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Wednesday, 13 August 1969

The PRESIDENT - You are not in order. You really need leave.

Senator COHEN - I do not want to shut myself out from making a substantial speech on this subject at an appropriate time. I wanted to make some preliminary observations which would be of the briefest nature.

The PRESIDENT - The honourable senator should ask for leave.

Senator COHEN - I ask for leave to make a short statement on behalf of the Opposition.

The PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator COHEN - At a proper time we would want to argue that our criticism of the Government's approach in matters of education is that it has been piecemeal, has not considered the whole field and has not approached the problems of education in a national and comprehensive way. I would like to say at this stage, not in order to debate the matter but simply to state it, that the Australian Labor Party has in very recent times formulated a platform on education which covers not only some of the ground that is the subject matter of the statement made by the Minister, but also some other areas which we think it is proper for the Commonwealth to enter. I do not propose to trespass on the leave that has been given to me by entering into a debate or discussion on these matters, but I ask for leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard that statement of policy by the Australian Labor Party.

Senator Wright - No.

The PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.

Senator COHEN - Then I think the only sensible thing to do now is to read the statement, which is a rather lengthy one.

Senator Wright - We did not give leave for that purpose.

Senator COHEN - Surely the Minister is not going to make a statement of 16 pages on education, occupying about half an hour, fill the national Press with ideas of what the Government is doing in the field of education and then stop me from making a speech of about two minutes on the Labor Party's attitude to these matters.

Senator Wright - You have been given leave to make a brief statement, so make it brief.

Senator COHEN - I again ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the Australian Labor Party's platform on education.

Senator Cormack - No.

The PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.

Senator COHEN - I take it that I will be in order in continuing my remarks and in reading the statement into the record.

Senator Wright - I rise to a point of order. The honourable senator was given leave when he emphasised that he wished to make a few brief comments upon the

Government's statement. For him to take under that leave an opportunity to express the Opposition's policy on education is quite irrelevant to the Government's policy and not within the leave granted to him. I suggest that ample opportunity will bc given to the honourable senator at any time that he seeks to state the Opposition's policy on education, but that is not this occasion. I suggest that it is not in accordance with the intention of the Senate in granting him leave to make a few brief comments on the Government's policy on education, that, having been granted that leave, he should then proceed to read the policy of the Opposition on the same matter.

Senator Kennelly - I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cohen) took advice from you. Mr President, in that he asked leave to make a statement. There was no word in it about being brief. That note has been introduced since then. The permission having been given to Senator Cohen, he has the sanction of the Senate. I regret greatly that Senator Wright, who read a rather lengthy statement, has now risen to a point of order. Leave was readily given to him to make the statement. Therefore I suggest that Senator Cohen is quite in order if he decides within the leave given to him to read a statement should honourable senators opposite persist in their opposition to having the statement incorporated in Hansard without being read. I suggest with great respect that Senator Cohen is doing no more than acting in accordance with the leave that he was granted to make a statement. I did not hear the word 'brief mentioned by you, Mr President, when you asked the Senate whether leave was granted.

Senator Anderson - When Senator Wright read the statement it was my clear intention that the Senate should take note of the paper and then I was proposing, after arranging the business, to move for the adjournment of the Senate. Senator Cohen spoke to me across the table and said, as I understood him, that he intended to move that we take note of the paper and wished to speak for only a couple of minutes before doing so.

Senator Cohen - And I said that I would ask for leave to continue my remarks.

Senator Anderson - That is so. It was in that spirit - and Senator Wright is quite correct - that leave was given. Now, of course. Senator Cohen seeks to introduce a statement of policy which is a different matter altogether. Had I known of that intention, Senator Wright or another honourable senator on this side of the chamber would have moved that the Senate take note of the paper. 1 would then have moved the normal motion that the debate be adjourned to the next day of sitting. The matter would then have been stood over. That is the normal procedure. It was an act of courtesy by me to extend opportunity to Senator Cohen to speak for a few minutes before asking for leave to continue his remarks at a later lime. With great respect, Mr President, he has moved completely away from that understanding.

