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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 957

Senator McMULLAN (Minister for Trade) (5.44 p.m.) —I will not detain the Senate for very long because I have not heard all the debate and I cannot respond to all the things that have been said. However, I wish to make some comments on this amendment. Senator Campbell asked me a question to which I will reply now. Whilst the government disagrees strongly with this amendment, we will not be dividing.

  To some extent the amendment is just an attempt to re-run old political campaigns in the hope that perhaps another column inch of publicity might be gained for things which are long since past; things that have passed their political use-by date by a significant period. It certainly reinforces what Senator Collins said by way of interjection at question time: it might be supposed to be a new opposition team, but it is a re-run of the same tired old lines from the old team. If that is to be the case, as it clearly seems to be on this occasion, and as it was at question time, it will be the shortest honeymoon in political history.

  I want to briefly respond to some of the comments made by Senator Parer. I have high regard for Senator Parer in many ways, but it must be sad to live in the world of conspiracies in which he seems to dwell at the moment. It may be a product of having been in opposition for too long, in which case I have sad news for him. The way the opposition is going, it is going to be there a lot longer.

  I reject the very twisted conspiracy theory that he tried to weave into the circumstances of the application of the principles concerning chief executive salaries in the public sector. To the best of my knowledge the conspiracy he suggests does not exist or have any foundation in fact. He was trying to create a fairly obscure set of interrelationships to fabricate some sense of a profound conspiracy. To my knowledge the problem does not exist and I regret the fact that he sought to weave such a conspiracy.

  Similarly, we have this bizarre concern by Senator Campbell about the so-called retribution on the audit office with the slashing of funding. That is simply a product of inexperience. People who do not know anything about public sector finance seem to be able to read into figures things that suit the outcome they want. I think this resolution was written before the facts emerged and nobody bothered to change it.

  We do not agree with this silly amendment, but if some senators want to use this opportunity as a forum to make speeches about domestic political issues—as they are entitled to do—I will not respond to them. It is a free country and they are entitled to make those sorts of comments. I simply say that the two elements of the amendment are either antiquated or fundamentally wrong. The conspiracies which were sought to be woven in an attempt to support them are not well founded. Therefore the government will be voting against the amendments, but not dividing.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Motion, as amended, agreed to.