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Wednesday, 13 September 1972
Page: 765

Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) - I second the amendment. There are a number of points which, I think, ought to be brought out at this time in relation to the programme of sitting hours and related matters. First, I think that all honourable senators must accept that the programming of the work of the Senate is lamentable, lt has never been different in the 7 years that 1 have been here. 1 wonder why somebody does not take the trouble, as is taken in other countries, to get to work to determine some sort of programme for the business of the Senate. This is done in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The system of disposing of the business there enables members of the Parliament to know what is going on and the particular times at which divisions will be taken. Some definite genuine and serious attempt should be made to programme the business of the Senate better.

Our sittings resume on the very day when the House of Representatives resumes. We then sit here fiddling around with inconsequential matters that have been on the notice paper for months and months when we might be doing some electorate work or some serious committee work. This would be preferable to the Senate in toto being called together at the same time as the House of Representatives. The reason why business is rushed through at the end of the session is that it is introduced into the Senate virtually in the dying hours of the session. We have drawn attention to this state of affairs on so many occasions, hut there does not seem to be any real attempt made to reach a solution of the problem.

Something which seems to have been overlooked or forgotten in relation to the proposed new sitting hours is the work of the committees of the Senate. Dramatic changes have occurred in the past several years in the way in which the Senate carries out its business. By arrangement, committees sit in the hours which have been suggested now as hours at which the Senate as a whole should sit. What will happen to the work of these committees? Are these committees to lapse while we await the convenience of somebody to indicate when the session is to close and how we are to dispose of the business that will come before the Senate? I think that I can say on behalf of the Opposition here and now that we will not oppose the passage of the Budget proposals. We will pass them through the Senate with the greatest expedition. We have no desire to hold them up. 1 think that there would be an accommodation on this side of the Senate, with the will of the Government, to pass that legislation so that its provisions may become operative. I am talking of the legislation relating to social services and matters of that kind which, as proposed, will be of benefit to the community.

The senators already are working at capacity. We must take into account the fact that frequently before the formal sitting of the Senate commences each day many of us have attended the meetings of 2 or 3 committees. Are we to dispense with the work of these committees? Are we to suspend that activity which has become such a fundamental and valuable part of the operations of the Senate? Are we to sit here and to wait for legislation to come from the other place while the work of these committees is suspended? Although I will conclude my remarks now, I could say a number of things about the strain upon the physical and other resources of the members of the Senate. But I will content myself with saying that I sincerly hope that the Senate will support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Murphy.

Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.

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