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Wednesday, 28 October 1964

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) . - I wish to be particularly brief in adding one point to a plea I have made in other years in respect of the administration of the Senate. The Minister might not mind listening to my plea that in some ways we should modernise the conduct of the Senate. Very few honorable senators know much about the Standing Orders. It has always seemed strange to me that 450 Standing Orders are required to govern debate among 60 senators. It seems to me that there are far too many Standing Orders and that they are completely out of date. The meaning of many of them is obscure. Senator Henty is smiling, but I think that he would probably agree with me if he were to speak on this subject.

Standing Order No. 377 allows the President the privilege of admitting strangers into the area of the chamber below the bar. Honorable senators should not get the wrong impression of the word " bar ". I understand that it is the bar that runs around the chamber. The meaning of this Standing Order is obscure; but the explanation is that it was written to apply to the Parliament House in Melbourne. I suggest that after the passing of 37 years since we moved to Canberra it is time that we started to examine the Standing Orders. Another Standing Order states members of the House of Representatives, without the President's permission, can enter the chamber and sit below the bar. I wonder what would happen if some of our friends from the House of Representatives disported themselves in this chamber. There are dozens of other Standing Orders that obviously require amendment. I have mentioned them on other occasions.

Another aspect of procedure in this chamber that appears strange to me is our method of dividing. We have a very narrow passage to negotiate and it is made particularly difficult for one of my build when I encounter the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who is very well built. I get the worst of the encounter. Is it not time that we examined a system of electronic voting as a more expedient method? I am not against tradition, but I think from time to time there should be a modernisation of methods. I merely suggest to the Minister tonight that he might again listen to my plea in relation to the Standing Orders, and that some provision might be made in the Estimates next year to modernise procedure in this chamber. I am sure that such changes would do much to improve debating standards in the Senate. Methods of electronic voting should also be examined. We have already been warned by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) that the Parliament must get bigger in the future. We certainly have to face up to this problem because it is pretty obvious that the present facilities are not adequate for an enlarged Parliament.

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