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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1716


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition) —by leave-I support the well meaning but rather confused remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button). I could go along with what he said for most of the way but he described Senator Grimes as calm and dispassionate and I realised that he was talking not about Dr Grimes but about Dr Jekyll. As is always the case with one's political opponents, there have been times when I have seen enormous virtue in Senator Grimes and other times when I have seen enormous vice. Although this is not a condolence motion I think it is a time to draw a decent veil over those occasions when I have seen vice. However, I am tempted to say that in the years that Senator Grimes shadowed me when I had the social security portfolio there were times when I thought he was a pain in the neck. I recall being particularly upset when he became Minister for Social Security and adopted what seemed to me to be a suspiciously similar approach to a problem as I had adopted and he had roundly criticised. I bailed up a member of his staff-it will not be difficult for him to know which one I had bailed up-and asked her: `Why is it that you were so critical of me when I did that and now you are doing it yourself?' She said: `We know a lot more about it now'.

I want to recall the very early period that Senator Grimes and I shared in the Senate, when we first become senators in 1974, and that is our period on the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs which we shared with the now Leader of the Government in the Senate. Both Senator Button and Senator Grimes got into a bit of trouble with their then leader over some of their fearless committee activities. It was thought for a while that they had blighted very promising political careers. I can only say that I am sorry that that thought proved to be inaccurate.

The sorts of personal relationships in the Senate probably deteriorated sharply post-1975 and personal dealings between us were strained for some time afterwards. I think it is only now that we are really getting over the very strong differences of opinion that arose between us at that time over the role of this place. In a sense it will be good when we put those memories behind us because, although we believe we were correct, there are strong feelings on the other side that we were not. I think that was a significant factor in the change which occurred in the Senate in the 1970s.

There are a couple of other things that I want to say about Senator Grimes. There was a period when his health led me to believe that we would be having a condolence motion for him. I can remember saying to my own troops: `For heaven's sake, don't get into an argument with Grimes'. I must say that it is a matter of great pleasure to me and, indeed, other members of, the Opposition that Senator Grimes leaves this place in good health for a new career in which he will be able to work, one can be sure, to the advantage of our country. On behalf of the Opposition I wish him well in his new appointment.

The Leader of the Government in the Senate made the point that there has been no criticism of the appointment and that is true, just as there has been no criticism of the appointment of the former distinguished President of this place, who has gone to the United Kingdom. I believe that the lack of criticism is because it is the reflective view of the Opposition that there is a place for ex-politicians to serve Australia in that way. Certainly we have appointed distinguished persons from our side of politics to diplomatic positions. I would make the point, because it was made to me by somebody who received a diplomatic appointment, that there was a marked difference, in fact, between the reception afforded his appointment and the reception afforded, from our side of politics, the two recent appointments from the Senate. I make that statement not in any rancorous way, but because I believe that there are substantial areas of Australian politics which, to advantage, can properly be taken away from partisan conflict; that, where there is a genuine belief that an appointment is a good one and in the national interest, that fact should be acknowledged by the Opposition. We have not made any criticism of Senator Grimes's appointment because we have thought it to be an appropriate one. On a personal basis, I would also wish to extend my best wishes to Senator Grimes and I suspect that all of us will feel a twinge of envy as he leaves this place with a very jaunty step.