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Tuesday, 29 October 1996
Page: 4691

Senator WOODLEY(6.56 p.m.) —Before I seek leave to continue my remarks, I would like to comment that on today's Notice Paper we have 86 documents. I am not going to waste a lot of precious time of the Senate to comment at length on this. However, we have raised before not only the number of reports but also the groups—for example, treaties—of documents that have come in on the one day. It makes it absolutely impossible to comment in any depth on anything relating to these matters. For example, we could spend a whole half hour, and a lot more, discussing the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation report. As Senator Brownhill has said, it is a very good report.

I am not going to take up too much time of the Senate, but I want to yet again register my protest about this process. Towards the end of each sitting, we have this great rush of documents, which are grouped department by department and in big numbers, and we have inadequate time to comment on them. I emphasise my concern about the volume of documents that have been tabled here today and are to be discussed in half an hour. Obviously, there is no way that 86 documents could be dealt with in half an hour.

I acknowledge and underline the point that the great bulk of these documents are annual reports. They can be dealt with in Senate estimates committees, and I hope that will be done. Nevertheless, it raises questions about whether it is appropriate to limit the tabling of documents to two days during the week and whether there should not be a change in arrangements so that these documents can be dealt with in a better way.

I acknowledge that on Thursdays there is much more time put aside for dealing with accumulated documents, but it is unfortunate that the parliament, as a result of this procedure, comes a bad second to the media in terms of capacity to discuss the content of these annual reports. For example, the media has the opportunity of dealing with 86 reports tomorrow if it gets the time. We have no chance of commenting on 86 reports. When there are definite tabling requirements for annual reports of departments and agencies, clearly there is pressure on the Senate to deal with them. We have to make some other suitable arrangements to cope with this peak reporting time.

I want to say to the Senate that I just read a speech by Senator Tierney and one by former Senator Michael Baume, and those speeches were given when their party was in opposition. How things have changed! Now that they are in the government, we do not hear anything like those kinds of speeches from them. Former Senator Michael Baume and Senator Tierney and Senator Rod Kemp came in here often and complained about the number of documents.

Now that they are in government—lo and behold—there are 86 documents for us to comment on. If you can work that out, that is about three documents every minute. What a turnaround we have. What a noise we heard when the coalition were in opposition. What are the coalition going to do about it now that they are in government? I think the Senate would agree that we have a ridiculous situation here tonight. I leave that question: what are the coalition going to do about this situation now that they are in government? I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.