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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 341

Senator WALTERS(10.43) — Thank you, Mr Chairman, for that timely reminder. I welcome Senator Robert Ray to the chamber. I am sure it is very nice for the Attorney-General, Senator Gareth Evans, to at least have someone in the chamber to help him because this is the first time any Australian Labor Party senator, except of course, his Whip, has sat behind him. I believe it is an indictment of Labor Party senators who, we must understand and the public must understand, are caucused on this issue; not like the Liberal Party senators. This is a very important debating point. Senator Robert Ray said that the Liberal Party had changed its mind. Liberal members are permitted to make their own choice. Indeed they did so and voted accordingly. But Labor Party members are caucused. Is it any wonder, Mr Chairman, that no Labor senators are sitting behind Senator Evans? They are caucused, they have no choice so there is no point in their entering the debate. Senator Evans has done it all.

Then Senator Robert Ray appeared like a bolt out of the blue. Let us welcome Senator Robert Ray. Mr Chairman, as you noticed he did introduce some odd comments into a debate on the long title of the Bill, but I hope you will allow me to answer a couple of them because they must not go unanswered. Senator Ray referred to the fact that this chamber can send the lower House to the people and not go to an election itself. If Senator Robert Ray brings forward a referendum proposal which states that the Senate, when it sends the lower House to the people must also go to the people, I will join him.

Senator Robert Ray —All of it?

Senator WALTERS —No, half of the Senate. If the honourable senator does that we on this side will think about the matter.

Senator Robert Ray —Why not all the Senate go out?

Senator WALTERS —The honourable senator should bring forward a referendum proposal covering that point and then see what the Senate decides to do, but he should not come in here and bring up something that he is not willing to include in a referendum. Senator Ray referred to those Liberal and National Party members who have been consistent, as renegades and troglodytes. I can assure the honourable senator that we were able to convince the Australian people and on two occasions they knocked back the referendum proposals.

Senator Martin wondered what on earth is behind Senator Evans's madness. I join the crowd which is wondering what is behind Senator Evans's madness. However, we have only to look at the history of the Labor Party to find out what is behind its madness in putting up this referendum proposal. It was part of its policy to get rid of the Senate chamber; to have one House and one House only for the Australian Parliament. I only have to quote what was said by former Senator McLaren back in 1977. He said 'This simultaneous election referendum is a first step in the abolition of the Senate and the sooner it is abolished the better'. The present Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Button, added to that. He said: 'Labor will make every effort to delimit the powers of the Senate'. The Labor Party had it in its policy to get rid of the Senate. I remember clearly that at one Labor conference Senator Evans said that he thought the public relations exercise of doing so would do no good at all to the Labor Party. He said: 'While we can still believe in it we ought to be able to get rid of it from our Party policy'.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr Chairman, I am enjoying Senator Walters's contribution as always--

Senator WALTERS —Are you taking a point of order?

Senator Gareth Evans —I am taking a point of order and asking what conceivable relevance this has to the long title of the Bill which does have to be addressed by all speakers in this debate.

The CHAIRMAN —I have previously drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that the subject before the Committee is the long title of the Bill and the amendment moved to it by Senator Durack. I have allowed some remarks and responses to be made but that cannot go on forever. I ask Senator Walters to come back to the long title of the Bill.

Senator WALTERS —Mr Chairman, I believe my remarks have a tremendous amount to do with the long title of the Bill. May I explain to you that the long title of the Bill, I believe, is a deceit. I am trying to inform the Australian public why the Government is going to such lengths to make the long title a deceit. The point is that the Government is getting across to the Australian public a deceitful long title because it wants to destroy the Senate. So I get back to the history of Senator Evans's talk to the Labor conference when he said: 'It would not be good for our public relations to destroy the Senate. Let us get it out of our policy even though we may still work towards that aim'. Indeed, that is what is behind the deceitful long title, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the effects of this piece of legislation.

We know that the Senate's independence will be interfered with considerably. We know that if this Bill eventually goes through and if the people of Australia support the proposition, a Prime Minister of the day will be able to threaten the Senate on any occasion and say: 'If you do not jump into line and pass everything that I want, I shall send you to the people every six months until I get my way'. He can then take the House of Representatives and the Senate to the electors every six months; he can do as he likes. But as matters stand, the people are protected because the Senate has a fixed term. The Prime Minister can take the House of Representatives to the people whenever he likes, but he is limited, to a degree only, by the Senate's fixed term if he wants to call both chambers out together. We know, therefore, that it is the aim of the Bill to give the Prime Minister this complete power. Senator Robert Ray said: 'The Prime Minister should not be permitted to call an early election'.

Senator Robert Ray —I did not say that.

Senator WALTERS —He was complaining bitterly about the fact that so many early elections had been called.

Senator Robert Ray —No, I was not. I just said that your mob had called them.

Senator WALTERS —Indeed, he said that for the past 30 years the Liberals had called them or had caused the calling of them. He omitted, of course, the fact that Labor just had not been in power during that period, except for three years -then Labor made such a hash of it that the people threw out that Government, straight after three years. He left out that little detail. What happened to his Government?

Senator Robert Ray —You tell me one Labor Prime Minister who has gone to the people early yet.

Senator WALTERS —Mr Robert Hawke, on his own statement, as close as a couple of days ago, said that he will go to the people early. He will go to the people not when he has to go to call out both chambers but much earlier than he has to go. He does not have to go to the people until April or May. But what is he doing? He has said himself that he will be going some time between December and March. He is going early.

Senator Robert Ray —Do you think that is wrong?

Senator WALTERS —The honourable senator asked me to name a Labor Prime Minister who wants to go early, and I am telling him.

Senator Robert Ray —No, I said 'who has gone early'.

Senator WALTERS —All right; if the honourable senator is going to nit-pick, by all means.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.