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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 3000

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - I bitterly oppose the motion. At the end of the Budget session last year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) promised that he would not interfere with the latter stages of this session, but what do we find? We find that last week the Government deprived honourable members of a grievance debate and this afternoon we have before us a measure designed to deny honourable members a debate on general business. That is not good enough. I can recall the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) saying in either a television or Press statement last year that ample opportunity is afforded to back bench members of this Parliament to debate the matters that they consider to be of importance. He was referring to grievance debates. In addition he said that honourable members could put their views forward in the form of general business. Acceptance of the motion which has now been brought forward by the Leader of the House will deny honourable members on both sides of the House an opportunity to debate matters of their choice. I have already said that honourable members were denied the opportunity to participate in a grievance debate last week. In addition to that the gag has been applied in such a vicious and intolerant manner during debates in this House in the last 2 weeks that there has not been a proper adjournment debate at the end of the day.

It so happens that there are a number of matters on the notice paper under the heading of General Business for debate. It is all right for members of the Australian Country Party to agree to this proposal. They have already had a bit of a go on the subject of wool although they have not done very much. I notice that there are some11 items under General Business. I wish to acquaint the House with some of them. Item No. 1 states:

Mr Barnard:To move: That this House supports the 2 fundamental principles of the Bandung Declaration. That is (1) noninterference in the affairs of other countries; and (2) the right of all countries to determine their own future; and supports the Prime Minister's call for the withdrawal of Vietcong, North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese and all foreign troops from Cambodia-

And so on. That is one matter for debate. Another one in which 1 am most interested and which will come up for debate in this House if the normal procedures of the House are followed is item No. 5, which appears under the name of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). That honourable member proposes to move that a committee of the House be appointed to take into consideration the petitions for aid and relief in West Bengal and East Pakistan. Notice of that motion was given on 14th October 1971. So honourable members can see that it has been there for plenty of time. There is also a notice standing in the name of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) which reads as follows:

That this House disagrees with the announcement by the Prime Minister that Camp Hill will be the site for the New and Permanent Parliament House -

This matter came up only a few weeks ago on a popular television programme. Much was said about this project costing some $40m. Perhaps one would not be so critical if, today and during the course of the last few weeks, the Government had not played petty party politics to the extent that it brought before this House only the measures it considered should be aired in this place. The Government regards the decision as to what should be discussed in this place as its province and nobody else's. The Government has wasted a considerable amount of time, as it did yesterday in the debate on foreign affairs. Yesterday when I wanted to rise and enter the debate I was not permitted to do so. We always hear the cry by the Party Whips and the Leader of the House that there nas been some form of agreement between the Opposition Whips and the Government when there has been no such agreement.

The Social Services Bill (No. 3) will come before the House this week. It is limited as to the number of Opposition speakers who will be allowed to address the House on that most important measure and it is restricted as to the amount of time that will be allocated to speakers on that measure. We have waited for weeks for the Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill to come before the House. I find that that Bill is restricted in the totality of time and it restricts the number of speakers. Here again the speakers from both sides of the House will have to decrease their time to afford an opportunity to somebody else to speak who is perhaps not on the list. Is this any way to run a government? Is this any way to cater for the rights of the Opposition? The Leader of the House merely stands in this place and says that Government business will take precedence over general business. Why does the Minister not inform the House as to what business the Government intends to fetch on tomorrow morning when the House resumes at 10 o'clock? He has not done that. He squeals all the time and says: 'We have lost 2 hours today.' If the Leader of the House has been losing time, how much time has been saved in running this place by the manner in which petitions are presented to this House now compared with the way they were presented a few weeks ago?

Mr Cope - You have got him rattled.

Mr FOSTER - What does he have to rattle anyway? The fact is that in the last few weeks the Leader of the House has had far more opportunity and time to adjust the affairs of this House than his predecessors have had or than he himself has had previously. Where are the important issues? The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts and Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities (Mr Howson) spoke today on the important matter of the environment, but there was no debate on the matter. One honourable member from this side of the House had to seek leave of the House - and was fortunately given it - to make some form of contribution. This is a matter which ought to be the subject of a debate of some hours.

Mr Peacock - Which is this?

