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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 495

Senator FERGUSON (4.25 p.m.) —I support my colleague Senator Campbell in opposing the motion to suspend standing orders. I do so for a variety of reasons, one of which is the reasoning behind this motion. Really, the debate on whether to suspend standing orders has degenerated into a debate about the Australian flag and its worthiness. I think it has more to do with that than it does with Cathy Freeman.

  I am opposed to the suspension of standing orders because another notice of motion was given today by the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, Senator Faulkner, which I think is far more appropriate in that it congratulates all Australian athletes, all those who took part in the games in Victoria, British Columbia. It congratulates all those who won medals and does not single out anybody for any particular achievement.

  Senator Lees, in moving the motion to suspend standing orders, gave a lot of quotes from various members of the Liberal Party throughout Australia. She failed to mention that all of those quotes were in response to a specific, direct question asked about one specific athlete in Cathy Freeman. I understand the responses that were made and certainly would agree with most of them. But when it comes to recognising the efforts of our athletes in the Commonwealth Games, I do not like to see us singling out any athlete, whether that athlete has been successful or not as successful in his or her pursuit of gold medals. I think specifically of an athlete who broke two world records and yet does not get a mention.

  We heard Senator Lees and Senator Schacht say that carrying the Aboriginal flag was an act of reconciliation, but I think singling out one person in this case does not do anything at all for reconciliation. If anything, highlighting those issues brings out the divisions that apply in our community.

  Senator Schacht says that we do not have a flag that is genuinely Australian. I disagree totally with him because I do not know of anybody who does not think Australia's flag is a genuine Australian flag. It is the flag of our nation. I am sure that when senators were younger they looked upon the flag with some pride. Probably even Senator Schacht in his younger days looked on it with some pride. But in recent times he has changed his view.

  I am opposed to the suspension of standing orders basically because today Senator Faulkner, as minister for sport, gave notice of a notice of motion which I believe is far more appropriate in the recognition of the efforts of all of our athletes that went to Victoria, British Columbia, to compete on behalf of Australia in the Commonwealth Games. That team included not only people who have been Australian residents for a very long time but also some people from other countries who have recently chosen Australia as their place of residence. For those reasons, I oppose the suspension of standing orders.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! The time for this debate has expired.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.