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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 706


Senator COLSTON (9.48 a.m.) —I would like to apologise to Senator Harradine. I had asked the secretary of Estimates Committee F to contact him this morning to explain the circumstances surrounding this matter. Apparently there was either insufficient time or the secretary could not contact Senator Harradine for some reason. There was no discourtesy meant towards Senator Harradine. In fact, I specifically asked that he be advised. I also asked that the Australian Democrats and the Greens be advised. I hope that they were. I asked the secretary to talk to Senator Reid this morning about the matter, as she is the whip for the opposition.

  The circumstances are that Estimates Committee F is meeting on Thursday and Friday. After having a look at the times for which the minister and you, Mr President, are available for the estimates for the parliament, it seemed to me that there was insufficient time to be able to deal with the matters in Estimates Committee F in those two days. I then faced the possibility of working very late into Friday night, which would not be particularly acceptable to most senators, or delaying some of the estimates to the following week when we were all back in parliament anyway.

  So I explored the possibility of working partly on Wednesday. The intention is to start at three o'clock Wednesday afternoon and then work through into the evening. I checked with senators—particularly Senator Tambling, and I think there was one other senator as well—on Estimates Committee F who have particular interests in Wednesday afternoon's program, namely, housing and regional development. I did that because those senators have interests in another committee which is sitting on that day. It was acceptable to them and to the minister to come on the day before, starting at three o'clock. I thought that, as far as possible, we covered all bases so that those senators who were interested would be able to attend and would not miss any of the other departments appearing before other committees.

  I also spoke to Senator Reynolds, who is chairing Estimates Committee C. She is exploring the possibility of scheduling departmental appearances, so there is less likelihood of the two committees clashing. Again, I do not like having four estimates committees meeting at once. However, it does give senators a better opportunity to pursue their matters of interest. The committee will not be meeting until three o'clock in the afternoon, by which time senators on other committees who wish to attend F for this particular department will have completed their business on those other committees.