to be introduced after 1 1 o'clock. In other words, it seeks to permit of the starting of thedebate on any subject after 11 o'clock. What justification can there be for that? I notice that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had- the grace not to move the suspension of" this rule on this occasion.

Mr Harold Holt - The Minister for Primary Industry is the Minister in charge of the House for this week.

Mr WHITLAM - You have always submitted the motion in the past. As a matter of fact, ever since you became Leader of the House, you have always moved this motion towards the end of sessions. On those occasions, you have made a bit more of a demonstration in favour of suspending the rule. If there is anything urgently arising, then it is always possible for the House to suspend the relevant standing order. But the unfortunate thing from the Government's point of view is that the Government, in doing that, has to have present an absolute majority of the House. It has to have 62 of its members in the House after 1 1 o'clock if it wants to suspend the standing order. As the division lists will show, there are never 62 members of the Government parties in the House after 11 o'clock. Therefore, without any real excuse, without having any justification for introducing new legislation unexpectedly at this stage of the session, we are asked to agree to this blanket suspension of the 11 o'clock rule. As always on these occasions, the Opposition will vote against the motion.

I have stated that the Parliament is expected to sit for another two weeks. There is no reason why it cannot sit for three weeks, or four weeks more if there is business for it. But there is no great press of business on the notice-paper, there has been no promise of unexpected legislation coming before us, and the Senate is not sitting. No case has been made out for suspending the 11 o'clock rule at this stage.

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