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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 354

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(12.05) —I will be as brief as I can. It may or may not be the case that reasons of urgency underlie the requirement that is being advanced by the Government to have a call of the Senate forthwith. Whether or not we regard the situation as being one of urgency , depends, very much, I suppose, on our political perspectives and the kinds of considerations that have been put into the debate by Senator Harradine. It is clear, however, that there is no reason for delay of the matter. That is a separate consideration. We must consider in the first place whether there is urgency-there may or may not be-and secondly whether there is a reason for delay . There simply is no reason for further delaying the consideration and determination of this matter.

The standing order, with its 21-day provision, has been far more often honoured in the breach than in the observance since Federation. On a quick count from the tabular material I had incorporated in Hansard earlier, 77 constitutional Bills have been passed by this chamber since Federation. In the case of 23 of those Bills-in fact, the last 23 considered by this Parliament on every occasion since 1967-the call provision has been dispensed with entirely and there has been no provision at all for 21 days or otherwise. In the earlier period 44 Bills were subject to a call of one kind or another in respect of which the requirement was not suspended. On only one of those occasions was the full 21 days in accordance with the standing order actually observed. On every other occasion-43 out of the 44-a call came on after some lesser period than the full 21 days. So Senator Harradine's suggestion that there is some sort of cavalier attempt to dispense with a time honoured standing order, albeit that his tongue was boring its way through his cheek at the time he was uttering this, simply cannot be sustained.

Let the last word be Senator Durack's on 22 February 1977 when he was moving a motion for the entire suspension of the call provision. In reply to a debate, the participants in which were very largely those to whom we have been enjoying listening again here today, Senator Durack, as recorded on page 252 of the Senate Hansard for that date, said:

I emphasise the fact that the call of the Senate as provided for in standing order 242 has nothing to do with moving or discussing amendments and provides no opportunity for honourable senators to move or discuss amendments. All of that has to be done during the second reading stage and the Committee stage. So there is no value whatever as far as the further consideration of these Bills is concerned in having a 21-day delay after that for the third reading. As I said in my opening speech on this motion and as has been said by other honourable senators, the necessity for having standing order 242 obviously belongs to a day and age when communications were poor and it was thought necessary to give those honourable senators who were not present when a proposal was originally discussed the opportunity of getting here so that they could have the opportunity at the last stage of the passage of such a Bill of voting or speaking against it.

Senator Macklin —Did he say that? When was that?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It was Senator Durack in 1977. He continued:

Mr Odgers said of this standing order in his book . . . that the records of the Parliament give no definite explanation as to the reasons which actuated the early Senate in adopting the rule that there should be a call of the Senate before the third reading of such a Bill. It is so obscure that Mr Odgers has not been able to formulate or discover any real reasons for having the standing order.

So Senator Durack went on comprehensively and very effectively to demolish the arguments put then as indeed they have been put now by Senator Walters and all the rest. The truth of the matter is that every honourable senator is here and able to participate in the call, with the exception of Senator Archer who is overseas, and, I believe, Senator Chaney and possibly Senator Peter Rae, who, I understand, have good reasons for their absence within the meaning of the standing order. It is also the case, as has been very well put by Senator Macklin, that the impending debate and vote on this matter can hardly be coming as a surprise to anybody in this chamber, not least because the matter has been on the Notice Paper for a long time and, in particular, the motion to have the call forthwith has certainly been on the Notice Paper for the last couple of days. So everyone is aware of what it is about. I suggest that we proceed accordingly to put the motion and have our call, I think for the first time in history in these circumstances.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Gareth Evans's) be agreed to: