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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 181

Senator ROBERT RAY (Acting Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (11.06 a.m.) —In summing up the debate, I thank all honourable senators for their contributions; I thank them all for claiming credit for this. I put it on the record that I claim no credit in putting this forward, none whatsoever.

  A few points have been raised, the last one being about the allocation of portfolios and committees. I am sure that Senator Ferguson would understand just how difficult this is, especially getting a Senate estimates pattern. We have tried to allocate one minister to each estimates committee, for consistency's sake. That does not entirely replicate who that minister represents in this chamber on behalf of the other chamber either.

  It is really up to the committees to try to sort out, rather than in a territorial way, where there is an existing reference and how it continues on. That will require goodwill, as six of the reference committees will be controlled by the opposition and two by the Democrats. I am sure there will be no disagreement amongst those opposite in the power sharing with the division of these particular references! But if they cannot agree, we will use our numbers and sort it out for them.

  At this stage, before I depart and before I get ruled out of order, I would like to give a procedural highlight. We have another eight items to consider. When we conclude this item and I leave the chamber, Senator Schacht will move them in toto. I understand that there are two amendments which have been circulated.

  The government has listened to Senator Harradine's amendment; this is the one to delete the reference. We are not signed up for it. Senator Bourne may move it on Senator Harradine's behalf or he himself may move it. We do not see the necessity for it, but we certainly would not divide over it. We can see some merit in it, some against.

  The second is an opposition amendment about, really, the government responding to minority reports and/or all others. We have never been keen about this. We again will not divide on it. However, I want to put down for the record that, if this is carried, we will try to abide by it. But if it is totally abused, if 15 participating members all turn up and put in their own individual dissenting reports, we will only respond to each of those with no comment and we then would have formally met the request. Obviously, we will not do it in terms of genuine minority reports because, let us face it, I suspect that on a lot of these reference committees the minority reports will be by my good colleagues over here. We would want to also perhaps commend them for the hard work they have done. For the record, the government will attempt to abide by this particular item, unless it is abused—and then we will give it lip service. In terms of the rest of the matters, I have not detected another amendment around the chamber.

Senator Hill —I am going to suggest one other very small change.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Just indicate it now.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Chapman)—Are you seeking leave to speak?

Senator Hill —Yes.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is granted.