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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1549

Senator ELSTOB —Is the Minister for Social Security aware of a statement by Senator Teague in the Adelaide Press that the social security inspectors will enter people's homes to assess personal assets when the assets test is introduced? Will the Minister explain to the Senate and the people of Australia the facts?

Senator GRIMES —Yes, my attention has been drawn to the statement issued in South Australia by Senator Teague in which he used the tactic which is frequently being used by honourable senators opposite in saying that officers of the Department of Social Security will be entering people's homes to determine what assets they have in those homes. The simple and straightforward answer to that is that Senator Teague's statement is a complete and utter lie, and he knows it.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator cannot use that terminology, as he knows, and I ask him to withdraw that word.

Senator GRIMES —I would question that, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT —I ask the honourable senator to withdraw.

Senator GRIMES —I withdraw. To put it almost equally as simply, the statement issued by Senator Teague is completely untrue. There is no truth in it at all. Senator Teague is practising the technique used in the 1940s by a person of similar political persuasion, the technique of the big lie. When one repeats a lie often enough he hopes that the community will believe it.

Senator Chaney —On a point of order, Mr President.

Senator GRIMES —That was a bit slow.

Senator Chaney —The Minister is quite right when he says that I am slow, Mr President, because insults are not against the Standing Orders, and the question is whether one simply draws attention to disorderly behaviour and accentuates it by taking a point of order. But the implication of what was being said by the honourable senator is quite clear, and I would seek a withdrawal. The fact is that the honourable senator is addressing a matter which is within his portfolio responsibilities. He is trying to put over the point that the Government will be imposing an assets test with absolutely no machinery for enforcement. He is seeking to make a political point that there will be no machinery for enforcement, and--

Senator Elstob —On a point of order, Mr President.

Senator Chaney —I am on my feet on a point of order.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator is now going beyond the bounds of taking a point of order.

Senator Chaney —I agree, Mr President. I think that my point of order is clear, and I would seek--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I would ask the Minister for Social Security to withdraw the use of the word 'lie' in relation to a member of this Senate.

Senator GRIMES —Yes, Mr President; I will certainly withdraw that.

Senator Chaney —I am sorry, Mr President, but the accusation was that Senator Teague was behaving in a way similar to a political party in the 1940s with the big lie, and so on. The implication is clear, and I suggest--

The PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. The Leader of the Opposition knows that the statement that Senator Grimes has made is not in relation to any specific party.

Senator Chaney —With respect, Mr President, I do not wish to canvass your ruling , but the remarks directly related to Senator Teague, and I believe that they were offensive.

The PRESIDENT —I have asked the Minister to withdraw the word 'lie' in respect of Senator Teague. I understand that he has done that. I do not regard the other matters that have been mentioned by Senator Grimes to date, at this stage as being out of order.

Senator Missen —On a further point of order, Mr President. It is perfectly clear that there is an allegation that Senator Teague, my colleague, is a nazi. There was talk about the party of Goebbels, who practised the big lie, to anyone's general knowledge. To suggest that is to make a highly offensive remark about any democrat in this country. To make that suggestion is far more offensive than accusing someone with the other word which has been used and which is unparliamentary, whereas its equivalent is parliamentary. That is part of the nonsense of this place. Nonetheless, to say of a member of this chamber who is a well known democrat that he is of a party that takes the same view as Goebbels and the Nazi Party is a perfectly offensive thing and a worse offensive thing than what has been withdrawn. I ask that it be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I remind the honourable senator that, whilst he used certain descriptive words, they were not used by Senator Grimes, and it is not for the Chair to draw inferences from those remarks. However, I ask the Minister for Social Security to be circumspect in his remarks in respect of any honourable senator.

Senator GRIMES —If it brings peace to this place, Mr President, I will withdraw any inference that Senator Missen may have drawn from my innocent remarks.

Senator Walters —One thing is that you are never innocent.

Senator GRIMES —Coming from such a worldly-wise woman, that is praise indeed. In case honourable senators have forgotten, the question asked whether my attention had been drawn to statements in the Adelaide Press that Senator Teague had said that social security inspectors were to enter people's homes. I have said that that is completely untrue. As Senator Missen said, Senator Teague is a responsible member of this Parliament and a democrat. I also remember that in his maiden speech Senator Teague made great play of the fact he was a Christian. I find it extraordinary that someone who claims to be a Christian could repeat a statement of that type, with the obvious intention of worrying elderly people in particular in this community. I think that the most sensible thing for me to do is to repeat what I said before: The statement is untrue. There is no power under the Social Security Act, under the assets test legislation, for inspectors to enter people's homes in the way that Senator Teague implied. I hope that members of the community will recognise statements such as this from Senator Teague and others for what they are.

Senator Teague —On a point of order, Mr President: I thank the Minister for the publicity that he gives to my opposition to the assets test, but I in no way implied that the social security officers will knock on every door-

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Teague, I would ask you to state your point of order.

Senator Teague —My point of order is that the Minister does not deny that in certain circumstances members of the Department of Social Security will visit citizens in the community. I ask him to clarify that.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order.