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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 826

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - It must have been because I had insufficient time that I did not make myself clear. As I stated, it takes longer for me to do so. Evidently Senator Murphy did not gather from my remarks that inconvenience could be caused and that there could be a lack of quality in debates in this chamber because of the necessity to reduce the length of speeches. On numerous occasions I have heard honourable senators say that they are unable to reply to interjections to which they normally would reply, or say to another honourable senator: 'You are trying to take up my precious time' or to Mr President: 'Mr President, I will be quick about completing this argument because my time is limited'. That happens every Wednesday. Undoubtedly there would be more clarity and more expansion of subject matter on the part of the individual senator if he had more time. Therefore inconvenience is caused on occasions. I have experienced it on many occasions.

I acknowledge the need, as Senator Murphy said, to avoid someone monopolising all the broadcasting time and the need to give a chance to someone else. I agree with that. I observe the agreement although I was not a party to it. It was made before I came into this place. I question whether it is needed on those occasions on which we are on the air day after day. I raise the question whether it should be cut out on those days. What 1 am saying is that since time immemorial the Standing Orders of this chamber have permitted a senator to speak for at least an hour and now there is a desire on the part of someone to make the period shorter.

Senator Murphy - The 'someone' is the Standing Orders Committee.

Senator CAVANAGH - A majority of members of the Standing Orders Committee. All they can say is: 'Why do we not write the agreement into the rules?' I think they have an obligation to show, before we make a change, where the existing standing order has created some inconvenience to the Senate. Everyone acknowledges that it has worked well. No-one has any complaint about it. But we are being asked to write in a rule that will take away from senators who come here in the future a right that was written in the rules when we came here. This is a restriction of the liberty of the individual.

Let me say this to Senator Murphy, not in an unkindly way. 'As he usually speaks as the senator introducing a motion or replying to the debate on it, even on those days on which the Senate is on the air he is not restricted by this time limit. If he were, I wonder how, on many of the subjects on which he speaks - the Evidence (Australian Capital Territory) Bill, for instance - he would ever explain himself in that limited time. But that is something with which others have to contend. Evidently others are prepared to contend with it because they have reached agreement on this time limit. I point out that in doing so they are making themselves parties to restricting the rights of individuals who will follow us in this chamber.

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