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Tuesday, 20 August 1996
Page: 2687

Senator SCHACHT(5.17 p.m.) —I rise to support the motion for the suspension of standing orders moved by Senator Faulkner. The point that Senator Alston has not come to grips with is that Senator Foreman would absolutely wish to be here today.

Senator Boswell —I will volunteer to pair with him.

Senator SCHACHT —He has had a serious illness and is still recuperating from it, Senator Boswell. He would rather be here than recovering from his serious illness. I think these events of having a ballot for the Deputy President of the Senate emerged only during circumstances today, and obviously Senator Foreman would like to be here if he could be here.

Senator Sherry, who is the shadow minister for finance, had arranged for some time in accordance with those provisions of the budget to be in the lockup. If we asked for him to come out of the lockup now, you would prevent him from coming out because that would be a breach of the budget confidentiality. Once he is in there—and I think he went in at about 12.30 p.m.—he is locked up; he cannot come out. So what we now have from Senator Hill is a proposal: `We don't accept the pairs. You cannot have a pair in a secret ballot, but we will ask two of our people not to vote.' If he says that that is not acceptable and that that is a strange way to go about having pairs on a secret ballot, then Senator Faulkner's position is the best: wait until all 76 senators are available to vote.

Senator Ferguson —They are never here!

Senator SCHACHT —Senator Ferguson says that they are never here. They are going to have to be here at some stage. That is the only way you will have a credible election. Whoever is elected as Deputy President, as Senator Cook has said, wants to be elected in a ballot in which there is no doubt. That is why we are moving this motion—to wait until all 76 senators turn up. So Senator Hill does not have to draw names from a hat and ask two Liberals to leave the chamber.

Senator Ferguson —You wanted a pair.

Senator SCHACHT —He said it is not a pair. He has now said, `It really is unfortunate.' The only way we are going to get a credible ballot is to have all 76 senators in here to elect the Deputy President. Because of the machinations of Senator Hill today in overriding the government whip—he ripped up an agreement which everybody would have accepted—he has thrown doubt on this particular ballot. Whoever is elected as Deputy President would not want to be elected with any smear of a doubt that their election was accepted and was aboveboard in accordance not only with the standing orders of the Senate but also with the conventions of the Senate.

So what we have had here is a mess created by the government through its consistent inexperience and trying to be too smart by half. That is absolutely the case. It waited until the bells had almost finished ringing to call people to have the ballot before Senator Panizza gave an indication to the opposition that the pairs were off because Senator Hill, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, said they were off. The look on Senator Panizza's face betrayed the fact that he knew that he had been duded by his leader.

If there is any doubt about there being effective pairs or people having to leave the chamber to make the ballot real or not real, why not wait until all 76 senators are in here and voting in a secret ballot, which everybody says is the way to do it, rather than having Senator Hill create this unfortunate precedent of saying, `We'll find two Liberals and I'll ask them not to vote, but it's really not a pairs process,' therefore throwing doubt on this whole process? It has been a very unseemly start to the Senate today through the sheer incompetence and deception of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Hill. He stands condemned as a result. (Time expired)