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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2415

Senator WEST (11.57 a.m.) —Senator Patterson and I were here at hearings until 1.30 this morning, so perhaps the chamber will bear with us. As chair of the community affairs committee, I do not deny any senator the right to come into this chamber and, in the committee stage, propose amendments, to seek information and so on. But I would just point out that this bill went to the community affairs committee not once, but twice. Section 2, which deals with the disability issues, was specifically referred to it.

  It is not as if people did not know it was referred to the committee because it appeared in the selection of bills to committees reports, so it was publicised. I do not think I am that draconian a chair that people would feel hesitant to approach me about witnesses from whom they might like us to hear.

Senator Crowley —Absolutely not, Senator—not draconian.

Senator WEST —I thank the minister. We also had hearings on Monday mornings because there were people who were unable to make Friday meetings as they had previous commitments. As a committee we get a lot of legislation and we are open to hearing from senators if they wish to call people. We are not going to say, `You cannot do it.'

  I would just place on record some of my frustration at this taking such a long time and my disappointment that some of these issues were not able to be canvassed more fully in the standing committee hearings. It almost makes our committee hearings appear to be a bit of a waste of time. I am not sure why I spent two days at hearings and why the committee secretariat also had work to do. The staging of hearings for a standing committee takes the secretariat about a week's work; it has to build up to it with the calling of the witnesses, the negotiations with various members of the committee as to whom they would like to hear from, the liaison with the department to ensure that submissions are tendered to the committee, and vice versa. The committee secretariat virtually has to spend two weeks working to get things organised pre and post these hearings. I just feel a little bit tired and frustrated that the hard work of the secretariat has been—not wasted, but that it has not been utilised as well as it could have been.