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Thursday, 19 November 1981
Page: 2408

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Senator JESSOP(8.13) —I want to enter into this debate for a very short period to make a comment or two about what was said before dinner and subsequently, and to tell the Senate that I appreciate the courtesy and the interest that the whole of the Senate is displaying towards the report that has been presented by the tripartite committee, the Senate Select Commitee on Parliament's Appropriations and Staffing, that I was privileged to chair. It is good to know that there is some sort of unanimity in the Senate with respect to the need to change the system of appropriations and staffing of Parliament and to put the control of these important aspects in the hands of the Parliament, which is a proper action to take. It reflects the opinions that have been voiced on both sides of both Houses of Parliament over 21 years. I think it is a very important document that ought to be discussed.

It is also very important for us to remember that in order to maximise the impact of that report the Government's view should be obtained. I think the last time I spoke on this subject I suggested that it was a matter of courtesy that the Government should respond to this in order that what we are suggesting is given the maximum support and co-operation of the Government, which I think is a very important matter. I am pleased to hear, and I appreciate very much, the courtesy that was extended to me today by Senator Macklin» who asked me whether this debate should ensue earlier or later in the evening. Unfortunately, when I tried to get back to Senator «Macklin» he was in this place making a speech. Senator Chipp had the courtesy to ring my office, and my research officer quite properly indicated to Senator Chipp's secretary, or whoever took the message, that I had arranged for the select committee members who are present here, including Senator Mason, to have a discussion with Senator Carrick in his office at 5.15 p.m. Subsequently, if my memory is correct, Senator Mason rang me. I told him that I believed it was important that we have a discussion with the Leader of the Government at 5.15 p.m. and that perhaps we would come to some arrangement subsequently. Senator Chipp mentioned earlier that he had not had a response from me. I apologise for that, but it was not negligence on my part. I am happy to get up here and respond to that.

I am aware that originally some arrangement was made that the item we all regard as very important would be first on the list of business tonight. But early today I was presented with a revised list with which I agreed, believing that there was a need for some rearrangement of the business. I agreed to go ahead with the proposition that was put to me by the Government «Whip» . In the meantime, I responded to a request from the Leader of the Australian Democrats (Senator Chipp) and the Democrats' «Whip» to indicate my views before 8 o'clock. I think I did that at about 6.15 p.m. I told Senator Chipp over the phone of the previous occurrence when I had been shown the rearrangement of business by my «Whip» . Believing that that matter had been discussed, I agreed to it. I stand by that explanation and I honour my commitment to the «Whip and say I am prepared--

Senator Chipp —But a majority of the Senate wants to hear you.

Senator JESSOP —I am very happy about that. I am breathlessly awaiting the opportunity to present my case. Another point I should mention is this: In discussion we learned that the Government had agreed in principle with many of the matters that are implicit in the report and its recommendations. There are some areas that perhaps need some negotiation. The Government, I think quite properly, suggested to the Leader of the Australian Democrats that he should talk to the President. The President has one or two problems associated with the report that I think can be easily overcome. It is only a question of talking with him and explaining in a little greater detail what the Committee's report intends.

Regrettably the House of Representatives is not sitting at the moment. Therefore, it is unfortunate that the Leader has not been able to consult with the Speaker. After all, the recommendations of this report involve the House of Representatives. The Government has made some comments to our committee in private with which I do not agree. I am quite sure that the Committee does not agree with them. But the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) has indicated that he is prepared to discuss them. He is flexible enough to deal with this matter. Therefore I think it is fair to suggest, although I want the debate to proceed tonight, and the Leader of the Government is anxious that this should happen-I believe he is interested--

Senator McLaren —Let's get on with it straight away.

Senator JESSOP —That is a matter for the Senate to decide. I was told that there was a change in the arrangement of business, to which I agreed fully, believing that there had been consultation throughout the Parliament and that that was the state of play.

I informed Senator Robertson that there would be a meeting with Senator Carrick. Although I could not give him an exact time I think that subsequently we said it would be 5.15 p.m. He informed me that he understood that the business should be brought on earlier. This is the story as I understand it. I leave the determination of this matter to the will of the Senate. Whatever happens, I gave my commitment to the Government earlier today in good faith. I am prepared to deal with the matter at 9.30 p.m. or at whatever time was suggested to me earlier today.

The PRESIDENT —I remind the Senate that prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner the Minister for Social Security, Senator Chaney, moved a motion for the rearrangement of business this evening, to which Senator Grimes has moved an amendment. I now put the question:

That the words proposed to be left out be left out.