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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Page: 1342

Senator PARRY (TasmaniaDeputy President of the Senate and Chairman of Committees) (16:05): I present the first report of 2013 of the Procedure Committee, on the routine of business and electronic petitions.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator PARRY: by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

It is with great pleasure that I speak briefly to the report. The Procedure Committee has undertaken consultations with all the parties and the parties independently have consulted internally. After a series of meetings and discussions, the Procedure Committee has a number of recommendations. The Procedure Committee is looking at the routine of the business of the Senate still. The committee will continue to keep these matters under review but we have made two recommendations, which will become the subject of debate and motions next sitting week. I understand the minister shortly will be moving a motion to give that effect.

There are two issues in the report which I want to raise. I would encourage all senators to read the report in its entirety because there are some very good attachments, and I thank the Clerk and the Clerk's office for the fine work they have done in presenting this report.

The first of the two items which senators would like to take note of is the adjournment debate on Tuesdays, which is currently open-ended and which we intend to retain as open-ended. A recommendation is that the standing orders be adjusted or a temporary order be placed to enable the adjournment debate to have three categories of duration in speeches. It would give senators the option of speaking for five minutes, 10 minutes or 20 minutes. Currently the provision exists for senators to speak with leave for 20 minutes at the end of the adjournment debate on Tuesdays. We will now make this so it is not a provision that you need to ask leave to do; you would be able to speak without leave in any of the three categories, and the whips' offices obviously will arrange the order of the list in the order of five-minute speeches, 10-minute speeches and 20-minute speeches. This is done in order to facilitate possibly more speeches and more availability of time without moving into the late hours of the evening, so it would be interesting to see how that progresses and whether senators take up the option of speaking for five minutes and speaking earlier in the evening.

The other matter that we are suggesting that the Senate adopt is in the area of non-controversial legislation on a Thursday when it exists, as it did today. When it commences and goes through the normal process for non-controversial legislation, we would encourage senators to abide by the spirit of the non-controversial legislation, which means legislation that is debated briefly with the idea that it is legislation that all parties agree to. That has been a temporary order for some time. We are suggesting that that now become a permanent standing order, and there is an amendment suggested in the report.

The other matter is electronic petitions. We have clarified some issues in relation to electronic petitions and suggested a way of accepting electronic signatures as time moves forward when the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Senate work out a formula to adopt these. In essence, electronic signatures would form the signature that would normally be attached to a petition. This is something on which there is a detailed paper attached to the committee report, and I would encourage senators to read that.

There is one other matter, in relation to matters of public interest. The Procedure Committee is recommending—and again it is for the Senate to determine—that the time allocated, instead of being at 12.45, commence at 1 pm, so it would be a strict one hour, but that the speech limit be reduced from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. This has a win-win effect: first of all it is a win for senators, as we would get an additional speaker in that timeslot of one hour and, second, the government would gain an extra 15 minutes of government business.

So they are the recommendations in the report. As I indicated, the minister will be moving a motion to give that some effect in the next sitting week, when the report will be adopted, I hope. I encourage the Senate to adopt the report. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.