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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 623

Senator MACKLIN(10.13) —The terms of the motion which Senator Robertson has moved, are, I think, slightly misleading. It is not, in fact, currently the practice that honourable senators covered by the situations outlined in the motion are able to read their speeches. Let me consider the motion in detail. Paragraph (a) provides that standing order 406 shall not apply to an honourable senator when that honourable senator is:

moving a motion for the second reading of any Bill or speaking to such a motion as first speaker for the Opposition or a minority group;

Indeed, the practice of the Senate has been that the mover of a motion for the second reading of any Bill, whether that person be a Minister or a member of the Opposition or from any other group in the Senate, may proceed to read the second reading speech on the Bill. I think that the wording of that paragraph is ambiguous because I believe that it suggests that a response to such a motion would be included in paragraph (a). I do not think that was really the intention . I think that the way that paragraph has been worded gives it a wider application than I believe was actually the intention. I think that the intention was, in fact, to propose what is currently the practice in the Senate. That would extend, for example, in the case of the Australian Democrats, to every time we spoke. We would be able to read speeches. I do not think that was the intention of the Standing Orders Committee. I think that what is proposed here may be going beyond that. Paragraph (b) states:

making a Ministerial statement or a statement on behalf of a Committee;

That is definitely part of the conventions that currently exist in this place. I believe that it is important that they continue and that they be written into the Standing Orders in the way described here. I believe that a ministerial statement or a statement on behalf of a Committee often may have to be word exact. That seems to me to be the criterion that we ought to seek in regard to where we depart from the current standing order. The second reading speech is now really part of statute and becomes part of the interpretation of the Bill before the courts. That is why it should be read. It is an extremely important part of the Bill now, whereas previously when the Standing Orders were first drawn up, the second reading speech was not part of the Bill or the interpretation of the Bill. It is no longer possible for a Minister or anybody else to engage in an extempore speech in relation to a Bill because it is now part of the statutory requirements.

Similarly, in regard to paragraph (b) I think it is often of extreme importance that the Minister making a ministerial statement be word perfect because many ministerial statements are extremely important and really ought to be delivered in a much more deliberate way than would be the case with an extempore speech.

I really think that paragraph (c) goes beyond anything that has ever occurred previously. Paragraph (c) states:

making a response to a statement referred to in paragraph (b), as first speaker for the Opposition or a minority group---

That, indeed, duplicates the second part of paragraph (a) and extends far beyond any convention in this place what has been accepted by the Senate up to date. I believe that it is an unjustified extension in that I thought that what the Standing Orders Committee was seeking to do was, in fact, to try to write standing order 406 what had been the case.

Paragraph (d) would be in conflict with paragraph (c) if both were allowed to stand. However, in some ways it would probably be acceptable. But again I suggest that it goes beyond what is currently the case. I say that it is in some way acceptable because while matters of public importance have tended to be less and less matters of public importance over the past few years and have become matters of political importance, I dare say that still under the Standing Orders we may from time to time actually hear a matter of public importance. Hence it may very well be that if the matter is a matter of public importance, the first speaker may wish to read his speech. I do not think that I would necessarily dissent from that. However, I think that in the current climate it is rather odd because matters of public importance are no longer really matters of public importance but rather matters of political importance.

The moving of a motion to debate a matter of urgency-this relates to paragraph (d)-falls under the same rubric as matters of public importance and, I think, probably could be dealt with in the same way. I would be loath to accept paragraph (d). Hence, I intend to move that attachment D to the report of the Standing Orders Committee, be amended so as to delete the words in paragraph (a) , 'or speaking to such a motion as first speaker for the Opposition or a minority group' and to delete paragraphs (c) and (d) so that the motion would read:

Provided that this Standing Order shall not apply to a Senator when that Senator is

(a) moving a motion for the second reading of any Bill;

(b) making a Ministerial statement or a statement on behalf of a Committee.

Therefore, I move:

Paragraph (a), leave out all words after 'Bill'; and paragraphs (c) and (d).