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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4188

Senator McMULLAN (Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services) (6.07 p.m.) —That speech was so exaggerated as to verge on misleading the Senate. Let us make one thing absolutely clear that Senator Hill deliberately made unclear to the point of misleading. It is simply this: the Senate committee had the 177 amendments before it—every one of them.

Senator Chapman —That is a lie.

Senator Crane —Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. That is not true. We were told at the hearings that there would be around 100 amendments. It is false; it is not true.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Calvert)—Order! Senator Chapman will withdraw that accusation.

Senator Chapman —Withdraw what?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! You said that that was a lie.

Senator Chapman —It was a lie.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! You know that it is an unparliamentary term. I ask you to withdraw it.

Senator Chapman —I did not call any particular individual a liar. I referred to a particular statement that had been made as a lie.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I thought you were calling the minister a liar. Senator McMullan, do you wish to continue?

Senator McMULLAN —Yes.

Senator Herron —Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I was pulled up today for stating that the minister had misled the Senate. Senator McMullan just said `to the point of misleading'. Mr Acting Deputy President, are you splitting hairs in that regard? Are you splitting hairs over the point of misleading or misleading? Surely, the import is there.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I do not take your point of order. The minister has not accused Senator Hill of misleading the Senate.

Senator McMULLAN —I do not take offence to what people say about me.

Senator Crane —Well, withdraw what you just said.

Senator McMULLAN —If I have given offence to Senator Crane, I am sorry about that. I checked before we started on that matter. But there is no doubt that these 177 amendments have been known of for a long time because they were dealt with by the House, so that is at least two weeks ago. When did the House finish sitting? The House did not sit last week. So let us get it clear.

  Let us have a look at what happens when a new bill is introduced. People get a week's notice to deal with it. So why is it that the Senate cannot consider amendments with two weeks notice? I realise that some may only be half as smart as some people in the House of Representatives, but it is unreasonable to propose that giving the Senate two weeks notice of amendments is not reasonable if giving everybody a week's notice is reasonable. That is the point.

  The question is whether any new issue of principle is involved. Effectively, this matter has been debated since 1987—certainly since the election, and in detail since April. There have been some nuances of variation since the last election, but the issues have been substantially the same for at least six years.

  Anybody who says that this bill has to go back to another committee is doing nothing other than deliberately seeking a way of defeating a bill which they do not have the numbers to defeat. It is another attempt to re-run the election. The opposition ran this in the election campaign and, sensibly and intelligently, the Australian people rejected that position. Since we have had a division on the second reading, the opposition knows the legislation has majority support.

  That support does not extend to every dot and comma that the government wants. Undoubtedly, during the committee stage some amendments will be carried which we would prefer not to be carried. But 40 senators are ready to proceed—40 senators have had a fortnight to look at the amendments and they know what they are about.

Senator Hill —What about the ones at 11 o'clock this morning?

Senator McMULLAN —That was seven hours ago. We have dealt with lots of opposition amendments in here with much less than seven hours notice. Along with Senator Watson, I have dealt with amendments on complex tax bills with less notice than that. I am not complaining—they were things we dealt with on the run, on the floor of the Senate. We both understood them, we both did our job and we got a settlement. Anybody here who cannot work out in seven hours what these amendments are about will not be helped by having three months. Opposition senators are sitting here, deliberately setting out to delay this legislation and waste the time of the Senate. (Time expired)

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of procedure: have these 200 amendments been seen by the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills?

Senator Sherry —Is it a point of order?

Senator Ian Macdonald —It is a question of procedure.

Senator Sherry —It is a debating point.

Senator Ian Macdonald —It is not a debating point. Where a bill is substantially altered by amendments to a number of clauses, is it a procedural requirement of the Senate that those substantial amendments go back to the scrutiny of bills committee?

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Calvert)—I understand that there is no such requirement.