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Tuesday, 29 November 1983
Page: 3020

Mr GEAR(10.55) —In my contribution tonight I should like to refer to an article in today's West Australia entitled 'WA Libs from group to fight referendums'. The members of the Western Australian branch of the Liberal Party in this regard are troglodytes. They cling to a document framed in the nineteenth century and oppose any change to give it relevance to the society of today. What they propose to do, in opposition, is to set up a Liberal Party front to oppose proposals that were overwhelmingly agreed to by this year's Constitutional Convention in Adelaide, including, I might add, the Federal Liberal Party.

To support my contention that it is a Liberal Party front, I offer the following evidence from the Press statement of today. Firstly, its formation arose from a motion at the Liberal Party State Executive. There are a few fertile minds there, good at dodging tax. Obviously they have come up with this one. Secondly, the West Australian Liberals in opposition to the referenda are exactly the same as the groups. That is rather convenient because, as I shall show later, they are supposed to be independent. Thirdly, the chairman has been appointed by the Liberals, not elected. One would expect that from them. He is also unnamed. It could be anybody. It could be Wilson Tuckey over there, or Noel Crichton-Browne-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member knows that he should refer to honourable members of the House by their electorates.

Mr GEAR —I am sorry, Mr Speaker. Thank you for your guidance. I meant the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey). The fourth point is that the group, when it meets, will be told that Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Robin Gray will be invited to speak on their behalf by the West Australian Branch of the Liberal Party. What a great couple of speakers to have for anything. Fifthly, it is supposed to be independently funded and staffed. We know that in Western Australia the Liberals are fairly good at laundering money in many ways. It would not surprise me if this independently funded front was in fact funded by the Liberal Party. The sixth point I make is that the group has been formed to oppose referenda but will be ongoing, continuing past the referenda date of 25 February. Why should it do that? Those concerned set it up for a specific task and then they make it an ongoing concern. My theory on why this front has been set up, this so-called independent group to be formed--

Mr Tuckey —Someone wrote this for you.

Mr GEAR —I write my own, unlike the honourable member. Ray O'Connor's handlers are trying desperately to fortify his tenuous grip on the leadership. He is just trying to erect a smokescreen to divert attention from his lack of initiative in presenting policies to assist the real needs of the people in Western Australia.

Let us have a look at the three proposals that the front is trying to oppose. The first is the simultaneous elections. Look at the spurious reason given: It would make the Senate a puppet of the lower House. All the old emotive terms that we usually associate with the Liberal Party in Western Australia really come out in this Press article. What it will really do, of course, is save money by having elections for both Houses at the same time, something which Malcolm Fraser was in favour of in 1977; but not so this year. The second one that is to be looked at is the interchange of Federal and State powers. Members of the group reckon that over 80 years experience it has been demonstrated that ' Canberra would use its powers to blackmail'-there is the old emotive term again- 'the States into agreeing to a one-way flow of powers'. It is rather strange that they should say that, because obviously in the last 80 years we have not had that power. Also, they are going to oppose the right of governments to seek advisory opinions from the High Court. Their reason for that is that the Party says that this could politicise the Court. What a load of garbage. In the United States of America and in Canada, where these powers exist, they have not led to that situation. They work very well there. I am sure that such a power would work well here.