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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1535

Mr GARLAND (Curtin) - If ever there was a case of the pot calling the kettle black, it was the speech of the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) who has just resumed his seat. I suppose that the honourable member for Bowman would be well to the fore in taking points of order in this place and making general criticisms of the procedures of the House. At any rate, he and his colleagues have had the doubtful honour of taking no fewer than 8 points of order during a speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) made the other day and which I think was of no more than 10 or 15 minutes duration. Of course that was a deliberate effort to prevent the Leader of the Opposition from making the point which he wished to make. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) had an equal time in which to reply. I think that with the exception of myself he was not interrupted by anybody at all. So the honourable member for Bowman is the last honourable member who ought to come into this place and make such assertions. I simply place that comment on record lest the allegations he made go past without being put into context. A few minutes remain before the application of the guillotine motion which we have for the closure of business at 11 o'clock. This is a procedural arrangement which was introduced by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) under the Labor Government in order to stifle debate from this side of the House on the traditional adjournment motion. I want to touch on one or two matters.

Mr Duthie - The honourable member cheered the motion louder than anybody else.

Mr GARLAND - I assure the honourable member that I did not. I believe that this system is capable of abuse and indeed frequently receives abuse at the hands of Government supporters. As the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) raised the subject I shall deal with it in a little more detail than I intended. This is a device in order to cut down the number of gags which the Leader of the House would otherwise have to apply. He realises that in a debate when speakers are allowed 10 minutes and when there are only two or three minutes left it is unlikely that anyone from this side of the House will make a speech of such short duration, and so the House will adjourn sometimes with just a few minutes left for debate. This will be done without the use of the guillotine that evening.

Towards the end of the session the Leader of the House will say that during this session the gags and the guillotines have been fewer. Of course he will have used this device in part to achieve that situation.

I shall refer to one or two matters. When I was a member of the Government and, prior to that, when I was a supporter of it we used to hear a great deal from the present Prime Minister and members of the then Opposition about the length of time it took Ministers to reply to questions on notice. I point out to the Government supporters who are here tonight that a great number of questions which were put on the notice paper on 28th February - that is over 2 months ago - have yet to be answered.

Mr Bourchier - It is embarrassing to answer them.

Mr GARLAND - As my colleague says, in many cases it is an embarrassment to the Government to answer them. But there must be so many public servants in these departments that rarely would one officer have to deal with more than one question. I do not hesitate to say that if Ministers of the Government wished to answer questions quickly, fully and responsibly they could do it. They have not done it. Obviously they do not wish to hurry along their departments to supply this information. In answer to a question of mine the Prime Minister said that he knows the matter is important and that this is an important avenue from which members can obtain information. The Ministers of the Government who have responsibility for answering those questions ought to be ashamed of themselves. At an early date they ought to produce those answers so that in this House there will be a procedure whereby the answers are obtained quickly for the benefit of all honourable members. For my part I say to the House - I hope that I will not be misunderstood - that I endeavoured to have questions answered quickly. I believe that this is part of the good conduct of the House. The present Ministry ought to look at this area particularly after the criticisms which were made.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! It being 1 1 o'clock, in accordance with the order of the House the House stands adjourned till 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 2nd May 1973.

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