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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3473

Senator JONES(9.57) —I will be brief in my remarks. While I think there is some merit in the proposition put before the Senate by Senator Hamer, what needs to happen is that we examine the capacity of the committees. We need to examine the capacity of the staff that service the committees; we need to examine the capacities of the Senate committees themselves to handle their work loads. There has been no examination of those aspects. It seems to me that the proposition that has been put up by Senator Hamer is a step in the wrong direction. It is quite obvious that I, as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment, will oppose the motion. However, I think there is some merit in what is being said. A few moments ago we saw Opposition members of a committee attacking their Chairman and the Chairman passing remarks back. Standing committees are made up of members of the various parties that belong to this Parliament. Those committees have a certain work load. Surely the right way to deal with this matter is to refer a proposition for change to the committees and let committee members, who belong to various parties, discuss it. Those committees could then come back here and put forward their views.

The Committee of which I am chairman is made up of members of the Australian Democrats, the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Labor Party. I must say that our staff service that Committee very well and that the members of the Committee work very well together. A dissenting report was presented yesterday. However, this was one of the few times that this has happened. Generally we try to discuss propositions put before us in a reasonable manner so that we can achieve the best possible result in respect of inquiries we undertake. I think it would be much more sensible to refer the proposition that was put forward by Senator Hamer to the committees for discussion and for the committees then to report back to the Senate. I have been here on a number of occasions when Senator Hamer has put this proposition up and I have seen it thrown out. We should examine the point that Senator Childs made. We should look at what the committees are doing. Also, we should probably look at ways in which we can improve the Standing Orders overall.