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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2150

Senator FAULKNER (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (10.31 a.m.) —I did not realise that Senator Harradine was calling the quorum for my response to this debate. I am quietly confident that we can complete the government's legislative program by 10.30 tonight. If there were deliberate quorum calls every five minutes, or activities such as that, obviously it would become extraordinarily difficult to do that, if not impossible.

  I have said—and I have tried to be as honest in this assessment as I can—that, if we fall short of the program by 10.30 p.m., a short negation should allow us to complete the business. That, under the terms of this motion, will be in the hands of the Senate. The Senate will be able to make a decision about that. All honourable senators can vote upon it at 10.30 p.m. With a small amount of cooperation, it is a bridge that I do not believe we will have to cross, but I cannot stand up here and say categorically to honourable senators that we will see the legislative program complete by 10.30. I think all reasonable senators would understand that that is the situation.

  Senator Hill spoke about valedictories to Senator Richardson. I have not had an opportunity this morning to speak to Senator Richardson about that issue. In fact, I have not even had confirmation that he is resigning from the Senate. If that is the case, I think the proposition that Senator Hill has put forward about valedictories being contained within the forum of the adjournment debate is a reasonable one, so that those honourable senators who do not wish to participate can leave Parliament House.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Will it only be for 40 minutes?

Senator FAULKNER —No, because I did suggest to Senator Hill that a sensible way of handling this would perhaps be for honourable senators to grant leave on the adjournment debate so that we could see that any senator who wanted to make a contribution could do so in—

Senator Ian Macdonald —So the 40 minutes is only when we want to talk?

Senator FAULKNER —Again, the ball is in the honourable senator's court in that regard. The honourable senator is looking at how much personal power he has, and he will have the personal power on the adjournment tonight to stop valedictories for Senator Richardson. The ball will be in his court, if that is what he wants to do. He has that enormous power as a member of the opposition in this country.

  I believe that, with a cooperative approach, the Senate can progress quickly through the legislative program. I do not know whether Senator Hill has given any consideration to curtailing general business this afternoon. Maybe that is not possible.

Senator Panizza —You are joking!

Senator FAULKNER —If that is not possible, it must be understood that we will not be able to utilise any time there. I urge honourable senators to take a cooperative view on this matter. I think we have done well with our legislative program this session. It is not possible to identify any session of the Australian Senate literally in living memory that has had sittings curtailed as this session has. There has been one negation of the adjournment, and the adjournment debate on that occasion commenced at 10 p.m. It has been moderate and reasonable. No objective, fair-minded senator could argue any differently. The honourable senator knows it and every other honourable senator in this chamber knows it.

  There is always a squeeze at the end of a session to see a legislative program completed, but what I am flagging here is only the second negation in a session and I believe it should be for only a reasonably short time. That is a very good record. Senator Harradine, who has been here longer than anybody else, knows that it is a remarkable record, certainly of late. He would have to agree. We have not been able to achieve our program within those sorts of time constraints before. A fair-minded senator would have to make two judgments about that: first, that the change to the routine of business and our sitting hours has been effective from the point of view of all honourable senators; and, secondly, that the government has worked extremely hard to see—

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I notice that the clock is not working. Does this mean that Senator Faulkner has unlimited time to talk in this debate?

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Chapman)—No. The provision is for a 30-minute time limit.

Senator FAULKNER —I think I have spoken for three or four minutes, but I will conclude. I think the record on this is good. I look forward to seeing the legislative program completed as soon as possible today, and I hope all honourable senators enjoy the mid-session break. One or two of them certainly need it.

  Question put:

  That the motion (Senator Faulkner's) be agreed to: