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Tuesday, 30 November 1965

Mr WENTWORTH (MacKellar) . - Mr. Speaker, I suppose that by this time I should cease to be surprised at anything that happens or does not happen in this House. I must say that I was surprised - shocked would be the wrong word - to find that the Opposition was not prepared to support the motion moved so cogently and ably by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner). The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who has just resumed his seat, gave us many reasons why this motion should be supported. He told us he had not had time to consider the amendments which were before the House. He said the motion was a good one but then said that he was not going to support it. 1 can understand some honorable members on the Government side of the chamber who may feel, and may reasonably feel, that calls of party loyalty are very strong. I can even imagine their voting against their consciences for the sake of party loyalty. But the honorable member for Bradfield has put forward an argument which was cogent and, I thought unanswerable. Perhaps my friends on this side of the House would feel reluctant to buck the Government. But what is wrong with the Opposition? Is it just a sham Opposition? How can it be that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who in his speech, gave every reason for supporting the proposition put forward by the honorable member for Bradfield, now says: " We are not going to support it."? As I say, I am not shocked by this. I am, perhaps, a little surprised.

The honorable member for Bradfield put before the House a form of action by means of which honorable members could better perform their proper duties. He has also put before the House, generously, I thought, a form of action by means of which the Opposition could play its legitimate and proper part in the business of this House; not by obstructing and not by opposing for the sake of opposition, but by finding a forum in which it could put forward constructive criticism in a proper and reasoned way. The Government's measures are good. But cannot they be improved? As the honorable member for Bradfield said, are there not aspects of this case which are not dealt with in the Bill before the House? Are we always going to say that exigencies of time, our desire to get home to our electorates - if you put it like that - must always inhibit proper and reasoned discussion of things in this House? I would hesitate to believe that honorable members put their own function in this House so low or thought so little of this House.

The form suggested by the honorable member for Bradfield is one which has not been used in recent times but it is a form of this House which has a long and reputable history. Why should not we be invoking it in a matter like this - in a matter which is complex, which requires constructive discussion and which requires, during that discussion, that there should be at our elbows the technical advice which officers of the Treasury can give? Earlier today, Mr. Speaker, we were talking about the lack of a parliamentary draftsman being available to honorable members in order to put their desires and suggestions into proper legislative form, because we all recognised that this was a technical matter. Now, in this Bill, we are dealing with matters which are, in their very essence, technical. There may be members like the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen), for example, who have lived in this sphere for a long time and who would be as competent, probably, as any Treasury officer to draft or to decide the meaning of a draft. Most honorable members do not share these advantages. We know something of what we want in the Bill but we are not always articulate as to how we should get it.

I believe that our system of only considering bills in the Committee of the whole is tending to turn Parliament into a farce. If Parliament is not to be a farce, then surely we should accept gratefully suggestions of the kind which the honorable member for Bradfield has put forward. I have said that there may be a loyalty - perhaps a mistaken, obstinate loyalty - on the part of Government supporters which might forbid them to support the honorable member for Bradfield even though they know he is right. But where is the Opposition? The Opposition is not inhibited by such feelings or motives. The Opposition has full liberty of action in this matter. Yet apparently the Opposition wants to have a sham fight on these things. It is not really constructive. It is trying only to gain political advantage. When a suggestion is put forward which, if adopted, would enable this House or a committee of this House to consider the Bill in a constructive way the Opposition shies away from it. I admit that I am still a little surprised, even if I am no longer shocked.

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