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Wednesday, 29 February 1984
Page: 181

Senator WALTERS(6.37) —We really have experienced a wonderful debate by the Government. Four Government senators-Senator Gareth Evans, Senator Grimes , Senator Sibraa and Senator Bolkus-have spoken to the urgency motion. Senator Sibraa accused the Opposition of filibustering, but Senator Bolkus took more time than any member of the Opposition. He spoke for just on 10 minutes. It seems to me that the debate has, despite your earnest decision, Mr President, varied over a considerable number of matters. Senator Sibraa told us about the New South Wales polls. He did not mention the Tasmanian popularity poll in which Premier Gray received 64 per cent of the vote-

The PRESIDENT —I hope you will not do that either, Senator.

Senator WALTERS —Or Queensland's popularity poll. In deference to you, Mr President, I will not go on. Still, Queensland's Premier received 59 per cent of the poll. Senator Grimes and Senator Evans decided that they would tell us why this matter was urgent. Thank heavens Senator Evans is not in private practice. He would not get anywhere at all. He did not convince anyone. Those people outside who are listening will never take him up in private practice when he leaves this place. There is no way that he would ever get a case. It is very obvious that Senator Grimes was never a lawyer. He took up medicine and then gave that away because even that was a bit too hard. Certainly, none of the Government speakers convinced us that anything was urgent about the motion proposed by the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans). We have 20 minutes remaining in which to debate this motion. I ask the Government to tell us whether Australia will collapse if we do not debate it today. What will happen if we do not go on debating this motion that Senator Evans has said is so urgent ? It is 6.40 p.m. and still he says that the whole matter is urgent. As Senator Sir John Carrick has said, it was not quite that urgent at 10 o'clock this morning. Senator Evans has merely said that he thinks the matter is urgent. All honourable senators in this chamber know Senator Evans very well; some of us better than others. We know that he is not very tolerant of those who disagree with him. His Government colleagues also know him well enough to say that he is not very tolerant of those who do not agree with his way of thinking. We do not think this matter is urgent. It really does not matter what Senator Evans thinks ; we are debating this matter in the Senate. Mr President, I often sit back and wonder what Senator Evans thinks of himself.

The PRESIDENT —We will not wonder about that, Senator. We will deal with the matter before us.

Senator WALTERS —Mr President, you have upset my whole speech. I wanted to tell you what I believe Senator Evans thinks of himself.

The PRESIDENT —Will you tell me privately? Just relate your remarks to standing order 448.

Senator WALTERS —Then I will have to deal with that at another time, Mr President, because I think the people of Australia would like to hear what I believe Senator Evans thinks of himself. Before he became a member of parliament he was a greater believer in freedom; he was a great civil libertarian. He believed-

Senator Coleman —Mr President, I take a point of order. I understood that we were debating the suspension of Standing Orders. We have listened to Senator Walters giving a critique on those members of the Government who have spoken in support of the suspension of Standing Orders. We are now being sidetracked once again. Would you at least draw her attention to Standing Orders and suggest that she directs her remarks to them? Otherwise I will have equal time with her.

The PRESIDENT —I uphold the point of order. I ask Senator Walters to restrict her remarks to the question of urgency.

Senator WALTERS —Very well, Mr President. I was about to say why I believed Senator Evans is so sure of himself. If you do not think his history before he came to this Parliament has anything to do with this question of urgency I am very disappointed. All honourable senators know about Senator Evans when he was in opposition. I hope honourable senators will bear with me because this has a great deal to do with why he believes this matter is urgent and why I believe it is not. Senator Evans came into this place with the reputation that he believed in freedom of information and in upholding civil liberties. He had that reputation when he was in opposition. But the first thing he did was to-

Senator Coleman —Mr President, I take a point of order. We are not debating the character of the Attorney-General prior to his coming into the Parliament; we are debating the suspension of Standing Orders. I ask you to draw Senator Walter 's attention to that fact or I will get up on points of order every time she moves away from the subject.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Walters, as I have pleaded with other honourable senators who have spoken before you, I ask you to restrict your remarks to standing order 448, the question of urgency for the suspension of Standing Orders.

Senator WALTERS —Mr President, I was doing just that. Such urgency was never apparent when Senator Evans, in opposition, abused a previous judge, Sir Garfield Barwick. There was no urgency on that occasion.

Senator Bolkus —Mr President, I take a point of order. I put it to you that Senator Walters's straying to discuss Sir Garfield Barwick has absolutely nothing to do with the urgency of this matter.

The PRESIDENT —I uphold the point of order. I plead with Senator Walters to restrict her remarks to urgency, otherwise I will have to ask her to resume her seat.

Senator WALTERS —Yes, Mr President. I understand that the Government has approached the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I seek leave to continue my remarks later, as the Government wishes to introduce some legislation.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.