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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 652

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories) (4.22 p.m.) —Traditionally, the time for taking note of answers to questions has been a time that has been used primarily by non-government senators. There is no doubt about that. This particular time is now contained within the sessional orders because of demands by opposition senators that it become a sessional order of this chamber.

  Any reasonable analysis of the number of senators who use this facility would conclude that, overwhelmingly, it is used by non-government senators. Of those non-government senators it is, overwhelmingly, coalition senators who utilise the facilities. It is an opposition forum, as are the adjournment debates, matters of public interest, matters of public importance—which are, of course, utilised on many occasions—debates on urgency motions, and the general business time used on Thursday afternoons. It is another opportunity for opposition senators, primarily, to use the time of the Senate.

  However, on rare occasions government senators—and, on even rarer occasions, ministers—do use that time, and they are entitled to do so. I must say to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that it cannot be defined as an abuse if it is used by a minister representing another minister in this chamber, responding on an issue of substance. That is what Senator Schacht was doing on this occasion: he was responding on a substantive issue before the Senate. I think it is an utter disgrace that Senator Ian Macdonald would propose a motion for the suspension of standing orders and waste another half hour of the Senate's time to debate this non-issue.

Senator Ian Macdonald —We are glad you think that.

Senator FAULKNER —This is a non-issue, and all senators know it. All Senator Macdonald wants to do is hear the sound of his own voice on a day on which the proceedings are being broadcast. If this were not a broadcast day, we would not be having this debate. It is yet another example of the mentality of this opposition, which is nothing more than Her Majesty's permanent and perpetual opposition, and is always—

Senator Ian Macdonald —We have 36 senators. You have only 30.

Senator FAULKNER —The opposition may have 36 senators, but we have a majority in government in the House of Representatives. The opposition can have as many senators as it likes, but do not forget that. The opposition lost the last election, the election before that, the election before that, the election before that and the election before that.

Senator Panizza —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I have been listening to Senator Faulkner now for four minutes. He has not approached the subject of the motion for the suspension of standing orders. I think for the sake of relevance you should get him back to the motion we are debating.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McGauran)—I will listen carefully.

Senator FAULKNER —The behaviour of opposition senators since question time ended today has been a disgrace.

Senator Campbell —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order.

Senator FAULKNER —It is an absolute disgrace.

Senator Campbell —Why don't you sit down? Is the minister now debating the point of order?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Campbell, I will sit you down for the moment. I will ask you not to yell across the chamber like that. I will listen to your point of order.

Senator Campbell —I apologise for that, but I do not think—

Senator Faulkner —Apology accepted.

Senator Campbell —I do not apologise to Senator Faulkner. I apologise to the Acting Deputy President, for whom I have enormous respect and for whose office I have enormous respect.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —This is a very heated and vigorous debate, and I will allow some heat and vigour in the debate.

Senator Campbell —Mr Acting Deputy President, is Senator Faulkner canvassing your ruling or speaking to the point of order? What is he doing?

Senator Faulkner —I am leaving because my time has expired.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr Acting Deputy President, is it orderly conduct for the minister to wander out and shout at you as he goes?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —From the beginning, this has been a heated and vigorous debate. I have allowed some heat in the debate; it is impossible to take it out. But I do think Senator Faulkner acted unusually.