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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 2987

Mr YOUNG (Leader of the House)(3.44) —As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) said, this is a most important question. However, as is his wont in this day and age, he made the classic John Howard speech of having five bob each way. The trouble is, and the Leader of the Opposition ought to realise it, that this is a one-horse race and there is no each way betting. His feeble addendum to the motion, his amendment, is meant to attract the votes of Tasmanian members-that is all the amendment is meant to do-so they will not split on the floor of the House. He is terrified that some Tasmanian Liberal members will vote for the Government's motion. This is just another clear example of the massive crisis in conservative politics in Australia. Why should Robin Gray take any notice of what the Federal Liberal Party and the Federal National Party say when their stand is so nonsensical? He will not take any notice of what they say; therefore, he will not be guided by it. When Robin Gray says `I am going to do the same as Bjelke-Petersen', he drags all members of the Opposition down and they are unable to make a stand.

For five minutes of the Leader of the Opposition's 15-minute speech he told us what a great motion it was. Then, for 10 minutes, he told us why Robin Gray took the action that he did. He found all the excuses in the world to put forward as to why Robin Gray led the Tasmanian Parliament into making the decision to reject the endorsed Australian Labor Party candidate. All of the 148 members of the House of Representatives are endorsed by their political parties. Yet, the Tasmanian Government says: `We will not take the endorsed Tasmanian Labor Party candidate to replace Senator Grimes; we will pick somebody of our own'. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Constitution states quite clearly that the person replacing a senator who resigns or dies must, at the time of taking his seat, be a member of the same political party. I have a bit of news for him. If somebody else in the Labor Party decides to take the nomination from the Tasmanian Government, he will not be a member of the Labor Party. He will not be a member of the Labor Party when he puts his nomination in, as we have already informed the Tasmanian Parliament and the Tasmanian Premier, and he could not possibly be a member of the Labor Party when he takes his seat. That clears up any grey area regarding the constitutional interpretation by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). I suggest that he consider that angle also.

We have had this debate in the Parliament ad nauseam. We have had it because the Labor Party has always played the game by the conventions of Australian politics. The Labor Party has been the decent party in all this. It is the Liberal and National parties which can never accept that they, being born to rule, as they see themselves, cannot make any decision that they may wish to make irrespective of the turmoil it thrusts upon the Australian community. Robin Gray has made this remarkable decision at this time not because he finds the person totally objectionable or because he does not like the character of the person or he thinks he is too old, too young, too immature or from the wrong profession. Robin Gray says: `He holds a different point of view to me on logging'. That is sufficient reason for the Tasmanian Premier to say that he will not accept the Labor Party's nomination. I have news for Robin Gray. Every person in the Labor Party in Tasmania I have met holds a different point of view to that of Robin Gray on some question. So no one would be eligible. No one in the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labor Party would be eligible. The reason they are in the Labor Party is because they are opposed to the ideas of Robin Gray. Robin Gray could not be the Premier of Tasmania if he were not the endorsed Liberal Party candidate. He is only the Premier. If he wants to test it he should tell the Liberal Party to withdraw its endorsement; then he will see how long he remains the Premier. Firstly, there can be no other person from the Labor Party; Devereux will be the only candidate. Secondly, irrespective of the fact that the Premier says that Devereux holds a different point of view to him on logging, everybody in Tasmania holds a different point of view on some question, so there is no foundation in that.

Let us look at how the Liberal and National parties have changed their position; it depends on who is affected by their decision. In 1971 Joh Bjelke-Petersen wrote a letter to Jack Houston who was the Labor Leader of the Opposition in Queensland. The letter stated:

His Excellency the Governor was formally advised by His Excellency the Governor-General on 25th May, 1971, that, on 24th May, 1971, Senator the Honourable Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin, D.B.E., a Senator for the State of Queensland, resigned her place in the Senate, in accordance with the provisions of Section 19 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, and that place there upon became vacant. Dame Annabelle Rankin's term of service had been due to expire on 30th June, 1974.

As you know, the accepted practice when a casual vacancy of this nature occurs is for the new Senator to be of the same political party as his predecessor and I have asked the Queensland division of the Liberal Party of Australia to advise me, as quickly as possible, of the name of the person they wish to nominate on this particular occasion.

It is as clear as crystal following the conventions that had been laid down for years, since 1949. But in 1975, when Bert Milliner passed away, the Queensland Premier sent a different letter, and at the end of his letter he said:

To this end therefore, I should appreciate your advising me as soon as possible the names of three persons whom your Party would be prepared to nominate for the election of one of them by the Parliament . . .

So between 1971 and 1975 he had a change of mind. He had a change of mind for only one reason: In 1971 the Liberal Party was affected and he did not want to upset that. In 1975 it was the Labor Party that would be affected and he threw all the conventions out the window. That is what Lewis did in New South Wales. Here we have the trifecta of Gray, Bjelke-Petersen and Lewis-Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania-all throwing the conventions out the window to suit their own personal egos, to try to build into the Senate an imbalance that the Australian people have never voted for.

