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Wednesday, 27 November 1985
Page: 2330

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(11.09) —I say, with the best of good will, that in the earlier discussion of the extent of debate upon these estimates, it was suggested that the proper time to ask these questions was in the Estimates committees. I say to the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes)-and I say it with good will - that I hold in my hand one document only, being 385 typewritten pages of answers that could not be given during the Estimates committees hearings and were given afterwards, and almost all of them lead to further inquiries. I say this with absolute good will because I intend to approach the matter in this way. I merely say that there is no question of time wasting at all. It is obvious that the questions that could not be answered at the time are the questions that need to be probed in the appropriation debate. That is the purpose of the probing. For example, when we were dealing with the estimates of the Department of Resources and Energy last night I sought to probe the exact information that was given. Those who consider, as Senator Chipp apparently does, that this was time wasting fail to understand that it is the duty of this Senate so to do.

I want to ask a number of questions. First of all, I direct the attention of the Senate to division 875, item 02, in the explanatory notes which deals with contributions to the International Year of Peace activities, for which some $1,828,000 has been appropriated. At the Estimates Committee hearing, I asked for clarification of the explanation. The Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) answered with a wry smile, realising that what I had said had some force. The proposal is:

The primary benefit of this program will be to reinforce in the public mind the Government's commitment to peace and to educate it on Government policies, especially in the arms control and disarmanment areas.

What right has a government to assume that, in connection with the activities of the International Year of Peace, it has a monopoly to spend taxpayers' money to assert its right and not the right of any honourable senators in this chamber, be they members of the Opposition parties, be they Independents or be they members of minority parties. It is true that in another item somewhere else there could be handouts. I repeat that Senator Gareth Evans admitted, somewhat whimsically, that it could have been better phrased-I think those were his words. I invited the Government to tell us not how it could be better phrased but what right it has to assume that it can use $1,828,000 for its own party political purposes. It is in the explanatory notes that the purpose of the program is to educate the community on Government policies. This is a blatant misuse of funds. I ask these questions with good will because in a few weeks time we will be entering into a year that has been named the International Year of Peace. I believe that, if there are misappropriations and misuse of funds, we will have a real war and peace. We will enter into a propaganda phase. Since this Senate has an absolutely primary duty regarding foreign affairs and defence - that is one of its major duties although it never gets round to it - I ask the Government whether it can clarify that item.