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Tuesday, 23 May 1989
Page: 2424

Senator ROBERT RAY (Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs)(2.19) —The Opposition is critical of Senator Button's comments. I would have thought that it is a rather cruel world when, after the last week, he cannot have at least 15 minutes fun. When changes are made it is often the case in this chamber that people indulge themselves for a few minutes. Obviously, Senator Lewis wants to prolong this. I was here in September 1987 when we, on the front bench, were subjected to all those sorts of charges. I remember the debate well. We expanded the Ministry to 30. That was met with derision by those opposite. Let me quote Senator Chaney at the time:

. . . we do not believe it is necessary to have 30 Ministers. The expansion of the size of the Ministry is clearly and simply to accommodate the internal political difficulties of the Labor Party . . .

That was Senator Chaney a while ago. Senator Short-who I think still owes me $10 from the game on Saturday; but we can fix that up later-said:

There was no science in expanding the Ministry from 27 to 30. It was sheer, cold, hard-headed politics on the part of factional managers of the Government . . .

Peter Shack in the House of Representatives said:

Was the expansion to bring in people of such talent and ability that only creating three extra places could have allowed it?

He answered:

If our recall is excellent we will remember the grubby and sordid episode that dominated the nation's media . . .

Finally, I will quote Senator Chaney. On 20 April 1988, just 13 months ago, he reminded the Senate:

. . . of our objection to seeing the size of the Ministry increase substantially just to meet the problems that the Government has with respect to keeping its factions in good order.

Senator Collins —Sanctimonious.

Senator ROBERT RAY —My colleague Senator Collins intervened and used the word `sanctimonious'. We pointed that out at the time. We copped it when those opposite had their fun on us. We did not have to move motions, note the matter and carry on for ever. That is the point about politics. Occasionally one dishes it out and then cops it when it is one's turn. But if Senator Lewis and others are saying that they are happy with the behaviour of those opposite over the last eight days and they think that it can just go unnoticed in this chamber, then they are really kidding themselves. He should look at himself. First, on the Monday, he is approached by his colleagues to go to see Mr Howard and say, `It's all over. It's time to go'. That is what he was asked to do and he went along and did it. We then see him bleeding on the media for the next week saying, `Should I have done it? Should I have stabbed the Leader in the back; should I have not?'.

Senator Lewis —Who said that? I never said that.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That is a sort of a summary of it. I do not think it is an unfair summary. I listened to Senator Lewis on the radio. Maybe he was quoted out of context in the papers but that is what we had. We then had the Four Corners episode in which the so-called pros of the Liberal Party of Australia got on air and said, `We deliberately lied to people'. They then contradicted their Leader. After all, we all know that the press conference of the Leader Opposition (Mr Peacock) on Tuesday was well rehearsed. Paid media consultants were brought in to rehearse Peacock. Every word he said was well rehearsed. He said he was drafted. Mr Moore said, `No, we drew up a document and showed it to him a couple of weeks beforehand'. Who is telling the truth? To some extent all these questions have to be aired.

Senator Schacht —Michael Baume.

Senator ROBERT RAY —That is a very cruel accusation. I have spent a lot of time defending Senator Michael Baume. I deny and I put it on the record that he is not a secret Labor Party agent in the Opposition. Just because he went on Tasmanian talk-back radio and blew the Opposition's tax policy at the last election, does not mean he is a Labor spy. Just because he gave Senator Schacht advice on how to run our next campaign, does not mean that he is a spy. He is not secret ticket No. 1,428 of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party. Wherever I could I have defended Senator Michael Baume in relation to these matters.

I suppose the real reason we are entitled to raise this matter at least in a passing way is that Senator Lewis says there are serious matters to be discussed. I concede that. But what about his credibility and the credibility of his Leader in this chamber? When he speaks on issues are we to believe him? Let me just go through that record. On 30 March, seven weeks ago, after winning preselection for Pearce, Senator Chaney told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio that his only concern was to gain a senior position in a John Howard led government. Then on 20 April Andrew Peacock told the National Press Club that Senator Chaney `will be an active and effective senior Minister in a Howard government'. When Howard came under pressure on the Victorian preselections, Howard issued a statement which cited Fred Chaney as an example of the diversity in the Party and defended him. Three months ago, on 7 February, Chaney made a speech of loyalty to Howard at their first joint party meeting for the year. He condemned the constant speculation about Howard, he criticised members of parliament who undermined Howard's leadership abilities, and he said that attacks on Howard `give comfort to the enemy'. I wonder whether he was talking about himself. He went on:

To engage in that sort of speculation with journalists is totally counterproductive. What it's doing is falling for the Labor Party line, and really you become a Labor Party stooge if you run it.

There is even more on the record. Six months ago, on 9 November, Senator Chaney attacked the Small Business Association and Hugh Morgan from Western Mining for opening up the leadership issue. He told ABC radio that the current leadership was performing well. When Howard went down in the opinion poll in October 1988, Chaney was the one to attack a Quantum poll used by the Australian Financial Review. He said that it was:

. . . a pathetically obvious attack on John Howard . . . a covert operation to destabilise . . .

Howard commented:

Fred put all of that rather nicely.

I do not think he felt that that was the case on Monday night. I shall not protract proceedings other than to say two other things. What a pathetic operation it must have been. This was the one time I ever felt sorry for John Howard. There he was calling a leader's dinner. Mr Sinclair turned up, as did Mr Lloyd and Tony Eggleton. But who was missing? Chaney, Lewis and Peacock were all missing. Apparently at one stage, rather plaintively, Mr Howard said that he wondered where the rest of the Liberal leadership were. Their real error is this-and where it differed from our side-was that they did not take John Howard front on. It was a covert operation from behind in which he was stabbed in the back. There is no doubt, looking at this front bench and at political reality, that people crossed from one side to the other for the reward of the front bench. I do not think they can deny that. I am not saying that there would not be other motives such as electoral credibility, but I do not think it can be denied that part of the methods and operations was simply to promote people.

Not many people on the Liberal side have come out of this very well. We have been there and we have been through all that, so we cannot crow and we cannot be sanctimonious about it, but we are allowed to reflect on it. Senator Chaney has to live with stabbing John Howard in the back, for whatever motive. I am afraid, Senator Stone, that the old nickname of Red Fred has long gone. We have to think up a new name-perhaps Senator Chicanery. I am a bit of a film buff, and I recall Lon Chaney, man of a thousand faces. Now we have Fred Chaney, man of two faces.