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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2356

Senator HARRADINE(5.48) — in reply-Very briefly, Senator Button raised three matters. The first was that if I want an undertaking he will give it and he will abide by it. The second point was that I chose to raise only one issue out of all the items in the appropriation legislation. The implication was that I raised the issue because I desired in some way to brandish that fact around the electorate. Let me deal with the last point first. I believe that that is an inappropriate reflection on me because, from the very start, I have conducted correspondence with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation about this . I have proceeded through the appropriate authoritative channels. I have not been able to get anywhere through the appropriate channels, including the questioning of officers at Estimates Committee A. I have a right, as a member of this Parliament, to attempt to obtain the truth from those in authority for whom we appropriate millions of dollars of taxpayers' funds-in the case of the ABC, $ 330m or whatever.

The next matter that he raised was the one I had settled on. When I moved for the suspension of Standing Orders I said that I had a large number of issues to raise but that this matter was one which went to the very heart of the audit and control functions of the Estimates committees, and through them the Parliament. I am not a member of Estimates Committee A; I was there by invitation and I asked a few questions.

Senator Peter Baume —As is your right.

Senator HARRADINE —As is my right. It was the Estimates Committee which drew the attention of the Senate, through its report, to the failure of Mr Whitehead to discharge his obligations as a statutory officer.

Senator Button said that if I wanted an undertaking I should ask him for it and he would give it to me. I read from page 2235 of yesterday's Hansard. I said:

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's response was:

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

A request was made and the undertaking was given: 'We can limit that to half an hour if you want'. I want it all right, and I said as much this morning and also this afternoon. A request was made, an undertaking was given and an excuse has now been made that last night's speakers list was added to. That is nonsense. There were nine speakers left on the list last night. Senator Button added himself to this list. He said that that was to replace Senator Grimes, but Senator Grimes was at the bottom of the list. Senator Gietzelt was not on the list but he was added in place of Senator Grimes. So we have the excuse that there was not time to debate this matter in the Committee stages. Senator Mason' s main point was that there were many other matters that ought to have been raised arising from the Appropriation Bills--

Senator Mason —I said there could have been matters raised, not ought to have been raised. Do not misquote me.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Mason corrects me, and I stand corrected. Senator Mason said that there were many other matters that could have been raised in the Committee stages of the Appropriation Bills. They were not raised. Of course they were not raised, because there were no Committee stages of any Bills. The reason there were no Committee stages was that the--

Senator Jack Evans —Because we filibustered the second reading.

Senator HARRADINE —The reason there were no Committee stages was that the Government, with the support of the Australian Democrats, applied the gag and thus gagged one of the most important functions of the Parliament, its audit and control function.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Harradine's) be agreed to.