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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1283


Senator LIGHTFOOT (3:18 PM) —I rise to speak on the motion to take note of the answer supplied by Senator Hill, the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I have had some experience in parliamentary procedure, particularly at question time, and I must say that in my experience, which spans 11 or so years in state politics in Western Australia, I have never seen an adversarial atmosphere like this in politics before. What is it going to achieve for Australia? Nothing. Nothing has been achieved in the last two weeks in question time. There has been an unmitigated attack on Senator Parer.


Senator Knowles —We have asked some very good questions.


Senator LIGHTFOOT —There have been some valid and warranted questions from this side, but there has also been an unprecedented and unwarranted attack on Senator Parer. What is it? Is it the politics of envy? Is it the politics of hate? Is it the politics of lack of achievement that drives this along? Why do we have a situation where nothing can be achieved of any consequence by the other side?

It is like a pack of jackals attacking a lion. The more jackals there are, the more likely it is that they will bring the lion down, but they will not bring this lion down because there are not enough jackals on the other side. I am not the only one who says that that is so. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 March, Kate Askew said:

Because Pan Australian is a small explorer, not a miner, its activities arguably would not be affected by any of Senator Parer's policies. It has been a loser as an investment for him and his partners.

They do not seem to have landed anything on Senator Parer yet that is in any way approaching a conflict of interest. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself has said that there is no conflict of interest. The head of the Prime Minister's department, Mr Moore-Wilton, has also said that there is no conflict of interest. But if there was a conflict of interest and it has been rectified by the senator, why is he still being pursued to the detriment of the Australian people?

There is no doubt that Senator Parer is one of the best that this nation has ever seen in the portfolio of minerals and resources. People of his acumen, ability and expertise do not come along every day who are prepared to give up a very rewarding life in the private sector in order to come into this place and serve their nation as they see fit and as the expertise which they have built up over a lifetime in that particular area dictates.

As I have said, even if there had been some blows landed, I do not believe they have been justified in any way. It is cowardly to accuse a man of a conflict of interest, of misleading parliament, in this place. People who do it without justification and when there is evidence to the contrary are nothing less than cowards in everybody's eyes.

There is no question that the media know that the other side are running out of puff, out of steam. How much longer is the charade going to go on? They are hoping and praying that at some stage they are going to lay a blow but they will not lay a blow on Lion Parer. The jackals can yap, scream and screech all they wish. I think it is disgraceful for the opposition to continue this to the detriment of Australia.

Senator Warwick Parer is here in the national interest. It costs him money to come into this place. I think that the politics of envy, the politics of hate and the nefarious behaviour by the other side should be condemned by this side. No doubt we do that privately, but we do not use the chamber and we do not use the time of this place to discredit someone who does not justify it. But we do heap discredit upon the other side for what they propose and hope—indeed, they have failed to bring about the degradation of one of the finest senators this chamber has seen. (Time expired)