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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2236

Senator HARRADINE(5.58) — The motion before us strikes at the heart of the function of the Senate as a House of review.

Senator Mason —Ha, ha!

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Mason laughs at that. I repeat: The motion before us strikes at the heart of the function of the Senate as a House of review and as a States House. I intend to prove that. The motion has been greeted with a mixture of jocularity and cynicism. It is a matter of serious importance. Let me just prove how it strikes at the heart of the function of the Senate as a House of review. The matters before us are the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill and the Appropriation Bills (Nos 1 and 2). The debate on those Bills, which it has been said appropriate billions of dollars, is to be restricted to 12.30 tomorrow. There are nine speakers left on the list. That means that there will be no Committee stage on these Bills. There is no opportunity for those of us who know that at least one witness before an Estimates committee has misled the Parliament and has refused to supply information that he said he would supply. I refer, of course, to Estimates Committee A. Mr Whitehead, the Director-General of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, misled the Committee. He was castigated by the Committee and still he has refused to supply the information which he is reported at page 167 of the Hansard transcript as saying he would supply.

Senator Peter Rae —But the Ombudsman's finding makes it even worse.

Senator HARRADINE —Exactly. When the report of Estimates Committee A was tabled in the Parliament I attempted to talk about that matter. I was told that I could deal with it in the Committee stage of the Appropriation Bills.

Senator Crowley —Hear, hear!

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Crowley says 'hear, hear'. She will vote for the gag and ensure that there is no Committee stage on the Appropriation Bills.

Senator Georges —Pull the speakers off.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Georges says: 'Pull the speakers off'. I agree with that. The Australian Democrats will vote for the gag. There are only three Democrats in the chamber. Senator Chipp and Senator Macklin are away somewhere, I do not know where.

Senator Jack Evans —Senator Chipp is at the doctor's.

Senator HARRADINE —Where is Senator Macklin? Is he out campaigning? Those senators have pairs, courtesy of the Opposition. Senator Mason, Senator Haines and Senator Evans are on the speakers list for these Bills yet they will vote to gag us in the Committee stage.

Senator Haines —You have already spoken.

Senator HARRADINE —I am not voting for the gag. I have matters to raise in the Committee stage pursuant to my audit and control functions regarding parliamentary departments. This opportunity is being denied to me and to other honourable senators by your action. You are saying: 'We will have our say and as soon as we have spoken we will allow the gag to come down.' If you had any decency you would come off the speakers list.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask Senator Harradine to address his remarks through the Chair.

Senator HARRADINE —I was only responding to Senator Georges's invitation to take people off the speakers list. The invitation is really to the three Australian Democrats. If they had any decency at all, since they will vote for the gag, they should remove themselves from the list and enable those of us who have very important matters to raise in the Committee stage to do so. Part of our review function is the audit and control function. This has been taken away from us by this motion of the Government which will be supported by the Democrats. We are also being denied the opportunity of exercising our function as a States House. Another piece of legislation that has been declared urgent is the Bass Strait Sea Passenger Service Agreement Bill 1984. We have been given precisely 15 minutes by the Government and the Democrats to debate that matter.

Senator Georges —Are you opposed to it?

Senator HARRADINE —No. I want to say a number of things about that agreement, particularly about the need to have a cheap crossing over the Bass Strait. It is not possible for those of us from Tasmania to address that matter properly in 15 minutes. I now ask why the Government has proposed two hours for the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984 and the Trade Practices Amendment Bill 1984. The legislation will be defeated by the combined votes of the Opposition and the Democrats. Why do we need two hours to debate it when we debated it last week?

Senator Georges —You could always gag it.

Senator HARRADINE —I do not want to gag debate on the Bills. I was going to support the legislation into the Committee stage and attempt to amend it so that it would appropriately deal with the major issue involved. Why do we need two hours to debate it since it will be defeated?

Senator Jack Evans —So that you can move your amendments in Committee.

Senator HARRADINE —I take it from the Democrats that they will support the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2) to the Committee stage. Is that right? There is dead silence. All I want the Government to do-I ask this of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) through you, Mr President-is to think about the time allowed to debate the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2) to see whether it can extend the time allowed to debate the Appropriation Bills so that at least we will get some Committee stage consideration of those Bills.

Senator Button —We can limit that to half an hour if you want.

Senator HARRADINE —Hopefully, the Democrats will now do the right thing and come off the speakers list for the Appropriation Bills.

Motion (by Senator Grimes) put:

That the question be now put.