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Tuesday, 9 December 1986
Page: 3625

Senator HAINES (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(8.15) —In his remarks in support of his amendment to the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button), Senator Chaney spent more time talking about the speaking habits of one of the better speakers in this chamber, the passage of the capital gains tax and an assortment of other issues than he did in justifying why we should join him in this little frolic of his to allow for discussions of matters of public importance or urgency motions under standing order 64. We have been brought back here at a cost of something like $100,000 a day because this Government wants to have the Australia Card Bill defeated this year for reasons best known to itself.

Senator Vanstone —So do you.

Senator HAINES —No, Senator Vanstone. It might interest the honourable senator to know that in the discussion between leaders and whips last Friday we did not want the Government to bring on this legislation this year. We were quite content that it wait until next year. So I suggest that until the honourable senator gets to the position of being a leader or a whip, she should not say things about which she knows nothing. The Senate is back here at a cost to the general public and the taxpayer of $100,000 a day to do better things than to follow Senator Chaney down some little path of his own concerning matters of public importance or urgency motions. Surely Senator Chaney is not seriously suggesting that if we allow a matter of public importance to come on for debate for two hours tomorrow and as a result we have to sit on Thursday we should be expected to accept some sort of amendment regarding the procedure to be followed on Thursday when, of course, it is the normal practice to deal with non-government business. We are here for one reason and one reason only, and that is to deal with the Australia Card legislation.

Senator Walters —You might be.

Senator HAINES —No, Senator Walters, we do not want to be here at all. We could have dealt quite comfortably with the Australia Card on the first sitting day in February. But in keeping with the enthusiastic way in which the Opposition parties have supported the Government this session in divisions they decided that they would support the Government's wish to come back here today and, obviously, tomorrow since there are some 30-odd speakers who wish to speak on the Australia Card legislation, notwithstanding the fact that this legislation does not need to be dealt with until next year.

Senator Boswell —One of your members took up 14 per cent of the time.

Senator HAINES —Senator Boswell raises the fact that a colleague of mine spoke on a large number of issues in which he is interested. Maybe he should speak to one of his own coalition colleagues who managed to spend well over an hour on one line of the Appropriation Bill which dealt with something like $1,500.

Senator Walters —Oh, how dreadful!

Senator HAINES —Senator Walters says: `How dreadful'. I am not arguing that she and her colleagues should not spend over one hour on a $1,500 line. What I am saying is that senators are entitled to speak in this place on legislation, papers and Appropriation Bills without the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) casting aspersions on the amount of time that is spent. If it is good enough for him to criticise a colleague of mine I suggest it is good enough for him to criticise some of the people on his side of the Senate who he tells me are ungovernable and uncontrollable and to whom he has to give time or he will be in strife himself.

We have absolutely no intention of supporting Senator Chaney in his desire to have a matter of public importance or an urgency debate on something which could come up tomorrow and on which he would not have been able to speak anyway if it had not been for the fact that he agreed, with some alacrity, with the Government to bring us back on this occasion. It is unnecessary to add that little frolic of his. It is an additional cost to the taxpayer. Given the behaviour of some of the Opposition senators last Friday, when we could have started dealing with this legislation had they not engaged in some sort of filibuster on a Government report, I consider it quite outrageous that at this stage of the year, at this stage of a debate, and considering the cost to the taxpayer, Senator Chaney should be contemplating extending the sitting not just from Tuesday to Wednesday but quite likely from Wednesday to Thursday because he wants to have a matter of public importance or an urgency motion debate on heaven only knows what. But if it is on nothing more exciting than the one he had last week, on Neville Wran and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, I suggest it is hardly worth while spending the time of the Senate on that sort of thing.

For that reason we will certainly be not supporting the Opposition Leader's amendment to the motion. We have every intention of expediting the debate on the Australia Card as quickly as possible, of defeating it when it comes to the end of the second reading debate, and then getting back to things in our constituencies that are quite likely to be more important than anything Senator Chaney can dream up on which to have an urgency debate or a matter of public importance debate.