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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1978

Mr COPE (Sydney) - Firstly I would like to endorse some of the remarks of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) in regard to the attendance of honourable members in this House. There is no doubt that the honourable member for Mallee and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) would have the best attendance records in this House. I do not doubt the sincerity of the honourable member for Mallee. We all know that he is a very sincere member but he is inclined to be parochial at times about his electorate. In passing, the Mallee, as we all know, is famous not only for its Federal member but also for the mallee fowl. Most honourable members in this House would be aware of the mallee fowl and its history. There is also another well known bird - the Ooah bird'. It is a unique bird because it lays square eggs. In the course of laying the square egg it says: 'Ooah, 00ah'. That is how it came by its name.

I should like to comment in all sincerity on the suggestion of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) that all 27 Ministers should come from members of the House of Representatives. I believe that the House of Representatives is naturally the main House of the Parliament and the place where all legislation should originate. But I think it is ridiculous not to give the Senate some representation in the Cabinet. I believe that not only would a Labor government do this but a Liberal government or any other party in power would certainly ensure that the Senate was represented in the Cabinet.

Mr Graham - Does not the Labor Party believe in the abolition of the Senate?

Mr COPE - That is correct but I think it is impossible to implement it. As a matter of fact I do not think any State would carry it by referendum and as the honourable member would be aware, if he is at all knowledgeable in regard to the Constitution, the Senate can be abolished only by a vote of the 6 States with a complete majority in each State. The Senate can bc abolished not by the Labor Party or its policy, but only by the will of the people in every State of the Commonwealth.

This might be the last opportunity for honourable members on the back bench to congratulate Mr Alan Turner, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, who will be retiring at the end of this year. Possibly in the future there may be some eulogistic terms used about Mr Turner by the various Ministers and other honourable members but I think that one should take this opportunity to say what a grand job he has done in the Parliament. I do wish, him well in his retirement and I hope that he will have a very happy and healthy life.

One thing which I have failed to grasp after 16i years in this Parliament is the reason for the Government not having ever accepted any amendment on any major issues in this House. I think this is absolutely absurd. Irrespective of what party is in power, I cannot believe that an amendment with some meat in it has never been put forward by an Opposition. There have been many sensible amendments . proposed but they have never been accepted by the Government. However at times the Government has filched ideas from the Opposition. If I may I will quote a particular example. When the merged means test was introduced several years ago it was claimed by the Government to be a great success but this proposal was the idea of my friend who used to sit in this very seat, Bert Thompson. Bert Thompson plugged for a merged means test in this House for many years but Bert was never given any credit by the Government for its introduction. As a matter of fact the Government claimed complete credit for it and not one word was said in eulogy of Bert Thompson for his ideas on this matter.

If I may say so - and I do not say this in any sense as a eulogy of myself - I did thrash out year after year in social services debates the matter of people who were almost permanently on unemployed and sickness benefits but who did not qualify for the invalid pension because they were not 85 per cent incapacitated and so on. As a result of those speeches I made every year, the Government has altered the social service provisions. Now anybody on sickness benefits for 6 weeks or more qualifies for the invalid pension rate. I think that these matters should be brought out as often as possible by members of the Opposition, despite the fact that we might not get any credit for them. However, the fact is that it is very unfair particularly for sensible amendments moved by the Opposition time after time not to be accepted. Plenty of amendments of a sensible nature have been moved but they have never been accepted by the Government. I do not know the reason for this non-acceptance. I think that everyone in this House would agree that, irrespective of the way in which honourable members vote on our amendments, sometimes they must see there is a great deal of merit in some amendment. Of course honourable members vote against them because they are voting on party lines.

These are the sorts of things I would like to see altered in the future in this House because I believe that in the interests of democracy it is only right that when sensible amendments are moved in this House - whether they are accepted by the Government or not - they should be fully debated and if they are accepted after such debate we should ensure that the amendments are put into effect.

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