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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1649

Senator MASON(6.47) —It is necessary for some things to be said in this debate. We are having this lengthy discussion on the Australia Card Bill 1986 (No. 2) because, as Senator Macklin said, the Australian Democrats hold their hand in protection over the official Opposition and give its members the freedom to debate by refusing this Government, in normal circumstances, any gag or guillotine which would require our numbers to execute it. In the past, over the years, we have said that we would maintain that protection and we have done so, except in cases where the Opposition had carried out unnecessary and blatant filibusters. I believe that in present circumstances the Opposition is in great danger of that.

The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has said that he will not have an early election. I could understand the Opposition wanting to spin out the debate, to desperately keep it going because it was afraid of an election. Perhaps it is still afraid of an election; I do not know. Perhaps Opposition senators think that the Prime Minister is trying to lead them into a trap. The other alternative is that the Opposition does not have the numbers to do what it said it would do to this Bill. Is that what is wrong? It has to be one or the other. If it is neither of those things, the Opposition should take a rational view of this matter and let us have a vote on this Bill tonight. Let us have another five or six speakers and then let us have a vote tonight.

Senator Michael Baume —You are threatening to gag the debate?

Senator MASON —I have just told the Senate that we Australian Democrats hold our hand of protection over the Opposition, as Senator Baume well knows, but in the past we have gagged when it has been necessary, when there has been a blatant and unnecessary filibuster. I say no more than that.

However, I am imploring Opposition senators at this stage to be rational and to let us get a vote on this Bill. No useful purpose will be served by saying the same things over and over again. Only one purpose will be served, and that is bad-the cost of maintaining the sittings of this House for another couple of days will be visited on the unfortunate people of this country. Opposition senators know as well as I do that it costs a lot of money to run this place. In my opinion, it is not good enough merely to say that because they want to talk out this Bill, when they know what the result will be, that expense should be incurred.