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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5389


Senator KERNOT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (11.29 a.m.) —Oh, the moral outrage! The opposition has expressed its surprise at this stage taking so long to reach, while secretly it wishes that it had happened yesterday. We were relying on the goodwill of the coalition to move this debate along just a little, but so far they have shown none. We spent 8 1/2 hours yesterday debating one clause. Senator Ian Macdonald pretends that all of the questions were important. Some of them were—there is no doubt about that—but they were sprinkled with the typical filibustering tactics we have come to expect from this opposition, still spoiling after losing the last election.

  As the statistics quoted by others have shown, we are approaching the record for time spent in debate. As has been pointed out, the last bill on which we spent so much time was the ATSIC bill—another bill about the rights of indigenous people. What has the opposition got against the rights of indigenous Australians that it will go to any lengths to prevent a vote being taken on a bill concerning those rights. Have the members of the opposition seen the Petty cartoon in today's Age? It is very instructive, and I suggest that those opposite look at it.

  We have now recorded some 44 hours of parliamentary debate on this bill. The opposition said it wanted debate, yet yesterday those opposite sought to suspend standing orders so that we could debate the press conference given by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating). That is how important the detail of this bill is to those opposite—we were supposed to have an open ended debate on what the Prime Minister said in his press conference. That was considered by the opposition to be more important than this bill. We have asked the coalition to extend a little goodwill and to apply a little self-discipline. Since the coalition has shown that it is unwilling to do that, we have reached the stage where some discipline has to be imposed.

  Before those opposite misrepresent what is happening, let me say that this is a managed guillotine. There are many hours left for debate. We have at least three hours to debate the remaining important definitions, and that should be sufficient time. Senator Ian Macdonald has displayed his usual Democrat fixation. If ever Senator Macdonald's side wins government, he will have to be sent off to some sort of charm school to work out how to negotiate with people because he has forgotten what it is all about.

  Senator Hill said that the situation we were facing was not an emergency. What did require emergency action were the views of the staff who came to see us last night. They have rights in this matter and I am willing to consider their views. When the people of Australia see the moral outrage of those opposite on television tonight, I want them to know that so many of them have privately approached us and said, `Come on, when are you going to put the guillotine on? We want to go home.' That is the truth. No amount of filibustering will take away from the fact that this bill is historic, that it is just and that the majority of honourable senators will take the time to vote on it. They will not necessarily pass it but they will take the time to vote on it because that is what the majority has decided to do.


The CHAIRMAN —Order! The time for consideration of this motion has expired.

  Question put:

  That the motion (Senator Hill's) be agreed to.