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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 185


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Leader of the House)(3.43) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to amend notice of motion No. 3 by adding the following proposals which have been circulated to honourable members:

Matter of public importance

Standing order 107 be amended by omitting 'at least one hour before the time fixed for the meeting of the house' and substituting 'not later than 12 noon on each sitting day'.

Divisions and quorums

That, unless otherwise ordered, in all standing orders, excepting standing order 200A, relating to the taking of a division or the counting of the House or committee for quorum purposes, references to 2 minutes be suspended and 3 minutes apply in place thereof.

Leave granted.


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —I move:

That the following amendments to the standing orders be adopted to operate from 6 September 1983 for the remainder of this session:

Days and hours of meeting

Standing order 40 be amended to read-

40. Unless otherwise ordered, the House shall meet for the despatch of business on each Tuesday at 2.00 p.m., on each Wednesday at 10.30 a.m. and on each Thursday at 10.00 a.m.

Adjournment and next meeting

Standing order 48A be amended to read--

48A. Subject to standing order 106, as amended by sessional order, at 10.30 p.m . on each Tuesday, at 7.30 p.m. on each Wednesday and at 10.00 p.m. on each Thursday the Speaker shall propose the question-That the House do now adjourn- which question shall be open to debate; if the House is in committee at the time stated, the Chairman shall report progress and upon such report being made the Speaker shall forthwith propose the question-That the House do now adjourn-which question shall be open to debate. No amendment may be moved to this question:

Provided that-

(a) if a division is in progress at the time fixed for interruption, the division shall be completed and the result announced;

(b) if, on the question-That the House do now adjourn-being proposed, a Minister requires the question to be put forthwith without debate, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question;

(c) a motion for the adjournment of the House may be moved by a Minister at an earlier hour;

(d) any business under discussion and not disposed of at the time of the adjournment shall be set down on the Notice Paper for the next sitting, and

(e) if the question-That the House do now adjourn-is negatived, the House or committee shall resume the proceedings at the point at which they had been interrupted:

Provided further that, if at 11.00 p.m. on a Tuesday, at 8.00 p.m. on a Wednesday or at 10.30 p.m. on a Thursday the question before the House is-That the House do now adjourn-the Speaker shall interrupt the debate, at which time-

(f) a Minister may require that the debate be extended until 11.10 p.m., 8.10 p .m. or 10.40 p.m., as the case may be, to enable Ministers to speak in reply to matters raised in the preceding adjournment debate; at 11.10 p.m., 8.10 p.m. or 10.40 p.m., as the case may be, or upon the earlier cessation of the debate, the Speaker shall forthwith adjourn the House until the time of its next meeting, or

(g) if no action is taken by a Minister under paragraph (f), the Speaker shall forthwith adjourn the House until the time of its next meeting.

Routine of business

Standing order 101 be amended to read-

101. The House shall proceed each day with its ordinary business in the following routine: 1. Presentation of petitions. 2. Giving notices. 3. Questions without notice. 4. Presentation of papers. 5. Ministerial statements, by leave. 6. Matter of public importance. 7. Notices and orders of the day.

Provided that on a Wednesday and Thursday '7. Notices and orders of the day.' shall precede '3. Questions without notice.' which shall be called on at 2.00 p. m.

Question time

New standing order 101A be inserted-

101A. At 12.45 p.m. on each Wednesday and Thursday the Speaker shall interrupt the business before the House in order that questions without notice can be called on at 2.00 p.m.; if the House is in committee at the time stated, the Chairman shall report progress:

Provided that-

(a) if a division is in progress at the time fixed for interruption, the division shall be completed and the result announced, and

(b) the Speaker shall fix the time for the resumption of the debate on any business under discussion and not disposed of at the time of interruption.

Precedence for government and general business

Standing order 104 be amended to read-

104. Unless otherwise ordered, government business shall, on each day of sitting, have precedence of all other business, except that on the sitting Thursday alternate to the sitting Thursday to which standing order 106 applies, general business shall have precedence of government business commencing at 8.00 p.m.

Grievance debate

Standing order 106 be amended to read-

106. Notwithstanding standing order 105, the first order of the day, government business, on each alternate sitting Thursday commencing with the first sitting Thursday after the Address in Reply to the Governor-General's Speech has been adopted shall be a question to be proposed by the Speaker 'That grievances be noted' to which question any Member may address the House or move any amendment. The order of the day shall stand postponed until 8.00 p.m. and if consideration of the question has not been concluded at 10.00 p.m., the debate thereon shall be interrupted and the Speaker shall put the question: Provided that debate on the question may be extended until 10.30 p.m., on motion, without notice, of a Minister; at 10.30 p.m. or upon the earlier conclusion of the debate the Speaker shall put the question and, after resolution of that question, shall forthwith adjourn the House until the time of its next meeting.

