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Wednesday, 11 April 1973
Page: 1293

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) . In fact it is a matter of regret that this House today should be treated to an unseemly spectacle of a type we have seen too often during the course of recent weeks. I believe that without any shadow of doubt this spectacle has arisen today because of a ruling which was wrong, which was an abuse of question time and which is contrary to the precedents of this House and which we believe to be-

Mr Keogh - That is rubbish.

Mr LYNCH - Well, the honourable member can say it is rubbish.

Mr Cohen - Who set the precedents?

Mr LYNCH - The honourable member asked who set the precedents. I will be very happy to tell him, because, for the honourable gentleman's information, the simple fact is that during the early weeks of this session the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and other Ministers have turned question time into a farce. There could be no more cogent example of what I am saying than what has happened in relation to the question which I posed to the Prime Minister today. My question was:

Is it a fact, as alleged on 'Federal File' that the ASIO representative at the interdepartmental meeting on 2nd March is not a public servant?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! What the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is now referring to has nothing to do with the motion that he seconded, which expresses dissent from my ruling in regard to what was said by the Minister for Services and Property.

Mr LYNCH - This debate is taking place in the context of a charge by the Opposition parties that question time has been turned into a farce. What the honourable member for Bradfield has said is utterly correct. It is true that we sit here day after day listening to Ministers who answer their own questions and not those that are posed by members on this side of the House. It may well be that the Government has a number of matters that it would seek to conceal. But, as the honourable member for Bradfield has made crystal clear, the Opposition has a responsibility to the people of this country to ask questions which constituents throughout the nation require to be asked. If the Prime Minister and other Ministers continue to evade and avoid the questions which are properly asked in this Parliament they are making a significant contribution to making question time a farce. Mr Speaker, members of the Opposition respect the office that you hold. But in the terms of the ruling which you have given, I regret to say, we regard that decision as wrong because it is totally contrary to the text, the tenor and the spirit of standing order 142 and, of course, it is completely opposed to the precedents which former Speakers have laid down. The Opposition parties ask that this House be conducted in an objective and fair manner. We deserve no less; we expect no less. In fact, if we receive less than that we will certainly take the point that the honourable member for Bradfield has taken on this occasion. The Opposition parties totally support the dissent from your ruling moved by the honourable member for Bradfield.

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