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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 353

Senator MACKLIN(11.57) — The motion to suspend the Standing Orders deals with only one item; that is, the length of time that will be given for the call of the Senate. The Senate has already decided to have a call and, hence, we are discussing the time availability. The reasons given for the length of time seem to vary, but there seems to be some agreement that it may boil down to two matters. Firstly, the ability of honourable senators to consider the matter at length and, secondly, the ability of honourable senators to actually be here for the vote. I will deal with the first point, that is, the consideration of the matter. Consideration and discussions that we have had so far have dealt with the second reading of the Bill. Senator Harradine stated that certain arguments have been raised in the debate-and they certainly have-that have not been raised before. I think he was correct on that point. However, to take it on from there, that point is not correct since the only consideration left is whether or not a person will vote for or against the third reading. There is no time left to consider items or amendments to the Bill, only whether we will vote for or against the third reading.

That being the case, I will move on to Senator Walters's proposition: Who is going to be allowed to do what? Members of the Australian Labor Party, undoubtedly, will be voting the way that they have indicated. Senator Walters has suggested that they have been caucused on the issue. However, I am not at all sure that the black is all on one side. I will be very interested when the third reading vote is taken to see how many Liberal members who voted on this matter the last time will now be voting for it again. My prediction is that only one person will in fact retain his own independent stance on this Bill. I am not quite sure, when we talk about Caucus or party meetings, whether pressure has been brought to bear around the place. Whether it comes from a Caucus or a party meeting, I do not think the terminology really makes that much difference. I do not really believe that in the real world, in the world of this chamber, people' s votes will be moved around in the next 21 days. We can then look at the amount of time a person has had to consider this issue.

Senator Gareth Evans —Since 1974.

Senator MACKLIN —I am talking about this particular Bill and the fact that the vote on this Bill was to be on this week. I knew that the vote would be on this week at least two weeks ago. I am not sure whether that information was available to other senators but it certainly would have been available to them through their Whips.

Senator Gareth Evans —It certainly would have been available for those who had done their arithmetic.

Senator MACKLIN —If the Whips have provided that information individual back bench senators would have it available to them. Let us then move out of the unreal world and into the real world and to the point to which the Attorney- General referred by interjection and to which Senator Harradine alluded and that is the fact that those people who become politicians are generally pretty good at counting.

Senator Colston —If they can't they won't last long.

Senator MACKLIN —If they cannot do their counting they will not last long. Obviously, the counting has been done in relation to December. That is the real world that we are talking about in relation to whether or not this call can go on. I think honourable senators, in allowing a call of the Senate to take place, really ought not unduly trespass and reorganise the whole matter. I am particularly mindful of the fact that the Government says that it will have this referendum campaign. The Australian Democrats will not be a party to causing the community an additional cost of $17m in having a referendum campaign separate from the election campaign. I believe that that $17m can be better spent elsewhere, particularly in terms of education and health.

Senator Harradine —He could have his election next year.

Senator MACKLIN —The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) can have his election when the election is held because the constitutional power now lies totally within his hands. I am not willing to risk the expenditure of that extra amount of money to have the additional senators brought back here to do what Senator Walters just suggested. I accept that it would be nice to have them here. I am not sure who will not be here when the call is taken. One of the interesting things about having a call is that we actually find who is in the place and who is not in the place, and for what reason. Perhaps we should have those more often to find who is in this place. Since the Australian Democrats have to be here we would not mind other people having to be here or having to put up good reasons as to why they are not here. We do not mind having a call. The Senate will find the five Australian Democrat senators present when the call comes. Let us see how many senators from the other parties are present. There will even be one representative from the Senator Brian Harradine Group, which I think is a full complement as well. So I am not worried on that basis.

I must say in the final consideration of the amount of time required that there have been some changes since 1901. I think somebody invented the aeroplane since that time and somebody else actually got the telephones operating. They are two pretty important considerations when it comes to communications. That was part of the reason given in 1901. I think it was a very important one. On these matters of importance it was very important to have all senators here to be able to provide for that absolute majority and to enable all honourable senators to have the opportunity of voting for or against changes to the Constitution. Honourable senators have been given that opportunity on this occasion. They knew that this vote would be on 14 days ago. Indeed, they knew that this vote would be on wherever they were in the world yesterday. Wherever they were in the world yesterday because of aeroplanes they could be here today. That is what I am saying has changed since 1901-the aeroplane. Everybody has had the opportunity to be here. Those who are not here for the vote have chosen not to be here for whatever reason, and we will find that out when the call is taken.

Senator Walters —Mr President, very briefly--

Senator Gareth Evans —This is not a Committee stage. Senator Walters is not entitled to speak again.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator is entitled to rise on a point of order or something.

Senator Walters —Thank you, Mr President. I do not have a point of order. I would like to ask Senator Macklin a question. I was wondering if you could give me that opportunity.

The PRESIDENT —No, the honourable senator is out of order.