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Tuesday, 22 February 1977

Mr SPEAKER -Those explanations from the 2 honourable members leads me to report to the House that following the failure of the lights last Thursday night I caused investigations to be made, along with the President of the Senate, by the Secretary of the Joint House Committee, by the Serjeant-at-Arms and by the Usher of the Black Rod. I have had a report from them as to the reason for the failure but I think it is put more succinctly in a paragraph in a letter from the

Chairmanof the A.C.T. Electricity Authority to the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) which he has passed on to me. It reads:

Supply was lost when a 66 000-volt surge diverter at the Authority's Kingston zone substation exploded due to an internal fault and in shattering caused heavy fragments to damage the porcelain bushings of the power transformer which serves the parliamentary triangle.

I inform the House that it has been reported to me that members and senators were able to make their way from the chamber, and visitors in the galleries were able to be shown out with the assistance of torches possessed by the police and by attendants. As for the future, there was no emergency lighting simply because there are three entries of power into Parliament House and it was not thought likely that there could be such a shut-down of power. In fact, as we now know, not only could there be, but also there was. Therefore, it is our intention to continue investigating a method whereby there can be illumination of a lower variety but at least sufficient for people to make an exit in the event of fire, explosion or anything of that kind. That is now being examined and in due course I will report to the chamber the conclusions that the President of the Senate and I have reached.

Mr Morris - Mr Speaker,I raise a point of order concerning the matter which I brought to your attention last Thursday evening and which is reported on page 247 of Hansard. I refer to the fact that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) mentioned on page 246 of Hansard that you had not called for a dissentient voice. When the lighting system was corrected and the bells were rung, I was under the clear impression that the bells rang for 5 minutes. I interpreted this to be for re-assembly of the House, not the 2 minutes for which the bells would ring for a division. The time for which the bells rang is not recorded in Hansard, but following the remarks of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) I think that there was some confusion when the bells rang for the re-assembly. If the bells rang for more than the period associated with a division, I feel that Hansard should record that fact. Mr Speaker, could you ascertain the period for which the bells rang and have that recorded in Hansard!

Mr SPEAKER -The bells rang for 5 minutes for the purpose of assembly of the House. The honourable member will recall that we had been in the act of recording the names of all persons in favour of the legislation when the lights went out. When we re-assembled I indicated to the House in these terms:

I inform the House that I propose to ring the bells again. When the power failed we were at the point where the Bill had passed the third reading but for the purposes of recording an absolute majority it was necessary to ring the bells for 2 minutes. I am in the hands of the House. I think it would be appropriate to ring the bells for the 2 minutes, but if the House does not want that to happen I am prepared to forgo it.

I interpreted the mood of the House as not wishing to be held up again. It was not necessary. It was only for the purpose of recording an absolute majority and, therefore, in my interpretation of the mood of the House, I did not call for the bells to be rung for 2 minutes for a second time.

Mr Morris - Mr Speaker,with your indulgence, that was the point that I was trying to make the other evening. Those people who were without the chamber and who heard the bells ring for 5 minutes did not have an opportunity to enter the chamber because the House so resolved. I can understand that you, as Speaker -

Mr SPEAKER -What is the honourable gentleman's point?

Mr Morris - Mr Speaker,I want it recorded in Hansard that the bells did ring for 5 minutes and that people who may have had a dissentient voice were not given the opportunity to express it because those present in the House resolved that the doors be locked and the bells not be rung. That ought to be recorded.

Mr Scholes - Mr Speaker,I rise on a point of order. The procedures of the House provide that when the vote is taken on the motion for the third reading a person who dissents from the motion shall vote with the noes, and if he is the only dissenting person he will ask for his name to be recorded. No such person took either of those steps. The subsequent actions are only for a matter of record to ensure that there are 65 ayes. It is not a count of noes.

Mr SPEAKER - The honourable member for Corio is absolutely correct.

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