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Thursday, 9 July 1998
Page: 5413

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —Pursuant to contingent notice of motion No. 1, standing in the name of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Hill), I move:

That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Hill moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion relating to the days and hours of meeting and routine of business.

Last night Senator Troeth, who was handling a bill before this place, sought leave to put on notice a motion relating to the days and hours of sitting and was refused leave. She chose to table that motion so all honourable senators would be aware that the government was considering extending the sittings so that the business that we have been trying to complete for the past fortnight could be completed.

As you know, Madam President, we are here tonight because certain senators, particularly members of the opposition, chose to spend last week doing their best to frustrate the government's program. The great testimony to that fact is that from 10.30 on the Monday night before last, until 9.30 on Thursday night the Senate spent no more than 7 hours and 40 minutes considering legislation, with the exception of the hour and a bit at lunch time on Thursday.

I believe that the Australian taxpayers expect a couple of things from the Senate. They do expect it to be a vigorous house of review. They do expect it to be a chamber that sticks up for the rights of the states and ensures that the interests of the states within legislation are looked after more than in the other place. So they probably do not mind the Senate spending more time on legislation than the other place. This Senate has always given detailed consideration to bills.

In the past two years since the coalition government was elected, this Senate has spent more time on bills than any other Senate in the history of Australia. This week we concluded a debate on the Native Title Amendment Bill 1997 [No. 2] , which was the longest debate in Australian history, beating all other bills. A number of other bills—in fact, four pieces of legislation—have taken up over 200 hours of the Senate's time, which is a testimony to the fact that this Senate takes more time on legislation.

One might argue that this time had created quality debate, that it had created better quality legislation. One only needs to look at the quality of the speeches that were made in the debate on the second reading of the Copyright Amendment Bill 1997 this evening if one wants to make an estimation. I invite taxpayers who would want to receive the Hansard to look very closely at the contributions made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Faulkner, the former manager of government business in this place, Senator Robert Ray, and the Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Senator Carr, to see whether the debate has been one of quality. One only needs to look at those speeches to see that they are designed to waste time and to obstruct.

The taxpayers of Australia do not say to the Senate, `Don't give detailed consideration of legislation.' They do want the Senate to review legislation, but they also expect the Senate to deal with the legislative program of the government. We were not given leave to put this motion on notice last night. We were not given leave to debate it tonight. The opposition has made it quite clear: they will talk under wet cement to stop the government's legislative program being dealt with.

They have ensured that the legislative program now has a backlog of over 50 pieces of legislation. So we are not dealing with packages like the migration bills which will deliver so many benefits to the Australian people. It has become impossible to bring the child support legislation on in these sittings. There are 50 pieces of legislation which deliver benefits to the Australian people. That is why with this obstruction, this constant delay, it is necessary to extend the sittings. We even need to suspend standing orders tonight because the opposition will not grant leave to debate this motion.

The opposition have shown such little cooperation tonight that they have torn up any protocol between the whips. Senator Chris Evans, on the other side, has been chucked out of the process. The speakers' list has been taken over by Senator Faulkner, I presume. There is no decency between the two whips any more. They have misled us on a number of occasions. Senator Faulkner said that he was going to speak for 10 minutes, that there was no way he would speak for 20 minutes. I commend the motion.