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Tuesday, 6 April 1965

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) . - The Opposition supports this Bill which might be termed a machinery measure. Its aim is to enable the Presiding Officers of the Parliament to carry out certain functions between the end of one Parliament and the beginning of another. In his second reading speech, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) said -

Certain statutory powers and functions are exercised by the Presiding Officers under the Public Service Act, the Audit Act, the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act and the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

In the event of a dissolution of the Parliament, the Bill enables the Presiding Officers to carry out certain administrative actions until the positions are filled by the new Parliament. It also provides that, in the event of the death or sickness of the Presiding Officer, the Chairman of Committees of the House concerned shall carry out the duties. Such a provision has existed in the relevant English legislation since 1832. It seems strange that, after Federation, 65 years should have elapsed before somebody got around to introducing a provision which should have been there from the beginning.

Senator Wright - That was the occasion on which the salaries of the Parliamentary Officers were raised.

Senator WILLESEE - I hesitated when I looked at the House of Commons (Speaker) Act of 1832. I am sure that in some way I have misread the amounts because they seem abnormally high when compared with the wage standards of today. I refrained from mentioning that matter because I did not quite understand the full purport of it.

There is only one other comment that I wish to make in passing. I hesitate to raise it because I know that every time I suggest that the Standing Orders should be amended in any way I tread on very tender corns. However, I shall place my views on record so that somebody may consider them. Only last week Standing Order No. 29 was invoked because of the temporary absence of the President. Standing Order No. 29 refers to the absence of the President and Officers and states that on each day the Clerk shall announce to the House that the Chairman of Committees shall for that day act in the capacity of President except if the Senate shall otherwise order. Perhaps the Standing Orders Committee might consider amending the Standing Orders so that the Chairman of Committees, as well as carrying out the functions of the President inside the Senate shall automatically take over his extramural duties. Perhaps for once we could effect an amendment of the Standing Orders.

As I have said, the object of the Bill is to introduce a provision that ought to have been in existence years ago. It is a sensible provision. We have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee.

The Bill.

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