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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 459


Senator PUPLICK(8.28) —It has taken only a week of sittings to turn garrulous Gareth into guillotine Gareth. That is obviously the pattern that we will be subjected to by this new Manager of Government Business in the Senate. Here we have an important debate. There is nothing on today's Notice Paper that is of more significance to the work undertaken by the Parliament than the question of what the nation's defences are or ought to be. Yet the Government has decided in its wisdom to put aside the first opportunity that the Senate has had for many months to debate significant matters of foreign and defence policy in order to get on with the sort of priority legislation that Senator Gareth Evans has sought to identify today. Having previously told us that he wanted to be co-operative, that he wanted to assist in the running of this place, that he wanted to wash away all of his previous sins and establish himself as a sympathetic, caring and-heaven help us-even intelligent Manager of Government Business in the Senate, he has now decided that the way to do it is with the bludgeon. Of course, the bludgeon he has on this occasion is the quisling co-operation of the Australian Democrats, whose views about the defence policies of Australia have always been notorious for constituting a non-defence policy.

As Senator Durack has said, this matter was considered of sufficient moment for all of the pressures of the House of Representatives to be put to one side to allow for a decent and reasonable debate-something rarely heard of in the House of Representatives-in which 11 speakers participated on the day on which it was first listed for discussion. The debate there is to be continued not at some mythical date in the future, as Senator Evans's motion-supported by the quislings in the Democrats on this occasion-has provided, but rather on the next available day when members have the opportunity to debate the matter. We have seen already the way in which Senator Gareth Evans intends to manage business in this place. He is now taking advice from Senator Grimes, who at least knew how to handle this business. It is significant that he has to go and find from Senator Grimes the best way of getting himself out of yet another one of the holes into which he has put himself by something, as Senator Walters said, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

We have seen the way in which he has managed to construct the program we have had for the week. The first piece of legislation we were invited to deal with when we got back for this session was the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation legislation, a piece of legislation specifically out of the Minister's own portfolio. He could not wait until he became Manager of Government Business in the Senate to make sure that his own particular interests were looked after, that his own portfolio got first crack of the whip and that his own piece of legislation got scheduled for the first item of debate. After all, he had been prepared to allow it to languish around since March or May of last year, but the moment he had a new rattle he was determined to make maximum amount of noise with it, and he managed to do that on the ANSTO legislation.

When we have something which is of as much significance as the questions which have been raised as far as defence initiatives in the South Pacific are concerned, he is prepared to terminate the debate. The Government has not faced up to the issues which have been raised in that debate. It has not faced up to the questions which Senator Sir John Carrick has put to it about situations in Cam Ranh Bay and the position of the Soviets in this part of the region. It has sought to dismiss this as somehow being insignificant because it wants to get on with legislation, including legislation that will once more stick it into the taxpayers of Australia, by bringing up for debate its Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1986 and by then debating Standing Orders Committee reports, the aim of which, honourable members might be reminded, is to limit the amount of time that senators will have to debate in this chamber by limiting the number of speeches that can be made on the adjournment, by limiting the number of people who will be able to participate, by limiting the length of speeches and by limiting the adjournment debate and all the value that goes with that.

Once again he knows he can proceed down that course because the Democrats have already sold out to him on Standing Orders. Yet another grubby deal has been cobbled together with this fading remnants of Senator Chipp's once great and significant party. But as Senator Gareth Evans knows, because he is the person who said it, the Democrats are a small party and they tire easily. He is determined to make sure that they tire easily at the beginning of the session by getting them, through these various quisling deals which he is negotiating, to terminate discussions on defence policy, to terminate the time that will be available to members of the Senate to debate important legislation and to terminate the adjournment debate so that issues of importance to individual constituents-the things that we are supposed to be protecting in this Senate-will be terminated. He is about to wander over in a minute to see whether he can get some deal with the Democrats to continue to get through all of this legislation. He has taken advice from Senator Grimes and the advice that Senator Grimes gave him when he came in to try to rescue him from yet another one of his messes was to go over and talk to the Democrats to see whether he can get some little deal going with them in order to frustrate the capacity of the Parliament to deal with matters which are genuinely matters of importance.

