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Thursday, 22 October 1970

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - Of course the Government cannot accept the motion. Upon analysis of the motion we find that it is misconceived. It is quite badly misconceived to say, as the motion does, that the period of sittings of the House be continued until the Government's wool legislation has been introduced and dealt with by both Houses. It is a complete misconception to think that we, in this House, control the other chamber, the Senate. For us to say that this House will sit until the Senate has dealt with the legislation overlooks the fact that we may very well be sitting here unable to control the situation. The Senate is a chamber with its own numbers and its own control of its procedures, lt would be subjecting this House to an indignity, which the House could not possibly accept, to say that we shall sit here until the Senate deals with the legislation. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said something in terms quite different from those of his motion. He said that we must continue to sit here until the legislation is passed in both Houses. That, of course, is an even more extreme and, with respect, untenable proposition. What the honourable gentleman seems to want, and he emphasised this towards the end of what he was saying, is an assurance from the Government that the Bill will be introduced and dealt with in both Houses. I can give him an assurance that the Government will do all in its power to introduce the Bill and have it dealt with in both Houses.

Mr Anthony - And passed.

Mr SNEDDEN - Yes, and passed. I can give him that assurance. We will do all we can to have the Bill introduced into this House, considered by this House and passed by this House. Likewise we will do all we can to have it introduced into the Senate, considered by the Senate and passed by the Senate, for that has always been our intention. But the honourable gentleman seems to believe that once the Government determines a policy it is a simple matter to have a Bill prepared for the Parliament. We are presently concerned with a most important and significant policy. It is a policy which comes out of the co-operation between my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), with his tremendous attention to detail and his tremendous concern for the interests of the industry, and those who are learned in the industry - Sir John Crawford, the various associations and organisations. He has put his capacity, together with the capacity of those in the industry, into analysing all the suggestions, analysing the needs and analysing what he believes to be a constructive approach to a very serious problem, then going to Cabinet which put in a tremendous amount of time considering the proposal.

Once a policy decision has been reached it has to be translated into legislation. If the honourable gentleman feels that one can say to the Parliamentary Counsel: Please have a Bill ready by tomorrow morning' he is under a very serious misconception. While some honourable members may labour under this misconception the honourable gentleman most assuredly cannot. Because of his history as a member of the Commonwealth Public Service - if I remember it, with a policy responsibility in a Department of State of the Commonwealth- he knows what is involved in drawing up legislation. It is a most exacting task. It imposes on the Parliamentary Counsel the most exacting intellectual requirements to put down on a piece of paper something which is going to establish rights, to establish policy and something which will, it is the Government's belief, make a tremendous contribution to the present difficulties of this industry. The honourable gentleman who now moves for the suspension of Standing Orders in this misconceived way has been remarkably silent on the matter for a considerable time. It seems that when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) asked a question yesterday he highlighted this matter. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) asked a question, and received publicity for his concern. The question was answered by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and it crystallised the position. My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, likewise has been stating emphatically his intention.

Today, on the authorisation of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Dawson was. told that if it were humanly possible a copy of the Bill or its most advanced draft would be made available to him so that he would have the weekend to consider it. The only stricture on his receiving a copy was that he was to regard it as a confidential document. He was also asked to realise that, as a result of revision, it might be necessary to make changes before arriving at the final text. The honourable member for Dawson received this information this afternoon. If anybody could be assured of the intention of the Government, as expressed by the Minister for Primary Industry, it is the honourable member for Dawson. Within about an hour the honourable member for Dawson conceived the idea to come into the chamber and move this motion. It could not have been politically motivated, I am quite sure of that, because the honourable member for Dawson has left the political arena, because of an anxiety to do something for this industry, to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and the rest of the members of the Government.

It is too late in the day for the honourable member for Dawson to come into the chamber like Cervantes' Don Quixote on a rather rickety horse and with a rather bent stave. He has tilted this windmill, this windmill being a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. The motion is misconceived, as I said, and therefore cannot be possibly carried. In the course of his speech he said that what he wants is an assurance, and he has been given that assurance in categorical language. The assurance is that the Government will do all in its power not merely to introduce the Bill, not merely to have the Bill considered by this House, but to have it passed by this House. I repeat those same words in relation to the Senate. The Government has demonstrated its intent. I expect that an advanced draft of the Bill will be available tomorrow.

The information that was conveyed to the honourable member for Dawson was conveyed to him privately. Now, because of what he has done, I depart from the normal practice in matters like this of saying in a confidential way to the honourable member for Dawson or whatever shadow minister may be involved: 'Look, Rex, it will be available to you.' Now I say it publicly because it has to be said publicly because it is evidence of what is the intention of the Government. The honourable gentleman, knowing what was conveyed to him, has moved this motion, and towards the end of his speech he made the halfhearted statement that a copy of the Bill may be put in the post. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) glossed the story a bit and said that it may be put in an envelope and may or may not arrive, and so on.

Dr Patterson - Will the Minister guarantee that I will get it tomorrow?

Mr SNEDDEN - I cannot give the honourable member a guarantee that he will get it tomorrow. 1 can give him an assurance that it will be given to him as soon as possible.

Dr Patterson - In a month's time.

Mr SNEDDEN - Really, so misconceived is the motion; so misconceived is the interjection 'In a month's time'. My colleagues have been making abundantly clear how urgent this matter is. They have been emphasising that. The honourable gentleman has been making no attempt up to this moment to emphasise how important it is. The one contribution the honourable gentleman made was When he gave an assurance that the Opposition would facilitate the passage of the Bill. We accept that assurance. It is rather in contrast to what was said this morning in relation to the business of the House. We hope that the assurance the honourable gentleman has given will be honoured not merely by the honourable gentleman but by the entire Labor Party.

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