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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 5086

Senator BROWN(4.24 p.m.) —I totally agree with Senator Margetts. We have just seen the government and the opposition say that the plight of the asylum seekers from East Timor who are in this country is not an urgent matter for debate in the Senate in the terms in which I presented it to the Senate. However, we have immediately had a move by both entities to say that the sale of CFM is an urgent matter. We simply have different priorities. Beyond that—

Senator Campbell —If you wanted to debate it, why didn't you seek to declare it formally?

Senator BROWN —I wanted to debate it. If you find a means of having it debated, I will accept it. There are no means other than the one I took. That is why I took it, and I stand by it. That having been said, Mr Acting Deputy Premier—

Senator Mackay —That is the old days.

Senator BROWN —Yes, I know. That is a hark back to my days in the Tasmanian parliament. That having been said, heed needs to be taken of what Senator Margetts has said. We have a responsibility to our electorate and to people who may be affected by these bills coming through from the government to ensure that we know what we are dealing with. That is a big job for people in this part of the Senate.

We do not have a shadow minister for each issue. We do not have a minister for each issue. We have to deal with all the issues ourselves. As you know, there are some 60 bills before the Senate. One that we are dealing with at the moment has 500 amendments. That is a big load.

Why should we be stampeded into saying that we will allow the cut-off for this bill to be brought on before we understand its ramifications. This afternoon, my office has had difficulty getting through to the relevant union to see what they think about the matter. I infer from the Labor Party's position that they will say it is okay. I want to know that.

Senator Sherry —We have spoken to them—a number of times.

Senator BROWN —Yes. We need to speak to them as well. All we ask is that we be given that opportunity and not be railroaded. That is the situation as we see it. We have asked the government to help facilitate dealing with this program. We cannot abandon our responsibility to make sure that we address it in an informed way. As you will remember, the cut-off motion was instituted under pressure from the Greens (WA) so that there was time to allow the Senate to go to the constituency and make sure that legislation coming through here had been adequately dealt with and that it was not brought in one week and dealt with the next.

I feel that we are in a situation where, if we let this bill fly through, the government will raise the ante, and we will see more of it this week and more the week after. Senator Margetts has taken exactly the right position, from where we sit. We do not find appeal in the fact that this bill should be given an exemption above other important items before this Senate so that it is dealt with this side of Christmas.