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Wednesday, 26 March 1997
Page: 2635

Senator CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer)(12.28 a.m.) —I do need to respond to a number of matters that have been raised. We have seen over the past week in particular a game that became quite clear to me towards the end of last year when the Labor Party played it. When I summed up the end of the sittings before Christmas—as you will recall, Madam President, because you sat in the chair—I was quite magnanimous and thanked the opposition and other senators for the cooperation we received.

Senator Faulkner said that he was sitting to our program. I must say that you can only have a program in this place that is agreed to by all senators. Yes, the adjournment time originally was set at eight o'clock. Senator Faulkner said that we proposed 12 o'clock and I called him a liar and I have withdrawn that remark. It was unparliamentary and I should not have said it.

However, I get angry when someone walks in here saying such things, knowing full well what the truth is—that is, we went to the opposition this morning and said, `We are not going to be able to finish these programs'—having taken 15 of those important bills off the program—`We will bring it down to five or six keys bills, including superannuation and a number of matters that have been dealt with today.'

We said that we will need to put the question for the adjournment when a minister moves it so that we have flexibility. The opposition came back and said, `No, we can't have an open-ended adjournment because that does not give anyone certainty. We will make it 12 o'clock.' I am giving away private conversations here, but I believe I can do that be cause the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Faulkner) has misled the Senate in relation to those discussions and those negotiations.

All senators need to understand and anyone who is silly enough to be sitting up listening to this needs to understand what the Manager of Opposition Business has done. I do look forward to Senator Carr speaking if he gets the call, because what I am about to tell you is what happened. He can deny it. He came to me and said, `We need to have a definite time for the adjournment tonight and that should be 12 midnight. But what we will do is talk to you about it as we get closer to that time. Of course, we are not wedded to 12 o'clock, we are not restricting it to 12, we are just saying you need to have a cut-off for the debate and we will talk to you about it as it gets closer.'

As it got closer to 12, we had discussions about these matters. As Senator Kemp would know, being a previous manager of government business, you talk about these things. We went to them at 8 o'clock and said, `We are trying to get on with things and we have just got to flick Hindmarsh through.' We were told by the opposition senators that should only take 10 minutes after dinner. We were very keen to bring superannuation on straight after dinner. Senator Herron had been told—what was it—

Senator Herron —Five or 10 minutes.

Senator CAMPBELL —No worries. So what happens? Three opposition speakers come in. Hindmarsh takes another hour. Then all those other matters are brought in and it takes up time. So as we get closer to midnight we go to Senator Carr and say, `Look, we are not going to have time to finish super unless—

Senator West —Oh dear, not fair! Senator Campbell has spat the dummy.

Senator CAMPBELL —I am sorry, Senator West, but maybe you can take the New South Wales Labor right at their word. When they say `mate' to you, maybe you can take them at their word. But I have to tell you that the socialist left from Victoria and possibly the New South Wales left are a different matter. When Senator Carr says, `Come and talk to us about midnight and we will be cooperative about getting rid of the adjournment,' he really means, `Hang on; sorry, no, I do not think we said that.'

Senator Carr, I look forward to your explanation, because when it came to 12 o'clock not only could we not even bring the superannuation bills to a vote but we could not allow honourable senators who have been elected by the people of Australia to decide whether we negate the adjournment. Senator Carr and Senator Sherry would not even allow senators to make a decision. They said, `We will talk about negating the adjournment at midnight so that we can get the legislation finished,' but when it came to it they would not allow us to debate it or have a vote. That is what we are dealing with here. As a great Western Australian and former Premier said, `Never shake hands with a cobra,' because obviously you get your hand bitten off.

Could I just say that the current Leader of the Opposition (Senator Faulkner) said that he had given the coalition an extra 121 hours. I will table this document: it shows that one of the reasons that we have problems in this place is that every time the opposition give us an hour of extra of extra time they take it back. When it comes to managing government business and trying to be cooperative, they are the great Indian givers.

