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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2688

Senator MACKLIN(1.45) —I had believed, until I heard Senator Reid's speech, that the Opposition was not going to oppose this Bill. Now that Senator Reid has said that the Opposition is going to oppose the Bill I think I had better make some comments as to why we will be supporting it.

The matter of quorums fundamentally ought to be a matter for each chamber. The Senate, in a recent report, canvassed some points with regard to a quorum of this chamber. I notice that the Government has not broken that one open and decided to have a go at it, and probably for the good reason of wanting some legislation. The House of Representatives has passed this Bill and sent it to the Senate for our concurrence. I think that a reasonable position would be for us to accept the view expressed by the House of Representatives with regard to its quorum arrangements. I am mindful of the fact that there is always a government majority in the House of Representatives, almost by definition. We will see whether that situation continues, given what has occurred in the lower House in Tasmania recently.

At present it would be the view of the Democrats that, since a majority of the House of Representatives has determined that there ought to be a change to its quorum rule, it would be appropriate for the Senate to concur with that expressed wish of the House of Representatives and pass this legislation. I am quite sure that we would want reciprocal arrangements with regard to any changes that we may wish to make as to how we conduct our business in this chamber. Although the House of Representatives could do the reverse to us, that is, a majority in this place may express some particular wish and the alternative majority in the House of Representatives may wish to frustrate that, I support this Bill on the understanding that if at any stage in the future the majority in the Senate expresses a view with regard to how it wishes to organise its business, and that may require legislation-of course, not many such arrangements do-then the House of Representatives would simply concur, although it would not necessarily be the view of the majority there, as it were, because it may be aligned with a minority in the Senate. It is upon that reciprocal basis that the Democrats support this legislation, which obviously is the expressed wish of the majority in the House of Representatives.