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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2670

Senator MESSNER(12.04) —I want to draw attention to the fact that, even though the last remarks of Senator Puplick might have been considered unparliamentary, the Government obviously cannot organise a chook raffle. We had in here a junior Minister, the Minister for Consumer Affairs (Senator Bolkus), controlling the final stages of the debate on the Appropriation Bills. He was handling the final stages of the Appropriation Bills, the most important part of the Government's Budget, yet he had no idea that an amendment was being moved against his Government by Senator Stone and he did not know whether he ought to oppose it. He had to be shaken into action by his Whip, who had absolutely no idea what was going on either. Each had to be prompted by the President in order to bring out some kind of exclamation, which produced a division.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! I have allowed you to speak for a couple of minutes but this is not relevant to the matter before the Committee. You should wind up your remarks or direct them to the matter which is before the Committee, which is the votes in group A.

Senator MESSNER —I must say that it has relevance to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) is responsible for the operations of his Government. He did not see fit to send into the chamber a senior Minister to handle the final stages of the most important debate concerning the Budget and to explain to the Parliament exactly what the Government's intentions were. We had a Minister who had no idea whatsoever about what he was doing.

Senator Gareth Evans —I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. You have made a ruling about the monumental irrelevance of all of this. I ask that you draw Senator Messner to order and get him back to the Bill.

The CHAIRMAN —The matter before the Committee concerns the votes in group A. Senator Messner, you will be in order if you can relate your remarks to the votes in group A, but not otherwise.

Senator MESSNER —I just want to ask whether there has been sufficient explanation to the Parliament when a junior Minister who is paid for by the moneys voted upon by the Parliament and controlled by the Prime Minister does not know what he is doing. Consequently he ought to find every reason to resign his position in the Government of Australia.