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Tuesday, 23 August 1983
Page: 12

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(2.39) —Mr Speaker-this is not stretching your indulgence-I have to move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a motion being moved to enable either the Prime Minister or the honourable member for Port Adelaide to make a statement to this House immediately on the circumstances surrounding the resignation of the honourable member for Port Adelaide as Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council and the Prime Minister's subsequent recommendation to the parliamentary Labor Party that the honourable member's ministerial vacancy remain open.

Mr SPEAKER —Is the motion in writing and seconded?

Mr PEACOCK —Yes, it is in writing and it is seconded by the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony). The decision by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) to leave open the position in Cabinet of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) is an act of gross impropriety. We move the suspension of Standing Orders for him to explain the reasons behind this and the circumstances surrounding the resignation of the Minister. This is not a royal commission; there is no need for someone to be briefed to explain the circumstances. The Government is answerable to this Parliament. The Prime Minister and all Ministers derive their authority from the people and through this Parliament. On the day the Parliament resumed we are entitled at least to an explanation of why , firstly, this Minister resigned and, secondly, the Prime Minister has subsequently determined to leave the vacancy open. The Parliament-I repeat, the Parliament-has received no explanation whatsoever. By leaving the way open for the return of the honourable member for Port Adelaide, the Prime Minister is unquestionably treating our system of government with contempt. Furthermore, he is treating this Parliament-this House-with contempt. He has a duty to explain his actions to this House.

It certainly does appear that the Prime Minister has surrendered to the dictum of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. Honourable members will recall it. During the one-day sitting of the Parliament in April this year the honourable member said: 'If you have the numbers, you might as well use them.' The Prime Minister will seek to hide behind those numbers and debase this Parliament, thereby, I assume, leaving the way open for the honourable member's return to the Ministry. By so doing he downgrades the impropriety of his own very similar actions.

Standing Orders should be suspended so that the Prime Minister can explain the conduct of the honourable member for Port Adelaide as, indeed, he ought to as a Minister of the Crown. The honourable member for Port Adelaide abandoned his responsibilities as a Cabinet Minister and as a member of the Cabinet Sub- Committee on National and International Security. The House is entitled to an explanation of why the Prime Minister is anxious to ignore this behaviour. When, on being asked at the Royal Commission on Australia's Security and Intelligence Agencies--

Mr Lionel Bowen —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order in order to help the Leader of the Opposition. This is a matter of the suspension of Standing Orders. We will accept the suspension in order that the Leader of the Opposition can move the motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition may now move his motion.