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Wednesday, 11 April 1973
Page: 1295


Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - This debate has occupied question time.


Mr Cohen - Whose fault is that?


Mr SNEDDEN - We on this side of the House are fully aware that question time is passing. We reached the conclusion that this issue is so important that we were prepared to lose question time today for the second successive day to debate it. The reason for the Opposition continuing with this matter is the immense importance of it. We have been sitting for a number of weeks-


Dr Jenkins - What?


Mr SNEDDEN - If that jackass would stop talking we would all be able to hear better. The gaggle of goosey-ganders on the other side of the chamber - look at the whole lot of them. What a bunch of no-hopers they are.


Mr Charles Jones - What humbug we have to listen to.


Mr SNEDDEN - You are the luckiest man of the lot to be in the Ministry.


Mr Charles Jones - But I am not a bloody humbug like you.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister for Transport will withdraw that epithet.


Mr Charles Jones - Yes, Mr Speaker.


Mr SPEAKER - 1 warn all honourable members that if there are ceaseless interjections I will take action, from whichever side of the chamber they come.


Mr SNEDDEN - I hope that the Minister for Transport will withdraw the language he used about his colleague, the Minister for Northern Development, in the Cabinet the other day.


Mr SPEAKER


Mr Duthie - How would you know? Do you have spies in there too?


Mr SNEDDEN - It is not language that he would be prepared to repeat in this chamber. This is the first time I have heard an honourable member swear in this chamber. The Australian Labor Party has been in government for 4 months now and so much has it pulled this establishment down that the Minister sits on the front bench and swears deliberately.


Mr Bryant - 1 rise to order, Mr Speaker. The motion before the House, which apparently has escaped the Leader of the Opposition, concerns dissent from your ruling regarding the application of Standing Orders. He has not referred to it at all so far.


Mr Charles Jones - Mr Speaker, I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark in which he alleged that 1 used bad language to the honourable member for Dawson in a Cabinet meeting. I ask that it be withdrawn because it is a deliberate lie. At no time did I use any bad language to the honourable member for Dawson, because he and I are the best of friends.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister for Transport will withdraw the term 'a deliberate lie'.


Mr Malcolm Fraser - Watch the honourable member for Dawson behind you now.


Mr Charles Jones - He can answer for himself in a minute and he will give you the answer. I did not do as I was accused of doing and if the Leader of the Opposition persists with that statement then it is a lie. As I cannot use that term in this place, it is a definite and deliberate untruth and the Leader of the Opposition knows it is.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Minister for Transport should be aware that both phrases - a 'deliberate untruth' and a 'deliberate lie' - are unparliamentary and I ask him to withdraw.


Mr Charles Jones - Well, it is an untruth.


Dr Patterson - The Leader of the Opposition-


Mr SPEAKER - Order! To what is the honourable gentleman speaking?


Dr Patterson - A point of order. The Leader of the Opposition has made a statement that the Minister for Transport used objectionable words about me in Cabinet. I assume that he can prove that.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Dawson can make a personal explanation after question time if he so desires.


Mr SNEDDEN - If the Minister for Transport-


Mr Charles Jones - Mr Speaker, 1 have taken a point of order. I have asked for a statement to be withdrawn.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he will withdraw that statement because I do not think he has any proof of what he said.


Mr SNEDDEN - If the honourable gentleman asks for a withdrawal I withdraw. The reason I withdraw is that he has said that he did not use those words. If he says he did not abuse the Minister for Northern Development in language which he could not use in this House, I accept that and I withdraw.

The matter we are now debating deeply concerns the rights of this Parliament. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) - colleague and friend of us all - is a man who has constantly stood up for the rights of this Parliament. One wonders why he should have done this, when he hears such giggles going on over there on the other side. But he has stood up for this Parliament and he stood today on a major issue of importance. The issue was this: Is this House to be conducted in such a way that when a person elects a member to come to this Parliament, that member can in this chamber discharge his duty to his electors? The Standing Orders have been drawn up for the purpose of permitting that.

We have question time. Everybody knows that question time is the time at which Ministers can be questioned. Ministers who can use question time properly can show themselves to be good Ministers; Ministers who fail in question time can be exposed as failures, lt is the opportunity for members on the Opposition side to ask questions, to elicit information and to put Ministers under tests. Everybody knows and accepts that, whoever is in government, the Government side will ask half the questions. This means that the Opposition is deprived of half of question time which averages just under 45 minutes. Opposition members, on the halving basis, are left with about 22 minutes. If from the Government side questions are asked of which notice has been given, or if questions are asked in such a way that the Minister can expect the question and if the Minister proceeds to spend a lengthy time answering it, the Opposition does not have 22 minutes. It is likely to be deprived of a great deal of time and finish up with something like 10 to 15 minutes.


Mr Fulton - Mr Speaker, 1 rise to order. What has this to do with the motion before the Chair?


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order.


Mr SNEDDEN - The Opposition could be left with 10 to 15 minutes for questions. In the past the Opposition side has had something like - 1 do not know the figure precisely - 25 to 26 questions. Over the period of this Government we have not had that many questions and the reason is that Ministers have been defying the Standing Orders.


Mr MacKellar - And the Chair.


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, and the Chair, by the method of their answering. If an honourable member asks a question: 'Is A, B, C the fact' and the Minister gets up and says: 'D, E, F,\ the Minister is not answering the question. He not only does not answer the question, he also takes up time and prevents other questions being asked.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I think the right honourable member knows the wording of the motion that is before the Chair.


Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, I do.


Mr SPEAKER - I should like the right honourable gentleman to speak to the motion.


Mr SNEDDEN - The question that is before the Chair is whether or not, against that background, you, Mr Speaker, need to enforce absolutely the standing order which says that in answering a question the Minister shall answer with relevant material and he shall not answer on matters for which he has no responsibility. They are the 2 things which take up all the time - Ministers speaking of irrelevant matters and speaking of matters for which they are not responsible. It is very important that if a question is asked the answer be relevant and not be about matters for which the Minister is not responsible. But you, Mr Speaker, on this occasion permitted a question which inquired about a matter for which the Minister was not responsible. The Minister alleged that he was responsible, by suggesting that because there are joint rolls this, in some magical way, makes him responsible. What happens in a State redistribution has no relevance whatever to the distribution of electoral boundaries in the Commonwealth sphere, as my colleague, the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), has pointed out. It is not the responsibility of the Minister and there is no relevance and you, Mr Speaker, permitted that question. This has been so, not just on this occasion. We do not want to lose question time. The honourable gentleman did not want to persist in this way but the issue having arisen, unless we take this opportunity now to impress upon you. Mr Speaker, by disagreeing with your ruling, we will be acquiescing in seeing the institution of question time being submerged by brutal numbers, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) used the term yesterday. We are not prepared to have that happen. We believe your ruling was wrong because you permitted irrelevancy from the Minister. We believe it was wrong because you allowed him to talk about matters for which he has no responsibility and we therefore dissent from your ruling.







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