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Thursday, 11 October 1984
Page: 1629


Senator HARRADINE(11.45) —I move:

Delete paragraph 4.

The effect of what is proposed by the Government is to ensure that my Bill relating to de factos of parliamentarians will not be debated before we rise for the election. Everyone knows that the first item to come up under General Business this afternoon was to have been my Remuneration and Allowances Amendment Bill 1984 (No. 2). As far back as Monday of this week it was understood by all concerned that that would be the item which would be dealt with this Thursday night. Indeed it was listed for debate last Thursday night after the Flags Amendment Bill 1984. There were a number of speakers on the Flags Amendment Bill. However, that speakers list was not exhausted at the expiry of the time allowed for General Business on that day. Afterwards I was clearly given to understand that my Bill would be debated this week.

It is necessary to remind the Senate that the matter we are talking about is one of major public importance. It seeks to undo what was done by the Remuneration Tribunal at the request of the Special Minister of State, Mr Young, and the Government to clothe a de facto relationship with the same status as a legal marriage for the purposes of overseas travel. The Tribunal included this proposal in a determination covering other unrelated matters such as stamps and entitlements. That action by the Tribunal hindered in practical terms the free exercise of the critical and control functions of parliament in respect of this matter of major public importance. A course of action which I would have had to take, and which was available to me until the day before yesterday, was to move a motion for the disallowance of the whole of the Tribunal's decision. I did not do that because I was quite clearly under the impression that my Bill would be debated either last Thursday or today. The time for disallowance has now gone. No honourable senator may move a motion for the disallowance of that Tribunal's determination. Therefore it is even more essential that if Parliament is to face this matter of major public importance, if it is to be able to direct its attention to this matter of major public importance and if we are not going to allow our rights to be circumvented by the Tribunal's acting as a legislative pacesetter in this major matter of public importance, we must deal with my legislation.

It is a matter of major public importance, because the decision publicly demeans the institution of marriage. It strikes at its legislative recognition and it flies in the face of the responsibility of parliamentarians to give an example in matters of principle underpinning the laws that they pass through the Parliament. This is amongst the matters which surely the Parliament has a responsibility to consider as soon as possible after the decision has been made. That is why I presented the Bill on 24 August, soon after the Parliament met, and made my second reading speech on that day. That is why I believe that we ought to deal with it as soon as possible and that 'as soon as possible' would be this afternoon.

Now, however, the proposal is that Government Business take precedence. In effect, unless I am mistaken, what that means is that the Government will have its measures on during General Business time and will probably then enable debate to go on to this matter at a time when it will not be possible to deal with it and to take the matter to a vote. If we had two and a half hours this afternoon for this matter, that would give honourable senators adequate time to consider it and take it to a vote. But what is clearly the tactic of the Government-I have yet to hear in this debate openly the attitude of the Opposition and of the Australian Democrats on this matter-is to eat into General Business time this afternoon and then to enable some time for the debate on this particular matter, but so little time as will enable it to be talked out. If that is the case, I just indicate that in the first day or so of the new Parliament I shall again propose a similar Bill and at some stage it will have to be dealt with.