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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3336

Mr WELLS(10.53) —We have just witnessed a palpable absurdity, and I am not referring to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran). It is an absurdity which we see every day, though it was particularly acute tonight. If we look around the walls of this chamber we will see that the broadcasting lights are off. Just before those lights went out the people of Australia were treated to the edifying audio but not visual experience of a division. This added nothing to the quality of their lives whereas it is just vaguely possible that this adjournment debate might do. I am referring to the fact that adjournment debates of this House are not broadcast.

There are many good reasons why adjournment debates should be broadcast. Many of the speeches are fiery. Even if sometimes interlarded with animal noises such as those that issued from the honourable member for Gippsland and his colleagues , they nevertheless have a spirit of fire and an element of interest which would make good listening for many people. Additionally, speeches on adjournment debates are short and, being short, they do not exceed the concentration span of many of those who listen to the proceedings of this House, not so much to gain erudition as to receive entertainment. I might add that since they are short they do not exceed the concentration span of honourable members opposite who are delivering them either. That might be a bit subtle for honourable members opposite, but they will get it if they read Hansard. The adjournment debate also provides an opportunity for back benchers to speak about what concerns them and what concerns their constituents. Yet at this very time, when they are trying to talk to their constituents, they are silenced, precisely when they most want their constitutents to hear them.

Additionally, it is an opportunity for individuals and groups to hear their interests mentioned specifically, in a forum which has to occupy itself mainly with issues of generality. Honourable members opposite from Tasmania were just interjecting. They manage to bring their own particular concerns into almost every debate, but others of us like to confine remarks concerning our own constituencies to adjournment debates and other appropriate fora. For that reason, it would be very appropriate if our constituents could hear us.

On these occasions the Joint Committee on Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings has considered this matter; once in 1950, once in 1970 and once in 1978. It is considering it again now in 1983 and will do so in 1984. In 1950 and 1970 the Committee decided against change but in 1978 decided in favour of it. Nevertheless, perhaps as a result of something that happened in the Government Caucus room afterwards, the recommendation of the Committee, that we should broadcast adjournment debates, was not adopted. The only reasons that can be discerned from anywhere as to why this recommendation should not have been adopted, are contained in a remark of a former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, who said:

. . . many of the speeches made on that motion-

he was referring to the adjournment motion-

relate to one electorate only and come on at a very late hour.

Let us divide up that statement and consider it. The statement that many of the speeches made on the adjournment relate to one electorate only is false, irrelevant and does not represent a significant difference. First, it is false because most issues of local interest are connected with national issues also. For example, in my own electorate of Petrie the main issues are interest rates, pensions and employment. These, when referred to in debates on the issues regarding Petrie, would have ramifications regarding the national scene as well. The objection raised is not significant because the electorate has a legitimate concern with human interest stories. The media is full of them and the best way to get political issues across-I do not want to give any information away to Opposition members even though they might not understand it-to the electorate is to provide examples. Many of the Bills that come before this place affect only a small group. Many of the Bills that come forward in General Business in this place affect only a small group. So what if the interests of only a small group are mentioned in an adjournment debate? That does not distinguish it from any other debate.

Finally, as to Mr Holt's remark that the adjournment debates come on at a very late hour I say that the debates do not come on as late as they used to. Secondly, habits of life are changing. More people are staying up later, more people are on flexitime, staggered hours and so forth. Fewer are working the hours that, in a manufacturing economy, were then customary. Times have changed and with them this Parliament should change also and broadcast its adjournment proceedings. I call upon honourable members on both sides to support that initiative.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.