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Tuesday, 15 December 1992
Page: 5113

Senator McMULLAN (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (2.19 a.m.) —Pursuant to contingent notice of motion in the name of Senator Button, I move:

  That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator McMullan moving a motion to provide for the consideration of a matter, namely a motion to give precedence to a motion to recommit the Industrial Relations Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1992.

Senator Teague —On a point of order: in the standing orders there is a requirement that if there is to be any vote put again in the Senate there needs to be seven days notice. Standing order 87 reads:

An order, resolution or vote of the Senate may be rescinded, but not during the same session unless 7 days' notice is given and at least one-half of the whole number of Senators vote in favour of its rescission, except that to correct irregularities or mistakes one day's notice shall be sufficient.

I put it that it is not within the Standing Orders for a vote to be taken again—on a matter which has already been determined—unless there is the seven days notice.

Senator Robert Ray —Mr Deputy President, I rise on the point of order. This is not the first time that, through misadventure, a motion has been lost in the Senate.

Senator Hill —Misadventure!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister has the call.

Senator Robert Ray —Senator Hill was not so jolly when I was the Manager of Government Business in the Senate and we had a division in this chamber during which five Liberal Party members—and I can see a couple of them acknowledging this—were caught outside the door. When those five people came in, I had the motion recommitted because this chamber should reflect the proper view.

Senator Macdonald —What is the point of order?

Senator Robert Ray —I am commenting on Senator Teague's point of order. I understand that those opposite like to shout me down.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I am going to take one point of order at a time.

Senator Crichton-Browne —You are quite right.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Thank you, Senator Crichton-Browne. We quite often agree.

Senator Robert Ray —I was seeking to comment on Senator Teague's asking for a ruling on a point of order.

Senator Walters —What is your point of order? What is your point of order?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Walters!

Senator Robert Ray —I wanted to point to a precedent in which a variation of these circumstances occurred. The course of action I took then, as the Manager of Government Business, was to have a second division almost straight away to correct the unfortunate incident of five Liberal Party senators not making—

  An Opposition senator—Because of your mismanagement.

Senator Robert Ray —This time, yes, that is right—our mismanagement on this occasion. The previous occasion was because of the Opposition's mismanagement. It was resolved properly at the time, according to the wishes of the Senate.

Senator Herron —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. As I have said on this matter before, there would be no other group of people in Australia meeting at 23 minutes past 2 a.m. It is a demonstration of the insanity that occurs within this environment. I want that recorded in Hansard. We are entrusted with the governance of this country. Because of what has occurred tonight—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I might agree with your point of view, but it is not a point of order.

Senator Herron —Mr Deputy President, I want it recorded in Hansard that this is another illustration of what has happened in the past.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It is in there.

Senator O'Chee —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. The point of order before you is a question of whether standing order 87 can be overruled by way of a vote through the suspension of the Standing Orders. I submit to you that were you so to rule, it would require a vote of half of the whole number of senators to suspend this standing order; otherwise, this standing order would be of no effect. It is clearly an entrenched standing order as opposed to any other. Therefore, I submit to you that if this contingent notice of motion were to succeed, it would require the support of half of the whole number of senators; otherwise, the entrenching provision of standing order 87 would be a nonsense.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —No, that is not correct. The Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator McMullan, has moved, on behalf of Senator Button, contingent on the Senate on any day concluding its consideration of any item of business and prior to the Senate proceeding to the consideration of another item of business, that so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent a Minister moving a motion to provide for the consideration of any matter. Because it is a contingent notice of motion, it needs a simple majority.

Senator Crichton-Browne —I raise a point of order. As somebody who is vaguely more than a casual observer in this matter, it is obviously my view that, a contingent notice of motion having been moved, once that motion is passed the Senate is then competent to move the appropriate motion, and it is simply a question of time and divisions before the question will be recommitted. It highlights the absolute nonsense of the Senate sitting at 2.30 in the morning on this day and the Government, in its bloody-minded determination—

Senator Robert Ray —This is not a point of order.

Senator Crichton-Browne —With respect, so far the Minister has been happy to hear what I have had to say. I wonder whether I might finish it.

Senator Gareth Evans —If you would wait, you could speak to the motion.

Senator Crichton-Browne —If there is a point of order against what I am saying, why does not Senator Gareth Evans interrupt me? The facts of the matter are that we are now sitting at 25 past two on a day determined by the Government as a result of its incompetence and that of its accomplices. It is a reflection on the Government, with its determination to make sure that we sit, that it cannot hold the numbers in the chamber. It is a very good reason, as Senator Robert Ray ought to know, for our not being here now. If the Government cannot hold its numbers, we ought not to be sitting. In my view, there is something to be said for rising now and meeting again tomorrow.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I have a motion before the Chair. You may speak to the motion, Senator Macdonald.