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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3698

Mr LINDSAY —The first issue on which I dissent from the majority recommendation of the Committee is contained in paragraph 52 of the report which says:

It is recommended that a Business Committee be established by the House to facilitate the orderly programming of business and that the membership of the committee be the Speaker-

The paragraph then contains a number of suggestions as to the constitution of the committee and recommends that it include two so-called experienced back benchers. I take serious issue with this recommendation. I support the statements made by the Leader of the House (Mr Young) that the Government must have an unfettered discretion to program the business of the House, not only to carry out its legislative program, but also to enable it to respond to the exigencies of government. My dissenting report gains substance from remarks contained in paragraph 48 of the report which says:

. . . the committee believes . . . that this role would best be carried out by a Business Committee.

It then goes on to suggest in paragraph 49 that:

The establishment of a Business Committee . . . should result in maximum time being allocated to substantive and debatable issues, a more predictable and definite program including the setting of agreed times for holding divisions, a reduction in the use of the closure and a reduced need for the Opposition to resort to disruptive tactics to ensure its voice is heard.

I simply point out that the Leader of the House, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), has run this House efficiently and with impeccable administration. During the years that I have been a member of this House I have not heard one back bencher, either in General Business or in the adjournment debate, ever complain about the constitution of our daily program or the need for a business committee to carry out the suggestions made by the Procedure Committee. Indeed, the only time that I have ever heard a complaint from the Opposition or a suggestion that something might be awry with the daily program was when the right honour- able member for New England (Mr Sinclair) was Leader of the House under the previous Government. Therefore as I see it, the recommendation contained in paragraph 52 of the report simply does not have substance and I believe that the Committee has not adduced sufficient information to support that recommendation.

I further dissent from the recommendation contained in paragraphs 62 and 63, which deal with private members' business. I maintain that there is ample opportunity here most nights for honourable members to speak in the adjournment debate and on the second readings of various Bills. Indeed on a number of occasions, if honourable members cared to check the speakers list from both the Opposition and Government sides, they would find that sometimes there are insufficient speakers on very important pieces of legislation with which this House must deal. In addition to that there are grievance debates and matters of general business which come before this House. On those occasions there is no evidence of a rush by speakers to involve themselves in taking the time of the House to address important issues.

I also dissent from the recommendation to re-establish legislation committees. Legislation committees were used for some time during the time of the Fraser Government. The reasons for their collapse are unclear. I do not know whether it was anything to do with the failure of those committees to deal adequately with technical Bills or whether they became an arena for lawyers to get involved in the trafficking of legal opinion on the best way to deal with a Bill. However, the fact is that legislation committees were abandoned under the Fraser Government. I do not see where any evidence has been adduced by this Committee in its report which would support the reintroduction of legislation committees.

Finally, I believe that the place for debate with respect to Bills introduced in this Parliament rests in this chamber. This is the premier place in Australia where debate should be had on any Bill affecting the future of our country. The House can resolve into a Committee of the Whole whenever that is necessary. This is the premier place of our land where legislation should be debated, not transferred to a back room, to a legislation committee where people can take it point by point, comma by comma and get away from the thrust and cut of debate, which is so necessary to expose the weaknesses or the strengths of a Bill, that I believe happens here in this Parliament under the leadership of a very competent and able Leader of the House, the honourable member for Port Adelaide.

Having regard to the fact that there is only 10 minutes left in this debate, I simply place on record my dissent from these three major recommendations contained in the report. Otherwise, I support the report and commend its proposals to the House.