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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 576

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I wish to say one or two things about the statement by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Drake-Brockman. I think that I should commence by saying: 'Play the game, you cads! Play the game!' I have not been one who, in our Party room, has thought that there should be the degree of co-operation that has existed between the Government forces and the Opposition forces. