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Wednesday, 28 October 1970

Mr SPEAKER - Matters in relation to the Electoral Act come within the province of the Prime Minister. Although the Prime Minister is not directly responsible for the Act he may answer a question that has been directed to him. The practice of the House has been to allow the Prime Minister to answer questions addressed to one of his Ministers. However, I would suggest that in view of the fact that nominations for the Senate elections have not yet closed, that part of the question relating to a Senate candidate is completely hypothetical, as the honourable member for Barton has suggested.

Mr Whitlam - Speaking to the point of order, I submit there is another ground upon which any such question would be objectionable. One realises that it is possible in an answer to a question to cast aspersions on the Chief Justice of Queensland or the Premier of South Australia. The Prime Minister has done so. I submit that under the Standing Orders it is not permissible to cast aspersions on members of this or the other House. The question obviously invites it.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! If the question was framed in that way the Leader of the Opposition would be correct, but the Chair has no way of knowing how a Minister will answer a question. Accordingly, I rule the question in order. If the question had related specifically to the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition, he would be correct.

Mr Bryant - Oh the point of order: The Electoral Act, of course, is a ministerial responsibility. Are we to take it that the relevance of the answer to the question asked will also be watched very carefully in this case?

Mr SPEAKER -I have suggested that the last part of the question may be out of order.

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