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Tuesday, 18 April 1972
Page: 1705

Mr GRAHAM (North Sydney) - In opposing the amendment I want to make some comments on the amendment which has been moved and to indicate that I am unable to agree with the sentiments which have been ably expressed by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) who has just spoken. I refer, particularly since a shadow Minister for the Opposition, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), is at the table, to 1947 when he was present in this chamber. On looking around I think he is, apart from the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull), one of the very few who were present then. At that time legislation to totally nationalise banking within the Commonwealth of Australia was introduced by a former Prime Minister, the distinguished predecessor of the honourable member for Macquarie. I am sure that the honourable member for Grayndler will recall that petitions, almost one by one but on behalf of hundreds and hundreds of people, were presented and were completely ignored because the policy of the then Government had been laid clearly before the Parliament. The Government which was in office then was an Australian Labor Party Government, led by the distinguished late right honourable member for Macquarie who was replaced in this Parliament by the present member.

Mr Armitage - Are you attacking Ben Chifley?

Mr GRAHAM - I said the late Prime Minister. The Government that was led by the late right honourable member for Macquarie had no intention of answering each of the individual petitions. The present honourable member for Macquarie is supporting this amendment which seeks to put onto the petition a significance which he knows full well has never been attached to it previously by his own Party when in government.

Mr Stewart - This is a free vote.

Mr GRAHAM - That is an irrelevancy. I am merely dealing with matters of fact. I am not talking about whether this is a free vote. I am pointing out that when Government policy is quite clear it is an absurdity to suggest that there should be constant repetition of the same petition, leading to the time of Ministers and the House being occupied with the subject of the petition. I could go along with the proposition that the petition, having been received and read, should not be repeatedly received and read. But the end result of what has been proposed by the honourable member for Corio will be the consumption of the time of the House of Representatives by a constant reappearance and repetition of the same petition. I think this is wrong, and I believe we ought to apply ourselves more appropriately to the business before the House. One of the matters that should concern us is the extraordinary way in which we lose IS to 20 minutes almost every day of sitting by the constant repetition of petitions. I think it is fair and reasonable that a petition, once received, should be read to the Parliament and placed on record as being a petition put before the House of Representatives. That should be the end of the reception of that petition. But to have honourable members one after the other presenting petitions in identical terms is to me absurd and obviously political. It is obviously done to waste the time of the House of Representatives and to interfere with the function of government.

Mr Scholes - Are you accusing your Whip of wasting time by presenting petitions about kangaroos?

Mr GRAHAM - I am not prepared to exclude any matter. Many, many petitions which have been in exactly the same terms have been repeated. This is what I wish to avoid. I believe that once a petition has been put forward it is reasonable that there should be an announcement by the Government in reply to it, but I believe that it ought not be repeated ad nauseam so that it wastes the time of the House. As I have said, if ever there was one momentous matter which interested, concerned and vitally animated the whole of the Australian community it was a Bill introduced in 1947 to nationalise banking within Australia. Honourable members opposite, including the distinguished member for Grayndler, who is sitting at the table at this moment, know that when their Party was in office it absolutely ignored the reactions of the Australian people, and, with great respect to the honourable member for Macquarie, this makes a mockery of what he has just been saying.

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