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Wednesday, 23 August 1972
Page: 571

Mr CHIPP (Hotham) (Minister for Customs and Excise) - I move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent government business taking precedence of general business on each sitting day until Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1972-73 has passed all stages in the House.

This motion follows the practice adopted in many past years. Similar motions have been passed by the House for as long as I have been in the Parliament. The reasons for the motion are these: The Budget session usually commences at about mid-August when the Budget is delivered, and we are limited at the other end of the session by Christmas which means a rising of the House some time in November. If it is an election year then it will usually be earlier. The timing of a Budget session necessarily means that on average there will be 2 weeks to debate the Budget itself, 3 to 4 weeks to debate the Estimates and then X weeks to debate the Bills that naturally flow from the Budget. These Bills would introduce amendments to, for example, the taxation Acts, the social services Acts, the repatriation Act, the Home Savings Grant Act or other Acts. This year there are some 37 such Bills among the Budget Bills to be introduced and these will take up an appreciable time. So with 2 weeks for the Budget debate, 4 weeks for the Estimates debate and some further time for the debate on the Budget Bills, our time will be taken up for 7 or 8 weeks or more into the future. In addition the Government has a heavy legislative programme of non-Budget Bills which it regards as essential. It is for these reasons that I am moving this motion.

During the Budget debate and Estimates debate the opportunities for honourable members to debate virtually any subject they choose are unlimited. In the Budget debate almost complete freedom is allowed to honourable members to speak about anything, and likewise in the Estimates debate. I might mention in passing that on alternate Thursdays, when the Standing Orders provide that grievances be noted, I will be moving that the grievance debate be further postponed because it also comes under Government business. I appreciate that what I have proposed is some intrusion into the rights of private members but I hope that the common sense of honourable members and the co-operation that the Opposition has already shown in these matters will prevail. Honourable members will have an opportunity to debate general matters during the debates on the Budget, the Estimates and the various Budget Bills, as well as on the adjournment debates, in respect of which I am sure we can come to some common-sense compromise with members of the Opposition to provide reasonable time for members to speak. At the same time I know that Opposition members will realise that sitting days are very long days for many members of this Parliament, some of whom are no longer young. Most honourable members start working at 9 a.m. on committees or on their other duties, and to work from 9 a.m. right through until 11 p.m. every night for 3 nights, particularly when the proposed changes in sitting times come into effect, puts a toll on even young men. Even when the motion for adjournment is put at 11 p.m. the adjournment debate normally continues for an hour or so, which brings us to midnight. I would appeal to honourable members to consider the convenience and health of some of those members who are not as young as they used to be.

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