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Tuesday, 18 May 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - in reply - r 1 want at once to say again to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that I do not propose to abandon the practice to which he has referred in terms of commendation, of continually consulting him day by day as to the programme, but the motion which we are now considering is necessary at this time to supplement that close arrangement. There is nothing new about it, as I have said before. This is a procedure which was resorted to by the Labour Party when in office. In the unlikely circumstance of its being in government again in the foreseeable future, it will be resorting to this procedure again. The procedure permits the introduction of new business after 10.30 p.m. The suspension of the Standing Order will, I submit to the Senate, make it possible for us to move more smoothly through the outstanding business or the business as it comes forward, and that is preferable to inhibiting ourselves by putting upon the Senate a condition that we should not introduce new business until the following day if we are not ready to go ahead with it by 10.30 p.m.

The Leader of the Opposition has referred in rather harrowing tones to the horrors that flow from suspension of this Standing Order. What in fact has occurred over the past three years? In 1964 we sat beyond 12 midnight on 5 occasions, 3 of them in the spring sessional period and two of them in the autumn sessional period. In the autumn sessional period we sat until 3.43 a.m. on 19th May and until 6.12 a.m. on 20th May. The hour of 3.43 a.m. is rather late in the morning, but to sit till that hour is not to sit right through the night, although the Leader of the Opposition thinks otherwise. If one goes back to 1963 one finds that in that year we sat beyond 12 o'clock on four occasions. If one goes back to 1962 the record shows that we sat beyond 12 o'clock on two occasions. I suggest to honorable senators that that record does not throw up the extreme circumstances that were referred to or indicated by the Leader of the Opposition. What we propose is no more than the usual procedure that is followed in almost every Parliament that I know of. It does not necessarily entail sitting through the night. We have to go back many years before we find the particular occasion to which the honorable senator refers. On that occasion we sat until about midday on a Saturday, I think, to clear the business. It is not usual to do that, and I trust that it will not be necessary to do so on this occasion. I am prepared to consult with the honorable senator in order to meet the convenience of all senators; but I make it quite clear that I do not give him any specific assurance in respect of the three conditions that he mentioned. However, I shall certainly bear them in mind when we are discussing the programme of business.

Question put -

That the motion (Senator Paltridge's) be agreed to.

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