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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6324

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (9:36 AM) —by leave—I would like to make a short statement on the same matter. It strikes me that there is a key thing for us to deal with here in relation to this legislation— and I think it is important to realise that there have been attempts made around the chamber to accommodate the vast majority of, if not all, senators who have an interest in the two bills currently before the Senate until lunchtime today, when consideration will cease until the next sittings period, which was something agreed around the chamber.

The key thing is that we have been able to establish a good mechanism for informal dialogue about chamber arrangements. Senator Harradine's point is that that needs to continue. As we work through a debate that has sparked, as we all know and would expect, a great degree of interest and involvement from senators—and by its nature that will continue as we move through the committee stages of the two bills—there ought to be a commitment on the part of not only the government and the Manager of Government Business in the Senate but all other senators to ensure that we keep maximum cooperation and consultation as we work through the mechanism for this chamber to deal with this legislation. I am sure that the Manager of Government Business would agree that it is one thing to put down a notice of motion about the parameters of debate; it is another thing for us to look at dealing with chamber management issues outside the chamber. That is the key thing: we need to keep that dialogue and consultation going.

I hope there is no intention by the government, in giving such a notice of motion, not to continue the process, the modus operandi, that we have established in relation to the continuation of the arrangements for this bill. It is important that the Manager of Government Business in this circumstance indicate to the Senate that that is his clear intention, which he can do via interjection across the chamber, or otherwise. That is the key thing. Sure, the Senate itself is the master of its own destiny; sure, the Senate has to deal with its routine of business and sitting times. But we also have to keep—informally, outside the context of debate on the floor of this chamber—the dialogue and consultation going about managing a debate in which there is an extraordinary degree of involvement and interest from senators around the chamber.

I hope that is the spirit in which the Manager of Government Business has proposed this particular notice of motion. If it is, with that understanding, we ought to just get on with it and appreciate the fact that there will need to be a lot of dialogue and a lot of tick-tacking between government, opposition, minor party and independent senators in this chamber to work through this management task—which is a complex management task—in the time that is available to us.