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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 102

The PRESIDENT - Senator Willesee,at this stage of the debate, and only at this stage, I make the comment that to date the practice in this process of developing the functions of standing committees has been for a motion such as you have proposed to be moved upon notice. I pitt this forward only for your consideration,. , and for the consideration of the Minister, that you might follow the practice by .moving an amendment to add words to. trie motion for the second reading. Would you consider an amendment which, expressed , the opinion that the Bill be ref erred., to. . the Standing Committee which you have . just named. I would like Senator Cotton. to comment on the suggestion. '.. ,

Senator Cotton - I would, comment on the suggestion only on the basis that my comment would not be taken aS . a concluding speech but that I may speak' again.

The PRESIDENT - Of course.

Senator Cotton - Your observation is both wise and sensible, Mr President; I think it is close to the point that .Senator Willesee's proposition is out of order... However, we do not want to engage in .a dog .fight on what ought or ought not to he done, We, all recall the closing hours of the last sessional period when . 3 Bills came . to. . the, . Senate from another place, and they, were deferred on the basis that there was insufficient time to deal with them and they," heeded more mature consideration. In- "the 'intervening period those concerned have had an opportunity to give them mature consideration and judgment. This opportunity has been equally available to the manufacturers who are complaining about this proposal. The Minister and the Government believe that the proposal has essential merit and has within it a. great improvement which they are anxious should be explored and developed. This, however, would take some little time.

As a practising senator involved in the task of trying to get the Senate's work through, if this proposal should go to a standing committee - and I hope it will not - I imagine that committee would have to be the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade. The Chairman of that Standing Committee is overseas at present, and the Committee already is inquiring into two subjects. The first is the promotion of trade and commerce with other countries, the operation of Australia's international trade agreements, and the development of trading relations; the second is the determination of prices, measures to prevent unjustifiable price increases, and the establishment of a Prices Surveillance Tribunal. Neither of those tasks is a light undertaking; neither are they tasks that will not consume a tremendous amount of time. If this proposition is to .be referred to a standing committee - presumably the one mentioned - then I would assume that the manufacturers, the Minister and all concerned with these grants, which are substantial and have great public benefit, would face the situation that that benefit would have to cease as from 1st July this year. That appears to be inevitable, as much as I regret it.

Senator Willesee - May I have leave to make a brief statement?

The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator WILLESEE(Western Australia) - Mr President, as a result of your comment, I think it prudent that I should move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time to provide that it be referred to the Committee. The Senate would then not have to go through the procedures of the Committee stage and the third reading stage. That would achieve what I want I have given consideration to the points raised by Senator Cotton - that the Committee has other commitments and that the Chairman, Senator Prowse, is overseas. I myself was overseas in the dying hours of the last sessional period, and although what Senator Cotton had said was reported to me, I understood from Senator Murphy that representations were made to us that the session was in its dying stages and that those concerned did want to look closely at the situation. This prompted us to suggest to the Government, which suggestion was accepted I understand, that consideration be postponed at that stage. I repeat that I did take into consideration that the Standing Committee had other commitments. While I do not want to be taken as telling the Committee what to do, I should imagine it would be able, particularly if this is a short inquiry - which it will be, as I see it - to look at this evidence as it is already in writing. The Committee probably would be able to give this subject priority because it would be able to dispose of it at a very early stage. Accepting your wise guidance, Mr President, I shall move, if you will accept the motion now, that the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade. .

The PRESIDENT - Senator Will:.see will you write out the amendment so we will be quite clear about it. That is in accordance with' Standing Orders, anyway.

Senator Cotton - We are content to rest upon the eternal verities and the combined wisdom of you, Mr President, and the Clerk at the table. We are content to follow the procedure you have recommended, as long as it is regularised.

The PRESIDENT - Very well. We will then proceed with the second reading debate.

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