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Thursday, 25 November 1993
Page: 3825

Senator CROWLEY (Minister for Family Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) (12.26 a.m.) —I was going to wind up today by thanking honourable senators for their contribution to this adjournment debate, but Senator McGauran came in and I do not thank him at all. I categorically refute Senator McGauran's revolting charge against my staff. If he had any idea of what my staff have been doing in the last few days, he would know that what he said about them is disgraceful.

  Under parliamentary privilege, Senator McGauran has abused those people who are not here to speak for themselves but who have been refuting his outrageous claims. Under parliamentary procedure, I am not allowed to describe those claims as lies. Senator McGauran is an absolute disgrace.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Childs)—I ask Senator Crowley to withdraw that.

Senator Reid —`Disgrace' is unparliamentary.

Senator CROWLEY —Very latterly it is unparliamentary.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Withdraw the unparliamentary remark.

Senator CROWLEY —I am meditating on that, Mr Acting Deputy President.

Senator Boswell —She can't meditate.

Senator CROWLEY —I can meditate. I can take my time to do this and I do. I withdraw that. What one would say about Senator McGauran would probably be unparliamentary in any parliament.

Senator Boswell —Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order: Senator Crowley well knows that she cannot impugn the integrity of any honourable senator or member of parliament. Senator Crowley is obviously upset. I ask her to calm down before she says something that she will regret.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —That was not a point of order.

Senator CROWLEY —I am not sure what is worse—Senator Boswell's pathetic patronising or Senator McGauran's deliberate misleading misrepresentation of the truth. If Senator McGauran wants to come in here and say the things he said about my staff and take the high moral ground, he should go for it. But he should not dare expect me to accept one word of that. Let me say to anybody who is daft enough to be listening at this time of night that I find it appalling that Senator McGauran should smear the good name of my staff in that way. It is despicable but not unexpected behaviour.

  I sincerely hope that, when Senator McGauran goes to bed at night, he finds it possible to lie straight because he has created the most awful misrepresentation of the truth out there. Tonight he actually wanted to say that I appointed the accreditation council.

Senator McGauran —You controlled it.

Senator CROWLEY —I controlled it!

Senator McGauran —They are all your friends.

Senator CROWLEY —My friends! I controlled it and I appointed its members! Senator McGauran ought to chase a few facts. The discussions on the accreditation process started in the early 1990s. Those discussions were running in 1991 and the interim National Accreditation Council was formed in 1992. The appointment of its members had nothing to do with me.

Senator McGauran —You are the government.

Senator CROWLEY —Senator McGauran wants to say that the government appointed the representatives. That is a pathetic long bow. He is now drawing that bow over his pathetic mistake—his misrepresentation of the truth—not knowing what he is talking about. Senator McGauran really ought to do some work instead of taking the stuff that somebody is feeding him because they have got it wrong or they have got it right but he has not got it right. He is getting the message very wrong. He does not know what he is talking about. That is pretty obvious, which is a shame because a whole lot of people in this community are now very distressed by the appalling, despicable campaign that Senator McGauran has run.

Senator Boswell —Of course they are distressed.

Senator CROWLEY —I am not distressed; but I said today that I do not support a campaign where anybody anonymously rings up women in this country saying, `I know where your child goes to child care'. I find that absolutely abhorrent and totally despicable. Anonymous phone calls are disgusting at the best of times—and these are people who claim to have the care of our children at heart! If I knew who those people were, I would certainly be prepared to make that information public. I cannot think of anything lower or more despicable than to threaten people like that.

Senator Boswell —What has that got to do with us?

Senator CROWLEY —Senator Boswell is whipping up the campaign.

Senator Boswell —We are telling the truth.

Senator CROWLEY —No, those opposite are not telling the truth. They insist on not hearing a word I say and having their own views. The night is but young, I feel. I know about child care. I am here to talk to those opposite. Good evening, gentlemen. I am happy for those opposite to stay and listen to all I have to say about child care. I think it is time that Senator McGauran actually heard the whole story and got it absolutely right.

Senator McGauran —This will be real punishment!

Senator CROWLEY —Yes. I might do that or I might change my mind; it just depends. Of course, I realise that I cannot possibly ask Senator McGauran to believe the truth about anything—which is a great shame.

  I can tell Senator McGauran one thing: he has made so many mistakes tonight that it is quite clear that he does not know a single thing about this subject. No, I did not appoint the people to that council; no, I did not nominate those people; no, they are not my `mates'; and no, they were neither under my instruction nor anybody else's. In fact, Senator McGauran should know that some of them were actually chosen as representatives from the private child-care industry itself. A position was declared for the confederation and the federation, and those organisations themselves nominated people.

