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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1521

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - The situation is quite absurd. The Government gave notice of this Bill at 9 o'clock last night. We have not even yet had the second reading of the Bill - it is 2.15 p.m. - and it is proposed by the Government, in a quite cynical departure from all parliamentary decorum and rules, now to put down a guillotine on this Bill which will prevent any possibility whatever of adequate discussion of all the implications of it. The people of Australia, under this Bill, from all we have read about it in the Press - we have not heard one word about it so far in this House - are to be asked to give power over incomes to the Commonwealth, and we are asked to pass it all - I have forgotten exactly what the hours proposed were - by 4.15 or 4.30 today. That will allow about 2 hours debate for this House to decide whether or not the people of Australia should have the opportunity to vote for the most far reaching powers they have ever been asked to give and for powers which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) perpetually did not want.

We are entitled to have a full debate on this, to have it explained to us why the Prime Minister's sudden volte-face has occurred, why he has somersaulted in the way he has and why his Caucus has somersaulted in the way it has. The idea that we should have the second reading stage completed by 4 o'clock and the Committee stage by 4.15 is an outrageous misuse of all parliamentary precedent and practice. If it is persisted with by the Government one can only regard it as a total declaration that from now on this Government is in so much trouble that it will refuse debate. Has it no confidence in what it is putting forward? Has it no confidence in its power to explain what it is it wants and why it wants it? It would take all the time allotted for the Prime Minister to explain why he wants it.

What incomes are to be covered? Why is it that the Caucus has changed its mind? The Prime Minister will need 2 hours to explain what incomes are covered. Does the proposal include wages? What is to happen to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? What is to happen to wage relativity? What is to happen to collective bargaining? Are there to be sanctions? By sanctions I mean is it to be a criminal offence to pay more or to demand more than the Government imposes. Every person in this country is entitled to know that. The work force of this country is about 6 million. Add to that people who are self employed and those who are retired. Are incomes to extend to interest on past savings? Is the legislation to apply also to superannuation? We need these points made clear. I will shortly be speaking on this Bill. I will be asking these questions. If they are not answered because there is no time, the reason why there is no time is entirely the fault of the Government. There can be no doubt that if the Government persists with this motion it is making a declaration that from now on to it Parliament is a sham. If it has complaints about a military coup in Chile because it superseded the parliamentary system, all we can think of is that it has no concern for the parliamentary system itself. It now remains to see whether it will persist with this totally undemocratic, outrageous proposal.

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