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Wednesday, 20 June 2001
Page: 24745

Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (3:17 PM) —This is the high point of Labor Party policy on foreign affairs. This is the best the Labor Party can do after 5½ years of opposition. As with every other field, they have attempted in vain to develop a positive and constructive policy agenda and have come up with nil. In this instance, the absence of a policy agenda is to be substituted just for another personal attack—the typical way in which Labor operate. They play the man; they get down in the gutter; they try to destroy him personally; they do not debate the issues. Even if Labor are unable after 5½ years to come up with an alternative foreign policy, couldn't they at least attempt to debate the coalition's foreign policy? That even seems to be too difficult for this opposition. All they can do is pick up a bit of gossip and run with it and attempt to degrade and demean him personally. This is not the first instance: this is Labor tactics on every occasion.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Schacht! You have had your time. Please allow Senator Hill his time to speak in reasonable silence.

Senator HILL —Madam Deputy President, Senator Schacht comes in here today and says that an ambassador has lost his job because a car did not arrive on time.

Senator Schacht —It is true.

Senator HILL —Who says that? That is not true. That has been invented and used by the Australian Labor Party in an attempt to personally attack and demean Mr Downer. Secondly, in relation to this acronym, there has been no suggestion that he has used such an acronym in the public performance of his duties.

Senator Faulkner —Yes, there is.

Senator HILL —I see, so we are in the back rooms now, are we? Do we have the tape recorders running again?

Senator Faulkner —Obviously, every newspaper in the land.

Senator HILL —That is another thing about the Labor Party: its agenda of the day is taken from the morning newspapers. That is about as creative as this alternative government is. There is no suggestion that he used any such expression in the public performance of his duties. He has not said that. Nobody has said that. But that does not matter for the Labor Party. Who cares about that? The Labor Party is not interested in that. All the Labor Party is trying to do, as I said, is to draw him down on a personal basis. In this instance, that is not only pretty shabby politics but also unfair, because there has been no time in my 20 years in this place when Australia has been held in higher esteem around the world than at the moment. A great deal of credit for that very high standing should go to the foreign minister, Mr Downer.

Think of the standing we have now in Asia. Before we came to government it was all rhetoric. It was all huff and puff. There was no substance behind it at all. Our economy was in a mess; we were looked at as the poor cousin of the region. We have been able to rebuild the economy, re-earn respect that Australia once had and, through diplomatic channels under the leadership of the foreign minister, Mr Downer, re-establish the place that we, and most Australians, would wish to have within the region. The best example of that is the international leadership that Australia played in relation to the crisis in East Timor. One would only fear to think what would have been the contribution of Australia if the crisis in East Timor had occurred under the previous government.

I am not the type to start talking about the tantrums of the previous foreign minister, who Senator Faulkner knows so well. I would not talk about throwing ashtrays at staff or anything like that, would I?

Senator Sherry —I remember how he described you one day!

Senator HILL —I don't care how he described me; what I do care about is when the politics of the individual are played without any substance—(Time expired)