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Wednesday, 22 August 1973
Page: 248

Mr DALY (Grayndler) (Minister for Services and Property and Leader of the House) - in reply - Nothing brings the Liberal Party and the Country Party back to the ground more than a term in opposition. Never have I heard so much rot in my life as what has been said in this debate. I suggest to the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) that instead of members of the Liberal 'Party and Country Party having breakfast in bed they get up in the morning and meet at 9 o'clock as members of the Australian Labor Party do. The honourable member said that the former Government never asked the House to sit on Saturday. Of course it did not but we sat all night and we went home at a time when only the perverts, the police and the prostitutes were on the streets. That is what happened under a Liberal Government. We sat here in the middle of the night. Listening to Liberals talking in the day time is bad enough without having to sit up in the middle of the night and hear them warbling on. The honourable member spoke about the committees that are meeting. Shortly I will be introducing a measure - we will see. if the honourable member votes for it - that will give appropriate times for committees to meet.

The honourable member said that the Opposition wants more time for debate; yet the Opposition has moved an amendment seeking to reduce by an hour and a half the time we have allowed for debate. How silly can you get? The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), said that it is monstrous to change the hours of sitting as we have proposed. He said that it would upset the whole Parliament; yet he is supporting an amendment that reduces the sitting time by an hour and a half and he is going to vote for everything he says is monstrous. I wish honourable members opposite would sort themselves out. Fancy talking about their record of open government. Remember the 19 Bills that were dealt with in 17 hours - 5 minutes for a Bill dealing with rural subsidy and a minute and a half for a Bill dealing with the telescope at Siding Springs Observatory. Remember those days. This is the record of those men who tell us they want freedom of speech.

The honourable member for Angas says that he should not be here 5 days a week. He is getting $14,500 a year in salary and $4,000 in tax-free expenses. He is paid to be in this place. Let him go back and tell his electors that he does not want to be here. Having a good look at him, I wonder why they ever sent him here. The honourable member talked about days for private members' business. We never had a day for private members' business when the present Opposition was in government. General business was never discussed. It disappeared into the limbo of the forgotten. Honourable members opposite talk about free speech and they talk about staff. I sat on the Opposition side of the Parliament for 24 years. In that time an Opposition member could not get a typist to help him. The honourable member for New England, who was in the Ministry for 7 years and who has been a member of Parliament for many years says that the Opposition wants staff and attention, but I say to the honourable gentleman: You never gave a damn for us; you never gave a hoot about us; and today you are sitting there cringing for assistance from a Government to which, when it was in Opposition, you gave nothing. Having a good look at him, I can say that he wants assistance. The situation now is that the Opposition is crying out for clerical staff and for attention. For 24 years previous governments let us take it. We got nothing at all. They thought that our ignorance would keep us out of government. But they realise how bright we are now that we are sitting on this side of the Parliament We won office without assistance and without staff. The Liberals would not give us anything. Tonight they are talking about what they ought to receive. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) nearly made me sick when I heard him talking about these things. Why does the Opposition not make time for its party meetings and committee meetings? Members of the Labor Party are in the party room for 2i hours from 9 o'clock on Wednesday mornings when the Parliament is in session. After the recess of a couple of months I strolled around Parliament House and saw on the notice board outside the party room of the Opposition - the alternative Government - that it would meet at 12 o'clock on the day that the Parliament first met after the recess. That shows how interested Opposition members are. They are going to spend only li hours discussing what would happen here because they could not be bothered coming from Melbourne, Booligal, or wherever they come from, a day earlier to discuss matters.

The honourable member for New England says that he wants longer hours. A man named Lynch moved the amendment and a man named Sinclair seconded it. I could not help thinking that they must both be of Irish extraction because only Irishmen could move a motion for extra hours that would mean that the hours would be reduced. That is precisely what happened. The Government moved a motion to sit at 11.30 a.m. Honourable members opposite said: 'No. We want longer hours. We move that we sit at 2 o'clock'. They would not get away with that even in Belfast. The honourable member says that he wants adequate time to discuss and debate matters. He referred to 5 Bills being introduced every day. If one considers what happened in this Parliament under the previous Government one will see that we are giving members a luxury of discussion. Since this Government came to office, every night that the Parliament has met there has been an adjournment debate. Every Thursday that private members business was set down it was called on. Every day that a private members Bill was brought on it was discussed and debated, much to the annoyance of honourable members opposite who wanted to hide from a lot of issues such as abortion on demand. This Parliament has put through more legislation than has ever been put through before.

Honourable members opposite spoke about the guillotine and all that is associated with it. Since this Government came to office the Parliament has not sat past 11 o'clock at night; whereas, as I said earlier, we were here all day and night when the previous Government was in power. Honourable members opposite raised the point of an honourable member not being allowed to speak today. The Government cannot be sorting out their troubles. It is shocking to see the Liberal Party and the Country Party fighting in public. It upsets me. I do not become upset easily, but I hate to see the distress of the Opposition parties. Let me say that in this session if there is to be an

Opposition spokeman there will be only one, and the Opposition parties can work it out amongst themselves. The Government will not sort out their troubles. The Liberal Country parties pose before the public as being unified, yet they want to speak in this Parliament as 2 separate entities. Honourable members opposite have said: 'Let us sit longer'. In the last session they challenged us to sit longer and we accepted the challenge.

