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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 552

Senator COONEY(10.05) —On listening to the debate, it seems to me that the question is not so much how long a contribution ought to take but the relevance of it. I would have thought that standing order 419 ought to be looked at. Presently it states:

No Senator shall digress from the subject-matter of any Question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper:

It seems to me that there can be a good speech of half an hour or an hour and a poor speech of five minutes. The real question is whether the speech is pertinent, coherent or repetitious. Many speeches simply repeat what has been said before. Again, it seems that we are pursuing the wrong trail--

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable senator raised the question of relevance. What he is saying now is not relevant to the matter before the Chair.

Senator COONEY —Mr Chairman, I am saying that it is not a question of whether a speech goes for half an hour or 20 minutes; it is a question of whether it is relevant, repetitious or coherent. That is the point I want to make. It is not a matter of whether we speak for half an hour or 20 minutes but whether what we say is relevant, coherent and repetitious. The President and those acting on his behalf ought to have, in my view, more power to pull up an honourable senator whose speech does not fulfil that test. A further point is this: It is said that most honourable senators should be able to say what they want in 20 minutes. It seems that we are going in for shortness and preciseness and are denying the precincts of this chamber to those who are less than perfect. If we pursue the line of saying that a senator must say what he has to say in 20 minutes we may be denying those who are not quite as eloquent as others the capability of speaking their minds.