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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2531

Senator VIGOR(8.43) —I believe that the Committee is currently being taken for a ride by the Minister. I have been through this Committee stage debate and we have had co-operation from all of the Ministers except Senator Walsh. As somebody who is very keen on representing the people of my State and the people of Australia, I am appalled by this situation. We have a commitment to get information and to supervise effectively what is happening within the Public Service and the political decisions the Executive Government is making. I notice that the Minister is now walking out. This Minister has been feigning to be asleep at least I hope that he was feigning-during the whole of this exercise.

I believe that the people of Australia need to know what has been happening. I have asked three questions. The Minister for Education, Senator Ryan, was here and she promised that those questions would be answered by the next Minister who followed. I will repeat one of the questions I have asked of this Minister.

Senator Newman —Mr Temporary Chairman, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that the Minister is smoking in the chamber. Is this not contrary to Standing Orders?

Senator McIntosh —He is not smoking in the chamber at all. He is standing in the doorway.

Senator Newman —His cigarette is in the chamber.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Jessop) —I remind the Minister that he is not permitted to smoke in the chamber and that he can withdraw.

Senator VIGOR —I asked some serious questions concerning the expenditure of money by this Government. Senator Michael Baume has done the same thing. Senator Reid and a number of other senators, including Senator McIntosh on the Government side of the chamber, have actually asked the Minister to give at least a reasonable answer. At the end of that process the Minister stood up and said that he would take those matters on notice.

As for the questions I asked, I know that the Department was given notice of them. I was told that the material was available so that the Minister could answer. So, there is absolutely no need for these questions to be taken on notice. I have been extremely brief in terms of asking questions. I took about two minutes to ask questions on this Department. I can be long-winded and I could go on and keep this place occupied. I believe that we have no alternative but to do that type of thing if the Minister is going to ignore us and insult us. Currently that is exactly what is happening. I believe that it is a disgrace that the representative of the Government in this chamber should treat the chamber with such contempt.

I ask the Minister at least to show us the courtesy of answering those questions on which the departmental people-I commend them for this-have been highly co-operative and have worked to give him the material necessary for him to provide answers. I believe that it is quite untenable that a Minister of the Crown should act in this way in the upper House of this Parliament, this House of review. I see it as nothing but an insult to all of us here that this type of thing should be happening.

Senator Lewis —And to the people of Australia.

Senator VIGOR —And to the people of Australia. We have been elected as a House of review and we are not being given a chance to review. This is a most important Bill which passes all of the expenditure for the Government, apart from that which gets sneaked through in special appropriations and by various other tricks. This is where we actually review what the Government is doing. The Australian Democrats have given a commitment not to vote against Appropriation Bill (No. 1). Because we have given that commitment, we have an even greater responsibility to investigate every matter in here and to bring matters to the notice of the people. I will not abrogate that responsibility and I will not allow a Minister of the Crown to continue in this way.