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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 47

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(10.30) —I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) in commending and thanking the Government for the initiative of placing before the Senate the legislation program for this session. I totally support the Leader of the Opposition as I did last year in suggesting-I put it no higher than that; I am sure he would not want to put it in the form of a threat-that the Government might not leave until the last week, particularly until after the House of Representatives has risen, important legislation. The Australian Democrats will not hesitate to amend even important legislation if members of the House of Representatives have gone home and the Senate remains sitting. The Democrats will not do what we have done in other years, as has the Liberal Party of Australia, and co-operate with the Government when it says: 'Look, the House of Representatives has risen and we want this legislation passed. You are not going to amend it, are you?'. We were nice people before, but those times are over. If there is important legislation before the Senate it will be amended regardless of whether members of the House of Representatives have gone home.

Senator Peter Baume —Or left on the Notice Paper.

Senator CHIPP —Or left on the Notice Paper. I am not too critical about what is in the document read by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) but I want to be critical of one thing-the reference to the reintroduction of the bottom of the harbour Bills. I will speak about that in a moment. I am also very critical of, and I will speak further about, what is not in the statement. One can be quite critical about the omissions from the Government's legislative program. One of the great shams that this Government has tried to perpetrate is the necessity to introduce retrospective legislation. It is an act of hypocrisy for the Government to introduce this set of bottom of the harbour retrospective legislation in the first week of the session and for it to be prepared to say to the Liberal Party and to those Democrats who vote against it: 'Friends of tax cheats'. It is the old sort of rhetoric.

Let me remind people of several things about this kind of legislation. There were people who evaded and avoided tax by certain measures. We have now had in unmistakable terms from the High Court of Australia and Mr Gyles statements that there is already provision in legislation on the statute books for the Government, if it wished, to recover most of the money and tax evaded without having to go into the area of retrospective legislation. I will not debate the philosphy of retrospective legislation now. My thoughts are well known on that subject and this is not the time for them. But it is a well known fact that a significant proportion of Government back benchers know that if the retrospective bottom of the harbour legislation were passed it certainly would catch a lot of guilty people. But they also know and have said in the Caucus that it would catch a lot of innocent people. Thousands of small businesses would go down the tube and cause massive unemployment. When these people have said in the Caucus, 'We are a bit nervous about this legislation because innocent people will suffer', they have been quietly told: 'Don't worry, the Liberals and the Democrats will knock it out in the Senate; they will catch the odium and we can be big fellows ourselves'.

Senator Walsh —Nobody has said that in Caucus. That is pure fiction.

Senator CHIPP —Before Senator Walsh interjects any more may he learn the first lesson of manhood and politics, namely, loyalty to his Leader instead of talking to people on a telephone and bad-mouthing his Leader.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I would ask the honourable senator to stick to the matter contained in the ministerial statement.

Senator CHIPP —Thank you for that, Mr President.

Senator Walsh —Ask me a question about it, you pious humbug.

The PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Walsh!

Senator CHIPP —I would like to know too what the Minister said to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in London.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister will withdraw that remark.

Senator Walsh —I withdraw.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I have asked the Minister to withdraw the remark and he has done so. I call Senator Chipp.

Senator CHIPP —Thank you for your assistance, Mr President. I do not really need it as far as Senator Walsh is concerned.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I know this is the first day of the operation of the Parliament and there is a certain amount of exuberance, naturally, as I have learnt from long experience in this place. But I ask honourable senators to remember that there are an additional 12 senators in this chamber. If we are to discharge the business of the Senate and our responsibility to the community there has to be a greater degree of decorum than has existed so far this morning.

Senator CHIPP —Of course, the second reason for the introduction of the bottom of the harbour Bills is to produce early the trigger for a double dissolution. Let us not mess about with words: This is the only purpose for the introduction of the Bills. It really introduces a bit of humour to the situation. Let us assume that the legislation is defeated next week and is brought back in May-if we are still sitting-or August. Is there any honourable senator in this chamber who believes that the Prime Minister of Australia, Robert James Lee Hawke, would be visiting Yarralumla this year asking for a double dissolution? That is quite ridiculous.

Senator Chaney —We could block Supply.

Senator CHIPP —Senator Chaney interjected in jest-I always welcome that-that we could block Supply. He could, I suppose. I take the opportunity, seeing that his interjection will be recorded in Hansard, to reiterate that under no circumstances-not even reprehensible circumstances-would the Australian Democrats ever join in the blocking of Supply.

I have spoken about what was in Senator Button's speech. Let us look briefly at what was not in the speech. As the Australian Democrats tried to illustrate during the election campaign, there are four massive problems hanging over Australia like a cloud. One is the question of nuclear annihilation.

Senator Townley —Oh, rubbish.

