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Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Page: 15334

Senator GIBBS (2:36 PM) —My question is to Senator Kemp, the Assistant Treasurer. Can the minister advise what the government's response is to the ongoing campaign of the Australian Brewers Association to draw attention to the Prime Minister's broken promise than beer would rise by only 1.9 per cent under the GST? Does the government intend to attack the problem or simply continue to attack the messenger?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —What is the government's attitude to the ongoing campaign by the brewers? The government's approach to that campaign is that it is an absolutely disgraceful campaign. I do not know whether I can be more frank than that. It is based on a misrepresentation—to put it politely—of what the Prime Minister said. The government was always up front with its commitments in this area. I suspect the public will want to know whether beer prices are part of the Labor Party roll-back. The Labor Party has a few things on the old roll-back front these days. It will be interesting. It is not appropriate for a minister to ask a question in question time, and I will not be doing that. But I was very frank about the government's position on this. My colleagues and I would be interested to hear Senator Gibbs be equally frank about the Labor Party's position on this. I implore you, Senator, to ask me a supplementary question and, as a preamble to the supplementary question, could you just make that clear? Seeing as I have been so frank about our position on beer prices, would you be equally frank on the Labor Party position? I ask my colleagues, through you, Madam President, to listen very carefully to what Senator Gibbs says to see whether beer prices are the high priority roll-back that the Labor Party is saying they are.

Senator GIBBS —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of that response, why is beer going to rise by eight to nine per cent under the GST when the Prime Minister promised it would rise by only 1.9 per cent?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —I was hoping that, because I had been so frank with Senator Gibbs, this frankness and honesty would be reciprocated by Senator Gibbs. Could I ask some of my colleagues to stay behind after question time, because I think Senator Gibbs will be taking note of the answer to her question.

Senator Faulkner —Madam President, on a point of order: the Assistant Treasurer has been asked a very direct and very clear question by Senator Gibbs. It is perfectly reasonable for the Senate and for you to expect an answer from him.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! That behaviour is out of order. The minister has 41 seconds left to deal with the question that he has been asked.

Senator KEMP —Indeed, I fully agree that Senator Faulkner's behaviour is quite disgraceful. The many people who listen to question time would not appreciate the constant abuse which comes from Senator Faulkner during question time. It is quite unseemly. We have indicated that the price of a carton of full-strength beer need increase by only 1.9 per cent. That was the commitment that was made. That is the commitment which will be delivered. In Senator Gibbs's mind, this is obviously a very big issue. I have stated the government's position on this—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Minister, the time for answering—

Senator KEMP —and, Senator Gibbs, we will wait behind if you are taking note—(Time expired)

Senator Faulkner —Sit down, you idiot!

Senator Newman —Madam President, I rise on a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is accustomed to calling people idiots around here and to never being stopped. He brings the Senate into disrepute. In the years that I have been here, I have not known behaviour like the behaviour we have been subjected to over the last few years under the leadership of Senator Faulkner, who thinks anything goes in this place. This is the parliament of the people, and people outside are not all that impressed with the lack of leadership that is shown by a senator who purports to represent Her Majesty's opposition in this country. Would you please make sure that he is constantly stopped for his misbehaviour.