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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (AttorneyGeneral) . - The question now before the House is one of procedure, and that is my excuse for saying a few words upon it. As you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled - if I may say, with respect, quite rightly - we are not entitled to discuss on this motion any question of substance in relation to matters that arise in the House. We are entitled to discuss merely questions of procedure that arise out of them. As I understand it statements to the House by leave are designed to enable Ministers, or members, to convey information to the House in a. convenient form, whether by way of personal explanation or otherwise. As I understand it, that system was never designed, and is not designed, to enable a debate to be carried on. It may be that for some time we have got into the habit of having a statement from one side followed by a controversial statement from the other, but the position is that the Standing Orders of this House provide for many different ways of instituting and carrying on debates on matters of substance, and every one of those ways is at all times available to honorable members opposite, or to honorable members sitting on this side. The real question that arises here is whether such a debate should be carried on, not by one of the dozen means provided for its carrying on in the Standing Orders, but, in effect, by means of a series of statements by leave. I suggest, that it would be a very dangerous precedent, indeed, if we agree that we may have what is in substance a debate in the form of a series of statements. For that reason I suggest that the motion before the House should be rejected.

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