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Tuesday, 23 September 1958

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- I feel that the speech delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal party and the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) deserves some comment - not because- it was a worth-while contribution to the debate on the National Health Bill, but because it was a shrewd attempt by him to inject into this debate the sort of matters that are usually raised on the motion for the adjournment of the House, when the proceedings are not on the air. I refer to his references to nationalization, unity tickets and everything else. He seized this opportunity to put all that matter over the air, but if anybody else had attempted to do what he did, he would have very smartly moved a motion that the question be now put.

The right honorable gentleman really has not said anything that deserves comment, but what does warrant comment is the fact that he has misused the standing orders of the House in order to inject election propaganda into the debate. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said very definitely that the Labour party does not oppose the passage of this bill.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - But other honorable members opposite did not say that. The honorable member for Wilmot did not say it.

Mr CALWELL - On this side we have some discipline. We have not got the sort of arrangement that exists in the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, whereby every member says his own piece and has his own point of view. We have decided a policy in regard to this bill, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro expressed that policy on behalf of the Opposition. No honorable member on this side who followed him was under any obligation to repeat what was said at the outset.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - But do you subscribe to the undertaking given by the honorable member for Hindmarsh?

Mr CALWELL - I am not being crossexamined either by you or the honorable member for Parramatta. I have risen to state, in refutation of the Minister's remarks, that the Labour party's attitude to health and other questions will be stated, in respect of the next Parliament, by the Leader of the Opposition in his policy speech on 15th October. The Leader of the Opposition, when he states our policy in respect of health and every other matter, states a case to the people which, in effect, is an election contract. We undertake to do certain things within the lifetime of the Parliament, and nothing beyond those things. That has been our attitude at all times. We would never have been involved in the question of the nationalization of the banks in 1947 had not the private banking institutions seized upon a case, stated to the High Court by the Melbourne City Council, as an opportunity to challenge every section of the 1945 legislation. When the High Court had made its decision in respect of one matter, the Chifley Government believed that an attempt was being made to destroy the whole of the 1945 act, and action had to be taken to protect that particular piece of worthwhile legislation - so worth while that this Government has not attempted to alter it in its essentials. We will state our case in respect of health in due course. Our position in respect of this bill is that we support it for what good there is in it. But it is not good enough, and we will bring in a better bill when we get the opportunity to do so - and it will not be a bill that will nationalize public health or nationalize anything else.

Mr Killen - You are deserting your platform, surely?

Mr CALWELL - Well, I know that you are concerned with our platform. I am concerned with your sanity.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!

Mr CALWELL - The Labour party has its policy, and we are not answering any hypothetical questions to-night. In the words of Newman's famous hymn, " Lead, kindly light", which honorable members no doubt know -

I do not ask to see the distant scene One step enough for me.

We are dealing with the National Health Bill to-night, and the National Health Bill alone. Policy matters in respect of future years, questions of nationalization and all that sort of thing, have very little to do with the legislation now before us. But if it is true' that in 1949 this Government did propose to bring forward a constitutional amendment to prevent socialization- and I believe it did- may I ask why it has never brought the- legislation down? What is wrong with it? The Government parties made' that promise in 1949, and also a promise to put value: back into the £1, but they have forgotten those promises.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - We discovered that you could defeat the will of the people in these indirect ways that I mentioned.

Mr CALWELL - You will discover a few more things in the next few weeks. One of the things you will discover is that you people on that side of the House are not as popular as you think you are. Another thing you will discover is that you cannot exploit communism and nationalization for ever. You have done it successfully for nine years, but the people are beginning to realize that they have been fooled- for a long time, and they will not be fooled any longer. There is a virtue in nationalization.

Government Supporters. - Ah!

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