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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2475

Mr CUNNINGHAM(4.23) —I enter the closing stages of this debate on a Friday afternoon to make some comments in relation to the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) in particular and the honourable member for Charlton (Mr Robert Brown). It has been quite obvious from Press coverage over the last few weeks that the honourable member for Gippsland has found himself in an invidious position with the National Party of Australia. He has gone out on a limb and supported the present temporary Leader of the National Party, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). It is quite obvious that the honourable member has received a few phone calls from his area in Gippsland and that he is now trying desperately, in the late hours of the adjournment debate on a Friday, to put in a few words on behalf of Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson in order to try to get back on side.

I will just give the House and the public some idea of how far the honourable member is prepared to go in order to do this. Last night he appeared on local television-Channel 8 in Gippsland. He stood in all his splendour being interviewed by the local interviewer and he declared that he will vote against his own Party to block the legislation on the aggregation of television that is before the Parliament. He will vote against his own Party. He knows that on Channel 8 in Traralgon, back in his own little area, he has told the world that he will vote against his own party on this legislation, knowing full well that the dogs are barking in the National Party of Australia, that the new leader that he is not supporting is pulling the strings from Queensland and has said that the legislation will go through. So the mighty honourable member for Gippsland can bravely go on television back in my part of the world, in his own electorate, stand up before the people of his electorate and say: `I will vote against this legislation'. But, then again, he will be resting his case on the fact that when it gets to the Senate the new leader, who is speaking for the National Party of Australia from outside, and the group of faceless men of the white shoe brigade have made their decision in relation to this issue.

So the honourable member for Gippsland has got himself into a very nasty corner. He backed the wrong horse, and that horse ran right off the rails. We have had the invidious position in this House for the past two days of having an official Opposition which has not even had an official spokesperson on primary industry.

Mr Beale —Wal Fife.

Mr CUNNINGHAM —He has been announced this afternoon. It has taken the Opposition a long time to decide who is representing it on primary industry. There was a question that had to be asked in this Parliament today-a question of crucial importance to the wheat industry, to primary industry in Australia. It was a question about four million tonnes of wheat being sold to Russia by the United States of America. We sat here and thought that we would give the Opposition an opportunity. We are still waiting to see which members of the Opposition will go on the delegation to the United States. They are squabbling over that as well, but I am sure that they will eventually straighten out who is going to go. We thought that there may have been a question, but then we realised that we have had two days without an Opposition spokesperson on primary industry. The Opposition is so divided and in such a mess that an issue as crucial as this did not even rate a mention in the thinking of members opposite. In Question Time today they were asking about some poor unfortunate lady who has been fined by the Commissioner of Taxation, and trying to raise issues concerning the Treasurer (Mr Keating). Important issues have been ignored. The Opposition was not even in control to the point where it had a spokesperson on primary industry. How are the honourable member for Gippsland, the right honourable member for New England and members of the Liberal Party going to go out into their constituencies and say that they think that primary industry is important, when for the past two days the Opposition parties have not been able to raise a spokesperson between them? Now where are we? I am told that the honourable member for Hume (Mr Fife) is now the Opposition spokesperson on primary industry. Strangely, it looks like the right honourable member for New England may yet have to sit on the seat.