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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4801

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (9:38 AM) —I will be brief. Senator Brown makes some very good points that deserve a response. I was here, as you were, Madam Acting Deputy President Knowles, when our old friend Christabel Chamarette, then Senator Chamarette, moved this motion. In fact, history should record that it was one member of the other place—in the body of the member for O'Connor, Mr Wilson Tuckey, another friend of mine—who came up with this idea and gave it to Christabel. If you had a yarn with Christabel, Senator Brown, she would tell you about it. Christabel would also tell you that we envisaged, and the Senate envisaged, at the time that there would be exemptions from the cut-off. The government in these sittings, just to make sure that the record is clear, has sought exemption and received it for only one bill.

These bills, as is normal practice for me as the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, were advised to senators. We distributed a list of legislation that we hoped to have dealt with during the sittings. I wrote to Senator Brown and other leaders and whips with a list on 8 August, some time before the session started, and indicated not only the bills that we wanted to deal with but also those that would require exemption from the cut-off. I think it is fair to say that, although there are a number that may need the cut-off, a much larger number fall within the requirements of standing order 111: the agriculture, fisheries and forestry legislation; the plant breeders rights amendment bill; the plant health Australia funding bill; the Torres Strait fisheries amendment bill; the ASIO legislation; the bankruptcy amendments; the copyright bills; the criminal code legislation; the customs legislation; the family law amendment bills; the family law legislation; the jurisdiction of courts legislation; the marriage amendment bill; the proceeds of crime package; the sex discrimination package; the broadcasting services bill and so on. Most of the bills that we seek to deal with in this session will not need exemption from the cut-off, but there are some.

The ones that we are debating today are the Dairy Industry Legislation Amendment Bill 2002 and the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002. The government—as Senator Brown knows, but I think is important for the public at large to know—distributed detailed reasons for the urgency and I think Senator Brown has referred to those. I think it is unfair to characterise the ministers responsible as dilatory or lazy. The ministers involved are neither dilatory nor lazy, and I do not think that is a fair way of describing those ministers. An enormous number of people are involved in the work of bringing forward legislation to this chamber. There are the public servants who are the draftspeople, and the industry groups and the quasi-government organisations who need to be consulted. There is an enormous amount of work that goes into bringing these sorts of bills before this place and, of course, the government is very keen to ensure that the Senate looks at them closely. Only recently the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee considered these pieces of legislation and no senator sought to have either of those bills referred to committees for further consideration. That sends a signal to me that, generally speaking, no senator wanted to see those bills get further consideration by a legislation committee. Many bills in this place do go to those committees and get extra consideration.

That is not to say that Senator Brown is not right about the extent that senators may wish to use extra time to have a look at some of these bills. You do not necessarily have to send the bill to a legislation committee or a reference committee to have that extra work done. A senator may wish to do that extra work in their own office and talk with people. That is exactly why standing order 111 is there. Also, the Senate recognises that there will be occasions when you need to exempt bills from standing order 111. Christabel Chamarette envisaged these occasions when she moved the motion with the support of the coalition parties and I think the process has worked successfully. I do not run away from a debate about the issue. It is a sound standing order. It is one that we support but we also support our democratic right from time to time to seek an exemption from it.