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Thursday, 7 November 1985
Page: 1692

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(10.12) —I understand the point made by Senator Chipp and he is quite correct in saying that one and a half hours is a very limited time in which to deal with legislation which is of great importance and has widespread and proper interest in this chamber. The great difficulty for the Senate is the range of matters that we are called upon to consider in the time which is available. Part of the difficulty is to allocate a very limited amount of time among a series of very significant but competing functions.

As I understand it, the arrangements that the Government has put in place are in accordance with the sessional order which, in turn, follows from discussions among the parties in the Standing Orders Committee and elsewhere. The particular sessional order was designed to try to ensure that senators would have a chance to debate the very significant papers which are tabled in this place. Over the years we have imposed a statutory requirement on many bodies to have their reports and so on brought into the Parliament so that we may comment on them. They are the creations and the creatures of this Parliament and often there are only limited opportunities for the Parliament to exercise its surveillance of them.

The difficulty that the Opposition sees in this matter is one of balancing the disparate interests of senators. For example, today we will devote some time to reports from committees. At other times it has been argued that we put in hours and hours, days and months of work in committee and then the committee reports themselves do not get proper attention.

Senator Chipp —There is always the Thursday lunch hour which is now not being availed of.

Senator CHANEY —The difficulty with Thursday lunch hour is, of course, that it is a time when many people are distracted by having lunch. I accept the point made by Senator Chipp that there is a real difficulty-a difficulty that we will face, as he quite properly points out, in dealing with our private member's Bills. I simply say to the Government that I accept that the difficulties are real and not created by any malice or ill will. I indicate on behalf of the Opposition that we are happy to discuss the allocation of time further with the Government, the Australian Democrats and independent senators. I do not think there is any easy answer to the point that has been raised.

Senator Peter Baume —The problem is that we sit for only seven months.