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Thursday, 8 March 1973
Page: 455

Mr GILES (Angas) - I rise a little later in the evening than I would have wished to comment on the fact that the Government has gagged approximately 16 Opposition speakers in the debate on the AddressinReply. I do not suppose that anybody on this side of the House is naive enough to expect that we will receive anything like equal treatment from bully boys and bosses, who probably have been trained at a lot tougher school than we have, in relation to giving adequate chances for people to put their views. However, I think it is only proper to stand at this time and, if I can, objectively explain to the House the attitude that has been adopted by the Whip's office over the last 3 years when the Liberal-Country Party coalition was in government, and compare it with what has happened tonight. It may well be - I have not been able to check my facts in regard to hours of debate allowed - that the performance of the Government tonight or over the last fortnight has been adequate.

Mr Fox - It has not.

Mr GILES - I have it on the authority of my friend that even on an hourly basis the amounts of time allocated to members on both sides of the House do not bear comparison.

But I wanted to make another point tonight and I will continue to make it. We do not want sympathy; we do not want anything other than our rights as Her Majesty's Opposition to express a point of view, and we intend to fight for these rights if we feel that we have been treated in an inadequate fashion. In the last 3 years, when we were in government, during the debates on either the Budget or the Address-in-Reply, I hope the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) will back me op in what I am about to say - someone from the Whip's office on the Government side has always gone across to the Opposition side and said - I hope my memory is accurate - 'What are the numbers of members you wish to debate the Budget or the Address-in-Reply?' As a rule this request went across half-way through the debate, not at the beginning and certainly not at the end. I hasten to admit that. If the answer was that the Opposition had 23 speakers or 26 speakers we on the Government side pruned our list according to the number requested by the Opposition. There is nothing in the rules of the House governing the number of speakers. All that is involved is the capacity for a Government and an Opposition to co-operate. I say with sorrow that such co-operation was not evident in the recent Address-in-Reply debate. Sixteen people on this side of the House were prevented from speaking in that debate. As people will hasten to remind us, this is the first time we have been in opposition for 23 years, and 1 think that members, including newcomers on both the Government side and on our side, deserve the maximum of consideration. I am talking about Her Majesty's Opposition, not about a rabble, not about 3 parties, but about Her Majesty's Opposition. Sixteen people were gagged by the Government in the Address-in-Reply debate. As luck would have it no member who wished to make his maiden speech was gagged. A lot of other fairly important people who have had a lot to do with the progress of Australia during the last 23 years have been gagged. I want to register my disappointment at the gagging of members in the Address-in-Reply debate.

I can only repeat that we on this side of the House feel that we will not get from the Government treatment equal to the treatment that we as a Government gave to it in Opposition, but we hope to have the opportunity to fight for the percentage of the Australian people whom we represent, and if the. opportunity is given to us we will continue to do so. If the opportunity is not given we will have to fight in some other fashion. I presume that there are members on the opposite side who felt they had to do the same thing when they were in Opposition. I do not think it would be right if 1 did not take advantage of this occasion to point out what I sincerely believe to be an error of judgment by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). 1 might just make a comment on the Leader of the House, because his performance in that office is becoming an important issue. I am sorry that he has left the chamber, but I was unable to get the call while he was present. More and more this person, who 1 think is respected on both sides of the House, is becoming known by the population of Australia for his comic and buffoon acts over the air. He is becoming known as someone who is not seriousi n his determination to produce good government for the people of Australia. The average person in the street - I hand this out as a pleasant warning at this stage - wonders who he is, why he has been elected to the position he holds and what his job is when he treats the Parliament of the nation in such a flippant fashion. I hope that in the future he will do his job properly without seeing a necessity to buffoon and try to ridicule and belittle people, some of whom are perhaps not as adequately equipped as he is to stand up for their rights but simply are people sincerely trying to do a job which they have been sent by the people who have elected them to this Parliament to do.

Mr Whan - It must be hurting.

Mr GILES - I can tell you one thing. It does not hurt me one bit. The more often he gets back to wine excise the happier I will be because one thing that happened from it was that my vote on a single preferred result went up by 2 per cent. If what he said had any meat to it at all I can only invite him to keep trying me out on wine excise, because the result from my wine growers was perfectly superb and I shall everlastingly be grateful for their attitude. Before I sit down let me mention one matter, which, if I may become parochial for one minute, perturbed me as a South Australian very much. I sat and watched a television show not long ago in which 1 saw the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren)-

Dr Forbes - He is the Minister for the cities.

Mr GILES - Yes, because the regional side of his functions has become defunct. To my absolute amazement as a South Australian I heard the interviewer ask him what studies had been carried out as a lead-up to the inauguration of Albury-Wodonga as a regional centre. To my complete horror the Minister said that this was completely a political decision. The interviewer, quick smart, said:

Where are the feasibility studies?' I can remember the former Opposition asking the same question over the years about a certain dam in Queensland. The Minister was asked: Where are the feasibility studies?' He said: But there are not any feasibility studies. I have told you that it was a political decision.' That may or may not be valid. It may or may not be a terrible damnation of the present Government, that they would chuck away and squander taxpayers money on something not thought out, despite the magnificent concept of regional development. What worried me so much as a South Australian was that we had thought that the previous Liberal -Country League Premier of South Australia had succeeded in negotiating certain water rights for South Australia.

Mr Cohen - Which one?

Mr GILES - I did not mention his name. That is up to you. We thought that he had negotiated and obtained greater water rights for South Australia from the yield of the River Murray. We thought in South Australia that the Dartmouth Dam was to be the alternative to Chowilla Dam to give us an increased yield in water. I just ask the Government this question: If the decision to establish AlburyWodonga as a growth centre is a political decision, if no feasibility studies on the development are available and if no economists have given an opinion on this matter, who has had a look at the water yield? I also heard the same Minister on the same television program say that there would be no water problem in Albury-Wodonga, that Dartmouth Dam was being constructed for this purpose. People up and down the Murray below that area who heard that statement will be horrified, and that is being modest. I remind the Government that many honourable members will do what the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) has done in the past. They will ask where the feasibility studies are and where is the background information to show that the correct decision has been made. If they are told that this information is not available they will ask why the decision is being made and whether it is capricious and in the best interests of the nation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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