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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20135


Senator MASON (3:22 PM) —What we do know is that Mr Chris Jordan is a significant Australian with a significant background in this area, and there is no evidence at all of any wrongdoing or that any assessments were interrupted. All we have seen today and over the last few weeks is allegedly the best and the brightest of the ALP in the Senate—


Senator Brandis —They are the best and the brightest of the ALP?


Senator MASON —That is the sad thing, perhaps, Senator Brandis. They talk about issues—and they are mud-slinging—such as the Prime Minister's curtains and the hiring of a red carpet. Senator Cook scored a goal the other day talking about the GST on petrol. There are no substantive issues at all. Senator Cook and the other best and brightest—


Senator Cook —The GST on petrol?


Senator MASON —Let's get onto the GST in a second. All they ever do in the ALP at the moment is sling mud because they have no ideas on any substantive policy agendas at all. Nothing has been raised by the ALP on policy at all in months. These are the people in opposition who want to be the alternative government. They have no policies at all. It gets much worse. Senator Cook over there and the others do not believe in anything. They believe in absolutely nothing. This is a party that these days has no soul at all. What is required today to do something is to trot along to university, get a degree, work for a trade union for a while, learn how to rort and away you go. You take a spiv and put a silk tie around them and you call them a Labor senator. That is how it works today. This is simply a party—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Mason, would you please withdraw that imputation.


Senator MASON —I withdraw, Madam Deputy President. The party today is simply a party of opportunists—and that, Senator Cook, as you well know, is the truth. The ALP's opposition to the GST was the most pathetic act in this country in a decade. This party knew it was the right public policy agenda and they failed to support it, even though Mr Keating, Mr Beazley, former Senator Richardson and former Senator Gareth Evans were for it. They did it simply because they thought there were votes in it. Their debate on the GST waxes and wanes in this chamber: one minute they are all for it and the next week they are against it, depending upon the opinion polls.


Senator Cook —We're opposed to the GST. Get it right!


Senator MASON —Depending on the opinion polls, Senator Cook, they are for it and then they are against it. All they look at are opinion polls—a soulless, gutless and courageless party with a doleful policy agenda. What you should be worried about, Senator Cook, is what is going on in Queensland.



Senator MASON —I am reading a book at the moment, Senator Brandis, about Richard Nixon, and there are a couple of questions that apply at the moment to Mr Beattie. They are the Richard Nixon questions: what did Mr Beattie know and when did he know it? He says he knew nothing.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Mason, this is a broad-ranging discussion but you might like to actually bring it back to the question that was asked and answered.


Senator MASON —What did Mr Beattie know and when did he know it? He says he knew nothing about it. This was a state secretary—


Senator Cook —Madam Deputy President, I raise a point of order. We have taken note of answers to questions on tax, and they are related to an article in the Australian Financial Review yesterday and allegations made in that article. I fail to see what Mr Beattie thinks about anything has got to do with this. This is clearly a transparent attempt to use a debate on tax to smear Mr Beattie. Madam Deputy President, I do not think that is within standing orders and you should ask the speaker to confine himself to the issue that is before the chair.


Senator Conroy —Madam Deputy President, on that point of order, I have to defend Senator Mason. I am not sure I can agree with the narrow definition that you may be thinking of. I think Senator Mason should be encouraged to continue his performance for our amusement.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order, but I would ask Senator Mason to at least relate in some way to the question and the answer, which did relate to an article that appeared in the Australian Financial Review. Although Senator Conroy's point of order was somewhat spurious, Senator Mason, I am sure that you can relate to the question.


Senator MASON —It goes to credibility and Senator Cook's credibility on any of these issues. This is a party that opposes good public policy on the basis of opinion polls. That is what the ALP does, repeatedly, and it does not have any credibility. Mr Beattie, sadly, is caught in that net. This is the Premier who knows nothing about rorting in Queensland. This is the Premier who was state secretary and who knows nothing about it. He wrote this in 1990:

Doorknocking the area was an interesting experience. One female party member was not at home when I called on her at the vacant allotment where she purportedly lived. To my not particularly great surprise, she later voted in the preselection. Another party member was a seaman operating somewhere north of Cairns. I contacted him by radio so that he knew to send down his postal vote.

This party has nothing to say on substantive policy issues but wants to fling mud about the hiring of red carpets, the curtains in the Prime Minister's office and puerile points on petrol prices—nothing substantive at all. There is not one substantive issue. If you are going to fling mud, Senator Cook, against either Mr Jordan or anyone else, quite sadly for you there is much, much more that can be flung back at you.


Senator Cook —Sadly for you, petrol prices are an issue.


Senator MASON —Senator Cook, no-one believes that you would do anything about it. You do not have any credibility on these issues. That is the problem: you have none.