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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 1950

Mr SNEDDEN (BRUCE, VICTORIA) - Before asking my question I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Social Security, who is sitting at the table this morning. My question is addressed to the Leader of the House. 1 ask: Will he put aside the attitudes that he expressed yesterday in relation to the Medical Practice Clarification Bill which is due to come on this morning as a private member's Bill? Will he overlook and forget the outrage felt on this side of the House, and perhaps on the other side of the House also, and come to the realisation that on this issue it is a matter of fundamental importance to every honourable member, regardless of which side of the House he is on in political terms? Irrespective of the Party to which honourable members belong, all members of this House will be expressing their view on the Bill according to deeply held views, whether those views arise out of conscience, ethics or religion.

It is necessary for every member of this House who wishes to do so to have the opportunity to explain why he is voting as he will vote because nobody in this House can avoid the vote today. Honourable members should not have to vote without the opportunity to explain their views, whether they are in favour of the Bill, whether they are against the Bill or whether they are in favour of one or other of at least 2 amendments that I know of. Does the honourable gentleman realise that, according to the Standing Orders, if 210 minutes only are allowed for this debate the mover could take 30 minutes, a person deputed by the Prime Minister could, under Standing Orders, take 30 minutes and a person deputed by me could take 30 minutes? That would leave only 120 minutes. That 120 minutes could be occupied by 6 separate honourable members with the result that there would be only 9 speakers. That would probably deprive honourable members of the opportunity to move amendments that they may want to move. In these circumstances, will the honourable gentleman, please, on behalf of all members of this Parliament who have a view to express, change the motion passed yesterday to suspend the Standing Orders to one which would say that the debate shall continue uninterrupted until a vote is taken after every member of this House has had an opportunity to express his view?

Mr DALY (GRAYNDLER, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Services and Property) - May I say that personally I see no reason to change the views I expressed yesterday. I accept the Leader of the Opposition's assurance that there is to be a conscience vote on his side of the chamber. I know that there will be on this side of the House. I did not know until he confirmed it that this was so on the other side. Yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party said that this was a Government Bill. That is completely false. This Bill is to be introduced by a private member. It is a Bill on which I now understand every member of this Parliament can vote as he thinks fit. The only thing that the Government has done has been to take effective action - a thing which was neglected by members of the present Opposition in days gone by - to come to a decision as to the. time for a vote. As to the question of extending the time for an unlim ited period, this is very strange coming from the Leader of the Opposition. Let me read the record of his Government in regard to General Business day.

Mr Katter - Can't you wait?

Mr DALY - I can wait. Referring to the last Government and the number of times that Government Business was given precedence over General Business in 1972, I find that a resolution which was passed on 23rd August 1972, successfully excluded 5 Thursdays which normally would have been General Business days. The number of votes taken on General Business items in the 27th Parliament was five. All five were on motions for disallowance of an ordinance or regulation and were negatived. No items of which notice was given for General Business on a Thursday were ever taken to a vote. The time allotted for the debate today is one of the longest periods ever given to a debate of this kind. The longest time spent debating a private member's Bill was 5 hours 50 minutes on the Banking Companies Reserve Liabilities Bill which was introduced into the House of .Representatives from the Senate in 1910. It lapsed and was resumed in 1911-12.

I have details of several other private member's Bills. The Defence Bill (No. 2) of 1939 occupied 3 hours 57 minutes. That was in the time of a tory government. The Fire Insurance Bill of 1907 took 3 hours 40 minutes, while the Matrimonial Bill of 1957 took 5 hours 36 minutes. The latter Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives by Mr Joske and lapsed at the Committee stage. In 1907 the Public Service Appeals Bill was debated for 3 hours 50 minutes. They are the longest debates on private members' Bills of which I can find details after research into the parliamentary history of this country. Today 3i hours have been allotted exclusively to the private members' Bill on abortion.

Now the Leader of the Opposition is asking for more time for the debate. Yesterday honourable members opposite voted to reduce the time for the debate to 2 hours. We moved for a period of 3i hours because the time for the debate expires at a quarter to one if it is not concluded. Every honourable member opposite, including the honourable gentleman who asked the question, voted to reduce the time to 2 hours. Now they want unlimited time. How silly can you get? Before this debate was considered I saw the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and said to him: 'This is an important measure on which emotions are roused and about which everyone has feelings. Could we not get agreement to have a reasonable time for debate? Could we cut out the formalities, suspensions and all that kind of thing? Let us have the debate in a reasoned way.' The Deputy Leader of the Opposition reported to me that he had discussed it with his Party, or that members of his Party had discussed it. Quite rightly, I suppose in their view, evidently they said: 'This is a private members' Bill and there can be no interference', and the Deputy Leader could come to no arrangements with me. Arising out of that discussion, members of my Party said that they would vole as a party to see that the forms were proceeded with as laid down.

If the Opposition had been reasonable and had been prepared to negotiate on these matters, possibly some of the difficulties being experienced would have been overcome. However, if honourable members restrain themselves, double the number of members will be able to speak. 1 am one of those fellows who say that your money is where your heart is. You can speak in this House one way and vote another way. Everybody should understand that he will be judged in this Parliament by the way his vote is recorded after the debate. It does not matter what he says or how he speaks. History and the people of this country will judge him according to how Hansard records his vote. The perfect way to handle legislation is to have a full debate right through on every Bill. We have a legislative program. People are interested in prices. They are interested in the cost of living and in the 50 Bills we have to pass. Honourable members opposite wanted to curtail debate. Earlier in the week we put up a proposal to extend slightly the sitting hours of the Parliament. Every honourable member opposite voted against it. I rest on that.

Mr Sinclair - We will sit tomorrow instead.

Mr DALY - When I was mentioning this matter in answer to a question by the honourable member for Bradfield the other day I challenged the Opposition several times. I asked honourable members opposite why they did not move for an extension. Only today, when you cannot make any arrangements they wake up that they want an extension. I say again: 'While this Government is in office whenever possible we will have a vote on General Business day. Only the other day the honourable member for Mackellar would not allow me to move suspension of the Standing Orders to allow his private member's motion to be debated for an extended time. It was not until the honourable member for Lyne moved suspension of the Standing Orders that he allowed us to debate his own motion on General Business day. I put that on the record. I am quite prepared to be 'judged on this issue. I regret that the Opposition did not negotiate more on this measure. Probably we could have got further.

Mr Snedden - May 1 have the indulgence of the House for 2 minutes on this matter? The Leader of the House said that if I had been prepared to negotiate we would have gained additional time.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Is this a personal explanation?

Mr Snedden - No, it is in the interests of the conduct of the House.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! This matter should be dealt with by making a personal explanation after question time.

Mr Snedden - The Leader of the House referred to our being prepared to negotiate. We are prepared, and the negotiations can commence immediately with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order involved.

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