Senate debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Business

Days and Hours of Meeting

3:40 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—The issue that Senator Waters raises about school holidays is a fair point. Obviously, this program has gone through the House of Representatives as well, so I propose that we deal with it as put forward today. I'll take that on notice and explore that. We'll have some time to have another look at that particular week, in relation to school holidays.

In relation to travel—and I come from Western Australia; I understand what Senator Waters is talking about in terms of logistical challenges—we do need to ensure that we facilitate members and senators coming to Canberra in a way that is workable, so we will continue to make these arrangements, as we have, for as long as is appropriate. I think all parties and all senators would support the comments in relation to ensuring that the meetings will be conducted in a way that is COVID-safe and that is consistent with relevant health guidance. I certainly agree with that.

In relation to Senate estimates, we haven't had a budget. Normally in May-June, we have two weeks of budget estimates and, at different times of the year, we have additional or supplementary estimates that are always linked to a specific event, whether that's annual reports or the half-yearly budget update or, indeed, the budget. The program that we're proposing has two estimates weeks in October, after the budget has been delivered. We are confident that, in terms of the health context and the COVID environment, it should be safe by then to bring together the number of people involved in the estimates process over that period. We're not proposing to amend the program in the way that Senator Waters has suggested in relation to the June sitting weeks.

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