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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 1828


Senator WHEELWRIGHT(3.35 p.m.) —In order to understand the importance of the questions by Senator Faulkner to Senator Short today, one has to understand that on my count it comes after 74 questions by the opposition to the government and to him.


Senator Carr —Seventy-four!


Senator WHEELWRIGHT —I had counted 74, but it may be more than that. He said that he thought inflation was a five year high. He was completely wrong about that. He was asked about the DIFF scheme in two separate questions and he did not mention one word about DIFF. He did not mention DIFF once in his entire answer.


Senator Campbell —On a point of order: I totally respect your ruling, Madam Deputy President, and agree with your ruling in relation to taking note of answers on the same day. To try to take note of 74 answers over the last 10 days is clearly outside your ruling. Could you please direct Senator Wheelwright to restrict his comments to answers given by the minister this day?


Senator Sherry —On the same matter, clearly there is no point of order.


Senator Panizza —That is for the Deputy President.


Senator Sherry —Yes, I will let the chair decide, but I am making a comment about the point of order. That is the third occasion on which Senator Campbell has interrupted debate and clearly it is not a point of order. You have made a very clear ruling, Madam Deputy President. Senator Wheelwright was making debating points about a number of questions answered by Senator Short. It was nothing more than that, a debating point. It was a spurious point of order.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It is very early in Senator Wheelwright's contribution. He certainly appeared to be referring to answers given previously. I remind Senator Wheelwright that the motion before the chamber is to take note of answers given by Senator Short today. I am sure Senator Wheelwright is getting to that point, but that is the motion we are discussing.


Senator WHEELWRIGHT —As I explained, one cannot look at this answer only in the context of today. As I said, it comes after 74 questions and several of them are important in the context of this question. It happened in the same way with other answers. In answer to a question about DIFF, he made absolutely no mention of DIFF. There was a question as to the state of the economy where there is a clear contradiction with his leader.


Senator Campbell —Yesterday again; get on to today.


Senator WHEELWRIGHT —May I finish my answer? As to the question of sales tax, there is a clear lack of understanding as to what the statutory requirements are for informing the public. Why does all of this happen? The answer is pretty simple: because the minister's understanding, as he has demonstrated in the Senate, stopped in 1975 when he left the Treasury. He basically went out to lunch then and stayed there. If you go back and look at all of the speeches that he has given, there is absolutely no understanding. It is one speech and one speech only.

To this question he has given the same answer he has given to every other question. It is the same one he used in opposition and it is the same one he is using in government now. There is absolutely no variation to it. This bluster and this abusing people, which is a tactic which he has used, makes absolutely no contribution to government policy at all. He has made no contribution at all to wages policy, inflation policy, current account policy or savings policy. All we get, as we got to this question, is the same answer he practised in opposition and which he trots out every time now he is in government. The problem for him is that he does not know the answer. He has clearly shown that he does not know the answer in these areas. Of course, the other corollary problem is that he is not in the loop. He is not consulted by the Treasurer or by the Prime Minister or by all the other people making the decisions. When he does not know, it is because nobody has bothered to consult him.

This will hit the government with a big dull thud when it comes to the budget. In the budget if you don't know the work, how can you negotiate with other people? If you don't know the work, how can you go to the opposition and the minor parties and discuss what the government wants to get through the Senate? This is where this question is important and this is where this constant answer he gives which has no content is important. He will be completely unable to get the budget through the Senate because he simply does not understand the work. His laziness in opposition has been translated to his laziness in government and he will fail on those grounds. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time for this debate has concluded.