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Tuesday, 16 December 1941

Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (WAKEFIELD, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In a sense it is different. It is a development of the last war. But I put it to the honorable member for Cook that of the 111 members of the Senate find the House of Representatives, nearly 30 have seen service in either the South African War or in the last war. Does the honorable member suggest that it is not possible to find among their number a man who is fitted to hold one of the four defence portfolios ?

My third suggestion is that if a national government be formed, an election arrangement similar to that which exists in England should be reached. I make, this suggestion with some hesitation because there are some honorable members opposite who, I think, could be better replaced by United Australia party candidates. Of course I realize that honorable members opposite apply the converse, perhaps, to myself. But there is a great deal to be said for the arrangement which has worked so admirably in England. All sitting members retain their seats in Parliament for the duration of the war. If a member dies, his seat is within the gift of the party to which the deceased belonged. All parties have bound themselves for the duration of the war to support the sitting members against all-comers, including independents and "breakaways" from other parties. I recognize that the arrangement has its drawbacks, but if it were adopted here, the parties in Parliament would be able to co-operate more effectively than in the past. Lest any one should think that I put forward this suggestion for my own benefit, I mention that I have been endorsed for the next election by my political organization, so that I am taking my own risks. But if my district committee were to ask me to stand down in favour of a candidate with higher qualifications than I possess, I should be prepared without hesitation to do so. Our object at the present time should be to make all parties in this Parliament pull together for the benefit of the community.

I again stress the point raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and emphasized by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) that at a time like the present the Executive must be completely unshackled. "We cannot afford to have the Executive rushing to Parliament to secure necessary amendments to legislation. No government is likely to desire to take action unless it considers such action to be absolutely necessary. For that reason I have never been afraid that any government would send too many of our men out of Australia. On the basis of what Professor A. V. Dicey calls the "internal sanction", no government is ever likely .to denude this country of soldiers, sailors and airmen to such a degree as would imperil its safety. Therefore honorable members opposite need have no worry on that point. The Government which they support is not likely to take unduly hasty steps. In any case, however, it is wrong to shackle the Executive in such a way as would prevent it from taking action at the moment when such action became obviously essential. It has fallen to me for years past to speak in this Parliament of many things which have since come to pass, but which many honorable members did not consider likely to happen. I emphasize that we are now entering a more acute stage of the war. Therefore, the abler our Executive, and the greater its freedom to take urgent action, the greater will be our chance of pulling through.

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