Do you want to know how many hours you took on four bills? In the relatively short time since last October, do you know how long it has taken these guys to deal with four pieces of legislation? Endless speeches on second reading debates, endless committee stages. For example, take the RSA bill that you handled this week, Senator Kemp: we were told, `An hour and a half should knock that off, no worries.' There was no objection from Senator Carr, no objection from Senator Faulkner, about the length of time it would take to deal with retirement savings accounts. Senator Sherry said, `Yes, an hour or two; no worries.' Two hours go by, four hours go by, six hours go by, eight hours go by—and we get it. How many hours for four bills, four pieces of legislation? One hundred and eleven hours. You give us 121 and take back 111. These guys are generous. Indian givers.

In relation to extra sitting hours, earlier today Senator Faulkner said, `Look, these guys do not know what they are doing. If you want to get business done, you have to get extra time at the end of the sittings.' So we went to them last week and said, `Do you think we could get a couple of extra days at the end of the sittings if we don't get our business done? Could we come back for a couple of days after Easter?' `Oh no, you cannot come back for a couple of days after Easter—we are all going overseas. We have got a two for one offer with Qantas. We are not going to be here. So you are not going to get any days like that.' So we go to them and say, `We cannot get extra sitting hours tonight, we cannot sit through until 2 or 3 in the morning like we used to do every year when we were in opposition. We cannot do that, that is out of the ballpark.' So we say, `Could we please have an extra week before the budget sittings?' They say, `You cannot have a whole week. You can come back for a day or two if you are lucky.' We have got three days. You see, we were silly because we should have asked for time at the end of these sittings to get our bills done. We were told we were stupid; we were told we were moronic. We were told that we just did not know what to do.

I say to the Senate that we actually have that figured out. I may be new, I may be inexperienced; I will give you that. But I am learning pretty fast. I tell you what, a number of people from Senator Faulkner's own side have come to me and said, `Ian, you are doing a very good job managing government business—better than Senator Faulkner ever did—

Senator Carr —Name them!

Senator CAMPBELL —You want me to name them? I will tell you quietly outside, Senator Carr, over a beer. And you will not be surprised to hear who they are.

The other thing we heard today was, `Why didn't you bring super on earlier?' Senator Sherry did not have his amendments ready until after the second reading stage yet he said, `Bring on super.' You saw the Notice Paper this morning, Madam President. We had the disallowance motions on industrial relations. We were told that would take 10 minutes. It could have been dealt with in May but we had to deal with it today. That took half an hour. Then we had eight motions in relation to the Deputy President of the Senate, the person they voted in as Deputy President in 1990. We spent two hours this afternoon dealing with their little vendetta against Senator Colston. They said, `Let us bring on super after lunch.' What did we do after lunch? We spent hours on their old mate Senator Colston, the Deputy President. We were happy to deal with superannuation straight after lunch, but what did they want to do? Not talk about legislation that will help make Australia's economy fairer for the battlers. We spoke right through until dinner time about matters that the opposition put onto the program. After dinner we were told, `We will knock off Hindmarsh and we will knock off health. It will only be a quick one, flick it through, off to the Reps and you will be onto super within half an hour.' At 10 o'clock we get onto super.

So do not come in here and tell us that we do not know how to manage the program. You guys cannot be taken seriously. We cannot shake hands with you guys because we all know what happens when you look us in the eye and say, `Don't worry, trust me, Ian; trust me, Senator Campbell. We will come and talk to you about midnight, about being reasonable and sitting for a couple of extra hours to get super done, to get health done and to get the message on Hindmarsh dealt with.'

They did not want to do Hindmarsh. They are split down the middle on Hindmarsh. The shadow minister in the other place is saying, `We can't have this,' Senator Collins over here is saying, `We need it, we are going to flick it through.' They are divided down the middle. They do not want to deal with Hindmarsh. The filibustering on the other side I can understand—they do not want to deal with it.

Mr Beazley is totally embarrassed because he promised the Australian people that we would deal with Hindmarsh, and with no amendments. You cannot deal with these guys; you cannot look them in the eye. They cannot tell you truth. They say, `We are so cooperative; we will give you 121 hours'; then they spend 111 hours—the second longest debate in Australian history—on industrial relations. They have the third longest debate in Australian history on Telstra. There is a blow-out of 100 per cent in relation to telecommunications and we spent nearly eight hours on RSA. These guys are not serious. Gary Gray has got it right; Bob Carr has got it right. They are a joke; they are disgrace; and they are un-Australian. (Time expired).