Senator CHIPP —Senator Townley says that that is rubbish. Of course, what he is saying is that the threat of nuclear destruction does not hang over the human race. That gives some indication of Senator Townley's intelligence in regard to these matters. I repeat that as far as the Australian Democrats are concerned the biggest danger facing humankind is nuclear proliferation. There has been not one word in the Government's program about nuclear proliferation. On Monday the Democrats, with the assistance of the Liberal Party, will correct that. We will move-hopefully we will have the concurrence of the Government-for the suspension of Standing Orders to accommodate, in particular, those Labor senators who sent a telegram of encouragement to Mr Lange for banning the visit of nuclear ships to New Zealand. We will seek to give those honourable senators the opportunity of voting for legislation in Australia which would have the same effect of banning the visit of nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships to Australian ports. There will be a very interesting vote on that occasion. Another massive problem--

Senator Georges —That is what they call the policy of entrapment. It all depends on who moves the motion. There are lots of wild statements.

Senator CHIPP —I will be fascinated to see where Senator Georges places his more than reasonable posterior when the bells ring on that occasion next Monday. I will be interested to see whether it is in the chamber on that side, on this side of the chamber or outside the chamber.

Honourable senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Senate to maintain order. I ask the Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Chipp, to confine his remarks to the ministerial statement.

Senator CHIPP —Mr President, I will certainly accept your suggestion. However, I say to you with all due respect that both you and I have to deal with honourable senators such as Senator Georges.

Senator Georges —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I seek to have those remarks withdrawn. I have been sitting here quite innocently and quietly and I have been provoked by the remarks made by Senator Chipp because he has enlarged his remarks to insult me. He made certain comments during the election campaign which were not accurate-I could say they were untrue-and in this place he makes insulting remarks. His purpose is obviously to cause confusion in this place. He will set out to entrap people into taking positions which are quite clear as far as they are concerned. I advise him that we will not fall for his tactics because they are merely the tactics of despair. He is endeavouring--

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Georges, I ask you to state your point of order and not make a speech.

Senator Georges —Mr President, I rose to ask Senator Chipp to withdraw the remarks. It will be difficult for him to withdraw the remarks because he has exposed the pattern that he will use from now on. I indicate to you, Mr President, that it will be very difficult for us not to interject if he persists in that sort of behaviour.

Senator Chipp —It is going to be difficult for you all right, make no mistake.

Senator Georges —I warn Senator Chipp that it will be very difficult for him.

Senator Chaney —I rise on the point of order, Mr President. I would have some sympathy for the point of order if there were a standing order which stated that one should not be rude to one's opponents. But that does not appear to be part of the armoury, Mr President, that you have to enforce. It seemed to me that the substance of the point of order made by Senator Georges was that Senator Chipp might trap him into taking a stand on principle. I have been in this place for 11 years and I have never seen an Australian Labor Party member break with Caucus on principle. I do not think there is any possible substance in the point of order which has been raised by Senator Georges. Clearly, Senator Chipp can have been talking only about a hypothetical situation if he raised it at all. I think you should rule the point of order out of order and allow Senator Chipp to get on with his remarks.

The PRESIDENT —I do not regard Senator Chipp's remarks as having offended standing order 418. I now call on Senator Chipp to confine his remarks to the ministerial statement which is the subject of debate.

Senator CHIPP —Thank you, Mr President. Other areas that do not appear in the statement, which disappoints us, are those areas that I identified during the election campaign as being gigantic problems for Australia. We have described the nuclear cloud as being by far the greatest problem that should concern Australians. We believe that the Government has not addressed unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, and particularly that kind of unemployment which is caused by structural factors rather than by economic or fiscal factors; namely, the technological revolution, robots, and the introduction of new technology, which is not a temporary phenomenon but a permanent phenomenon. As we talk there are about 89,700 kids aged between 15 and 19 who are looking for some sort of job. That is an underestimate, but that is the official figure. There are about one million people in Australia who are genuinely looking for work, who could work, and who would be prepared to work, but who are unable to find work. I do not blame this Government for that state of affairs; it is a world-wide phenomenon. It is in some part a legacy left by the previous Government. But surely when about one in every 10 people wants a job but cannot get a job, one would expect to find something in the legislative program to correct the situation. Try as I might, I cannot find anything in this statement that would immediately address that fundamental and urgent problem.

I have also enumerated the question of organised crime as being a massive problem that is threatening our society. According to Mr Costigan, the estimate of profits from organised crime in Australia is now about $5,000m a year. That is not turnover; that is profit. One wonders, with profits of that magnitude, what kind of institutions in our society remain safe. A matter that is crucial to our future and the future of our children is our environment. I cannot find too much in the statement about preservation of human rights, about preservation of rain forests or about the environment in general. So while I thank the Government and Senator Button for their courtesy and helpfulness in putting down the statement, the Democrats remain vigorously critical of what is not in it.