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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 767

The PRESIDENT - Order!

Senator GAIR - I am here more frequently than is the honourable senator.

Senator Georges - He has no right-

The PRESIDENT - Order!

Senator GAIR - My attendance in this Parliament is better than is the honourable senator's.

Senator Georges - Obviously Senator Gair is not doing as much work-

T!ie PRESIDENT- Order! I stand on my feet to admonish Senator Georges for constantly interrupting the leader of a party. Senator Gair has 2 privileges. Firstly he is a senator and he is entitled to be heard in silence and with respect. Secondly he is the leader of an acknowledged party in this Senate and therefore a second area of respect must be displayed. Senator Georges, you will be doing me a great favour if you allow Senator Gair to continue his remarks without interjecting. Your remarks are highly disorderly, as you well know.

Senator GAIR - Senator Murphy made great play on the fact which caused him to move his amendment - that the Acting Leader of the Government had not indicated what balance of time remains. For that reason he has moved an amendment which states:

Leave out all words after 'period of sittings', insert 'be considered after the Prime Minister has announced the election date for the election of the House of Representatives'.

That is proposed in lieu of the times mentioned by the Acting Leader of the Government. I think the Acting Leader of the Government is showing some vision, foresight and precaution in trying to get additional working time in which to dispose of all the business which is ahead of us before the election.

Let us be practical in our approach. We all know that there is to be an election at the end of this year or at about that time. Would not any wise leader of a government try to clear the decks in the event of that taking place? That is all that is involved. It will mean a few additional working hours. I have never been afraid of work and I have worked some long hours in my time. Although Senator Georges might be half my age, my attendance in this Senate compares favourably with his or anyone else's in the years that I have been here, and my work would be greater than his because of my responsibility as a Leader of a Party which has distinguished itself by its performance of responsibility and commonsense, and its evidence of doing what is right for Australia and its people. I do not take second place to Senator Georges - or to anyone, for that matter - in my desire and determination to do what I believe to be right for Australia. I am not afraid to work. I am prepared to accept the additional working time and my colleagues are prepared to accept it. We will be here if the Senate decides on this additional sitting time.

Let us face up to it. There is an additional reason this year, because pf a pending election, to sit extra hours. Do not let us be like a group of curious children and become piqued and irked if we are not told immediately all that we want to be told or want to know. None of us can dispute the right of the Prime Minister to determine the date of the election. It is his right and his right alone to determine the date of an election, and in making that decision he will consult those whom he believes he should consult in deciding on the time when the Government should submit itself to its masters at an election. Many issues may be involved. To go off into extravagant allegations and accusations that the Prime Minister lacks courage or lacks the ability to make up his mind is so much piffle and political nonsense. Those who have been associated with politics will know how frequently in the past we have been able to point to Prime Ministers who have kept secret and close to their hearts the date of a pending election. How frequently has the date that has been announced been unexpected, and how frequently have elections been held prematurely when the average person in the community has not expected an election for at least another 12 months.

I hate mentioning this, but as a former Premier of a State I know that we would decide the date of an election and would have regard to many factors in arriving at a date which we believed would be convenient for the public. We would avoid having an election on a Saturday preceding a Monday that was a holiday. In this way we would avoid absentee votes and other problems. We would try to hold an election on a date when we had available to us the services of schoolteachers and others as presiding officers, poll clerks and other personnel who are indispensable to the proper conduct of an election. We had regard to all those things. In the ultimate a leader of a government, acting with political commonsense, will go to the people when he believes that the time is most propitious for the government that he leads, and it is his undeniable right to do so. Let there be commonsense about this situation. Let us support the proposal advanced by the Acting Leader of the Government, get our heads down to work and clear the sheets of the business paper as much as possible so that we will be ready in the event of an election being called. To do that shows vision, commonsense and a proper business control of the Senate. The Democratic Labor Party supports the proposal.

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