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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2262

Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) - I rise only because the point raised by Senator Little and by Senator Wright is essentially the right which every honourable senator would maintain, that is, the right to use this forum to ask Ministers questions and to receive answers. I used the adjournment debate not so long ago to point out that I had not beengiven answers to questions which had been outstanding for 5 to 6 months. I am very happy to acknowledge that, after 2 nights in a row, I have now had all those questions answered. I recognise the forum of the adjournment debate as a place in which we can ask for questions to be answeredan appropriate forum which sometimes, anyway, brings results. What Senator Little has done tonight is to use this forum. Mr President, I think that you almost suggested to him today that he should use it to raise the fact that a Minister, given a question upon notice, has not answered the question which was put to him. I have a copy of the question in front of me. It is contained in the Senate notice paper as question upon notice No. 553. It is a question which I say, with all respect to Senator Douglas McClelland, could have been answered by the Minister to whom it was addressed with a simple 'yes' or no'. It was one of those questions which permitted that type of answer. If the answer was yes, then unquestionably Senator Little would have had to revise his opinions or possibly ask another question. But if the answer was no, I believe that this would have revealed an error or an evasion in the White Paper of the Minister for Social Security ( Mr Hayden).

Senator Littlewas concerned to know why he had not been given an answer. He was concerned to express the right which every honourable senator ought to have to get the answers so that we know what are the facts upon which debate on legislation can take place. If we have what I believe has been a course of action on the part of some Ministers throughout this year of not responding to questions and not giving the answers which are sought, it can be only because there is a calculated evasion or an unwillingness to provide the facts which might lead to debate in which the conclusions might be adverse to the Government or to a particular Minister. I do not know whether that is the fact in this case. But Senator Little was quite within his rights. Let me say that I can only regret that Senator Douglas McClelland did not say: 'I will put the matter again to the Minister for Social Security in order to require him to give an appropriate answer'.

I do not believe that Senator Douglas McClelland tonight has helped the position because he has not answered the question. He has referred to relevant matters which might assist Senator Little in his understanding of the matter, but he has still not answered the question in terms of yes or no. I suspect this is because Senator Douglas McClelland cannot answer the question with yes or no. I can hope only that he will refer this matter to the Minister for Social Security with the suggestion that the rights of the Senate and the rights of senators are such that the Minister ought to give another answer. I hope that he will do this.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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