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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1828

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I wish to speak tonight in support of the concept of an earlier rising of the Parliament on sitting days. However, I agree with those honourable members who have suggested that there should be an allocation of so many hours a day in which the Government can complete its business. One cannot help but ponder on this rather antiquated procedure whereby Parliament starts its daily sittings at 10.30 a.m. on Thursdays and 2.30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. No matter at what time the Parliament starts and no matter at what time the Parliament adjourns the great majority of members are assembled somewhere in the precincts of the House around 9 o'clock in the morning. If we were to go through to 7 o'clock, we might not be here until 10 o'clock that morning; but no matter how late the Parliament sits at night, we are all back again at 9 o'clock in the morning.

The honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull) made some boast earlier as to his great strength, and I must comment that he has always been a lively member of this House and an acquisition. Nevertheless, towards the end of a week it must be a lovely sight for members of the Press gallery and those who sit in the public gallery when they look down into the chamber and see some members half asleep. They must say to themselves: 'Well, what a sight. We send these men to Canberra'.

Sir Winton Turnbull - The honourable member for Sturt?

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - The honourable member for Sturt is back. He has been away for 2 days. I say to him: Welcome back'. The people who see members half asleep must go away from here sadly disillusioned as to the manner in which honourable members take an interest in the business of the Parliament. However, the fact is that most honourable members - and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) said this earlier- work 80 hours a week and their working day in Canberra is something like 16 hours. It is little wonder that the Parliament at times gives a drowsy appearance to the people who sit in the galleries.

Another aspect of this matter relates to the Ministers of the Crown. I often wonder how on earth they continue, in the manner in which they do, to carefully scrutinise submissions and papers over long periods while still maintaining their alertness. There would not be any other group of administrators or top businessmen in the nation who would work the hours that are worked by Ministers of the Crown and who would be expected to make the important decisions that Ministers make because they are in charge of the business of running the nation. I repeat the earlier suggestion that perhaps we should consider bringing forward the starting time of sittings of the Parliament. If a number of us do see common sense, as was suggested by some of the previous speakers, and vote in favour of the amendment that the motion to adjourn the House be moved at 10 p.m., then no doubt the Government, being confronted with the problem of finding extra time in which to deal with the business of the House, will give consideration to an earlier start to offset the disadvantage which will accrue as a result of an earlier rising of the Parliament on sitting days.

I do not intend to speak for very long on this matter because it is one on which one has only to state his position. I think that most honourable members have a mind of their own and do not need to be subjected to long speeches of coercion to make them see sense. However, I remind all honourable members, particularly those on this side of the House because I know that honourable members on the other side can speak for themselves, that this is a free vote. The honourable member for Wilmot said that this is the first time for many years that there has been a free vote. I repeat the suggestion which I made last night: Just because the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) stands up in this place and says what the Labor Party did in the 1940s, it does not make it right that we should continue to do the same thing in the 1970s and all the way through to the 21st century. Let us wake up to ourselves. In the 1940s most members of Parliament remained in Canberra during the weekend. They did not jump on a plane at 7 o'clock on Friday morning, soon after the House rose, return to their electorates, sit in their offices and meet constituents who thought that they had been down in Canberra for 3 days doing absolutely nothing. They did not pretend that they were as fresh as daisies and they did not attend functions on Friday nights and spend busy weekends, all the time pretending that they were alert and awake.

No doubt some people will say that if we need a rest we can go and have a little snooze during the dinner adjournment. But we all know that committees meet during dinner adjournments and that time is precious. I support the suggestion made by none other than the honourable member for Mallee (Sir Winton Turnbull). I note that the Government has seen fit to knight him. If the Government has seen fit to knight a man of his standing and position, who commands so much respect, I am quite sure that all honourable members should examine his suggestion that the House should adjourn at 10.30 at night. After more than 20 years of service in this Parliament, what finer tribute could we pay to the honourable member for Mallee than to make him responsible for changing the sitting pattern of the Australian Parliament. I say that even though he is not a member of my own Party. Although at times he is a little parochial, every now and again we see a glimmer of brightness and commonsense come from him which completely counterbalances the parochialism which from time to time he displays in this House.

I do not intend to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) because, as the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) said, it would be a little too much to take 3 hours sitting time out of every week, but certainly there could be a compromise. Time and time again when we are not allowed a free vote on a subject I know that many members on this side of the House are bubbling and boiling inside, wanting to support the Opposition on a certain matter, but because members of the Opposition play so much party politics, it is very difficult for honourable members on this side of the House to support the Opposition, and we stick together as a team. On this occasion we have been given a free vote, and I think that we will be able to discharge our responsibilities if we start our day earlier and rise at an earlier hour each night.

Mr Cope - Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I know that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) quite innocently referred to the absence of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster). I point out to the honourable member for Griffith that the honourable member for Sturt was absent for 2 days because of the death of his father.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes - There is no point of order.

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