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Monday, 20 December 1993
Page: 5289

Senator CRANE (5.05 p.m.) —I rise to make a few comments on the motion before us and about what the Prime Minister said. What we saw today was a fumbling, bumbling, mortally wounded Prime Minister. He was mortally wounded because he believed that he had stitched up a deal and suddenly found that all the troops were walking away and that he was left on his own. During the whole of that press conference, he could not answer one question of substance.

Senator Ian Macdonald —But it's simple legislation!

Senator CRANE —That is dead right. I do want to pick up a few points because the Prime Minister talked about filibustering. I would suggest that he have a chat to Senator Gareth Evans or read the Hansard. Senator Evans made it absolutely clear this morning that there was no filibustering but that, in fact, good technical questions were being asked. The problem is that Senator Evans has not been able to answer many of those questions. He has tried, there is no question about that, but he has not been able to answer them. That is why we have had consideration of a number of amendments deferred.

  Senator Collins gets up and does his lolly, as usual, tries to bounce around in a fancy sort of way and says that one clause has been passed. In actual fact, from very early in the morning we have been debating clauses 25 to 39. We are debating 14 clauses at once. If the government wants to go through the clauses one by one, I am certain the debate will take much longer.

  It is interesting that the Prime Minister did not have a clue what Premier Goss had said. I find it absolutely incredible, in fact unsustainable, that he can have a copy of the press release put out by the Liberal premiers and Dr Hewson only half an hour or so ago, and yet did not know about the statements by Premier Goss on AM this morning. Can anybody honestly tell me that the people who look after his media are so incompetent that they would not have brought the Premier's comments to his attention? The answer to that is, of course, no. Honourable senators can draw their own conclusions from that.

  The Prime Minister said that Mr Goss's name was not on the press release. Let us look at what Mr Goss said this morning because I think this goes to the nub of the issue. He said:

Well we're certainly very worried. I've got officers urgently trying this morning to find out what the hell is going on in Canberra. We're concerned that an already difficult and complex piece of legislation . . .

Do those opposite remember their reference to simplicity? Do they remember what the Prime Minister said at the press conference? Later on in the interview Premier Goss said:

Well John we understand there is hundreds of amendments or hundreds of pages of amendments being introduced into the Senate.

By whom? The government is the leading culprit, then there are amendments by the Greens and the Democrats. I am not sure in which order they come. It is absolutely and totally dishonest of our Prime Minister to stand up and say at that press conference that we have had this bill for 12 months, that we have this Mabo paper and that we have the discussion papers.

  The amendments are changing second by second. As I said yesterday, one minute it is 9, next minute it is 9A; one minute it is 6, next minute it is 6A. This morning Senator Gareth Evans did not even know that there was a difference between 33B and 33A. He said that they were the same. That is how confused he is. In terms of this debate, it is time that the Prime Minister woke up to himself.

  But the biggest issue of all in terms of what is going on in this place relates to the statements that we will stay here till Christmas Day, we will come back on Boxing Day, this will go on indefinitely, when we know darn well that there is a deal being done right now to limit debate on this bill. It will be interesting to see what Senator Gareth Evans does now. Will he go against his Prime Minister, or will he run this chamber as the Leader of the Government in the Senate? It will be very interesting to see what he does. He has just been put down, in terms of the management of this chamber, by his Prime Minister.