There is nothing on the Notice Paper today which is of more importance than the question of Australia's defence and how it relates to what is occurring in the South Pacific. If that were not the case, there would not have been the extensive list of speakers on both sides of the chamber who wished to participate in this debate. Yet Senator Gareth Evans is now about to cut this debate off; he is now about to take us to the debate on plant variety rights-a matter which has been around for years because of the sloth and neglect of his Government. There has been a Senate inquiry, Professor Lazenby's inquiry and Senator Hill's private member's Bill. You will recall that one, Mr President. That was the one when the majority of Australian Democrats wandered into the chamber like Brown's cows to find that Senator Vigor had approved the second reading of the Bill whereas in fact it had been their intention not to. This is the sort of confusion that the Democrats are in over these things. So little wonder it is that the Democrats have wimped under this particular tirade that they have undoubtedly had from Senator Gareth Evans. No doubt the plant variety rights legislation will be guillotined through as well in order to accommodate what Senator Gareth Evans thinks is the sane and sensible way of dealing with this legislation.

He has only had a week in the job. The only reason he has this job in the chamber is that a deal was put together as to who was to get the presidency, who was to get the ministry, who was to get the deputy leadership and who could be counted upon to do the right thing on the National Executive whenever it was picking on the Queensland branch, picking on the Victorian branch or reorganising somebody else around the place. Undoubtedly his colleagues will find that they will be unable to count on his vote on the National Executive and that they have made a terrible mistake in allowing him to manage Government business in this place. Senator Ryan was supposed to have this job. It they had actually wanted an effective and sensible Manager of Government Business they would have given the job to Senator Walsh because at least he knows how to get things organised.

This is about as well organised as the spy flights over Tasmania. There is no doubt that by the time he has had this job for a couple of months he will have exactly the same reaction on his back bench as he did when he was Attorney-General. They could not get him out of the job fast enough before he made more of a mess of it. They managed to shunt him off to the ministry of pipes and holes and as far as he is concerned, as long as he gets his own departmental legislation through, he does not really very much care about the rest of the program. If Senator Gareth Evans thinks that in only the second week of the parliamentary sittings he is building up a capacity to deal with the Opposition, particularly as we get towards the end of the parliamentary session, he will find that he is certainly doing nothing other than making a very hard rod for his back because this is the sort of thing which will rebound on him. If he thinks that he can terminate discussion and debate on a matter as important as Australia's defence position in the South Pacific, he ought to be clearly placed on notice, as he is now being placed on notice by the Opposition, that he is fast running out of any degree of credits which he might have had for the effective management of his program.

Senator Grimes would never have allowed a thing like this to occur. He knew perfectly well the reasonable and elementary way in which one should deal with these matters to ensure that there is a smooth and orderly progress of the legislation. We in the Opposition are here only to assist in the passage of sound legislation and to oppose the passage of unsound legislation. Where we have a situation where there is legislation such as plant variety rights which we are prepared to support-indeed, we give it our wholehearted support-we have cut our speeches down. Senator Gareth Evans is now criticising Senator Durack and Senator Newman for making speeches which, despite the fact that they were excellent speeches which encapsulated all the significant issues that had to be addressed, did not take their full time. Senator Gareth Evans works upon the principle that speeches must automatically use the time available in order to be worthy.

When Senator Gareth Evans was in Opposition we remember sitting here giving him all the time that he wanted. I remember when he spoke for an hour on the matter involving Sir Garfield Barwick and then told us that he needed an extension of time. He spoke for more than the hour and he got the extension of time because that was a matter of national significance. Sir Garfield Barwick's taxation arrangements pale into insignificance when one is dealing with the question of defence initiatives in the South Pacific; yet Senator Gareth Evans is not prepared to give the Opposition and the Democrats, although by their own quisling behaviour they have forfeited any right to be considered in this matter, an opportunity to debate this issue. He is not prepared to give Senator Harradine the opportunity to participate in this debate. He is not prepared to give the once again absent Senator Vallentine an opportunity to participate in this debate. He ought to, because people are concerned about these issues. He ought to realise the extent to which this is a matter of enormous national significance. Yet here he is, terminating the debate and expecting that it will lead to the effective management of Government Business in the future.

I say to him through you, Mr President, that this is not the way these things ought to be done. It is not the way that Senator Grimes would have done it. Senator Grimes would have ensured that significant issues were properly and adequately debated. When Senator Grimes goes off to The Hague in a couple of months and sits there I hope that every now and again he will find the time to write a note home to Senator Evans saying: `Dear Gareth, how is it going? Have you got past the program that you originally scheduled for the first week?' The answer that he would get back from Senator Evans is: `No, here I am doing my best but we are still stuck on the first week's program. The reason we are stuck on the first week's program is that I thought that the only way we could manage it was to terminate all the debates. Every time I tried to terminate a debate the Opposition got up and took full advantage of all of the Standing Orders and spoke interminably on motions to put the adjournment to a later hour of this day instead of to another day of sitting'.

