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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) - While we are dealing with the question of Standing Orders, if I may I would like to refer to the document that you, Mr Speaker, tabled last week in respect to the amendment to the amendment. If 1 may say so with all respect, as I read the conclusions from May most of them dealt with an amendment to a mot on but none of them dealt with an amendment to an amendment, which 1 suggest was the matter that came before the House on the recent occasion. You certainly delved pretty deeply into history when you went back to what Pitt said in 1802. After all, political parties were somewhat different sorts of animals in 1802 than they are in 1970. I still submit that the Opposition in a Parliament has very few rights. Two of the rights that seem to me to remain still are, firstly, the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of public importance where the Opposition literally takes the initiative as against the Government. The other matter that in my view is still fundamental to a parliamentary system is the censure motion or the motion of no confidence. With all respect I suggest that it ought to be referred as a matter of some importance to the Standing Orders Committee. I have suggested that a House ought to have recourse not only to its own Standing Orders and the invocation of Erskine May; occasionally it ought also to have recourse to common sense. On that bas s consideration should be given to amending the Standing Orders in such a way that what is accepted as a censure motion should be incapable of amendment. As I indicated the other evening, the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was prepared to accept the motion as a censure motion. 1 say that with all respect to you, Mr Speaker, and I think you understand the reverence I have for your role. I have great respect also for pari amentary institutions as a form of government. There has been a lot of criticism in recent times about the Executive taking the initiative. Candidly, I do not think that in a democratic system we can do other than let the Executive take the initiative, but the Executive has to exercise its initiative with tolerance and without tyranny. In my view the events of recent times have come pretty close to being tyrannical. For what were pretty cheap motives, in my view, an attempt was made quite successfully to do certain things on the basis of rulings. I am not arguing about the rulings. I think that the references were pretty flimsy. I am sorry that I have not your document here with me at the moment, Mr Speaker, but this matter came up rather suddenly. With all respect, if you read the references to Mr Howson's motion you will see that it was an amendment to an amendment. You quoted May and cited the fact that if it is an amendment to a motion the House has the choice of deciding in favour of the motion or the amendment. I think that you get into pretty curious circumstances. The incidents of the other night began with a simple resolution that the paper be noted. My colleague, the honourable member for

Dawson (Dr Patterson), moved an amendment to that, and then there was a further amendment.

At that point 3 propositions were being considered. All I am saying, Mr Speaker, is that whatever his wit and sagacity nobody can resolve 3 questions simultaneously in a sensible way. You can resolve 2, by voting for 1 or supporting another but you cannot resolve 3 questions at the one time. I read your document rather carefully. I find that you are arguing about a motion and an amendment whereas the proposition before the House was a motion, an amendment to a motion and a further amendment. I hope, with all respect, that you will consider that matter again. 1 urge this on behalf of the Opposition. Honourable members opposite may be the Opposition tomorrow. lt is a fundamental right that an opposition should be able to challenge a government.

As I see it, essentially the two grounds remaining to the Opposition are the motion for adjournment to discuss a matter of urgent public importance and the censure motion. If one is able to pervert or convert a censure motion by moving something else one is denying a fundamental right in the accepted history of British parliamentary institutions. I do not want to argue the point any further except to suggest that this matter, including your documentation, Mr Speaker, should be referred to a further meeting of the Standing Orders Committee. If there is any doubt about the ability to move an amendment to what is essentially a censure motion and if you invoke May to support it, the Standing Orders should be amended to make it impossible to do so. The Government chooses to stand on its numbers if it has them. When it has not the numbers to defeat the Opposition it chooses a pretty tawdry device, knowing that some of its members are wavering, to give them a third choice. I submit that 3 questions cannot be decided simultaneously. Sometimes it is difficult even to sustain 2 questions, but certainly you cannot sustain 3. I would suggest, Mr Speaker, with all respect to you, that you re-read your document. In it you talk about a motion and an amendment; you do not talk about a motion and 2 amendments which I submit is a pretty difficult proposition to resolve.

MrSTEWART (Lang) [10.I6J- I agree with practically all the comments that have just been made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). Honourable members will recall that both he and I took part in the discussions on the censure motion and want of confidence motion and took an attitude similar to the one that the honourable member has taken tonight. I, too, read your document, Mr Speaker, and found that I still could not agree with the document or your ruling. I rise to speak about the amendment to the Standing Orders that has been moved by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz). The amendment comes from a recommendation made by the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications which brought up its report on 13th May 1964. I congratulate the Government on the rapidity of its action in bringing down this request to the Standing Orders Committee of the House to amend the Standing Orders.

The reason that the Joint Select Committee gave for recommending that the Printing Committee, as it has been known - apparently it will now be known as the Publications Committee - inquire into and report on the printing, publication and distribution of parliamentary and government publications and all such matters as are referred to it by the Treasury, and send for persons, papers and records, was that during the course of the Joint Committee's inquiry we found that Government departments were doing virtually what they liked in the printing of their departmental publications. There was no overriding authority. The Treasury Publications Committee was supposed to look at the publications of Government departments, but the Committee found that quite often when the Treasury Publications Committee tried to do anything about it they were told by the senior Ministers to go and jump in the lake.

The Printing Committee, as it has existed until now, is entitled to look only al the papers that have been tabled and referred to it for a decision as to whether they should be printed or not. The distribution of most of the publications is out of the hands of the Printing Committee. I still do not know who authorises the distribution of Government publications. The new amendment to the Standing Orders will allow the Publications Committee to inquire into and report on printing, publication and distribution. I think that it will have a salutary effect on the standard of publications by Government departments and statutory bodies. I think all honourable members will agree that since the size of the paper which is used has been altered, the format of a lot of the documents has been changed and more attractive covers have been placed on publications, there has been an immense improvement in the standard of parliamentary and government publications.

For the sake of the recordI would like to name the members of the Committee which made this recommendation. The honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin), was the Chairman and I was the Vice-Chairman. The other members were Ex-Senator Marie Breen, Senator Marriott, Senator Lionel Murphy, Senator Toohey, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and the former honourable member for Sturt, Mr Keith Wilson. I think the recommendations which the Committee made were, in most instances, good ones. A lot of them have been applied already. I repeat that this matter was in the hands of the Government from 13th May 1964 until being referred to the Committee on 8th April 1970. I must commend the Standing Orders Committee for the fact that it took only from 8th April 1970 to 1st June 1970 to bring down its recommendation.

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