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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 622


Senator GARETH EVANS (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —by leave—I can understand Senator Hill's need for distractions; he has so little else to say that is substantive and positive. He needs to exercise a little show of leadership on these marginal and fringe issues because he manifestly cannot in any other context.

  As to the substance of this particular matter, Senator McMullan is out of the country attending a meeting in Latin America of the Cairns Group trade ministers. I am not sure when the meeting starts, but I am told that the plane connections were such that in order to get there in time for the meeting he had to leave today. We are talking about multilateral meetings which involve juggling the schedules of multiple ministers from multiple countries. This is not simply a run-of-the-mill bilateral meeting which is capable of amendment in these sorts of situations.

  I can understand perfectly well that those on the other side, with so little experience of government now for so many years, simply cannot understand the international imperatives that are associated with doing a job like this. That is the nature of the obligation. Senator McMullan had to catch a plane in order to be there for the commencement, I am told, of that particular meeting. That is what he has done, and it is a perfectly defensible thing to happen.