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Wednesday, 22 March 1972
Page: 790

Senator MURPHY (New South Wales) (Leader of the Opposition) - I seek leave to make a statement on this matter.

The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator MURPHY - The Senate is a place in which harsh statements are very often made. There is probably a good deal less abuse in this chamber than in most other legislative chambers in this country. In my view, there is far more abuse here than there ought to be. I would like to see steps taken by the chamber, particularly by the officers who preside here from time to time, to see that irrelevant matter by way of abuse is not used in the chamber and that unnecessary reflections are not cast. On this occasion the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) raises the issue that one of the members of my party cast reflections on another honourable senator. May I say in relation to that, two things. Firstly, that the statement was withdrawn by Senator James McClelland; the other is that, there have been a great deal of offensive and distasteful remarks made by members of the Government, including one Minister in particular.

Senator Greenwood - Not by me.

The PRESIDENT - Order! The Leader of the Opposition will be heard in silence.

Senator MURPHY - I did not say they were made by Senator Greenwood. I said they were made by one Minister in particular and were directed at the members of the Opposition. If one were to go through the record of the last several weeks - I think it is unnecesary for any of us to do so - one would find ample evidence of offensive and distasteful remarks directed at the Opposition from the Government side, including from the ministerial benches. If something can be done to stop this practice growing J hope it will be done. We have heard what the Leader of the Government in the Senate has said in relation to this matter. We all agree that the level of debate ought to be raised. But I point out that on this occasion the statement that was made by Senator James McClelland was, in fact, withdrawn.

On behalf of the Opposition 1 say that we hope that prompt and effective steps will be taken by everyone, including the presiding officers and all of those who have responsibility - I think that applies to everyone - in an endeavour to see that this place is conducted for the purposes for which it is here. I suppose there should be a philosophy of live and let live and that this calls for an atmosphere of tolerance on both sides. The Opposition does not think, and may I say for myself that I do not think, that any person should be singled out, especially in a case where the statement which was originally made was withdrawn. That is the attitude of the Opposition. Mr President, I think that probably the Leader of the Government in the Senate holds the same view as I hold, that the level of debate ought to be raised. We say that we are prepared to do this on our side and we ask the Government to put its own house in order.

The PRESIDENT - I have listened to what the Leader of the Government has had to say; I have listened to what the Leader of the Opposition has had to say. I think the honour of the Senate could be best served if the matter was allowed to lapse when I resume my seat. But the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition in the context of the conduct of the debate and the onus and responsibility that sit fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Presiding Officer are ones that I understand. With the co-operation of honourable senators the forms that all of them desire to be maintained in the Senate shall be maintained.

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