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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1963


Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - Tonight we are concerned with the Estimates relating to approximately $4m for the operation of the Parliament. Both the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) have dealt with the Parliament itself. I want to say a few words on this also because I believe that any large business corporation which adopted the inefficient methods and practices of the Federal Parliament in the conduct of its business would become bankrupt. The inefficiency of the Parliament seems to be worsening. I believe that the full blame for this position must be borne by the Government. The Government blames the Opposition whenever it can. The honourable member for Bradfield did this tonight. But it is the Government that is in power and has been in power for over 22 years. The Government - which, technically is the Cabinet - seems to believe that it can treat the rest of the Parliament with utter contempt. in the past 18 months I have noticed the growth of a most obnoxious practice. Ministers seeking national publicity introduce important legislation or important statements into the Parliament and then either shelve the legislation or refuse to allow the important ministerial statements ever to be debated. Let me give an example. Eighteen months ago the Government introduced important legislation into the Parliament in relation to the territorial sea and continental shelf. This was designed to clarify speedily the controversy which had arisen over the ownership of the offshore resources of Australia. While this uncertainty existed and still exists the search for and the exploration and development of natural resources off the coast of Australia is languishing. Despite its great national importance the Government has not proceeded with this legislation or even allowed it to be discussed in the Parliament. The Government's contempt of the Parliament, and indirectly the Australian people, can be gauged by the fact that when this Bill was introduced by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) 18 months age he said:

The Government feels that this issue should now bc decided once and for all and without delay.

I repeat that that was 18 months ago.

Seven weeks ago the issue of Britain joining the European Common Market was raised in this Parliament by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) after an overseas tour. This is a matter of vital importance to this Parliament and to this nation, but despite the assurances given by the Government to me that this matter would be considered by the Parliament without delay nothing has yet been done about it. There has been no opportunity to debate this statement. Nine months ago the Parliament was informed of the decisions of the inquiry into the damage caused to the Great Barrier Reef by the crown of thorns starfish. The Government gave us the decisions but has still not allowed the Parliament to debate this most important matter. It is patently clear that the Government is deliberately adopting tactics to delay or stifle debate on matters which could embarrass it. I believe these are defeatist, negative and bad tactics which are contemptuous of the Parliament.

Six and a half months ago we had 2 Bills dealing with fisheries and the continental shelf introduced into the Parliament They are different to the one I spoke about a moment ago. They relate to the conservation of our natural resources off the coast. They have still not been debated in the Parliament. I have seen here, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) can verify, Bills relating to the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars go through with only one or two honourable members speaking to them, and then we see Bills which are relatively innocuous take one or two days to debate. The honourable member for Bradfield mentioned question time.

I want to deal with another aspect of the Parliament which concerns me and that is, one might say, a growing contempt of the Parliament on the part of the younger generation. Anyone who has had any experience of speaking at high schools, universities or wherever it might be, and of trying to explain how the Parliament runs will have run into this problem. I believe parliamentary procedure needs a drastic overhaul in order to streamline the business of running the country in line with modern thinking, and by that I mean with 20th century methods. We have ridiculous names given to important parliamentary officers such as the Serjeant-at-Arms. With all due respect to our friend, what does this mean? Perhaps it meant something in the 16th century in the House of Commons. In the Senate we have the Usher of the Black Rod. Can honourable members imagine their sons or daughters attending a Canberra high school saying: 'My father is the Usher of the Black Rod', or somebody else saying: 'My father is the SerjeantatArms'? What does this mean?

I had an experience here last year when unfortunately I was wrongfully suspended from the Parliament for a few hours and I was escorted out by the Sergeant-at-Arms. My daughter was plagued at school by people who thought that I was escorted out by somebody armed with guns, ls it not time that these 2 titles, SergeantatArms and Usher of the Black Rod, were relegated to the scrap heap? The practice of the Speaker in the chair wearing a long wig and a type of monkey gown suggests that he is presiding over either a fancy dress ball or a bunch of criminals or other people in a court instead of honourable members of the Parliament. The most important parliamentary officer is the Clerk of the House. What sort of title is this? Anybody who knows anything about classifications in the Public Service knows that the title Clerk of the House does not mean very much. I think it is degrading to the Clerk of the House that he should have to try and tell people outside the Parliament that he is the Clerk.


Mr Turnbull - What name do you suggest?


Dr PATTERSON - You are one of the old school. You ought to have been relegated, to the scrap heap about 30 years ago. We have the weird practice of admitting new members into what is called this chamber by means of some type of mock struggle. We have seen what happens when a new member comes through the doors. 1 happened to be one of them years ago. I was supposed to walk in here struggling with 2 fellows at my elbows. What sort of nonsense is this? This is more characteristic of a junior high school initiation ceremony than of an entry into the Federal Parliament. What do we see when the Speaker leaves the chair? The Sergeant-at-Arms leaps up, grabs what is called the Mace, and escorts the Speaker along the corridor. What for? Does he think that someone is going to waylay the Speaker in the Corridor, that there are a lot of thugs running around the corridors, and we need this

Mace? The word 'Mace' does not mean to us what it means to the modern people. They put a different interpretation on it. 1 suggest also that we scrap the title of Mr Speaker. A speaker is one who speaks; that is the connotation of the term. But Mr Speaker is in fact a chairman and he should be called that. Everybody knows what a chairman is. Then we come to the practice of addressing members as the honourable member for such and such'. How do we know they are honourable members? The word 'honourable' in the dictionary means something. Then the Ministers - whether they are serving or not - have the high-falutin title 'the Honourable'. Even on aircraft passenger lists one sees 'the Honourable Minister for something or other'. Again, what son of nonsense is this? Then we have Assistant Ministers - a new title - who are also called 'the Honourable So-and-so.


Mr Lynch - Hear, hear!


Dr PATTERSON - The Minister can say 'Hear, hear!' All I am suggesting is that if we think we are some elite, a class separate from the rest of society, we have another think coming because when a person mixes with some of the younger people one finds that on the average they have far more radical views than do older people. We should be moving with the times. This is the 20th century, as I said before, and not the 16th century. I would like to speak at some length on question time. If there is one thing in this Parliament that is a farce it is question time. I have been waiting for 3 weeks to ask an important question on wool and another on the effect on our coal exports of the international monetary crisis. I will probably get one in next week if I am lucky.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman) - Order! the honourable member's time has expired.







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