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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1635

Mr WELLS —Has the Prime Minister received a request from the Leader of the Opposition for Government assistance to enable him to make an early visit to Queensland? Is the purpose of the visit to demonstrate to the electorate that not all the Liberal politicians engaged in the election campaign are, first, aged in their 70s; secondly, from Tasmania; or, thirdly, out of step with their party?

Mr McVeigh —You are a bigger drongo than you look.

Mr HAWKE —Tom, things are good in Toowoomba. Don't worry.

Mr McVeigh —Yes, after you left. Why don't you come again? I will get another 10 ,000 votes.

Mr HAWKE —We will see. I welcome the question from the honourable member for Petrie. He asked about assistance in respect of Queensland. As all honourable members--

Mr Anthony —Are you going to build the Burdekin Dam again?

Mr HAWKE —He is in again, Mr Speaker. I am reminded by the Leader of the National Party that this Government is already providing a great deal of assistance to Queensland, not the least of which is our very formidable assistance for the construction of the Burdekin Dam. I inform the Leader of the National Party that, when I was in Townsville last weekend, everywhere I went the people were saying: 'Thanks for the Burdekin, Bob'. They know where to go when they need their real interests looked after. They were saying some terrible things about the fellow sitting on the immediate right of the Leader of the National Party. They call him 'Hotchpotch' because that is where he was going to put the Burdekin Dam. He said that, if he had had his way, he would have put the Burdekin Dam into hotchpotch with a whole lot of other things. I suggest that the Leader of the National Party should keep on asking about the Burdekin Dam because the people of Queensland have a very clear idea now as to who is responsible for their State at last getting the Burdekin Dam. It is this Labor Government.

Opposition members interjecting--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order.

Mr HAWKE —This suits me fine, Mr Speaker; they can take up as much of Question Time as they like.

Mr SPEAKER —It rather annoys me, I must admit, and I may have to take action.

Mr HAWKE —It is their time which they are using, Mr Speaker. The thrust of the question from the honourable member for Petrie was whether we had any request from the Leader of the Opposition for assistance to enable him to go to Queensland. Of course, I had understood, until this State election, that the normal practice was for Federal leaders of parties to take a high profile in election campaigns in support of their own parties when a State election was on.

Opposition members interjecting--

Mr HAWKE —I can understand the sensitivities on the other side of the House just as much as I can understand the problem about the Liberals going to Queensland. They seem to have a great deal of difficulty in establishing in their own minds on whose behalf they would appear if they went to Queensland. I had to inform the House yesterday of the great difficulties that Mr Gray, the Liberal Leader from Tasmania, was having in making up his mind. Of course he is going to Queensland to support the Nationals. As we read the Press today we find that not only is Mr Gray having the problem but also Sir Henry Bolte is.

Mr Steedman —Senility.

Mr HAWKE —The honourable member talks about senility. The Liberals and the Nationals have been having some very nice things to say about one another in regard to this matter of senility too. I refer to the report in today's Australian in which the State Director of the Liberal Party had something to say about that great father figure of the Liberal Party, Sir Henry Bolte. I understand him to be a very close friend, confidant and, one would have thought hitherto, supporter of the Leader of the Opposition. The State Director of the Liberal Party in Queensland had this to say about Sir Henry Bolte:

As for Sir Henry Bolte, he is just a voice from the past, but maybe some geriatrics on the Gold Coast might want to listen to him.

That was said by Mr Neat, a friend of the Leader of the Opposition. I assume that he is a friend of the Leader of the Opposition. That was the State Director of the Liberal Party talking about another friend. I also refer to an article in today's Age concerning a former Victorian Liberal member of parliament, Mr Jennings, who is now with the National Party. He knew where to go. The article states:

. . . when Sir Henry retired from politics he was the last cornerstone of the Victorian Liberal Party.

Mr Jennings said Sir Henry's retirement was the beginning of the end of that party . . .

There is the analysis of what has happened to the Liberal Party. The article states:

Earlier yesterday, Mr Terry White said the Liberals who were coming out in support of Mr Bjelke-Petersen were so old, 'I expect them to appear in black and white'.

He certainly cannot expect them to appear in grey and white because Mr Gray is appearing for the Nationals.

