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Wednesday, 27 June 2018
Page: 4180


The PRESIDENT (16:36): We have one matter remaining.

Senator Wong: Mr President, can I just put to you—and I've raised this before—that obviously one-minute divisions are necessary at times and people are in the chamber, but the last vote—which I would have supported had I been able to get here in the one minute—was on a reasonably controversial matter, and I would say to you that it was not an appropriate matter to be dealt with in a one-minute division, and I place that on the record. We facilitate those one-minute divisions—

Senator Abetz interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, please continue. Don't respond to the interjection.

Senator Wong: The vote was on a matter of some controversy, a matter about which people feel sincerely, and, as I said, I would have supported the motion. I do think that, on certain occasions, the subject matter of the motion really renders them inappropriate for one-minute divisions.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, my response to that—

Senator McGrath: We'd be happy for the motion to be put again for four minutes, if that would assist you, Senator Wong.

Senator Wong: I'm happy to put my position on the record, but I am making a broader point in that there are occasions when the motion before the chair really, in terms of its substance, ought not be dealt with in a one-minute division, which does not allow people who are not here to get here in time.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, my response to what you raised—and I did receive your message during that particular count—is that both whips were—

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: It's a fair point to raise. Both whips were advised and the chamber was advised on numerous occasions that this was to be a one-minute bell because we had had numerous divisions in the lead-up. This motion was actually about the ordering of business at the Senate next time, and I've made the point in the chamber twice today that, when statements are being made on matters on the Notice Paper, they should relate to the motion, not necessarily the substance. This motion was about managing the business of the Senate when we resume in August.

If any senator in the future would like to flag with me an issue that they think is of enough import that they would insist on a four-minute bell, I am very happy to take that in advance. I was not advised in any way in this case that there would be a request for a longer bell, even on the two occasions when I made the point to the chamber that there would be a one-minute bell. But I take the point. I do rely on advice from senators.

Senator Wong: In response, I appreciate that, Mr President. I obviously was not able to be here for all of the divisions leading up to this. I've made the point. It was not simply an ordering of business. It was a substantive motion that brings on a bill which will have a conscience vote for a number of parties and enables debate for three or four days. It was not a minor reordering of the Senate business.

The PRESIDENT: I'm not saying it's minor. I put to you, Senator Wong, that it's a substantial reordering of the Senate but it is not a motion dealing with the substance of the bill; it is actually saying that the Senate will, when it resumes, deal with that. Senator Abetz?

Senator Abetz: On a point of order, if I may, Mr President: I understand that there are arrangements in this place for the pairing of senators, and I understand that Senator Penny Wong was officially paired in that division. And it is quite obvious that, in those circumstances, she would have been paired and in the Hansard for the purposes that she wanted, so I don't know what the fuss is about.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Abetz, what I'll say about pairing is: that is a matter for the whips; it's not a matter for the order of the Senate. But what I will say is that, if senators, in the future, see something on the Notice Paper they would like a guaranteed opportunity to get here for, I'm very happy to take that, and I will advise the chamber accordingly. Senator Collins?

Senator Jacinta Collins: Mr President, I thank you for your approach to this issue. Indeed, Senator Wong was in part responding to the fact that, indeed, I did have a discussion with our whip about our pairing, and we did not have sufficient time to deal with it.

The PRESIDENT: As I said, I'm in the hands of the chamber. If matters get brought to my attention, I'll respond accordingly to facilitate courtesy to all senators. So senators can think about that at the next Notice Paper tomorrow.