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Wednesday, 16 August 1989
Page: 191

Senator BISHOP(6.45) —I want to reinforce Senator Michael Baume's remarks and support what he said because this is a serious matter. We are talking about how we as senators are able to conduct our business. To hear it said that members of the House of Representatives are to have their postal allowance tripled to $30,000 so they can write to all their constituents-my office is in Parramatta and I would point out that in the crescent between Concord Road and the foothills of the Blue Mountains there are more people than there are in the whole of South Australia and Western Australia put together-is indicative of a slight on the Senate.

Senator Tambling —What about an electorate like the Northern Territory?

Senator BISHOP —Indeed. I have 3.5 million voters in New South Wales, yet I am being restricted to having a postal allowance of $9,000 on the say-so of executive government which is taking the function away from a proper determining tribunal and, at the same time, giving somebody with an electorate of 70,000 people $30,000 to spend. We have just had a debate in this chamber on a report on proposed electoral reforms. I had to sit and wear the so-called moral high ground of the Government saying that it intends to prevent political parties having paid advertising so they can refute what a government does with government money-what an entrenched Labor Party does with government money-so it can, very simply, free up the amount of money that it would otherwise spend on television advertising and spend it on direct mail. Now the taxpayer is to subsidise it further by Labor Party members having $30,000; whereas senators who are placed strategically in areas where they serve people and give them a choice are to be restricted to $9,000, even when they have an electorate the size of mine with 3.5 million voters. I get very incensed when I hear so-called moral high ground speeches from the government benches and see people trying to have this debate curtailed too, by saying that what is said is not relevant, when the truth of the matter is that this is all part of what one could be pardoned for saying is a conspiratorial plot.

Prior to the 1987 New South Wales election Barrie Unsworth spent $8m of New South Wales taxpayers' money on government paid advertising and we are seeing it now on television with the Department of Social Security. Yet I am to be restricted to $9,000 worth of stamps to communicate with 3.5 million voters.

Senator Crichton-Browne —Political censorship.

Senator BISHOP —It is indeed political censorship. When one multiplies the number of Labor Party members in the lower House by $30,000--

The PRESIDENT —Order! I am trying to be as fair as possible, but the matter is not even in the Senate's annual report. I ask the honourable senator to speak to the report.

Senator Michael Baume —May I speak to a point of order, Mr President? The fact that the matter is not in the annual report is a reason for raising it in this chamber. The fact that there is discrimination against honourable senators by this Government is a matter very relevant to an annual report of the Senate and I would ask you to accept that proposition.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Baume, I allowed your speech because I think that you at least tried to refer to the relevance of the report. I do not think that discussing other reports when speaking to the Senate's annual report is in order, and I remind Senator Bishop of that.

Senator BISHOP —Thank you, Mr President. I will refer to the report and ask whether it was by accident or design that this piece of information was left out of the report. Perhaps we will have an explanation subsequently from you, Mr President, or the Clerk, as to why that occurred. As I am not permitted to refer to any other report or to deal with the discrimination in which this Government indulges, I will simply say that he who pays the piper calls the tune, only this time it is the Government, using government money, which is calling the tune. It is censorship and it is totally undemocratic.