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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) - It might be a good idea to get a few facts straight as to what has happened in the last few minutes. I remind the House that the Whips are working all day long on the order of speakers in a debate, the length of debate, who should speak in a debate and what shall happen next. I say without hesitation that the gagging of the debate on the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill not only surprised me but also surprised the Government Whip. We had arranged our programme for the day. I have the list of speakers which shows that there were to have been, 3 more speakers, namely, the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) and possibly the honourable member for. Riverina (Mr Grassby). Right from the beginning of the afternoon we knew that this was to be the order of speaking in the debate. However, the Government showed on its list only 4 Opposition speakers and 3 Government speakers, including the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay).

Even though we opposed the extension of the sitting past 11 o'clock tonight, we were prepared to go on to the end of the second reading, even if it took till half past 1 this morning to reach this stage. This is how the 2 Whips planned the night. They were under instructions that this debate was to go to the end of the second reading stage, into the Committee stage and then be adjourned. This is what we were told. How can the Whips run a Parliament if the agreement between the 2 sides is destroyed as suddenly as it was tonight at 11.40. What has the Government gained tonight by cutting this debate off?

Mr Grassby - Nothing.

Mr DUTHIE - It has gained nothing. In the process it has set up a wall of retaliation from this side of the House. The Government wants to try to finish the session this week. It is not the Opposition's job to facilitate the Government finishing in any particular time. I have been the Opposition Whip for 15 years, and the Opposition in that time has never tried deliberately to facilitate the end of a session. I would not remove members from the speaking list just to try to finish the session this week. I would ask members to try to cut their speeches short. I would be prepared to do that, but it is the Government's job to finish a session when it wants to finish it. If it wants to finish this session on Friday it has the gag and the guillotine at its disposal. They are its 2 weapons. If it wants to finish by then, it can, but it cannot expect the Opposition to co-operate by deliberately pulling out speakers so that the

House can rise this week. I do not intend to fall for that or be a party to it. Fair is fair.

We have a tremendous programme here. We have been told nothing. I as Opposition Whip have been trying to find out what items on the notice paper are to be stood over to the Budget session, and for the life of me I can not find out. I do not think the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) knows himself which of these items are to be put off. How can he possibly say we will finish this week if he does not know now what items are to be debated? If we are to debate the programme on the notice paper we will be debating until the end of next week. We could not possibly physically finish the programme that is set out in the notice paper. The Government has to make up its mind what it will give us to debate and what it will not give us to debate. We will debate what it gives to us. lt has a right to control this Parliament. It is the Government. It can say what is coming down at any time, and we will co-operate to that extent. We cannot put items on the business sheet of our own accord except for notices of motion and matters of public importance. lt is up to the Government to decide what business we do, and I want this Government to tell us what it intends to do this week so that we will know where we stand. Tonight it broke a definite agreement between the 2 Whips, as far as I am concerned. Honourable members who are on my list to speak were denied an opportunity to speak. They were prepared to sit on and shorten their speeches. We were prepared to go on till 1.30 to finish this debate, to go into the Committee stage, adjourn and then go home. What has the Government achieved tonight? It has upset an Opposition that has been trying to co-operate up to the limit without repudiating its position as a fighting Opposition - and that is what we are.

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