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Thursday, 20 June 1996
Page: 1958

Senator MARGETTS —by leave—I am appalled that the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Short) should get up and say that my request, or the request of Senator Chamarette and me, was unreasonable. It was clearly stated from the Hansard that the offer was made and reinforced several times by the government. It was not an unreasonable request from the Greens; it was an assurance from the government. So what they are saying is that their assurance was unreasonable—in which case, their assurance was misleading to the Senate.

They can bash themselves on this issue all they like, but that is the reality. I am absolutely flabbergasted that Senator Short is suggesting we should apologise for accepting their offer. Does this mean we should apologise for ever believing an offer that is made to us in the future? How disgraceful! Is that what you are saying—that whatever you suggest in the future in relation to such offers we should automatically consider is unreasonable and unobtainable and that, therefore, it is unreasonable and unfair of us to expect you to meet your offer?

The apology should be coming from the government. You should be giving some explanation as to how the situation that the departments do not know what the ministers are deciding is being resolved. Why is it that it is taking your department so long to work out what the ministerial decisions are? A lot of the time I expect it is because they do not know. They had to find out what it was that was being said in their departments.

We have had statements from ministers that there are no cuts; there are no staff losses. But we are hearing from departments that they are all leaving with their redundancy packages because they have been asked to put their hands up to go. If that is what is happening, if when direct questions are being answered by, `There is nothing happening in this department,' it is not surprising that the departments are taking a long time to come up with the answer to the question of what is happening in their departments. A lot of them do not know yet. A lot of them have not been told by their own ministers what is happening. This is disgraceful! The apology should not be coming from this side; the apology should be coming from the government.