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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 589

Senator LEWIS(8.25) —I have a number of matters I wish to raise in connection with the amendments to the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Amendment Bill. The Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) is involved in a private conversation at present which may be important; so perhaps I might just turn to a matter which I found somewhat distressing. Senator Siddons said that we had held the Australian Democrats responsible for something or other because we had only given them notice of amendments two hours ago. The truth of the matter is that the Senate met last Friday morning. After Question Time the Senate Estimates committees met. I went to Senator Siddons' office at 8.15 a.m. and he was not present. I went there again before the Senate commenced at 9 o'clock on Friday morning. I went there throughout the course of that morning and he was not present. I looked for him in the Parliament and he was not present.

Senator Chipp —How do you know that?

Senator LEWIS —He was not present in the chamber. I asked his Whip if he was present. He told me he believed he was present. I continued to search for him around the corridors. The Senate adjourned to enable Estimates committees to meet and I was still unable to find him. Ultimately the only way I felt I could make any communication with Senator Siddons on this matter was to leave all the papers carefully marked-a copy of the Senate report, a copy of part of the Bill and a copy of the amendment-with his Whip's secretary.

Senator Siddons —We do have some other things to do.

Senator LEWIS —Senator Siddons interjects: `We do have other things to do'. I agree with him. He has been saying that I gave him only two hours notice. Did he think I had nothing else to do but to rush around and give him notice? I have given him notice. I actually went again today to talk to him about the matter. I have given the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr West) notice. I agree with Senator Siddons that we are all terribly busy. We can only do whatever we are able to within the time available to us.

Senator Chipp —There is no recrimination on our part.

Senator LEWIS —Senator Chipp says `There is no recrimination', but the truth of the matter is that Senator Siddons was saying that we gave him only two hours notice. At least five hours ago I gave him two hours' notice. The truth of the matter is that the Democrats have had time to consider this matter and it is not such an in-depth amendment that it requires any great consideration. After all, there are only a few Democrats. I have heard what the Government and the Democrats are saying. They will accept the proposed third and fourth amendments. I say to the Democrats and to the Australian Labor Party: `I and my colleagues shall remember that you rejected amendment 3 and amendment 4 moved in our names. If any subsidiary of this body goes wrong, we will hold you responsible for it totally and completely. You have been given the opportunity. In the past, other people have not been given this opportunity to move these sorts of amendments or consider amending the Bill in this way, but you have been given the opportunity. If any subsidiary of this body goes wrong, you will be held 100 per cent to blame'. That applies to both the Australian Democrats and the Australian Labor Party.

I turn now to the addition to the fifth amendment. It is very difficult to say something to the Minister when he is involved in a conversation with someone else in the chamber. That makes it extremely difficult but in due course I hope he will turn back to the Parliament and listen to what I have to say.

Senator Tate —Mr Chairman-

The CHAIRMAN —Do you have a point of order, Senator Tate?

Senator Tate —It is not a point of order. I am just making a suggestion that Senator Lewis might care to listen to me for three or four minutes and then the Minister may-

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Tate, please resume your seat, there is no point of order, unless Senator Lewis-

Senator LEWIS —Let him speak.

The CHAIRMAN —Senator Tate may speak.