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Wednesday, 16 October 1985
Page: 1350

Senator CHANEY —Leader of the Opposition)-by leave-I have had an opportunity of discussing this proposal with the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Button, and I think that he and I are in agreement. If what I say is not exactly what Senator Button's view is I apologise, but I think that we are in broad agreement about why we have refused leave on this occasion. The position is that the Democrats were seeking to institute a new procedure which would have entitled them or any senator to introduce a plan for a Bill and to have that dealt with by the speech being incorporated in Hansard, and so on. On the face of it, that seems an interesting and useful suggestion. The reasons for the reservations that were felt by the Opposition, and apparently also by the Government, were that we have a quite generous procedure in this place for dealing with private members' Bills. As the Democrats well know, because they frequently use the procedure, it is easy to bring a Bill forward and the Senate always permits it to get it to the second reading stage and to have the Bill on the Notice Paper for consideration. One then has an opportunity-this applies to the Opposition and the Democrats-to bring Bills forward in General Business. We have a quite generous set of procedures for dealing with Bills, and that is to the good.

What is now proposed is a procedure which may be a useful adjunct but, on the other hand, it is difficult to see from the statement that Senator Siddons was good enough to circulate what the limits on that procedure would be. One could almost deal with any General Business notice of motion on the basis that it was a proposal for legislation and that therefore one was entitled to incorporate a speech and things of that sort. Frankly, I do not see what the limits are to this, and I think the Leader of the Senate, Senator Button, had the same difficulty. We could envisage it being a procedure which, though on the face of it reasonable, could be abused and used in a way that was counter-productive. For that reason, and I understand with the concurrence of the Government, I move:

That the following matter be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for inquiry and report as soon as possible:

The procedure proposed by Senator Siddons with respect to the introduction of Bills in the Senate.

If the Senate would go along with that, it would give us a chance to give serious consideration to the limits that might be imposed on this procedure, whether we would wish to adopt it or not, and I think that it would be a more orderly way of going ahead. I have moved the motion in those terms, as I understand it is the wish of the Democrats and other senators to get an early response on the point.