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Tuesday, 10 August 2004
Page: 25996

Senator STEPHENS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for acknowledging that this was an esteemed group of elderly Australians. Given that at least 13 of the signatories to the statement on the importance of truth in government are younger than Mr Howard, has the Prime Minister rebuked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources for stating `when you have a look at it, in the first instance, there are a lot of disgruntled old men who are well and truly out of the system'? Given that at least 13 of the signatories are the same age or younger than the Prime Minister and that almost half of the signatories are in their 60s, has Mr Entsch been disciplined for his attack on the value and wisdom of people who are the same age as the Prime Minister?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The older I get, the more I respect the elderly. Wisdom is something to be treasured, and it comes with years. We are lucky to have such a wise Prime Minister as we have in this country, offering great leadership and being prepared to take the tough decisions, whether they are decisions on the economy or whether they are decisions in Australia's national security interests. That is really, apart from a bit of humour, what this is all about. The Australian government under Mr Howard took tough decisions on Iraq because we believed it was the best way to address a threat associated with weapons of mass destruction. It is easy to be wise after the event. It is harder to take the tough decisions at the time. Mr Howard, leading this government, will continue to take them when Australia's national security interests are at stake. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT —I ask the Senate to come to order. You are very noisy today. I did tell my colleagues who are here from the Irish parliament how well behaved the Senate normally is. Unfortunately, you are letting me down today and I do not like that.