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Thursday, 30 October 1997
Page: 8450


Senator McKIERNAN(12.21 p.m.) —Mention was made in the contributions by Senator Margetts and Senator Stott Despoja about the reference of the Sexuality Discrimination Bill to the Legal and Constitutional References Committee. Their mention of that gives me the opportunity in this debate to bring people up to date with the progress of that reference to the committee. I know there is a great deal of concern, both within the chamber and within the community, as to the progress of the committee's inquiry into the bill.

I am very happy to be in a position to report progress on the reference. The chairman's draft report was circulated to committee members last week and the committee had its initial deliberation on the content of the report today. I am obviously not going to say anything further about the content of the report, either here or in any other place, because I know the possible consequences of that. The committee has a reporting date of `by the last sitting day of the year'. It may be possible, and it is a matter which is in the control of the committee, that a report could be adopted earlier. That is a matter for the committee and I can give no assurances as to when that will happen.

I do, though, take this opportunity to again draw the chamber's attention to the workload of the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee. I draw honourable senators' attention to pages 75, 76 and 77 of today's Notice Paper and ask people, when they are criticising the progress of committee reports, to take into account the workload which has been involved for all members. Essentially the members of one committee are members of the other committee. Also take into account when references are made to the committee. Only this very day there was a further reference of a matter to the legislation committee, with tight reporting dates. Those tight reporting dates on legislation do interfere with the progress of the other work of the references and legislation committees.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to report some progress on that matter. It is of interest to a great number of people in the community. I am hopeful—confident, in fact—that a report on that particular bill will be presented to the parliament by the end of the year. That is not something I can guarantee; it is in the hands of the committee. I thank the committee for the opportunity to speak on this.