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Thursday, 25 November 1993
Page: 3626

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —by leave—It goes very much to what Senator Herron said and it also goes to what I understood to be the intention conveyed to me about this matter by the opposition. If I have misunderstood that, make it clear. I am here to do what I thought was agreed to. My office has been in constant contact with Senator Newman's office. I would like to make it clear here that I am not doing this because Senator Newman is ill, as was imputed to me yesterday.

Senator Panizza —Who said that?

Senator CROWLEY —Somebody did, and it is disgraceful. I was very sorry to hear of Senator Newman's illness. Senator Newman's office has been in constant contact with me about this. Her office informed me on Tuesday of this week that the debate would be on Thursday this week—that is, today. Senator Newman's motion said, `In seven sitting days'. Subsequent to that, we had a phone call from Senator Newman's office advising us that Senator Herron had written to one of the clerks, Mr O'Keefe, moving for an extension to 8 December. We were advised by Senator Newman's office that, despite Senator Herron's letter, the debate for disallowance would be coming on today.

  It is in the light of that constant contact with Senator Newman's office, and from what I understood from speaking to the opposition whip that I have proceeded to seek leave to move that this motion be brought forward today. I have not made all of this up. From all of the advice, and on following closely with Senator Newman's office, I was given to understand that the debate was on for today. I believe it was after the phone call from Senator Newman's office on Tuesday that Senator Herron wrote to the clerk moving a further extension of that disallowance. Subsequent to Senator Herron writing that, we heard from Senator Newman's office that, notwithstanding that, the debate would go ahead today. Senator Newman's office informed us of that letter. There is no other way we could have known about it.

Senator Reid —It has been on the Notice Paper.

Senator CROWLEY —Subsequent to that we did see it on the Notice Paper. However, we knew to look for it on the Notice Paper because Senator Newman's office told us that it would be there. This is not some plot by us. We understood, through constant contact with Senator Newman's office, that it was the opposition's intention to bring on this debate.

Senator Vanstone —Why weren't you dealing with Senator Herron? He is the responsible person. You are dealing with the wrong person.

Senator CROWLEY —To that point, we had been told by Senator Newman—I am not sure when we were last in contact, but I am advised that it was on Tuesday—who was the responsible person at that time, that Senator Herron had written for an extension and that despite that the debate—

Senator Vanstone —You weren't told by Senator Newman; you were told by her office.

Senator CROWLEY —I beg the honourable senator's pardon. Senator Vanstone is quite right: it was by staff in Senator Newman's office.

Senator Vanstone —She is not responsible; Senator Herron is responsible.

Senator CROWLEY —Senator Newman's staff advised me, firstly, that Senator Herron had written to the clerk and, secondly, that it was their understanding—that is, Senator Newman's staff and Senator Herron's staff—which gave my staff to understand, that it would proceed. My staff have been talking to the opposition whip, and it was our understanding that the debate would proceed today. I have not made it up. There are very good reasons for bringing it on, but the principal reason is that that is what I understood to be the intention of the opposition.