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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 1966

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate) - I think that Senator O 'Byrne was completely unjustified in saying that the Government has not received cooperation from the Opposition parties. The statement made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, pointed out that the Government has received co-operation. When one considers the work load of this sessional period as compared with that of others, one realises that the Government must have received the co-operation of the Opposition. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has asked the Senate to agree to an extension of the sitting time of the Senate by 4 hours 1 5 minutes each week for the remainder of this sessional period. This is the fourth occasion on which the Senate is to sit at different times during this sessional period which commenced with the introduction of the Budget. The original times were those which the Senate normally sat over the years. Then the times were changed to provide for longer sittings. Then there was a change which meant that the Senate adjourned at 7 o'clock on 2 nights a week. Now the Leader of the Government has asked for a further change. My party wholeheartedly supports this change because we believe that if we are to end this sessional period at a reasonable time before Christmas we have to sit extra hours.

I contest the statement by Senator 0 'Byrne that this sessional period is being made longer because Senate committees have been sitting. This practice is not new. I recall that in years gone by we have had committees examining the Estimates.

Senator Murphy - Those committees sat at night. We adjourned and came back afterwards.

Senator McLaren - The sitting of the Senate was suspended. '

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I accept that point. The point I want to make is that I recall well what happened after those Estimates committee meetings, when we came back into the Senate. Because some honourable senators on the Government side, who at that time were in Opposition, did not support the policy of attending Estimates committee meetings, we had to go through the whole of the Estimates again in this place. That practice delayed the Senate for great periods and that time could have been used to deal with Government business. What Senator O 'Byrne said was not quite factual.

I repeat that I support the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. The Press and people in this Parliament do not recognise, or do not want to recognise, how much time the Senate is sitting, the work that it is doing and the cooperation that is being given by the Opposition parties. My Party is a small one, as is the Democratic Labor Party. On occasions when we believe that the Government's legislation is worth supporting we let the main Opposition party speak on behalf of our 2 parties. Our senators do not rise to speak. That does not mean that we do not take part in those debates because we cannot speak for ourselves or because we do not want to speak. We do not believe that after the Opposition spokesman has spoken we should rise and say that we support the legislation and continue the debate. I say to the Leader of the Government that he has our fullest co-operation at all times and I hope that the Government will co-operate with us. I support the motion.

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