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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1396


Senator CARRICK (New South Wales) - Unlike Senator Cant I do not feel myself a deprived citizen or a deprived back bencher in relation to the suggestion before the chamber. I commend both the motion and the amendment. As I understand it, the effect of both will be to extend very significantly the time which back bench senators have - when it is examined it is probably a greater length of time than that given to members of any Parliament in the free world - to express their views on matters of great importance. As I understand it, the effect of the proposal is that in addition to the 2i hours which we have on Thursdays to discuss matters put forward by private senators. there will be a further 2 hours private time set aside. The purpose of the motion and the amendment is to try to find a solution to the problem of debating effectively the reports of Senate committees. I remind honourable senators that the back bencher is far from deprived because long before a Committee report comes before this chamber he has for months - often for years - a public forum in which to express his views. Indeed, each of the Committees is virtually a little Senate in itself. I can speak as one who is carrying a lot of lead weights in the saddle in relation to several of the standing committees and, indeed, rather than being short of opportunities to express myself I am overwhelmed with opportunity. I acknowledge this as one of the great achievements and one of the great advances of the Senate. It is not as though the report already has not been ruminated upon in the false stomach of the Committee before it comes into this chamber, and this, in my view, in a form of participative democracy gives greater opportunity for worthwhile discussion than can be given in a debate in this chamber. In any case, it provides a further opportunity for debate.

However, Mr President, we take our pleasures sadly. There are those in the community who believe that honourable senators come here occasionally in autumn and spring and then go home for a form of agistment. Those who are on Senate committees at the present time will spend something like 44 weeks of the 52, in whole or in part, in Canberra. When the Parliament is in session honourable senators will spend in Canberra not only Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays but also, as I have been privileged to do - I say privileged' with some sadness - over the last 8 months, Mondays and Fridays, and then try to cram into the weekend electoral and office functions. This is the kind of situation which develops. We can sit longer in the Senate and bite again into those few remaining free weeks. I put it to honourable senators that that would be quite an impossibility. If we accept that and if we are to debate these committee reports, we must find accommodation within our own arrangements.

We have in the Senate enormous flexibility at question time and during debating time. Compared with the other place, the

Senate is extremely flexible for the individual senator. I ask honourable senators to bear in mind that we have virtually the power of veto at any time in regard to second reading speeches. The motion represents an admirable suggestion that will increase appreciably the time available to the back bench senator and provide the opportunity to bring the reports of Senate committees to fruition. I commend the motion to the Senate for adoption.







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