  Senator McGauran shakes his head and indicates that that is not true. I think that is very interesting. It is quite clear that he does not want to hear the facts; he does not want to know what the facts are. The facts are that Senator McGauran has misrepresented the truth again—and `misrepresented' is hardly the word to use. I would much rather leave the chamber and call him what he is. He has given a disgraceful, dishonourable and deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. He does not know that categories of people from the private industry were indicated and they nominated people. That is not the government or me and my mates manipulating people.

  The next thing Senator McGauran should know is that all that happened before I became minister. I had no say in any of that at all. He is drawing a very long bow. Senator McGauran needs to know the difference between the Interim National Accreditation Council and the National Accreditation Council. I suspect that, until now, he has not even thought about that.

Senator McGauran —Tell that to the people.

Senator CROWLEY —I think the people of Australia need to know the assurance I have given over and over: if ever a Christmas carol is banned, I want to be the first to know of it; if any children are denied trains or dolls, whether they be girls or boys, I want to hear about it.

  Senator McGauran has run amok; he will continue to run amok—and that is not an inappropriate description of his actions. There is nothing I can really do to contribute further to the discussion. It is becoming obvious to me that Senator McGauran is hell-bent on deliberately misunderstanding and misrepresenting. Just tonight on this adjournment debate, he has made that patently clear. Either he did not know what he was talking about or he was very happy to misrepresent the facts.

  It is a pretty stupid way of going about things. Indeed, Senator McGauran may have his moment in the sun in the short term, but in the long term there is no place for that kind of misrepresentation; no place for that kind of campaign; and no place for deliberately obfuscating, confusing and misrepresenting the truth to people—none at all. One of these days, it will all come back to haunt him.

  People out there are beginning to understand what it all means. The campaign has been whipped up by a small section of the private child-care industry which contributed to designing the guidelines and which is now backing away from them for reasons I do not know—I suspect that Senator McGauran does because he is obviously talking to that small section and running with that campaign by that small percentage of the private industry.

  The section which is running with this campaign is trying to feed Senator McGauran his lines—but he is getting them wrong. He will have to listen a whole lot more, because it does not do his reputation any good to be so obviously wrong. I think people will be shocked when they discover how often Senator McGauran has been so wrong. We will have to say, `Well, there goes Senator McGauran again'. We can call him `Wrong McGauran'.

Senator Boswell —You are Calamity Jane.

Senator CROWLEY —I think that what is sadly lacking in that corner of the chamber is the civilising presence of Senator Bjelke-Petersen.

Senator Boswell —She would be horrified.

Senator CROWLEY —I am sure she would be, Senator Boswell. She would be absolutely horrified by what those opposite have been doing. I could speak to Senator Bjelke-Petersen and I know what she would say about the terrible business that those opposite are going on with—`I think it is a terrible pity'.

Senator Brownhill —On a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President: I think that the minister has made aspersions on a part of this chamber which I think she should withdraw. She has made the aspersion on me and my colleagues that this part of the chamber is not as good as it should be. I think that is an aspersion on everyone, and I think it is quite incorrect.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Childs)—I do not believe that is a point of order, but I ask Senator Crowley to address her remarks through the chair and not react to interjections.

Senator CROWLEY —Of course, you are quite right on that point, Mr Acting Deputy President, but Senator Brownhill is quite right too when he acknowledges that there is something very disappointing about that quarter of the chamber.

Senator Brownhill —Mr Acting Deputy President, I have another point of order. I think the minister is now having trouble hearing because I did not say that, and I think the Hansard will prove it.

Senator Tambling —Speaking to the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President: I like Senator Crowley's attitude of deference to you in the chair. She now squats on the side arm of the chair and she stood through all of Senator Brownhill's points of order deliberately juggling as if she were a juggler in a circus rather than taking a proper respect for this chamber and, in particular, yourself.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I was watching Senator Brownhill, but I think it is very late and there is perhaps a tendency for us to be getting strained at this time of night. I think Senator Crowley might be rounding off her remarks.

Senator CROWLEY —I think it would be a good idea, too, but I suspect that it is hard to round off my remarks. As Senator McGauran said, he was terribly chuffed to find me in here because he had come in to put on the record again his clear statement of not knowing what he is talking about on child care. It seemed to me perfectly proper to remind him that he does not know what he is talking about. But when he is talking, he is responsible for creating a lot of very unhappy and anxious people. Unfortunately, that seems to be the price of democracy.

  It is a bit like parliamentary privilege, which was designed in the first place to protect people who wanted to make truthful statements and had to have the protection of the parliament to ensure that they were not in any way in jeopardy for telling the truth. But what we find now is that, in the name of democracy and parliamentary privilege, senators tell untruths and get the same protection. I think it is worthy of the greatest consideration by this chamber that parliamentary privilege is now being abused in the name of protecting people, and that allowing the protection it offers them is support for people misrepresenting the truth. I would like to close my comments there.