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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1673

Mr BRYANT (Wills) - As an amendment has been moved, I think I am entitled to speak again, Mr Deputy Speaker. The problem I would face in voting for the amendment is whether its acceptance would prevent an Assistant Minister from handling the passage through this chamber of a private member's Bill in his name. Is there any reason why it would be necessary to write in such a provision in the Standing Orders? What would be the position with respect to the handling of a private member's Bill?

Mr Scholes - I was talking about a Government member's Bill.

Mr BRYANT - The Standing Orders do not belong to the Government. The Ministry does not own this place. It is the House of Representatives that would be discussing the legislation. Every Minister has his rank as a result of the charter issued by his membership of this Parliament. I think that I am reasonably conversant with the Standing Orders and I am certain that any member of this House can handle the passage of a Bill. Therefore the Assistant Ministers ought to be able to handle the passage of Bills through the Parliament.

Dr Patterson - What would be the position in the case of, say, a Government decision to reduce sales tax?

Mr BRYANT - What is a Government decision? As far as I can determine there are certain things for which executive and administrative writs run - for example, where the decision is made because the person is exercising his authority as a Minister, because he is a member of the Executive Council, or because - I have a list of them in front of me - the Administrative Orders have nominated him to perform a particular function or because an Act of Parliament says that the Minister shall decide. I think I am right in saying that Cabinet decisions have no absolute validity of their own account. The Cabinet is not mentioned in the Constitution. As far as I know the Cabinet is not mentioned in any legislation, except in the Ministers of State Act.

There are 2 ranks of Ministers. The decisions of the 12 men who meet in the far corner of Parliament House carry strength only because they know that the majority will support them in the House. I believe that we have in this discussion got off the principle of the thing, which is whether any member of this House shall be able to take a Bill through the various stages. As far as I can see, irrespective of whether we write out that provision or leave it in, an Assistant Minister should still be able to take a Bill through the various stages. I suppose the person who introduces a Bill in the Parliament has to take it through its various stages of progress.

I am raising the point that I do not know whether the inclusion or exclusion of such a provision makes any difference one way or the other, because it is in fact the majority of the House that makes the decision, and we have all accepted it as a tradition that when a Minister says yea or nay all of the loyal freedom fighters on his side of the House will stand up and be counted according to his yea or nay. They are, of course, entitled to do otherwise - and they do otherwise in the Senate. That is what happens in the Senate - or should I say the other place? I think we are allowed to call it the Senate now. I do believe that we have this evening got into arguments about some points of detail that are not necessarily valid. As an amendment has been moved, I think the honourable member for Dawson is entitled to speak again in this debate if he wishes to do so. He may wish to refer to some points that I may have missed.

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