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Monday, 1 June 1998
Page: 4275


Mr BEAZLEY —My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister recall telling an audience in Nowra on 29 March:

The prohibition on guns has made Australia a safer country and I am going to stick to defending it.

Prime Minister, are you aware that One Nation policy on firearms includes the repeal of federal legislation prohibiting the importation of firearms such as self-loading rifles, the repeal of the prohibition on the use of military style firearms by civilians, the granting of gun licences for life and the relaxation of gun registration requirements? Prime Minister, why have you permitted a deal that gives preference to a party that would water down your gun laws ahead of the Labor Party, which stood shoulder to shoulder with you on guns?

Honourable members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —Order! Members of the government will remain silent.


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I am rather pleased that the Leader of the Opposition has asked me this question because it gives me the opportunity to say two things. Firstly, it gives me the opportunity to say to those in whatever party they may be in the country that my government and I will be totally opposed with all the constitutional authority at our disposal to any attempt to water down Australia's gun laws. I want to make it clear that we do not support any attempt to water down Australia's gun laws.

Having dealt with that part of the Leader of the Opposition's question, let me now deal with another aspect of it, and that goes far deeper to this whole debate about the allocation of preferences in both the Queensland election and the up-coming federal election. As I understand it, what the Leader of the Opposition is saying is that there is something so distasteful about the policies of the One Nation Party that the One Nation Party should be placed below any other party on the ballot papers of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party.


Mr Bevis —You are right there.


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Brisbane.


Mr O'Connor —Everyone is saying that.


Mr Martin Ferguson —That is what the Treasurer is saying.


Mr HOWARD —I do think that this is an important issue and if those on the other side want to try to shout me down on the subject, let them try to do so. They can shout me down and make the transmission of this answer very difficult. If they do that, I will simply go outside and give the answer that I intend to give if they will allow me to do it.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Kingsford-Smith, the member for Hotham and the member for Burke!


Mr HOWARD —In the process they are going to do some damage to the institution of parliament. The basis of the Leader of the Opposition's claims is that in some way they have some kind of presumed moral high ground in relation to this.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr HOWARD —They say, `Hear, hear.' It is very interesting because you have got a situation where it is the moral high ground to put somebody last but it is not the moral high ground to beg for their preferences. That is what is happening in the Queensland election.


Opposition members —Rubbish! Rubbish!


Mr HOWARD —The Leader of the Opposition laughs, but this is what is happening. You have got Mr Peter Beattie, who is the Leader of the Opposition, saying, `Please consider giving your second preference to the Labor Party.'

Government members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —Members of the government will remain silent.


Mr HOWARD —That is what Mr Beattie is saying, `Please consider giving your second preference to the Labor Party.'


Mr SPEAKER —Members of the government!


Mr HOWARD —So apparently the morality of the situation stops—

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Cunningham!


Mr HOWARD —as soon as it starts to hurt you.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Kingsford-Smith! The member for Burke will remain silent.


Mr HOWARD —Everybody in Australia knows damn well that it really does not matter—

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Reid!


Mr HOWARD —In electoral terms it doesn't matter about the distribution of Liberal or Labor preferences—


Mr Bevis —That is not true!


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Brisbane will remain silent.


Mr HOWARD —All that matters is the distribution of the preferences of the One Nation Party.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Corio will remain silent.


Mr HOWARD —When it comes to the distribution of the preferences of the One Nation Party, the Australian Labor Party is in there begging on its hands and knees. It is in there begging on its hands and knees to have the preferences of the One Nation Party.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Calwell! The member for Burke will remain silent.


Mr HOWARD —In other words, I am moral when it comes to preferences that will never be distributed but I am absolutely immoral—

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Burke will be silent. The member for Kingsford-Smith! The member for Canberra will remain silent.


Mr HOWARD —I am absolutely amoral when it comes to the distribution of prefer ences of a party that might make a difference. Everyone knows that at the next Queensland election the only party whose preference distribution can really have an impact on the result—


Mr Crean —Look at your backbench! Just look at their faces!


Mr O'Connor —They are not with you!


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Hotham! The member for Corio!


Mr HOWARD —is in fact the preferences of the One Nation Party. This attitude which is being taken by the Australian Labor Party is all of a piece with the attitude that it took in the last federal election.

Honourable members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Namadgi! The Minister for Veterans' Affairs!


Mr HOWARD —In the last federal election the Australian Labor Party put Australians Against Further Immigration ahead of the Liberal Party in the Leader of the Opposition's own seat. In the last federal election, the Australian Labor Party placed parties holding views similar to One Nation's ahead of the Liberal Party in a number of seats. In the Lindsay by-election the Australian Labor Party was prepared to do a preference deal with Australians Against Further Immigration. The Labor Party is engaging in Clayton's morality on the issue of preferences. The Labor Party is begging for the preferences of the One Nation Party in Queensland. Their leader has destroyed its credibility on this issue.


Mr Kelvin Thomson —You're not the leader Fraser was.


Mr SPEAKER —I would suggest the members of the opposition remain silent. The member for Wills is one of them.