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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3389

Senator SIBRAA —Can the Minister representing the Attorney-General explain the stunning hypocrisy of some Opposition Tasmanian senators who bleat about the Commonwealth spending $1.25m of taxpayers' money on the referendum campaign and yet are on record as opposing the simultaneous elections proposal that will cost the taxpayer $17m every time a separate half-Senate election is held?

Senator Townley —I raise a point of order, Mr President. Is this matter not related to a debate currently before the Senate? Therefore, should questions about it be permitted?

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order.

Senator BUTTON —No, I cannot explain this stunning hypocrisy.

Senator Walters —Of course you can't. You don't understand the whole thing.

Senator BUTTON —I was going to say that I cannot explain the level of stunning hypocrisy because I am stunned by it myself, Senator Walters.

Senator Chaney —I raise a point of order, Mr President. I refer to standing order 99 which sets out the rules which will apply to questions. Paragraph 4 states:

Questions shall not refer to-

(a) debates in the current Session;

We are involved, at this stage, in a debate which relates to this matter. The legislation is only in part dealt with. I think we are in the Committee stage and are dealing with amendments which go to the very point which has been raised . There have been debates on this issue, not only in the current session, but also as recently as last night. Those debates will, I understand, resume today. In those circumstances I ask you, Mr President, to rule the question out of order.

The PRESIDENT —I allow the question, but I advise the Minister that he should be careful to keep in mind standing order 99 and he should bear in mind also that a question of ministerial responsibility is involved in this question.

Senator BUTTON —It was a very simple question. I was about to explain that I could not answer it because I was stunned by the level of hypocrisy which was displayed in connection with this matter. I really have little more to add to that. I should only say that the Government is very conscious of the costs which would be involved on a continuing basis if a referendum relating to simultaneous elections was not carried. But, of course, the costs of referendum proposals have to be considered in all their manifestations. I take it they will be considered by the Tasmanian Government in respect of any costs which it contributes to the forthcoming referendum campaign.