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Tuesday, 8 October 1985
Page: 809


Senator MASON(4.40) —I support the amendments moved by the Australian Democrats because they are a basic matter of tremendous principle which we respect and everybody in the Committee should respect. Although I was not in the Senate, I listened to the reply to the second reading debate by the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh), which I found to be a truly remarkable statement. On the logic of the Minister's speech, we should abolish both Houses of Parliament immediately and turn this country into a dictatorship. His argument was that electoral processes are difficult, therefore we should not have them. That is a completely outrageous proposition which I am most distressed and disappointed to hear put forward by any member of the Senate. We all know that electoral processes are difficult, but that is not an argument for us to abandon them completely, as did Hitler and Mussolini. It is an argument for us to try to work out a compromise, as I know that Senator Siddons has done patiently in his discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I am convinced, in spite of what the Minister said, that the ACTU basically sees the sense of what we are trying to do. The ACTU appreciates and respects these amendments and, given half a chance by the Government, we could get them through. As a result we would have something more valuable than what is proposed in the legislation.

The second point I make in relation to what the Minister said is this distressing capability and predilection of the Government, whenever anything is put forward which is different from what it wants, to say, as the Minister said a few minutes ago: `We will take our bat and ball and go home. You will either pass this legislation or we will withdraw it'. I suggest that that is a totally irresponsible point of view, which no intelligent or respectable person in the Government, especially a Minister, should put forward. We are not in this place to do just what the Executive wants; we are here to consult reasonably with the organisations concerned. In an important matter like this, where millions of dollars a week change hands and hundreds of thousands of people are involved, we are here to see that there is a proper degree of control over those funds. I urge the Minister in the Committee stage to say to us that on reflection he will not take that view; that it is responsible and reasonable for the amendments to be moved. As far as the Democrats are concerned, we intend to persist with the amendments. If we agreed with a Minister every time he said `We will take our bat and ball and go home if you try to put something on', we might as well pack it in now. We do not earn our salaries by doing what the Minister wants; we earn them by doing what we think is right.