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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 1626

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - I think honourable senators will find that the proposal to refer the matter of housing to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment was moved on 23rd February 1971. The debate was then adjourned. I think it is reasonable to make the observation that there is a large number of matters before this Committee. We know that it is difficult to have general business brought on for discussion. Other matters were subsequently referred to the Committee. I think I moved for some of them to be referred to it. One was the continuing oversight of the problems of pollution. That motion was moved on 30th March 1971. It therefore was subsequent to the adjournment of the debate on this matter of housing. Then petitions relating to crime were referred to the Committee and its report has been presented.

Senator Cavanagh - But it has not been discussed.

Senator MURPHY - No, it has not yet been discussed. On 13th May 1971 the form and presentation of the information section of telephone directories was referred to the Committee and its report on that subject has been presented to the Senate. I think that motion was moved by Senator Byrne. The crime reference was moved by Senator Cavanagh. I moved for the Committee to inquire into the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites. Then there was the matter of a petition; it was for information only. The Committee reported also on the possible pollution of the environment by the Clutha project. Then the Committee had referred to it certain petitions relating to the Postmaster-General's Department.

All the matters I have mentioned were subsequent to the adjournment of the debate on this matter of housing. In view of the matters which have been presented since this debate was adjourned it would be preferable, rather than for me to proceed and to have this matter brought to a vote - I think it would be disposed of adversely, not on the merits of whether it should be inquired into by the Committee but on the basis that the Committee could not undertake the task at present - I am prepared to accede to the suggestion. Rather than have the matter decided tonight adversely, from our point of view, I would withdraw.

Senator Cavanagh - There is no more important question that housing.

Senator MURPHY - I agree with that statement but what has been put to me by the honourable senators concerned - I can add up as well as anyone else - is that if I proceed with this proposal this evening it would be defeated, not on the basis-

Senator Byrne - That does not necessarily follow.

Senator Cavanagh - You could give an assurance that it would not be defeated.

Senator Byrne - No, that is not the basis of the suggestion.

Senator MURPHY - My assumption is that if the matter proceeded to a vote the motion would be defeated, not on the basis of its merits but on the basis that the Committee could not cope with the inquiry at this stage. There may be other reasons why some honourable senators would vote against it - perhaps on the basis of merit. It is my understanding that, in any event, it would be defeated on the basis that it could not be dealt with. That being so, I propose to take the course which I indicated, without prejudice to the matter being restored and on the basis that it is not being dealt with on the merits. That means that it can be restored, if necessary, on the next sitting day.

Senator Byrne - I also suggested that if it were restored we might use the forms of the Senate to accord it some priority.

Senator MURPHY - I thank Senator Byrne for his interpolation. That is the course I propose to take in order that I may give some consideration to the matter. Perhaps I can consider the question of what is the appropriate committee in view of the work load on the committees and in the light of the fact that since I advanced the proposal to the Senate these other events have occurred with respect to references to this Committee. 1 therefore ask for leave to withdraw that motion.

Motion - by leave - withdrawn.

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