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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1903

Senator JACK EVANS(11.22) —I want to clear up something because I am a relatively new person to this place. An explanation has just been given by a Minister of how we should behave in this place if the States and the Commonwealth reach an agreement. The implication seemed to be that, if my State Government reaches an agreement with the Commonwealth, I should go along with that agreement because I represent my State Government. Let me make it very clear that I certainly do not represent my State Government. I receive representations from it to which I listen attentively and, where possible, I endeavour to take into account its wishes. But I am the representative of over a million people in Western Australia, not just of the couple of hundred who sit in the State Parliament. I believe that that applies to all honourable senators in this place. We are States' senators representing the 15 million Australians in those States, and not representing the six State governments and the Territories. If the Minister has that misconception, I suggest that he needs to look again, certainly as far as the Australian Democrats are concerned.

It may be that this is the way things function in other parties. I have been witness to telegrams being read out in this chamber as questions without notice, telegrams that have very obviously come from State governments and State Premiers. I suspect that there may be a degree of compliance by some senators with their State governments. But for goodness sake, let us not work under the misconception that any of us here are the tools of State governments.

When a Minister reaches agreement with his State government counterparts, he must make it perfectly clear that that agreement is subject to the passage of the legislation in both Houses of this Parliament. He can take neither of the Houses for granted. He certainly cannot take the Australian Democrats' position for granted. In this case, the Democrats were unaware of the agreement until the legislation came before us. We had no preconceptions. We had had no representations from State governments of which I am aware on the legislation. So the suggestion that that date should apply for clause 5, paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d), is still not acceptable to the Australian Democrats. We will be voting against clause 2 (2).