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Thursday, 9 May 1968

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - My principal complaint about this measure is that I find embedded in it the doctrine of executive government. I would like some assurance from the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) that this is a passing phase. I see little parliamentary responsibility or parliamentary supremacy in the House of Assembly as it is constituted and as its Ministers are appointed. In our own institution here in Australia we have reached a stage pretty close to absolute parliamentary supremacy, despite the fact that we continually claim vigorously that it is an executive authority. If it is, it is our own fault; The Prime Minister and his Ministers are responsible to and answerable to this House, if we choose to make them so. If we do not, it is our fault. There is nothing to prevent us from controlling ministerial positions. But under this Bill nomination of Ministers will not necessarily be in the hands of the Parliament. The removal' of Ministers will not necessarily be in the hands of the Parliament.

The Administrator and the Minister for External Territories have a combination of powers which seem to me to fall between the powers of, say, somebody in a presidential system - they have almost de Gaullean characteristics - and the early governors of this country. I believe that we must have sufficient faith in the parliamentary system to accept that when the people elect a body of representatives numbering 80 or 90 - this is a not insignificant number - they have enough common sense to elect responsible people and to remove irresponsible people. I am not sure that at the rate at which we progress in these matters we may not find that at some time in the near future we have lost the initiative and that whatever is control . ing the system in Papua and New Guinea has gained such a hold on it that it is not possible for the Parliament to recapture control. This has been the sad history of many people who have become independent in the last 20 years.

While I understand the general procedures that have been adopted and while I do not sympathise with them, I can see how- they have grown out of what we think of as our own history and procedures and a conservative cautious approach. 1 would like to see adopted a more effective approach towards parliamentary supremacy in the appointment and control of Ministers and the development of what might be called a Cabinet system. In this regard I support the remarks made by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart).

Are these Ministers in the Territory to have any effective power? Are they to be able to administer a department in the way the Minister for External Territories administers his Department? This is the challenge before us. We are accustomed to allowing people to make their own mistakes. We are accustomed to electing people in all sorts of areas - municipal, political, State and Federal. They make catastrophic errors sometimes, and sometimes they are right. I think it is the permanent and inbuilt feature of democracy that the elected representatives have the power and the right to make their own mistakes and to report to the Parliament and be held responsible for their actions. If we perpetuate this system what does a member of Parliament do at the next elections? The people ask why he did not do this or that, or they reach the stage that has been reached by the States in this country and blame the Commonwealth for everything, saying that the States do not have any money and that the Commonwealth is to blame for everything. The essence of our parliamentary system is direct responsibility to the electorate at the one end and to other members of the \Parliament at this end, coupled with the general matter of parliamentary supremacy. This principle has been resolved over the last two or three centuries and is pretty firmly embedded in our Constitution. But in some ways we have what might be called the 'complete parliamentary system' here, if we make it work properly. I think that our general objective in Papua and New Guinea ought to be of this order. I should like to hear what the Minister has to say on this matter and what he considers the next steps should be.

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