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Thursday, 30 May 1996
Page: 1428

Senator PANIZZA —by leave—I refer the Senate to the fact that we had agreed to pull off No. 7, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation (Transfer of Assets and Abolition) Bill 1996, which was listed. At no stage did I instruct anyone that No. 8, the Housing Assistance Bill 1996, was to come off too. Senator Faulkner said that my office advised his office, or Senator Evans' office, that it was to be taken off. I will check with my office and let you know what comes of that.

Senator Margetts said that no-one consulted her, but let me say something else first before I comment on that. There was no way in this world that we ever thought that this Housing Assistance Bill was going to be non-controversial. We sought agreement of all parties to have second reading speeches only in this lunch hour. That is all we sought in the first place. There was never any intention to try to get agreement that the bill was non-controversial.

If you look back to the days of the previous government, second reading debates on any bill were quite often done at lunchtime. So this is not breaking convention. This is not creating a convention. That is the situation. I have here a letter that I sent around to all whips in the place on 29 May 1996.

Senator Faulkner —Ha, ha.

Senator PANIZZA —You doubt that it was?

Senator Faulkner —No.

Senator PANIZZA —You were laughing at what I said so I thought that you might—

Senator Faulkner —I was not laughing at that. I was just told a joke by Senator Schacht which was very amusing.

Senator PANIZZA —I go back to the fact that I circulated the letter on 29 May 1996 to all concerned, asking for concurrence that this bill be put on with other bills that were non-controversial. In that letter I said:

As agreed at the leaders' meeting—

That was the leaders' meeting, not a whips' meeting—

of Thursday 23 May, the following bills will be debated as non-controversial on the Thursday 30 May—

It continues with the loan bill 1996, the Sydney 2000 Games bill, the Australian Sports Drug Agency bill, the indigenous education bill and the housing loans insurance corporation bill which was dragged off. Finally, Senator Margetts, if you are interested—I can fax a copy to you if you have lost the first one—it says:

If time permits, second reading speeches only for the Housing Assistance Bill 1996 will commence.

I did not get back one letter of dissent, and so we took it that there was agreement.

I remind you that we did not say that this would be non-controversial. Under the previous government it was done time and time again—Senator Faulkner will remember that—we did second reading debates only and then, if there were to be divisions, they were done when we got back to government business. That was the situation.

There is one thing that I have got to check with Senator Faulkner. I need to see if my office said that this was to be pulled off and I will report back to the Senate about that. If that were the case, the buck stops with me, because I am responsible for everything that happens.

Senator Faulkner —I don't think that it is that serious. Don't take that burden upon yourself, Senator.

Senator PANIZZA —Okay, but you are normally expected to take it that you are responsible for what happens in your office. I will get back to you on that.

Let no-one tell me that he or she did not know—whether it be Senator Margetts, Senator Faulkner, Senator Carr or Senator Evans. I sent this letter out and I got no replies expressing dissent. If someone sent such a reply, I would like another copy of it because it certainly did not come into my office. If a copy did come to my office that I have not seen I also want to know in my office what happened to it. So that is the situation and that is why it was on the Notice Paper between 12.45 and one o'clock.