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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 498


Senator CAMPBELL (4.41 p.m.) —Opposition senators support all of the motion, more than half of which we drafted. The most upsetting issue here today is that, in the face of quite extensive efforts by a number of people around this place to get a set of words and to avoid this debate, the Australian Democrats found it necessary to push and impose their view on the whole of Australia, regardless of the fact that other people may have found their wording slightly, as it is, inappropriate. As I said in the debate on the motion to suspend standing orders, one can only assume that Senator Lees, as the Democrats' spokesperson for sport sees some political advantage in doing this.

  The saddest thing about what I have heard today in the debates on the various motions is that politicians around here would seek to attribute motives as to why Cathy Freeman did what she did and to second-guess what she did. Minister Schacht said that Cathy did what she did because she thought the Australian flag was not representative of her total feelings. He decided that that is what Cathy thought when she made her decision. Senator Lees tried to guess Cathy's feelings. Basically, we had a bunch of politicians guessing what went through Cathy's mind.

  It was a great shame that the Democrats sought to politicise further the decision of a young Australian athlete. That is what I thought most sad. This is one of the saddest days of my time in parliament. Senator Bell would accuse me of false indignation and so forth on this issue. When I discussed this with my leader, Senator Hill said, `Why do you look so upset about this? Why do you look so worried about it?' I said, `I am so worried because one of the worst things I have had to do is to say that we need this debate when we do not need to.' The whole chamber could have agreed unanimously on a set of words but Senator Lees wanted to dig her heels in and further politicise this. That is disgraceful and very upsetting—it has upset me.

  It is very sad that we have to stand around for an hour on a Monday afternoon, trying to debate the motives of a young Aboriginal athlete who has done something so good for herself, her nation and young Aboriginals. We are having an acrimonious debate when one set of words could have happily accommodated everybody's views. One set of words represents consensus and another set of words represents something that requires discussion, debate and controversy.

  Often the Democrats try to lead people to believe that they are the party of consensus, the party that finds the middle course. When the Democrats were offered a genuine opportunity to find the middle course, to find a set of words with which everybody can live, they chose to stand out and say, `No. We will have a debate. We will suspend standing orders, have a debate for half an hour and then have another debate for an hour.'

  The Democrats did a grubby deal with the government. They did not even have the common decency to come to the opposition and say, `We'll have this debate. What about this, Senator Campbell: you speak for 10 minutes; let Robert Hill speak for 10 minutes; and a couple of our speakers will speak for 10 minutes?' That is the normal, responsible thing to do. The Democrats did not do that. They went and had a chat with the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Faulkner) about imposing five minute speaking times, and a half hour for debate. That shows what the Democrats are when it comes to consensus, to trying to find common ground and a sensible, appropriate response. I move that:

  Omit paragraph (e), substitute the following paragraph:

  ``(e) understands Cathy's decision to carry the Aboriginal flag, and the Australian flag, during her laps of honour''.

I commend my amendment to the Senate.