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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1397

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - 1 am grateful to the Senate for the indications of acceptance of the proposal. As I have already indicated, I think the modifications suggested by the Government are reasonable. It may be that in some cases a motion will be needed on a particular day in order to enable a debate to proceed or perhaps not to proceed. But that is envisaged because a motion to this effect can be moved at any time. This is contemplated by the words contained in this motion - 'unless otherwise ordered'. So it would be quite competent for the Senate to otherwise order and to extend, reduce or otherwise alter its arrangements in order that we might be able to dispose of the business. That does not change the position under the Standing Orders.

Suggestions also were made that because the words 'unless otherwise ordered' were contained in the reference to the limitation of speaking time to 30 minutes, which is introduced by the amendment, this somehow would be confined to certain persons. It is quite open to the Senate under that proposition - indeed, it is quite open even without that proposition being included in the motion - to grant an extension of time to meet the circumstances of any person. It may be that, if we were pushed for time towards the end of a session of Parliament and we wanted to conclude a debate, the Senate would order the time to be reduced. In other words, it is open to us to deal with these matters to meet the circumstances in which we are placed. No doubt, the Senate will endeavour to do this wisely. Perhaps at the end of a session occasions arise when, according to the minority opinion the Senate may not deal with matters altogether wisely.

The only difficulty that seems to have arisen is the request by the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) for certain assurances to be given. I think J should say this in fairness: No assurance can be given and no agreement can be reached. I say that because we do not want the suggestion made at some later stage that some agreement was broken. So 1 make it plain that no agreement is made and that no assurance is given. Having said that, I will say this to the Minister: I have been one who has endeavoured to have time saved by the incorporation of documents and speeches. In fact, I think I initiated this by suggestions to leaders of the Government. 1 indicate that 1 intend to use any influence that 1 may have in order to see that any waste of time is cut down by the use of shortcuts. Of course, it has been indicated by Senator Cant and others that this may mean that there ought to be reciprocity. The Minister for Air aud his colleagues ought not to decline leave to speak to members of the Opposition and others when they want to reduce the time involved in reading documents. This should cut both ways. My intention would be that we should have as many short cuts as possible. We may reach times of friction and difficulty when it will not be possible to do this, lt is always open to an honourable senator to exercise his rights under the Standing Orders and refuse leave. As Senator Cant has said, there are ways in which that can be dealt with.

Those are matters for the Standing Orders and they are not being touched by this proposal. This is an important extension of the rights of honourable senators. The right given here - to have debates on reports of committees - is additional to the time devoted to General Business, lt is additional to the discussion which may take place on a money Bill. ft. is additional to the discussion which may take place at any other time on reports or other matters. It seemed to me that it was a reasonable way to deal with the matters. There could be other ways. I would like the Senate to try this way and let us see how we get on with it. If it needs to be altered in some way, let us do it. I thank the Senate for the indications of support for the motion. As I have indicated, I support the amendments which have been proposed.

The PRESIDENT - The question is: That the amendments moved by Senator Drake-Brockman be agreed to'.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

The PRESIDENT - The question now is: 'That Senator Murphy's motion, as amended, be agreed to'.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN(Western Australia - Minister for Air) - by leave - I wish to answer one or two points made by Senator Cant. I thought that Senator Carrick and Senator Murphy covered the 2 points very well. This is a bonus session for back benchers. As Senator Murphy said, honourable senators have all the present facilities -

Senator Murphy - ft is a bonus session lor everybody.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - It is a bonus session for everybody. At the present time, honourable senators can use all the facilities of the Senate to put their points of view and have their say on various subjects on which they wish to speak. Now, 2 extra hours will be available. Senator Cant spoke about my amendment which limits the time of speeches to 30 minutes. This provides an even greater facility for honourable senators because, under the motion as it stood. 2 speakers could have taken up the whole of the 2 hours that was allotted. So this amendment gives the back bencher an even greater chance to make a speech.

Senator Cant - If this is the way you conduct an analysis it is no wonder that the economy of Australia is in a mess.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I understand that the present arrangement is that if you want to speak on a Thursday evening you are allowed to speak for 1 hour.

The PRESIDENT - I suggest: to honourable senators and the Minister that senators should not be addressed as 'you'. I think the proprieties should be observed by all honourable senators. Tonight we are dealing with the problems of the Senate.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - All I am saying is that the resolution the Senate has just carried will allow greater opportunity for honourable senators to speak in debates, particularly on reports made by Senate committees. I think this is a good move. The Senate should test this procedure to see how it works. If it does not work we can always change it so that it will work. The Senate has decided tonight to give it a try. As a result honourable senators will have an even greater opportunity to discuss Senate committee reports and to raise other matters that they want to raise.

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