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Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3926

Senator CHIPP (Leader of the Australian Democrats)(6.46) —I raise the matter of the expenditure of the money. I am amazed at the attitude of some sections of the media towards the Government's stance on this matter. I do not refer to the Australian Financial Review because I never make a practice of reading it.

Senator Robert Ray —But you did this morning.

Senator CHIPP —No, I did not read it this morning. I would far prefer to read the Illawarra Mercury any day if I am looking for standards of journalism and fact in terms of politics. I refer to those responsible people in the Press gallery and the responsible journalists of this country who are not outraged by this preposterous proposition to put all the money towards one case and nothing towards the other, that is; of the extra money that is being spent. I do not know of many more outrageous suggestions put by a politician in my 23 years in politics than that put by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evens) and supported by the Government. It has been said that the Press, the media, is the Fourth Estate, the protectors of the people. It offers the kind of protection that a repressed or oppressed people can look to in the face of oppressive governments, governments that want to ride roughshod over the wishes of the people. We have a situation in which a government is putting forward a proposition to change the very document which governs our existence, the Constitution. The Government says that it will spend $1 1/4m extra on the Yes case.

Senator Gareth Evans —To balance up the books, which you concede is a good idea.

Senator CHIPP —I wonder what Senator Evans would say if I put to him an analogy which I think is fair. Let us assume that a State government decides to fluoridate its water supply and that it is necessary to change the constitution of that State for that to be done. Let us assume that all politicians of all parties in that State agree that the water should be fluoridated.

Senator Gareth Evans —And they would be right.

Senator CHIPP —Senator Evans says-I thank him for walking into the trap-'and they would be right'. Senator Evans ascribes to politicians a monopoly on wisdom that I do not. On many occasions politicians have been wrong on fundamental issues and ordinary people have been absolutely right. If he thinks that simply because there is substantial agreement among politicians in this place, that simply because they voted to have a referendum, that justifies spending none of the extra money on a No case, that is a rather queer sense of humour and logic. To use the analogy I gave, what would he say if the State of Victoria spent $10m on the Yes case to fluoridate the water supply and said: 'We will not allow any money to be spent on the No case'. What would happen?

Senator Gareth Evans —You would probably need to do that to beat the fruit cake brigade on fluoride. You really would.

Senator CHIPP —There we are. A judgment has been made that anybody who disagrees with the fluoridation of water is in the fruit cake class. Why are they in the fruit cake class? Because Senator Evans says they are. I wonder why the media does not grasp hold of the outrageous concept that is being put forward-as my friend, Senator Macklin, says-for the first time since Federation. Let us assume that we needed a referendum to approve the export of our uranium. Let us assume that all political parties in this place agreed that uranium should be exported. Would Senator Evans then say that therefore there is no need for money to be spent on the No case? That is a logical extension of his judgment. As it happens now, the Australian Democrats-I will not canvass the argument about uranium now- is the only political party in this whole Parliament that opposes the export of uranium. If one takes Senator Evans's point, it means that five members out of 180-odd members of this Parliament oppose the export of uranium. Following Senator Evans's most generous concession, if $20m were to be spent on the referendum about exporting uranium, only five one-hundred-and-eightieths of that money could be devoted to the No case because the politicians, in whom there seems to reside a monopoly on wisdom, according to Senator Evans, have said so and that makes it right. What an outrageous, preposterous suggestion he makes.

In regard to changing the Constitution, I take a rather absurd example, but one that might strike home to some people. Let us assume that we needed a change in the Constitution to make the salaries of politicians exempt from taxation.

Senator Lewis —There would be unanimous support for that here.

Senator CHIPP —Senator Lewis helps me by suggesting that there would be almost unanimous support for that concept among politicians. Would that make it right? If we were to go to the people with a referendum on that basis, would that mean that we should give no money to the No case?

I conclude with the fact of the hypocrisy of this Government. Who was it who, during the election campaign and before it, talked about real constitutional reform? It was Senator Evans. Who was it who denounced Malcolm Fraser on the several occasions when he called early elections for his own opportunistic ends? It was Senator Evans and Bob Hawke. Look what has happened. We had a very responsible, respectable, attractive package for constitutional reform. Senator Evans talks about the committee for constitutional change of which I am pleased to be a member and a patron together with Senator Evans, which proposed that package. We said it was time we stopped politicians politicking for their own political parties' ends by calling elections when it suited them. Therefore, the package called for fixed terms of Parliament of four years; a good idea.

Who voted against fixed terms as constitutional reform? Senator Evans voted against fixed terms. Now he comes into this place and says that we are not interested in constitutional reform. I just wonder about the bounds of hypocrisy to which this Government will go. After it denounced Malcolm Fraser for going to the people prematurely, we now have Senator Evans and Mr Bob Hawke on radio and television and calling Press conferences, saying: 'Now the Democrats and the Liberal Party have caused an early election'. This Government has not been in office for a year yet, and Senator Evans is talking about an early election, putting the whole economy into instability. Senator Evans thinks that he sees a cheap, nasty little issue upon which to go to the people and he cannot wait to get to a microphone or a camera and say: 'Unless we get our way on this particular thing, there will be an early election'. What does he think that does to every small business in the country, or to big business which is trying to recover from a recession?

Senator Gareth Evans —That is fantasy. I have said nothing of the kind.

Senator CHIPP —Senator Evans should listen to his Prime Minister, on every radio session that he has been on today, talking about fixed terms. On the one hand, they berate us for saying that parliaments should last for four years, but they have been in power for eight months and they are talking about an election next November. I will let the people judge what sorts of double standards come from the Government side of the House.