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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3371

Mr ANTHONY - Does the Prime Minister agree that legislation designed to eventually change the Australian Constiution is legislation of considerable significance and that if the Australian people are to be asked to express an informed and considered view on the proposals to change the Constitution, the Parliament should have adequate time to debate the legislation? Was the Prime Minister aware of or was he party to the dictatorial decision of the Leader of the House to apply the guillotine to the 3 Constitution Alteration Bills now before the Parliament? Will the Prime Minister, in the interest of ensuring that the Australian people are allowed to be made aware of the great ramifications of the 2 Bills still under discussion in this House, reconsider, even at this late stage, the decision to use the guillotine, recognising that the matter involves much more than the simple proposition put to us by the Leader of the House that all we are being asked to do is to let the people decide? Will the Prime Minister accept my assurance that the members of my Party, provided reasonable time is made available to them to place their view on these important matters before the House, will co-operate with the Government in dealing with. these 2 Bills as expeditiously as possible, but the Opposition will not accept the prostitution of the workings of this Parliament by the application of the guillotine on such an important issue?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I just made an appeal about the length of questions and answers and it applies in respect of any Minister abusing question time by giving a long answer to a question. However, the question asked by the Leader of the Country Party was too long, and such questions invite long answers. I appeal to honourable members on all sides of the House to be as brief as possible in the asking and the answering of questions.

Mr WHITLAM - I have no complaint about the conduct of the right honourable gentlemen's Party during the incidents last night. Those incidents have meant that there will be about an hour and three-quarters less debating time on the second constitutional Bill under guillotine than there would otherwise have been, lt might be well to recall that the whole fracas arose from the deliberate attitude of the members of the Liberal Party.

Mr Snedden - On a point of order: If the Prime Minister is going to give an account of what he believes happened last night, I ask for leave of the House to give an account following his, for this debate is being broadcast to many listeners, and the Opposition does not intend to put up with a one-sided presentation of matters in this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! In regard to the point of order, if the right honourable gentleman likes to seek leave to make a statement, that will be a matter for the House to decide, not for me.

Mr Snedden - I submit that it is a matter for you to decide there will be even handed conduct of this Parliament. If the Prime Minister intends to use question time in the way he has given notice of doing, then honourable members on this side of the House need to be given equal protection.


Mr WHITLAM - I regret that my hospitality last night was abused. In an attempt to frustrate the recording of the constitutional vote required on these Bills, 2 devices were used.

Dr Forbes - On a point of order: On behalf of everbody on this side of the House, I find the Prime Minister's remark extremely insulting, and demand a withdrawal.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order involved.

Mr WHITLAM - I invite honourable gentlemen to look at the honourable gentleman's eyes, even this morning.

Mr Wentworth - On a point of order -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The House will come to order.

Mr Snedden - You must be ashamed of yourself.

Mr WHITLAM - You ought to. be ashamed of yourself, too. Look at him: Look at his bleary face.

Mr Snedden - You are being gutless.

Mr WHITLAM - It is what he put in his guts that rooted him.

Mr Snedden - On a point of order. I ask the Prime Minister to repeat the exact words he just used. I hope that Hansard wrote them down. Did Hansard get those words?


M Wentworth - On a point of order -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There was a personal reflection, and I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw.

Mr WHITLAM - Well, if it was heard, I will withdraw it, but do people want to hear what it was? It is of no use withdrawing something that was not recorded. Was it recorded? I understand that it was recorded. Well, honourable members will be able to see what it was. I withdraw it; it was out of order.

Mr Wentworth - On a point of order: Everybody knows that the Government would not have made the procedural mistakes that it made last night -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat.

Mr Wentworth - Mr Speaker-

Mr SPEAKER - If the honourable member refuses to obey the Chair, I will see that he is dealt with. He did not get the call for his point of order, and I ask him in future to take notice of the orders of the Chair as they are given. I will not tolerate this sort of behaviour.

Mr WENTWORTH (MACKELLAR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thank you very much, Sir.

Mr WHITLAM - Mr Speaker,the Opposition last night failed to say 'no' when you put the question on the third reading. The Opposition tellers whom you appointed refused to act. By those 2 devices it hoped to frustrate the recording of the absolute majority, which the Constitution requires. Furthermore, there would have been much longer - about an hour - to debate the first of the constitutional referendum Bills under guillotine if the Opposition had not moved to discuss a matter of public importance yesterday. As many honourable members will have noticed, there is another referendum Bill on the blue paper for today. Notice was given last night. Several members of the Opposition will know that I mentioned the prospect of this Bill on Tuesday. After discussion with them I decided not to bring it in until later this week, and debate on it therefore will not be resumed until next Wednesday to allow consideration of that Bill by their caucuses.

Ample time has been given to debate these matters. I would recall to honourable gentlemen that the proposed Bills were mentioned at the Constitutional Convention at the beginning of September. I mentioned that they were coming in on the first sitting day of the House after that Constitutional Convention concluded. As honourable gentlemen will realise, the 3 Bills which are under guillotine have been in the Government Party's platform for the last 2i years. Furthermore, if the Bills are rejected or shelved by the Senate, then honourable members will have an opportunity to debate them afresh after an interval of 3 months when I shall introduce them again in this House.

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