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Friday, 29 May 1987
Page: 3608

Mr PETER MORRIS (Minister for Transport)(11.13) —I thank those honourable members who have participated in this debate. I have to say that much of the debate this morning from members of the National Party of Australia was irrelevant to the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill. Whilst some may say that it was a broad ranging debate, the fact is that it was irrelevant. One of the points raised by the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer) related to the timing of the issue of writs for the House of Representatives and Senate elections. The issue of the writs is a problem that relates to the Constitution. It is not a matter that can be resolved by legislation.

The honourable member for Richmond (Mr Blunt) spent considerable time talking about public funding, which will come up later in one of the amendments that he has foreshadowed. What he was really saying was that the old National Party wants a reversion to the covert type of electioneering funding that we saw when the conservative parties were in office-back to the old back room deals, back to the sale of favours, back to the helping out of mates, and back to the rackets--

Mr Blunt —Oh!

Mr Carlton —You want to talk about that!

Mr PETER MORRIS —Well, both of the honourable gentlemen who are interjecting are former functionaries, one of the Liberal Party of Australia and the other of the National Party. They may well laugh because they speak from a position of knowledge. They, better than anybody in this chamber, will be aware of the detail, and I am sure would have participated in the arrangements they developed in those dark old days before public disclosure of donations to political parties became law. We will not have a bar of that kind of arrangement. As I have said, the honourable member for Richmond is well aware of the process of developing special favours for special clients. He is obviously a very strong supporter of the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation, the sale of knighthoods, which has debased the whole process of public recognition--

Mr Kerin —And straight corruption.

Mr PETER MORRIS —I was coming to that-and the whole process of corruption for which the State of Queensland has become renowned.

The ultimate hypocrisy of the remarks by the honourable member is this: The National Party does not need to call for the repeal of that part of the Act relating to public funding if it does not believe in it. Acceptance of public funding under the Act is optional. If National Party members really believe-we challenge them to express that belief-that public funding for political parties should not continue and that money should not be provided to political parties under the public funding process, they do not have to lodge their application in respect of the coming election. One has to apply for public funding; it is optional. We will look forward in the weeks ahead to observing the National Party not applying for public funding under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. In those circumstances, the Government cannot accept the second reading amendment moved by the honourable member for Richmond, and we commend the Bill, as it stands, to the House.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Blunt's amendment) stand part of the question.