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Thursday, 6 May 1993
Page: 260

Senator O'CHEE (3.12 p.m.) —In this whole sorry saga the claim that has constantly come from Senator Collins, on the other side of the chamber—

Senator Collins —Poor old Bill O'Cheesecake.

Senator O'CHEE —Senator Collins has had heaps of time to give us his erudition. We have not had any to date, so perhaps he will have the courtesy to listen in the chamber to the verdict of this place, instead of showing his total and utter contempt for his ministerial responsibility by marching out. He is marching out because he does not want to know, in the same way that he did not to know what was happening in his portfolio.

  Senator Collins has told the Senate on numerous occasions that he was not at fault because his department did not tell him. But he has also told us that he did not want to intervene. So it follows that, even if his department had told him, he still would not have done anything. As Senator Baume has said, he did not want to know, so it was irrelevant whether or not he was told. He had already made it clear to the department that he did not want to know about these things. He wanted the department to handle it so he did not have his hands dirtied. So whether he was told or not is no defence, given that he has already stated very clearly that he did not want to intervene.

  In other words, even if he had been told, he would not have done anything about it. That is the problem. Even if he had been told, he already told them that he was not going to do anything. So, at that point in time he had created the very opportunity for this situation to occur. By sticking his head in the sand, by saying, `I don't want to know what is going on in my department in case I get blamed for it', he has created a situation where this nation has been laid open to spivs and con men to perpetrate frauds on the public and where we are an international laughing stock—all because he did not want to assume the ministerial responsibility that comes with the red leather. That is the problem.

  If he had been willing to say, `If there is a problem, come and see me', then it might be an excuse that he was not told. But it was very clear he did not want to know. So whether or not he was told, the responsibility lies with Senator Collins. His contemptuous treatment of this Senate today matches the contemptuous nature in which he has dealt with his ministerial responsibility. He has stuck his head in the sand and it follows, as night follows day, that if his head is in the sand, his backside deserves a kick.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.