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Wednesday, 19 May 1993
Page: 846

Senator IAN MACDONALD (3.20 p.m.) —I intend to spend a few minutes in the hope that it will give Senator Crowley time to come down and answer the questions that Senator Patterson raised. As Senator Crowley left the chamber after Question Time I called after her and indicated that Senator Patterson intended to move this motion and that she should stay to answer it, but she chose to ignore me. Possibly if I speak for a couple of minutes that will give Senator Crowley the opportunity to come down.

Senator Gareth Evans —She just thought it was another loutish interjection from you.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It was a very important point, as Senator Evans would well know. I can well understand why Senator Evans and his government are embarrassed—as Senator Patterson has said—by the way the Government has duped the people of Australia. Senator Evans, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, should be able to give me the assurance that was given by Senator Richardson, representing, I assume, Senator Crowley—although it seemed a little odd—in the estimates committee. I would have thought it fairly obvious that, again, the Government will be in a position where it has enormous problems with people in crisis this Christmas.

  I asked Senator Richardson during estimates committee hearings whether he could guarantee that provision would be made within the Budget for these grants this year. Senator Richardson equivocated. I give Senator Crowley the opportunity to come down and give us an assurance that the Government will budget for further relief work. There is absolutely no doubt that because of the Government's mishandling of the economy and the tragedy that has befallen Australians more and more people will be in need of aid. It is going to be more incumbent upon the sorts of groups that Senator Patterson mentioned—the private charitable agencies that do a marvellous job—to help those people in their time of crisis.

  Regrettably, Senator Richardson could not give that assurance. I hope Senator Crowley will arrive shortly to give that assurance; otherwise the people of Australia could well be excused for thinking that the Government's proposal for those in trouble last December was purely another election gimmick by a government desperate to get re-elected. It seems to me, and it seems to most Australians, that that is what it was. I had hoped that Senator Crowley would prove me wrong by showing us that using the disadvantaged, those people in real crisis, was not just an election trick, that it was a genuinely compassionate move, and assuring us that similar moneys will be committed by the Government this time around. Otherwise, the Government will stand condemned yet again for its despicable action—

Senator Patterson —Deceitful.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —As Senator Patterson says, its deceitful action in using people in crisis as a means of gaining cheap votes at elections. I do not want to hold up the Senate any further. Senator Crowley is obviously not going to come down and answer Senator Patterson.

Senator Gareth Evans —She has a lot better things to do.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Senator Evans may think she has better things to do.

Senator Newman —That is an indication, isn't it?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It is an indication of what the Government really thinks about people in crisis. It is not at all concerned about them. If there is an election coming up, the Government gets this new found concern. When there is not an election, this issue seems to pass under the counter. Senator Crowley has still not turned up so I will resume my seat.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.