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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 862

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(10.24) —I make it clear that, as does the Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Democrats support moves like this only with the greatest reluctance. From memory, in the 18 months during which the Senate has sat since Labor won power, this is one of the very few occasions when business has been taken out of the hands of the Government. In fact, I do not think it has been done before. This is possibly the first or second time it has ever been done. Therefore, no deal was done. Although Senator Chaney gave notice of his motion on Monday, I did not know he was going to move it today until I came into the chamber at 10 o'clock this morning. I have some sympathy with the view put by Senator Grimes on behalf of the Government, but with great respect I say that upon examination his reasons are a little thin. Quite often very important matters such as censure motions are raised in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and are debated forthwith without any notice being given to the Government.

Senator Grimes —This is legislation.

Senator CHIPP —This is legislation, but surely a censure motion is as serious as if not more serious than any legislation. Censure motions are debated forthwith. Matters of public importance on which votes are taken are raised every day without notice being given. I just say that in passing. Senator Grimes's argument that Cabinet has not considered the matter falls to the ground, although I accept his word that Cabinet has not considered it. This Bill will prevent the entry into Australian waters of ships which are nuclear powered or nuclear armed and will prevent aircraft that are nuclear armed from landing on Australian soil. That particular matter is not new to the Labor Cabinet. When I was overseas five weeks ago I read with some shame that the Australian Labor Government, in the person of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and that of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), was heavying the New Zealand Government for its most courageous decision to do precisely what this Bill seeks to do. I hope that I will not be told by Senator Grimes that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister heavied the New Zealand Government to change its mind without a Cabinet decision. This very question has been considered several times by the Cabinet. It certainly considered it in terms of what New Zealand did and the aims of this Bill are identical with what New Zealand did. Am I to be told that if the Cabinet met to consider the exact terms of this Bill it might come to a different decision, as it did with regard to the situation in New Zealand? That is absolute humbug; it is absolute nonsense.

The whole question of a nuclear-free zone and visits of nuclear powered ships has been considered in detail, not only by Cabinet, but also by Caucus. Therefore, this Bill will came as no surprise. Its fate before a Cabinet meeting would be predictable and the discussion on it would be limited to seconds. One would not expect the same situation in Caucus, but Cabinet has already made up its mind about it. There is no more important item on the Notice Paper than this Bill, because its subject makes every Australian a nuclear target. No subject can be more important than that which makes Australia and every living Australian a nuclear target. The Government's position is well considered. I disagree with it, but I respect it. But the matter has been well debated within the Government. Therefore, as with the urgency motion yesterday, this Senate should be totally prepared to debate this most important issue today.