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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7103

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (10:19 AM) —I move:

That the time allotted for consideration of the remaining stages of the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 be as follows:

Committee of the whole—

Amendments to Part 1 and Divisions 1, 2 and 3 of Part 2

Commencing not later than 4 pm on Wednesday, 4 December 2002 for 1 hour or until 5 pm on Wednesday, 4 December 2002, whichever occurs first

Amendments to Division 4 of Part 2

Commencing immediately after the previous item until 7 pm on Wednesday, 4 December 2002

Amendments to Divisions 5 and 6 of Part 2

Commencing immediately after tabling and consideration of committee reports on Thursday, 5 December 2002 until 11.15 am

Amendments to Parts 3, 4 and 5 and any remaining amendments

Commencing immediately after the previous item until 12.05 pm on Thursday, 5 December 2002

All remaining stages

Until 12.45 pm on Thursday, 5 December 2002.

With this time management motion, while I am endeavouring to ensure that the government continues with its commitment to seeing this bill debated fully and wholesomely in an informed and diligent manner, I am putting in place some parameters for that debate. I have sought in discussions with the minister to allocate times to the remaining groups of amendments, which will allow a full debate on each section of them. After the drafting of this motion, I have suggested to people—and I would like to put on the record the government's intention here—that if those particular break-ups of groups of amendments remaining on the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 unnecessarily curtail debate—for example, if there were to be more debate on the first group of amendments and we have allocated too much time to the last groups—it will remain open to the Senate to change those allocations, and the government would do that.

The government's main motivation is to see that the debate will be concluded by lunchtime tomorrow. These time allocations will have ensured that the Prohibition of Human Cloning Bill 2002 and the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 would have been debated in excess of 47 hours. No-one could possibly argue, even for the enormous gravity and importance of these two pieces of legislation, that that is an entirely unreasonable amount of time—in fact, it is an incredibly lengthy amount—dedicated to those bills. This time management motion which I am moving today will ensure that the Senate spends just under nine hours—in fact, I think it is much longer than that—debating these bills between now and when the debate will conclude just before the lunchtime suspension tomorrow.

A number of suggestions have been made, and I regard them as suggestions that are seeking to be helpful to the government, to me and to the chamber. Senator Murphy, Senator Brown and Senator Harradine have come to me at different times over the last 24 hours and suggested perhaps sitting late tonight. I do not blame Senator Brown for that one—that was not his idea—but some people have said, `Why don't we sit late tonight?' Others, including Senator Harradine, have said, `Why don't we sit on Friday?' Sittings on Friday create significant problems for senators when we do not have the number of airline seats available that we had prior to 14 September last year. It is very hard, if you change the sitting times late in the week, for the airline—or airlines, in some cases—to rearrange seat availability, and so the government tries very hard to ensure that we can give senators advance notice of late sittings and changes of sittings. For senators who come from Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, for example—

Senator Sherry —Tasmania!

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —and Tasmania, which happens to be in the same time zone, Senator Sherry, which is a major advantage for some—it is particularly hard. For those of us who come from the most outlying states, sittings on Friday ensure that, if you are lucky, you get home either late Friday night or Saturday morning. You then have to turn around at lunchtime on Sunday and fly back here again. We have looked at all those options. I have spoken to various people involved in the debate. I have been told by some strong opponents of the bill that they would in normal circumstances expect the bill to have been completed by close of business today. This motion certainly will not stand in the way of that occurring. I would welcome that occurring, because it would allow the government to get on with a number of other bills on the program. This motion will allow us to consider the bill for all of today. I note that it will all be in daylight hours. A very good point was made by Senator Harradine yesterday that it is preferable not to have late night sittings. We will have all of the daylight hours of today to deal with this bill and we will have—to use cricketing parlance—the entire morning session tomorrow to deal with it as well.

The government commends this motion to the Senate. We think it is a civilised way to conclude the remaining stages of the bill. I think the debate has been full, whole, well informed and diligent. The government has sought to encourage that. We are trying here to ensure that we create enough time to deal with the remainder of the government's program. My earnest wish—and I think it can be achieved with goodwill around the chamber, and it is a goodwill that has existed throughout the year—is to have the Senate conclude at the time that is published in the program; that is, at a reasonable hour on Thursday afternoon next week. I will seek, with all senators in this place, to manage the program. If there are bills that have to go back to the other place and then come back here again for reconsideration, we would like to ensure that all of those processes can be concluded by the normal adjournment time next Thursday.

I am going to work hard with Senator Ludwig, the Manager of Opposition Business, with senators on the crossbenches and with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to ensure that we do not have to have an all-night sitting on Thursday and have the House of Representatives come back on Friday morning. If we can avoid that, it would be desirable. We want to handle the program, ensure that we have vigorous, full debate on the bills on the program, have the votes, and leave this place at a sensible and civilised time next Thursday. We have not been able to achieve that very often in the past but, if we are able to get this motion through this morning, deal with this bill and move through the remaining bills, then the hope of leaving here at a sensible time next Thursday is achievable.