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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1643


Senator GARETH EVANS (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) —by leave-I move:

That, unless otherwise ordered-

(1) The hours of meeting for the remainder of this day be till 6.30 p.m. and then 8.00 p.m. till 10.30 p.m.

(2) The hours of meeting for Thursday, 2 April 1987, be as follows:

10.00 a.m.- 6.30 p.m.

8.00 p.m.-10.30 p.m.

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Order of Business for Thursday, 2 April 1987, be as follows:

(a) Petitions

(b) Notices of Motion

(c) Formal Motions-Discovery of Formal Business

(d) Presentation of Papers

(e) Government Business, Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day, or vice versa, as set down on the Notice Paper

(f) At 2 p.m., Questions

(g) Further consideration of Government Business, Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day, or vice versa, as set down on the Notice Paper.

(4) The Senate meet on Friday, 3 April 1987 and the hours of meeting be as follows:

9.00 a.m.- 6.30 p.m.

8.00 p.m.-10.30 p.m.

(5) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Order of Business for Friday, 3 April 1987, be as follows:

(a) Petitions

(b) Notices of Motion

(c) Formal Motions-Discovery of Formal Business

(d) Presentation of Papers

(e) Government Business, Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day, or vice versa, as set down on the Notice Paper

(f) At 2 p.m., Questions

(g) Further consideration of Government Business, Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day, or vice versa, as set down on the Notice Paper.

(6) That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing and Sessional Orders, the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 10.30 p.m. on Friday, 3 April 1987 to 9.00 a.m. on Saturday, 4 April 1987.

I do not propose to speak at length to this motion because I know that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) wants to move an amendment to it. I do not want to protract the debate because any protracted debate would undermine our capacity to break for dinner between 6.30 and 8 o'clock, which is not only good for us but good for Hansard, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and everybody else who has to look after us in this place. The reason for moving the motion at this time is to enable us, if possible, to get a dinner break this evening and also to resolve at this stage, so that everyone knows what is happening, the proposed procedural arrangements for the remainder of the week, into Saturday if necessary.

Let me just say, in support of the revised procedures and sitting days and hours set out in the motion, that if any government is to get through its program, particularly when some matters in issue are large and controversial, it is necessary from time to time to schedule additional sitting days and hours. That has been the practice of all governments from time immemorial. It is one that this Government has tried to avoid, but it has been made necessary in this instance by some protracted debate-understandable perhaps-on some major legislation, and the need to get that legislation out of the way one way or the other this week if we are not to have a complete disruption of the program for the remainder of the session. The program for the next two days has been constructed so as to enable in effect most of the ordinary business of the Senate to be conducted, including Question Time. General Business for tomorrow afternoon has been waived with the advice and consent of the Australian Democrats. It was their business that might otherwise reasonably have been expected to have been placed on the Notice Paper, and the Government appreciates that degree of co-operation. The program provides for an adjournment at 10.30 each night and we, of course, hope that it will be possible for common sense to prevail and for the program to be got through in such a way that it will be possible to adjourn considerably earlier than 10.30 and to get away from this place on Friday afternoon. If that does not prove possible, we will certainly be prepared to sit through into Saturday and beyond that if necessary. We will certainly also be prepared to contemplate-not tonight but tomorrow night-negating of the adjournment and a very late sitting if we are not making significant progress tomorrow.

I do not think we could be fairer than that-to set out and explain why it is we are doing what we are doing. There is no mystery, there is no surprise, about the particular program that we are seeking to accomplish this week. The Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill is a hangover from last week. Ample notice was given that we wanted to get it finished by the end of last week; we did not. Ample notice was given that we wanted to get the Australia Card Bill out of the way this week in order to accommodate a series of further major Bills that will be coming forward later in the year. It is not an excessive program that we are proposing, and we certainly are allowing ample time for debate of the matters involved.

The final matter I wish to mention is that it will, unfortunately but necessarily, involve some rescheduling of the Estimates committee hearings that were spelt out for Thursday and Friday. If, of course, some common sense prevails, it may be possible to complete our business by Thursday night and to proceed accordingly with the Estimates as scheduled on Friday. That very much depends on the good will of those opposite and, indeed, everywhere else in the chamber, to ensure that that happens. If it cannot, it will be necessary to reschedule those Estimates days, and some attempt has been made to identify dates that can at least accommodate the position of Ministers. It is to be hoped that as large a number as possible of committee members can also be accommodated by those revised dates. Certainly there is room for further discussion with the Opposition about the scheduling of those committees. If it is possible to reach, through the good offices of the chairmen and the Ministers involved, some better, more acceptable and less inconvenient agreement, we will, of course be prepared to go along with that.

I think I have said enough to allow Senator Chaney to prepare his amendments. He indicated that he wanted some time to do so. I hope that it will be possible accordingly to have a quick debate on this matter and to have a full dinner break in the interests of not only ourselves but more particularly the staff of this place who I think deserve not to be inconvenienced by the difficulties that we get into at the political end of the process.