Mr Giles - We made you.

Mr DALY - Of course you did, and on the final night you had 39 members here out of 58. They all went back to their businesses or their country farms. The Opposition challenged the Labor Party to be here. We had the full complement and the Opposition was nearly 20 short. What would the Opposition's elder statesmen, or backwoodsmen, in the other place say if we made honourable members opposite sit here until Christmas Eve and they had to come there on Christmas Day to knock back our legislation? They just would not like it. I give this warning to honourable members opposite: They have challenged us to sit longer. If they waste time as they have on this motion they will 'be here until Christmas Eve, and they can have their turkey and duck in the chamber. This Government will put its legislation through. I do not want to hear from the Opposition phoney arguments about wanting extra time to discuss things and then supporting motions that reduce the actual time that the Government is allowing. What extra time in a week would the Opposition suggest that we give?

The trouble is that, as the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said, honourable members opposite are inexperienced in Opposition. They have a lot to learn. They are now about up to the stage I was at 30 years ago, and that is a long way back. They have to learn to have their meetings at 7 o'clock at night. They will have to get out of bed and have their breakfast at the table early instead of staying in bed. They cannot let the honourable member for New England go back to Armidale with a rural Bill that has been introduced without telling them anything about it for a week. They must reform. They must get together. I know their problems. The unity ticket over there is obvious. With one party courting the Democratic Labor Party, things are really desperate. As honourable members know, the Country Party has turned its back on the one it knew so well to go to that strange old lady. This brings complications. I can understand the problems. Let me repeat for the nation to hear that this Government has given private members of this Parliament more than they have been given by any other government in our history. I was on the Opposition Executive for more than 10 years and I could not get extra secretarial help from the previous selfish Ministry.

I believe that members of this Parliament are entitled to a fair deal and to assistance of all kinds, but it is made exceedingly difficult when 2 former Ministers, who for years had all the plums of office, ridicule the Labor Party for not giving assistance to the Opposition as they refused to do for 24 years. Now they say that they want to debate major Bills. Of course they should. But what respect can be given to an Opposition that spends a couple of hours debating whether to sit extra hours in the time that they are paid by the taxpayers to be here and then wants to reduce the sitting time by a couple of hours? They have no right whatever to resist the proposed hours because it is time that should be spent debating great legislation. All honourable members have electorates and they have constituents to look after. All honourable members have to attend to their requirements. But I have always accepted that, as a member of Parliament, my primary responsibility is to be in this place. That is what every Government supporter believes. Tonight we have seen Opposition members condemning the motion for extra hours, moving a tinpot amendment to reduce debating time and yet insisting that they want extra time. That is the weirdest argument I have ever heard in my life. There is only one good thing about it, and that is that the Country Party and the Liberal Party are united. That will make me happy for a couple of hours. The only thing on which they are united is that they both oppose the extension of the sitting times of the Parliament.

Let me remind the honourable member for New England and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), that they are both former Ministers not in Government now. We run the country, and it is a good thing. It seems, when I look at those 2 ex-Ministers opposite, that they have not read the election results. They are not running this Parliament. They are not bringing down the legislation. We are the Government that is bringing it down. We will call the tune because we have been elected by the Australian people to run this country. We want the hours of this Parliament to be changed. If honourable members opposite want more money for less work, that is their business; but we have responsibilities and we will sit here day and night, if necessary, to see that they are carried out. I invite honourable members opposite to vote against an extension of the sitting times of Parliament. The extended hours still will not take us within a fraction of the sitting hours of the Parliaments of Great Britain, America and Canada. I invite honourable members to vote against this motion, and to go back to their electorates and tell the people that they do not want to be in Parliament because they want to be back in their electorates looking after the cows, if they are in the Country Party, and God knows who, if they are in the Liberal Party.

Reference has been made to the guillotine and the gag. It was said that the gag was applied 40 times in the last session. I will give honourable members some good news: I am still 350 behind the Liberals. Let me say on a more serious note that this motion was moved to give the Parliament the opportunity to debate legislation in detail. If honourable members opposite do not want to co-operate, if the Country Party and the Liberal Party want to show their disunity from time to time and if they do not want to debate the issues that really matter and want to give preference to issues such as those we are debating today, they can take their chance with the Australian public because the public knows what pay and allowances they receive. They know the facilities that honourable members opposite have and I am a bad judge if the average Australian believes that they ought not to be in this place to do their work and to carry out their responsibilities. Members of the Liberal Party and Country Party can do what they like but we know our responsibilities and we intend to respect them. We have moved the motion in order that this Parliament can put through legislation that means so much to everybody in this country and particularly to those people who depend for their salvation on legislation of the kind we are bringing down. I commend the motion to the House. I hope it will be carried. ' ! will be delighted 'to see those members who have said that they want extra time for debate voting to reduce the time we are allowing now.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lynch's amendment) stand part of the question.

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