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Thursday, 29 April 1965

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) . - I do not want to delay the Committee but I do not think the extraordinary speech of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator. Henty) should be allowed to go without some comment. Senator Wood stole a lot of my thunder in a speech which was unique in this Parliament. He displayed an honesty which has probably been missing for too long and has answered completely the accusations of the Minister.

There was a vast difference between the Minister for Civil Aviation before lunch and after lunch. Before lunch, the Minister made two points. One was that we were completely wrong in our interpretation of what a regulation meant. His second point was that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee did all sorts of things. Senator Wood has dealt with that point. The Minister was a wiser man after lunch than he was before it. Possibly there is something in the old saying that you should never ask the boss for a rise until after lunch. But at least the Minister admits that he was wrong. He has raised some doubts. I do not know what they could be. The matter is so elementary that it should be known to everybody except apparently some of the Ministers who seem to have developed blind spots on the question of regulations.

I interjected harshly which is not my form generally, but I did so on this occasion deliberately to try to shock honorable senators into a realisation of the extraordinary statements that have been made by the Minister. He said one thing he did not like about the Regulations and Ordinances Committee was that the Labour members were subject to the decisions of caucus after it had met and decided on a certain line. He said that the Liberal Party members were completely free without any penalties to vote as they liked and to say what they thought fit. Senator Wood put the record straight on that point when he spoke of some of the pressures that had been brought on him. The Minister's statements were ridiculous. I have sat in this Parliament and have seen honorable senators taken out into the passageway and steamrolled after they had taken a certain decision in the Parliament.

We must have some honesty in this matter. It is time we got over this- juvenile nonsense of saying that one political party lives in one atmosphere and that it is quite different from that of another political party. Some things are necessary in political parties. One thing can be said about the Australian Labour Party: Everything it does is well reported and you know all about it. Senator Wood has been honest and decent enough to say what goes on.

I regret that the Minister for Civil Aviation is not in the chamber but I regret more than I can convey that he has smeared the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. This Committee was working for many years before I joined it - I have been a member for 13 years - and it has strengthened the Parliament. After a long battle it has secured acceptance of the tremendous importance of subordinate legislation. It has tried to show the Public Service that it is not attacking the Public Service and all it believes in and is not seeking merely to make the job slightly easier than it was. In the 13 years I have been in this Parliament, we have never once reached agreement on the Regulations and Ordinance Committee contrary in any way to the vote of every Labour man in the Parliament. In spite of what the Minister for Civil Aviation keeps repeating, never once has the Labour caucus instructed us to deviate, or suggested that we should deviate from the decisions we reached in the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I cannot put it any more firmly than that. I had to withdraw a word before. I now leave it to the people to judge who is right. The past 13 years have been active ones in the Australian Parliament.

Reference has been made to the use of whips in the Parliament. Is it not ironic that the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) should be the Minister associated with this matter? If you took his shirt off you would certainly see the marks of the flagellation administered to his back by the Prime

Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). Yet honorable senators on the Government side imply that only members of the Labour Party are subjected to such treatment.

The Minister for Civil Aviation referred to the importation of literature. He seemed to suggest that there was something wrong in that connection with the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I will not pursue that matter any further except to say that I should think that would be the last matter he would raise because he got up here and said that what the Committee suggested was completely impossible. Senator Wood indicates agreement with my statement. We have cause to remember these things. The Minister said it would be impossible and would render the regulation impotent; yet within an hour he called us in and virtually agreed with all we had said.

I do not want to pursue these things further because I thought that was a happy ending. We have never tried to extract the last drop of juice from the orange. We were satisfied so long as 'we could solve a problem. Certainly things have not always gone exactly as we hoped because we know the problems of Ministers and try to help them. But when we have these things thrown up at us in the second hysterical speech within a few hours, we have to put the record straight. The Ministers themselves have discovered that one or two of the premises on which they based their arguments have been proved wrong. The fact is that a delay will not impede action. Nothing is being nullified. Have you, Mr. Chairman, ever seen anybody doing anything unnecessarily to impede the Government through regulations? Nobody was interested in picking out any class of lender or in saying that the Government should do this, that or the other. We were merely trying to carry out the rules of Parliamentary democracy in this peculiar form which so many people, particularly Ministers, have never taken time out to study. If we accede to the request of the House of Representatives we shall be throwing away the substance for the shadow and even the shadow will not be all that important in the field of practical politics.

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