General business and grievance debate

New standing order 106A be inserted-

106A. At 6.30 p.m. on each Thursday the Speaker shall interrupt the business before the House in order that general business or grievance debate, as the case may be, can be called on at 8.00 p.m.; if the House is in committee at the time stated, the Chairman shall report progress:

Provided that-

(a) if a division is in progress at the time fixed for interruption, the division shall be completed and the result announced, and

(b) the Speaker shall fix the time for the resumption of the debate on any business under discussion and not disposed of at the time of interruption.

Matter of public importance

Standing order 107 be amended by omitting 'at least one hour before the time fixed for the meeting of the House' and substituting 'not later than 12 noon on each sitting day'.

Divisions and quorums

That, unless otherwise ordered, in all standing orders, excepting standing order 200A, relating to the taking of a division or the counting of the House or committee for quorum purposes, references to 2 minutes be suspended and 3 minutes apply in place thereof.

What has happened is that notice was given yesterday for Standing Orders to be adopted from 6 September for the remainder of this session which relate to the sitting hours of this House and to additional matters to which my colleague opposite, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), has agreed. These are matters of public importance, divisions, and quorums. I shall deal with those additional matters quickly. Matters of public importance are covered by standing order 107. As honourable members will appreciate, at present two hours notice of a matter of public importance has to be given before the Parliament commences. As Parliament commences on some days at 10 a.m., that notice has to be given very early indeed. In the light of what we now propose in regard to the new sitting hours, Question Time will be at 2 o'clock each day. Accordingly, matters of public importance will follow Question Time and will be in the afternoon of each day. It is, therefore, appropriate, as proposed in the motion to amend standing order 107, to provide that notice be given no later than 12 noon on each sitting day.

With respect of the proposals in the motion, relating to divisions and quorums, it is proposed that the bells ring for three minutes for divisions and quorums, instead of two minutes, which now occurs. The reason for this proposal is, as I have been advised by Mr Speaker, that the offices of 17 members of the House are now located on the Senate side of the building, which is some distance from this chamber. Accordingly, it is appropriate to give those members an additional period to enable them to reach the House to be counted during quorums and divisions.

The main thrust of the motion is the alteration to the standing order relating to sitting hours. I will not delay the House. The question of what are the appropriate sitting hours for the House has been the subject of vigorous discussion in the Government party room. I do not know whether any unanimity has been reached at any stage by any party about appropriate sitting hours. I will give honourable members some guidance why we need to have effective sitting times. Guidelines are clearly set by the fact that the proceedings of the House are broadcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays, extending into the evenings. It is appropriate, in my view, that the House should sit at the times that I have mentioned so that honourable members can participate in, and listen to, debates, and also the many thousands of Australians who can listen to the broadcast of our proceedings can be informed of what is happening in the House. The proposals we have in mind entail a fairly extensive period of sitting times. An arduous effort by honourable members is entailed for them to be present from the early morning until late at night in a three-day period. Honourable members will notice that on Tuesdays the House will not commence sitting until 2 p.m. This will enable party meetings to be held on Tuesday mornings. Legislation, the respective parties' attitude to that legislation, and any other matters before the Parliament, can be discussed at that time.

Honourable members will notice also that on Wednesdays the House will sit at 10 .30 a.m. That will give reasonable time for committees to have short meetings before the House meets. Subject to the luncheon break, which is of a limited duration, it is proposed that the House will sit from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., thereby enabling uninterrupted debate on important matters. The 8 p.m. adjournment is appropriate when one considers daylight saving time during the summer months. It is not inconsiderate for evening meals to be taken at 8 p.m.

Honourable members will notice that on Thursdays sittings will be very long, commencing at 10 a.m. The luncheon break will follow the previous pattern. Question Time will commence at 2 p.m., followed by the usual matters. The House will resume after the dinner suspension at 8 o'clock on Thursday evenings. I am hopeful that in the period between 8 p.m. and the time when the House adjourns, be it at 10.30 p.m. or earlier, the discussion of General Business that normally takes place every second Thursday morning will still occur. The discussion of General Business should be completed by 10 p.m. and, if honourable members wished to speak on the adjournment, the House would sit until 10.30 p.m.

Grievance debates will take place on alternate Thursdays. This provides a more generous division of time because greivance debates will be able to last for two hours. If honourable members wished to lengthen the time for the grievance debate, it could be extended to 10.30 p.m. The advantage is that back benchers, who do not always receive sufficient time to express a point of view on behalf of their constituents, will have the chance to do so during broadcast time on alternate Thursdays for two hours to two and a half hours, depending on the wish of the House.

This proposal adds up to 25 1/2 sitting hours each week covering a fairly extensive range of procedures and debates. I believe that we need that amount of time. I am advised by the Government that there are no less than 117 pieces of legislation to be passed in the approximately three-month period available to us . If the House is to rise by 16 December or earlier, we will need to deal with the legislative program at a fairly reasonable rate throughout the session. As I said, I appreciate that there will be differences of opinion as to what might be the most reasonable sitting hours. But everybody has come to the view-perhaps not with the greatest of grace-that the sitting times that I have mentioned will operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I believe that the sitting times are reasonable and will fit in, to some extent, with the Senate's sitting hours.