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Wednesday, 23 April 1980
Page: 1720

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - I second the amendment. I wish to speak to the amendment in order to frustrate the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney), who was about to move the gag. I take it that that was his intention. I seemed to see in his look that it was his intention to move the gag and so suppress the initiative taken by Senator McLaren. I support the amendment, but for different reasons from those put by Senator McLaren. I know that it is important for him to outline to the Senate the views of South Australian constituents, especially in relation to the massive rip-off imposed by the Government by oil parity pricing. Senator McLaren should have been given the opportunity to outline and expand that argument. My reason for speaking now is different in that I wish to speak also in support of the matter raised by Senator Walsh in the first reading debate on the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 3). This is a very serious matter.

The PRESIDENT - You cannot revive a debate. You cannot speak on a matter which is being debated.

Senator GEORGES -I did not know that the matter was being debated. The debate on that matter was adjourned. In any case, let me show how urgent it is for me to make some statement on certain questions I asked of the representative from the Auditor-General's Office who appeared before Estimates Committee A. An apparent desire on the pan of the Government to suppress an Auditor-General's report emerged from that Estimates Committee. This places the AuditorGeneral in a very difficult position. It could be said that in some way the Auditor-General complied with a Government desire to suppress a report. This is a very serious situation and I make a serious allegation. I believe it is urgent that the matter should be debated today. I think it is quite incorrect if it is not. It seems to me that the Auditor-General carried out an investigation and it appears that there was some misappropriation of funds. That report has not been made available to this Parliament. I want to ask the question: Why was not the Auditor-General 's report made available to this Parliament? Is it a cover-up on the part of the Government and has the Government involved the Auditor-General in that cover-up? This is a serious matter and I think it ought to be debated today. It could have been debated in the first reading debate. I had intended to make a contribution to the matter. I would have expected that the Government would have answered in some way or would have made some explanation concerning the matter.

For those reasons I think it is important that the amendment moved by Senator McLaren is carried by the Senate. I have nothing further to say except to suggest to the Government that when it brings a first reading debate before the chamber on a broadcast day it must surely anticipate a debate on the first reading. Senator McLaren and Senator Cavanagh have indicated just how necessary it is for honourable senators to have the opportunity to place before the Senate important matters which have been brought to their attention by constituents. Having brought the first reading stage forward on broadcast day, why does the Government, by this move of adjourning the debate, seek to frustrate the Opposition? The Opposition, in an atmosphere of complete co-operation, did not bring forward a matter of public importance for debate today. In fact, in so doing, we gave the Government and the Senate an opportunity to have a further two hours debate on other matters.

Also, it must be realised that the Senate, by meeting on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesay, has deprived itself of General Business night. In spite of what Senator Missen has said, it is surprising how many honourable senators can speak on a Thursday night in the time allotted for General Business. It is surprising how often an honourable senator can get into trouble during those debates, as I have discovered. Nevertheless, I re-emphasise that in those two ways the Senate has available five hours of debating time which it would not ordinarily have had. It is unreasonable, therefore, for it to stifle a first reading debate. It must be said that it does so only because it does not wish the Opposition to have freedom of expression on important matters. The important matter which I wish to raise concerns the Auditor-General.

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