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Tuesday, 10 April 1973
Page: 1256

Mr GARLAND (Curtin) - I second the motion. The motion concerns the right of the Opposition to speak on matters of public import, to question and to criticise. The Government, by the use of the gag - the motion that the question be now put - has, in respect of this matter and in respect of many other matters I submit, reduced to a minimum the right of members of the Opposition in this House to express a view, to question and to criticise. Indeed, the debate on the motion which was moved this afternoon, virtually without warning, was gagged by the Government.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr GARLAND - Before the suspension I was explaining that Standing Orders should be suspended so that the House can debate in full Order of the Day No. 9 on today's Notice Paper entitled 'Croatian Terrorism - Ministerial statement' - that is the name the Government gives the subject - 'Motion to take note of Paper: Resumption of debate . . .'. By the procedure that it has used the Government, virtually without notice this morning, has scrubbed this matter from the notice paper. This was a statement which the Government saw fit to introduce into this House and, one would have thought, it was a statement containing such matters of public interest as would deserve full debate, including debate by the Opposition in this House. The Government has gagged this debate.

There are only 2 minutes left to me in which to speak but I want to say that the Government has done a good deal of gagging in this House over the last week or so. Today it gagged this debate after only 3 speakers on this side of the House when my party had a list of at least 15 members who wished to speak in the debate. The Leader of the House (Mr Daly), who is sitting here not paying much attention, is always denying the right of the Opposition to speak in this place by gagging debates but he always takes the opportunity to speak himself, not very pertinently or constructively but nevertheless he takes the time which he will not give to members of the Opposition for debate. The Opposition has the right to speak, to be heard, to question and to criticise. Goodness, before dinner we had the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) trying to make the fatuous point that if the Opposition wished to debate this matter further it could have it put on the notice paper as private members' business. He knows or ought to know full well that any member who gives notice of private members' business today cannot have it brought on in this House until next September. So much for that point.

In view of the great build up given to this statement in the week before the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) made it in the Senate, one would have thought it touched 3 important areas of public interest in this country. Firstly, there was a question of terrorist organisations relating, as the AttorneyGeneral said, to Croatian movements. As has been shown by Senator Greenwood and by honourable members in this House, there has been no proof yet produced or charges laid in respect of that important matter. When proof is produced I for one and, I am sure, other members on the Opposition side will say that if those persons can be found guilty they ought to be punished within Australian law, and I emphasise 'Australian law'. But the real objective of this statement was to criticise the former Government and the former AttorneyGeneral, Senator Greenwood, in particular. It was a straight out attack on Senator Greenwood - that was the real objective of it - and Senator Greenwood has answered that attack in full. The third point and second important matter raised by the statement that the Opposition wants to debate and question is why this Government and the Attorney-General in particular have set out to destroy the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, its standing and effectiveness within Australia and its standing externally in relation to the trust which it had with the intelligence services of our allies, those countries with which we have been co-operating and which have been cooperating with us in the past.

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