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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 320

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services) (1.06 p.m.) —A quiet, non-controversial debate in the lunch hour about simple, agreed legislation: I am not quite sure whether Senator Tambling would agree with that assessment of his contribution. I certainly do not.

Senator Tambling —I was given advice of this debate one minute before it started. The government did not give advance notice.

Senator CROWLEY —He has used this piece of legislation to trawl across a lot of issues. Let me deal with them. We note, by the way, that he approved the legislation and thinks it is a good thing. The government is pleased to hear that too. First of all, to make much of tabling a public Labor Party document is a good piece of theatre. Senator Tambling can table it in here, but we know that it is a publicly available document. I thank him for the display of theatre.

  Secondly, I mention the legal opinion. Senator Tambling says he got one minute's notice; I think I probably got a second and managed to make three while he talked. If he wishes to have that document tabled to have that opinion canvassed, I am quite sure that the people for whom that is relevant will canvass that issue very extensively. Of course, we remind everybody that it is of absolutely no pertinence to this piece of legislation at all except that it talks about Aboriginals and land rights, not necessarily specifically to the points at issue under this piece of legislation.

  Then Senator Tambling took a large breath and talked about how people are labelled and all these things. He said, `I am not going to be persuaded by left wing'—whatever they are—`Labor Party people.' That is another piece of theatre from the honourable senator. Well done! We understand the game that is being played here. I cannot think how many issues the honourable senator has trawled into this debate on this piece of legislation. Non-controversial during lunchtime!

Senator Tambling —Your people put it on the table for lunchtime.

Senator CROWLEY —As I understand it, legislation that comes in here at lunchtime is agreed. As I understand it, it is non-controversial. As I understand it, there is no point of difference about this legislation. In one moment I will sit down and it will all go through.

Senator O'Chee —That doesn't mean he hasn't got the right to speak.

Senator CROWLEY —Of course he has got the right to speak. I am not saying he has not.

Senator O'Chee —I'm glad you admit it.

Senator CROWLEY —Oh, come on, Senator O'Chee!

Senator O'Chee —You know that, Senator Crowley.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Calvert)—Order!

Senator CROWLEY —I know that very well and so does Senator O'Chee. He knows that saying, `You know it,' is just making some more puffed up theatre about it all. What Senator Tambling has done is raise a few issues here, some of which are very important, some of which go very close to accusations that are the sorts of things honourable senators would be much more careful about if they were not in parliament. I will certainly make sure that my colleagues have Senator Tambling's speech drawn to their attention for two reasons: firstly, to make sure that the points of substance raised by Senator Tambling are thoroughly examined and looked at; and, secondly, so that the points of criticism might also be treated with the same kind of concern.

  As I said, the points Senator Tambling raised go well beyond the ambit of this bill. I have forgotten Senator Tambling's exact words and I dare not put a word in his mouth that I am not absolutely sure of, but he spoke about improper behaviour in the management or expenditure of money when buying pastoral leases. I am advised that that is absolutely incorrect and that Minister Tickner has made a statement about that today.

  So again I say to Senator Tambling that, as a piece of non-controversial legislation, it is a fairly inflammatory `non-controversial' discussion. As I said, the best I can do is to make sure that Senator Tambling's comments and contributions are drawn to the attention of the relevant people, both for the substantive matters he has raised and for the accusations he has made, so that they can be thoroughly addressed. I thank honourable senators for their contribution. As it is an agreed position, apart from all those distractions, I commend the bill.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

Sitting suspended from 1.12 to 2.00 p.m.