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Tuesday, 20 August 1996
Page: 2688

Senator O'CHEE(5.22 p.m.) —The motion that has been put before the Senate by Senator Faulkner lacks any credibility at all. I draw the attention of honourable senators to chapter 4 of the standing orders. As you would well know, Madam President, your duties are not confined to duties in this chamber. Honourable senators should understand that the President exercises the powers of the joint Presiding Officers, is responsible for the Department of the Senate and is partly responsible for the running of Parliament House.

Chapter 4 of the standing orders states that where the President is absent or incapacitated—and we hope, Madam President, that you would not be incapacitated or prevented from executing your obligations—it is absolutely critical that we have a Deputy President who can exercise the powers of the President on her behalf. And if this motion were to be passed—remembering that Senator Foreman may not be back for some time—and the Senate adjourns at the end of the week and does not come back until the beginning of September, there could be a situation where the President was incapacitated during the adjournment of the Senate and there was nobody who could exercise the powers of the Presiding Officer of the Senate. That would be an absolutely ridiculous situation, but that is what Senator Faulkner and the government are proposing to honourable senators today.

Senator Abetz —That's how smart John is!

Senator O'CHEE —I take that interjection from Senator Abetz. That just shows the limited extent of Senator Faulkner's wisdom on these matters because he is more concerned with scoring some cheap party political point than with safeguarding the wellbeing of the parliament and the good standing of the Senate.

Honourable senators today have noted the conduct to which this parliament has been subjected during this week. We cannot have a situation occur where there is nobody who can act on behalf of the Senate during the adjournment of the Senate.

Senator Boswell —Someone might get sick.

Senator O'CHEE —Senator Boswell quite rightly interjects that somebody could get sick the next week, the week after that and the week after that, and I am sure the Labor Party will arrange for a rolling illness. We have had rolling strikes; this will be a rolling illness on the other side, to prevent a vote of this Senate to elect a Deputy President.

Senator Michael Baume —They will hold us hostage.

Senator O'CHEE —They will hold us hostage, as Senator Baume says. It is only fitting and proper for the dignity and good order of the Senate and for the maintenance of the supremacy of this parliament that we elect a Deputy President here and now today and that this Senate should reject the motion by Senator Faulkner and move immediately to this ballot.