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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1436

Senator RICHARDSON —Will the Minister for Finance indicate when the Government will be responding to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Television Equalisation which was tabled on Monday, 23 March?

Senator WALSH —The response of the Government has now been determined. Indeed, I table the response which has been provided by Mr Duffy. It remains the Government's view that the principal recommendations of the majority report-namely, that the equalisation Bills as agreed to by the House of Representatives in November last year be passed by the Senate and that the Government should seek to provide three commercial television services throughout regional Australia as soon as possible-should be carried out.

Senator Harradine —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Is it appropriate for a Minister to respond to the report of a select committee of the Parliament through the medium of an answer to a question without notice?

Senator Chaney —Mr President, on the point of order: I was going to seek leave to move a motion to take note of the statement. This is a totally irregular procedure. It is certainly one which has never been seen in this chamber before. I believe that the Minister should be asked to make a statement in the normal way instead of abusing Question Time in this way.

The PRESIDENT —I will rule on the point of order. Senator Richardson asked when the report was going to be tabled. There is nothing to stop the Minister tabling it. However, I do not think that this is the best time to begin discussing the detail of what has been tabled. I suggest that some other method could be used.

Senator Gareth Evans —Are you allowing him to go on?

The PRESIDENT —I am suggesting to Senator Walsh that he could seek another time to speak at length on the report.

Senator WALSH —I did not intend to speak at length, Mr President. I thought honourable senators were anxious to know the Government's response to the report. The only thing I have to add is that the Minister for Communications will introduce appropriate legislation later in this session. As to the abuse of Question Time, it is consistently abused by the Opposition every day.