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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2308

Senator HARRADINE(12.42) — I move:

That the ruling of the President be dissented from.

Mr President, I have moved this motion with a great deal of diffidence because of my respect for you in the chair and my respect for your rulings. I understand that you have been required to adhere strictly to the letter of the Standing Orders in ruling in the way in which you have. I put it to you and other honourable senators that if the Standing Orders have forced you to rule in the way that you have they are totally inadequate to deal with the situation with which we are now faced.

The Senate has before it a motion for the second reading of Appropriation Bill (No. 1), to which the Opposition has moved an amendment. As I understand it, that amendment had been circulated last night and certainly was circulated in the chamber. We have a further amendment to that amendment which has been moved by Senator Jack Evans of the Australian Democrats. It is an amendment to the Opposition's amendment. As honourable senators and you know, Mr President, we did not have that amendment in our hands at the time you put the question to the Senate. I put it to you, Mr President, that it is impossible for honourable senators in this House of review to duly cast a considered vote on an amendment when they are completely ignorant of the subject matter and the terms of the amendment. It is ludicrous for that situation to be imposed upon the Senate. I do not blame Senator Jack Evans for moving his amendment; he is perfectly entitled to move the amendment. The problem is that we are faced with the gag. What occurred last night was a direct attack on the role and responsibility of the Senate as a House of Review and as a States House. I pointed out last night that we are dealing with an appropriation measure which consists of appropriations of billions of dollars of taxpayers' funds. I pointed out that there was a need--

Senator Grimes —I rise on a point of order. With respect to Senator Harradine and his strong feelings on this matter, may I suggest that the subject matter he is talking about now, first of all, is canvassing a decision of the Senate that was made last night and, secondly, is not relevant to the motion that he has moved, which is dissent from your ruling today.

The PRESIDENT —I do not uphold the point of order. I think Senator Harradine is entitled to make his case as to the reason why he dissents. Might I say that, in accordance with the sessional Orders, I am required to lift the Senate at quarter to one. Is it the wish of the Senate that this matter be disposed of before we suspend the sitting of the Senate for lunch?

Honourable senators-Yes.

Motion (by Senator Grimes)-by leave-agreed to:

That the Senate sit between 12.45 p.m. and 2 p.m. this day.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I take a point of order. We have an arrangement that the Senate will sit between 12.45 p.m. and 2 p.m. to facilitate the debate on legislation within the limits which have been imposed by the Government and the Australian Democrats because of the guillotine.

Senator Button —Come on; stop grandstanding.

Senator Chaney —If Senator Button paid a little attention to the running of this place it might be very helpful. I make the point that the agreement between the Government and the Opposition was that there would be non-contentious debate at this time. The arrangement was that there would be no divisions, quorums, et cetera. Mr President, the fact is that we are now debating as contentious a motion as we could have, namely, a dissent from your ruling. For all I know, Government and Opposition senators have made arrangements in line with the arrangements that have been publicly entered into between us. I think we have a significant handling problem. I note that the Manager of Government Business seems to agree. I think we need to find some procedure to deal with this matter after 2 p.m.

Senator Button —Let the Democrats speak and they can explain it.

Senator Chaney —I am not interested in the Democrats actually. I am interested in whether some Opposition senators may not be here for a vote and they would be entitled not to be here for a vote. My suggestion-there might be some better suggestion-is that the dissent motion be stood over until 2 o'clock, or even 3 o 'clock, so that we can resume at a time when honourable senators would expect to have to be here for a vote.

Senator Jack Evans —Mr President, on the point of order, I indicate that I shall be withdrawing my amendment in the interests of saving the Chair, Senator Harradine and honourable senators embarrassment. I apologise to the Senate for the late distribution of my amendment. It was entirely my fault. I accept the full responsibility for the late distribution of that amendment. With the leave of the Senate, I withdraw that amendment.

Amendment (Senator Jack Evans's)-by leave-withdrawn.

Motion (Senator Harradine's)-by leave- withdrawn.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, since we will be dividing on this issue I suggest that this matter be stood over until after we have dealt with the matter of public importance this afternoon. It would be in accordance with the arrangements made with the Government. I ask the Government to move in that direction.

The PRESIDENT —At the moment the Chair is required, by a determination already made by the Senate, to put the question at 12.30 p.m. If there is an alteration, so be it.

Senator Grimes —I will move:

That the matter be stood over until after the matter of public importance this afternoon and that the conditions which applied to the guillotine apply at that time.

Senator Harradine —I would oppose that motion. I do not know precisely what ' conditions which applied to the guillotine apply at that time' means. I presume that it means there is to be no debate on the amendment. Could that be made clear?

The PRESIDENT —That is my ruling already, Senator Harradine.

Senator Harradine —I will deal with that at that time.

Motion (by Senator Grimes)-by leave-agreed to:

That the questions with regard to the remaining stages of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1984-85 and Orders of the Day No. 3 (Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1984-85) and No. 4 (Advance to the Minister for Finance 1983-84: Statement of Expenditure), be postponed until after consideration of the matter of public importance proposed for this day and that the motion for the allotment of time agreed to on 23 October 1984 have effect at that time.