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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 669

Senator McGAURAN (5.44 p.m.) —I would briefly like to add to the appeal made by my colleague Senator Boswell to Senator Schacht regarding the justice of this amendment that has been moved by Senator Teague to the Student Assistance Amendment Bill. I am inclined to believe that, in his heart of hearts, Senator Schacht supports this amendment. I ask Senator Schacht to go into the ministry and fight for this particular amendment, and to remind the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) of his commitment—indeed, his promise—on election night that he would not leave anyone behind, that he would scoop down and pick up those poor and carry them with him. This should be Senator Schacht's argument when he goes into the ministry to fight for this amendment. I appeal to Senator Schacht's roots because yes, he was a farmer. Senator Schacht came from the land—from Gippsland, indeed.

Senator Boswell —He can't be all bad.

Senator McGAURAN —He cannot be all bad, as Senator Boswell interjects. Senator Schacht and his family were good farmers from Gippsland. He left a very good name, which is still well known, in Gippsland. His farm was on good country. I know that for a fact because his farm is neighbouring that of the McGaurans. But since then things have worsened. Senator Schacht knows the hours that he and his family had to commit, the toil and the disappointments of the dairy industry—

Senator Schacht —I used to look up at Widdis's hill but now that is where the McGauran pastoral company is.

Senator McGAURAN —I am appealing to Senator Schacht on an even level and on an even basis. Things have got worse since then. The hours, the toil and the disappointment have got worse.

Senator Schacht —Not for the McGauran pastoral company!

Senator McGAURAN —They have, actually. Interest rates have hit the farmers. The banks have had to drag people, albeit as a commercial decision, from their land. How many times have we seen on the 6 o'clock news farmers being dragged from their land? That cuts deep into the psyche of farmers. There have been the reductions—perhaps necessary, nevertheless damning—in tariffs. These new things have entered the farming equation since Senator Schacht and his family were farming. Hard as it was, they did not have to encounter these things. As Senator Schacht knows, people on the land are not just statistics. We are dealing here with families, and with young people from those families. I wonder whether Senator Schacht or anyone on that side of the house has seen a movie going around the art houses at the moment called No worries. I would recommend that before Senator Schacht goes into the ministry—

Senator West —It started off as a stage play.

Senator McGAURAN —I accept that interjection by Senator West, who is better informed than I about the movie. She would be well aware how moving this movie is. It will move one to tears.

Senator Loosley —Since when did the Nationals frequent art houses?

Senator McGAURAN —It is a story about a farming family who hung on for as long as they could through droughts and high interest rates and who saw their neighbours going under. Eventually they, too, went under, went the way of their neighbours, and they had to shift into the city of Sydney and adjust to a whole new culture, a whole new lifestyle. In many ways Senator Schacht represents these people. He went before them, and he understands the difference. I recommend that he see this movie before he goes to the ministry to fight for this particular amendment. In many respects this is the watershed of his career. We all meet our watershed; we all meet that line in politics, whether we cross it or not. This is Senator Schacht's watershed.

  Even if Senator Schacht cannot get this amendment through, we want to know that he did fight for it. Even if he cannot get it through, we would like to know whether he fought for this amendment and gave the country people a good chance of winning, or whether he will tell those country people that they have lost, that he has turned his back on them and on his roots, that he is no longer a son of Gippsland, that he has in many ways been morally corrupted by high office, that he is just not the Chris Schacht that left Gippsland, that he is not the same person, and that he is weak in character.

  This really is the watershed of Senator Schacht's career. There is no publicity to it. In the scheme of things, this amendment may be seen as very minor, but he knows that it goes to his heart, to his history. It means everything to what developed his character. So, if Senator Schacht does not fight for this in the ministry, he will not have given the country a win. He would have turned his back on the country and, I would say, his very self.