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Wednesday, 23 November 1960

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- I wish to add my protests to those of my colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). We have had the spectacle, over recent years, of the greatest curtailment of speaking time ever imposed by any government in Australia. I have been here since 1946, and several years of my membership of this Parliament were during the term of the Labour Government. Yesterday, this Government had the nerve to tell the Parliament that it was being generous in giving us two days and a bit on the committee stage of the Crimes Bill. The greatest bill ever to come before this Parliament was the bank nationalization bill in 1947. Mr. Chifley, the then Prime Minister and Treasurer in the Labour Government, gave that debate three solid weeks in this Parliament. Out of 75 members of the House, 73 spoke on the measure. And this Government talks about generosity! It does not know what free speech in this Parliament is. It does not know what liberty of speech is here. On the Crimes Bill we have had about 40 divisions already, and nearly half of them have been to apply the gag. I can say, quite truthfully, that by bureaucracy and the use of the gag this Government is misgoverning Australia to-day.

Another point I wish to raise is the time made available for general business. I think that we have had only one debate on general business this year, and the year is nearly finished. That was on a motion by the honorable member for Mackellar {Mr. Wentworth). I cannot remember any other debate on general business. Let honorable members opposite cast their minds back, if they disagree with me. I have been here every sitting day this year.

Mr Harold Holt - That was because your side moved motions of urgency on most of the sitting days.

Mr DUTHIE - We have moved such motions on some of the sitting days. That is the only way that some members on this side of the House have of bringing important matters before the notice of the country. Even in adjournment debates, on occasions, we do not have the opportunity to speak until well after midnight.

Mr Beazley - And they even gag those debates.

Mr DUTHIE - Yes, the Government even gags those debates, as the honorable member for Fremantle reminds me. We will have late sittings for the rest of the session. What member can give right and proper attention to the government of the country at 2 o'clock in the morning? I ask you!

We are quite willing to sit for an extra week in this place if only we can finish the daily business at 11.30 p.m. every day, which is a normal, sensible and humane time to finish a day's sitting of the Parliament, instead of being kept here until 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning, which is inhumane, irrational and stupid.

During the committee stage of the Crimes Bill yesterday we had the spectacle of 35 minutes of the time allotted for debate passing with not one word spoken in debate. Such a thing had never happened before in the history of this Commonwealth Parliament. But it happened yesterday afternoon, when we were going through one division after another. " Ring the bells and lock the doors " was the story of those 35 minutes. That is a disgusting and shocking state of affairs in this National Parliament.

I know that honorable members opposite do not like to hear this kind of thing from us. What is the general business which is before the Parliament, but which I am sure we will not reach this year? The Treasurer will tell us, when the present motion is carried in a moment or so, that there will be no more general business before the House this year. On the notice-paper is an item of general business, notice of which was given by the honorable member for Barton some time ago. The motion of which he gave notice is -

That in the opinion of this House, provision should be made for automatic pension entitlements to ex-servicemen and members of the Forces who may beafflicted by cancer.

This item has been on the notice-paper for weeks, and it is a very important item. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has on notice a motion in regard to constitutional reform. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has on notice a long and very interesting motion on decentralization of population and industry. Those matters will go by the board because of the actions of this gag-happy Government which, I hope, will not be here after the next general election.

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