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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7011

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (3:45 PM) —I thank my colleagues. I move:

That, on Tuesday, 3 December 2002—

(a) the hours of meeting shall be 2 p.m. to 6.30 p.m., and 7.30 p.m. to midnight;

(b) the routine of business from 7.30 p.m. shall be consideration of the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002; and

(c) the question for the adjournment of the Senate shall be proposed at 11.20 p.m.

To pre-empt Senator Harradine's concerns, I will make a few comments. I did hold discussions with a number of people late last night when it became clear that the debate on the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002 would not conclude last night. We had hoped that with a lot of goodwill and discussion between the office of the Minister for Health and Ageing and participants in the debate it would be possible to finish it tonight. But I had clearly indicated to the world at large that if it was not then we would have to look at when hours could be extended to do it. We indicated to anyone who asked that we would obviously have to look at Tuesday night, but I did not want to flag that too much because I was hoping that it would be finished last night.

I did hold discussions late last night with Senator Ludwig, and other people who were around, and suggested that we sit late tonight. We did not get that agreement until, I think, about half past 12 today. I immediately prepared a draft motion, which is now before the Senate, and asked the Parliamentary Liaison Officer to hand it around, as is normal practice, to all whips and leaders and minority parties and private senators. The Parliamentary Liaison Officer asked that if anyone had any concerns with the proposal they contact us as soon as possible.

The proposal is basically to sit the same hours as we did last night and hopefully make progress with the bill. So that Senator Harradine and others know what is in my mind and, I think, in the mind of the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, I will say that if we can get the bill finished that will be very desirable. We have now debated the bill for 32 hours or thereabouts, and we will have many more hours tonight, obviously. If it is not possible to complete it tonight then we will seek to continue with it tomorrow. I can assure the Senate that, for a number of reasons, we will not seek changes to sitting hours tomorrow. We will deal with what happens after Wednesday if we are still going.

I am trying to ensure that we deal with the bill before the Senate in a sensible, sound and diligent way to ensure that it is debated fully and that ultimately democracy prevails and a bill that represents the will of the Senate emerges. All honourable senators would recognise that I in particular—although also with the assistance of other leaders and whips and the Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate—have a responsibility to ensure that between now and the Christmas break, and hopefully by the end of next week, which is what we are aiming for, the Senate considers the remainder of the government's program. So we need to juggle both of those things.

We only have limited hours between now and the end of next week. It is my hope that we will finish all of the business, including the Research Involving Embryos Bill 2002, by the end of next week, so the Senate will not need to come back for extra sittings either the following week or on the Friday and Saturday as has happened in the past. It is our aim to try and get all the bills finished in a reasonable time and to ensure that senators can operate in an effective manner during that time.