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Wednesday, 12 May 1993
Page: 423


Senator LEWIS (12.33 p.m.) —I want to raise a couple of issues in connection with this motion to limit speeches during second reading debates to 20 minutes. I am very serious about the nature of debate which takes place in the chamber. When I first came into this chamber, I could not make a speech for more than eight minutes. For about the first 10 speeches I made, at the end of eight minutes, I could not think of another word to say. But as one gets more knowledgeable—not more voluble—about what is happening in government, one needs to be able to develop a speech.

  Apparently, the other night Senator Bell felt he needed 29 1/2 minutes to develop an argument. As Senator Chamarette said, former Senator Vallentine used to come in here and talk for 30 minutes—not to fill up 30 minutes but because she felt she needed 30 minutes to develop an argument. I am all in favour of senators being able to develop an argument. Believe me, if Reg Wright or John Wheeldon were still in this Parliament, I would have give them an hour to develop an argument because both those speakers were so good that people who heard them on the radio would come in to listen to the points that they were making.


Senator Crowley —From miles around.


Senator LEWIS —Senator Crowley does not remember Senator Wheeldon, but believe me, when Senator Wheeldon started to make a major speech in this place on any aspect of foreign affairs, the place would fill up. He was so good. Unfortunately, that ability has fallen away. I understand that the Democrats have a great deal of difficulty because there is only a limited number of them and they shadow all the government portfolios. That means that one Democrat might have six or seven portfolios.


Senator Coulter —The way we are going, we will get it down to about three.


Senator LEWIS —Senator Coulter thinks that they will get it down to three. I think that they will end up with about 18 because after the next election there might be only two Democrats here. I understand that each Democrat senator has to shadow a lot of portfolios. That means that, in effect, their so-called speeches—they are not really speeches; they are essays—are prepared by staffers. I understand that. Like Ministers who make second reading speeches, in effect, they come in and read a written speech into the Hansard.

  I make the following proposition very seriously to the committee that deals with the Standing Orders: we ought to stand by standing order 187, that senators shall not read speeches. We ought to stick to that firmly. In the case of a Minister or a shadow Minister, we would allow them to incorporate in Hansard a document which, in effect, contains an essay on the subject or, if you like, what could be called a speech—although I think it is wrong to call it a speech when it is being incorporated in Hansard.

  There would need to be some caution. The shadow Minister or the Minister would need to be able to let both sides read the document first so that we could make sure there was nothing improper in the speech. That is what is wrong with incorporated speeches; someone could incorporate in a speech something which is highly improper and to which objection would be taken in the Senate. If that problem could be overcome by allowing people to see the speeches, we would enable the Minister and the shadow Minister simply to incorporate their speeches.

  We then might get the Minister, the shadow Minister or whoever saying, `The points of this document that I have just incorporated include one, two and three', or whatever they are. They might actually speak to the points which are in the document that they have just incorporated. There would then be proper debate in the Senate. We would be able to go back and insist upon standing order 187 being acted upon, and people would not be able to read speeches. It would make debate in this chamber so much better.

  I see Senator Faulkner nodding in agreement. I have seen Senator Faulkner, as a relative newcomer to this place, making speeches with just a handful of notes in front of him. Another senator on his side is Senator Schacht, who frequently comes into this place and makes excellent speeches. I certainly do not like some of the things that he says, but they are excellent speeches. He directs his mind articulately to the subject and people enjoy listening to him, although we might not enjoy some of the things he says, especially when he makes outrageous, unfair and unreasonable attacks on me and my colleagues on this side of the chamber.

  If senators did not read speeches, they would really start to debate issues properly. We might then get debates which only take three or four minutes. When senators started to read speeches, someone would be able to object and the whole Senate would uphold the objection that they are not allowed to read them; not even Ministers would be allowed to read them. Once we did that, we would not have to worry about whether there were 20-minute speeches or 30-minute speeches. The whole thing would flow and the Senate would be a much more exciting chamber in which to be present.