Mr Anthony —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Standing order 145 states that answers are to be relevant. What relevance does this answer have to the Prime Minister's responsibility in this House?

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the National Party has raised a point of order with regard to relevance. He knows the rulings that have been given with regard to relevance. The Prime Minister, in referring to Queensland, is within those bounds of relevance.

Mr HAWKE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The issue is a very serious one, as I understand it, on the other side. I can understand why members of the Opposition would want to silence us on the issue. As is stated in the editorials of both the Age and the Australian newspapers today, it is a great tragedy that the Leader of the Opposition is not showing leadership in this matter. The editorials are saying that he just cannot wash his--

Mr Anthony —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. You made the point that the Prime Minister is talking about Queensland and that therefore his remarks are relevant. If he talks about the world does that make any answer relevant?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the National Party will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr HAWKE —I am indebted once again to the Leader of the National Party. Of course, in respect of the vast divisions and the chaos in the Liberal Party which are caused by this current campaign in Queensland, I suppose more than anything what is emerging is the problem which is highlighted by an article in today's Brisbane Daily Sun.

Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order--

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! During the last couple of days of sitting the conduct of honourable members in the House has reached a stage at which the interjections and behaviour have reached the limits of tolerance. I issue a general warning to the House: I intend to enforce the Standing Orders very strictly for the rest of this sitting.

Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, my point of order is this: My Leader quoted a certain standing order to you. I remind you that previous occupiers of your position not only strictly invoked the Standing Orders but also indicated that there was a spirit and that questions and answers should be brief. On many occasions Speaker Snedden, when interpreting the Standing Orders, also interpreted the spirit of the Standing Orders. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to adopt the practice of Speaker Snedden and stop the Prime Minister from abusing Question Time.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The honourable member for Darling Downs reflected on the Chair and cited precedents which I ask him to check. I have been a member of this Parliament for long enough to have seen the honourable member as a Minister answering questions. The honourable member knows that the question of relevance has always been a bone of contention , as has been the length of answers by Ministers. I invite the Prime Minister to conclude.

Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker--

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Darling Downs must be careful that he is raising a point of order.

Mr McVeigh —My point of order is this: You asked me to cite precedents. On several occasions the previous Speaker asked the previous Prime Minister to sit down. He also asked me to sit down. I abided by his decision.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member is not citing precedents. I ask the honourable member to resume his seat now. I call the Prime Minister, I trust, in conclusion.

Mr HAWKE —The great difficulties which obviously concern those opposite are made most clear, I suggest, by an article in today's Brisbane Daily Sun to which I shall refer very briefly. It is a very interesting article and is relevant to the question that was asked. Mr Oakes, in this article, relates the difficulties to which I have been referring to the forthcoming Moreton by-election. He quoted a senior Queensland Liberal as having had this to say:

When we start talking terms for a coalition, there will be blood all over the floor, . . .

The article went on:

Realising this--

Mr Anthony —How long does this go on for?

Mr SPEAKER —I ask the Prime Minister whether he could perhaps give the reference to members of the Opposition so that they could read it for themselves. That would assist in Question Time.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 142 which states:

Questions may be put to a Minister-

and that of course would include the Prime Minister-

relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in the House, or to any matter of administration for which he is responsible.

I put it to you, sir, in all seriousness that the question directed to the Prime Minister was about the internal affairs of the Liberal Party and the relationship between the Liberal Party and the National Party. It is an absolute tissue of technicality to argue that because the Prime Minister was invited to provide assistance the question was related to anything other than the internal affairs of the Liberal Party.

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in the final statement of his point of order, has gone to that part of the question of the honourable member for Petrie which was in order when he asked the Prime Minister whether a request for assistance had been received. I ask the Prime Minister to conclude his answer.

Mr HAWKE —Yes, Mr Speaker. I invite not only members of the Opposition but also all members of the public to read the article because the suggestion is there made that in fact a request is going to be made for a moratorium for a fortnight after the election in Queensland on 22 October on discussions about the question of a coalition so that there will not be any interruption to the campaign in respect of the Moreton by-election. In the circumstances it is not surprising that the Government has received no request from the Leader of the Opposition, about which I was asked by the honourable member for Petrie. But I suggest that it would be a very good idea if the Leader of the Opposition did go there to try to get some order into the Liberal Party.