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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 880

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) -On this most extraordinary of parliamentary occasions we are deliberating tonight in circumstances which every one of the members on this side of the House feels need to be sheeted home in terms of the manner of the public political execution which was perpetrated by the man who is Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in order not to enhance the status of democracy, certainly not to improve the quality or the standing of this House, nor the members of it; rather to destroy a man who has been his parliamentary colleague, a man of whom the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) said, as recorded in Hansard on 9 July 1974.

Undoubtedly, he -

That is, Mr Cope- is one of the outstanding Speakers that the Parliament has produced.

The Prime Minister in his address to the Parliament on 5 December 1974 spent a considerable amount of time outlining the degree to which, under Speaker Cope, the legislative program, the sitting hours and the performance of the Parliament had reached what he asserted were the greatest number of sitting hours in a year for more than half a century. He asserted the success of the Government's massive legislative program. Yet, Speaker Cope is the man whom the Prime Minister today decided to destroy.

This election of a successor to Speaker Cope then comes first to us as a tragedy in the manner of the destruction of a man who had the courage and ability to stand by those principles which we on this side of the Parliament hold dear. It is a tragedy that the men who are presently in Government are neither prepared to maintain the conventions nor to uphold democracy. Instead they, who are presently in Government, are prepared to see the destruction of Parliament and of the system whence government itself is elected. In those circumstances, we do not believe that any nominee from the Labor Party, irrespective of his record, and irrespective of the fact that he has performed on a number of occasions as Acting Speaker, as Deputy Speaker and as Chairman of Committees, is of sufficient integrity in the parliamentary sense to withstand the obvious influence that the Prime Minister seeks to assert on every member of his Party. When parliamentary members of the Labor Party accept the prescriptions of Caucus and when they accept the restraints that the Prime Minister today demonstrably placed upon the then Speaker and upon the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) but refused to place on the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron), we do not believe that any member of that Party can be seen as being prepared to comply with the Standing Orders and to maintain the dignity of this Parliament. We believe that the honourable member for Angas, who is an upright member of this House, who has served with distinction as a deputy chairman of committees, and who is a former member of the Upper House of the Parliament of South Australia, is a man who can contribute a great deal to the restoration of a proper sense of perspective and balance and to the maintenance of those things that are right within this Parliament.

Mr Clerk,it is important that the members of the Labor Party, those who today must have been ashamed of the manner of the destruction of Mr Speaker Cope, think twice about the decision they are about to take. It is even more important that the members of the Australian community recognise that, because there was a conflicting parliamentary occasion in New South Wales, apparently the Prime Minister decided that today would be the appropriate time for this public political execution. It is important for the dignity and status of Parliament that the decisions of this place be seen to emanate with a distinction that can come only from a person who can uphold the Standing Orders and the dignity of this place. It is quite obvious that the honourable member for Angas has those capabilities in every respect. I commend his appointment to the members of the Government Party- for the time being in government- and I commend the circumstances of the destruction of Mr Speaker Cope to the consideration of the whole Australian community. I should like to say to former Mr Speaker Cope that he has the respect and admiration of every member on this side of the House for his integrity in his performance before this Parliament today.

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