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Tuesday, 23 February 1971

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - I ask the Senate to reject the amendment moved by Senator Byrne and support the motion so that this debate may proceed. I indicated the arrangements made for my part and, although I realise that the circumstances which occurred this evening were not the personal responsibility of the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), I expect them to be adhered to. Whether they are or not will be decided by the vote of Government supporters.

As to the arguments put forward by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party, I repeat that it is my view that the Democratic Labor Party is endeavouring to sabotage the committee system. Senator Byrne said that this charge was not sustainable. The facts are that the Democratic Labor Party opposed proposals for select committees which were clearly in the national interest, such as the proposal for a select committee to inquire into the establishment of a national disaster organisation, the most important proposal to have an inquiry into the needs of education throughout Australia and also, and perhaps most importantly, the proposals for the establishment of these standing committees about which we are speaking. lt endeavoured to do everything it could to sabotage the motion ultimately adopted by the Senate for the appointment of these 7 standing committees.

Senator Byrne - That is not correct.

Senator MURPHY - The resolution of 11 th June 1970 was that the Senate should set up 7 standing committees. That motion was opposed and the Democratic Labor Party voted against it. It was carried with the assistance of a Government supporter and the independent senator. Then, in an unprecedented action - I know of nothing to compare with this - on 19th August 1970 when the Government supporter was absent overseas, I understand with the permission of his Party, the proposition was put to prevent the establishment of the 7 committees although the Senate had deliberately resolved to appoint them. Two committees only were then established but il was resolved that the others would be. established. I would be very surprised il, when we come to decide on the report of the President about the operation of the committee system and on what should be done in the future, the Democratic Labor Party does not support some proposal aimed at not establishing the 5 committees but at reducing them to a mere token of one or two and thus prevent the Senate from effectively carrying out its intention that 7 should be established.

Senator Little - We will try not to disappoint yon.

Senator MURPHY - I have no doubt, and 1 think the Senate will have no doubt.

The realities of politics in this place are that everyone knows that the Democratic Labor Party is endeavouring to sabotage this system. Tonight's proposal to defer the debate on this matter is part of the same course of action.

Senator Little - Tell us how many committees you are on.

Senator Gair - He is. not on one committee.

Senator MURPHY - That is not true. Senator Gair should know better than to repeat such untruths in this Senate, particularly as he has said it before and it has been repudiated.

Senator Rae - This is time consuming. For my information will you answer the interjection?

Senator MURPHY - My answer is that I sat on Estimates Committee A. 1 was a member of an important committee which sat for a long time during two parliaments - the committee on parliamentary papers and Government publications, the report of which led to the establishment of the Australian Government Publishing Service. There were many other recommendations which I understand were accepted in toto by this Government. 1 belong also to some other committee. Senator Rae would be able to find out if he looked through the record.

The reality of this matter will be determined by the reactions of those who vote against these proposals and endeavour to sabotage the committees when they are set up. The action of the Democratic Labor Party is simply part of the same course of action. We will see it repeated during the next few months when those who are opposed to the committee system will do their darndest to see that it is not properly established. I hope that those honourable senators with enough vision to realise that the committee system will work effectively in the national interest will see to it that this sabotage does not succeed for reasons of temporary political expediency. I hope they will come to the aid of the committee system and ensure that it is put into full operation. I ask the Senate to reject the amendment and carry the motion.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Byrne's amendment to Senator Murphy's proposed motion) be left out.

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