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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 5015

Senator PANIZZA (5.33 p.m.) —It is a pity that we did not start the committee stage debate this evening on a better note. Senator Gareth Evans came in the other day and inflamed the situation by using the jackboot approach. He did it again today.

Senator Gareth Evans —Oh.

Senator PANIZZA —You did! As Senator Gareth Evans struts the world stage, I hope he conducts himself in a better manner than he does in this chamber. He has inflamed the situation and got everyone going. We could have been through six or seven clauses by now.

Senator Gareth Evans —How did I inflame it?

Senator PANIZZA —The minister inflamed the situation. The minister knows he did. It is the minister's fault. Then he went on to say that we have to finish this by midnight simply because of transport requirements.

Senator Gareth Evans —I said if we approached it in a dignified and sensible fashion we would do it by midnight. If that is going to be impossible, so be it.

Senator PANIZZA —The minister used the same tone of voice that he is now using.

Senator Gareth Evans —So be it.

Senator PANIZZA —Yes, so be it. No minister has ever been around the world as much as this minister has. Yet he uses transport as an excuse for our not getting out of here on time. At the beginning of the week, I booked myself on a plane on Sunday because I could see that we would still be here on Sunday. Anyone else could have done the same. The minister's excuse of transport is a weak one. I will not delay the chamber for very long because we have a long night ahead of us.

  The Democrats said, `Opposition members have decided to vote against it, so why should we listen to them?'. We will explain why we decided to vote against it. What Senator Kernot says is irrelevant because we know where she gets her riding instructions from—she gets them every time from ATSIC and from Lois O'Donoghue, and also from the government. If Senator Kernot wants to challenge me on that, she can get up and do so and I will explain why I made such a statement. We know where Senator Kernot's instructions come from.

  People around here are wringing their hands, displaying public guilt and getting infuriated in the build-up to a crescendo in this debate. I would like to know how much those people have done for Aborigines. How many of them have an Aboriginal on their staff? How many have employed one in the past? How many have had one sitting at their dinner table? How many employed Aboriginals as long as 30 years ago when it was not quite the politically correct thing to do? Those opposite are very silent.

  I turn to the Greens. The Greens gave us the reasons why we should have a Senate select committee, but then they did not want one. The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs gave some of the reasons for not having a select committee. The report states:

The Committee rejects the suggestion that the reference of the Bill to a Senate Select Committee will better settle the competing claims for title or in any way improve the effect of the Bill.

The committee rejects that suggestion. What is it frightened of finding out? Why does the committee say that this would not improve the bill? A Senate select committee would find out all sides of the story—not just one side, as was the case with the inquiry of the standing committee which lasted for three days. The standing committee used a lot of the evidence that was given by former senator Fred Chaney. I remind those opposite that when former senator Fred Chaney was here, no-one on that side ever took notice of what he said.

Senator Collins —Rubbish!

Senator PANIZZA —Senator Collins can say `Rubbish'. But now, all of a sudden, he is being used as an authority. In evidence, Fred Chaney said:

I suppose my chief concern as an ex-member of the Senate is that I do not want the Senate Committee system used as a Trojan Horse for prejudice . . .

The government, the Democrats and the Greens really picked that one up. The report states:

A Senate Select Committee if formed prior to Christmas would not, in reality, begin its inquiry prior to the second half of January.

Senator Gareth Evans's argument the other day was that no-one works in January. They were his words—not mine. But, as I told him, a lot of people work in January—for instance, the people who keep this country going by producing to earn export income. So what if we could not do it by the end of January. We have all the time on earth.

  This is the most important legislation that has come before this parliament in a mighty long time. One of the reasons it is the most important legislation is its financial impact. As far as I can see, the minimal amount is about $6 million. It is the most open cheque legislation I have seen in this place. Yet we want to rush it through by midnight. We do not have time to refer the legislation to a Senate select committee or anything like that. The Greens and the Democrats are supporting this open-ended chequebook situation.

  Let us look at the next reason for our not having a Senate select committee.

  Senator Kernot interjecting—

Senator PANIZZA —I am not listening to Senator Kernot. She should go up to ATSIC and get her next instructions, as she usually does. If she wants me to put my evidence on the table, she should just say so. The report states:

Travel to outlying communities would be enormously difficult and extremely time consuming. The Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia would be particularly difficult.

Western Australia supplies 25 per cent of Australia's export income, yet no-one wants to go into those areas where this wealth of Australia comes from. The report goes on to state:

A referral to the Senate Select Committee would result in a minimum delay of five or more months.

But we want to give someone a cheque that will be open, as far as I am concerned, for the next 100 years. Senator Collins is sitting there huffing and puffing, but these are the stupid reasons that have been given for not having a Senate select committee. The report states:

Mr Riley said that children were now being subjected to negative criticism and derisive comment and that his organisation had knowledge of instances of physical violence occurring.

In other words, we are getting on to the racist bit. I can tell honourable senators that I went down that path long ago. My children are still getting it. So the racist bit for an extra three months would make no difference whatsoever. For all of these reasons, the standing committee decided not to have a select committee. The report states:

The Committee was not persuaded that delay in the passage of the Bill would ultimately assist any group affected by the Mabo decision.

That is completely wrong. Miners, pastoralists and farmers are affected. I found out today, to my dismay, that fishermen are affected too. No-one wants to listen to them. So it is a lie for this report to say that a delay in the passage of the bill would not assist any group that is affected by Mabo. Are not fishermen, farmers, miners and pastoralists affected by Mabo? This report does not think so.

  Having all of those reasons in front of them—and Senator Chamarette has spelt them out—the Greens decided not to support the establishment of a select committee. I suppose they could rethink their situation; it is not too late. We will live to rue the day if we rush this open cheque legislation through, as the minister wants us to because he is worried about transport—he is probably going overseas tomorrow or something like that.