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Wednesday, 7 September 1983
Page: 452

Mr STEELE HALL(10.53) —The Opposition does not oppose this motion. In fact, because when the motion of appointment was passed through the House the Opposition expressed the opinion that the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Reform would need more time to assess evidence and produce a view on this important question, the Opposition supports the motion. I am sure that the House and the public will find the report, when it is presented here, a useful document furthering the matter of electoral reform and the development of electoral procedures, with which the community is so intimately concerned at election time. It will not be without controversy. I am sure that we will see following that report some energetic debate in this House and among members of the public.

There is one cloud, however, that hangs over electoral matters in this House and in the community; that is, that the Minister who presided over electoral matters for the Government and presided over the setting up of this Committee is no longer a Minister. The electoral matters are now administered by a Minister holding the portfolio temporarily in this House. I do not think this does justice to this very important question when it is coming to a peak in the public's mind at the presentation of the report next week. It seems to me that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) should draw his gage from the matters of national security and other matters which have forced the resignation of the Minister because he leaked matters of vital importance to the Cabinet Sub-Committee on National and International Security. He leaked these matters on the day that he learned of them. The Prime Minister should turn his mind from that to the question of electoral matters and he should permanently fill this position. As I have said, it is not good enough to develop this question when the portfolio is held temporarily pending the Ministry being filled. We know the Prime Minister is under pressure from his left to maintain this position and to keep it open for the possible return of the Minister who resigned. I suggest that the severity of the Minister's offence in national security, the offence that could give to other nations who are linked to Australia's security--

Mr Scott —I raise a point of order. The motion deals with the Electoral Reform Committee, of which the honourable member is a member, as I am. I think his remarks should be addressed to that matter.

Mr SPEAKER —I have listened carefully to the honourable member. He has made reference to the former Minister responsible for electoral matters who had an association with the Committee. I must admit that I was listening to his last statements carefully because it seemed to me that he was getting very close to dealing with matters that should be dealt with in a substantive motion. I invite him to take care in his further remarks. I call the honourable member for Boothby.

Mr STEELE HALL —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was dealing with the portfolio as it affects electoral matters. But it is a matter of public knowledge and of much discussion that the former Minister was forced to resign. I reiterate that I think it is not good enough that this portfolio is not held permanently at a time when this debate is coming to a head. The Government owes it to this House and to the public to fill that portfolio now so that the community can look ahead and see some consistency of view from the Government-a view which must soon be put in response to this Committee's report. I was simply drawing attention to the fact that the honourable member has gone from the Ministry because of his offence in relation to national security. The Prime Minister should turn his mind from the offence that the Minister committed in breaching national security. That, of course, was his offence, an offence which apparently affects any possibility of filling this portfolio. I believe that the Prime Minister should fill the portfolio. He should recognise that the Minister is an unacceptable candidate for the Ministry because of his offence. That is a simple statement. The Minister offended in relation to the national security of this country. It would be the view of our allies that that honourable member should not be reinstated to the Ministry. The Prime Minister should recognise that.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member is transgressing the warning that I gave him earlier. I invite him to return to the matter before the House.

Mr STEELE HALL —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will leave that question to the Prime Minister. I would like him to consider those remarks. The Coalition has a good deal to offer any further study that the Committee may make. As I said when I first spoke to the motion establishing the Committee, the Opposition saw that more time would be needed and so moved in this House. Therefore, the Opposition has pleasure in supporting the motion that the Committee be given further time to study some of those issues that will be itemised in the report to be made next week.