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Wednesday, 7 December 1938


Mr FAIRBAIRN (Flinders) .- I congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) on the very comprehensive statement which he made to the House last night, and on the tremendous scope which he covered in a short space of time. I wish to thank him for having made arrangements for the circulation of copies of his speech to honorable members this morning, so that they might study it before the debate was resumed.

My chief regret is the same as that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), namely, that this first really comprehensive statement regarding what is proposed for the defence of Australia should have been introduced during that unbecoming scramble that occurs at the end of every session, when the House, year after year, gives a brilliant imitation of a school breaking up for the holidays. If I may be permitted to vary the simile, the Government, at this time, somewhat resembles an indifferent wrestler wriggling towards the ropes. In order to show that my criticism is not unfair I propose to point out how the business of the House has been mismanaged during this session. Most honorable members will agree that the most important subject which Parliament has had to consider this session is this tremendously expanded defence programme, involving as it does colossal expenditure, and we are being asked to debate it during the last few hours of the session. Parliament was called together on the 21st September, and measures of comparative unimportance were placed before honorable members for their consideration. During the first week, the total sitting time was 20 hours 51 minutes. As far as I could see, we were practically stone-walling while business was being prepared.

Mr. SPEAKER(Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is not in order in discussing the time taken on previous debates.


Mr FAIRBAIRN - The budget and Estimates, and the defence proposals associated with them, were rushed through the House at an all-night sitting in a week during which the House sat for 57 hours.







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