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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2128


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(5.11) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

On behalf of the Opposition I welcome the statement made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) which supplements the information which you, Mr President, provided to the Senate pursuant to the procedures of this place. I suppose that the statement incorporated in Hansard by the Leader of the Government does demonstrate one thing, and that is that by the Government imposing a heavier obligation upon itself-namely, the obligation to report after only three months-it can actually wind up with an obligation which is rather easier to meet because nobody expects a full, final and considered report after three months. We will get an interim report that tells us that the Government is looking at all this and then a rather long delay before anything actually happens. I mention that not wishing to be churlish but just to indicate that if the Senate is to follow up effectively the request which it has made of successive governments for a proper and detailed response to the views which, as the Leader of the Government says, are so carefully prepared and worked on by senators and committee staff, it is important that we see signs of a genuine and careful consideration of the recommendations made. Of course we will only find out if that consideration is given if we, as senators, take the time to consider what the Government response is. Clearly we cannot do that in what may be the last week of sittings of the session before the elections.

So I simply make the comment at this stage that if we as senators-I say this speaking not as an Opposition senator in particular but simply as a member of this place-are to take seriously the work of our Senate committees, it is important that we find the time to follow up not merely the reports when they are put down but also the Government responses to them. I think it will be a test of the will of both Government and Opposition senators to see whether in fact they are prepared to allow time to make this a sensible and, to use I guess the modern term which I do not like, meaningful exercise. As Senator Baume would like to speak to this motion, I will not seek leave to continue my remarks but simply say that I welcome the fact that the Government has made some effort following your statement, Mr President, to explain the position in respect of outstanding reports. That was a most appropriate thing for the Government to have done. That is not to say that in thanking the Government for that I necessarily believe that it has given all reports the consideration they deserve . That is a matter what I hope we can look at in more detail when the Senate resumes in December or early next year.