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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member will not reflect upon the Chair.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the very last of my intentions, Sir. I have said a Speaker who is not only impartial but who is seen to be impartial, as with the judiciary. That involves a change in the method of choosing the Speaker and of establishing him in his office entirely free from all ties of Party allegiance and from all appearance of Party allegiance. The Speaker might well bc chosen for life - and I hope that is no reflection that will upset you, Sir - subject of course to certain provisos, and appointed to represent a special electorate for which his re-election would be automatic during his Speakership. Something of this kind is found essential in some other Parliaments and with sufficient will it could bc done here. Since no Party newly elected to government could possibly be expected to yield its power and its traditional Australian right to appoint one of its own as Speaker, the change would seemingly need an allParty agreement to operate from a certain date far enough in the future to make certain that the then composition of the government at the time of the change would be unpredictable. T would hope, Mr Speaker, that with this change there would be no repetition of the strong feelings evoked and the wearisome hours spent in debating dissent from your most remarkable ruling that a no-confidence motion did not require a straight yes or no but could be made subject to a sort of 5 bob each way amendment.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member knows full well that when speaking on the motion for the adjournment he cannot debate a question upon which the House has made a decision.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - 1 am not going to do so.

Mr SPEAKER - The honourable member cannot debate such a matter or refer to that debate.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have, of course, not the slightest intention - it is here in my notes - of canvassing that ruling now, but propose for the consideration of the House that to avoid such a ruling ever being given again the Standing Orders could be amended to ensure that on a no-confidence motion the House must be able, without any alternative, to decide on the floor of the chamber by vote whether the Government is or is not to be ejected from office. lt would then, of course, be the duty of the speaker, as it is now, to interpret that standing order. That would restore the position which always existed in this Parliament until very recent days and would be another step, I believe, towards restoring and maintaining confidence in the effective working of the Parliament. 1 now turn to the guillotining of the National Health Bill through the Committee and third reading stages in the House a couple of days ago and what could be done to prevent a repetition of such a glaring mishandling of the parliamentary process. For here was a most important, most complex and a most detailed piece of legislation, vitally affecting the daily health and indeed the very life of everyone in Australia, men, women and children alike. Members on both sides wanted to propose amendments to various clauses, over 100 of them in total and all of them, I believe, designed by those who sought to make them to improve the working of the national health plan. Whether they would have improved it is now beside the point and I have no intention of debating that. The fact is that the large majority of those proposed amendments were never even considered for a minute, and this, I think, is a vital interest to all those concerned with the working of the parliamentary system and maintaining public respect for it. The fact that this was done, of course, made a farce of the Committee stages of the Bill, ft aroused the frustration and the fury and eventually the contempt, I am afraid, of very many people all over Australia who were and are most keenly interested in national health. Of course, it made puppets, even dummies because they were not allowed to speak, of many members of Parliament sent here by their constituents to endeavour to make this legislation as good as it could be made. 1 speak now as one who considers the Committee stages of a Bill the most important stages with which this Parliament deals and as one who remembers when they were so regarded in this Parliament and who recalls hearing both from the Press Gallery even way back when the Parliament was sitting in Melbourne, and from my seat in this chamber many discussions in this

Committee conducted in a non-party spirit with the government prepared to consider amendments on their merits; discussions conducted, Sir, after the principle and main features of a Bill had properly been decided by vote between' government and the opposition at the second reading stage. As I say, many discussions in Committee conducted in a non-party spirit resulted in valuable changes, not in the principles or purposes of the Bill so much as in its machinery.

I realise, Sir,that you cannot turn back the clock but I would suggest for the consideration of the House that it might be possible to adopt the machinery whereby, when the Bill is ready to enter the Committee stage, members of the House who are particularly interested in that legislation could meet in a Committee room with the Minister in charge of the bill and with the aid of departmental officers and even with the Parliamentary Draftsman examine in what way the machinery of that Bill could be altered for its improvement without affecting the main purpose for which the Government had introduced the legislation. Such a Committee would return to the Committee as a whole and bring to it its report and recommendations and thus facilitate the proceedings of the Committee as a whole of the House.

Mr Howson - Would Hansard be taking notes?

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