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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2812

Senator McMULLAN (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (3.25 p.m.) —I want to speak to this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders—unlike Senator Bishop, who did not. I accept that during recent operations in the Senate a fairly high level of cooperation has been shown by those on both sides of the chamber. We have been working cooperatively.

  Senator Bishop stood up and, without anyone on this side of the chamber being paid the courtesy of being advised what the issue was that we were supposed to be debating, sought leave to take note of an answer. She had plenty time to do that. That advice could have been given during the last 30 or 40 minutes. We could have had a discussion about adopting a procedure which would have enabled the smooth operation of the Senate and some debate to take place.

  Even then, to allow the Opposition to show the extent to which it is genuine about this motion, at the conclusion of his comments Senator Button indicated that we were prepared, if a reasonable request were made, to reconsider the position in respect of granting leave. But Senator Bishop got up and absolutely abused the Standing Orders by making the speech that she otherwise intended to make. At least we assume that it was the same speech that she had intended to make. If she had a better argument, I assume she would have used it; but it was a pretty weak old argument.

  As a consequence, if there ever were initially a case for the suspension of the Standing Orders when Senator Hill got up, there is absolutely none now. If there were some important matter of searing national importance that needed to be aired—

Senator Macdonald —Who the Prime Minister is is fairly important.

Senator McMULLAN —I am delighted to say that it is going to be Mr Hawke, and not Dr Hewson, for quite a long time to come.

  There is now absolutely no case for the suspension of Standing Orders. To the extent that there ever was an issue to be aired, it has been aired somewhat indirectly and obliquely, but at least in accordance with the Standing Orders, by Senator Hill. I thought Senator Bishop was absolutely in flagrant breach of the Standing Orders. But she spoke as comprehensively as she was able to. If initially there was a case for the suspension of the Standing Orders, there is now none. Therefore, I urge the Senate to reject the motion for suspension of Standing Orders.