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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1648

Senator WALTERS(6.38) —We have reached the situation, as Senator Georges said, that the Australia Card Bill is no longer considered urgent by the Government. We have also reached the situation, as Senator Lewis said, that Dr Blewett has said that it is imperfect. The Australian Bankers Association and all the bankers have said that the Bill needs amending to make it possible for banks to be included and to make it easy for people to use our banking system along with the Australia card. So what about bringing in a proper amended Bill? Senator Gareth Evans, who is so used to pushing things through in his arrogance, who believes that things sound like a good idea at the time, a failed Attorney-General who is now a failed Manager of Government Business in the Senate, thinks that he can do anything he likes in this place. He believes that the Senate and the Opposition have no say just because he has the numbers. Senator Evans has a great deal to learn around this place. Frankly, what we want on this side of the House is to see Senator Grimes reinstated as Manager of Government Business.

Honourable senators-Hear, hear!

Senator WALTERS —I can see members on the Government benches clapping at that suggestion, a most unusual occurrence. The present Manager of Government Business has not got any common sense. Most people in this place know my views on Senator Grimes. I believe that Senator Evans is just that much worse. It is very obvious that the Government has had a look at the polls and it has made a very wise decision, from its point of view, not to go ahead with an election. It is very obvious that the people will throw the Government out as soon as it calls an election.

Senator Gareth Evans —On a point of order, Mr President: I fear that it might be a little ungentlemanly of me to intervene after Senator Walters's remarks about me, but I do think that she is stretching the bounds of relevance at the moment. I ask you to rule accordingly.

The PRESIDENT —I must admit that the debate so far has been rather wide ranging. However, I suggest that Senator Walters speak to the amendments before the Chair.

Senator WALTERS —I am speaking to the need for an alteration of sitting hours. There may have been a need for such an alteration a few hours ago; but, following the decision of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) that it is no longer necessary to have an early election, I wonder why there is any urgency in this matter. Why can we not debate the Australia Card in the normal way? Why can we not stick to the normal hours? The Prime Minister said publicly that the Australia Card was the trigger he needed for an election before May. I do not believe that this is a wide-ranging point-it is to do with the hours of sitting. The situation has now altered. The Prime Minister has backed down; he has said that there is now no call for an early election. As a result, an early election is off; so we can now go back to our normal sitting hours.

The Estimates committees will be in a complete shambles if this motion is passed. If we cannot sit on Estimates committees tomorrow, as was originally intended, then the timetable for those committees will be all over the place. The Minister said that he would like the Senate to rise for a dinner break in order to help the staff. That is completely hypocritical because the Minister originally intended that we would not have any dinner break at all. How could he fit that in with the arrangements of the dining room staff? The dining room staff is accustomed to our coming in in dribs and drabs, so the statement that the Minister is supposedly considering the staff is quite ridiculous. We need to get back to our normal sitting hours and our normal processing of Government Business. I suggest that the Minister behave in a sensible manner and conduct the Government Business in the normal way.