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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 117


Senator LUDWIG (4:07 PM) —There are a couple of issues in relation to this matter but at this point we are only dealing with exemption from the cut-off. I do not particularly want to refer to the record on these issues but there is, as Senator Nettle clearly pointed out, a limited amount of time available. I think that is clear to everybody. We would expect the government to be able, in a very short space of time, to provide a definitive priority list of the bills they want to deal with so that we can start looking at the substance of the issue.

With respect to the bills that have not yet been introduced, an exemption from the cut-off is not being sought today and I cannot comment on them. Nor can I try to second-guess how many bills the government may seek to exempt from the cut-off, how many may be controversial and how many may not be controversial. Those are matters we will have to determine on their merits when they are presented to us and we will then deal with those matters in the way I have spoken about earlier. We will deal with them having regard to the principle of whether the government does require the bills—whether they are urgent and whether the government can demonstrate that to us. There is merit in the government's being able to provide that list. At least I think we can agree that these are unusual times in that we have, in effect, only two weeks and one day of sittings remaining, and it would be helpful for everyone in the chamber to be provided—at some point when the government can provide it to us; I am not asking for it now—with the legislative program that the government expects to be able to get through in the time available.

As I indicated earlier today, the purpose of the cut-off motion is to avoid this unseemly end-of-year rush when we all try to work additional hours. People get tired and cranky and cannot then reflect upon bills in the appropriate way. If we can structure a situation to ensure that that does not happen, it would certainly be helpful to me and to my colleagues. In essence, we might not be able to avoid some of the matters coming before us because we may be required to deal with them because of their urgent nature or because of certain start-up dates, but in those instances the government will have to make the case and persuade us that the legislation is urgent and needs to be dealt with. Of course, the government may not want to deal with some of those bills between now and the end of the sittings for this year. I have not heard from the government about which bills they require to be dealt with. Some bills may be sent to a committee and, as a consequence, may not be available to be dealt with. So it would be helpful if the government took on board my comments and those of Senator Nettle to ensure that, at least in this period before 1 July, we have an open and accountable government that is willing to share information.