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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3007

Senator MacGIBBON —My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that it is now over two weeks since the disgraceful assault on Parliament House and that, in that period, it has emerged that paid union officials, people who were members of unions affiliated with the ACTU, took part in that attack, has the ACTU apologised in any way for the disgraceful attack on this bastion of democracy or offered to make any reparations?

Senator HILL —It is interesting the extent to which the community at large has been distressed by the events that occurred here a few weeks ago. It is unprecedented, in the life of this Parliament House, that a rally would turn into a riot resulting in very substantial damage to property and over 100 individuals, many of whom were police and protective officers doing their duty to protect us in this building, being hurt.

This rally, which went so terribly wrong and resulted in this damage, was sponsored by the ACTU. It is not surprising that the Australian people have been expecting the leadership of the ACTU, as the organiser of this rally, to apologise for what happened—the damage that was caused and the injury to persons. Regrettably, although time has gone by, the ACTU leadership has not been prepared to do so. Furthermore, the Australian Labor Party, the political wing of the trade union movement, has not been prepared to ask the ACTU to apologise.

It is worth reflecting that this was the rally that Mr Kelty described as `the most successful in Canberra's history'—the most successful that ended up in a riot and caused so much damage to property and persons. Has he retracted that? Has he apologised on behalf of his organisation? No, he has not.

Has Jennie George done so? No, she has not. When she was pressed on the issue, she said she was waiting for the police to report to her on the details of the event and she was disappointed to hear that what the police were interested in doing was prosecuting those who broke the law. The police are not there to protect the interests of the ACTU. But even in those circumstances, she was not prepared to come clean and acknowledge the failure of her rally and to say how much the ACTU regretted what had occurred.

Unfortunately, we all have responsibilities in relation to political rallies and we have responsibilities when they go wrong. When we speak to rallies, it behoves us to speak in a way that doesn't incite violence. A good start would have been Mr Beazley not talking about `Liberals hate this and Liberals hate that'.

If we are in a rally and it is going sour, then, Senator Crowley, what is necessary is a touch of leadership to try to calm those who have become inflamed. Senator Crowley was 20 feet from the front of the rally but did not see anything. This was a rally that was battering down the front doors of Parliament House. Senator Crowley was 20 feet from there and saw nothing. Her behaviour was described by one police office as totally unreasonable in a volatile and dangerous situation. She was bellowing and arguing that the doors should be opened so that the mass could charge in. This was a mass that was violently trying to break down the doors and physically hurting people within the building, and she was demanding that the doors be opened up so that they could charge in.

That is the sort of leadership that the Australian people do not need to get from a political party with the history and standing of the Australian Labor Party. It is about time that somebody on the other side, either in the political wing or in the trade union wing, actually got up and said, `I'm sorry for what happened. It got out of hand.' How low and how disappointing it has become that the—

Senator Faulkner —Go and read the Hansard .

Senator HILL —You would not apologise. You even half excused what occurred. You said we should understand that people get upset by these things. There has been no apology and that is a matter of great regret. (Time expired)