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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2161

Senator MASON —Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of events in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly yesterday in which the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly said, in relation to an answer given by the Government, `Only those drongos could possibly make the link', which I suggest would not be considered an immoderate statement in this vicinity. Is it the case that at no time was Mr Collins given the opportunity to withdraw his remarks? Was Mr Collins then named and suspended from sittings for seven days? Does the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, in fact, sit for only another seven days this year? Does the Minister see any connection between these events and the recent release of a report on the Chamberlain case which is due to be debated in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly? Finally, in the light of these events, how does the Government feel the development of democracy is progressing in the Northern Territory?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Mason's question came in several parts. He asked whether I am aware of events in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly yesterday. The answer to that part is no, but I must say that the statement quoted by Senator Mason has a certain air of veracity about it. I have known Mr Collins for a long time and he does have a precise, punctilious and exact way of expressing himself, and it seems to be an excellent description of the situation with which he was confronted. I was then asked whether Mr Collins was given the opportunity to withdraw his remarks. I do not know. I was asked whether the Assembly was, in fact, going to sit for only another seven days. I do not know. I was asked whether this was connected with the Chamberlain case. I do not know, but I assume so.

Opposition members interjecting-

Senator BUTTON —I have been asked to answer a question. I usually get objections when I answer them with this degree of precision, and I am getting them again. The last part of the question was whether I regarded--

The PRESIDENT —Senator Button, I suggest that the last part was about the only part of the question that came within your responsibilities.

Senator BUTTON —I made that quite clear, Mr President, in my answer. I was finally asked what I had to say about the progress of the development of democracy in the Northern Territory. I am eternally optimistic about that. I think that the most important thing, whether it is in Australia or outside Australia, is for systems of government to be, as it were, put on the stairway to life. I do not know how long it will take them to climb that stairway to a degree of enlightenment and sophistication such as we have attained in the Senate, but let me say that I think that in the case of the Northern Territory it will be a very long time. It will probably reach the point we are at in about the year 2000, and that will not be very far advanced.