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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1895


Senator GRIMES (Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate)(10.22) — At the moment the Government is not inclined to support this motion. However, we are willing to consider the proposition. In light of the sort of indignation we have heard here this morning from the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Chaney, I would like to point out the simple facts of this matter. Very late yesterday afternoon, Senator Durack came to me, as the Minister on duty, and said that he wanted to seek leave to move a notice of motion, something that he could have done yesterday morning, the morning before that or the morning before that. The notice of motion was obviously hurriedly drawn up some time yesterday. I had no objection-as I do not think I ever have any objection-to people doing that. I have done it in the past. Of course, no indication was given to me that we were going to add to the large number of items on the Notice Paper-for example, Senator Mason's notice of motion, which has been debated, and Senator Harradine' s notice of motion, which has been debated and will be debated again today-and that what the Leader of the Opposition was going to do, apparently without the agreement of the other Opposition parties, was to interfere with General Business. I notice that the first two General Business items on the agenda this afternoon-if I am right-are, in fact, matters that the Australian Democrats have raised. I do not think this is a satisfactory way to go on.

As for the highly indignant statements to the effect that it is up to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances to take any reference that the Senate gives to it, of course that is true. Any reference that this Senate decides to pass to a committee should be passed to a committee. But as long as I have been in this place, it has been common courtesy to consult the chairman of that committee, first of all, to see whether the committee has the time to do the work and secondly, to see what sort of timetable it has. Quite frankly, considering the references on the agenda for that committee, that committee would be very hard pressed to complete that reference in three, four or five weeks, let alone two weeks.


Senator Coates —There was no such approach.


Senator GRIMES —No such approach was made. Let us not get indignant about the rights of honourable senators and the rights of the Senate. I agree with all of those rights. But let us remember that there is a bit of common courtesy in this place and that, in circumstances such as these, the chairmen of committees have always been approached. We received this notice of motion late yesterday afternoon. We received it because members of the Australian Democrats and members of the Government did not object to Senator Durack's seeking leave. So we got it at very short notice and very late. This morning we find, after going through the normal procedures, that what the Opposition wants to do is to suspend Standing Orders in order to bring this matter on under General Business, when General Business consists of items that the Australian Democrats have under General Business by arrangement with the Liberal Party of Australia.

We are doing this in a situation in which we already have two items on the Notice Paper dealing with this matter. I do not know whether the Opposition is just indulging in political tactics-I have no objection to that-to keep debates going, to extend debates and to extend the number of debates. I do not know whether the Opposition is confused and has not been able to work out what its tactics should be. But it is not a very satisfactory circumstance. The Government is certainly not willing, without fair consideration, to go along with the suspension of Standing Orders to alter the General Business paper this afternoon without some concern that the people who already have that General Business time are in some agreement with it. If it is desired to adjourn the suspension of Standing Orders debate until later, if that is what the Democrats are requesting, to consider the matter--


Senator Chipp —We will agree to the suspension now and to debate it later.


Senator GRIMES —All right; we will go along with that. But I think that all honourable senators on the other side must make up their minds as to what they want to do.


The PRESIDENT —I should like to point out that the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition is merely a suspension motion to enable the Leader of the Opposition to move a rearrangement motion.