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Tuesday, 3 April 1973
Page: 1023

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - I second the motion. The motion moved by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon) is worthy of the support of this Parliament. On the information available to us it appears that the Government intends to gag 17 members on this side of the House who wish to speak on a matter of quite fundamental importance to the future of this Parliament and representative democracy in Australia. This Government was in part elected on a plank of open government which means allowing people within the Parliament to say what they feel they need to say, and making known to the people of Australia the various decisions of the Government and the background to those decisions. Instead we have seen a Government that is already using the gag and restricting the rights of private members in this Parliament more vehemently and viciously than any Government since 1945, certainly any government since the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) has been in the Parliament.

Also we find the Government, far from adhering to its principle of open government, becoming secretive. It is by-passing the organs of this Parliament and is reducing the rights and prerogatives of members of this Parliament. It is doing this now because it is ashamed of what the Bill contains, ashamed to have exposed in debate for another 2 days the provisions of the measure which the Minister has introduced and which he knows is designed to perpetuate Labor rule and to establish a circumstance in which many metropolitan or extra-metropolitan seats would be smaller in terms of the number of voters than some of the large and vast electorates of Australia. That is an utterly unjust proposal and it ought to be debated and exposed to the full. But 17 honourable members on this side of the House are being gagged deliberately. Under the catch cry 'one vote one value* the Government is trying to conceal what could become for the first time in the Commonwealth's history a gerrymander of electoral boundaries. This has not been the case in past redistributions whether undertaken by a Labor or a Liberal-Country Party government. This Bill is all the more important because, bluff though it may be, the Leader of the House has said that it is a measure that could lead to a double dissolution. That makes it all the more important for it to be debated fully and openly.

Mr Daly - I rise to order. We are debating standing order 93 which states:

After any question has been proposed from the Chair, either in the House or in committee, a motion may be made by any Member, rising in his place, and without notice, and whether any other Member is addressing the Chair or not, 'that the question be now put', and such motion shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.

I submit that those moving and seconding the motion should speak to it and not discuss in broad detail a matter which is at present under discussion in this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER - That is the rule of the House and should be abided by. The honourable member must speak to the reason for the suspension and not debate the question.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Mr Speaker,thank you for your ruling. I am relating the reason for the suspension of the standing order to the importance of the measure and the necessity to allow free debate. One of the reasons for the importance of the measure is that although it could lead to a double dissolution 17 honourable members are to be gagged. What is the Government frightened of in this debate? It says it wants open government. We have had a certain lack of enthusiasm on the part of Government supporters in supporting the Bill. Has the Government run out of speakers or has it no more supporters for this measure and does not want Opposition speaker after Opposition speaker to rise and speak on it? Or is it just another of those tactics we saw earlier today when the Prime Minister virtually accused senior public servants of conspiracy? They, of course, are not able to reply under Public Service rules. For the Prime Minister it is open season on all whether they have the right to reply or not, and for members of this Parliament it is the gag denying them the right to speak on matters which are of fundamental importance to Australian democracy.

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