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Monday, 10 May 1993
Page: 334

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Science and Small Business. Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Legislative Council has rejected the legislation that would have enabled South Australia to be a participating jurisdiction in the mutual recognition agreement for the promotion of the free flow of goods and service providers in a national market throughout Australia? What are the ramifications of this rejection and how will it affect South Australia?

Senator SCHACHT —Senator Foreman quite rightly points out to the Senate that, in an extraordinary performance, the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Democrats two weeks ago in the Legislative Council of South Australia rejected a Bill to establish mutual recognition. That is the only House of any parliament of Australia that I am aware of that has rejected this. All Labor and Liberal governments have agreed to this proposal.

  It should be pointed out to the Liberal Party members opposite that this proposal was initiated by Nick Greiner when he was the Liberal Premier of New South Wales. It is extraordinary that a bunch of antediluvian 18th century constitutional bigots, in the Legislative Council of South Australia would reject a proposal that would have established something in Australia that Europe, with all its differences, established with one single market from 1 January of this year.

  Unfortunately, I think it is typical of the Opposition in South Australia that it was unable to see the bigger picture. The reason it is disappointing is that, because it has refused to allow the Bill through, South Australia will not be able to participate in this national scheme. South Australian manufacturers will suffer because they will not have access to the larger Australian market with the same standards; South Australian consumers will suffer because they will have inconsistent standards in South Australia. It means that South Australia will be out of step with the rest of Australia over this very important micro-economic reform.

  I was very pleased to see the Premier of South Australia, Lynn Arnold, vehemently criticise the Legislative Council, the Liberal Party and the Democrats for opposing this legislation. The criticisms raised by the Liberal Party and the Democrats in the South Australian Legislative Council about lowering South Australian standards could have all been dealt with through the appropriate ministerial council. No other government, Labor or Liberal, in Australia has rejected—

Senator Kemp —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I refer to standing order 193(3), which states that a senator shall not reflect on members of Houses in the States. Senator Schacht used a variety of words, all of which I am sure were offensive to our colleagues in the State Parliament, including the word `bigots'. I would ask you, Mr President, to instruct Senator Schacht to withdraw those offensive words.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Schacht at the start of his answer I think did use terms that perhaps should have been withdrawn. I think the latter part of his contribution was only criticism, but I think the first words that he used were probably wrong.

Senator SCHACHT —Mr President, I will withdraw the words I used at the start of my remarks that you ask me to. In continuing to answer the question from Senator Foreman, I would point out that I have had as a South Australian citizen the experience of seeing the Legislative Council, as the repository of conservatism in South Australia, doing everything it can to affect progressive legislation from Labor governments over the last 2 1/2 decades; so I am sure honourable senators will understand my feelings.

  As I was saying before the point of order was raised by Senator Kemp, the concerns that the Democrats and the Liberal Party may have had about this legislation could have easily been dealt with in the appropriate forum, the ministerial council. None of them was referred to the ministerial council; they just knocked the legislation off in a mad fit of pique about States rights.

  In conclusion, we have heard the Leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Senator Kernot, talk about abolishing the States. I wish she would speak to the Leader of the Democrats in the Legislative Council in South Australia and convince that part of the party to take a national outlook on this issue. I would also ask Senator Hill, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and also a South Australian Liberal senator, to use his influence with those conservative Liberal members of the South Australian Legislative Council to convince them to let this legislation through so that Australia, in common with Europe, can have one national market as far as national standards are concerned. The micro-economic reform of this country makes it absolutely essential that that should occur.