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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1579

Mr GILES (Angas) - I trust that the Committee will forgive me if I do not join in the solicitations and wishes of goodwill passed on by the honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett) to my friend the Leader of the House (Mr Daly). I think I would prefer to wait until the next 7 weeks are over before I comment in any shape or form about that honourable gentleman. My purpose in rising tonight is to talk about the immensity of the job that Parliament has to do today. I do not think it is properly realised outside the Parliament or, to put it another way, by the community at large. Perhaps the biggest single factor working to the detriment of Parliament will historically prove to be that the people of Australia did not pass the referendum dealing with the breaking of the nexus. I can understand small States feeling that the equality of representation that they have in the other place might suffer and that a change in the power base would not be so good for that State. But the big problem that the people of Australia have posed for us - I am sure that honourable members on both sides of the chamber can see what I am trying to drive at - is the impossibility of continuing our progress and evolution towards a properly specialised form of division of powers, in other words, the committee system, without the complement to mount properly an efficient exercise. I think that parliaments of tomorrow will be forced to consider this problem more seriously than perhaps we need to tonight. 1 think that all honourable members, particularly many of those who came into this place at the beginning of the new Parliament, have suddenly been pulled up with a jolt when they have realised that they do not have dinner in the dining room at night sometimes for 3 or 4 weeks because they are working flat out on a committee in some committee room. I am a little immune from the committee system because of my present somewhat extraneous job of assistant Liberal Party Whip. I think it proper that members from both sides of the chamber should try to explain to the people of Australia that there are some members who cannot have >a meal in the parliamentary dining room from one week to the next. One of my present tasks is to try to keep some of the executive members of my Party in attendance in the House. Similarly the Government must try to have a Minister in attendance whenever the House is sitting. Frankly, on many occasions such members are not available. If a party has a member away at an International Monetary Fund conference or at an important inter-parliamentary conference the reservoir of members remaining from whom additional help can be obtained to perform duties to keep the Parliament functioning as a forum is limited. I suggest to the Committee that the people of Australia, probably voting the way they did not mean to vote, in many instances voted against, as they thought-

Mr Hurford - You mean in your electorate.

Mr GILES - I suggest that the honourable member for Adelaide would not know how his constituents voted because he is too busy. He typifies one of the problem areas upon which I am trying to elaborate. He is trying unsuccessfully at present to make an impossible Committee work. This must be absorbing a tremendous amount of his time because he is nothing if not a sincere worker at his job. His electorate suffers because of his task and, because he is involved in this work, no doubt his Party is concerned that he is not available to take his place in other forums. I hope that I am not being unkind to the honourable member for Adelaide in suggesting that he has an almost impossible task in trying to make function something that cannot function successfully.

The honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred to the division of power within the Parliament and, indeed, within the Party system. This is a subject which is most important to the future of this Parliament. I endorse many of his remarks. I also had the opportunity to spend some time in the House of Commons. I spent considerable time with the Permanent Secretary of the Whips Office. This man was a permanent civil servant. He was a most interesting character. In passing, I might suggest to the Leader of the House that one day this man should be brought to Australia to help us evolve better techniques for the administration of the Parliament similar to those applying in the House of Commons.

This House is faced with an immense problem. Australia certainly is over-governed, although not in the national forum. Australia is over-governed in other forums about which I need not be too abusive now. We badly need competent people. It is not impossible to visualise voters in outlying areas and semioutlying areas, like the electorate of Angas, in future saying to their representative: 'We have faith in you. You are elected. You must go to Canberra to represent us. Good-bye, old fellow, we hope to see you again about Christmas time'. This is the way the job of a member of the national forum is gradually shaping up. At a time like this when members from both sides are getting together and talking with some sincerity about the future of the institution in which they believe I do not think it proper to try to pick too many holes in the Party basis. However, I shall refer to one matter. At present because of the rule which provides for the House to rise at 11 p.m. each night - a procedure which suits the older members who are able to get to bed shortly after 11 o'clock at night - the Parliament is faced with the problem of insufficient time in which to conduct the business of the House. In future I think consideration must be given to 2 possibilities. Firstly, those who represent wider areas must have some means of getting into their electorates to meet and talk with their constituents about problems that arise in those electorates or, secondly, there must be more members of the Parliament. As I see the present situation, perhaps partly because of the Government and partly because of the enormous growth of parliamentary business, the House will be sitting for a considerable part of the year to the detriment not only of the system, with which I have already dealt, but also of the people we aim to represent. I do not know of any easy answer to this problem.

Eventually I think that regional representatives or local government officials must assume more power than they have at present. Members of State parliaments possibly will have to absorb more of the hack work, if I may put it that way. Possibly they will have to deal with questions concerning social services - a matter that presently bedevils many honourable members and occupies an extraordinary amount of time. Possibly in future such matters will be referred from the other 2 levels of government to Federal members in Canberra who will find the answers and send them back. I will deeply deprecate the day when this situation arises because I believe it is essential for members of the Parliament, somehow or other, to remain in touch with people at the grass roots level. However, I can see the other side of the problem. When I and other honourable members are old and have left this place I am sure our successors will be obliged to remain in Canberra for lengthy periods each year. They will have a tremendous problem in keeping in touch with their electorates. They will have greatly increased functions to perform and heavy burdens with which to deal in the committee system and in the general administration of the House.

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