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Thursday, 17 October 1985
Page: 1424

Senator CHILDS(4.34) —I rise briefly to support what Senator Georges has said. I think he was really seeking to have this matter adjourned because of the problem that we face-it is certainly a problem for me-in looking at this matter and particularly at the proposal that a select committee be set up to inquire into the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill. I do not wish to deal with the argument itself but just to deal with the fact that, as Senator Georges said, the President of the Senate has indicated to all Senate committee chairmen that certain restraints must be followed as regards the financing of committees. I think we are all aware that there is a strain on everybody concerning attendance at Senate committees. It is a very important area of work. There has not been consideration of whether a standing committee of the Senate might be able to deal with this matter. I have not had a chance to consider whether, for example, the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the Standing Committee on Social Welfare or one of the other committees should look at this matter. I do not know whether the chairpersons of those committees have given consideration to it. Probably, like most of us sitting in the chamber at the moment, they do not even know that this proposal is being discussed at this time.

Senator Durack —They should not be here if they do not know that this is being discussed.

Senator CHILDS —They do not necessarily know that Senator Durack is proposing to set up a committee. As Senator Georges said, whilst in our party room we will be free to look at the argument and to vote subsequently, we certainly have not had the chance of considering which committee, if any, should consider this matter. In deference to the President too, I would like to hear any argument he might put. If there are financial restraints, that means either that extra money must be found or, alternatively, that there will be some attempt to skimp on the activities of existing committees. That is one of the things that I would be concerned about. Not that that alternative should not be addressed, but I would be resistant to skimping on the necessary works of committees. I would not like, for example, to have to limit the ability of committees to go to other States from time to time, as they have to do.

These are the sorts of problems we will face if we do not allow ourselves the opportunity of examining the matter and deciding whether Senator Durack's proposal is the best possible way of dealing with the problem or whether there is an alternative. For that reason, I suggest strongly to all senators and particularly to Senator Durack that he should give us the opportunity of giving mature consideration to his proposal. In our case that would take place in the party room. I do not know whether there has been just a failure of communicaiton, but as far as I know the matter has not been raised with the Government Whip or the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) in such a way that they were able to convey that proposal to the party room.

For those reasons, I support the concern that Senator Georges has expressed. I think we would be very wise on this emotional issue to follow his suggestion. I think it would be unfortunate on an issue about which people feel very strongly if we commenced this debate on a discordant note. I suggest that if we have to vote on it in the next few minutes and if we do not have the opportunity to give further consideration to it we will start this debate in a very unfortunate way.