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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3015

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(1.49) —Mr Deputy President, the speech we have just heard reflects one of the main problems I want to discuss today, and that is the decline of standards in Parliament. The decline of standards I refer to in regard of the speech just concluded relates not simply to the content, which is appalling and nonsensical, but to the fact that the speech was totally read-and, I might say, read badly. If a senator does not know enough about a subject to get up in this place and talk about it without having to read his speech, he should not get up at all. We are supposed to be people of competence in this place.

Senator Robert Ray —You patronising twerp. He was elected with as many votes as you were, you little pissant.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I hope that interjection is recorded, and I will pause to make certain that it is. That is another example.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Robert Ray, you will withdraw that remark.

Senator Robert Ray —Mr Deputy President, I withdraw the remark.

Senator Grimes —I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy President. May I ask you, gently, whether the attack by Senator Baume on Senator Foreman-it can only can be described as a patronising, arrogant attack on the capacities of another senator-is in keeping with the Standing Orders, and I ask also whether Senator Baume is going to make the same complaint about the number of people on his side who read their speeches every time they get up.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Nothing Senator Baume said was against Standing Orders.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. As I understand the Standing Orders, they specifically preclude people from reading their speeches. I am making a general comment about the decline of standards in this chamber and--

Senator Grimes —On a point of order, Mr Deputy President. If it is reasonable for Senator Michael Baume to make the remarks he has made, unscathed, about Senator Foreman, is it then reasonable for me or Senator Walsh to give detailed comments about the morality of Senator Baume's activities in the firm of Patrick Partners before he came into this chamber?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! It is not in order to reflect on the integrity of the senator. I will deal with remarks like that as they arise; I am not going to give hypothetical rulings. Nothing that Senator Baume has said in this debate is out of order.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. This is another example of the decline of standards in this place. That was a deliberate attempt, on a false point of order, to impugn my integrity because in fact I am raising a matter which the Minister does not want to hear.

Senator Grimes —I don't have to impugn your integrity. You were a crook before you got in here and you are a crook now.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Grimes, that remark was quite improper and you should withdraw it.

Senator Grimes —I am indignant for the large number of people who are poverty stricken and on pensions in this country as a result of his activities.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Grimes, it is not subject to debate. You have to withdraw the remark.

Senator Grimes —I withdraw.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Baume, it would help the debate if you did not respond to the previous interjections. I have ruled on the point of order.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I would require the withdrawal of the last statement, which is totally untrue and improper.

Senator Tate —Mr Deputy President, I think more people should have the benefit of this arrogant diatribe and I call your attention to the state of the House.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It is an agreement, which is not enforcable by Standing Orders, that quorums should not be called during this time but if you insist I will call one.

Senator Grimes —It is also an agreement, Mr Deputy President, that we do not indulge in provocative and contentious debate during this time.

(Quorum formed)

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I was making a general point about declining standards in the Parliament and used as an example something that obviously offended members of the Australian Labor Party. I regret that they have such sensitivity on this matter. I want to deal with the fact that in a general discussion on Sunday the leading Australian members of the Press Gallery said they regarded the Treasurer (Mr Keating) as the outstanding parliamentary performer for the latest session. I want to draw the attention of honourable senators to the staggering difference between what would in normal terms be regarded as outstanding performance in the chamber-in other words, ability, determination and the capacity to argue and present a sound case-and the habits and behaviour of the Treasurer, who achieved this accolade. I quote, in great length if I may, the sort of invective that the Treasurer has consistently used to achieve this accolade from the Gallery: `Those dummies and dimwits'; `that dimwitted members of the Opposition'; `they are jokes-absolute jokes'; `those dummies opposite should just shut up'; `some of the mugs on the other side'; `don't be so damned stupid'; `the clowns opposite'; `the blockheads opposite'; and `a swill, a pig sty, and that is the limit of their capacity'. He is talking about the Opposition. I continue: `the honourable members opposite want to be sleazebags'; `damn them for the cheats they are'; `you ought to be bloody well ashamed of yourselves'; `you are frauds'; `you people are beneath contempt'; `you are an abject insult to every decent moral member of the Parliament'; `fraud and humbug'; `they are irrelevant, useless and immoral'.

Senator Gareth Evans —Hear, hear!

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Hear, hear! I hear. I am talking about the standards that are now acceptable in this Parliament, and another Minister in this place regards them as acceptable. `He is a leading member of the ratpack', says Mr Keating; `Coalition members have always been cheats, cheats, cheats, and will always be cheats, cheats, cheats, and always defend cheat, cheats, cheats'; `the blackguards on the front bench opposite'; `You boxhead, you would not know. You are flat out counting past ten'; `Shut up! `Sit down and shut up you big pig; `Why do you not shut up, you clown?' `This man has a criminal intellect'; `I would not trust him with a jam jar full of 5c bits'; `the jokers opposite'; `Business thinks they are mugs and hill-billies'; and `While all the fiscal and tax harlots opposite'.

That is an example of the style of a man who is regarded by the media as an outstanding parliamentary performer. It is a style which is disgraceful; it is a style which demeans the Parliament, and it is a style which senators opposite, members of the Government, find attractive and support. It depresses me that the media finds this kind of style attractive enough to give him a good run, but I will say of Michelle Grattan that in her article on the annual awards for the Class of `85, she says of Paul Keating:

`Dripping with political style, but please, Bob, ask him to watch his language. He is going over the top in Parliament-`sleazebags', `harlots'-and the corridors reverberate with unprintable Keatingisms.

Senator Gareth Evans —You should hear him in Cabinet.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —`You should hear him in Cabinet', the Minister says, and I believe it.

Senator Robert Ray —You will never be in Cabinet.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —No; I will never be in Cabinet with Paul Keating and I am proud of that. I would not want to be in a Cabinet with a man of such status, such standing, such contempt as he shows for the parliamentary process and the proper behaviour that should exist in this Parliament. We have this kind of behaviour now intruding into this chamber. We have heard today from the expert in this area, Senator Walsh, his persistent personal abuse, and we have heard Senator Grimes consistently behaving in this way. Surely if we are going to be an effective chamber we should be dealing with issues, not personalities.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! It being 2 p.m., the debate is concluded.