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Tuesday, 16 May 1972
Page: 1660

Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia) - This debate is one on which all honourable senators should be very skilled because we have had a lot of practice on it over the years. Our Party met to discuss this matter this morning, lt is true, as Senator Drake-Brockman has said, that towards the end of a session we frequently make extra efforts and put in extra time. We feel, from looking at the notice paper, that it is not necessary for the motion to be introduced at this stage. Today there are 8 Bills on the notice paper. The debate on 7 of the Bills will be a cognate debate, so they would be dispensed with as one Bill. They would not take very long. I would have thought that, to facilitate matters, it would have been wise if the business had been rearranged so that Order of the Day No. 1 was postponed until after consideration of Nos 2 to 8. If I am any judge, Nos 2 to 8 will be dealt with fairly rapidly. I would think that Order of the Day No. 1 would take much longer to be dealt with because it is a Grant Bill and that kind of Bil] always attracts a lot of speakers. 1 suggest to the Government that it listen to our voice on this matter because we have been tremendously co-operative for quite a long time. Let me digress for one moment to say that 1 agree completely with Senator Drake-Brockman on one matter. 1 think 1 speak for everyone when 1 say that we will do everything possible not to sit late at night because it is just nol an efficient time to be sitting. If the earlier commencement times are introduced, that will interfere with the work of committees. We do not work here only during the prescribed sitting hours. On Tuesdays, for instance, the prescribed commencement time is 3 p.m. All honourable senators know that on Tuesdays there are meetings starting from about 9 a.m. onwards. 1 have a permanent commitment at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays. When I was a member of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee it always sat on a Thursday morning. I think it still does. There is a proliferation of committees. If the motion is carried, this year it will be much more difficult to adhere to those times without impinging on the other duties of honourable senators.

I suggest seriously to the Government that it postpone the motion to another sitting day. I have mentioned that we have been tremendously co-operative, and I think we have. Today answers were given to 20 questions on notice. It is the right of honourable senators to have those answers read. Today the Labor Party had control of that right in respect, of 15 answers but asked for only 2 to be read. Senator Greenwood asked that one of those answers be incorporated in Hansard and on behalf of my Party I agreed. In those circumstances I do not think it can be claimed fairly that we have been in any way difficult in these matters. The amount of time that is being asked for is not great and I make a very gentle suggestion to the Government, completely without offence, that had very long answers not been given by Ministers to some questions at least some time could have been picked up.

All honourable senators agree that the procedure at question time ought to be tightened up. It could be conducted much better, but some people are not cooperating as much as they should. I do not think philosophical discussions should be started in answer to questions.I say completely without offence to the Government that it is the Government that is asking for extra time. It is within the Government's grasp to make up a lot more time. We are doing everything we can to help and have done so from the early stages of this session. We have agreed to the incorporation in Hansard of second reading speeches. Within our Party this subject is hotly debated. I have allowed second reading speeches to be incorporated but now I am not so sure that my critics in my own Party are not right. We have bent over backwards to assist in getting the business through the Senate.

I suggest to the Government that the new times will not operate today and that about 3 hours will be picked up over the next 2 days.I do not think there will be a tremendous difference tomorrow. I do not think anything done tomorrow will affect the business of the Senate as shown on the notice paper today.I think the business could be more quickly handled if it were done the other way. and that is within the Government's province. My Party met to discuss this matter today. There was some sympathy for the Government on this hardy annual but it was felt that the Government is a little premature in introducing the motion at this time on this day. My suggestion is that the Government should adjourn the matter until Thursday and then have another look at the situation. At that time we may have a different attitude towards it.

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