Mr FOSTER - The matter of the environment. The Minister sitting on the front bench opposite asked: 'Which measure is this?'.

Mr Peacock - I thought the honourable member might have been referring to the contribution made by the honourable member for Shortland.

Mr FOSTER - No. I am not worried about the contribution of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths). I could ask: 'What did the Government do about Mr St John, a previous member of this House?' It kicked him out. What did the Government do with the late senator from South Australia who dissociated himself from the Liberal Party's views on our shocking involvement in Vietnam? It ostracised him in this place and never recognised him. Then a Liberal government in South Australia had the hide, upon his death, to appoint another Liberal senator to the Senate on the opposite side of Kings Hall. I thank the Minister for introducing that remark about the honourable member for Shortland. I do not give a damn about the honourable member for Shortland. I do not give a damn about what he had to say in this House today. I hope to goodness that, if I get to that stage, I will not be re-elected to this House.

I am going to take my full time in this debate unless I am gagged. There have been matters before this House that have been completely and absolutely curtailed. Let me go back to the matter of the environment

We have a situation in this country in which the Government is a party, by treaty, recognition or otherwise, to the most dastardly acts carried out in the Pacific Ocean by a so-called friendly government. I refer to the atmospheric testing of nuclear devices in the Pacific by a power that will not test them near its own shores and contaminate its people. We could have said something about that in relation to the environment today. The Government has not shown that it has a proper understanding of the dangers of fallout, particularly to the people who are living in the southern half of this continent. We should be afforded the opportunity to tell this House that, because of the type of testing and atomic plants in America today, 7 per cent of children are born deformed. Are we not entitled to time in this House to question the Government as to why this is happening and why something should not be said about it in this place, why a form of inquiry should not be undertaken and why we should not search our minds and ask the questions that ought to be asked in regard to it?

Should we not have an opportunity in this House to say to the Government that the Concorde aircraft should not land in this country until such time as we are assured - doubly assured, for that matter - that it will not interfere with the rights of the public of this country? If I lived anywhere near the airports in Sydney I would be out on the streets and, as a member of the Federal Parliament, would urge as many people as possible to be at that particular airport on the day the Concorde is scheduled to land, to prevent it from landing. That is what ought to be done and that is what we ought to be speaking about in this place. Yet the Government will not provide a notice paper which will give honourable members the right to debate these matters, and any opportunity an honourable member has as an individually elected member of this Parliament to raise those issues will be denied to him because the Government will use the gag, the guillotine and the old numbers game to prevent such a debate in this place. Since I have been in this place, at no time has the Government had the guts, the courage, the common sense or the common decency to produce for a particular session a legislative programme in the true and proper sense so that people could understand it. The daily programme is an insult to the intelligence of the average person. It is an absolute disgrace to describe it as a legislative programme for any particular time. The blue paper is not always followed. It is often completely ignored. I hope that an honourable member opposite will get up and correct me if I am wrong. The programme is often curtailed. The Government is completely, absolutely and utterly dictatorial.

Sir Winton Turnbull - Read what the daily programme has at the top of it.

Mr FOSTER - I do not give a darn what it has on the top of it. That does not worry me at all. It has 'Prayers' at the top of it. One should say prayers with a degree of sincerity. If the honourable member for Mallee will tell me that this Government, since it was elected in 1969, has produced a legislative programme for this House prior to each session I will get up and apologise to the place but I do not think I will need to do that. Let me remind the honourable, gallant, knighted gentleman that the Governor-General's Speech lasted about one minute 58 seconds and, if my memory serves me correctly, he delivered us into the hands of God. Honourable members have the right to receive replies to certain questions from Ministers. I will wind up on this note, Mr Acting Speaker. I notice that you are watching the clock pretty closely - or maybe it is the gallery.

I have raised the matter of Assistant Ministers before, and it has been bashed through this House. During the course of the last 2 weeks I directed correspondence to a Minister who is in the Senate - the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). Incidentally, he is the Leader of the Government in that House. He is a Minister as a result of the Prime Minister's whim to appoint him to such a position. I received a letter back from a fellow in the Senate who signs himself 'Senator Marriott' and who says that he is the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Health. My understanding is that the President of the Senate has declared, quite openly and quite distinctly, that he will not recognise Assistant Ministers.

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