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Thursday, 20 September 2001
Page: 27550


Senator McGAURAN (3:36 PM) —I go back to the matter raised by Senator Cook, which was just a personal attack on former Senator Parer— who gave up his ministry in the 1998 election and left the parliament several years ago. It was a pathetic attack which no-one would be able to link with today's politics. If ever we needed evidence that the Labor Party are not ready for this election, let alone government—when we well may be sitting into the last week of this parliament—we heard it today from Senator Cook. They put up the second-rate Senator Cook—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator McGauran, please do not reflect upon—


Senator McGAURAN —I withdraw that, Madam Deputy President. They put up the fading star—

Opposition senators interjecting


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator McGAURAN —I withdraw, unreservedly. I have been prepared all week to speak on the Ansett collapse. The worth of this motion to take note of an answer is debatable—especially when it is on a broadcast day—but it is a forum for the opposition to raise issues and to question the answers of ministers. That is what it is there for. It is a useful forum for an opposition, particularly when an election is looming and there is possibly only one more week of parliament to go. It is a forum for the opposition to present their policies and articulate an argument, and they could not last. This is the fourth day of this week's parliament and they could not even maintain the debate on the Ansett collapse.

I have been ready to debate that issue. The government are quite happy to debate the issue with the opposition. It is of course an issue of moment. There has been an enormous collapse of a private airline, and this government is stepping in to support the workers et cetera. Why don't you ask us about that and debate that issue? It is Thursday and you have not been able to maintain the debate on that—let alone on all the other issues and policies you have had the chance to bring to this parliament.

Instead, what do we hear? We hear Senator Cook—not really a front line fighter for the opposition—raise the matter of a former senator's appointment to a government position, not even to a permanent position but just to carry out a review. He is highly qualified, with a team of others, to undertake that review. That is the extent of it. That is the extent of this 30 minutes of opposition time to debate issues. If ever you doubt that the Labor Party are not ready for government, that they have a leader without the ticker, that they have not a policy to put forward, it was confirmed today. Senator Parer—and I am sure he would not mind me saying this—has gone. He is not relevant to today's politics, let alone to this election. Why would you bring him forward? He is probably glad you did, because you have just killed half an hour of important Senate time. He knows that it is a total waste of time to raise this matter.

Talking about conflicts of interests, the greatest conflict of interest was that of the former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, and his piggery. I heard the opposition squeal when Four Corners recently raised that conflict of interest issue, the Commonwealth Bank issue and the so-called dealings of certain characters in seeking further information.


Senator George Campbell —What about Mr Seyffer and Senator Heffernan?


Senator McGAURAN —You know what I am talking about, Senator Campbell. You well know what I am talking about. You squealed when that was raised by Four Corners, saying that it was dirty politics. What could be dirtier than attacking former Senator Parer? What could be dirtier than attacking a normal judgment made by a minister to appoint a qualified man to the position? There is nothing underhand about this, there is no conflict of interest at all. It is part of the normal processes of government. Why don't you come into this chamber and start putting your policies down? When are you going to do this? You are not up to it and you know it, the Australian public have woken up to it and the polls are reflecting it.