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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr BARNARD (Bass) - The Opposition opposes the suspension of standing order 103. the11 o'clock rule. As the Leader of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), said, this matter was the subject of discussion in this House last week when he decided to move the suspension of the 11 o'clock rule for 1 day only. Now, for the second time, he has moved for its suspension. I think that many of the reasons that the Minister has just put to the House would justify or support the argument that I put to the House last week when, on behalf of the Opposition, I opposed the suspension of standing order 103. It is no justification for this action to argue that the 11 o'clock rule should be suspended merely to meet the convenience of certain people in the House, although we do have sympathy for them. Members sit in this Parliament to debate the legislation which the Government brings forward or which we initiate ourselves.

As the Minister pointed out, today there are some 34 Bills and 2 reports listed on the notice paper. The Minister did not indicate whether the Government intends to deal with all those Bills. It may not do so. It may leave some of them standing over until the next session. But even if one halves that number, there are 17 Bills and 2 reports still to be debated. Surely the Minister is not going to suggest that the House can seriously consider that number of Bills and the 2 reports I mentioned, in the way they ought to be considered by honourable members in this Parliament, if the Government intends to conclude the session on Friday. It ought to be clearly understood by people outside the Parliament, as it is by those inside it, that the Government has moved for the suspension of standing order 103 merely to bring about the end of the session. There is no argument about the amount of legislation that remains on the notice paper to be dealt with.

I have referred to the number of Bills and the 2 reports. One of those reports almost certainly will have to be dealt with. The Government may decide to stand the other report over until the next session. But honourable members will recall that during question time today a question was directed to the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) about another very important matter that has to be considered by the Parliament. I refer to the report of the Fox Committee into various matters affecting the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Is this matter to be debated? Are honourable members to have the opportunity of considering that report? It relates to a very serious matter. I hope the report will not merely be introduced into the Parliament with a statement being made to the House by the Minister for the Army and a reply being made by one member of the Opposition.I hope it will not then go on to the notice paper with no opportunity for other honourable members on both sides of the House, who undoubtedly have an interest in it, to consider fully and to debate it and the recommendations of the Fox Committee. Therefore this is one further matter which the Minister for Labour and National Service ought to consider before it is suggested that this Parliament end its sittings on Friday.

I refer now to the legislation remaining on the notice paper. There are 3 immensely significant Bills still to he dealt with. I refer first to the Bills dealing with States receipts duties. There are 5 of these Bills. No doubt there will be a cognate debate but they are immensely important pieces of legislation which still have to be dealt with. When are we to deal with them? Are we to deal with them some time in the early hours of the morning on Friday just before the Parliament is due to adjourn, according to the timetable of the Government, or are we to have the opportunity to consider them properly? Those Bills are of very grave importance not only to honourable members in this House but to parliamentarians in the 6 State legislatures. These people will also want to consider the legislation that the Parliament will be debating in relation to this matter. But if the Government adheres to its timetable to end the session on Friday, what opportunity will there be for honourable members to consider this legislation?

Let me turn to 2 other important pieces of legislation. I refer to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. This legislation is of extreme importance. When is it to be considered. Today is Wednesday. We will be sitting tomorrow, Thursday, andthe session is to end on Friday. So the States Receipts Duty Bill the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Wool Industry Bill, which is another extremely important piece of legislation, will have to be dealt with before Friday, together with the remaining Bills on the notice paper. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service stands up today and tells this House that the Government's programme is to end the session on Friday.

Mr Snedden - I did not say that.

Mr BARNARD - He said the session could possibly end on Friday. But everyone knows that this is the Government's intention. If finishing on Friday means gagging the debate on legislation in this Parliament the Minister will do it. He will gag the debate and important legislation can be introduced after 11 o'clock. This means in effect we will be debating the kind of legislation to which I have just referred after 11 o'clock at night, in the early hours of the morning, although it ought to be considered at a time when not only honourable members of this House can have an opportunity to debate and consider it fully, but also those who want to listen to the debate outside the Parliament can do so. The debates in this House are not broadcast after 11 o'clock, as the Minister well knows. So this opportunity is denied those people who should have the opportunity to listen to important debates.

All of the matters that I put forward last week on behalf of the Opposition when the Government moved to suspend the 11 o'clock rule apply again on this occasion. We of the Opposition quite seriously put it to the Minister that the aim of the Government should not be to end the session on Friday but rather to extend the session of the Parliament if necessary. There ought not to be any curtailment of the opportunities of honourable members to debate legislation which comes before them. For these and other reasons which I put forward last week, the Opposition opposes the proposal to suspend the 11 o'clock rule.

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