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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1650

Senator VANSTONE(6.50) —There are a few points I want to make. With respect to what Senator Mason has just said, I remind him of his comment that the freedom to speak is given by the Australian Democrats, holding this hand of protection over us so that we may exercise our right to speak. What he means is that this hand of protection is their decision not to support the gag at any particular time. It is my view that the freedom I have to speak is given to me by the fact of my election; it is not given to me by the Democrats or the Government. What the good senator should have said is that the Democrats do not choose to take away that right to speak by the so-called hand of protection slipping into bed with the Australian Labor Party to gag the debate.

Senator Michael Baume —I would not touch them.

Senator VANSTONE —The honourable senator may not. As to the motion, Senator Chaney's amendments allow the Government extra time for debate of its business so that the now so-called failed Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans) can desperately try to avoid a backlog further into the session. All that is asked in return is that we give only two extra days, that we do not come back on Saturday, and that we therefore leave at 3.45 p.m. on Friday, and that during those extra two days that we are prepared to give, we retain the normal rights of an opposition in regard to the conduct of those two days. That does not seem unreasonable. No one here is saying, `We want to go home' or `We do not want to give the extra time'. That is what Senator Macklin said we were saying. We are happy to give the extra time for debate, and happy to have it. All we are asking is for a sense of reason. We believe that by allowing Saturday we are giving too much extra time. It is therefore fair to leave at 3.45 p.m. on Friday. That would give the failed Manager of Government Business another couple of days to get the Government's business through. It will mean inconvenience because the Estimates committees will have to be rescheduled, but we are prepared to go along with that. It is unreasonable to ask for extra days, including Saturday, and at the same time to ask the Opposition to lose its normal rights.