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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2809

Senator SHORT —by leave—Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation as I claim to have been misrepresented. In Question Time today Senator Button said that I had said in the Senate last week that the Opposition's policies would put people out of work. I categorically deny that statement and I ask Senator Button to withdraw it. At no point in any speech, at any time, whether in this chamber or elsewhere, have I ever made such a statement or implied any such thing. I challenge Senator Button to show the Senate where this alleged statement is. He cannot do it. It is absurd; it is a totally unfounded allegation by Senator Button; and it is typical of the desperation that has gripped this decaying Government. This Government is decaying; it has the smell of death about it. It is riddled with the canker of division, disloyalty, bitterness and naked hatred, and one of the persons most infected with this canker, this disloyalty, is Senator Button himself.

Senator Button —Mr President, I rise on a point of order, although it is probably too late as Senator Short has got this matter off his chest. Let me say that, if Senator Short seeks leave to claim to have been misrepresented, he then cannot debate the matter in order to tip a bucket over the Government. Senator Short has plenty of opportunities to do that and we will respond at the appropriate time. However, a personal explanation is not the venue for doing that. In so far as Senator Short's comments are concerned, I did not refer to a speech which he had made in the Senate; I referred to a newspaper report of a speech made by Senator Short last week, I think, in which he admitted that—

Senator McMullan —Queensland last Friday.

Senator Button —Yes, in Queensland last Friday. The report of Senator Short's speech suggested that the privatisation of certain government instrumentalities would contribute to additional unemployment. If that report is incorrect, I withdraw my remark. Senator Short got the benefit of that report, as he has been seeking for some time, because the report said, `Senator Short is really a tough man; he means what he says'. I thought that that was a very flattering comment to him. If that report is wrong, I withdraw.

Senator SHORT —That speech as delivered—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Debate cannot take place. Senator Short, you will need leave again.

Senator Button —Mr President, I did rise on a point of order. I then went on to comment on what Senator Short said, which he asked me to do. I presume that Opposition senators were not listening.

The PRESIDENT —Perhaps it would have been better had Senator Button sought leave. He was in fact speaking to a point of order.

Senator SHORTI seek leave to respond to Senator Button's comments and to continue my remarks.

  Leave granted.

Senator SHORTThe speech that Senator Button is apparently referring to—

Senator Cook —Are you going to repudiate the Tingle article?

Senator SHORT —No, I have not seen the Laura Tingle article. In a speech I delivered in Brisbane last Friday, I made the point that privatisation by increasing efficiencies throughout the economy, whilst it may cause some job losses in the instrumentalities concerned, would lead to a significant overall increase in employment in the economy. Why did the Minister not mention that? I again ask Senator Button to withdraw the statement he made.

The PRESIDENT —This is not a matter for the Chair; this is a debating point. That is up to Senator Button.