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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2146

Senator FAULKNER (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (10.08 a.m.) —I move:

  That on Thursday, 24 March 1994:

  (a)the hours of meeting shall be:

  9.30 a.m.—6.50 p.m., and

  8 p.m.—10.30 p.m.;

  (b)the routine of business shall be as for a Thursday, except that consideration of Government Business shall resume at the conclusion of General Business or at 8 p.m., which ever is the earlier;

  (c)the question for the adjournment shall be put at 10.30 p.m.; and

  (d)the procedures for the adjournment specified in the sessional order of 2 February 1994 relating to the times of sitting and routine of business shall not apply to the adjournment.

This is a moderate and sensible proposition in terms of the business of the Senate today. Senator Schacht said a little earlier this morning that it was the government's intention to adjourn tonight at 10.30 p.m. if at all possible, and I believe there ought to be, within that time frame, sufficient time to complete the government's program of essential legislation. There is, of course, as often occurs, some doubt about that. I am not willing to stand up here and give an ironclad commitment that we will be able to complete the full program of essential legislation by 10.30 p.m. I do not make those sorts of commitments lightly, and it is possible, of course, that a little more time might be required. I think all senators will understand that we will only be in a position to judge that later in the day.

  If the program is not completed by 10.30 p.m. tonight, I certainly would be asking for the support of all senators and all parties in the chamber for the adjournment to be negatived until we are able to achieve that. That decision, of course, will be in the hands of the Senate at 10.30 p.m. If we need to go that far—and I stress that this will only occur if we find ourselves in a situation where—

Senator Hill —Are you ruling out sitting tomorrow?

Senator FAULKNER —Senator, I do not think there will be a need to sit tomorrow.

Senator Hill —You won't rule that out?

Senator FAULKNER —I think it can be almost certainly ruled out.

Senator Hill —If you won't rule it out you will get quorums every 10 minutes all day today.

Senator FAULKNER —On the basis of the opposition's support for completion of the program today, there is no problem at all in ruling out a sitting of the Senate tomorrow. It is not a problem at all and honourable senators can have an ironclad commitment in that regard. All I am saying to the honourable senator—I have tried to make this clear, I have tried to be reasonable in this and I think the honourable senator knows that—is that I cannot guarantee that the program will be completed by 10.30. I believe it will be, but the decision will be in the hands of the Senate at 10.30 tonight. On the understanding that the Senate completes its program, there is no problem at all—not a worry in the world—about ruling out a sitting of the Senate tomorrow. I can give it a categorical assurance in that regard.

Senator Ian Macdonald —That there will be no sitting tomorrow?

Senator FAULKNER —I have got to canvass it again.

Senator Hill —He has qualified it.

Senator FAULKNER —The point is that I have made it as clear as I can. If honourable senators opposite need me to repeat it, I will. But it will be up to the Senate at 10.30 p.m. to make a decision about a negation under these circumstances. I think this is a sensible and intelligent way for us to proceed. I would ask for the cooperation of all honourable senators in this regard. There is obviously a high priority to complete essential for passage legislation for the government, and I believe it can be completed today within the time frame I have outlined.