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Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 5328

Senator VANSTONE (1.25 p.m.) —I will not delay everybody for very long. I did not plan to speak today but as a consequence of some remarks made by Senator Schacht I think it is appropriate to respond. I see Senator Ray is chuckling—either he has thought of an amusing joke or he is in fact amused at the prospect of some sort of difficulty being raised in this chamber by Senator Schacht.

Senator Kernot —We think you're going to be very witty.

Senator VANSTONE —No, I am not going to be very witty because it is really quite a sad day. I have actually regarded myself as a friend of Michael Pratt. I worked very closely with him when he inadvertently won the Federal seat of Adelaide in a landslide. Michael never intended to win the Federal seat of Adelaide; he was using it as a dummy run to find out what it was like to be a candidate so that he could stand in the State seat of Norwood. He was very surprised on the night of the election when he came in with his wife and children and we said, `You've won; you've won'. His wife did not look that happy and I do not know that she has been happy about his interest in politics ever since. It was certainly never his intention to go into politics and travel in the way that honourable senators know one has to if you come into Federal Parliament, because his children are quite young.

  Nonetheless, Pratty was tipped out at the next proper election; he had got in on a by-election and was not re-endorsed. Apparently some bets were placed on this one way or another. I just ask people who might be listening and people in the gallery to understand the situation that a man finds himself in there—where he stands for Federal Parliament as a dummy run and gets in. One might think, `What luck; fancy having that fortune in life'. Of course, to walk through this place and contribute to it in any respect is a lucky accident for all of us; but to lose it so quickly, having got in on a landslide that might otherwise not have happened but for political events at the time, to be tossed around on the to-and-fro of politics over such a short space of time—I cannot think exactly how many months Pratt was in; I think it was 18 months or something—was a very difficult situation to find himself in. As positive as the experience of being here may be, that would nevertheless be very difficult.

  Pratty, as he was called by the Liberals, decided that he would like to make a contribution to the Party in another way—to keep his hand in—and he sought endorsement as a vice-president, which he did not get. That was unfortunate. I do not say that he necessarily should have got it, but it was unfortunate to seek to make a contribution to a party in another way a short time after having had such a devastating personal loss and then be rejected. I will not say he left the Party because technically he stayed in, but he then distanced himself a bit and went about his life trying to rebuild his life and regain a career away from politics. But, of course, as we know, the bug once having bitten does not go away. He sought endorsement—and I am not sure whether this is in the right order—for the Federal seat of Adelaide at which he was unsuccessful and he sought endorsement for the State seat of Norwood at which he was unsuccessful.

  It would be a tough trot to try a dummy run at Federal Parliament, get in, be tipped out; try for an executive position, be unsuccessful; try for a Federal seat, be unsuccessful; try for a State seat, be unsuccessful. That would not be an easy situation for someone to handle. I am sorry that the pressure these losses have caused and the pressure the interest in politics generated by a brief stay here have all led Michael to decide to stand in Sturt—or anywhere else for that matter—as an independent, because we all know what the chances are of an independent getting up. The chances are Buckley's and none.

Senator Robert Ray —That is correct.

Senator VANSTONE —I note that Senator Ray says that that is correct. He would be a fool if he did not. One just has to look at the record to see what chance someone has. This place—not this chamber but the other one—as a parliament has so attained someone's interest that he is now prepared to have another go, having had three goes at keeping involved in some way, when it is almost certain, although there can be surprises, that he is going to lose again. His chances of winning are Buckley's and none. I am sorry that this has happened to him and, in a sense, to his family.

  As to some of the things he has chosen to say this morning, my transcript was typed out for me by my office. Therefore, I expect that it is in different type from the one that Senator Schacht chose to use. No doubt it was provided to him by aNiMaLS, the Government funded media team—a luxury not afforded to the Opposition. There are a couple of points that I would like to make. I would like to put one thing on record. Pratty has used some pretty colourful language. That is his style. I do not think it would be a misuse of parliamentary privilege for me to trot through some of his views, expressed as he would express them, and let the electorate make the choice. But I will exercise some judgment and bypass the opportunity to do that under parliamentary privilege. I expect that he will let them become aware of his views in relation to a number of matters all by himself.

