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Thursday, 10 February 1994
Page: 857

Mr NEHL (10.11 p.m.) —I thank the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) for looking after me. He looks after everybody on this side of the House. I am privileged to have the opportunity to speak about this report. As a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure, I was involved in the preparation of this report, About Time. I am not going to repeat all of the things that have been said by honourable members on both sides of the House about the details of the report. Suffice it to say that this must be pretty much of a record for getting a government response, because the 1986 report of the Procedure Committee is still waiting on a response from the government; perhaps it has been superseded by this report.

  I pay tribute to the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), not only for his parliamentary service over so many years but also for the vision that he had for reforming this parliament. He managed to enthuse all other members of the Procedure Committee with that same vision to reform the parliament. There is no denying that the parliament is in need of reform. Another speaker made reference to visitors to this place. I find that when a group of schoolchildren come in here to see question time they say, `Mr Nehl, we would not be allowed to act like that at school'. I try to explain the drama and the theatre that is involved, the reason for that being that if one sits there like a dummy when so many lies are being told across the floor, the whole of Australia sees them and hears them on television and they therefore become truth, so one has to react. Question time will always have that degree of rowdiness, if you like, but it does stand in need of reform. At every meeting of the Procedure Committee as we were working to develop this report, the honourable member for Bonython said that we had to have a situation where there was give and take, where we would end up with a package which we hoped would be acceptable to the executive.

Mr Vaile —You give and I'll take.

Mr NEHL —The honourable member says, `You give and I'll take'. Unfortunately, that does seem to be part of the result that we have had. While I endorse almost every single recommendation in this report, I do not endorse what has been presented to us today in the new sessional orders and the new standing orders, the new arrangements.

  Honourable members will recall that a minority report was put in by the honourable member for Moncrieff (Mrs Sullivan) and the honourable member for Moore (Mr Filing). I did not join with them in signing that minority report for two reasons. Firstly, I believe that it was an absolute act of futility because there was no way that a minority or dissenting report was going to have any chance of influencing the executive. Secondly, I believed, along with the honourable member for Bonython, that we stood the best chance of having the package adopted if we could present it in a thoroughly bipartisan manner with support from both sides of the House. We worked up a compromise. There was a lot of genuine give and take within the committee. The compromise is this report, About Time. But I am afraid that this report bears very little resemblance to what is before us today. It is quite sad that on the honourable member for Bonython's last day, what the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) has done is insulting to the committee and, quite frankly, is like a slap in the face with a wet Kimbie for the honourable member for Bonython. Again we have seen the Prime Minister's arrogance at work, with him saying what he wants and to hell with what the parliament wants.

  I am not going to go on further, except to say that this is a good report. It was a compromise report. It did satisfy the vision of the honourable member for Bonython, and it was a sound vision. Had we ended up with what the report said, it would not have satisfied me, it would not have satisfied people on both sides of the House, but it would have been a darned sight better than the arrogant response of the Prime Minister which has emasculated this report. As I said, it has been like a slap in the face with a wet Kimbie for the honourable member for Bonython.