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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 641

Senator KEMP —by leave—In giving the reasons why Senator McMullan was not here, Senator Gareth Evans I think went to the nub of how particular approvals are granted for ministers to take leave from the chamber. One would have thought that when Senator McMullan came to see Senator Evans, or made a formal request for leave of absence from the Senate, he would have given Senator Evans a very clear reason why he had to go. What Senator Evans revealed today is that he did not have a clue why Senator McMullan had to take this immediate leave and could not be present at question time today.

  The point I am making is that Senator Evans, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, has a responsibility to ensure that ministers turn up to answer questions and, if they cannot, that a proper reason and explanation is given. It is very clear that Senator Evans was prepared to give a nod and a wink without knowing the full facts of this matter. My questions to Senator Evans are these: on what basis does he give approval to ministers to absent themselves from question time; does he seek proper reasons; and if he does, why did he not seek a proper reason in this case?

The PRESIDENT —This is not question time, so it is up to Senator Evans whether he wants to respond.