I say to Senator Evans that we are only here to co-operate with him. Senator Evans said a week ago that what he wanted was co-operation and friendship, that he had forgotten all his nasty habits, that he was going to be a good boy, that he wanted to co-operate. We find that it has taken him less than a week to decide that sweetness and light are simply something that he is genetically unable to manage. He is simply genetically unable to manage a co-operative arrangement around this table. He is simply unable to be nice as far as this matter is concerned. He is now offering Senator Harradine a deal but Senator Harradine will not give him a deal. I can tell you that, Mr President. He is attempting to force Senator Harradine into a deal but Senator Harradine will not give him a deal. The reason Senator Harradine will not give him a deal is that Senator Harradine has dealt with members of the Labor Party's national executive before. Senator Harradine knows what it is. Senator Evans is peddling his wares round the chamber.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I remind Senator Puplick that standing order 419 deals with relevancy. I have let the debate run outside the normal bounds. Any honourable senator speaking to this matter should deal strictly with the amendment that is before the Chair. The last remarks of Senator Puplick are outside standing order 419. I ask him to speak strictly to the amendment moved by Senator Durack.


Senator PUPLICK —The amendment moved by Senator Durack was for this matter to be adjourned to a later hour this day. That clearly indicates the importance which members of the Opposition attach to this debate. I am seeking to contrast the importance which the Opposition attaches to this significant matter with the lack of importance which is accorded to it by the Government. As I was saying, Senator Evans has indicated the extent to which he and the Government do not believe that this matter is sufficiently important to be debated today. One of the ways in which he has done that is by trying to offer shabby deals to the Democrats and to Senator Harradine to terminate the debate. As I said, Senator Harradine has dealt with members of the Labor Party's national executive before. He knows exactly how much latitude they should be given. He knows what a gag or a guillotine is. He has had his neck under the guillotine of the Labor Party's national executive more often than just about anybody else in this chamber with the exception of Senator Georges. Mr President, I am conscious of the fact that you are most anxious to enforce standing order 419. I would never want to trespass upon the latitude of the Chair as I never did under the distinguished reign of your predecessor, who undoubtedly would have given me a large amount of latitude in this matter and whom you quite rightly said you sought to emulate. Therefore, to that extent I simply conclude by saying--


Senator Lewis —Oh, come on!


Senator PUPLICK —Mr President, I am being provoked by my colleagues.


Senator Hill —What about the importance of the subject matter?


Senator PUPLICK —Senator Hill reminds me that I should also address my remarks to the importance of the subject, so let me come to that. The importance of the subject which requires it to be dealt with at a later hour of this day, rather than on some mystical day in the future, allows us to consider the questions of the defence initiatives in the South Pacific. We have to list at least the following matters upon which I could discourse at length: The Soviet buildup in the area; the developments at Cam Ranh Bay, which Senator Sir John Carrick has drawn attention to on a number of occasions; the failure of the Government clearly to respond to an analysis of the photographs which have been published; the implications for the South Pacific region of the very important speech made by General-Secretary Gorbachev at Vladivostok some time ago; what is happening in New Caledonia, whether the FLNKS is going to be a significant force in that matter; the implications of the clear disagreement between President Mitterrand and Prime Minister Chirac about the independence referendum to take place in New Caledonia; the question of what exactly are the relationships between Libya and the various independence groups in the area--


Senator Gareth Evans —Before Senator Puplick chokes on the artificiality of his rhetoric, I remind you, Mr President, that Standing Orders do not permit irrelevance and that matters addressed to the generalised subject matter of the motion are not relevant to the matter before the Chair, which is why this motion should be debated at a later hour this day rather than next week or in a couple of weeks time when it will be back on the agenda. Senator Puplick is in order in referring to these matters only if he wants to point to some dramas that are likely to ensue should this matter not be debated tonight rather than in two weeks time when we resume.


The PRESIDENT —I have made the point about relevancy to Senator Puplick. I remind him of it again and ask him to address himself specifically to the amendment moved by Senator Durack.


