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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 3970

Mr BILNEY —Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to Press reports in this morning's media that the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs takes the view that the Australian diplomatic service is in need of a shake-up and does not do enough to `sell Australia'? Is this a fair comment on the Department of Foreign Affairs?

Mr HAYDEN —The comment is totally unjustified, and the short answer is no. However, I think overall the comments--

Mr Everingham —You have lost your place.

Mr HAYDEN —No; I trust that there is better to come. As I read the comments, I noticed a notable flair in the rhetorical style of the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. He referred to diplomats spending too much time eating cucumber sandwiches. All I can say is that if diplomats were eating cucumber sandwiches in his presence when he was Minister for Foreign Affairs, he certainly would not have shouted. They tell me that in New York when he turned up for the General Assembly, usually for a month's stint, he would arrive with a $50 note and a pair of socks, and change neither. I understand that he was displaying a literary flair when he referred to the cucumber sandwiches. He is no doubt an aficionado of Oscar Wilde and The Importance of Being Earnest, and no one is less earnest in this House than he is in his capacity as shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. I might entertain members by recalling some of the script from The Importance of Being Earnest. Algernon was the person who discovered cucumber sandwiches:

Good heavens, Lane, why are there no cucumber sandwiches? I ordered them specially.

And Algernon, after being told that there were no cucumbers in the market, said:

I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about there being no cucumbers, not even for ready money.

He then went on to say--

Mr Porter —I would give up on the rest, if I were you!

Madam SPEAKER —Order! Both sides of the House will come to order.

Mr HAYDEN —I am something of a pro and I know when I am losing my audience! I was going on to talk about Algernon talking about people losing the colour of their hair suddenly, but instead I will go on quickly to observe something else. This has been an exhausting session for the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. He looks physically drained after a very hard year. Some 803 questions have been asked in this House, and he has forcefully riveted home to my responsibility to the House, and the necessity for accountability, by asking me three of those 803 questions in a whole year. The member for Kooyong, who is preparing to take over from the Leader of the Opposition, takes very seriously his role as shadow Minister. He remains well into the shadows. If I were the Leader of the Opposition I would watch someone who preserves his energy as conscientiously as does the member for Kooyong. I repeat that there is no justification for comment made by him.

Mr Peacock —I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Mr HAYDEN —It looks like I have an audience of one.

Mr Peacock —Quite apart from the 500-odd questions on notice to the Minister, with which he struggled, perhaps I could help him on this matter in relation to--

Mr Gayler —What is the point of order?

Mr Peacock —The point of order relates to the question that referred to the shake-up in the Department of Foreign Affairs. I might advise the Minister that I have received just today--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.

Mr Peacock —Madam Speaker, you ought to hear me on this matter.

Madam SPEAKER —I should not. You do not have a point of order. I advise the honourable member to resume his seat. If he wishes the call for a question, he will get it.

Mr Peacock —I take a further point of order, Madam Speaker.

Mr Hawke —Andrew, where is the first one?

Mr Peacock —The first one was ruled out. They are now mutually exclusive, as you two are. The further point of order relates to the fact that the Minister is referring to the Department of Foreign Affairs, and I have just received 11 highly classified--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member, with his experience, well knows that he does not have a point of order. I require him to resume his seat.

Mr Peacock —This relates directly to the matters I raised with him.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member has been in this House too long to behave in that manner. I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in conclusion.

Mr HAYDEN —Yes, indeed. Might I say how extremely grateful I am to the member for Kooyong for having at least retrieved an audience of one for me. I was not speaking about questions on notice. I was speaking about his own work as distinct from questions on notice. Three questions without notice in the course of a full year: No wonder John Howard is enjoying this.