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Thursday, 19 November 1959

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HigginsTreasurer) . - The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has gone through a familiar process. The act, the mannerisms and the language we have heard from him so often before. We have listened on both sides of the House with the same lack of receptiveness, because we know that in the present circumstances what he says is absolute poppycock. No member of this Parliament with any lengthy experience can remember a parliamentary year in which more time has been devoted to the business of private members, and more opportunity given them to bring forward matters for debate, than the year 1959. The time devoted to the debate on the Estimates was longer than normally allowed. Almost without exception the times normally set aside for the business of private members have been devoted to that business. In the days of the Government of which the honorable member for East Sydney was a member, such times were so rare that I can hardly recall an occasion when we were allowed a Grievance Day.

In this parliamentary year opportunities have been provided, night after night and week after week, however late the hour and uncomfortable the circumstances, for members to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House. The honorable member for East Sydney, who is reliably reported to take his afternoon nap while the rest of us have to go ahead with the business of the House, so that he can remain fresh, comes in like a lion unleashed at about midnight and brings up matters for discussion, nine-tenths of which could be dealt with far more satisfactorily either by personal interview with Ministers, or by correspondence with them or their departments.

As I said in the House the other day, the honorable member for East Sydney, who claims the right of free speech, has done more to damage the prospects of free speech than any other man that I have known in this Parliament. This institution would become unworkable if the same lack of co-operation was forthcoming from all members of the Parliament that we have had from the honorable member for East Sydney. Even bis Leader and Deputy Leader cannot secure reasonable cooperation from him so as to ensure that arrangements they enter into for the smooth running of the House are carried out.

The matter that the Parliament has been debating over the last couple of days is most important. There is keen public interest in it. I understand there have already been some complaints that yesterday's discussion was not conducted when Parliament was on the air. I suggest that we would be showing a lack of responsibility if we brought forward trifling matters now - because at this stage of the session they are not likely to be matters of great urgency or consequence - and deprive those who care to listen to the Parliament's discussions of the opportunity to hear the remainder of the debate on the major social legislation that we have before us.

Let me point out that even in this week the Government has not denied private members the opportunity to raise matters of concern to them. I made special arrangements for an adjournment debate, if it was required, on the first night of this week's sittings. Nobody chose to take advantage of the opportunity. Admittedly the hour when the House adjourned this morning was not the time when most people would have wished to speak, but, nevertheless, the opportunity was there. To-night there will be further opportunities.

Mr Calwell - Not to-morrow night!

Mr HAROLD HOLT - I must correct myself, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The late hour at which we took our truncated sleeping time has left me with the impression that we are a day behind.

Mr Ward - That is the trouble; you do not know what day of the week it is!

Mr HAROLD HOLT - I know where I am and what I am doing, which is more than the honorable gentleman seems to know most of the time.

To-night, there will be another opportunity, I would hope, for honorable members to deal with matters of concern to them, and the honorable gentleman will be able to shorten his list of 50 matters which, he says, is growing. I could refer to other opportunities. We still have a quite varied range of legislation to debate, and perhaps the honorable gentleman could vent some of his views then. We have the item of Advance to the Treasurer, which permits debate on a much wider range of topics than debate on legislation limited to some particular aspect. I am certain in my own mind that if we were to accept the suggestion of the honorable gentleman and protract the proceedings of the Parliament for another week or two beyond the date indicated, whatever prospects he may have of gaining the leadership of his party would diminish very rapidly. He would create more irritation there than he does here. The clear will of the House is that we proceed with the Matrimonial Causes Bill as speedily as practicable, and to that end, I move -

That the question be now put.

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