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Wednesday, 14 May 1997
Page: 3315

Senator O'CHEE(1.55 p.m.) —I do not want to attack Senator Woodley, because I found much of his speech particularly entertaining. But I must say that any suggestion that the coalition is giving succour to Ms Hanson is quite clearly misguided.

Senator Conroy —Just preferences!

Senator Ellison —No decision has been made on that.

Senator O'CHEE —No decision has been made on that, Senator Conroy. I just want to make a couple of comments on Angela Chan's press release. Angela Chan is a delightful and charming woman. I enjoy meeting her every time we go to functions and appear together. I get on with her very well. I perfectly understand that Angela has her own political agenda, and that it is one which is not necessarily sympathetic to the coalition. It might be sympathetic to your side of politics, Senator Woodley, or to Senator Conroy's side of politics, but it is not sympathetic to ours. I think you would accept that, Stephen.

What we had in the press release that was cited by Senator Woodley was in fact a long traverse of things on which Ms Chan alleged the coalition was doing to give succour to Ms Hanson. In fact, many of these decisions were not included in this budget. Many of these decisions had been announced and already implemented in the previous budget and were not influenced in any way by anything in which the member for Oxley has been involved.

It is fair to say that the coalition is as concerned as anybody else is about some of the absurd statements that we have been receiving of late. Our concern is not because of my particular ethnic background or that of anyone else in this parliament. Good political decision making is predicated on access to the facts. Access to the facts is something with which we are hoping to assist the member for Oxley. At the moment, it does not seem that the offer of assistance has been taken up with the same fulsome good intent with which it was made. That is the concern that we have.

In relation to that, Senator Woodley is off the mark, just as he is off the mark in relation to the comments that he has made about the electoral process at the next election. Senator Woodley, we are two years away from the next election. Given the track record of the Democrats since the election, I would not be wanting—if I were you—to hasten the next election. You people on the other side have a long way to go before you would want to hasten the next federal election. I say that as somebody who has a very high personal regard for you, Senator; I enjoy having you around. But, on your current track record, there is not much reason that you should want to hasten the next election. Quite frankly, the electoral performance of the Democrats has been patchy, to say the least. The last time the electoral performance of the Democrats was as patchy as this, you changed your leader.

People have to seriously ask, `What do the Democrats stand for'? I know that Senator Woodley has been busy trying to portray himself as a friend of the bush. The facts are that all of the Democrat policies are anti-bush, anti-farmer and anti anybody who lives outside the capital cities. You do not have to go to the detail of the Democrat policies. Senator Kemp, I have taken your lead and have gone into them of late and I have found some of the Democrat policies to be particularly interesting.

We know what the Democrats have done. In fact, I found a speech by Senator Woodley in which he said in the Senate that the Democrats strongly supported increasing fuel taxation. Of course, strongly supporting increased fuel taxation—as honourable senators on this side of the chamber would know—means only one thing: higher prices for everything that people buy in the bush. So people in the bush who read Senator Woodley's letters—and writing letters to the newspapers is now the only way in which Senator Woodley gets a run, because nobody takes his press releases seriously to heart—would have to take them all with a very large bag of salt.

I do not say that to reprimand you, Senator Woodley. I am saying it as someone who actually likes you very much. I am trying to be helpful, as Senator Parer says. I am suggesting that you might want to revise some of your policies, Senator Woodley, so that you may have a chance of being returned at the next election. At the moment, I would not want to encourage an early election, if I were you. That is all I will say on the matter, Madam President. I know that the time is hastening on to 2 o'clock, when there are other diversions in this chamber. I want to place on record again the interjection that was made by Senator Ellison that there has been no agreement from our Liberal colleagues in Queensland to give preferences to the member for Oxley. I would not expect that that matter would even be considered at this point in time.