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Wednesday, 25 February 1959

Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES (Chisholm) .- I will be very brief, but there are one or two comments I should like to make. First, I should like to thank the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) for having included in this resolution three amendments that were recommended by the Foreign Affairs Committee. That is evidence that the point of view of most Opposition members with regard to this committee is wrong. During my experience of it, the Minister has given the committee very wide freedom. In fact, I do notknow of any restriction that he has imposed when the committee has wanted to inquire into a matter. On occasions he has referred to the committee certain matters on which he wanted a special report. They have been few and far between, and in the main the committee has decided its own line of research, without the Minister's direction and with the Minister's concurrence.

I think it is only right that one should stand up in the House not only to thank the Minister but also to remove the very strange obsession that seems to be in the minds of many Opposition members who have been raising bogy after bogy in an effort to justify their decision to keep foreign affairs on a political party basis. I think that is a tragedy. No one in this place is a fool. We all know that certain things must have a certain and sometimes very big political party content. There may be entirely opposing views on certain vital matters. But on many other aspects of foreign affairs, party politics can be almost entirely eliminated, and everybody, particularly Australia as a country, benefits thereby. As I have said before, in the 32 years that I have been in State and Federal politics, I have never had more personal satisfaction than Ihave had as a member of this committee. I have never been on a committee, including cabinets - I have been a member of several, so this does not refer to federal cabinets only - that has done better work, more consistently. I feel that this is a very valuable committee, and I consider it a great honour to be a member of it. I give credit to the Minister for having formed it in the first place.

I can assure Opposition members that they have a very wrong idea of how this committee works and what it does. My friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and I have known each other for a very long time now, and I am sorry that, in discussing this committee today, he appeared in perhaps the worst light in which I have ever seen him. He has an entirely wrong idea about the committee. So has the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in respect of the point that he has raised. I cannot recall the committee having sat once when this House was sitting - for the very reasons that the honorable member gave. But there are isolated occasions when animportant visitor from overseas can meet the members of the committee only at a time when the House is sitting - and we have with us now an important overseas visitor in that position. We avoid like the plague meetings of the committee during sitting hours of the Parliament, but it would be a shame not to be able to take advantage of an opportunity to meet the occasional important visitor who is available only during the Parliament's sitting hours just because the motion appointing the committee laid it down that the committee should not meet while the Parliament was sitting. I want to assure the honorable member for Mallee on that point. The Foreign Affairs Committee meets regularly every Tuesday at 9.30 a.m. when the Parliament is in session, in order to avoid the very error into which the honorable member feels wemight fall if the motion were agreed to in the terms in which it is framed.

As far as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is concerned, I can only say that if he listened a little more to what other people had to say, not only he but all of us would have a far better background and a far wider knowledge, and would be more competent to deal with the problems which come before us in this House, whether they be concerned with foreign affairs or other matters. (Several honorable members rising in their places) -

Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -

That the question be now put.

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