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Friday, 18 October 1996
Page: 4485

Senator HARRADINE(9.35 a.m.) —I seek leave of the Senate to conclude my remarks, which will hopefully take only three or four minutes.

Leave granted.

Senator HARRADINE —This motion, as I indicated, is a very important procedural motion. It will not, however, affect the outcome, in my view, of the question of the partial privatisation of Telstra. It may affect the outcome of the government's attitudes in respect of consumer service guarantees and universal service obligations.

I am going to suggest that Senator Lees consider having this motion drawn up ready again at the conclusion of the second reading stage because I think it would be useful to hear what the government says in respect of consumer service guarantees and universal service obligations in this particular debate. I take the point that I think Senator Schacht was making—that is, whatever happens in respect of those two matters has to apply, or should apply, to all other carriers as far as that is concerned. There are other areas, so we can deal with that later on down the track. There is no doubt that the proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Act are for that purpose.

Suffice it to say, I think tactically at all events it may have been in the best interests of those who may be considering very seriously the desirability, or the undesirability, of selling any part of Telstra to hear what the government says in the context of that particular debate about consumer service guarantees and universal service obligations. At this stage, I will be voting against the division of the bill. The question may well arise at the end of the second reading debate.

Senator Hill —Just for posterity, Madam President, I will take a point of order and ask for a ruling from you. I am quite happy for a vote to take place. So we all know whether we can adopt this technique in the future: is it in order on a procedural motion for a suspension that incurs the time limit of half an hour to include substantive motions? If so in future when moving a suspension, as is sought to be done here, we can include our substantive issue and therefore limit the debate on the substantive issue to the one debate of half an hour. It is really quite novel. I admire the creativity of Senator Lees in this technique that she has adopted. But so that we all know whether we can do this in the future, I seek this ruling.

The PRESIDENT —I understand that it is not novel and that it has been done on previous occasions. The suspension motion does include the substantive motion; so it can be put before the chamber in this fashion—as long as notice is given of it. You would not be able to do the same thing if you merely stood up and sought to suspend standing orders without having given notice.

   Question put:

   That the motion (Senator Lees's ) be agreed to.