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Wednesday, 25 February 1959

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- If the Australian Labour party does not desire to have representatives on this committee it is free to say so, and it has said so, but I do not believe that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell)- who has been, described as " Acting Leader " to-day - should make this an opportunity for attacking the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I have found few men, if any, in the whole of Australia who are held in higher regard than is the Minister. He has travelled widely through the world and everywhere he has gone he has lifted the prestige of this great Commonwealth. I pay a tribute to him this afternoon as an outstanding ambassador of this country. Yet we have the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House making all sorts of ridiculous remarks directed against the character and ability of the Minister, and saying other things which, generally speaking, are derogatory of the Minister. If we were to apply the yardstick that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition himself, has provided for us, and judge him by it, how would he emerge? The honorable member says that members of the Labour party cannot join this committee because the Minister heads it. How could we associate, in any event, with the honorable member if he were on the committee, in view of the statements we have heard from him on so many occasions, both at election time and otherwise? Everybody knows that in politics statements are made about political opponents but that the next day everybody is quite friendly. T had attacks made on me by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when I first came into this Parliament, and had I taken them seriously we would have been the greatest of enemies, whereas we remain the greatest of friends, because we know that these things happen and I knew the remarks were untrue.

Mr Calwell - What did I say?

Mr TURNBULL - Nothing to be proud of. I could quote them. I believe that the Labour party is right out of order in connexion with this matter. I do not say that it should appoint members to the committee. If members of the Labour party do not want to join the committee, that is all right, but they should act in a decent and reasonable manner and not as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has acted.

Of course, I do not agree with everything about the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Minister is a very tolerant man, otherwise he would not have given the Labour party another chance to join the committee. Because he is a tolerant man I want to suggest a change in the rules governing meetings of the committee which may be of some advantage. It may seem a very small and unimportant thing, but as a party Whip I think it is of importance, and I submit the suggestion accordingly. Sub-paragraph (4) (d) of the rules to govern the committee reads -

The Committee or any sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament.

That seems a lot of words, and it really means that the committee may sit anywhere at any time. If the provision said simply that the committee may sit anywhere at any time the intention would be expressed in a few words, and a lot of unnecessary verbiage would be avoided. But it is to the last few words of that sub-paragraph, " and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament," that I wish to direct attention. If some of my brother Whips were here I should like them to support the contention I am about to make. It is very often difficult for the Whips to keep the requisite number of members present in the chamber. We have had quorums called on many occasions by a certain gentleman. Yet the rules governing the committee contain a special order that " notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders," the committee may sit at any time while the House is sitting. I think that that is quite wrong because, speaking from memory, there are thirteen members on the committee, which means that there are thirteen members not available for the Whips to bring in, who may be sitting in this building at a meeting of the committee.

Mr CASEY - I can explain that.

Mr TURNBULL - I do not disagree with the provision that the committee may meet when and where it likes, but I should like the Minister to have the provision altered so as to add the proviso, " but not when the House is sitting."

After all, the Foreign Affairs Committee might be very important, and I do not deny it; but I think that this chamber is the most important place in Australia when the House is sitting. In the thirteen years that I have been here I have always claimed that this is the place where an honorable member should be during a sitting of the House. I have said on many occasions in this chamber that during sittings of the House honorable members should not attend country shows, or even the Royal Easter Show in Sydney or the Royal Melbourne Show, and by the same token they should not be in this building at meetings of the Foreign Affairs Committee when the House is actually sitting. Would the Minister take some action to eliminate the provision I have mentioned?

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