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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2351


The PRESIDENT —Order! I now put the question that the remaining stages of the Bill be agreed to.

Senator Harradine-I take a point of order, Mr President. At 12.49 p.m. today when this matter was being considered a motion was moved by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) to the effect that the motion which was then before the Chair, namely, for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1), be adjourned until after the matter of public importance. It was indicated at that time by Senator Grimes that this was conditional on the guillotine applying. At 12.49 p.m. I rose and said that I opposed the motion and indicated that I did not know precisely what 'conditions which applied to the guillotine apply at that time' meant. I said, 'I presume that means there is to be no debate on the amendment'-that is to say, Senator Peter Rae's amendment. I was concerned that there would be no debate as I wished to say something on the matter-there were some aspects I agreed with and some I did not see my way clear to support. I then asked, 'Could I just have that made clear?' You, Mr President , in response said: 'That is my ruling already, Senator Harradine'. I then said: 'I will deal with that at that time'.

We are now in the situation that the time for the guillotine-namely, 12.30 p.m. -has passed. The conditions which were applied, so far as I was concerned-and I may be the only one in this chamber who thought that-applied to the amendment moved by Senator Peter Rae. I have a large number of matters I wish to raise in the Committee stage on Appropriation Bill (No. 1). One matter relates to a fundamental issue involved in the consideration by the Senate Estimates committees on appropriations in government departments and statutory authorities -namely, appropriation to the Department of Communications and, through it, to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

I remind you, Mr President, and the Senate that last night when I was talking about that very matter Senator Button said, and is recorded in Hansard as saying , that we would have half an hour of debate on the Committee stage. It was to that I was referring today when before lunch, at 12.49 p.m., I sought to raise this matter with you. I believe this is a very serious matter indeed. I was under the impression that the condition attached to Senator Grimes's motion applied only to Senator Peter Rae's amendment. That was confirmed in my mind by your answer, Mr President, to the effect, 'That is my ruling already, Senator Harradine'. You may have had something in your mind, Mr President, that was not in mine. That is conceivable because of your breadth of experience in the Chair and your detailed knowledge of Standing Orders, but I again refer to Senator Button's undertaking given by interjection.

Senator Button-Rubbish.

Senator Harradine-I ask Senator Button to look at Hansard.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask Senator Harradine to continue his point of order.

Senator Harradine-Mr President, if you look at yesterday's Hansard in which Senator Button is recorded as having said at approximately 12 minutes past 6-

Senator Gietzelt-But that was the division on the second reading; it is finished.

Senator Harradine-Is the honourable senator saying that we should not have a Committee stage? Mr President, I raise this point of order in that atmosphere, in the hope that you can shed some light on the matter and inform me as to whether I was under a misapprehension at that time.

Senator Grimes-Mr President, on the point of order: The situation is that yesterday afternoon the Senate passed a motion which provided that all stages of the debate on the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill, Appropriation Bill (No. 1) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) would be completed by 12.30 p.m. today and, quite rightly, you called the vote on those Bills at 12.30 p.m. It was as a result of points of order taken by Senator Harradine that the time was extended. It was as a result of a request by Senator Chaney that we arranged for a non-contentious debate to take place from 12.45 p.m. to 2 p.m. that this matter has been delayed until now. In the debate last night when the exchange between Senator Harradine and Senator Button took place, a calculation of the number of speakers in the second reading debate meant that there would be a short period for the Committee stage. Senator Button said, I think flippantly, when Senator Harradine asked that that Committee stage occur: 'We can limit that to half an hour if you want it'. But today people were added to the speakers list and as a result we had not reached the Committee stage by 12.30 p.m.

The motion passed by the Senate last night was that these Bills would go through all their stages by 12.30 p.m. It was as a result of a request from Senator Peter Rae, to which we did not have to agree, that he be able to move his amendment-I said 'Sure, you can move your amendment provided there is no debate on it' and Senator Rae and others agreed to that-that we are at the stage we are now. We could have refused.

Senator Harradine-Senator Button put himself on the list last night.

Senator Grimes-There were people from both sides on the list last night. My name came off the list last night. The present situation arises because that is what happened. The motion was passed by the Senate. Senator Rae's amendment, had we got stroppy about it, would not have even been put. Your ruling is quite correct, Mr President, and I believe that you should adhere to it.

Senator Chaney-Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. The Opposition has great sympathy for the concern which underlies the points which have been made by Senator Harradine. He is anxious to put certain points during the Committee stage of the debate on the Appropriation Bills. The Opposition accepts that the Government, combined with the Australian Democrats, has put through the Senate a motion providing that the Bills are to be guillotined; in other words that debate is to end at 12.30 p.m. today. That happened notwithstanding the fact that the Democrats policy is that the support of two- thirds of the chamber would be required to pass a motion that a Bill is urgent and that a debate be limited in time or guillotined. Although that is their policy they seem to accept a narrow majority in this case as being appropriate. That is a strange matter.

Senator Button-As you did too.

Senator Chaney-It was never our policy to require a two-thirds majority. The fact of the matter is that the Government postponed the vote at just beyond 12. 45 p.m. at my request, for reasons which I think were proper. I acknowledge that it did that and I do not believe, therefore, that there is substance in the point of order. I have every sympathy with Senator Harradine as to why he wishes to get the debate into the Committee stage, but the Opposition supports the view that there is no valid point of order. The Government, with the Australian Democrats, has ensured that debate on these Bills is truncated. We do not, therefore, support the submission which has been put forward.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Yesterday the Senate passed a motion that all stages of the Appropriation Bills be dealt with by 12.30 p.m. today. At 12.30 p.m. debate on the Appropriation bills was exhausted and the question was about to be put. Points of order were taken. Without reciting the whole chronology, by decision of the Senate the time for consideration of the Bills was extended until after the matter of public importance was disposed of. At the conclusion of discussion on the matter of public importance I was obliged by the decision of the Senate this morning to request the Clerk to call on the Appropriation Bills for determination by the Senate. That course of action has been taken and I therefore rule that there is no point of order.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.