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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 713


Senator HAINES (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(3.53) —As Senator Chaney said yesterday in an almost identical debate, I do not intend to speak at length on this matter. In fact, I wish to speak only on the actual motion before us, which is the motion to suspend Standing Orders to enable the Senate to debate a motion of which, I mention, notice was given only this morning, to be brought on for debate now instead of at the normal time at which it would be brought on if normal procedures under Standing Orders were adhered to. I indicate that the Australian Democrats do not support the suspension of Standing Orders for that purpose.

The position is that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Chaney), as is any other senator, is entitled to move a motion to refer a matter to a legislative and general purpose standing committee and to have that motion given precedence as business of the Senate on the day for which the motion is moved. In the case of the motion that Senator Chaney gave notice of this morning, the next day on which that could happen would be, of course, Tuesday, 17 March. Nothing will happen between now and that date that would warrant Standing Orders being suspended now so that the issue can be debated today. There is no urgency to this. We do not see the commencement of an inquiry at this point as being at all necessary.

The Democrats will not support this motion. We do not see the need for urgency that has been raised by the Opposition. Of course, the only unfortunate thing is that we are now likely to spend the next hour or so at least hearing endless Opposition speakers trying to justify the course proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I ask you, Mr Acting Deputy President, in the interests of getting on with some of the business we have to deal with in this place, to bear in mind the relevance rule that operates in this place concerning debate and to keep speakers from all sides to the subject of the suspension of Standing Orders rather than the broader issue canvassed in the notice of motion. I say that because that was an instruction issued by Senator Chaney yesterday in the course of the debate on the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders that we entered into yesterday afternoon.

Frankly, I can think of a number of issues of greater importance than the one raised by Senator Chaney. The general state of the economic management of this country, as outlined in Senator Messner's notice of motion No. 366 listed for debate today, and of course not surprisingly the question of media ownership and control which we raised yesterday, as well as much of the legislation on the Notice Paper, would all be classified as far more urgent of the attention of this place than the motion of which Senator Chaney gave notice this morning. I suggest therefore that there is no justification for supporting the Opposition's motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, and for that reason the Democrats will not support it.