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Thursday, 18 May 1972
Page: 1841

Senator YOUNG (South Australia) - I feel that I must correct one thing in particular. Tonight Senator Cavanagh and Senator Cant stated that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, should have accepted the fact that when the Committee of the Whole debated the report of the Standing Orders Committee the amendments to standing order 64, including amendment No. 5, should have 'been referred back to the Standing Orders Committee. 1 point out to the Senate that the statement made by the honourable senators is not correct, because the Committee of the Whole did not deal with amendment No. 5. I think that I should read out that amendment for the purpose of the record. Amendment (5) reads:

Leave out 'Provided that the whole discussion on the subject shall not exceed 3 hours', insert Provided that the whole discussion on the subject shall not exceed 2 hours'.

Senator Cavanagh - What became of that amendment?

Senator YOUNG - -Tht amendment was not discussed by the Committee. The debate was adjourned before we dealt with it. I turn to the notice of motion we are debating tonight and which is in the name of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. He has moved:

That the Senate agrees in principle that standing order 64 relating to urgency, motions should provide that the whole discussion on the subject should not exceed 2 hours.

What we are discussing is entirely different from some of the arguments that were raised tonight, particularly by Senator Cavanagh. He dealt at length with the break up of the 2 hours during which the matter can be debated. That is not the subject under discussion. Tonight we are discussing the length of the debate. I think I should point out that the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee was that a debate on a matter of urgency should be reduced to 2 hours from the previous 3 hours; that the 2 initial speakers should have 20 minutes each, instead cf the previous 30 minutes each, and that further speakers should have 10 minutes each, instead of the previous 15 minutes each. Worked out mathematically, in the 2- hour debate - I am doing this to reply to Senator Cavanagh - 2 speakers take 20 minutes each. That makes 40 minutes. That leaves 1 hour 20 minutes, which is taken up by a series of speakers who have not more than 10 minutes each. That allows another 12 speakers, so a total of 14 speakers can participate in the 2 hours allotted for that debate. Under the present system, with a 3-hour debate, the 2 initial speakers take half an hour each. That makes a total of 1 hour. That leaves 2 hours to be allotted to a number of speakers who can speak for a maximum of 15 minutes each. That gives a total of 8 other speakers and a grand total of 10 speakers in that debate. So if the proposal for a time limit of 2 hours on an urgency debate were adopted a minimum of 14 speakers could participate in the debate whereas under the existing provision for a 3- hour debate the maximum number of speakers contributing to the debate - unless some voluntarily cut down their speaking time - is 10. That counters the argument of Senator Cavanagh that the acceptance of this proposal would restrict the opportunity of honourable senators to participate in an urgency debate in this chamber. I have mentioned that merely because it was brought into the debate by Senator Cavanagh.

What I do want to say in particular is that I think it is essential that we give serious consideration to reducing the time for urgency motions to 2 hours. The restructuring of the Senate because of the establishment of the committee system as we have it today has brought time strains. The Senate also decided recently to set aside time for the debating of committee reports. These are another very important aspect of the structure of the Senate today. I agree with Senator Sim and the other honourable senators who have said tonight that if we put our minds to it we can quite adequately cover the points we wish to make in an urgency debate in 10 minutes. I support Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson's motion.

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