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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5209

Senator FERRIS (8:36 PM) —Senator Ray quite correctly outlined this evening the difficulties that members of this chamber have in trying to serve on the number of committees of which we are members. The point I would like to make tonight outlines the reason why I, as one member who was named in his speech tonight, have been unable to attend meetings. I think I speak for other members who were also named tonight and who were not in the chamber but who are also members of many committees and find themselves unable to attend as many meetings as they wish.

I resigned from the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters on 28 August, following my election as Government Whip in the Senate. The secretariat of the committee confirmed this evening that there were in fact 11 and not 20 meetings between March and 28 August. I acknowledge that I was able to attend only one meeting in its entirety—that is, the second meeting—due to other commitments, including chamber duty as the then deputy whip, and apologies were recorded. For the remaining five meetings for which I did not record an official apology as not being able to attend as I had hoped to attend, I was in fact conducting meetings of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee on the US beef quota and was unable to attend without collapsing the quorum on that very important matter. For a further two meetings I was attending National Crime Authority inquiries, and at another meeting I was in fact chairing the native title inquiry, which involved a deputation appearing from the Indigenous Land Corporation.

I have absolutely no doubt that all members of all committees find themselves, as Senator Ray quite correctly said tonight, unable to satisfy the requirements of each of those committees. I think it has been made more difficult since many of the committees are now also meeting when the Senate is sitting and that involves even more difficulty for the whips and deputy whips to make it to the meetings. I sympathise with the points that Senator Ray raised tonight, but I do think that it is important to put on the record accurately those meetings which I was unable to attend. I feel sure that in due course other members whom Senator Ray has named will make their own contributions.

Senate adjourned at 8.39 p.m.