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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1285

Senator TAMBLING —My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, not surprisingly, is about the Northern Territory election. Will the minister retract his own hasty comments and reject Brian Ede's emotional claims that the Australian Labor Party's seventh consecutive election loss since 1974 in the Northern Territory was due to racial issues? When will Senator Collins and other Labor apologists stop insulting the intelligence of the electorate and accept that the poll result was due to Labor's incompetence and interference from Canberra, including such stupid policies as the three-mine uranium policy and taxes forcing high costs in remote areas?

Senator COLLINS —God you are pathetic, Senator Tambling; you truly are.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The minister will answer the question.

Senator COLLINS —I think that actually constitutes a complete answer. There were two issues fundamental to the Northern Territory election campaign. One was economic management, which territorians share with the rest of the country. The territory's economic management is very simple: the federal Labor government provides the money, and the Northern Territory government spends it.

  Not only does this federal Labor government—due, I might add, to the excellent representation it has in Canberra by the federal member for the Northern Territory and me—provide 80 per cent of the global funding for the Northern Territory's budget, which is frittered away on such things as a $160 million Parliament House for a parliament of 25 members, which sits for 30 days out of 365, but also we plough hundreds of millions of dollars of funding into the Northern Territory in the defence budget alone. Indeed, I have seen calculations which estimate that the Northern Territory's unemployment levels would be 17 per cent without the injection of just the defence funding that the Labor government in Canberra allocates to the Northern Territory. The other fundamental issue is that, sadly—

  Opposition senators interjecting

Senator COLLINS —Well, it is your colleague's question that I am answering; maybe a bit of shush would be in line.

Those opposite do not like the answer. As a long-term territorian committed to spending the rest of my life in the Northern Territory—if I intended to retire somewhere else, as unfortunately so many territorians still do, I probably would not feel so bad about it—it saddens me deeply that the Northern Territory government has campaigned consistently on racial issues for the 20 years that I have been a Northern Territory politician.

  Just to answer Senator Tambling's question directly, I refer all honourable senators, including Senator Tambling, to the front page lead story of the territory's only daily newspaper, the Northern Territory News, on day one of the campaign, and it is an accurate report. The story is headlined—and this is the opening of a 17-day campaign—`Poll opens with race row'. The two lead paragraphs are:

  The NT election campaign blasted off yesterday with a row on Aboriginal policies.

It goes on to say this, accurately:

  Mr Perron at a media conference claimed that NT Labor would bring "massive change" in a "secret agenda" that would disrupt the Public Service and the legal system—but he singled out racial issues.

The report goes on to say, accurately:

. . . Mr Perron claimed Labor planned to introduce softer laws for Aborigines, thus creating what he called a system of "apartheid" in the NT.

That was the front page lead story on day one of the Northern Territory election campaign, which accurately singled out the fact that the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, at his press conference that launched the campaign, singled out racial issues. That was concluded with a put-up job 48 hours before polling day, with an announcement of a land claim over Darwin. And who was present at the press conference at the Nightcliff Hotel to see that done? Steve Hatton. I table a copy of the front page of the Northern Territory News. (Time expired)

Senator TAMBLING —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. We all know that the campaign manager for the last 2 1/2 weeks of this campaign was Senator Collins's personal staffer, that he ran the campaign when they pulled him in! The minister talks about a Northern Territory News article. I ask him to put on the table some specific examples of what he is talking about. If, as Senator Collins suggests, racial issues decided the Territory election, why then did Aboriginal voters desert the polls in droves and why did they change their vote so drastically, including in Mr Ede's own seat? And, minister, I want a sensible answer, please, not bluster and bullshit.


Senator COLLINS —These are the people who set the tone for the chamber.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I am surprised no points of order are being taken on that expression that you have just used and I ask you to withdraw it.

Senator Tambling —Mr President, I withdraw it and replace it with bulldust.

Senator COLLINS —Just referring to the public record, first of all, that is a complete piece of nonsense, and Senator Tambling knows it. My staff did not run the Northern Territory election campaign. The Northern Territory parliamentary leader's office did that. I simply table, again, a newspaper report from the AAP journalist who lives and reports from Darwin which was headlined, `Race scare sweeps ALP aside in poll'. And, of course, a report on the same day as this front page newspaper report, from David Nayson, the Australian journalist from the Northern Territory reporting from Darwin, who also accurately indicated that the Northern Territory's Chief Minister and the CLP—as they have done for 20 years—intended to make race a dominant issue of the campaign. There were two issues in the campaign, not one: one, financial management; and two, bashing blacks. (Time expired)