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Tuesday, 23 November 1993
Page: 3422

Senator McKIERNAN (3.25 p.m.) —I welcome the debate on this motion to take note of Senator Schacht's answer. I also welcome—but with some concern—the fact that some senators on the opposition benches addressed the needs of their electorates and took an interest in this particular program. This program has done a lot of good right across Australia in electorates that are held by Liberal members, in electorates that are held by National Party members, and also in electorates that are held by Labor Party members. One thing that has not been mentioned in this debate is the fact that there are far more Labor members of parliament than there are National members of parliament in the House of Representatives. There are also far more Labor members of parliament than there are Liberal members of parliament. So when we look at the figures, we come to some semblance of understanding of what is going on with this particular grant.

  In commending the senators who wrote letters and who were named here this afternoon for doing their job and representing their electorates—and senators represent the whole of their state—I draw attention to the fact that not all members of the House of Representatives, particularly opposition members of the House of Representatives, made representations on these particular grants. They did not support the wishes of their electorates, including clubs, in making applications for their grants. That has to be taken into account when looking at possible discrepancies which may or may not have been pointed out by the Attorney-General (Mr Lavarch).

  If Senator Ian Macdonald, Senator O'Chee and Senator MacGibbon are having any influence on decision makers in these matters, that does cause me some concern, but I have noticed the balance in that former Senator Lady Flo Bjelke-Petersen was also giving support. That is probably why this particular club was successful on this occasion.

  I will address the matter of whether or not marginal seats got the money. The most marginal Labor seat in Western Australia—indeed, in Australia—was the seat of Stirling, held by Mr Ron Edwards. The safest opposition seat in Western Australia—I believe it is very close to being the safest seat in Australia—is the seat of O'Connor. Which got the most money? Senator Panizza is a great rural representative in Western Australia. I ask him: which got the most money? Which electorate in Western Australia, if we are looking at the allocations by electorate, got the least amount of money through this series of grants? Let me surprise the Senate. Let me surprise, particularly, Senator Panizza who is left speechless by the question I inadvertently addressed to him. It was the seat of Stirling which got the least amount of money. The safest opposition seat of O'Connor, with nearly 70 per cent of the vote, got far in excess of what was allocated within the region of Stirling.

  It does not stop there. Another marginal seat very close to my heart because my electorate office is situated within it is Cowan, which was formerly held by that magnificent member of parliament, Mrs Carolyn Jakobsen. Unfortunately, she is not with us now. I hope that in the short time she will be away from the place, she will take elocution lessons and then come back and represent her constituents using a better form of English than she used in the past, but that is a hope for the future.

  The electorate of O'Connor, the safest coalition electorate in Western Australia, got more money through this grants system than the electorate of Cowan. Even if we add the figures for Cowan and Stirling together we will find that O'Connor got more money. That knocks the proffered argument that the money was being allocated wholly and solely to Labor marginal electorates. It shoots it out to baloney.

  I know that Senator Ferguson will claim that there are shades of grey in this argument. I do not accept that. There are statistics, damned lies and statistics. I suggest that in this debate about allocations and grants a lot more damned lies have been used than proper analysis of the statistics.