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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18670

Mr PRICE (12:36 PM) —I would like to start by thanking our chair, Mrs May, the member for McPherson, and all the committee members, who I think operate in a very bipartisan way, as you would expect. I would also like to thank our staff, including Ms Judy Middlebrook, who seems to be inappropriately seated on this occasion; the research officer, John Craig; Peter Fowler, who I think is a national treasure; and Anna Gadzinski.

The committee has made three recommendations in response to the suggestion of the member for O'Connor, Mr Tuckey. I for one welcome—as I am sure all committee members would—the fact that the member for O'Connor has pursued changes to procedures in the House. On this occasion the committee does not support the proposed changes. A similar system to that proposed by the member for O'Connor operates in the Senate, where the clerks do the name checking and the tellers do the count. However, I think one needs to take into account that there are half the number of senators that there are members of the House. Therefore, I think there is a real issue of practicality—in particular, whether members would turn up in the orderly fashion required to allow his suggestion to proceed. But I want to congratulate the member for O'Connor. I do not seek to diminish in any way the suggestion he has made, because I think it has led to a couple of good recommendations.

The most obvious thing I would point out—and this is on page 23 of the report—is that, if you want to reduce the number of divisions in the House, the easiest way is not to divide on motions for the suspension of standing orders. That would yield almost a 10 per cent improvement. If the government declined to gag members who are speaking—and even on a dissent from the Speaker's ruling the gag is used—we would save something like 17.5 per cent of the time spent on divisions. In other words, by removing divisions on those two initiatives together—the suspension of standing orders and gagging of members—you would reduce by more than a quarter the number of divisions that have taken place in this House. Last year there were some 160.

In terms of divisions, there has really been very little change. Along with the introduction in 1996 of the initiative to not call divisions during private members' business, perhaps the most significant reform was the one-minute division implemented in 1997. More recently in this House—again, as a response to one of the Procedure Committee reports recommending changes of time—we precluded the calling of quorums and divisions during two of the meal breaks.

The recommendations are threefold. Firstly, as the committee chair has explained, there is a recommendation that looks at the feasibility of the introduction of a device which would tell members and members of the public exactly what the division is being called for—

The SPEAKER —The time for statements has concluded but I will allow you to make some concluding remarks.

Mr PRICE —I am sorry; I thought I had five minutes. In relation to the committee chair's comments about a preference for the re-location of the Main Committee, that is en-dorsed by all the members of the committee. I for one would say that we even have an opportunity now to make a couple of changes to the existing Main Committee, which would improve the business of the House. That is not within your purview but within the purview of the Deputy Speaker. I commend the report to all honourable members.

Mrs MAY (McPherson) (12.41 p.m.)—I move:

That the House take note of the report.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.