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Wednesday, 5 May 1993
Page: 108


Senator McMULLAN (Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services) (10.47 a.m.) —The debate that took place when I started as Parliamentary Secretary and, subsequently, the second time around, which led to the final form of words contained in this motion, as I recall it, may well have taken place before I became Manager of Government Business in the Senate. There was a significant period during which I was a Parliamentary Secretary and not Manager of Government Business. It came from discussions that we had which did not relate to my capacity, in particular, as Parliamentary Secretary, but which related to dealing with certain Bills.

  With regard to the first Bill I dealt with as Parliamentary Secretary, I operated on a fairly constrained interpretation of my rights in that matter. The Opposition raised some concern and said, `This is limiting the debate because you are not participating fully in a way that a Minister would'. I think either Senator Watson or Senator Baume raised some concerns which I thought were right. We undertook some further discussions and then had a subsequent debate in the Parliament.

  Certainly, the exercise of these rights as set out in notice of motion No. 7 was indispensable to my conduct of the role of Manager of Government Business, but it was also fundamental to the basic discharge of debate in the Parliament on all those tax Bills and on the other matters of legislation with which I dealt both here and before the various committees of the Parliament, representing Ministers or in my own capacity as a Parliamentary Secretary. For example, the capacity of Senator Sherry to represent the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy before the estimates committee derives from this proposed resolution because the standing orders of the committees operate on the same basis as these Standing Orders.


Senator Hill —You have 10 Ministers.


Senator McMULLAN —That is right. The House of Representatives has followed the Senate's sensible reform and is operating fundamentally on the same basis. It should do so because it is the most efficient and sensible way to proceed. This reform was not brought in simply because it was a necessary part of the process of a Parliamentary Secretary by coincidence being Manager of Government Business. This is a cross that Senator Watson may have to bear for some years, I regret to say.


Senator Hill —You were the only one on that side who knew anything about tax.


Senator McMULLAN —He will not be dealing with tax matters until I can persuade him that it is such a good idea that he should. The significance of this motion is to enable the efficient conduct of the Senate's business. It makes no difference to the arithmetic of whether things get passed or defeated. It makes no difference to anything other than to enable the Senate's business to flow smoothly.

  When the sessional order was more constrained than this, it caused problems not so much for us—although also for us—but for the Opposition. This motion is fundamentally consistent—although I cannot say identical because I have not checked the final form—with the procedure in the House of Representatives. As I understand it, it is also consistent with the operation of Parliamentary Secretaries in most parliaments around the world. Furthermore, it is not so much in the interests of the Government but in the interests of the Parliament.