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Thursday, 24 March 1994
Page: 2220


Senator McKIERNAN (3.17 p.m.) —I want to speak relatively briefly on this matter. At a later time I hope to add my compliments to the contributions that Senator Richardson has made to public life and public office in Australia. I was of the understanding that saying that a member or senator had lied was unparliamentary. I waited with bated breath for somebody from the other side, those protectors of the standing orders, to rise in his place and raise a point of order. But, of course, it did not happen. We give it out and we take it back. I would hope that if I made the same remarks during my contribution the same standard of behaviour would apply. We will have to wait and see.


Senator Herron —Could I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President? If Senator Richardson is offended by that—I am sure he has been called far worse—I will withdraw.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Thank you.


Senator McKIERNAN —Mr Deputy President, you have not ruled on the point of order.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator McKiernan, I noted what Senator Herron said. Nobody took objection to it, although I have always taken the view that the word `lie' is an unparliamentary expression and in some respects it is disorderly. Senator Herron has withdrawn it.


Senator McKIERNAN —I did not raise the point of order; I was just pointing out that double standards apply in this chamber from time to time. I thank Senator Herron for the withdrawal. I was not offended by it because I, like Senator Richardson, have been called worse than that.

  Senator Herron's contribution was a very valuable one, and one that ought to be remembered in this debate. His contribution was distinct from that of Senator Newman which was obviously prepared by somebody very new. It was not good and the delivery was even worse.

  Senator Herron directed some questions to Senator Richardson. They are good questions, but they were directed at the wrong person. Senator Herron's questions should be directed to the new minister for health who should be appointed tomorrow.

  One of the very many contributions Senator Richardson has made to the community and to the people of Australia has been in drawing attention to the state of health of Aboriginal people. While the commitment was given in person by Senator Richardson, it was given by a member of the executive government of this country. It is the executive government of this country that should be charged with upholding the commitments that Senator Richardson gave in January of this year. Not only would I expect that those honourable senators opposite will be applying pressure on the executive government and on the incoming minister for health to deliver on those commitments, but people on this side of this chamber and in the other place will be seeking from the new minister for health and the executive government the delivery of its promises.

  Senator Richardson's visit in January this year focused attention on this problem in a manner that had never been achieved before. Some very good work has been done in this area, not only by this government and previous governments in Canberra but also by some of the other states of Australia.

  One of the very good results of Senator Richardson's comments was the public admission by the president of the Australian Medical Association, Mr Brendan Nelson, that perhaps some blame could be attached to the profession as a whole for the state of Aboriginal health in Australia. If nothing else, Senator Richardson in his term of office in parliament achieved an admission from an individual of the calibre and status of Mr Nelson which is certainly for the good of all, and hopefully it will be for the good of this country's Aboriginal people.


Senator Newman —That is his achievement, is it, for Aboriginal health?


Senator McKIERNAN —Senator Newman should not distort things. She should go back and get her research officer to prepare better speeches than the one she was forced to give today. That is but one of the many thousands of contributions by Senator Richardson. I do not want to make a valedictory address. As a left-winger I could not say all the nice things I want to say about Senator Richardson in the five minutes available to me here.

  I will conclude by making these remarks. I will remember Senator Herron's words. I will remember the commitment that Senator Richardson as Minister for Health made on Aboriginal health issues. I would hope that all sides of the parliament will join together to ensure the commitments given by the then Minister for Health will be honoured in the future in order to ensure that Australia can hold its head high in the international community.