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Thursday, 22 August 1985
Page: 190

Senator MASON(4.14) —I support the suspension of Standing Orders. In doing so I reply briefly to Senator Gareth Evans. I am amazed that a Minister of the Crown could refer in this place to the tedium of a debate in the Senate, especially in relation to a debate on a matter of such considerable importance as this. I agree with the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) that any debate on the castrated, wishy-washy motion that the Opposition has put forward would indeed be tedious and inadequate. I will do the Minister for Resources and Energy the credit of assuming that that was his meaning and indeed that it is only when one gets something such as the Opposition's motion that we find the matter to be tedious and wishy-washy. I suggest it is deliberately so. I believe this is an attempt by the Opposition to bring forward a motion which if passed would make us the laughing stock in the eyes of anyone who has studied this issue with any seriousness and who would feel that something-something with guts and meaning-should come out of this chamber before this important conference.

I think it is reasonable that I should reply briefly to Senator Hill who said that the wishy-washy motion moved by the Opposition is an embarrassment to the Australian Democrats. Well, it is an embarrassment.

Senator Puplick —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Senator Mason has said two things; firstly, that he was replying to the Minister for Resources and Energy and, secondly, that he was replying to Senator Hill. Standing Orders require him to speak to the motion as to why standing order 64 ought to be suspended. If anybody stands accused from his own mouth of debating the matter it is Senator Mason by admitting on two occasions that he was replying to points of debate raised by two senators. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask you to bring him back to the terms of the Standing Orders.

Senator MASON —Mr Acting Deputy President, may I respond to the point of order? I feel that any debate in this place ought to-

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop) —Senator Mason, I do not need to listen to any further debate on the subject. Senator Puplick has made a point which I uphold. Senator Mason, I ask you to direct your remarks to the suspension of standing order 64.

Senator MASON —Mr Acting Deputy President, I accept your ruling that this is a debate in which a speaker cannot reply or make any comment on what previous speakers have said. Do I understand you correctly, Mr Acting Deputy President?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I think I have been fairly lenient on the whole question of this debate.

Senator Georges —That is the problem; now you have been caught.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Georges, I can do without your comments. Senator Mason, I ask you to direct your remarks to the suspension of standing order 64. I do not want you to ask questions of either side of the chamber. I ask you to proceed in the proper way and I will be tolerant with you.

Senator MASON —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. For the time being I accept your point. I will not offend you by-

Senator MacGibbon —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. The honourable senator is reflecting on a ruling of the Chair.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I was just about to suggest that Senator Mason should not have made that remark. I expect him to follow my ruling throughout the debate. I call Senator Mason.

Senator MASON —Mr Acting Deputy President, the intent of my words was not to dispute your ruling. I will not offend the Chair by canvassing the terms of the amendment moved by Senator Chipp other than to state the matter relevant to the motion which is that there is an urgent need for the matter to be debated in a meaningful form. This is a matter which is very urgent because it is generally acknowledged that the world has travelled so far down the path of nuclear armaments that a major situation of overkill exists. Not only is that so but in the opinion of responsible and informed commentators the risk of nuclear war, possibly from equipment malfunctioning, is so great that there has never before been a risk so great. Probably due to factors that colleagues on my right have not achieved a proper understanding of, the risk is great particularly in relation to equipment malfunction. This is a point we all have to take into account.

Honourable senators might ask what effect a practical and realistic motion moved in this chamber will have. I think that has a direct bearing on Senator Chipp's motion. In other words, we are debating whether it is reasonable and justifiable that Senator Chipp's motion should move for the suspension of standing orders at this time. I suggest that that is reasonable, for this reason: I hope the Government will take note of a resolution of the Senate when deciding on its attitudes at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. I think that is the reason why Senator Chipp has sought suspension of Standing Orders at this time. He has not done so for the motives attributed to him earlier in the debate. I note that these are accusations to which I may not reply. Essentially his motion concerns a problem of time. In other words a decision by the Senate on this issue is significant. It would be tragic if the mish-mash of non-statements and half statements of the Liberal motion should emerge from this debate as being the view of this chamber.

As I said earlier-I repeat it-it would not be too much to say that support for that motion would make this chamber a laughing stock amongst those people who really understand how important it is for Australian attitudes at the review conference to be firm and realistic. Raising this matter could really contribute to setting the world on the path towards genuine nuclear disarmament. Little purpose can be served whilst debating even the bland generalities put forward as a kind of smoke screen by the Liberal Party. I urge honourable senators to support the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.