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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 1195

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - When discussing the estimates for the Parliament it is normal for honourable members to put forward some ideas about the manner in which they think the Parliament should operate. It is equally normal for those people who exercise power - the Government - to sit and grin and ignore them. This is the normal process. I have heard honourable members complaining that the Parliament does not work. I heard the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury), for instance, suggesting that a lot of the time of the Parliament is wasted on urgency motions. I do not think that the honourable member for Ryan could have been here today when we had a complete and utter waste of the Parliament's time with a debate initiated by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on a matter which has been discussed in this Parliament almost daily for the last 2 years purely for the purpose of finding a platform from which he could try to make the matter an election issue. The matter had absolutely nothing to do with the Government of this country, as every honourable member opposite knows. It was a total, time wasting exercise of the Parliament and a cynical display by the Government of its ability to place business on the notice paper.

Had the Opposition introduced an urgency motion, the Government would have moved to proceed to government business because of the urgent need to pass Budget Bills which do not happen to be ready to be presented to the Parliament anyway. The Government would have accused the Opposition of deliberately delaying the Budget. So let us not have any crocodile tears about urgency motions. The facts are that the procedures of the Parliament are extremely restrictive of the opportunities given to private members to raise issues. It may well be that we will have to alter fairly radically some of the procedures of this House and some of the sitting times of this House in order that private members' business can be dealt with.

It should be possible, especially on matters which are largely non-party, for private members' Bills to be brought to a vote in this Parliament. An easy way to ignore one's responsibilities as a member of this Parliament is to have a matter put on the notice paper as a private member and then shelved. Any honourable member who cared to pick up the notice paper and see the numbers of matters which are listed under general business and which will never be voted upon could see that an honourable member who wanted to list a general business item would not even have to think out the consequences because he knows that it will never be voted upon in this Parliament.

There are some rather important matters on the notice paper. In the last few weeks we have heard Ministers - it is election time, you know - talking about decentralisation. Item No. 13 under General Business on the notice paper is a resolution to set up a parliamentary committee to inquire into provincial cities and regional development. At this time the Government apparently thinks that this is an important matter but it is not prepared to allow such a motion to be voted upon in the Parliament. This is a cynical approach, to say the least. There is and has been ever since I have been a member of the Parliament a Bill on the notice paper proposing to abolish the death penalty. Surely that is a matter which this Parliament should be able to decide. But the Parliament cannot decide it because a cynical use or abuse of power prevents the Parliament from voting on the question.

Is it any wonder that people believe that the Parliament does not work? If some matter does not suit the political interests of the government of the day, it cannot be voted upon in the Parliament. It does not matter how important the question is or what the question is; if it does not happen to fit in with the business brought forward by the Executive, the Parliament cannot deal with it. It should be possible for private members' Bills dealing with areas in which the Parliament has a say and where the expenditure of money is not involved to be dealt with in this Parliament. As the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) mentioned, there is a resolution of the Senate relating to the siting of the new and permanent Parliament House - that mythical thing that one of these days someone will actually think about constructing. I have grave doubts whether anyone will ever accept the responsibilities of expending the money because no-one is game to grasp the nettle.

Members of Parliament may well be badly housed in this place but the people who work in the building - the numbers are increasing as Ministers expand their staffs in a never-ending manner so that their incompetence can be covered up by myriads of Press secretaries and public relations people who actually do the work for them - are working in conditions that the legislation of this Parliament would not tolerate in private industry. This Parliament provides a disgraceful example of the neglect by an employer of the working conditions of the staff. The staff, especially the clerical staff, is practically sitting on one another's knees, trying to cope with a work load in a building which was designed to meet the requirements of 1927 and has had a bit of patchwork added every other year since. The Sim odd that is being spent at the moment in expanding this building is no more and no less than money being poured down the drain.

Another subject which was raised by every honourable member who has spoken in this debate relates to the facilities for members. I am not going to talk about the facilities for members but about the advantages enjoyed by Ministers. When a Minister is to address a meeting as the member representing the electorate, he can use an aeroplane from Canberra and have a car driven from Melbourne to pick him up at the airport and take him to and from the site of the hall. He has someone to write his speech and someone to deliver it to the Press gallery. He is unfortunate in that he actually has to mouth the words himself.

Mr Daly - And then it is not worth reading.

Mr SCHOLES - The content of his speech is not important because it depends not on the Minister's capacity but on the capacity of his speech writer. On the other hand, a private member must go through a myriad of departmental officials, none of whom have any relevance at all to the Parliament, in order to obtain the use of a Commonwealth car. That member cannot get the use of a Commonwealth car if he is in a capital city on parliamentary business other than that which he represents. Of course, if he happens to live outside a capital city and does not have a car, he can walk.

I do not believe that the Parliament should allow its affairs to be conducted by a Public Service organisation which is not related to the Parliament itself. I believe that this Parliament should have a minister for parliamentary affairs whose responsibilities should include those which are currently carried out by the Leader of the House. He should also take over those responsibilities to the Parliament for parliamentary facilities which are not appropriate to vest in the Speaker or the President. Recently a Senate committee indicated that the use of facilities by members of Parliament should be the responsi bility of the Parliament. I understand that members of that chamber, who apparently are more likely to defend their rights against the tyranny of ignorance - that is exactly what it is - in fact are increasing their facilities at the expense of members of this chamber. They are expanding the activities of their chamber at the expense of the standing of this chamber because the members of this chamber have never shown any real initiative or intent to stand up for what they believe to be theirs.

I realise that what is said in this debate will fall on deaf ears and it may well continue to do so. I do not think that previous governments have any better record in this field than has the present Government but I would suggest that some alterations to the procedures of the Parliament should be made to enable private member's business which is not subject to Government policy and does not require the expenditure of moneys to be dealt with and voted upon in the Parliament.

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