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Saturday, 18 December 1993
Page: 5106

Senator FAULKNER (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (11.01 a.m.) —I move:

(1)That, if the Senate is sitting at 12 midnight tonight, the sitting of the Senate then be suspended till 10.00 a.m. Monday, 20 December 1993.

(2)That on Monday, 20 December 1993, the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 1.00 p.m. till 2.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m. till 7.00 p.m.

(3)That, following a subsequent suspension of the sitting of the Senate on Monday, 20 December 1993, the sitting of the Senate resume at 9.00 a.m. on Tuesday, 21 December 1993 and be suspended on that day from 1.00 p.m. till 2.00 p.m., and from 6.00 p.m. till 7.00 p.m.

Honourable senators will recall that last night, during debate about whether or not the sitting of the Senate should suspend and recommence today, it was made clear that the government's intention was that the Senate sit today and tomorrow to complete consideration on this extremely important legislation. It was hoped that it would be concluded today, but obviously there may have been a requirement for us to go into Sunday. During that debate last night a number of opposition senators clearly indicated that because of their religious convictions they believed it was inappropriate for the Senate to sit on Sunday.

Senator Panizza —Do you not have any of those on your side?

Senator FAULKNER —It was not only opposition senators.

Senator Kemp —Be a bit sensitive to other people's views for a change.

Senator FAULKNER —In fact, I am—as is the government—being sensitive to those people who expressed those views strongly in the Senate chamber last night. As the interjections raised the question of what might or might not be the religious beliefs of other senators, I think it is also worth pointing out that that was not a view limited only to opposition senators. In fact, I think most fair-minded senators in this chamber who remember the debate will recall that other senators also raised some concerns.

  The fervent hope of this government is that we can complete this legislation before midnight tonight. I sincerely hope that it is possible, and I believe that with the cooperation of all honourable senators in the chamber it not only is achievable but will be achieved. However, I do accept that that is one thing that I personally cannot be held responsible for or control.

  Given that circumstance, and given the views that were expressed in the chamber, I do believe that it is appropriate for us to suspend the sittings this evening and come back on Monday and Tuesday next week if, in fact, we need to. That will give people the opportunity to make any religious observances that they may wish to undertake tomorrow. I am very keen that all honourable senators will have the opportunity to organise their diaries, and I think it is only reasonable for the government to indicate at this point what its plans are in terms of the sitting of the chamber.

  The proposition that I have moved is responsible and reasonable in the difficult circumstances that we all accept we have at this stage—obviously, debating this bill when most people would prefer to be wending their way home. It is the best possible pattern of sittings that we can have in these circumstances. I have discussed this proposal with—

Senator Panizza —With the Democrats and the Greens.

Senator FAULKNER —That is true; I have indeed discussed it with the Democrats and the Greens, and with Senator Harradine and the opposition. This proposal has been broadly understood. I believe that, in the circumstances that we face and given the convictions that were expressed sincerely by senators in this chamber yesterday when we debated today's sitting, this is an appropriate way for us to deal with the routine of business for the remainder of these sittings. I commend this motion to the Senate.