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Thursday, 28 October 1993
Page: 2762

Senator O'CHEE (3.28 p.m.) —I am quite astounded by the waffle and the garbage we have just heard from Senator Schacht, on the other side of the chamber. Senator Schacht does not understand this issue at all. That is perfectly clear. There are three issues of principle involved. Senator Schacht may not have the ability to count three issues of principle—

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Senator O'Chee talks nonsense wherever he stands, but is he not talking nonsense in the wrong place at the moment? In his capacity as the whip he can sit there, but normally he has to sit over on the back benches where he belongs, does he not?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! My understanding is that he is the whip and that it is the normal practice to speak from where he is.

Senator O'CHEE —On matters of principle—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I am advised that it is not the normal practice for the acting whips to speak from that position. I wonder whether the Senate might indulge Senator O'Chee because he is on his feet on this occasion. But the rule in the future shall be that he shall speak from his own position.

Senator O'CHEE —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. Senator Schacht cannot count three points of principle, but I am going to give them to him anyway. There are three points of principle involved in this and, if Senator Schacht just keeps quiet a little, I will give him the first point. The first point of principle relates to this man, Mr Hill, who heads up the ABC. The ABC does not allow its journalists to express extreme party political points.

Senator Schacht —He is not a journalist.

Senator O'CHEE —I know he is not a journalist, but listen to this point: he heads up the organisation. What Senator Schacht is saying is, `Look, it's fine for David Hill to do this because he's right at the top, but if you happen to be a journalist somewhere underneath and you have to take Mr Hill's orders, well tough luck. You have got to follow the rules but, if you're the head of the organisation, you don't have to follow the rules'.

Senator Tambling —Imagine what will happen now to some of those blokes down below.

Senator O'CHEE —Yes, imagine what will happen now to some of those fellows. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Senator Schacht does not agree with that. He thinks he can have one rule for the fellow at the top and another rule for everybody underneath. I suppose that is the first lesson in republican rule—throw out the rules and do it all by whim. That is what Senator Schacht is advocating in his defence of Mr Hill's despicable attack on the Governor-General. Senator Schacht is advocating that we throw out the rules. So that is it—that is very clear. Now we know where the Labor Party stands.

  But let us remember one other thing: this is a despicable personal attack on the Governor-General; a personal attack on the Governor-General's bona fides; a personal attack which is quite clearly defamatory; a personal attack which is designed to engender hatred and intolerance. That is all that the other side stands for.

  This was not a sane, reasonable and rational argument. He called the Governor-General a hypocrite and all sorts of things. Why? Because it suited him. That is how we find the argument conducted on the other side—not on the basis of logic but on the basis of personal attack and personal vilification of the Governor-General, who is the effective Australian head of state.

  Senator Schacht might want to consider this third point of principle: if this is what will happen under republican rule, how bad will it be if we have an elected president? If we cannot even have a little bit of respect for a Governor-General who is non-partisan, who does not represent a political viewpoint, how riven with division will this society be if the people on the other side have their way? Nothing will be sacrosanct; we will be able to say whatever we want about the head of state. Will this make us a more united country? The answer is no. If even a little bit of respect cannot be given to a non-partisan Governor-General, who could say nothing else, quite clearly the divisions which will arise in this country if the republican rabble on the other side have their way will be quite frightening.

  All we are asking for is a little bit of decency, a little bit of consistency. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If the journalists in the ABC have to follow some ethical standards, we would expect that the head of the ABC would do so as well. But under this government, of course, it seems that rules go out the door, depending on one's political preference or, rather, on one's political prejudice. Senator Schacht has always left the facts, reasonableness and commonsense outside the door when his prejudice has stepped in the way. That is what we are seeing in this chamber today: Senator Schacht getting up, as rabid as usual, to defend the indefensible.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.