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Monday, 14 October 1996
Page: 4068

Senator HARRADINE —Madam President, my question is to you and it refers to rumours going around this place that there is going to be a joint sitting of parliament to hear the President of the United States of America. Have you been involved in those discussions? When are members of the parliament, House of Representative members and senators—who are your responsibility—going to have a say in the matter? Is it also true that the suggestion that the President of the United States address a joint house meeting is as with the Bush visit and was that not a reciprocal arrangement, given that Prime Minister Hawke addressed the Congress? Are we to assume that this is going to set a precedent such that if the President of Indonesia, for example, comes to Australia he also will be addressing a joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives?

The PRESIDENT —Senator Harradine and other senators, I have heard that the President of the United States is intending to visit Australia on 20 November and that he will be invited to address senators and members. I have written to the Prime Minister expressing the view that the joint sitting that took place on 2 January 1991 when President Bush addressed senators and members in the House of Representatives was a reciprocal arrangement because a previous Australian Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, had been invited to address the Congress. I have said in my letter to the Prime Minister that that, in my view, should not have occurred; that it was not our custom for visiting heads of state to address a joint sitting in the House of Representatives and that for this visit the address to senators and members should take place in the Great Hall, as is more our custom and our tradition. That is a matter on which I have not yet had any response from him. I know no other details of the visit at the present time but I will inform senators as the issue unfolds.