Senator Ormonde - Would not the simple solution be for Senator Cohen to move that the debate be now adjourned?

The PRESIDENT - Senator Ormonde, I must point out that there is no motion before the chair as to which the adjournment could be moved. At the present time Senator Cohen is speaking only by leave to make, as he said, a few brief remarks on the matter. He said that he would make only a few brief statements. At the moment I cannot see any reason why Senator Cohen cannot continue, but it would be out of keeping with his original request for leave to make a few remarks.

Senator Cormack - I do not wish to embarrass you, Sir, nor do I wish to embarrass my leader who is sitting at the table, lt is quite true that the Leader of the House answers on behalf of those who sit behind him, and it is not often that a senator sitting behind the Leader of the House is able to understand the undertakings that are given across the table. It is perfectly in accordance with parliamentary practice that the arrangements for the conduct of business should in the first instance take place in discussion between the Leader of the Opposition - in this case, the acting Leader of the Opposition - and the Leader of the Government in the Senate. But in the final analysis, as we have heard ad nauseam from Senator Murphy who is absent tonight, the business lies in the hands of the Senate. I have a distinct recollection, which has not been contradicted, that when asking for leave Senator Cohen said that he wished to make a brief statement. Then having begun to make a brief statement he proceeded to ask for the indulgence of the Senate to enable him to incorporate in Hansard some unknown and unspecified mass of verbiage which sets out the policy of the Australian Labor Party, which is not a debatable matter in the Senate. Leave was refused. Then the acting Leader of the Opposition, in the absence of Senator Murphy, asked to be permitted to continue his remarks. I suggest that the indulgence of the Senate has been canvassed, that Senator Cohen is out of order and that the will of the Senate should prevail.

Senator O'Byrne - The Standing Orders provide that the leave of the Senate must be granted without a dissentient voice. Senator Wright asked for leave to make his statement and there was no dissentient voice. Senator Cohen applied for leave and leave was granted. I do not think leave can be qualified. When an honourable senator is granted the leave of the Senate to continue with a statement, he should be able to go on as long as is required. I point out that the Senate has to get on with its business and that, if the precedent is to be created that leave can be refused, Ministers will find it much more difficult to carry on the business of the Senate than will we of the Opposition. On the rare occasions when we have asked for the leave of the Senate to make a statement it has nearly always been granted. If we are to establish as a precedent that leave may be qualified we will nol be able to get through the business of the Senate.

Senator Byrne - According to Mr Odgers' book 'Australian Senate Practice', at page 126, apparently when leave is sought the purposes for which the leave is sought must be stated. Mr President, with due respect to you, I do not think you required the observance of that condition and I do not think Senator Cohen stated the purpose for which the leave was required. He said that he wanted to make a statement. Whether or not he said he wanted to make a brief statement I do not know, but he did say that he wished to make a statement. The effect of that, unfortunately, was to deny to the Senate at that point the exercise of a judgment on the facts. Therefore the matter proceeded and at a later stage, when it was perhaps too late, Senator Cohen indicated the purpose for which he sought leave and to which he now proposes to direct his remarks. It may be that the procedure was incorrect at the beginning. I believe that the granting of leave is a precious thing not to be lightly sought and perhaps not to be lightly given; otherwise it trespasses unduly on the procedures of the Senate. Therefore, perhaps Senator Cohen will rethink the matter and consider whether, if you had insisted on knowing the purpose for which he wanted the leave of the Senate, in the terms of the Standing Orders, the Senate in its unanimous discretion would have granted him leave. I think that Senator Cohen should now place the Senate in the position in which it might have been initially and in that way pursue the proposition that he now has in mind. I merely present that as a proposition to which Senator Cohen might give consideration.

The PRESIDENT - If my recollection serves me correctly, Senator Wright finished his statement and Senator Cohen asked for leave to make brief remarks on the statement. I think that is quite clear. The interpretation of 'brief remarks' is Senator Cohen's, not mine. Then the honourable senator sought leave to incorporate an article in Hansard and he was refused leave to do so. I cannot do anything about that. If he now goes on at length and reads the matter that he sought to have incorporated in Hansard I have no power to prevent him from doing so.

