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Monday, 17 March 1997
Page: 1598

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications and the Arts)(8.00 p.m.) —in reply—As I understand it, every speaker on the list for the second reading debate has now made a contribution and it therefore only remains for me to acknowledge those contributions and to say that I am sure that, despite the generally high level of agreement about the objects and purposes of this package, there will still be a number of areas in which there will be disagreement. Given that a number of these areas have already been explored in the Senate committee report, it is appropriate, I think, that we simply move into committee at this stage and not delay the time of the Senate any further, unless you are waiting, Senator Conroy—

Senator Conroy —I am going to have to call a quorum.

Senator ALSTON —I do not think that I need to say any more, except perhaps to ask the clerks whether there is a running sheet or the makings of a running sheet yet available. I think all we need is something to get us under way. I might suggest to Senator Conroy that a useful contribution might be to ensure that the chamber does actually have copies of the opposition amendments, which, I had understood from Senator Schacht, had been in the process of circulation some two hours ago.

Senator Allison —With your indulgence, Madam Acting Deputy President, given that the opposition's amendments have not been circulated and neither have those of the Democrats, can I ask for advice about the process in terms of moving into committee. It is clearly problematic for the Democrats.

Senator ALSTON —I think the answer is that we understand the difficulties that are created for those parties who have not had advance formal notice of the various amendments, although informally I think we would be anticipating that the Labor Party and the Democrats would be moving amendments in line with the positions they adopted in the Senate report. Whilst I think you should be extending tolerance to all senators to ensure that we are aware of precisely what has been canvassed it should not preclude us from commencing to move through the committee stage. Obviously, if there is a particular need to deal with issues, then I am sure you will ensure that that occurs.

Senator Allison —There is no running sheet and, whilst it is true that these bills have been around for some time, some 300 pages of amendments were delivered to my office just hours ago.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a second time.