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Wednesday, 7 September 1983
Page: 451

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Leader of the House)(10.46) —in reply-I thank the Opposition Leader of the House, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), for his support of the motion. It was a pity that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) was not here because obviously he would have been impressed with the performance.

Mr Sinclair —He was here.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —He was not here. If the Opposition Leader of the House ever changes party he has a good chance of becoming the Leader of the Opposition. Let me make it clear that this matter is not a new one. For the benefit of the distinguished gentleman who is the Opposition Leader of the House, I inform him that on 26 August 1981, when moving the same motion, he said:

This motion is one which normally is moved at this stage. It is one that reflects the fact that members are able to canvass any issues which concern them or their electorates . . . we believe it is appropriate that the motion again be put to the Parliament this year and passed.

Honourable members will note that when I replied, in opposition, I took about one minute flat. The distinguished Opposition Leader of the House took 15 minutes of what he considers to be valuable time to enter into wide ranging debate about what is wrong with this Parliament.

Honourable members will notice that a matter of public importance is not listed on the daily program. Why? Because the distinguished Opposition Leader of the House said that due to our changed sitting hours half past eight in the morning was too early to submit one. We agreed that one could be submitted at anytime until 12 noon. We arranged this to suit the Opposition. We also said: 'Would it not be more appropriate to have Question Time at 2 p.m. when Ministers will be here?' We enjoy Question Time every day. We think it is getting better from our point of view. I can understand honourable members opposite complaining bitterly .

I will not delay honourable members opposite for too long, but they have been very critical of the fact that only 10 questions were asked yesterday. Let us look at the precedents. Only 10 questions were asked on 27 October last year when the present Opposition Leader of the House was in charge. Only 10 questions were asked on 26 August last year when he was in charge. Only nine questions were asked on 18 February last year, again when the honourable member was in charge. Only nine questions were asked on 17 February last year, when he was in charge. I hate to say this, but this is the piece de resistance: On 7 September last year only five questions were asked. So enough of this nonsense.

We want a parliamentary debate on the Appropriation Bills. I offer this suggestion to the Opposition Leader of the House: If his members do not want to talk on the Budget we will confine the debate and go back to General Business. If they do not want to participate in the Parliament on these matters we will accommodate them. Honourable members behind me want to participate in the Budget debate because they have something to tell the people of Australia. I do not think we ought to delay the House any more, but I am disappointed to have such reluctant support to a motion which has always been moved until this year by my friend the Opposition Leader of the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Mr SPEAKER —I respond to the Deputy Leader of the National Party. I will consider the statement that has been made in the Senate and see whether it is appropriate to make a similar statement to the House.