Senator PUPLICK —Mr President, I take it that I am also in order in referring to the principal motion which is before us, that is, the motion moved by Senator Evans, that I am not restricted to the question of adjourning the debate to a later hour this day and that I am also entitled to speak to the motion moved by Senator Evans that the matter be adjourned to the next day of sitting. I take it that that is correct, Mr President.


The PRESIDENT —Yes, as long as you do not go into the realm of debating the original motion moved by Senator Evans. I think you should address the amendment that has been moved by Senator Durack.


Senator PUPLICK —It appears to me that the original motion moved by Senator Evans for the gag has been carried and is therefore not a question of debate. Senator Evans has moved that the matter be adjourned to the next day of sitting which, in parliamentary parlance, may mean that it never reappears during this session or until this Parliament is prorogued. Senator Durack has moved an amendment to the effect that it should be debated at a later hour this day; in other words, that we should proceed to it as a matter of urgent dispatch. I am addressing the question of why this is a matter of urgent dispatch. As I was saying, it is a matter of urgent dispatch because the policies of the Soviet Union in the South Pacific are matters of concern which require to be addressed urgently.

One of the reasons they require to be addressed urgently is that we will shortly have visiting this country a Mr Eduard Shevardnadze, the Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union. He is entitled to have the benefit of the debate which takes place in the Australian Parliament about what the Australian Parliament believes to be the situation of the Soviets in the South Pacific. The Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union should be told quite clearly that the view put to him by the Government is not necessarily the view held by all people in Australia or held by the whole Parliament. He cannot be given the benefit of that extensive debate on the part of the Parliament if we are not permitted to have the opportunity in the Senate to debate the matter prior to the Soviet Foreign Minister's visit. What I am saying, therefore, is that all the issues which I have mentioned previously are ones which need to be addressed, and can be addressed, in terms of this statement on defence initiatives in the South Pacific.

I have mentioned the question of Cam Ranh Bay and the Soviets and the FLNKS and its role in New Caledonia, the problems that the French have between the Mitterrand presidency and the Chirac Government in sorting out independence steps in that country, and I have had the opportunity to mention briefly the fishing deals that have been done with Vanuatu and Kiribati. I have some clear interest in what the Libyans are up to in terms of the visits which a number of people from the Kanak Liberation Front and other Melanesian organisations have made to Tripoli and the extent to which the penetration of Libyan terrorism into the South Pacific is a matter of concern. I have not yet even touched on the racial tensions in Fiji and what that might mean. I have not yet touched on the ANZUS alliance and on the relations between Australia and New Zealand. I have not yet touched on the Antarctic Treaty or on any of the important matters which abut regional politics in the South Pacific. I have not even started to get on to the western coast of the South American continent to raise the very significant issues which are involved there. There is the question of the South Pacific nuclear free zone; there are questions about the 200-mile economic zone and fishing agreements; and questions which relate to the nuclear free zone in South America-whether that is a precedent for the SPNFZ Treaty and should be further developed. Those are all matters of urgent necessity. They are all matters which ought to be aired in the Parliament. They are all matters which should be comprehensively debated. Yet, the Minister says that he wants to adjourn the debate to some time in the future, which may mean that the matter will never come back on to the program. He has the agreement of the Australian Democrats who, once again, have sold out on their responsibilities-that is, to the defence of this region-and he has prevented all other senators who want to take part in this debate from doing so. That is a most unfortunate situation.

I think the Senate is very fortunate that Senator Durack had the opportunity to move that this subject be brought up as a matter of urgent debate, because that gives us the opportunity this evening to make it clear to the people of Australia that what the Government is doing is gagging, cutting off, guillotining, preventing a debate on one of the most significant and important issues that could possible come before a national Parliament, namely, the question of our country's regional security, defence, and alliances. It touches upon our trade, the economics of the region, our relationships with the small countries of the region, the question of independence for the remaining colonial possessions in the South Pacific, and upon the whole of the nuclear free zone in the South Pacific. I would not be giving up my valuable time, which I could otherwise be spending watching Yes, Minister, to participate in this debate if it were not extremely urgent to debate the matter. It should be debated at length.

Senator Evans should not be allowed, in his first full week as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, to get away with terminating a debate which is as important and vital as this for Australia's future and for our defence and security arrangements. Mr President, I know that your patience has been exceptional, and that undoubtedly I have used up a great deal of credit as far as you are concerned-I see by your vigorous nodding that you concur with that point-but those comments needed to be made in response to Senator Gareth Evans's disgraceful behaviour this evening.