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Thursday, 16 December 1993
Page: 4849

Senator KNOWLES (3.58 p.m.) —We will be supporting this motion of censure of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans).

Senator Gareth Evans —That is not very gentlemanly of you.

Senator KNOWLES —Or ladylike. To be honest, the whole issue at the moment concerns the letter from Mrs Kelly to Mr Lee. It really does seem a particularly harmless letter and for the minister to try to claim commercial confidentiality is quite outrageous. Surely the details of conditions about an export licence should be on the public record. The minister has had an opportunity to put it on the record. Commercial or government confidentiality is so often used as an excuse for not tabling documents in this place. Only this week, you yourself, Mr Deputy President, had no joy in getting Minister Bolkus to table documents pertaining to his wild allegations about the Western Australian Attorney-General, Mrs Edwardes.

  Quite frankly, we have seen enough of this government over the last almost 11 years totally ignoring requests made by the Senate. Senators Cook and Collins have been censured in this place many times in the last few years and absolutely nothing has happened. So I say to Senator Chamarette that even though this motion may be passed, she should not hold her breath that it will actually mean anything. Sadly, the response by this government has not been to uphold the traditions of the Westminster system of government whereby a minister who is censured resigns or is dismissed. This government just completely and utterly ignores a censure in the same way in which it is ignoring this request that has been made by Senator Chamarette today. It is on that basis that we will be supporting the motion.

  Obviously, we understand that this issue is very near and dear to Senator Chamarette's heart. We might differ on that subject but, from the opposition's point of view, the issue in question here is whether or not this government will be accountable in respect of an order of the Senate which was made this morning. Sadly, I do not believe that it will be. For the government to continue to ignore such orders made by the Senate is an absolute and utter contempt of the Senate. It has become commonplace for this government to act in such a manner. Senators from all parties in this place cannot continue to condone this type of action and let the government off the hook. If a request has been made by the Senate, the government should be made to deliver on that request, and on time.