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Thursday, 9 June 1994
Page: 1627

Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction) (3.12 p.m.) —I am not surprised that Senator Kemp would use this opportunity to express his view that everything in Australia should stay as it was in 1880 or 1890. The material that he has been persistently putting out over the last three or four years since the republican debate started basically says: leave everything absolutely the same. I remember debating him in this chamber before the 1993 election. At that time he pointed out to us that he was a Liberal senator for Victoria looking after a number of Labor held electorates in the western suburbs. He said, `Senator Schacht, you go out to Footscray, you go out to Coburg, you go out to those Labor electorates and see whether the working class are interested in the republican issue. We will debate you any time on this issue.'

  In the 1993 election speech, the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) made it absolutely clear that the policy of Australia becoming a republic would be debated. There was a commitment as to the date—that is, 2001 on the centenary of federation. It was unambiguous, unequivocal in the policy speech. The Prime Minister made that announcement up front on television. The election took place, and guess who won, Senator Kemp? We won. Guess what happened in all of those western suburbs in Melbourne, all the traditional Labor areas? There was an outstanding result. Maybe it was because Senator Kemp campaigned there that we did even better than could have been expected. We did very well in those areas in which Senator Kemp campaigned. People knew that that was our policy.

  Since the election we have established an expert group to report to the government on a number of options. A cabinet sub-committee is now considering that and will report shortly. It is a very clear, orderly process of how this debate is to be handled. The Prime Minister, quite rightly, is able to say overseas to people who ask him and in conversation—

Senator Kemp —Ask him? He makes speeches on it.

Senator SCHACHT —He is able to make speeches about it. I point out that, as the elected Prime Minister of Australia who put this issue on the agenda in the election of 1993 and who won the election, he is able, in my view and in our view, to discuss these issues overseas without fear of contradiction from the opposition. He raised it at the election and the people voted for us. It was in the mandate. Those opposite shout and jump up and down about promises being made by government. Here is one the Prime Minister made, and he has carried out the proper process.

  Senator Kemp asked `What does it mean?', and said that if someone came to us saying that we ought to change our constitution we would send that person packing. That is a typical antediluvian, troglodyte attitude of the far Right of the Victorian conservatives. They do not want to change from the 1880s. I suspect that in the Melbourne Club—that group of people who changed the leadership of the Liberal Party—one of the things they want to bring back is knighthoods. They want to give themselves gongs.

Senator Kemp —The Honourable Chris Schacht.

Senator SCHACHT —There we would have it: Sir Rodney Kemp. What a joke it would be.

Senator Kemp —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I point out, in fairness, that it is the Honourable Chris Schacht—honourable for life; a British title—who is making these points. If he wants to laugh at titles, fair enough, but he should drop his own.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Kemp, that was not a point of order. It was a debating point.

Senator SCHACHT —I inherited the title of honourable. It is something I never use. In all of the material that I send out I never use it. It is used only where the formalities require it. I would agree with Senator Kemp if he wanted to propose a motion, but would he vote in here to change the title `honourable'? Of course he would not because he could not wait to get hold of it. He could not wait to become `Sir'. He could not wait for his wife to become `Lady'. He could not wait to hand out the gongs, because that is what he is on about. It is the old class privilege of the Melbourne Club. Those opposite cannot take it: the Prime Minister raised the issue in an election campaign and was re-elected accordingly.