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Thursday, 16 October 2003
Page: 21655

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (3:05 PM) —Mr Speaker, my question to you follows on from the honourable member's question in respect of the arrangements for the joint sitting of parliament. I refer to the advice from you and the President of the Senate to members and senators today, which advises:

Members will occupy their usual seats, with senators being allocated seats between members or spare seats.

Prior to coming down for question time, the attendant, through the internal mail system, handed to me a proposed plan for those seating arrangements which does not reflect that advice. Members from this part of the chamber, including me, are proposed to be seated elsewhere. For the present, I quite like sitting where I am, and I wonder if you could clarify the advice, please.

The SPEAKER —The member for Perth's comments are entirely accurate, but what happened subsequent to the letter being sent out was that the whips, not unreasonably, approached the Speaker's office to say—I hope I am representing both the Chief Government Whip and the Chief Opposition Whip fairly—that they had mutually agreed on an alternative plan. It was not a matter that caused me any alarm and that is why the plan that has been distributed to you is not the plan that I had originally envisaged. The alternative plan does not, however, involve opposition members sitting on the government side or government members sitting on the opposition side, so I am not anticipating that there would be any difficulty with members over that alternative plan.