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Monday, 30 August 2004
Page: 26667

Senator ROBERT RAY (4:06 PM) —I disagree with Senator Harradine's view that this matter should be referred to a legislation committee with a government majority. There will be no evidence heard on this, I say to Senator Harradine, if it goes to that government controlled committee. That is just the reality of politics. Secondly, these are matters that cover—

Senator Hill —Well then, why don't you set up a committee with a genuinely independent chairman?

Senator ROBERT RAY —I will come to all of that, but the reason for suggesting a select committee is that the matter goes over several portfolios: it deals with the Prime Minister, it deals with immigration matters, it deals with Defence matters—it deals with a variety of those—et cetera. We have listened to Senator Hill's pious and unctuous remarks today. He was the leader of the opposition that set up, controlled and manipulated the Loans Council inquiry that met constantly during the 1993 election in airport lounges in total high farce. He has forgotten that; amnesia has hit the poor old Leader of the Government here today. You just had to look at him at question time. It reminds me of the old saying of Michael Foot: `like a rag doll pumped full of benzedrine'. That was Senator Hill's performance today—absolutely excitable. You usually react that way when you are down in the polls, so it is good news for me if you are reacting that way. I do not know anything about the polls, but if you do that is good news.

A select committee is always the obvious way to go. We have shown our bona fides here, because quite properly it was pointed out that the original reporting date was two days before the federal election. That would be a bit red-hot, so we have changed it to 24 November because the other date was chosen before the election date was known. We have moved it out; we do not intend to run a witch-hunt a la the loans inquiry that Senator Hill was fully responsible for back in 1993. The old Liberal Party amnesias met. Of course, then we get the secondary line from Senator Hill: `Time to move on.' When we write Senator Hill's epitaph—and I hope it is a long way away; I do not wish him any harm—I know what will be on it: `Let's move on.' He does not like scrutiny; he does not like to be held accountable for actions in the past. `Always move on. Don't worry about yesterday's lies. Don't worry that three days before a federal election the Prime Minister inadvertently or deliberately misleads the Australian public. That doesn't matter anymore; that's past history. We just want to fight the next election on our own rules. We'll set up the rules,' they say. Credibility, truthfulness—they will all be ignored.

A new witness has come forward since the last select committee. Why not get his evidence on the record? Why not cross-examine him as to the veracity of his evidence? The reason you do not want to do it is that people might believe him. People might think, `What's his motive to come out and lie compared with the Prime Minister's motive not to tell the truth?' `Let's move on,' says Senator Hill; `Let's not have an inquiry like 1993.' On that I agree. I will not be part of a 1993 loans inquiry. That was a total, absolute political farce that you produced, you wrote, you directed and you acted in—and you have conveniently forgotten it now, 11 years later.

Senator Hill —Why do you stack this one?

Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Hill says it is stacked.

Senator Hill —It is stacked.

Senator ROBERT RAY —A select committee normally does not have a government majority or an opposition majority, but you say that it is stacked. If we wanted to stack it and we wanted to rig it, we would have had a reporting date during this election period, and we do not. You as a government are running scared on this issue. You do not want the truth to come out; you will do anything to prevent the truth coming out, because it goes to the credibility of a Prime Minister who has closed down the House of Representatives. If anyone is ever guilty of cutting and running, it is the current Prime Minister. He has closed down the House of Reps so he will not face scrutiny, and he inadvertently forgot to prorogue the parliament in time. That was an accident—we accept that. It was not a deliberate act to keep the Senate sitting; it was just done out of stupidity.

Question agreed to.