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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1209


Senator CHANEY —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and follows the question asked by Senator MacGibbon. Was the Minister saying in his answer that he believes that employees of Telecom Australia and the Australian Postal Commission are not involved in activities against Queensland and in either delaying mail or cutting off television and computer links? If that is not what he is saying, if he agrees that people employed by those Commonwealth instrumentalities or corporations are involved or likely to become involved in the blockade, what action will the Government take against any such employees who participate in this action against the people of Queensland?


Senator BUTTON —It is not so much my answer which is sought to be understood; it is the question asked by Senator MacGibbon which needs some understanding, I think. It was probably drafted in Senator Chaney's office; I do not know. In the question an allegation was made about Telecom and then I was asked: 'Are Commonwealth employees involved?'. I find that an extraordinary question because Telecom employees are, of course, Commonwealth employees.


Senator Chaney —What extraordinary sophistry is this?


Senator BUTTON —Telecom employees are Commonwealth employees. That is true. Senator MacGibbon asserted something about Telecom being involved and then asked: 'Are Commonwealth employees involved?'. I had the gravest difficulty in understanding that question, as would anybody who understands the English language. Let me come back to the substance of the matter. Senator MacGibbon began by saying that there were stories or allegations about these things. I answered the question by saying that if Commonwealth employees were in fact involved, as distinct from allegations and stories about their involvement, the Government would address that matter at the appropriate time and decide what action would be taken. That is the substance of the answer which I gave to Senator MacGibbon.

The Government's position is that we are not seeking in any way to exacerbate an already difficult situation in relation to this dispute in Queensland. On numerous occasions the Government has offered its good offices to assist with the resolution of the dispute. I understand Senator MacGibbon's excitement and desire to stir up the situation. I do not share that, and the Government will not embark upon a series of inflammatory statements here or anywhere else which may go towards exacerbating that dispute rather than resolving it, which is the most important thing we can do.


Senator CHANEY —I have a supplementary question. I ask the Leader of the Government: Does the Government know whether or not Commonwealth employees, in the sense he has indicated, are to be involved? If they are to be involved, what action does the Government propose to take?


Senator BUTTON —No, the Government does not know whether they are to be involved or not. It was not put to me by Senator MacGibbon or Senator Chaney, in his rather silly attempt to rewrite Senator MacGibbon's question, that Government employees were involved. We are dealing with an allegation about something which might happen. In respect of that allegation, neither Senator Chaney nor I know whether Commonwealth employees are involved. When we do we will look at the situation.