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Thursday, 30 May 1996
Page: 1427


Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) —by leave—Mr Acting Deputy President, senators would be aware that Senator Margetts, a moment or two ago, drew your attention to the state of the chamber when a quorum was not present. I think most senators would also be aware that it is a very unusual circumstance to have a quorum call now, when there is an agreement not to have a quorum call or division during consideration of non-controversial legislation dealt with at lunchtime.

Having said that, I appreciate Senator Margetts's point. I understand that the chamber has not agreed as to whether the second reading of this particular bill is non-controversial. I am keen to make a second reading contribution to the debate of this bill, but I seek leave to make a short statement before I make this contribution.

I indicate to the Senate that the opposition was informed by the government whip's office that the second reading of the Housing Assistance Bill 1996 would not be dealt with today during this period of non-controversial legislation. On that basis, it was a surprise not only to me but also to my colleague the opposition whip when this matter was called on. We understood that the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation (Transfer of Assets and Abolition) Bill 1996 would be adjourned. In fact, that was subject to an adjournment motion moved earlier by Senator Newman during this period of non-controversial legislation.

For my own part, I am happy to continue with the second reading debate, although I believe our convention is to engage in matters of non-controversial legislation only when there is agreement around the chamber to do so. To be fair to all parties in the chamber, that is a convention that has nearly always been honoured. Clearly, we were given an inaccurate message by the government whip's office in relation to this matter. I state that fact to clarify the reason for Senator Margetts's concern and for the unusual quorum call during this period of non-controversial legislation today.