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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1668

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I have no intention this evening of voting against the proposals outlined in the report of the Standing Orders Committee but I want to raise a matter that no honourable member has referred to previously and which I believe is worthy of mention. The fact is that today we operate under a system of government whereby the people are very much dependent on the. elected representatives. In resent months we have created a situation whereby some 41 per cent of those honourable members who sit on this side of the House have been virtually silenced by their promotion. Parliamentary democracy is such that one of its essential ingredients is that members on both sides of the House can look at proposed legislation and Cabinet decisions both critically and objectively. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I have no intention of voting against these proposals but I would like to place on record my own personal warning that this act of the creation of Assistant Ministers in itself contributes to the erosion of the democracy which keeps this nation going.

On the credit side, I recognise that with a parliament of 125 members, with as many issues to consider as the Congress of the United States or the British Parliament, more and more work is falling upon the shoulders of a few, and because of this these men need assistance. The creation of Assistant Ministers will in some way contribute to helping the situation and alleviating the work load of Ministers. I would like to repeat my warning that if democracy in Australia is to continue to succeed, moves to silence either on purpose or without purpose the views of those who sit on the back benches should be stopped because they can only lead to its eventual destruction. I had hoped that it would not require a member from the Government side to draw this feature to the attention of the Parliament because it seems to be a fact which has completely slipped by those who sit on the Opposition benches.

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