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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2149

Senator FERGUSON (10.23 a.m.) —I will be brief. I cannot let Senator Chamarette get away with talking about terminology such as `rolling over' and referring to it as perhaps being sexist. I do not know what world Senator Chamarette lives in, but that term has been around for as long as I have been around. One would have to live the sheltered life of the Western Australian Greens, I think, not to realise that it has very broad implications, and one of those is not what the honourable senator would choose to imply.

  I wondered how long it would be before we were back debating the sitting hours of this chamber. I remember that it was only a short couple of months ago that, for the sake of my health, Senator Faulkner and the government, along with the Greens and the Democrats, said that we should not sit after 8 o'clock.

Senator Chamarette —This is a helpful reminder of how right we were.

Senator FERGUSON —It is a helpful reminder because Senator Chamarette has said that there is important business that has to be passed. We had business last week to do with senators' interests; it has been on the books for some 10 or 11 years. It was considered important enough to take up 2 1/2 hours of valuable time to debate that as part of a deal that was done with the government by the minor parties—yes, they rolled over again. If it was considered so important that we spend 2 1/2 hours on that, we could have spent those 2 1/2 hours debating this important legislation that the honourable senator says she must help the government to get through.

  It is all very well for the minor parties. We are supposed to finish at 8 o'clock, but those who are concerned with the business of this chamber and the committees that work with it find that we are not finishing at 8 o'clock.

  I was at a Senate estimates committee meeting until nearly 10.30 last night; other estimates committees met at 7.30 this morning. Yet you were a part of making sure that the debates that go on in this chamber finish at 8 o'clock. Part of that is because both you, as a member of the Greens, and the Democrats do not even bother with some of the institutions of this chamber. You do not bother to go to estimates committees, where we on this side of the chamber legitimately question the spending of the budget and the legitimate spending of taxpayers' money. You do not bother, so you are quite happy to finish at 8 o'clock and go home—

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Zakharov)—Senator Ferguson, could I remind you to address your remarks through the chair.

Senator FERGUSON —I am sorry, Madam Acting Deputy President. The Greens and the other parties, if I may say so, do not bother to take part in those other committees, which are important to the efficient running of this chamber. In the time I have been here, the only Democrat senator that I can remember seeing at an estimates committee was former Senator Sowada, who did at least take some in interest in those matters that were of concern, or should have been of concern, to the Democrats. I find it very difficult to understand the motives of the Democrats and the Greens, who supported the view that the chamber should finish no later than 8 o'clock, for the sake of my health. Yet as soon as the government puts a little bit of pressure on to get some business through—which this week is important but last week was not important, because there were other things it wanted to put on the agenda—they agree. I cannot find in my heart any support for their position that we should finish at 8 o'clock if they are immediately going to say, when something important comes on, `We will sit till any time to make sure it gets through'.