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Thursday, 15 December 1983
Page: 3929

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(7.05) —Mr Chairman, I will be brief.

Senator Cook —Heaven save us.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —If Government senators had been a little more patient, a little more alert and on the ball they would not be in the trouble that they are in now, least of all the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). This Bill has been sitting in this chamber since August of this year-

Senator Macklin —May.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Since May, that is right. It was not as though this amendment was sitting here as some sort of ambush waiting to knock over the Government. This amendment was conceived very recently when the Government announced its intention to fund only one side of the case. The Attorney-General talks about his department doing everything instantly. If it had done everything instantly on this occasion we would not have this amendment. This amendment was conceived ten minutes before this Bill was due to come on.

Senator Robert Ray —You have done your homework.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —He is damned right I have. My original amendment was to fund both sides. Surely it is impertinent and arrogant for the Government to presume that money ought to be spent on only one side of the argument. Surely if $1.25m were to be spent on the Yes case, the Yes case would be reasonably presented. Surely if $1.25m were to be spent on the No case, that position would be clearly understood. The Attorney-General suggests that most people in Australia are shrouded in darkness and ignorance and unaware of the arguments, and that that is why they tend to vote no. But to allocate money to both sides would have enlightened those people. They would have been in a position to make a judgment. But that was not to be the case. The Attorney-General wanted to ensure that the No case was submerged and smothered, that the Yes case was put and the No case censored, and that the media would not be able to-

Senator Gareth Evans —Were Joh and Gray going to spend it evenhandedly?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —They represent presumably the view of their States and their States invariably have voted against such proposals. If members of the community by and large in the smaller outlying States vote no, it is because they feel comfortable with the Constitution as it is. They do not have this blind passion to change the Constitution for the sake of change. They are not dedicated to having a new constitution by 1988. They feel comfortable with it as it is. I do not believe that the No case necessarily starts in front. If it does , it is because people tend to be suspicious of politicians and wonder why they want change. It is not without significance to note that it is Western Australia , Tasmania and Queensland that vote no to most proposals because most proposals seek to reduce the power of the Senate and of the smaller States, and these people understand that, which is why they vote no. I think it reasonable and sensible for the Attorney-General to agree to equal funding.

Senator Gareth Evans —You have got it, to the tune of $2.5m.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Oh, come on! The Attorney-General admits that people do not read the small print. Why does he need money if he believes that they can get all the arguments out of the letter box? He knows that they cannot. He wants to distort the argument by having $1.25m spent on the Yes case to smother and submerge the No case. I put it to him that it would have been a much more sensible compromise if he had agreed to fund both sides equally. My original proposition was that we should have equal funding. But no, the Attorney-General could not have that. The fall back position that others agreed with was that there be no money. As a result of his incapacity to compromise, he has no referendums.