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Wednesday, 25 February 1942

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- Prior to the rising of the House on the 17th December last, I directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a question in which I specifically asked that the Parliament be not kept in recess for too lengthy a period. I was subjected to some criticism for having dared to ask such a question at that time. The Prime Minister replied that, although it had been said that the House would not meet again until the following March, he could not conceive of the circumstances being such that the Parliament would be enabled to remain in recess for so long. Since then we have had disaster after disaster, the major one being that the whole of one of our divisions is in the hands of the Japanese in Singapore. Other matters of the very grea test moment to this nation have arisen; yet this House has been kept in recess, and is now asked to remain in recess.

Mr Curtin - It is not asked to remain in recess.

Mr ANTHONY - Either this Parliament is a useful instrument, or it ought not to meet. The most appropriate time for it to meet is during the greatest emergency in the history of this country. On the 17th December, the Prime Minister admitted to me that he recognized that members of Parliament had the same duties to. perform on behalf of the country as members of the Government had to perform on behalf of the Parliament. Last week we sat in secret meeting for two days. The suggestion was made in many quarters that we ought to have continued sitting on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I have reached the limit of my patience. I affirm very definitely that there is a tremendous feeling of disquiet throughout the country. This Parliament is the proper place for the revelation and discussion of what is in the minds of the people. If our efforts to voice the views of the people are thwarted, democracy has no meaning in war-time. In certain circumstances, I agree, Parliament might abrogate some of its privileges. The circumstances that I visualize would be such as would exist under a government representative of all the parties in this House. There would then be some justification for Parliament not meeting. With one-party government, the majority of the members of the one party occupying some remunerative post in the Government, the time has come when those who represent the Opposition must give expression to what is in their minds; and that can be done most appropriately in the Parliament itself. I trust that when the House meets next week the Prime Minister and the Government will not again attempt to adjourn it for a lengthy period.

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