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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 223

Senator IAN MACDONALD (4.40 p.m.) —I am pleased that the minister has worked out that he is supporting amendment No. 6, and I am pleased to see that Senator Coulter is now in the chamber to deal with his amendments. This is an absolute shambles. The way these amendments have been dealt with—firstly, by the Democrats and, secondly, by the government—is an absolute disgrace. The Democrats are trying to get rid of their fairies at the bottom of the garden image. It takes more than a few words from Senator Kernot and former Senator Walsh to achieve that. The way they run this bill is the way they seem to run everything. They seem to wave a magic wand and it is all there.

  We have supported amendments Nos 1 and 5. We are not supporting the other amendments. Most of the amendments have been withdrawn except Nos 6 and 11. It is not terribly clear why they were put in. They were only just circulated this morning—

Senator Panizza —As usual.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes, as usual, along with another 24 amendments which we saw only as the debate was halfway through. If the Democrats want to have any credibility in this chamber—they do not have any credibility out in the wider world—they have to do better than that. If they want us to seriously consider their amendments, they have to do more than just drop them on us as we get up to speak.

  It happens all the time. The Democrats may not be aware—they are only a very small party representing a very small number of Australians; about three per cent I think—that in this chamber we who represent 50 per cent of the Australian electorate have spokesmen for these particular areas in the other chamber as well. This is an instance where our spokesman for industry, Mr Prosser, and our spokesman for the environment, Mrs Gallus, are both in the other chamber. Amendments like these, if they are to be treated seriously, have to be delivered to those people before I get up to speak in this chamber. They are not in my area of expertise.

Senator Schacht —That is a smart move. They wouldn't want to rely on you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Nobody relies on Senator Schacht for anything, particularly the science community which I suspect is grateful to be looked after by someone else now—at least it might remain intact. Did you get the money for AIMS in that statement? If you did, as part of your old portfolio, then good on you.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Order! It would be better to get back to the amendments before us.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You will have to protect me from these vicious interjections by the minister, Mr Chairman, otherwise I cannot control myself in speaking to Senator Schacht and wondering why he was so hopeless in administering the science portfolio that Mr Keating had to take it away from him. You are about to lose your seat in the Senate now, are you not?

Senator Schacht —You would hope I would.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —No, we hope you stay. We are on your side. They might get someone decent if you went out!

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Order! I am becoming tired of this tennis match. Let us get back to the amendments before us.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —As I say, Mr Chairman, I agree with you, but you will have to protect me from those interjections.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —I am not sure that you need much protection, Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —If the Democrats want these matters to be treated seriously, they really have to give us a little notice so that we can look into them a bit more. We have, as I said, supported amendments Nos 1 and 5. We were able, in the very limited time available to us, to grasp what they were about. Our respective shadows involved in those areas think they are not bad amendments. In fact, I think both of the amendments were just to fix up some of the government's very sloppy drafting, which is pretty well par for the course with this government.

  I understand the only other amendments left are Nos 6 and 11—the others were produced to us early this morning and now the Democrats are not even proceeding with them; what sort of arrangement is that? We will not support them mainly because we just have not had time to adequately consider what they are about. As for the amendments numbered 1 to 24, I think Senator Coulter said—

Senator Schacht —You mean 1 to 14 on a separate sheet.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Yes, 1 to 14 on the separate sheet. When I asked earlier what that was all about, Senator Coulter said, `We're putting them in. We don't expect anyone to support them.' I am not surprised about that because I suspect the government was in the same position as we were and had not even seen them until the debate was almost concluded. We have no idea what they are about, and we will not be supporting them either. I suspect from what Senator Coulter said that he is not even going to move them. He just wanted to make a bit of a song and dance about something around those sections, so he chose that method to have a say on them. I indicate to the chamber that for the reasons I have mentioned we will not be supporting the amendments. If the Democrats want any credibility at all in this chamber, they have to start treating the chamber with some seriousness and respect.