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Thursday, 7 June 1984
Page: 2767

Senator JESSOP(3.35) —I support what Senator Hill said with respect to the Australian Democrats' amendment and also the desirability of the Senate having regard to the Opposition's amendment to that amendment. I was interested to hear that the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) is more sympathetic to this amendment than he was to the former one. I was also interested to hear him repeat that he is not enamoured about anything that will frustrate his determination to inflict his will and the Government's will on the people of Australia. I think the history of the Attorney-General's approach to the matter has been very slippery, if not even snide, as far as the proponents of the No case were concerned because history shows that the Attorney-General went to the lengths of what I believe to be misappropriating $1.25m last year from the Advance to the Minister for Finance which I understand was going to be-

Senator Gareth Evans —I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. I suggest that it is a somewhat unparliamentary allegation to suggest that someone is misappropriating money. It is likely to be misunderstood. I appreciate that Senator Jessop is using it in a wholly technical fashion but I have been accused of bribery in the last two days; I would not like a bit of theft to be thrown in as well.

The CHAIRMAN —In the terms in which it was used, I ask Senator Jessop to withdraw.

Senator JESSOP —Mr Chairman, I will use the word 'misallocation'.

The CHAIRMAN —Withdraw first.

Senator Jessop —No, I do not want to withdraw. I will speak to the point of order. I noticed that the Attorney-General did not object to the expression that I have just used when I used it last year. I want to know why he has suddenly changed his mind and is now offended at the term that I used last year. He has apparently now changed his mind.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The question is one for the Chair, not for the Attorney- General. The suggestion of improper motives, which misappropriation most certainly is, is out of order and should be withdrawn.

Senator JESSOP —I will withdraw, if that pleases you, Mr Chairman. I will approach it in a different way. In the Governor-General's Speech last year, mention was made of certain constitutional laws that were to be made. I believe that to use funds which are supposed to be used for unforeseen and urgent purposes was not the proper approach by the Attorney-General. What is more irritating to those who stood on the No side of the Senate is that a considerable amount of that money had already been spent in promoting the Yes case by circulating kits to schools, unions, certain employer organisations and other information centres throughout Australia. That information gave the Yes case a head start.

Senator Hill —What was the cost of that?

Senator JESSOP —The cost of that was $120,000 or $130,000.

Senator Hill —He sent the kit to schools?

Senator JESSOP —Yes, he sent it to schools. That indicates the lengths to which the Attorney-General will go to brainwash the children of Australia and persuade them that the Government is doing the right thing with respect to constitutional change. I totally reject that. Some people have referred to the Attorney-General as the Clayton's-on-the-rocks Attorney-General. For him now to try to give some crumbs to the supporters of the No proposition in the referenda is quite incredible. I believe that the next best proposition that we can offer now is to reject the allocation of any funds at all.

However, in this enlightened Parliament, where public funds are provided for electoral campaigns, it seems to be quite fair to ask what will happen in the future with respect to referenda in Australia irrespective of which government happens to be in power. A tremendous advantage is being presented to the government of the day simply because it has the capacity to use the VIP fleet at will.

Senator Hill —It would not hesitate.

Senator JESSOP —It would not hesitate as Senator Hill properly points out. Because of its determination to snow the electorate and bend it to its will it would not hesitate to use the VIP aircraft at will. It certainly would not restrict the activities of the considerable personnel resources that are available to Ministers. Neither would the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia if they were in government be restricted. Therefore, this matter should be given serious consideration. The Opposition should take another look at these provisions. We have always been opposed to the use of public money for party political campaigns, but now that this precedent has been created I believe we should re-examine Parliament's approach to it. The proposition that is now before the Committee, which I support, is a second best proposition having regard to the future of referenda proposals with which the country may be faced.