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Wednesday, 28 April 1971

Senator POYSER (Victoria) - 1 wish also to oppose the proposal which has been submitted by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). I do not oppose the extension of a quarter of an hour from a quarter to 6 until 6 o'clock or the other minor adjustments, but I do oppose the giving of facilities to the Government to rush through this Parliament the number of Bills it is hoping to deal with in one short week. I have examined today's House of Representatives notice paper and found that there are still' 28 . Bills on it. These Bills will have to pass "through the Senate within - if we do. not sit any longer than the House of Representatives; - trie next week if the full legislative programme is to be carried out. There are only 3 Bills on the notice pape of the Senate for consideration. One of those Bills is at the Committee stage. The debate on the motion for the second reading of that Bill has been completed and all that is left is its consideration in Committee. Only , 2 other Bills are on the notice paper. However, the document which I have in front of me indicates that, if the normal processes of the legislative programme are carried out, 28 Bills will be introduced in the next few days. I am told that more Bills are to be introduced in the other place, too.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Five more.

Senator POYSER - That makes a total of 33 Bills which have to be dealt with in a little over a week. In' addition to that there is the fact that under General Business on the notice paper of the Senate alone are 32 items which should be discussed. It is obvious that the matters which are on the notice paper under General Business - private members' Bills, ministerial statements and so on - have been placed there because honourable senators consider them to be of some importance and to be matters that should be discussed in this chamber. It is quite obvious now that none of the matter's under General Business on the notice paper will see the light of day in this session. Included in these matters is a ministerial statement on which we had a little bit of a to do last night. I refer to the ministerial statement on Papua New Guinea. Honourable senators' on this side of the chamber WiN want to debate the ministerial- statement about independence, that finally will' be granted to Papua New Guinea. ...

The Senate is being asked now not only to carry these items of legislation in this short period of time but also to consider what I, believe to be 3 extremely important items of legislation which honourable members on this side of the chamber believe should be examined and debated at some length. The first, item to which I refer is the Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Bill, which is now on the notice paper. The second item is the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill, which is of tremendous importance to members on this side of the Senate. We should have a full debate on that Bill and we should be able to propose the amendments that we feel should be submitted to the Senate for its consideration. The third item which I think is of some importance and which should take some time to be considered is the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which will be renewed for the next 5 years. They are only 3 items that 1 can see by glancing very quickly through the notice paper that could take probably the rest of the time that has been allocated for the remainder of this session.

We on the Opposition benches find that we are almost being politically blackmailed in relation to our ability to amend legislation. I recall on one occasion, when a

Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill was before the Senate in the last few days of the Senate sitting - the other place was not sitting. We sat on for a few days longer so that we could complete the business of the chamber. The only valid excuse that was given for rejecting an amendment that was moved by a senator from this side of the chamber was that the other place was not sitting and that if the amendment were carried the legislation could not be finalised until the next session of Parliament and we would be denying the wheat growlers of this country a stabilisation scheme for that period.. No Opposition, wherever it may be or whoever is in .government, should be blackmailed into carrying legislation that it believes should, be amended. _We are now in this position, particularly in relation to. the workers compensation legislation. . We. may be forced into a situation of not being permitted or not being able to amend it as we wish, on the ground that the benefits contained in the legislation will be withheld from the workers of this country if we insist on pursuing amendments when the other place has risen.

I say: without hesitation - and without apology that the Senate should not under any circumstance relate its sittings to those of the other place. If we, as a Senate, decide to. amend legislation, the alternative should be adopted and the other place should be recalled to consider the amendments that we have passed. We are in an intolerable position. By acquiescing at any time to this type of motion we are perpetuating something which is creating a situation in which this country is being governed by the Executive and not by the Parliament. The Government rushes legislation through. It is not examined properly. Who can examine properly 28 Bills in a few days? They will be carried through this chamber. On a subsequent occasion, when we decide that certain clauses in legislation are not fit and proper to be in legislation, the Government will refer to a Bill that was carried through this place under these circumstances - in the rush of the last week of sitting - and will say: 'Here is legislation in which this principle has been carried unanimously and without opposition by the Senate'. The Government uses these tactics as a precedent to get under the guard of vigilant members of this Parliament.

I say that under no circumstances should the Senate agree to the extended hours of sitting, with the exception of the few minor alterations of quarter of an hour here and there. I recall that during the last session the Senate, by an overwhelming majority, agreed that we should sit in cycles of 2 weeks on and one week off. The sitting days would be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the first week and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week. That would give us about 10 days off in which to look after the business for which we were elected and other business such as committee work. We have not observed that timetable since the motion was carried by the Senate. We have never observed a 4day sitting week simply because the Government has not been able to provide the Senate with business for it to be able to sit 4 days a week. As was said earlier, if it had not been for the Opposition and members on the corner benches providing business for the Senate, the Government would have had to close shop because it is obvious that the Government has no intention of permitting much of the general business on the notice paper to be debated. I ask the Senate to give consideration to meeting at the normal hours decided upon last year 2 weeks sitting and one week off.

On this occasion we have agreed to sit for a third week: When we did this we did not expect that we would be confronted with the proposition that is now before us of extending the sitting hours further. At that time we were not confronted with the proposition that we would have simultaneous sittings of different sections of the Senate, as has been brought about by the carriage of the previous motion. I ask the Leader of the Government to reconsider this proposal and to return to a system of sane consideration of legislation.I know that each year the Opposition and members of the Democratic Labor Party have protested against this rushing through of business in the dying hours of the session. The position has not improved. I think that on this occasion the situation is far worse than it has ever been because the Government has kept until the last week all the important and controversial legislation. It has kept until the last week all the legislation that may cause heated debate or amendments to be moved so that it can do what it did with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which was gagged and rushed through without proper consideration being given to it and without permitting members of the Senate to put the points of view which they have been elected to put. I oppose the motion.

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