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Wednesday, 26 March 1997
Page: 2600


Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment)(10.09 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

That:

(1)   The Senate shall sit on Tuesday, 6 May, Wednesday, 7 May and Monday, 12 May 1997.

(2)   The hours of meeting shall be:

Tuesday, 6 May:

   12.30 pm to 7 pm, 8 pm to 11.40 pm.

Wednesday, 7 May:

   9.30 am to 1 pm, 2 pm to 7 pm, 8 pm to 11.40 pm.

Monday, 12 May:

   12.30 pm to 7 pm, 8 pm to 11.40 pm.

(3)   The routine of business for Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 and 7 May, shall be:

   (a)   government business only till 2 pm and after 8 pm, and

   (b)   as set down in standing order 57 from 2 pm to 7 pm.

(4)   The routine of business for Monday, 12 May shall be government business only.

(5)   The question for the adjournment shall be proposed at 11 pm.

(6)   That the order of the Senate of 12 December 1996, relating to estimates hearings, be varied to provide that:

   (a)   supplementary hearings in respect of the 1996-97 additional estimates for the Community Affairs, Employment, Education and Training, Economics, and Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committees be held on Thursday, 8 May;

   (b)   supplementary hearings in respect of the 1996-97 additional estimates for the Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Legal and Constitutional, and Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committees be held on Friday, 9 May;

   (c)   if required, additional hearings in respect of the additional estimates may be held by any legislation committee during the sittings of the Senate on Monday, 12 May.

I hope everyone has now got the motion. The purpose is to provide for three extra sitting days for the Senate just before the start of the winter sittings. It would be Tuesday, 6 May, Wednesday, 7 May and Monday, 12 May. Basically, the first two days of those would be what we might describe as normal Senate schedules, with some variation at the end of the day. Monday would be for government business, and Tuesday the 6th and Wednesday the 7th would then be followed by the two planned estimates days.

These extra sitting days and the times and details have been the subject of some discussion around the chamber. They are at the request of the government to facilitate dealing with what we might describe as leftovers from the government's program, which is quite extensive. They are not designed to allow new bills to be debated, but to deal with some of those very important bills that are not going to be dealt with, because of the pressure of time, in this first session.

There is no doubt that we have had before the Senate in this session some very major packages. They have taken considerable time and it has meant that the government was not able to make the progress it would desire before the next budget, which, of course, with the new schedule, is brought on earlier this year. With that in mind, we have sought the cooperation and support of other parties and Independents in this place. I put this motion to the Senate urging that it be adopted.

It would be our intention to give notice to honourable senators, well before these days, of the bills that we would hope to have debated on those days, so that proper preparation can be made for them and orderly practice can be adopted. I also indicate that I recognise that this means that there will be an additional cost for both services to senators and services of the Senate. As it is the government requesting this additional time to meet our programming requirements, we accept that we would have to bear those additional costs.

I do appreciate the spirit within which our request has been discussed tonight. I know that there is not enthusiasm for extra sitting days and I can understand that. But I would ask honourable senators to appreciate that we have put it at the end of this break to facilitate senators' programs—


Senator Faulkner —And staff travel?


Senator HILL —Yes, okay. The two days—Tuesday the 6th and Wednesday the 7th—do fit quite neatly with the estimates sittings that had been earlier agreed upon. Of course the following Monday, the 12th, is the start of what will be a sitting week. I therefore hope that it will not unduly inconvenience senators. Just taking Senator Faulkner's interjection, when I said `costs for services of senators', I recognise within that the cost of staff, including staff travel.