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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - I want to speak on this motion to adjourn the House. It was my understanding from u conversation with the Leader of the House 'Mr Snedden) that the debate on the second reading stage of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill would continue into the morning. This procedure has now been denied. The fact of the matter is that while we have had one Government member getting up on an extremely petty point of misrepresentation the Government tonight has misrepresented entirely the concepts of parliamentary debate. Members opposite sit with supercilious grins on their faces because they realise that at this stage they can play the numbers game, but they will not always be able to play the numbers game in this chamber. They are most certainly belittling themselves in the eyes of the public.

When the Snowy Mountains public relations authority was not curtailed by a previous Minister over 250,000 people annually went over the Snowy Mountains scheme and examined it, but this year the figure has dropped to a mere 900. Obviously, the Government has restricted visits to the scheme because it is fearful that the public, in viewing the scheme, will be prompted to support the retention of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. However it is not on that point that I want to speak tonight. I again make the point that has been made in this chamber before and I refer to a situation that has unfortunately prevailed in this House in earlier sittings. It did seem that sanity had returned to the Government for a short time in respect of its treatment of the Opposition, but members opposite have extremely short memories because we are back again to the system of the gag. No doubt they want to get out of this place this week, as do members of the Opposition, but we cannot bc held responsible for the stupid procrastination and time wasting that has obtained in this place since March, when we first mct, as a result of the waste of time engaged in by Government members in a number of debates. Apparently they will continue to waste time and ride roughshod over the processes of this House, or they will use the processes of this House in a manner which can be described only as an abuse of those privileges which should be available to parliamentarians to enable them to voice their opinions on the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Bill and Bills of a like nature which from time to time are presented in this chamber.

Was it not only last week that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) stood up during a debate on what ought to be done by Committees, and deplored a number of things? The thought went through my mind at that time that he was merely paying lip service. This thought has certainly been confirmed tonight. For the whole time that I have been speaking in this debate Government supporters have kept up a continual chatter, almost to the extent that it has been necessary for me to shout to be heard. Usually I sit here quietly and when occasionally I interject I am always called to order by Mr Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, the Chairman of Committees or whoever occupies the Chair. But apparently Government supporters can do as they like. I reiterate my condemnation of and utter disgust for the action of those people who so frequently pretend that they are the protectors of democracy when in fact they do not even know the meaning of the word, let alone know what principles of democracy should be applied in a place like this.

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