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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2005

Senator KEMP (3.26 pm.) —I rise to join in this important debate. Unlike Senator Coates, I am a strong supporter of people in this chamber writing articles and making speeches. I listened with great interest to Senator Coates's speech because I remember that he attempted to make quite a name for himself by attacking the Clerk of the Senate because of speeches he made and papers he wrote. I am greatly in favour of the President going out and making speeches which recognise the very high office that the President holds.

  Mr President, you will be acutely aware because of the debate that has occurred in this chamber over the last couple of years in relation to the behaviour of Mr Keating and his approach to the Senate that people in this chamber are particularly sensitive about these issues. I think the attitude of Mr Keating has put particular pressure on the President of this chamber to act in a way which can be seen to be promoting the interests of this chamber in a constructive and effective way and defending this chamber against the sort of abuse that we have to cop from Mr Keating.

  I thought some aspects of the paper were important in terms of the development of the committee system. I was interested to read your remarks about that, Mr President. However, I take issue, Mr President, with one particular part of your paper. On page 7 you make the statement that the estimates committees are an opposition show. We can all debate what `show' means. This is true of Labor in opposition as much as it is of the current opposition. I was here from 1977 to 1982 when I was a senior adviser to a minister in the former government.

Senator Collins —It didn't do him much good, I noticed.

Senator KEMP —No, it was a `her'—Senator Collins is a bit slow—and she was a much respected minister. We have in this chamber at the moment two new senators: Senator Neal and Senator Forshaw.

Senator Sherry —And Senator Abetz.

Senator KEMP —No, he is experienced. Senator Neal and Senator Forshaw may have assumed that the senators of the Liberal and National parties when they were in government behaved in the same lazy, indolent manner that Labor senators—their senators—behave in estimates committees. I want to tell Senator Neal and Senator Forshaw that I can remember going to estimates committee after estimates committee with my minister and seeing the effective way that people in the Liberal and National parties—the senators who were in government—were prepared to ask questions in an attempt to follow through particular issues and facts that they were concerned about.

  Mr President, others will debate other matters in your paper, but it is quite wrong to suggest that senators on this side of the chamber were as lazy and as indolent as the Labor senators are and have been in estimates committees in the last 10 years. I make that point in a constructive manner on the assumption that Senator Neal and Senator Forshaw, who are new to this chamber, will not adopt the same lazy habits of their colleagues in relation to the estimates process.

  Mr President, it is important that you deliver papers and that you give speeches. In this context where the parliament is under constant attack by Mr Keating it is important that you be seen in the public arena to be taking an important and constructive approach to parliament and represent the parliament to the people. Some issues in this paper cause problems and they have been well canvassed by my colleagues. I hope, Mr President, that you see the comments that have been made as constructive. It is difficult to go from being the head of a faction to being the independent presiding officer of this chamber. It is a big leap. We hope that in the future you will make that leap with greater success.