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Thursday, 8 December 1983
Page: 3491

Senator WALTERS(12.22) — The Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) said all the way through this debate, when we accused him of conferring only with the Australian Democrats, that he also conferred with the Opposition. Is he so ignorant that he does not realise that the people who are opposed to these referenda are those honourable senators who voted against the various questions put in relation to the Constitution? If the Attorney-General is not aware of that it is about time he was made aware of it because the legislation states that the people who voted against the various questions that the Government proposes to put at the referendum are the people who must prepare the No case that is to be distributed. The Attorney-General made sure that he conferred with the Australian Democrats because he wanted their votes, nothing else. Very simply, he wanted their votes. It did not matter one iota because the Democrats voted in favour of the questions relating to the Constitution. The Australian Democrats, therefore, will play no part in drafting the No case. Legally, they are unable to play any part because they supported the Government and voted for the legislation. For Senator Gareth Evans to keep saying that he did confer with us all is absolutely untrue. There is no truth in that statement at all! He knows that. He is deliberately stating as facts arguments that are not true.

I feel, I suppose, very similar to the way in which Senator Lewis, who has just spoken, feels. The statement made by the Attorney that the Democrats are the guardians of the national interest is similar to many other statements that the Attorney has made off the top of his head. For example, he said: 'Please, your Honour, I thought the spy flights over Tasmania were a good thing at the time. I have since re-thought the matter and have decided that it was not such a good idea'. Senator Robert Ray made a very good interjection the other day when the Attorney was saying that he had not quite said what appeared in Hansard. I thought Senator Robert Ray's interjection was very timely when he said: 'Oh, haven't you read the amended Hansard?' We even have the Attorney's own colleagues pointing out that the Attorney amends the Hansard record. I think that the Attorney-General does get a little carried away and makes numerous comments off the top of his head when he is just being verbose.

Senator Gareth Evans —Why don't you do what Senator Lewis did and leave? Go on, storm out.

Senator WALTERS —I do not intend to storm out, Senator. I am afraid that the Attorney will have to put up with my being here for quite a while yet. If Senator Gareth Evans continues with his policy in relation to the description of each Bill and does not accept the suggestion-he has not accepted it so far-made by the whole of the Opposition that we go back to the original ballot paper, there is very little left I can say because the Attorney has already done a deal with the Australian Democrats. The Australian Democrats are supporting the Government. I will not say any more. The Democrats are not listening and there is very little point in going any further.