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Tuesday, 25 June 1996
Page: 2674

Mr REITH (Leader of the House)(6.20 p.m.) —I move:

That the time allotted in connection with the bill be as follows:

For the remaining stages, until 10 p.m. this day.

I have moved this motion so that we can establish a schedule for the balance of this debate which will allow a series of speakers until 10 p.m., at which time there can be the usual number of divisions and time wasting that we can expect from the other side and we can then proceed to the adjournment as usual. That is the reason for moving this scheduling motion. It will mean that we will have a balance of nearly four hours of debate. There are five or six hours of speakers on the other side.

By moving the specific motion that has now been moved, we will also allow the opposition to decide how many speakers they have and how long they are going to have. It will also obviate the necessity for them to claim, as they like to claim, that we have prevented them from moving their consideration in detail amendments.

Mr Crean —Another gag!

Mr REITH —You will be able to spend the whole night moving your consideration in detail amendments if you want to. We are basically giving you a clear time schedule. In fact, we are doing exactly as we said we would—that is, establishing a reasonable time frame within which people can have their opportunity to speak—and we are allowing you the benefit of allotting that time amongst yourselves. We have got two or three speakers. So basically you can have the balance of the time and you will not then be able to complain that you have not had an opportunity to address this House.

Mr McGauran —But they will.

Mr REITH —They of course will, as the Deputy Leader of the House says they will. What they are setting themselves up for is for us to move a guillotine motion tomorrow. Tomorrow we are debating the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Bill. We have set aside the whole day for that debate. We do have an agreement with the opposition that there will be no quorums called during the dinner break tomorrow night—between 6.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. was the agreement—but as is often the case, the Manager of Opposition Business (Mr Crean) has already told me he is going to breach that agreement.

I am not surprised about that, because when it comes to breaching agreements in the operation of this House the opposition has for weeks pleaded with us to sit down and come to an arrangement with them, which we did last week, for example, on Wednesday night. As soon as we had an agreement, they breached it. We had an agreement last Wednesday night so that your people could have ample opportunity to speak on the workplace relations bill. The agreement was that there would be no quorums between 6.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. At 6.37 p.m., only seven minutes into the operation of that agreement, you broke it.

Just to cap it off, to cover his tracks, the Manager of Opposition Business went up to spin his line to AAP. He claimed to AAP that they had not breached the agreement and the reason they had not breached the agreement was that the quorum was called before 6.30 p.m. That is what he claimed. He might like to explain to the House how it is that the Hansard records that the quorum was formed at 6.37 p.m. Just in case you think that it takes seven minutes to form a quorum, under the standing orders, the most time that is allowed is four minutes. So you breached that agreement—

Mr McGauran —What about Leo?

Mr REITH —Just to show you how trustworthy they are, I said to them that, at the most generous, this was Leo in a fit of pique. I said, `We will allow the House to continue through, we will continue to stick to the agreement.' But, as soon as we get any signal of a repeat of the childish antics which occurred in the previous fortnight on Wednesday, we will close the House down. It is pointless for the House to sit when you people abuse the opportunity which members on both sides of the House wanted to discuss the workplace relations bill.

True to form, the no-quorums position then held until 8.30 p.m., because presumably someone had brought Leo into line. There were certainly big discussions going on in the office of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) that night, bringing Leo into line. At about 8.35 or 8.36 p.m., away goes the quorum again. Couldn't be trusted for more than a few moments!

We are happy to have an agreement in respect of tomorrow. If you want to come to an agreement with us in respect of tomorrow, we are open to that. If you do not, obviously—so that we meet the time schedule we set last week—we will move exactly the same motion tomorrow. (Time expired)