  He mentions me, and I think that requires a response because Senator Schacht mentioned it. I would not have bothered if it had just been Pratty mentioning it on the radio because, as I say, I think his chances of winning are Buckley's and none. But Senator Schacht chose to read out his view that I, along with Joan Hall and Vicky Chapman, was a good supporter of his. That is true for me and I believe it to be true of the others, but I have not asked whether I can speak on their behalf.

  He goes on to say that we have marshalled together to roll a lot of people. That is the point I want to make today. I have not marshalled together with anybody to roll anybody. I have very much an independent mind in terms of whom I have worked with.

Senator Robert Ray —I would like to be able to make the same point, but I can't.

Senator VANSTONE —I can make the claim. I do not want to take up the Senate's time by going through the details of whom I do and do not support and like. I think what Pratty may be referring to there is the effort I put into ensuring that Ms Chapman was elected as President of the Liberal Party. I make no bones about that. As I have discussed with other senators here today, when there is a presidential competition, everybody supports one or other candidate, however many there are. I happen to support having a 35-year-old successful, smart—meaning intelligent, but I suppose meaning good-looking as well—female running the Liberal Party, with an absolute determination to do what she can for it and seeking nothing out of it since her legal practice is so successful. I doubt that we could convince her to stand for Parliament. I will do everything I can to encourage her to do so, but it is a lot to ask.

Senator Robert Ray —You wouldn't give up your own seat for her, would you?

Senator VANSTONE —I do not know. It is a question of timing, is it not?

Senator Robert Ray —There are plenty of opportunities.

Senator VANSTONE —It is a question of timing, and there are plenty of opportunities around. But in any event—

  Senator Bell interjecting

Senator VANSTONE —No, it would not. That is the point I am making. I doubt that we will ever convince Vicky Chapman to come into Federal or State Parliament. All I am saying is that I, unashamedly, will tell anyone—everyone in the Party knows this—that I think we should be doing everything we can to do that. She would give honourable senators opposite a run for their money when we get her here or into State Parliament. But I do not think we will.

  I do not call doing what you can to support a candidate in any contest—be it for a presidency, a preselection or whatever—`getting together to roll people'.

  It is also worth putting one other thing on record. I would go to an effort to help someone in a preselection, but not ring around on that person's behalf. I have never done that for anyone and I hope I never will. Expressing a view is one thing, actively ringing around and pressuring people is another. I regard preselections for this place as matters that people have to by and large conduct themselves. That is the way my Party's preselection system works: one goes out and speaks to people. One should do that for oneself and not expect other people to do that on one's behalf. One should treat the people on the college for what they are—people who want to exercise their own minds as to who should be the candidate on the day. That is the point that I wanted to address, that Mr Pratt somehow got the idea that I am forming and/or am in some sort of cabal to roll people. That is not the case, but I will continue to support and get on the executive of my Party those people who I think will do the best job for it.

  Senator Schacht made some remarks about the Liberal Party State Council meeting last Friday and abused the Liberal Party for not allowing the media into these meetings. I just want to put on record that there is one very good reason for not doing that and one reason why we allow them in at the AGM but not at other times. What we try to do—and we have obviously been slightly unsuccessful in this respect—is air our differences internally. If you have a meeting where, for whatever reason—and it is going to happen all the time in politics—some people want to go one way and other people want to go another way, one side will win and the losers will be unhappy. In any matter—whether it be a simple administrative decision or a deputy leader's position—there are going to be some unhappy people. In my view, the appropriate way for the Liberal Party to conduct itself is to ensure that the steam with respect to those matters is let off internally.

  I do not see why the media should be invited in to comment on that steam being let off. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that we would have such a meeting. In fact, I congratulate the President for ensuring that anyone who wanted to have their say could have their say. I am only sorry that a couple of people have obviously gone out and had a chat to Michael who, of course, was not there, which is why he is speaking in ignorance rather than with knowledge as to what happened.

  Last but not least, Pratt is a little bit out of date. He says that our candidate in Sturt is a 24-year-old live-at-home-with-Mum Young Liberal lawyer. That simply is not the case. He might like to acquaint himself with the facts before he opens his mouth next time.

Sitting suspended from 1.38 to 2 p.m.