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Tuesday, 8 May 1984
Page: 1767

Senator ROBERT RAY(10.03) —Just for the record, this reference was given by the Senate with one of the tightest deadlines ever inasmuch as the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has to report back by 31 May. The reference was moved on Thursday or Friday of last week. What are we effectively seeking to do to meet that deadline? First of all, I suppose we have to advertise that we are looking at the matter. I doubt whether that is even under way. We have a meeting tomorrow morning when we will probably authorise that. If we are to meet that deadline we really have to ask to meet on three days-29, 30 and 31 May-or probably the first two of those days. I guess the only reason for meeting on the 31st will be to ask for an extension of time.

Senator Jack Evans —No extensions will be granted.

Senator ROBERT RAY —No extensions will be granted, I am informed by Senator Jack Evans. That means that we simply have to meet in that period. I do not mind meeting tomorrow. We will have the hearing tomorrow, but we will not have any witnesses or any reasonable hearing. That is the first point. The second point to be made is this. Senator Harradine said that some contentious issues are coming up in the next few weeks. What is contentious is in the eye of the beholder; nevertheless, he can rest assured that we will keep an eye on those issues. We are not suggesting that we will sit hour after hour and not take any notice of what is happening in here. As Senator Harradine knows, we in the Labor Party get informed by our colleagues about how a debate is going at a particular point of time.

Finally, today a disgraceful question was asked here by a certain Liberal senator who accused some of us by generalisation of not pulling our weight in the Senate committee system because the little fancy reports are not coming out. Yet here an Australian Democrat, three Labor senators and two Liberal senators are proposing not only to carry out our normal senatorial duties but also to have this inquiry to enable us to bring in a report to this place. The only way we can do that is by meeting on sitting days. We would rather not do that. It is wrong in principle to meet on sitting days. But it is wrong of the Opposition to keep on referring material to committees, especially to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations which seems to be the victim in this place; it cops everything. Yet we are supposed to report back to the Senate when we cannot meet. I acknowledge that part of Senator Harradine's criticisms is quite valid. We really have two bad choices. What we are saying is that we think that is the lesser of the two bad choices.

Question resolved in the affirmative.