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Wednesday, 26 May 1993
Page: 1341

Senator HILL (Leader of the Opposition) (3.47 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the statement.

Mr President, I understand that you are supposed to be at the airport very shortly to meet the Vietnamese Prime Minister. We would like to pursue the matter because, having listened to what you say—and I hesitate to say this—there does seem to be a touch of double standards. It seems that it is unparliamentary for Senator Macdonald to refer to the Federal Labor Government as lying, yet it is parliamentary for Senator Cook to have referred to the Victorian Liberal Government as lying. We cannot see how you can have it both ways.

  With respect, Mr President, we do not think the way in which you have sought to distinguish Senator Macdonald's matter last night is adequate. You have said that because Senator Macdonald said, `the Government of which the Minister is a member', his statement becomes unparliamentary. Yet Senator Cook was allowed, in November 1992, time and time again to accuse the Victorian Liberal Government of lying, deliberately lying and all sorts of things, and that seems to me to be very much the same thing.

  I think it is important that this matter is not left in an ambiguous state. What the Senate really needs is a clear direction as to where the line should properly be drawn.

Senator Collins —The easiest way to do it would be not to allow the word to be used at all.

Senator HILL —The difficulty in that is that the President would have had to explain why he ruled otherwise in November last year. I think, Mr President, you would like this debate to be delayed until you can return from the airport. I understand the importance of the protocol in this matter. Whereas obviously we would like to get this matter out of the way now, that seems to be impossible. Therefore, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

  Leave granted; debate adjourned.