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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2004

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (3.23 p.m.) —I have a number of concerns with the approach that the opposition, particularly Senator Hill, has taken in this debate. A long time ago I learned in politics never to condemn anyone for a newspaper headline—one should read in detail the report that is alluded to. Opposition senators, particularly, have a bad practice of looking at newspaper headlines and saying they are fact when they are not.

  Mr President, I was quite amazed that Senator Alston made comments in the media without actually reading the speech that you made. After I read the report in the newspaper article, I read your speech and I thought that your comments were quite balanced and reasoned—I have one slight criticism, and I will get to that in a moment. Your speech pointed out, quite legitimately, that all of us—and I dare anyone to contradict this—from time to time are a little over-enthusiastic in the way in which we pursue issues.

  I can recall senators opposite vigorously complaining to me about former Senator Bishop at three o'clock in the morning when she had been at it for four or five hours and they were all waiting. It was quite legitimate for them to complain about former Senator Bishop's performance on occasions. On other occasions I can recall former Senator Bishop making a very effective contribution. It is not up to Senator Hill to get up and read a long list of supposed opposition successes. It is not up to him to get up and say, `This is what you should have put in your speech, Mr President.'

  The only point of concern I have is that I thought you, Mr President, made some positive suggestions about how the opposition could lift its game. That concerned me, frankly, because it is not up to you, Mr President, to suggest how those opposite can improve their pretty abysmal performance. That was the only point of concern I had with your speech once I had read it. I certainly did not overreact, as Senator Alston did, to newspaper reporters ringing up. Senator Alston, as he usually does because he has a habit of doing this at every possible opportunity, is grandstanding and looking for a point to score.

The PRESIDENT —I am loath to involve myself in the debate because of the time constraints, but I do want to put it on notice that I would like to make a brief reply and that maybe I should take it now. I will make it brief because I am taking up the time of the Senate. I note that the comments that—

Senator Alston —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Half an hour is allowed for taking note of answers. There is absolutely no reason at all why you cannot seek leave of the chamber—on behalf of the opposition I can say that we would immediately allow you to do this—to speak. Simply cutting across senators because you cannot contain yourself any longer seems to me to be once again not adhering to the proper forms of this place. I suggest that you let Senator Kemp make his contribution, and we will hear from you in due course.

The PRESIDENT —I must say that I find the manner in which you raise these things offensive, and I do not think there is any need for that offensive tone. I am quite happy to have that arrangement and call Senator Kemp. I will not make a fuss about it but, if I am being attacked consistently, I ought to have a right of reply.