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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2280

Senator DURACK(8.27) —I think that it is an insult to the Committee and a disgrace that the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt), who is the Minister at the table, knows nothing about the subject. Personally I have some sympathy for him; he has been thrown into the ring and I do not suppose that we should expect him to know a lot about the subject. However, the Committee is entitled to expect that the appropriation for this Department or any other department would be handled either by the Minister himself or the Minister who acts in his place in this chamber and not just any Minister who happens to be available or on duty. This is simply not good enough. Senator Sir John Carrick has asked a number of questions in this debate and he has been treated with nothing short of contempt by the Government. Again, I do not blame the Minister at the table.

Here we have the appropriations of this Government for the financial year being brought on by the Government itself-it determines when its Bills will be dealt with-during a week when the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans), who is also the Minister who acts for other departments that are being considered in this group, has taken himself off to China or Timbuktu or somewhere. The Senate did not sit last week and that would have been a more convenient time for the Minister to have had his overseas junket. He has chosen to be away this week and the Government has chosen this week to bring on his estimates. That is totally unacceptable to the Opposition. It is particularly unacceptable for Senator Sir John Carrick, with his vast knowledge and interest in this subject, to be treated in this way. I have been sitting here listening to this charade by the Government and I have decided to move that the Senate postpones consideration of the estimates before us. The Government can make its own arrangements as to when it brings them on again for consideration. There is absolutely no excuse whatever. Not only is the Minister for Resources and Energy absent, but also the Acting Minister for Resources and Energy is absent. We were informed today by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) that Senator Walsh was in fact the Acting Minister for Resources and Energy. I cannot remember which Minister is representing the Attorney-General. We will deal with that matter when the estimates for the Attorney-General's Department come before us later. The fact of the matter is that at this point Senator Walsh is the Acting Minister for Resources and Energy. Presumably he would be in a position to make a better fist of handling these estimates than the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, who is at the table. As I said, he cannot be expected to answer the questions. We have had a litany of non-answers or answers such as: `I don't know, but I will find out'; `We will tell you later'; or `We will have to wait till the Minister comes back to tell us'. This is a total farce. It is a total insult. I move:

That further consideration of the Votes for the Department of Resources and Energy be postponed.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator MacGibbon) —The motion before the Chair is that further consideration of the estimates for the Department of Resources and Energy be deferred to a later hour.

Senator DURACK —No. My motion is that they be postponed. The Government can determine when it will be in a position to deal with these estimates. Perhaps it will be in such a position next week. If the Government wants to consider these estimates at a later hour today or tomorrow, it should consider bringing the Minister back.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —The motion before the Chair is:

That further consideration of the Votes for the Department of Resources and Energy be postponed.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Attorney-General's Department

Proposed expenditure, $217,792,000.