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Monday, 22 November 1993
Page: 3339

Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Science and Small Business and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Science) (4.32 p.m.) —The government opposes this motion to suspend standing orders so that Senator Hill's notice of motion No. 438 to reconvene Estimates Committee E can be debated. There has been a very lengthy debate and discussion in the last few days in both houses of this parliament about this issue. Mrs Kelly, as the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, has responded openly to all the accusations. She has made it quite clear that she is happy to cooperate with the National Audit Office on all aspects of its review. She has also announced that there will be a review of the program, because it runs out at the end of this financial year.

  I would have thought there is a very good case for the government to consider continuing the program for another period because of the success of the program and the way it has been welcomed in the local communities to get their community facilities enhanced, whether they be cultural, community or sporting. None of the bodies which have had a grant made to them, whether they be in a Labor or Liberal held electorate, have been ringing up or publicly saying, `We want you to take the money back. We want you to dismantle the facility provided under this program'.

  First of all, we do not have community outrage about this program. We have opposition outrage because, in its conspiracy mode, it is trying to find another reason to justify to its own supporters how it lost the election—the unlosable election. Suddenly it is this program that is the justification.

  I have looked through some of the details of where these programs have been issued. Interestingly enough, many of them were provided to electorates that changed hands at the last election. In my own state of South Australia there were programs in Hindmarsh, Grey and Adelaide.

Senator Knowles —You still tried to get them.

Senator SCHACHT —If those grants were as effective as Senator Knowles thought, under the conspiracy theory those opposite are putting forward and with their paranoid minds that would have meant that we would have held those seats. But they still changed. Seats were lost in South Australia despite having some grants made to those programs.

  This suspension of standing orders is absolutely unnecessary not only because a review is now being conducted by Minister Kelly's own department about this program, but also because agreement has been reached that the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts has had the audit report referred to it for examination.

Senator Knowles —And who chairs that!

Senator SCHACHT —It is chaired by John Langmore but Liberal Party members of the House of Representatives also serve on that committee. Is Senator Knowles saying that the Liberal House of Representatives members are not as good as Liberal senators in asking questions? Is she trying to say to her colleagues in the House of Representatives who sit on that committee that they are not as good as Liberal senators? I would like her to go down and try to say that they are all tame cats, they are all pussy cats and they are all wimps in asking questions. It is an hilarious accusation for Liberal senators to be making against the Liberals in the House of Representatives that they are not good enough at asking questions. I am sure that some of them would like to prove that they do not have to be as rude as Bronwyn Bishop in asking a question to prove how effective they are.

  This political stunt is absolutely unnecessary. A House of Representatives standing committee on which opposition members are represented is dealing with it. A review committee is also dealing with it departmentally. It does not mean that there cannot be further questions asked and debated in this place or further resolutions. To refer it to Estimates Committee E is just a political stunt and ought to be dismissed accordingly.