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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 880

Senator DEVLIN —Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General aware of the response from the Tasmanian Premier, Robin Gray, to the call by his Federal parliamentary leader, John Howard, for the Tasmanian Parliament to abide by the Constitution by accepting the Australian Labor Party nominee for the forthcoming Senate casual vacancy? What is the Government's reaction to that response?

Senator Durack —Not another one.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I know that it hurts, Senator Durack, but we will not hurt you at quite so much length today. We do not need to because Mr Gray's response speaks for itself. It was made today on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation World Today radio program and it was in the following terms:

John Howard has got his view and I've got mine which is supported by the Tasmanian parliamentary Liberal Party. Let's not worry about what Mr Howard says.

Mr President, that is a striking affirmation, is it not, not only of the linguistic influence which is wielded by the Queensland Premier on his southern acolyte but also of the kind of authority that Mr Howard now wields on the national Liberal Party stage.

Senator Walters —I raise a point of order, Mr President. The failed Attorney-General has just made a ridiculous statement because Mr Batt came to Canberra pleading with Mr Hawke about the logging in our State and came home and called him a blundering hypocrite. That just shows what authority Mr Hawke has over his leader in Tasmania.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order. That was a statement. I call Senator Gareth Evans.

Senator GARETH EVANS —The kind of influence that Mr Howard wields over his Tasmanian members and supporters I think can be likened to the kind of influence that General Custer had over the Indians; it is that extensive. What Mr Gray said was a striking affirmation furthermore not only of the authority of Mr Howard these days but also of the extent to which Mr Gray was prepared to acknowledge the latter day conversion of Senator Chaney to the path of true constitutional rectitude on this matter. Finally I say, stating the obvious, that Mr Gray's response is a striking reaffirmation of the congenital inability of him or his Government to accept the democratic choice of the Tasmanian people in supporting an ALP candidate for the particular position and a striking demonstration again of his utter inability to behave with any semblance of constitutional decency and propriety in this matter.