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Wednesday, 7 December 1960

Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Treasurer) . - in reply - I do not want to detain the House unnecessarily, but there are a few points on which I think some reply should be given. We have just listened to one of the windiest pieces of humbug from the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that I have ever heard in this place. To show the sincerity of honorable gentlemen opposite, let me give one illustration. The honorable member for Grayndler is a New South Wales member of the Australian Labour Party. Labour has been in office in New South Wales for many years. To hear the honorable member talk, one would imagine that if any business of public importance were before the Parliament of New South Wales, the Parliament would sit right through to Christmas. But where is that Parliament? It went into recess a fortnight ago. It went into recess to avoid any discussion on the transport strike which was to take place in the week following its rising. Major matters of Government business remained to be disposed of, but the New South Wales Government scuttled into recess in order to avoid the Opposition whacking it; it was not prepared to stand up to the transport strike. Let us attach our own judgment to the claims of sincerity by honorable gentlemen opposite.

Mr Galvin - I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is the Minister in order in reflecting on the conduct of another Parliament?

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Treasurer is in order. However, I ask him to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - I am glad to have the support of your ruling, Sir. I shall certainly direct myself to what has been said by honorable gentlemen opposite. I think I am entitled to show how hollow is their opposition to this motion, when tested not only by the standard of other years but also by the actions of their colleagues in another place.

I want to make only two points, because frankly I think what else has been said has been answered on so many occasions that to answer it again now would be tedious repetition. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made the quite unwarranted slur that we brought in the bills concerning the judiciary, introduced early this morning, to coin his own picturesque but certainly quite unjustified phrase, " like thieves in the night ". The clear implication of the honorable gentleman's statement is that, without the Parliament or the people knowing what was happening, we introduced in some surprise and sudden way a measure which the Opposition would wish to oppose. Sir, let me just remind honorable gentlemen opposite that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced publicly, I think in September, the details of the arrangements to be made about the salaries of judges. The details were publicly known, as they had been announced by him at that early time.

At some inconvenience to the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) and honorable members on this side of the House, the Judiciary Bill (No. 2) and the Judges' Remuneration Bill were introduced when they were because the Opposition requests that the details of any legislation that it is asked to debate be clearly before it in advance of the normal Opposition caucus meeting on Wednesday morning. Out of courtesy to the Opposition, those measures were introduced at an early hour this morning. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) made an equally unwarranted charge when he said that we had gagged through two important loan bills.

Mr Uren - I did not say that at all.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Despite the honorable member's comparative youth and his reputation of having had some athletic vigour at an earlier time in his life, he apparently cannot stand up to the hours to which older members of this Parliament find that they can accommodate themselves. I can recall a government led by a late Labour Prime Minister keeping this House sitting from, two to three days consecutively, day a~d night, in order to wind up the business of the session. Those of us who were in opposition at that time did not scuttle away to bed as if we thought that that was the fittest place for us to discharge our public duties, as, apparently, did the honorable gentleman opposite.

As anybody who was present when the debate on the two loan bills was resumed will know, they were spoken to in earnest and conscientious terms by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who made a very thoughtful speech ranging over not merely the loan bills themselves but also the whole of the Government's trade and economic policies. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) made a pointed speech and was supported by the Opposition Whip, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). I told them that we were not gagging those measures through and I gave them an assurance that what they had sa:.. would be conveyed to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). One of my first acts on coming to Parliament House this morning was to direct my colleague's attention to the remarks made by those honorable members. 1 make this point, Sir, to demonstrate not only that this Government endeavours to deal fairly by all sections of the Parliament but also that the views put to us by members of the Parliament, whether they are from the Opposition side or our own side, are carefully taken into account and given the speediest consideration of which we can assure them.

Mr Calwell - I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. I claim to have been misrepresented by the Treasurer. I protested against what I claimed to be the sneaking in of legislation in the middle of the night. It is the custom for the Government to distribute to the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as well as the Opposition Whip, a special business sheet indicating what measures will be introduced and debated. Two very important measures that were introduced after 2 o'clock this morning were not mentioned on that sheet, and the Opposition was taken completely by surprise. That was the justification for my remarks. The Leader of the House had no justification for then upbraiding me in the language which he used for my protest against the Government's action, which was most unusual and to which we offer the strongest possible objection.

Mr Uren - I, also, wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker. The Teasurer implied that in the early hours of this morning I was in a place where I should not have been. I was in this chamber in the early hours of this morning at the time to which the Treasurer refers. I should like him to bring forward any proof that I was in any other place, if he has any proof. The right honorable gentleman implies that he is tough and that he likes to get into clinches. If he wishes to get into a clinch, I have no objection.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I think that the honorable member has now completed his personal explanation.

Question put -

That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.

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