Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1725

Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction) (4.12 p.m.) —Hearing that speech from Senator Kemp reminds me of the old saying by Denis Healey that it is like being savaged by a dead sheep, it was so effective. If this is the best those opposite can do—

Senator O'Chee —Have you read the terms of the MPI?

Senator SCHACHT —I have read the terms of the MPI. I have listened to the introductory remarks about a bill for a referendum on the flag. One thing that really stands out as to why this opposition is in such an appalling political state is that it is obsessed with only one thing, and that is absolute hatred of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating).

  Senator Kemp reminds me unfortunately of the Labor Party of the 1950s and the 1960s when we were obsessed and thought that all we had to do to win an election was to heap abuse on Sir Robert Menzies in particular and, of course, he kept winning elections. What those opposite are doing is falling into the same trap. They believe that consistently heaping endless amounts of abuse on the Prime Minister will win them the next election. They tried that all through 1992 before the 1993 election; they quoted the opinion polls to me every week showing them to be 20 per cent ahead.

Senator Kemp —How did you go in South Australia?

Senator SCHACHT —And in South Australia. When it came to the crunch at the federal election those opposite got absolutely walloped. They lost an election that nobody thought anybody in a hundred years could lose. One of the reasons they lost it was that they spent all their time tipping vitriol over the Prime Minister.  Since then, in their frustration, the only thing they can do is continue to be negative and to tip abuse on the Prime Minister. I think they will again pay a very big political price. Those opposite may have some months of success with it, but when it comes to the crunch and the people vote in the election, they will choose to vote for the party that has policies of substance that they are confident about and all that those opposite will be remembered for is heaping abuse on the Prime Minister.

  We saw a recent example in the Senate and the other place with an attack on Senator Richardson, which has now backed off. Senator O'Chee tabled a statutory declaration in this place. It has now been disowned by people, and I suppose we will not hear any more about it in this place. But that was all part of a personal attack of heaping abuse on members of parliament, in particular the Prime Minister, and this motion continues that personal attack.

  Senator Kemp criticised the Prime Minister for making comments about the influence of the British Foreign Office, the British Colonial Office, the British government, on the drafting of our constitution. I will quote from a book called Lion and Kangaroo: Australia: 1901-1919: The Rise of a Nation by Gavin Souter.

Senator Kemp —Read it all. Don't be selective.

Senator SCHACHT —I will read the section on page 27. It says:

. . . Chamberlain objected to Clause 74 of the proposed Constitution which prevented (except for the Queen's right to grant special leave by Royal prerogative, which in any case the Federal Parliament would be empowered to limit at its legislative discretion) appeals proceeding from the Federal High Court to the British Privy Council on matters involving interpretation of the Constitutions of the Commonwealth and any State, unless those matters involved the public interest of some part of the British Empire other than the Commonwealth or State. Despite its safeguards, this clause was regarded by the Colonial Office as a threat to imperial interests inside the new Commonwealth. To Chamberlain, these interests meant not only matters affecting Britain's foreign relations but also `the private interests of investors . . . a very large class . . . of British subjects interested in Australia.' Their interests might be affected by Constitutional cases, it was felt at Whitehall, and should therefore be protected by leave to appeal.

Souter goes on for the next couple of pages and explains why we did get the provision for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, and that the Privy Council could choose to hear whether there should be an appeal to itself over a non-constitutional matter. That was what was forced on the drafters of the constitution as an example of the British interest coming through.

  In those days, one might not have found that objectionable because, at that time in history, we were in the high flux of the British Empire. But Senator Kemp should not go around saying that there were not influences by the British government on quite central issues relating to the drafting of the constitution. The people who were referred to who drafted the constitution—such as Deakin, Downer and others—had to concede those points.

  Senator Evans mentioned earlier today that Australia ended up with sections 58, 59 and 60, for example, in our constitution. Those sections state that if the Governor-General—who was then an appointed UK official—decided to reserve a bill for the Queen's pleasure, she had two years to approve it. More incredibly still, the Queen had the power to annul any Australian law within one year of its enactment, even if the Governor-General approved it. That was put in by the British Foreign Office; that was put in by the British Colonial Office. Do not tell me that that is not a significant change to a constitution, even though, fortunately, it has not been put into action.

Senator O'Chee —Never been used.

Senator Kemp —Has not been used.

Senator SCHACHT —It has never been used, but it is in the constitution. This is what Mr Downer says: `It hasn't been used, but let's leave it there. It's too difficult to change.' Even after 94 years of non-use, he goes around plaintively crying, `It's too difficult to change any of these things. These are too difficult for anybody in Australia to understand.' Yet it has not been used for 94 years. Why do we not get rid of it? Mr Downer says that it is too difficult. Then he complains that the Prime Minister is denigrating the constitution. The Prime Minister is quite rightly explaining some of what I would consider, and ordinary Australians would consider, to be the anomalies of the present constitution of Australia.

  We do not mind the opposition abusing us on these sorts of issues because, in the long run, we will win. In the end, those opposite will end up putting the Liberal Party back into the past—that is where we like the Liberal Party to be. The Liberal Party is always talking about the past. It will consistently, on the bottom line, lose an election on those issues. Talking about the past and waxing lyrical about 1890 and the wonders of the British Empire will not inspire people in Australia. I want to conclude by referring to an article that appeared in last Thursday's Australian which was written by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope.

Senator Kernot —Don't you use it. I'm using it; I told you that.

Senator SCHACHT —Senator Kernot was very kind to draw this to my attention; I acknowledge that. It will not do any harm for both of us to be recorded as quoting from it, if Senator Kernot quotes from the same part of the article. The article reads:

  Our fundamental challenge is to develop symbols of nation that embrace us all. Although symbols of Englishness may make Alexander jnr feel comfortable, fewer and fewer Australians feel this way. This is not to belittle the English inheritance. Rather, it is to emphasise the point that, at the end of the 20th century, we need symbols of nation that refer to more than just one ethnic group. Everywhere in the world, attempts to reduce the symbols of nation to one ethnic identity are leading to disaster. We need inclusive, multicultural symbols and not exclusive, monocultural ones.

I think that just about sums up succinctly the difference between this side of the parliament and the other side. The coalition is going back. At one stage, we thought it was a case of John Howard wishing to be back in the 1950s. Now we get Senator Kemp wishing to go back to the 1890s and the British Empire. If this continues, other speakers may wish to go back to the 1790s and say, `This is where the world should be.'

  I have more confidence in the Australian people; they look forward with regard to the way this country is going and, unlike Mr Downer, they are able to deal with constitutional issues and debate in a mature way over a period of time. Senator Kemp's proposal is based on one thing only—his abiding hatred of the Prime Minister. While Senator Kemp continues to have that abiding hatred, we will continue to win election after election. I wish Senator Kemp well in his abiding hatred because it is a dead end politically, just as—

Senator Kemp —We did well in New South Wales.

Senator SCHACHT —Senator Kemp can interject, but he is going down a dead end, and this proves it again.