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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3319

Senator JESSOP(8.15) —Mr Acting Deputy President-

Senator Gareth Evans —What is going on here? Don't you put your names on the list?

Senator JESSOP —The Attorney-General asks what is going on here. I will tell the Attorney-General what is going on here. We are rising to protect the rights of the individuals of Australia to have a No case presented in a fair-minded way. The champion of human rights asks what is going on here. I should have thought he would relax and enjoy the experience of being told what we think about him. He has adopted sneaky tricks to delude the people, and I object to that. There are many in this country who also object to that. Those of us who are against the propositions put forward quite casually by the Attorney-General are saying to him that we are determined to put an alternative case to the people so that they can make an intelligent judgment about the referendum proposals that he is putting forward.

Senator Gareth Evans —You had better get someone else to write it, in those circumstances.

Senator JESSOP —The Attorney-General, who uses devious methods to alter Hansard to change the impact of what he says in this place, says that I ought to get someone else to write the case.

Senator Crichton-Browne —It was all right last time and the time before that.

Senator JESSOP —Of course it was. In 1974 the people rose up and voted against it, in the smaller States particularly, and they will do it again. They did it in 1977.

Senator Gareth Evans —It was 37 1/2 per cent against 62 1/2 per cent. Democracy at work!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Elstob) —Order! Senator Jessop, I think you should direct your remarks through the Chair.

Senator JESSOP —I agree with you, Mr Acting Deputy President, and I shall try to do that, but you will have to protect me from the invasion of the Attorney- General when I am trying to put a point of view. I was offended by the fact that $1.25m of taxpayers' money, for the first time in history--

Senator Gareth Evans —How much will Robin Gray be spending?

Senator JESSOP —The Attorney-General talks about Robin Gray. Let me say this: The people on this side of the House who voted against these proposals did so with a very strong view in mind. That was that if we did not do that, the people would be snowed by the Government, the Liberal Party and others who want to see the Senate subjected to an attack that is quite wrong and would weaken the independence of this House.

Senator Hamer —Some members of the Liberal Party.

Senator JESSOP —That is right. There are 22 members of the Liberal Party and the National Party who object to that and are opposing the Government's intent. The Attorney-General came into this place and answered me last week when I questioned him about the unprecedented action of the Government in providing $1. 25m. He said that this had been appropriated from the Advance to the Minister for Finance. That Advance is supposed to be for urgent and unexpected matters that have arisen. Later during that Question Time he said that this would be debited to the Attorney-General's Department in due time. It is wrong for that to occur. The Opposition quite properly believes that the people of Australia must have both the Yes and No cases presented in a fair way. The Opposition has demonstrated to the community of Australia a spirit of fairness and I support totally the amendment that has been put forward on behalf of the Opposition.

I certainly appreciate the support of the Australian Democrats for the general thrust of the fairness of what we are proposing, but I am a little disappointed that in their amendment they suggest that they are against an equal apportionment of funds from the taxpayers to present a case over and above what we have done in the past, through the Electoral Office and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They suggest that we should not equally divide money-as I understand it; I might be wrong--

Senator Missen —Our amendment does the same thing.

Senator Macklin —They are exactly the same; they are identical.

Senator JESSOP —I apologise. Honourable senators can correct my understanding later. I withdraw what I said. But it seems to me that the Government has embarked on a course that is quite incredible. To deny to people who are opposed to their proposition a fair deal is wrong. Of course, the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and others who want to support the Yes case will be able to swan around Australia in VIP aircraft with government expenditure available to them.

Senator Coleman —Why should they?

Senator JESSOP —Why should they? The Prime Minister will do that. He will attract the publicity he is accustomed to. It is an unfair attitude that the Government has adopted. If honourable senators look at the proposition we are putting forward on the No side of the argument to protect the smaller States against the dominance of New South Wales, Victoria and the House of Representatives--

Senator Missen —What a hoary one that is.

Senator JESSOP —That is all right for the little 'l' liberal whom we have sitting over here. Nevertheless, it is true and, as far as I am concerned, this is an invasion by central Canberra dominated government on the rights of the smaller States. I will always stand up for these rights because I believe that is the spirit of the Federation of 1901. If it were not, the States would never have agreed to Federation. It is an incredible indictment of the Goverment that it should deny the right of the less populous States of Australia to promote their views to the electorate at large. I welcome the support of the Opposition and the Australian Democrats in seeing that fairness prevails.

I was interested in an interjection by Senator Harradine about a four-year Parliament. People are deluded by that. They think that four years is a good idea. But they forget that under that concept senators are provided with an eight-year term. As Senator Harradine quite properly said, the only other country in the world that has an eight-year term is Brazil. For the Attorney and the Government to suggest that we should do that is relegating us-

Senator Gareth Evans —I can understand the objection after listening to this speech.

Senator JESSOP —That is all right.

Senator Robertson —We have four years in the Northern Territory. Your knowledge is a bit weak.

Senator JESSOP —It is a term of four years in the Northern Territory. However I believe that the Government has acted in an incredibly arrogant way and has denied the right of the people who oppose their concept to a fair deal, particularly with respect to the financing of the campaign.