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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2938

Mr SPEAKER -The Prime Minister is seeking the indulgence of the House to give information that was sought by the honourable member for Robertson in a question without notice. He has the information now and it is in regard to a serious matter about Africa.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - This is a question which the. Leader of the Government did not hear because he was not listening to a member of his own Party. Why should he be allowed to answer it after he has asked that further questions be placed on the notice paper and has prevented members of the Opposition asking further questions? There is no excuse at all for this. The Prime Minister can give the answer as an answer to a question upon notice.

Mr WHITLAM - I can make, a Press statement if the honourable member would prefer mat.

Opposition members - Do that!

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The Prime Minister is quite in order in seeking the indulgence of the Chair, and it is granted.

Mr WHITLAM - I am able to inform the honourable member for Robertson that-

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Mr Speaker, under what standing order does this occur?

Mr SPEAKER - By the general practice of the House.

Mr WHITLAM - The Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee), who assists me. as Foreign Minister, has made a recommendation that there should be a contribution of US$2S,000 to the Sahelian Trust Fund which the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation has set up to support international efforts to alleviate suffering in the drought-striken Sahelian region, namely, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Upper Volta and parts-

Dr Forbes - Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask that you indicate that section of the Standing Orders which permits you to give an indulgence to the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER - That is the general practice of the House and in accordance with May's 'Parliamentary Practice', and I have been advised by the Clerk of the House that the action I have taken is quite in order.

Mr WHITLAM - Mr Speaker-

Mr Malcolm Fraser - Mr Speaker, the decisions

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Is the honourable gentleman raising a point of order?

Mr WHITLAM - Make way for the disaster.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, the decisions and practices of this House are governed by the Standing Orders. What standing order gives you, as Speaker, the right to interpret or to add to them or to give special indulgence to the Prime Minister over and beyond that which is in accordance with the written Standing Orders themselves?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! That is a reflection on the Chair in regard to my favouring the Prime Minister, and I do not appreciate it. I would not care if it were the Minister for Science, the Minister for the Environment and Conservation or anybody else. It is within my province to grant the indulgence of the Chair to the Prime Minister. I am quite prepared to take my Clerk's interpretation of May's 'Parliamentary Practice' and the Standing Orders as they now stand rather than that of anybody else.

Mr WHITLAM - Parts of Ghana, Togo, Dahomey and Nigeria to the north and Sudan and Ethiopia also are seriously affected by this 5-year disaster. I did discuss it with the Foreign Ministers of four of these countries - namely, Chad, Niger, Senegal and Upper Volta - in Mauritius a few weeks ago.

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