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Tuesday, 7 February 1995
Page: 636

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Mr SWAN (7.43 p.m.) —In recent weeks there has been a Goebbels» type campaign by the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Bennelong (Mr Howard), and others on his front bench to remake their image from hard Right ideologues to soft, cuddly, caring, non-threatening middle of the road type social democrats.

  Perhaps the most astounding and outstanding evidence of this campaign was the apology of the Leader of the Opposition for remarks that he made about Asian immigration. What is remarkable about that apology is not that it was made, but that it took seven years for him to make it. His apology on Asian immigration was the culmination of yet another campaign from the faceless men of the Melbourne Club to remake the leadership of the Liberal Party in their own image.

  As the Australian Financial Review of 31 January stated, Alexander Downer's fate was sealed, like that of John Hewson before him, by Mr Ron Walker, federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party. Alexander Downer's fate was sealed on the evening of 15 December at a famous dinner in Sydney at the Chateau hotel in Potts Point. On that day of 15 December, the critical decision was taken that Alexander Downer should go. Who was present at that dinner? The most significant attendee at that meeting, apart from Mr Walker, the federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party, was Mr Downer's ever so loyal deputy—


Mr Slipper —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. You drew the attention of the House just a few minutes ago to the necessity for honourable members to refer to other members of this place by the name of their electorate.


Mr SPEAKER —Correct; unless of course it is in a quotation. I assume that that was. But, if not, the member for Lilley will be a little careful.


Mr SWAN —That was a very significant dinner. Apart from Mr Walker, the federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party, the most other significant attendee was the member for Higgins, Mr Costello—the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. At that meeting Mr Walker and Mr Costello, the member for Higgins, said that Alexander Downer had to go, that big companies would simply not donate to the Liberal Party under his leadership. This comes from a man who had financed something like three losing federal election campaigns for the Liberal Party to the tune of $40 million from the money donated by the shareholders of those companies. Mr Walker made it abundantly clear that Alexander Downer had to go; that that was the decision of corporate Australia.


Mr Slipper —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I think the honourable member for Lilley did not hear the first time. If you are referring to the member for Mayo, please use the correct title.


Mr SWAN —The Liberal Party has to be an odd political party when its parliamentary leaders, including the deputy leader, the member for Higgins, sit around a dinner table with someone like Mr Walker, who is not known to the majority of Australians, and decide that its leadership has to change. That is not the Liberal Party of Sir Robert Menzies.

  So this dinner was another triumph for the Melbourne Club, described by the member for Wentworth (Dr Hewson) as faceless powerbrokers whose priorities are not those of average Australians. In this House the principal representative of the Melbourne Club is of course the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the member for Higgins. He is affectionately known in Victoria as `Dog', called so by the Premier of Victoria because he has all the attributes of that fine canine except loyalty. Loyalty was not in evidence at that dinner at the Chateau hotel in Sydney on 15 December.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.


Mr SWAN —The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party is part of a clique—


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Lilley will wait for a moment. The member for Sturt has a point of order.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order under standing order 76. On two occasions in the speech of the member for Lilley I have had cause to stand up but now choose to do so because of the second occasion. First of all he referred to the Leader of the Opposition as running a ` «Goebbels type campaign', which I find offensive, given the recent 50th anniversary of Auschwitz being liberated. It is a sensitive issue, and I do not think he should be bandying around names like that in connection with the Leader of the Opposition. Secondly, he is referring to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as a dog. I ask him to withdraw both imputations.


Mr SPEAKER —On both occasions I find that there is no point of order. In the first case, I think the sentence you referred to was uttered nearly four minutes ago and no point of order was taken. Secondly, he did not call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition by that title. I have listened very carefully. In fact, it is an expression which has been used here in the correct manner under the standing orders.


Mr SWAN —The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Higgins, is the representative in this chamber of the Melbourne Club. Along with the member for Goldstein, Dr Kemp, and others, he represents in this chamber the public face of the Melbourne Club.


Mr Somlyay —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.


Mr SPEAKER —We are not getting into debating points here about points of order. Is your point of order about a reference by the honourable member for Lilley to a member by his correct title?


Mr Somlyay —It is.


Mr SPEAKER —He has used it. Resume your seat.


Mr SWAN —To look at the opposition frontbench in this House under the member for Bennelong is to be reminded of Jurassic Park: a lot of dinosaurs with old ideas from the New Right agenda which is extinct elsewhere in the world but very much in evidence on the opposition frontbench.