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Thursday, 10 May 1973
Page: 1957

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - I move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a motion being moved to vary the decision of the House to limit debate on the second reading of the Medical Practice Clarification Bill so as to give an opportunity to all members, if they so wish, to express a view on the second readingstage of the Bill. 1 have moved the motion because this is a matter of great significance not only to every member of this House but to the entire Australian public. The social mores of this country will be very greatly affected by the decision taken in this House today. Under standing order 91 the times given for debate read as follows:

Other Bills (Private Government Member) - and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) is a private Government member-


Indeed, I will be deputing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to represent me. Standing order 91 continues:

Any other Member...... 20 minutes

The mathematics of that show that if all those speakers take up their time, and 1 am sure all of them could take up their time in order to express their views properly and adequately, it would leave only 120 minutes for20-minute speeches by other members, which wouldbe time for only 6 speeches, a total of 9 speeches in all. If this debate were extended for, say, 6 hours, the mathematics would enable extra speakers to enter the debate.

The Leader of the House (Mr Daly) said that we should discipline ourselves and each speak for only 10 minutes. In fact, I will be speaking only for that amount of time but that is because I have had the opportunity of deputing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to speak for a much longer period. But there are other members on my side of this House who would want a great deal more time than 10 minutes to make clear where they stand on this very deep issue and it would surprise me if there were any member on the Government side who could satisfactorily express his views in that time. If we were allowed the extra time I am quite sure that everybody would want to co-operate - not with the Government, but with each other - so that as many people as possible could speak. I believe that in this way honourable members would feel that Parliament was doing its job better.

This is a fundamental issue for the Parliament to decide and it will be decided today.

It has raised so much interest that into my office in Canberra since Easter have been coming at least 500 letters on the issue each day. These are not letters which have been printed and to which a signature has been appended; these are all personally written letters, some of them extending into 3 pages. There is no similarity between any of them. They are quite clearly letters that are not part of a campaign.

Mr Bryant - Ha, ha!

Mr SNEDDEN - The honourable gentleman laughs. He is permitted to laugh; he has some strange ideas and a strange sense of humour. These letters are not part of a campaign as we ordinarily know it.

Dr Klugman - Who are you trying to kid?

Mr SNEDDEN - Ordinarily, as we know it, the documents are typed out, printed, or something of that kind, but there is a very real difference between the letters which are coming in now and the campaign as we have known it in the past, when printed forms have been used. The letters coming from those people who support the Bill are coming in on printed forms.

However, the purpose of the exercise is not to decide this issue on how many letters one gets, or whether they are handwritten or typed. This issue must be decided on the basis of the views of the people of this House, who were elected into the House to express their views. They have the responsibility to express their views and cannot avoid that responsibility. They must not avoid taking a decision. The Leader of the House talked about the amount of time that had been allowed in the past for private business as though there were any relevance in that matter.

Mr Beazley - I rise to order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday certain suspensions of Standing Orders were proposed and certain arrangements were made. A decision was made by the House. I ask whether it is in order to canvas those issues and start that debate again.

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