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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2663


Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) - This afternoon we have witnessed the greatest verbal indication ever of an immature Party in Government acting stupidly through a pistol packing back bencher by the name of Senator Gietzelt. For a member of a Government Party which is in the absurd state in which the Labor Government is in today, a year after coming into office, to get up on the first reading of a Bill not to say anything of help to the nation but to indulge in snippets of criticism which he has learned from some of the newspapers and news media commentators over the last 12 months, is, to say the least, surprising. He finished his speech by saying that the Senate has shown a lack of maturity. What sort of judge does Senator Gietzelt think he is that he can say of this chamber that it has shown a lack of maturity? His comments have given me the chance to say a few things that I wanted to say but that I had a mind to withhold. I know of the mess into which the Government has got itself through a lack of ability in regard to its program for this session, but I was going to keep what I wanted to say to myself. Senator Gietzelt should remember what I once heard my colleague, Senator Wright, say to a member of the Australian Labor Party, namely: 'If you light a fuse you always want to have a lire brigade to put it out'. I believe that Senator Gietzelt, by his intemperate attack not upon Parliament, not upon the enemies of Australia and not upon industrial unrest but upon fellow members of the Parliament in the form of the Opposition, has lit a fuse that he may have some regrets about lighting in his attempts to put it out.

I say in rebuttal that no government has a right to claim that it is doing a remarkably good job simply because it happens to introduce a large number of Bills in its first year in office. If and when an analysis is made of the legislation finally passed by this Parliament it will be found, thanks to the reviewal status of the Senate and the hard work of the Senate, started by Opposition senators and reflected in the homework being done by honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber, a number of Bills have been well tidied up. We have had 2 examples today of Government amendments being necessary to make its legislation good. Included among the 200 measures that we have passed or dealt with in the 77-odd days on which the Senate has sat this year has been a lot of rubbish. No government worthy of its name and no government trying honestly to get credit where credit is due would include in its legislative program a number of the Bills which have been passed in the present session. They are consequential and inconsequential.

The Opposition in the Senate has been criticised because it has deferred consideration of some Bills and defeated some Bills outright. Those Bills have been bowled back up to us after the stone crusher down below has been in operation. But that is why we have 2 Houses of Parliament. The first element is to allow the public to become vocal if a measure is introduced and/or passed in another place. The second great element in our work is to review legislation. We amend it, defer it or defeat it. The news media have been referring to the actions of the Opposition. In fairness they should refer to the actions of the 3 different political parties in Opposition in this chamber. Each meets on its own and comes to its own decisions and, finding those decisions to be in accord, they agree to oppose certain measures. Over and above all that each of the parties has its own political organisation. Such organisations do not instruct them, but they can growl, they can complain and they can advise, just the same as does the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party. But the Government is dealing not just with 20-odd senators; it is dealing with 3 separate political entities. It is dealing with a combined Opposition which, after much thought, decides to take certain action. Members of the Opposition have been able in each case to get up and give good, solid reasons for taking the action that they have decided to take and those reasons are all in print.

I have always believed that it is a government's job to govern. I also felt that the Government which came to power on 2 December last, or soon after that, had been in the doldrums for so long- out of office for so long- that one would have to put up with its lack of expertise. In retrospect I think that some Ministers have done remarkably well. Others have been and wil continue to be failures. But, overall, the business of this Senate has been very badly run. The Opposition has not been given a fair go on the programming of the legislation. We have had the absurd situation of changing the times and sittings of the Senate 3 times in the Government's period of office- and I believe that the times will be changed again before we adjourn for Christmas. Instead of more time a week being given to legislation, less time a week has been given under the last 2 alterations to programming. History Will reveal, and a fair assessment of the work of the Senate wil show, that more time has been devoted to legislation because of the greater number of Bills that more measures in which the Opposition has concurred have been passed with little or no debate; and that more second reading speeches have been incorporated in Hansard to save a great deal of time. This has been done only to help the Government govern. Whenever we had not agreed with those who occupied the Opposition benches last year and in previous years- and I have listened to them for 20 years- we had long debates on every social services, repatriation and health BUI that was introduced. Nearly every BUI that came before the Parliament was savagely debated and some platitudinous amendment was moved to the second reading debate. This has seldom been done in the many measures that have been put through this Senate this year because in Opposition we have known that we would have to fight strongly to defeat some Bills but we were willing to help the Government govern and to get through that legislation in which we concurred.

Another point I make is that the Opposition Parties have co-operated far more willingly in the estimates committees than the previous Opposition co-operated in the estimates committees which were introduced by the previous Government. I believe that it is most unfair and unwise for a backbencher to get up at this stage of the game when people want to see legislation that is good passed but want to see that which is bad defeated. The Senate has been criticised in recent months for obstructing the Will of the Government. Every single item that was included in Mr Whitlam 's policy speech is said to have a mandate to get it through Parliament. This is utterly absurd. Nobody goes to vote for a candidate at an election in any electorate saying: I will vote No. 1 for Brown so long as he sees everything in the policy speech becomes law'. That is utter nonsense. If it were so, Parliament need not meet. It would be useless. It would mean, as Senator Murphy almost implied the other day, that we should not speak to measures. It would be the dumb Parliament. The fact is that we have done much to help the Government.

On Saturday the people clearly voted to indicate 2 things: Firstly, that they did not want power over prices and incomes centralised in Canberra and, secondly, that they did not trust the present Federal Government. The Government has seen the results of the Parramatta byelection, the New South Wales State elections and other elections held in Australia. There was no indication in any one of them that the people are pro-Labor. They are showing every day that this Government is in power that they are more against Labor. The Government should have learned that lesson on Saturday and said: 'After all, the Opposition Senators have been reading the minds of the people. They are knocking back some of our bad legislation. Let us take a look at ourselves. Let us play the game. Let us look to Australia and not to cheap political party advantage'. And this- looking to cheap political party advantage- I believe is what the Government has done. It has gone ideology mad and is administratively incapable. I tell Government senators that it is better that they take a look at themselves rather than criticise the Opposition senators who have been manly enough to get up and fight for what is right despite the attacks and the criticisms that come from the news media of Australia. On Saturday the people of Australia said to the Senate: 'Keep up your good work and harness this incapable mob '.







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