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Wednesday, 20 February 1980
Page: 118

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - I second the motion that the Standing Orders be suspended. There are many reasons why such suspension should take place. I wish to highlight the fact that it affects not only the rights of members of the Opposition but also those of Government supporters. The rights of all private members are being trampled on by the Government's use of the Standing Orders, and by the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) having a matter of public importance set aside in the way that he did. I wish to highlight first the importance of this matter of public importance. Do members of the Liberal and National Country Parties believe that, after three months' recess, only one issue is before this country? There are hundreds of issues which members of the Opposition anyway want to bring before the Parliament. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) has already highlighted some of them and I will come back to them in a moment. The subject proposed by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), which is set out on the daily program, is one of the utmost importance, one concerning which the people of this country are keen to have an answer. They want the honourable member to be able to bring the Treasurer (Mr Howard) into this House to give an indication of what this $400m to $600m extra revenue, which has been collected by use of the Fraser federal petrol tax, is to be used for. The honourable member has prepared a speech which thousands and thousands of Australians want presented to this Parliament, as indeed it should be.

Everybody else in the country is speculating about what is going to happen with all this money that the Government has been collecting at the petrol bowsers. We have had the Australian Industry Development Association speculating. We have had every employer group speculating also, yet this Government, in its jackboot style, prevents the members of the Opposition from bringing this legitimate subject before the Parliament. Yesterday the Opposition did the right thing. It did not put a matter of public importance on the daily program. It had ascertained that the Prime Minister would be making a statement on a most important subject, namely, the invasion of Afghanistan. That subject was debated all day. We are also prepared to debate it for many hours today and again tomorrow. As has been said, 22 members from this side of the House alone, have put their names on the list of speakers. But there is plenty of time for that subject to be discussed along with other subjects that are of keen interest to the Parliament. It is not only a matter of the importance of the subject that is on the daily program, it is the creation of a bad precedent that is so much on our minds. I have not been able to learn of a previous occasion when a government has used its numbers in this way- to remove from the program a matter of public importance. Does any honourable member suggest that other debates which have taken place in this chamber in the past, for instance on the Budget, were not important; that therefore matters of public importance should not have been brought forward simultaneously by the Opposition?

Does anybody suggest that the great Vietnam debate was not of equal importance to this House? During the Vietnam debates matters of public importance were on the notice paper.

Does anyone suggest that the debate on the Suez crisis was of such great importance that a matter of public importance- another issue in the community- could not also be brought before the Parliament? That was not considered necessary either during the Vietnam debate or during the recent Budget debate. There are many examples of the government of the day allowing matters of public importance to come before the chamber while most important issues were being discussed.

I can anticipate what the Leader of the House will say by way of a weak and feeble excuse in order to gag this debate. He will say that Afghanistan is an important subject. We have agreed that it is. For that reason we did not yesterday present a matter of public importance, but we are also agreed that it is our right and proper duty -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (MrMillarOrder! The honourable member's time has expired.

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