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Thursday, 19 September 1985
Page: 760

Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —by leave-I wish to comment briefly on Senator Harradine's remarks. First, in relation to the staff, we inquired about the staff and we were told that, as long as adequate notice was given, that is a quite satisfactory arrangement. I am absolutely appalled by Senator Harradine's suggestion about the Melbourne Cup. Senators such as Sir John Carrick and I have been here for a long time and we are very concerned about the decline in public morality and the work ethic in this community. We sat here year in and year out while the Melbourne Cup was on. If one wanted to hear it one had to vacate one's seat and go out and listen in the passage. There was hardly a senator in the place, but we did not stop work in all those years. Now that Senator Harradine is suggesting it, he puts himself at the spearhead of the decline of the work ethic and we will have things to say to him about that in the next few months. I am sure that an appropriate arrangement can be made for those honourable senators who are desperate about that question.

Apart from that, I have had three suggestions this morning from honourable senators who have spoken on this issue. Senator Chaney suggested that we should sit for longer periods in the year. What he is seeking to attack with that suggestion is the tradition we have in sitting patterns in the Australian Parliament which were laid down in the early part of this century when members came by steamer from Fremantle to Sydney and then by train from Sydney to Canberra if that was appropriate. That pattern of sittings has remained. I agree with the radical proposition which Senator Chaney has put forward; I do not know whether anyone else does. I think we should look at sitting a little longer in the middle of the year and having less rushed sittings at other times. I will seek to have that suggestion examined by the Government.

Senator Chipp made a number of useful suggestions in the same category about rearranging matters of public importance and things of that kind in order to try to get rid of some of the clutter we have in our program and give more time to government business, private members' business and so on. If I might reveal the contents of a private conversation that I had with Senator Harradine when discussing this matter, he said that he would prefer not to sit at all. That may be a position which has some appeal. I commend the proposition to the Senate.