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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 5040

Senator ALSTON (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (8.53 p.m.) —I am appalled to see the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Gareth Evans) just sit there smugly. He thinks it is all part of the game. I want to make it perfectly clear that we were not in any way consulted other than being told that this was a program that had been agreed to by others. It is no wonder that John Dawkins threw in the towel. He could not stand there any longer watching this government lurch from disaster to disaster.

  The minister has the cheek to say that one of the reasons why the program is so dramatically behind schedule is because of a lousy, rotten filibuster on the industrial relations bill. We all know how the government's incompetence on Mabo enabled the ACTU payback bill to be effectively disguised from the Australian electorate, and all we were doing was making absolutely sure, as best we could in this process, that the electorate well and truly understood that this government is not interested in micro-economic reform, not seriously interested in labour market reform; the government is simply interested in doing deals.

  The high priestess of backroom deals, of course, is party to that same process. To come in here as a whitened sepulchre and claim that somehow consensus ought to take over from parliamentary processes, I think is the height of insult to us all. Let us be perfectly clear; we are wanting to debate this bill. We have not in any way filibustered today. What has happened is there has been—

Senator Gareth Evans —Two hours before dinner; what was that?

Senator ALSTON —If the minister remembers, we have been on notice to debate Mabo for some days. It was so dramatically urgent that what did we get? We got a whole series of Mickey Mouse bits and pieces that were intruded in order to enable the government to have yet a bit more time to cobble together some sorts of amendments which seem to have fallen over anyway. That is why I think we all find it galling in the extreme that Senator Kernot is saying, `What we want to do is get it right'.

  If those opposite were serious in any shape or form about getting it right, they would have, firstly, referred it to a committee; and, secondly, they would have tried to put down a sensible legislative program, instead of trying to ram it through close to Christmas when everyone has other commitments, everyone is well and truly at the end of their tether, when all we expect is the sort of light-headedness that we get from the other side and obviously a cynical lack of interest in the process from the Australian Democrats.

  So let us be perfectly clear; there is only one party that is responsible for the current state of affairs, only one party that will be responsible for us sitting over the weekend. We will be here as long as it takes and I am sure others will be too. But in no shape or form do we accept any responsibility for yet another disaster.