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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1794

Senator PETER RAE —I refer the Leader of the Government in the Senate to last Saturday's West Australian newspaper which reports the Minister as being not enamoured of the notion of summitry and expressing preference for wide-ranging bilateral consultations with different groups. Does the Minister agree that the coming tax summit is shaping up more and more as a charade because what will really determine changes to the tax system are the continuing bilateral discussions between the Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, if that body is still playing speaks after what Senator Walsh said? Will the Government call off the summit while there is still time to avoid the costs associated with this meaningless public relations exercise which is being held only to keep faith with an off-the-top-of-the-head promise made by the Prime Minister during the last election campaign?

Senator Lewis —That will teach you to go wandering in Western Australia when you should be here.

Senator BUTTON —I almost regret my trip to Western Australia. It has caused so much excitement amongst members of the Opposition. Normally they are a pretty gloomy lot, and I understand that, but today they are very allegro. I did say that I was not amoured of summits. I never have been, I never will be-that is in my nature. The fact is that whether I am amoured of the idea of summits or not is totally irrelevant. I must say that when I used the word 'amoured', the journalist who was asking the questions said: 'Do you mean in love with?' I had to explain myself to the West Australian. Whether I personally am attached to summitry or not is not particularly relevant. The Government has determined to hold the tax summit and it will be held. I am sure that it will be a great success.

Senator Chipp —Are you going to send a telegram?

Senator BUTTON —When honourable senators have had the opportunity to read the White Paper and perhaps express their views, as Senator Chipp will-he will be there, I gather-I think the benefits of the summit will be seen. The fact that I hold a preference for another means of dealing with these issues is not particularly relevant at this time. I do not mind admitting irrelevance. I sometimes think we are all a bit irrelevant up here, and I do not mind admitting it so far as my views on the summit are concerned.

Senator PETER RAE —If I may ask a supplementary question, are we to take it from the Minister's answer that we should regard, along with Senator Walsh's answer in relation to Mr Dolan, both Mr Dolan and the Leader of the Government in the Senate as both irrelevant to the question of whether the tax summit continues or not?

Senator BUTTON —I am afraid that Senator Walsh put that package together. Senator Walsh gave an answer about Mr Dolan, I understand, the other day in which he made the point, perhaps more bluntly than I would do, that Mr Dolan would not be President of the ACTU at the time of the summit.

Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle —But he will.

Senator BUTTON —That may be incorrect but that is what I understood Senator Walsh to have said. Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle can take the matter up with Senator Walsh, if she wishes, as a matter of fact. But I intend to be a Minister in the Government at the time of the summit-I will be there. I do not think one should get excited over the use of the word 'relevant' in two entirely different contexts and put them both together on that basis.