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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2720

Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) - I advise that the Opposition will not support the motion at this stage. I am well aware of the reasons for it given by Senator Willesee. He is talking about sitting on Friday of this week, the following week and the week after. There is no commitment that the Senate will rise on 13 December, irrespective of what is shown on the notice paper. I understand that the Government cannot make such a commitment. If one looks at the state of the notice paper since the beginning of the Budget session one sees that last week was almost the only week in which the Senate did not pass any Bill that was presented during the week. I say this not in criticism but as a matter of fact. If the Family Law Bill, which took up 1 or 2 days, had not intruded into the debate last week I believe that when we went home at 10.30 p.m. last Thursday the notice paper would have been almost cleaned up.

I do not suppose that many honourable senators in this place bother to read what I term my weekly statistical bulletin' which I have put out for nearly 2 years. If one examines that bulletin, it is seen that week in and week out the situation is that say, 5 Bills have been introduced and 5 Bills have been passed or that 9 Bills have been introduced and 9 Bills have been passed. If one examines the notice paper at present, apart from the Family Law Bill- which I understand will take some time to deal with- the rest of the Bills would not necessarily occupy much of the time of the Senate. It appears as though an enormous number of Bills will be coming into the Senate but all honourable senators are aware that a number of those Bills will be dealt with in cognate debates. Whilst I understand that there are perhaps another 50 or 60 Bills to come from another place, 1 imagine that we will have cognate debates so that the number of debates might be reduced to thirty.

I do not believe that sitting the extra time on Fridays is either good for us personally or good for the Senate. I do not believe we should sit the hours suggested. By doing so we would not achieve much extra. I believe that with the normal good sense and co-operation which is shown across the chamber- providing that the Government does not introduce legislation at the last minute of which we have no warning and of which there has been no time for consideration in another place- the Government ought to be able to achieve its program by our sitting the present hours. I well understand why honourable members in the other place sit longer hours. I am also well aware that in this place, whilst we have greater opportunities for speaking and greater opportunities for asking questions, we number only half of our colleagues in the other place. For all these reasons the Opposition cannot see at this stage why we ought to start sitting on Fridays. In the last week it may be fair enough to sit on the Friday in order to complete the notice paper and to ensure that we do not come back the following week. At that stage there may be a good argument for sitting longer hours. With 3 weeks to go in this sessional period I think it is far too early to decide to sit longer hours.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Willesee's) be agreed to.

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