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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4513

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) (1:42 AM) - I join with the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in his seasonal good wishes. I agree with every thing he said, except the last sentence. I would like to comment first on the amount of business with which we have dealt this session. I have taken a quick look at the figures and I do not think that there has been a sessional period in which the Hansard record has had so many pages. The number of pages for this session is nearer 5,000 than 4,000. 1 just went out of the chamber to look at the Hansard records on my shelves and found that the number of pages (his session is about 1,000 more than the number for previous sessions. Sir. -nay I acknowledge your services to the House. You have to bc here when we mee! and you have to he here when we rise.

Mr Hayden - Careful now; what you say may be taken down and used against you.

Mr WHITLAM - Let me say, for greater precaution, that this is without prejudice. I must concede that my colleagues and I try your patience at times, but I hope that you will not mind if I say that I believe your patience is tried on a bipartisan basis, lt is unfortunate that in your position the more you are tried on your right the more you have to take it out on your left.

In this Parliament the Speaker is not immune from opposition in his electorate. You. Sir, have to tread a very difficult path. You have to try to keep your electorate and at the same time to preside over the House. I am not ready to assert that any member of the House would be willing to take your job who could do it better. There are many personal reasons why, whilst we disagree politically with vigour, we do respect each other as men. Your deputy has great experience. He has had to preside over, I think, probably an exceptionally great number of debates. There have been some occasions, as you know, when we have preferred his rulings even to yours.

May 1 specify also what the House owes - I certainly feel that I owe a great deal - to the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) and to my Deputy. Each has to do all he can to see that the business of the House - the legitimate business raised on each side - is given a satisfactory debate and resolution. It is impossible to reconcile all the pressures in this way. I am certain that there are no 2 men in this place who could so well resolve those differences, and this applies to both. I have never had a closer association in any activity in my life than I have had with my Deputy and I know that he appreciates the way that the Leader of the House works with him. As I have said before, the Leader of the House has an extraordinary capacity to take the heat out of any situation.

Mr Cope - He will not answer any questions though.

Mr WHITLAM - Even on that point, we all, I suppose, mock his prolixity. There is, in fact, no Minister who does give more information than the Leader of the House in his capacity as Minister for National Development. I have never known him to give an inaccurate reply and there is always as least some information in his replies. At any rate, this is not the occasion to specify any other persons.

However, from my side we extend in a personal sense to all those who sit on the other side the season's greetings. Members of Parliament, whatever else may be said about them, do, ex officio, see less of their families than anybody else and it is impossible really to carry on in this occupation unless one has a fairly tolerant wife. Their patience is sorely tried by our occupation. I think I know most of the wives of members of the Government parties and without exception they are of great assistance to their husbands. However we may find our opponents from time to time politically obnoxious, their wives are very gracious, nice women and that applies to the Prime Minister, to his Ministry and to those who sit behind him.

A great number of people in this place work with us. I do not know the population of this building. It is many hundreds - several times as many as there are who sit in the 2 chambers. We must be extraordinarily difficult people to work with due to the times and the tempo at which we work and we really are very well served by the men and women who work in this building and who work beside the members of Parliament. To them, in particular, Christmas must be a very welcome respite. We wish them too, as well as our opponents, happiness at this time with their families and their relatives.

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