Senator COHEN - I am both flattered and embarrassed by the quantity and quality of the assistance that is being offered to me in the resolution of the problem that apparently has been thrust upon me. If leave had been granted to me in the same way as it was granted to the Minister, from whom we did not seek any explanation when he sought leave to make his statement, the statement of policy of the Australian Labor Party on education would by now be in Hansard and we all would have gone home. But some honourable senators have thought fit to suggest to me that I should curtail my remarks. I appreciate what has been said by my colleagues, Senator Kennelly and Senator Ormonde, who have said that

I am entirely at large in what I want to say. For myself, I did not assume that. I thought that I would discharge my obligation, not only to those who follow me and my leader in the Senate but also to the Senate itself, by making some very brief observations and incorporating a statement in Hansard. The whole exercise, if that is the right word, would have taken me about 30 seconds. That was exactly what I had proposed to do. lt is perfectly true that I did indicate to the Leader of the Government that I did not expect to be long, but that was because 1 expected that I would be given the same courtesy as the Opposition spokesman on education matters as the Minister received when he sought leave to make a statement on education. I assumed that there would be no difficulty about incorporating in Hansard a statement of policy which could be debated at an appropriate time but which would be there to assist all honourable senators in knowing what the Opposition stood for in education. It is quite plain that the Government proposes to treat its education policy as a propaganda exercise, lt does not want the Opposition policy to be stated, however briefly. I do not want to embarrass the Senate or to be guilty of any breach of any explicit or implied undertaking to the Leader of the Government as to what we agreed that I should do. T had no intention of making a lengthy statement. 1 wanted, in two sentences, to state the Opposition's broad attitude. Because a lengthy statement was made by the Minister it would need time for consideration. 1 thought that when we came to debate education matters honourable senators on the Government side would find it useful to know in a comprehensive way what was the alternative education policy for Australia. I am disappointed to know that honourable senators do not propose to give me leave to do it. In those circumstances I promise them a very energetic debate at the first opportunity, and I hope that the Leader of the Government will say that the opportunity will be given to me during next week. If he does not intimate that. I propose to read the statement which I have asked leave to incorporate in Hansard.

Senator Anderson - I make no promises under duress or a threat like that. It would be completely absurd for me to do so. The fact of the matter is that in my judgment

Senator Cohenhas misunderstood, to use a gentle term, the agreement which we made. In view of that I think he should move that the debate be adjourned and should ask for leave to continue his remarks.

Senator Cohen - I am never going to be accused, I hope, as long as I am in the Senate, of breaking any undertaking. If there is a misunderstanding about it, I do not propose to take advantage of it. I can only complain of the fact that courtesies are not being extended to the Opposition in these circumstances.

Senator O'Byrne - Read the statement.

Senator Cohen - I will not read it. I know that it is the desire of honourable senators who sit behind me that this statement should be incorporated.

Senator Anderson - When you come to take the debate, you are as free as the wind to do it.

Senator Cohen - We have reached a very difficult stage in the proceedings of the Senate. We are on the eve of a very tough Budget pre-election session. If we are to take it that no leave will ever be given-

Senator Wright - If it is abused-

Senator Cohen - It can be that way. but I do not want it that way. I do not like the suggestion that there has been any abuse. I do not even want to accede to the suggestion which those who sit behind me are making that I should read out this matter, but I do expect some indication from the Minister that he will facilitate a debate on these matters next week so that I may have an opportunity to do what I had proposed to do tonight and which would have taken about 30 seconds. I move:

That the debate on the Minister's statement be adjourned.

Senator Anderson - I shall move for the continuation of the debate at a later date.

The PRESIDENT - Order! I suggest to Senator Cohen that he should move that the Senate take note of the paper and then ask leave to continue his remarks.

Senator Cohen - I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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