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Tuesday, 26 May 1987
Page: 3298


Mr HOWARD —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer him to the equivocal answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in answer to a question from the Leader of the National Party. Does the Foreign Minister's answer mean that, as far as the Government is concerned, a new election called by the present regime in Fiji would suffice to meet the Government's requirement for a democratic solution to that country's present crisis?


Mr HAWKE —Before I answer directly the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, I point out that he talked about prevarication in this issue. Madam Speaker, I believe that you will regard it as appropriate, the Leader of the Opposition having introduced the question of prevarication, and because of the difficulty in understanding the positions--


Mr Howard —I didn't mention it.


Mr HAWKE —What is the real position? What I am saying is that, if the Leader of the Opposition is to introduce some suggestion of--


Mr Porter —Try to give us your policy.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! I warn the honourable member for Barker.


Mr HAWKE —Further, the Leader of the Opposition linked that question with a question asked by the Leader of the National Party. By way of preface to my answer to the question, I remind the House about just what has happened on the other side of this place on this issue.


Mr Spender —Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question asked of the Prime Minister was whether what was said by the Minister for Foreign Affairs was that new elections would suffice to meet Government requirements. The Prime Minister is not entitled to a preface; he is not writing a book. He should answer that question and no other question. Further, the Prime Minister is not entitled to comment on what has been said by members on this side of the House.

Honourable members interjecting-


Madam SPEAKER —Order! Honourable members on my right are not assisting. I point out to the honourable member for North Sydney that the Prime Minister has some entitlement to answer questions asked of him in his own way. I further point out that the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Party and the Prime Minister have always had a certain indulgence from successive Chairs.


Mr Spender —But not licence.


Madam SPEAKER —I am not here to enter into debate with the honourable member for North Sydney. He will sit down.


Mr Keating —Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the seven years of Speaker Snedden's tenure of this House, when points of order were taken that were frivolous he replied: `If the honourable member stands on a frivolous point of order once again I will name him'. That was Speaker Snedden's reply. We have seen a tactic of mindless disruption by the members of the Opposition who cannot take the heat in public debate and wish to disrupt the House.


Madam SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.


Mr HAWKE —Madam Speaker, before I continue my reply, I ask you whether you will tolerate from the honourable member--

Honourable members interjecting-


Madam SPEAKER —Order!


Mr HAWKE —I want to put a serious question to you, Madam Speaker.


Madam SPEAKER —I will first have to ensure that the House is quiet. The honourable member for North Sydney will resume his seat and the House will come to order. The Prime Minister has the call.


Mr HAWKE —I wish to address a question to you, Madam Speaker, because I believe that you did not hear what the honourable member for North Sydney said. At the end of your observation-may I say, a perfectly proper observation-in a totally cowardly way--


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


Madam SPEAKER —The right honourable member will resume his seat. I am hearing the Prime Minister.


Mr Hawke —I am now speaking on a point of order.

Opposition members interjecting-


Madam SPEAKER —Order! I wish to hear the point of order from the Prime Minister.


Mr Hawke —In a totally cowardly fashion the honourable member for North Sydney--


Mr Sinclair —On a point of order, I ask that the Prime Minister withdraw that.


Madam SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will withdraw that. Just give me the facts.


Mr Hawke —Madam Speaker, after you had made your observations--


Madam SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will withdraw the word.


Mr Hawke —Yes, I withdraw. After you had finished making your observation he turned his back on you, Madam Speaker, and said `not licence'. He accused you, Madam Speaker, of giving licence. I ask you, Madam Speaker, whether you are going to accept that reflection on the Chair.


Madam SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will resume his seat. May I point out to the honourable member for North Sydney that I did not hear his comment and, if he did make such a comment, I ask that he withdraw it.


Mr Spender —I said precisely that it gave him leave, not licence.


Madam SPEAKER —You will withdraw it.


Mr Spender —If you ask me to do so, I will do so.


Madam SPEAKER —Thank you. It was a reflection on the Chair. I now call the Leader of the National Party.


Mr Sinclair —I rise on a point of order. I submit to you, Madam Speaker, that the interventions made by the Treasurer and by the Prime Minister reflect on you. The nature of your responsibility, Madam Speaker, is not to have people rise in this chamber and admonish you about the way that you exercise your judgment on matters relating to points of order. As the Leader of the House has so often told us, it is a matter of your being independent, impartial and not being in a position where members in this chamber, be they Ministers or other members, tell you how you should exercise your judgment. I suggest that neither the Treasurer nor the Prime Minister was in order in those comments.


Madam SPEAKER —I thank the Leader of the National Party for his intervention and I hope that both sides of the House took note of what he said. I call the Prime Minister to continue his answer to the question from the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr HAWKE —May I remind the House that, in asking his question, the Leader of the Opposition related it to the question asked by the Leader of the National Party.


Madam SPEAKER —I was aware of that.


Mr HAWKE —I have no doubt that you are aware of it, Madam Speaker. I simply made the point in order to indicate that it is very interesting to note the intervention of the Leader of the National Party in regard to this question concerning the action of the Government in relation to Fiji, because the Leader of the National Party openly attacked the decision of this Government to dispatch a company of Australian soldiers to Fiji. His words were that this was an unnecessary provocative act and he accused the Government of bluff and gunboat diplomacy. I point out that the Leader of the Opposition has endorsed what this Government has done, because as recently as Saturday night--


Mr Sinclair —That's right.


Mr HAWKE —It is all very well for the Leader of the National Party to say `That's right', but I am pointing out that the Leader of the Opposition disagrees with him, because on Saturday night--


Mr Sinclair —But I disagree with you nearly all the time. What's that got to do with it?


Mr HAWKE —Yes, but you pretend to be partners. The Leader of the Opposition, as recently as Saturday night, in addressing a Liberal Party meeting in Queensland said: `Thus far the Opposition has not disagreed with the response taken by the Hawke Government to this crisis'. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to invoke the Leader of the National Party here in Question Time. The fact is that the Leader of the Opposition is in total disagreement with the Leader of the National Party. On the basis that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party totally disagree with each other on the question of Fiji, I simply say this about the recognition or non-recognition of a process in Fiji: My Government has consistently said, particularly in light of the fact that Dr Bavadra has indicated that in the circumstances he would agree to and participate in a new election on the basis of the existing constitution, that that is the position endorsed by this Government. In other words, if there were a new election in Fiji on the basis of the existing Constitution-the Constitution which has operated from 1970 and which has been totally acceptable to all parties and interests in Fiji-that would be acceptable to this Government and this Government would accept the outcome of such an election.