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Thursday, 18 May 1972
Page: 1848

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I oppose this motion as I opposed the previous motion. 1 agree with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson that this motion is similar to the one just dealt with by the Senate. It is an attempt to cut down the rights of senators. I think that the responsibility rests on the person moving a motion of this kind to show that, because of some mischief which has arisen in the existing practice, remedial action needs to be taken. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson did not attempt to put up a case to sustain the argument that someone had offended the agreement and had extended the length of a speech on a broadcast day to take advantage of the privilege of speaking for an hour. He has not attempted to suggest that this motion is necessary to facilitate the business of the Senate.

The position he has reached is that he wishes to reduce the time allowed for speeches to that which we observe on days when the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast. He justifies his motion by saying that speeches on broadcast days are better, they are more concise and more to the point. Where was Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson yesterday when we travelled Queensland in the speeches that were delivered here? Surely there have been speeches today which have been more concise and more to the point than those delivered yesterday. Honourable senators in their speeches wandered around the backblocks of Queensland for the sake of a special grant of $9m to that State. I was convinced after those speeches that Queensland or its Government did not deserve that grant. This argument, if it is studied through, is without logic.

A number of honourable senators speak on Thursday because they have matters of interest which they wish to get to their electors through the record. What was -n agreement that speeches on broadcast days only should be limited to half an hour is now to be law in relation to all sitting days. Some honourable senators, including myself, on some subjects particularly ask not to speak on days when the proceedings are being broadcast because the development of our speeches on those subjects would take more than 30 minutes. I remember that on 2 occasions I had not developed my argument in an hour and extensions of time were granted. This was; not something which wasted the time of the Senate. The Senate appreciated that I was speaking on a subject that needed to be developed. These occurrences are not usual.

When the Standing Orders Committee was considering this matter it found that during the last session of the Senate the speaking time of individual senators, averaged 35 minutes. So, the opportunity to speak for an hour has not been abused. Despite the fact that an hour is available for speeches, the average time taken by speakers in this House has been 35 minutes. This shows that many honourable senators speak for less than 35 minutes.. Honourable senators who speak in excess of 35 minutes may have a difficult case to develop. They should be entitled to develop it. I well remember an appeal by Senator Byrne for an extension of time one evening. His plea was justified because I thought that his case was interesting.

In the debate on the Queensland Grant Bill, the most concise and interesting speech was given on Tuesday last by Senator McAuliffe who developed a case justifying the need for an investigation ireQueensland. That speech took him 40 minutes. If the time available to make such a speech was reduced, whoever followed the honourable senator would have needed to> extend the time of his speech for the purpose of covering the points that Senator McAuliffe had been denied the opportunity" to put forward.

Senator Sim - Could he have said the same things in 30 minutes?

Senator CAVANAGH - What the honourable senator says in an hour is not worth devoting more than 5 minutes to. Senator Marriott, the Assistant Minister assisting the Leader of the Government in the Senate, has no right to speak with ministerial authority, so there we have a further saving of time. But I am talking about the occasion on Tuesday when an honourable senator made a speech with sense and logic which was appreciated by everybody who was listening in the Senate. The presentation of his case took 40 minutes. Some honourable senators opposite want to deprive him of those 40 minutes. Senator Sim is interjecting. Point to an occasion when Senator Sim, and other honourable senators who are just as incapable of putling up a case, can speak for an hour and I will be happy to support the proposal. The only occasion on which an honourable senator speaks longer than 30 minutes or 35 minutes is when someone who is worth listening to has a case that needs developing. If we had carried this motion it would have meant that Senator Greenwood would not have been able to deliver his second reading speech on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill yesterday unless we bad given him an extension of time. If this proposal is carried and enforced I would be opposed to giving anyone an extension of time. Senator Greenwood, who has the responsibility to introduce that Bill, would not have been able to introduce it to this chamber today.

What are we to do? I have fought in my Party room this question of the rights of the back bencher; I have fought it in the Standing Orders Committee; I have fought it in this chamber. There is a determination among some honourable senators to cut down the rights and liberties of back, benchers. We must take some action. We hear continually that this move is essential in the new role of the Senate. Now we have it in the accursed committe system which takes away the rights of the elected people in this chamber. The committees sit behind closed doors to confer with heads of departments and witnesses, and then bring down reports which are never adopted by the Government. That is the stage we have reached with the committee system. The committee system i-. not welcomed by the back benchers from either party, because in the corridors there is criticism by both Liberal senators and Labor senators. Because of the determination of sections of this Senate to deprive individuals of their rights, we have no, alternative but to 30 to our respective party rooms in an attempt to wreck this new role of the Senate so that we can come back to being a debating forum in which the rights to the individual are protected.

We are told that this is to be a free vote, a non-party vote, yet in relation to matters concerned with the Standing Orders when has the Liberal Party or the Democratic Labor Party split when it comes to the vote? They put forward these propositions and tell us that the vote will be on non-party lines.

Senator Byrne - What did you say?

Senator CAVANAGH - In discussions of matters relating to the Standing Orders has the Democratic Labor Party ever divided when it came to the vote?

Senator Byrne - We remember that your Party objected to our representations on the Standing Orders Committee, and we resented that very much.

Senator CAVANAGH - In leading the discussion for his Party Senator McManus said that the Democratic Labor Party would support the proposition. There was no freedom of choice for his Party. This is now justified by Senator Byrne who has a mistaken belief in relation to some action that my Party took. I have been a member of the Standing Orders Committee for a longer time than Senator Byrne has been in this chamber since his return. The Democratic Labor Party made representations to have a representative on the Committee. Of my own knowledge, the Committee, supported by the Labor Party delegates, was always of the opinion that it should increase the number of members on the Committee by one in order to allow the minority groups to have representation. That was the attitude of the Labor Party which put forward the proposition.

Senator Byrne - That is not my recollection, but I will accept it if you give me that assurance.

Senator CAVANAGH - I can give you that assurance, as I think will every other member of the Committee. Now we have reached the stage where the Government is using this matter to show a solidarity in its organisation, a solidarity in the Democratic Labor Party, and divisions in the Labor Party because the Labor Party is the only honest group which votes according to its conscience. Wherever this proposal to take away the rights of individual members originated, it has to stop. If it cannot be stopped in this chamber it will have to be stopped somewhere else.

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