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Thursday, 29 March 1979
Page: 0

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - I support the remarks of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) on this issue and at the operation of the legislation committee last night.

I have attended two meetings of legislation committees on two issues. At the first meeting, whilst some propositions were accepted from Government members, none were accepted from the Opposition. When the Opposition agreed to the whole principle of legislation committees it was in the belief that they would work along the lines of joint parliamentary committees such as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs of which I am a member, the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, of which I was a member, and so on where there is, as the honourable members for Adelaide put it, a joining together of the minds and where members are able to sit down and even though they come from different political parties reach some consensus. But last night we had the experience of one member from the Government side in an interjection frankly stated 'yes we admit we had a meeting', and the whole proceedings were determined on Party lines.

This, in my belief, was not the intention of the legislation committees. To the contrary, the whole purpose of legislation committees was to get a broader viewpoint which would be listened to by the Minister and listened to by his advisers who I gather would go back to reconsider the matters. Nobody would object to that course. I do impress on honourable members that the honourable member for Adelaide has put in a tremendous amount of work, thought and consideration on this Bill and on the amendments which he has moved. I know that. They were not frivolous propositions in any way whatsoever. They were very serious propositions which dealt with the whole basic question of maintaining teeth in the legislation and I would have thought that more serious consideration would have been given to them. I draw to the notice of the House particularly to pages 16 and 17 of the Hansard record of last night's meeting where, for example, the Right Honourable member for Lowe, Sir William McMahon, after he said that he had made this statement, said:

If it were ordinary people and not politicians I would accept your point of view.

He was referring to the point of view of the honourable member for Lalor, Mr Barry Jones. The Right Honourable member for Lowe went on to say:

But you are playing politics and we have to play politics too.

Later, when I raised this issue with him and said that this was in effect an attack on the Parliament, he replied:

It is not the Parliament; it is a committee.

I said:

Then this Committee does not represent the Parliament.

Sir Williamsaid:

It obviously does not.

I think that in itself illustrates the attitude of some Government members have to this Committee system. I had very great hopes that in legislation Committees we could sit down, just as we do in joint committees of the Parliament, and be able to give serious consideration, have a meeting of the minds and that we would be able to reach a consensus on basic issues. But last night's affair- I could only call it that- makes it very difficult to believe that this can ever occur. That has been my experience now on two legislation committees and I do not think it is to the credit of the committee, to the credit of the Parliament or the intention behind the establishing of these committees.

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