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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1556

Senator LEWIS(5.35) —I move:

That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent-

(a) the debate on the motion to take note of the Australian Trade Union Training Authority Annual Report 1983-84 from continuing; and

(b) at the conclusion of that debate, Senator Lewis moving a motion to take note of Papers tabled this day relating to Resolutions of Meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council.

I want to continue the debate on the Trade Union Training Authority annual report. The reason I do that is that, clearly, so many people are interested in debating the report of the Trade Union Training Authority. It is a matter which concerns both sides of the chamber. Because debate is limited, many of us on this side have sat quietly during speeches on the Trade Union Training Authority and allowed our colleagues opposite to make their speeches to their electorates. That is in effect what they were doing instead of using the very few minutes available to them to enable them to talk about what the Trade Union Training Authority ought to be doing. I had hoped that Senator Cook, in particular, would have talked about worker participation in the light of the recent report by the Metal Trades Industry Association Inc. on worker participation and whether in some way the Trade Union Training Authority could be directed down that path so that it was not only training union people but was also involved in the training of employers. For that reason I believe that the debate should have been continued.

Even more importantly, a matter of absolutely vital importance is listed for debate in the papers presented today and that is paper no. 5, which is the resolution of the Australian Agricultural Council made on 27 September 1984. That paper has come into this Parliament only today. That resolution concerned the problems of the dairy industry of this nation. Apart from the assets test, for the rural community of Australia there is no other major matter of such vital importance to the people of Australia than the problems in the Australian dairy industry. This resolution on 27 September 1984 was a unanimous resolution of the Agricultural Council special meeting. I add that a bit of politics was involved in that because the possibility of an election was floating around at the time. Nevertheless, it was a-

Senator Robert Ray —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I think Senator Lewis is now debating the matters he wants to debate. Of course, he is entitled to indicate why his motion is important-I will not comment on that-but I think he has done that, or failed to do that, already. He is not entitled to debate the matter.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Ray, your point is valid. Nevertheless, I have been listening with some care, being aware of the very great difficulty involved for anyone raising a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. He has to explain what the importance is. Senator Lewis is within bounds at the moment. I ask him not to go too much further in explaining the nature of the debate, but just its importance. The dividing line is a very narrow one.

Senator LEWIS —It is difficult to try to explain to the Senate why this subject is of such vital importance that we should debate it. I appreciate that Senator Robert Ray wants to get on to some other matter which is of major concern to the people of Victoria and not of concern to the dairy farmers. If that is what he wants to do, that is his business. But I am endeavouring to bring to the attention of the national Parliament the problems of the dairy farmers, and particularly the dairy farmers of Victoria. I know that Senator Robert Ray and the Labor senators are not interested in this.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Lewis, you are getting off the point of your argument as to why Standing Orders should be suspended.

Senator LEWIS —But Labor senators invite me to make that comment when they make interjections of that sort in my speech. There is undoubtedly in rural Victoria in particular and in Tasmania enormous concern among dairy farmers. The reason for that concern is that this resolution has taken so long to get into this chamber, and the Senate is not even given the opportunity to debate it. This was the unanimous resolution of the Australian Agricultural Council. It has been rejected by the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin). The Minister proposes to give dairy farmers two months--

Senator Cook —On a point of order, Mr Deputy President, I submit that Senator Lewis is now debating the report. He has exceeded the bounds of speaking to the motion and, indeed, a moment ago was answering interjections. This is hardly a method to debate the proposition that is before the Chair. I think he should be called to order.

Senator Chaney —On the point of order, Mr Deputy President: It seems odd that those who are making disorderly interjections should object to that aspect of the remarks which are being made by Senator Lewis. The explanations Senator Lewis has been giving so far appear to me to direct themselves clearly to the issue of why the Senate should debate this matter now. There has been a long delay. Senator Lewis is addressing himself to the evident interest in this matter and the matter in respect of which Opposition members were leaping to their feet a few moments ago. I suggest that, although Senator Lewis has to tread a narrow path, he is still on it at present.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The only matters that are relevant in a motion of this nature for the suspension of Standing Orders are ones concerned with why Standing Orders should be suspended. That is the importance of the subject. As I explained earlier, the difficulty for the Chair is that matters apparently irrelevant are relevant to that particular motion. But I again ask Senator Lewis to confine himself to why Standing Orders should be suspended and not to reply to any interjections or points of order which might lead him away from that point. I call Senator Lewis.

Senator LEWIS —I am trying to do that, Mr Deputy President, but Senator Cook from Western Australia is not concerned about the dairy industry. It does not bother him.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I particularly asked Senator Lewis not to reply to points of order or to debate interjections.

Senator LEWIS —All I can say is that Senator Cook does not understand. I have moved this motion because the matter is of major concern to the people in at least the eastern States. In Victoria we have the most efficient dry land dairy farmers. They are in real trouble, and in Tasmania they have the same problem. Tasmania also has efficient dairy farmers.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Lewis, you are testing the Chair on this matter. I ask you to limit yourself to the motion before the Chair.

Senator LEWIS —I am trying to explain why it is important for the Senate to debate this matter today. This is the first opportunity we have had to discuss this matter.

Senator Peter Rae —The Government wants to gag it.

Senator LEWIS —I agree with my colleague Senator Peter Rae that apparently the Government wants to gag any debate on the report of the Australian Dairy Industry Conference.

Government senators interjecting-

Senator LEWIS —Mr Deputy President, you are asking me not to respond to interjections, but I must ask you to protect me from the interjections of people like Senator Robert Ray, who does not care about the dairy farmers.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! There are too many interjections coming from Government senators. Senator Lewis has asked for the protection he is entitled to. I was not aware he needed it.

Senator LEWIS —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I have not got around to the Australian Agricultural Council resolution carried at its 121st meeting. That is a full report of the Australian Agricultural Council. The resolution on 27 September 1984 was taken at a special meeting called to consider the dairy marketing problems of the nation. It was a unanimous report and it has now been rejected by the Government. Then the Australian Agricultural Council meeting, held on 11 February 1985, had a full report and included was a follow up report in regard to the dairy industry. What is happening is that as a result of the Government's attempt to prevent the Senate debating these matters, the Senate will not be able to debate today the massive problems of the dairy industry-problems which we should be debating and which are far more important than whatever it is Senator Robert Ray wishes to debate.