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Tuesday, 20 August 1996
Page: 2683


Senator MacGIBBON(4.54 p.m.) —by leave—I want to be very brief on this. I must correct Senator Ray—and I must say I am saddened that Senator Ray, who has been one of the sticklers for procedures in this chamber and probably the only member of the Labor Party who has any respect for the institution of the Senate and the parliament, should have made such a misstatement. He said that, when pairs are granted, you are debarred from entering the chamber. There is a point of view that, if you are within the building and you are paired, you appear in the chamber and stand behind the seats here so that your presence is noted. It is quite incorrect to say that you are debarred from entering the chamber.

This debate has got very muddled on the point of a secret ballot as opposed to a division. Senator Hill is perfectly correct. If we have a secret ballot, we do not know how people vote; therefore, we cannot make a prediction on how they are going to vote.

My final point is about the crocodile tears of Senator Ray about breaking precedence. A far more serious matter was the matter of the division of the Senate into short- and long-term senators after the 1987 double dissolution. Senator Ray, as Manager of Government Business at the time, conspired with the Democrats to rort the system. They broke with precedence since Federation and took the plum jobs, the long-term Senate positions, for the Labor Party and the Democrats so that in the subsequent election they would be able to get control of the Senate.

Fortunately, the public made their judgement of the Democrats and the Labor Party in the 1990 election—they lost seats and did not get control. But the rorting of the convention that senators be distributed into short- and long-term positions in the sequence in which they were elected—the sequence that had been followed since Federation—was a far more profound breach of convention than anything that is going on, or implied to be going on, here today.