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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 867


Senator HILL (Leader of the Opposition) —by leave—We have no problems with the obligation of the Minister for Defence (Senator Robert Ray) to be at the five-power defence conference, and we obviously regret that Senator Cook is unwell. But I do raise the issue of Senator Bolkus's absence. The Senate has been up for a fortnight. No doubt Senator Bolkus had a few days at the Cairo conference and now he needs to be away for another week as well. Why can he not plan his program between parliamentary sittings? Even the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans) attempts to do that. Why can Senator Bolkus not do the same thing?

  This is another demonstration of the lack of respect that this government has for the parliamentary process, which government senators largely regard as irrelevant. But the people of Australia actually think that ministers ought to be here during parliamentary sittings and ought to be prepared to answer questions. Therefore, Mr President, I would suggest that we should expect of the Leader of the Government in the Senate a better explanation as to why Senator Bolkus could not fit his program within the two weeks that the Senate was up.

  Government senators interjecting