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Thursday, 27 February 1975
Page: 888

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) -The Opposition does not agree with the motion that has just been moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). It is a totally arrogant abuse of the procedures of this Parliament for the Leader of the House in his first action today with any positive meaning after his deplorable performance this morning to suggest that there be a special meeting of the Parliament to consider a measure which could quite adequately be considered within the normal proceedings of the House if he were prepared to act in accordance with the Standing Orders and were prepared to permit the normal proceedings of this place to continue as the Standing Orders and you, Mr Speaker, I would hope, would require. Question time this morning was a fair example of the degree to which the Leader of the House has denied a proper opportunity for members of the Opposition to raise matters which are of concern to the nation and to their electorates.

Mr Hunt - No Grievance Day either.

Mr McLeay - They killed Grievance Day.

Mr SINCLAIR - There was no Grievance Day as my colleagues remind me. We started today's proceedings with a complete abuse of question time with the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) spending 22 minutes answering one question. There is a requirement under standing order 144 that matters of policy should be canvassed not at question time but in statements made after question time. That standing order has not been complied with. Apparently tomorrow precedence is to be given to the Family Law Bill. There are many other matters of importance to this Parliament which are being rushed through. No question time is to be allowed tomorrow. In circumstances in which question time has been abused by Ministers, where the opportunity to ask questions has been halved compared with the average time permitted and the number of questions recorded during the days when the Liberal and Country Parties were in power, there is absolutely no reason for question time to be denied tomorrow to the Parliament. During the last week a series of Bills has been introduced in haste by the Government to create the circumstances within which a double dissolution might be called. Those double dissolution measures have been given priority above the Family Law Bill. Tomorrow might more properly be set aside as a day of prayer, I believe, within which we might consider whether the procedures and practices of the Parliament might be followed and whether they might not be implemented in a way which might even fit the wishes of the Leader of the House. Then there is a matter of convention. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his address to the nation on Sunday, 1 6 February, stated:

It's time to stop the rot.

How right he was. He continued:

When violence is done to an important convention, a wellestablished custom, then violence is done to democracy itself.

How quickly he forgot that lesson which he told us. was so necessary to observe. He stated:

The real difficulties are great enough without deliberate sabotage.

In circumstances where that deliberate sabotage has occurred in this Parliament today there is no reason for us to be called together for a special sitting of the House tomorrow. The special sitting is required only because the Leader of the House and the Government are unable to work within the normal restraints of the agreed sitting times and are unable to lay down a program simply because they cannot control their own members. The Prime Minister is unable to control the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron). The Leader of the House refuses to accept the responsibilities of his office and instead accepts the dictates of the Prime Minister. As a result we have to have a special day of sitting to consider the Family Law Bill. Tomorrow is not even an ordinary day of sitting. We are to be denied the right of voting on the Bill; we are to be denied question time; we are to be denied the opportunity to consider any other legislation.

Members of the Opposition are concerned about the Family Law Bill. We believe it is necessary that there be a full and adequate debate on it. But we are equally concerned with every other piece of legislation which this Government seeks to bring before us. The instance of legislation which was raised in this Parliament and passed by this Parliament this week demonstrates the worth of undertakings given in the other place. There was an assurance that there would be no debate for some 3 months and that public submissions would be considered sometime during March. Even those assurances are being denied. We on this side of the House, while seeking an adequate debate on the Family Law Bill, equally seek an adequate opportunity to debate all other matters of major legislation. I believe that today the Leader of the House totally rejected the responsibilities of his office in accepting the direction of his Prime Minister. We see no reason why we should be required to come back just to meet the whims of that man and of the Government.

We believe it is necessary that there be an adequate opportunity for us to debate all measures. We do not believe that a special debate tomorrow is necessary, the more so because of today's happenings. For those reasons we on this side of the House put to the Government that the suggestion it made earlier in the week no longer has relevance. Indeed, this morning the man who is Leader of the House sought deferral of this notice until a later hour this day. He sought the deferral because he was not sure whether he wanted to have tomorrow's sitting. It is being held simply because he feels he now has his own house in order and because he feels he now might be able to divert the attention of the public from the very dramatic circumstances of today. I wonder how those honourable members who absented themselves from the vote feel about being called back tomorrow, not to vote but to be here to talk on this piece of legislation.

Parliament is more than just a debating chamber. It is a chamber within which Bills are submitted, where first, second and third reading and committee stages are deliberated upon and a vote is taken. Tomorrow is not a normal sitting of the Parliament. Tomorrow there is to be talk but there is to be no vote. Tomorrow our Standing Orders are to be varied to ensure that only one piece of legislation will come before this Parliament. I repeat that there has been virtually no question time today. The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Les Johnson) had 22 minutes answering one question. Tomorrow, if the House is to sit, there should be a question time. If there is to be a sitting of the Parliament tomorrow, we would be quite happy that it be a normal sitting of Parliament. But, if there is to be no normal sitting of Parliament tomorrow, there is no reason for this House to sit and talk, and talk alone.

If this Parliament should meet, it should meet in the normal and proper course. We would be happy that there be a question time and that there be the normal presentation of ministerial statements on matters on which ministerial statements are required to be made in accordance with the provisions of standing order 144. We believe that then, and only then, can the debate on the Family Law Bill continue. In circumstances where that procedure is to be denied us, the Opposition is not prepared to accept the motion moved by the Leader of the House.

Mr Killen - Mr Speaker,the outrageous behaviour of the Government -

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