Let me reiterate: As honourable members know, there can be no other nomination but that of Mr Devereux in Tasmania, because any other persons who put themselves forward are automatically expelled from the Australian Labor Party, so they would not be members of the Labor Party. Honourable members opposite ought to be reminded that at the convention in 1977--

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr YOUNG —I am pleased to hear honourable members opposite crying out. But when the wood was put on the Queensland Nationals to make them make up their minds in the recent coalition crisis, they opted to keep their endorsement. They were not game to take Joh on because they might have lost their endorsement. So those opposite all know, and they should not kid themselves, about the importance of endorsement. The vote in 1977 to clear this matter up was five and a half million voters in favour and two million voters against. So the referendum was clearly carried, and the intent of the referendum should never be forgotten.

We should look behind, at what people have said previously about this. The then Attorney-General, Bob Ellicott, was asked about the difficulties of the recognition of political parties in terms of the endorsement of a political party for the appointment. He said at the time that he did not think anyone would have any difficulty in Australia identifying political parties. He said: `I do not see that as a problem, and the person who takes the position of the former senator would have to be the endorsed member from that party'. As he said--

Mr Spender —Did he use the word `endorsed'?

Mr YOUNG —If somebody else is endorsed at the time and another person takes his seat he would not be a member of the Party. So in replacing members previously the convention should have been followed and the endorsed member should have been appointed. Mr Ellicott knew that. Since 1983 we have had the registration of political parties because of political funding. So if there was a difficulty in 1977 in identifying political parties, there is no problem now, because no one else can use the name `Australian Labor Party'. So if the Tasmanian Premier says `I think there is more than one party called the Australian Labor Party' and tries to circumvent the convention in that way, he has only to look at the registration of the political parties in Australia under the new electoral laws of this country to find that there is only one Australian Labor Party and that no one else can use that name. So there is no difficulty in recognition of political parties.

John Cain did not have any difficulty in appointing the endorsed candidate from the Liberal Party to replace the late Alan Missen. Did John Cain agree with everything that Alan Missen stood for? Is that the test? The Tasmanian Government did not have any difficulty in taking the endorsed candidate from the Liberal Party in Tasmania to replace Peter Rae; and so it goes on all the way down the line.

I notice the honourable member for Boothby (Mr Steele Hall) in the House taking an interest in this debate. He told the Senate at the time that it should take no joy when Field and Bunton were endorsed under the new strange convention by Lewis and Bjelke-Petersen; that the Senate was taking the votes over the corpse of Bert Milliner. That is what it was doing; it was voting in a majority that had been prostituted by Bjelke-Petersen and Lewis in appointing people who had not been endorsed by their political parties. We got five quotas in Tasmania. Five Labor representatives from Tasmania deserve to be in the Senate. Nothing that those opposite can say can deny the Labor Party its right under this convention to have five Labor senators. The only Labor person who is going to be nominated is Devereux; those opposite need not concern themselves about that.

As I said, it was not enough for the Leader of the Opposition, being terrified of perhaps losing his position, to say: `I stick by my statement of 8 March, or whenever it was, when I say that it should be the endorsed candidate from the Labor Party who takes the vacancy left by Senator Grimes'. He then went on for 10 minutes to apologise to the Tasmanian Premier. He said: `I am sorry, Robin, that I have to say these things. I know how the Federal Government has upset you'. We are not upset about using the external powers and getting the decision of the High Court of Australia which we got to save the Franklin River from being dammed. It was not just the Tasmanian people who were interested in the outcome of that. The Opposition put a rider on the motion which would allow all the Franklin dams of the world to be built in Australia. That is what those opposite want. They want all this larrikinism by the Tasmanian State Government to go on in an unwieldy way, irrespective of the views of the rest of the people of Australia.

By moving this amendment they want to apologise to Robin Gray. This is a very clear cut case. We are the national Parliament. We have a right to express our view about what the national Parliament feels about this. But those opposite are unable to bring themselves to have a confrontation with these people when they distort the conventions which have been observed by political parties since 1949. This has never happened to those opposite because the Labor Party has never been that indecent. It has never been the Labor Party which has flouted the conventions. We have people here who are terrified of Joh. Half the people here are terrified of Robin Gray or somebody else, and they cannot make up their minds. The Opposition did not have to move any amendment today to apologise to Robin Gray. What the Opposition should have said to clear this matter up as quickly as possible was that the national Parliament insisted that Mr Gray appoint the endorsed Labor candidate, John Devereux, as quickly as possible. It does nothing for Australia, or Tasmania, to have those opposite carrying on in the way that they are. In all the debates recorded in Hansard on the legislation for the referendum in 1977 it can be seen that the referendum was carried overwhelmingly not only in this Parliament but by the people themselves. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) says that we should look at exactly what the Constitution says. He should look at what was said in the debates that led to the constitutional amendments; there can be absolutely no doubt.

The Leader of the Opposition says that the person who takes his seat must be a member of the same political party. As I have pointed out, the only person who can take that seat in the Senate to replace Senator Grimes is John Devereux, because anybody else would not be a member of the Labor Party. The same thing will apply to other political parties. If the Labor Party were ever so silly as to engage in the same tomfoolery as Robin Gray, the Liberal and National parties would act in exactly the same way. Instead of playing around today with the motion the Opposition members should all have given it unanimous support to let Robin Gray and all future premiers know where the Australian Parliament stands on this important issue.