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Monday, 30 August 2004
Page: 26665


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) (3:56 PM) —I accept that there is an urgency in this matter, but for different reasons. I accept that there is an urgency to dispose of this motion because I think it is a disgraceful abuse of the Senate. It is an unprecedented abuse of the Senate to set up a select committee to meet during an election campaign to, in effect, operate as a campaign tool of the Labor Party—or, I should say, this alignment between the Labor Party and the Greens, because there is hardly any division between the two as it now stands. To utilise the Senate processes to seek to give it this air of legitimacy through the Senate is not only unprecedented but is a disgraceful abuse. That is why it is a matter of urgency that this be dealt with and that it be disposed of.

As I think Senator Faulkner acknowledged, Mr Howard did not prorogue the parliament because the Labor Party had threatened to set up this committee, which is a personalised attack on him. That is all it is really designed to be. It is guaranteed the numbers, because the motion puts in place that the majority will be the Labor Party and the Independents. It calls such evidence as relates to one matter, and it is personalised in relation to an attack on the Prime Minister. It is allowed to call in legal advice and employ experts to assist it, at public expense, during the course of the campaign.


Senator Harris —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Senator Hill inferred that the Independents were going to vote with the Labor Party on this. If there is any inference that One Nation is going to vote with the Labor Party, the Democrats and the Greens on this issue, that cannot stand.


Senator Robert Ray —That is a debating point, not a point of order!


Senator Harris —It is not a debating point; it is a point of order.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marshall)—Senator Harris, that is not a point of order.


Senator HILL —I was not inferring the position of One Nation. I am sorry if it was interpreted that way. But it is true that the Labor Party and the Greens are almost as one at the moment. They will present a common front at this coming election. The Democrats are sort of lost in the wilderness somewhere, and they will go along rather than be seen to be even more irrelevant. For the benefit of Senator Harris, that is the point that I was making. Sadly, the Independents, who you might think would be prepared to assess this issue objectively and independently, are not going to. They are going to allow themselves to be used as part of this parliamentary abuse, this campaign tool of the Labor Party at public expense. It is important that this be seen for what it is and that it be disposed of quickly. Therefore, there is an issue of urgency: the sooner it is got rid of, the better.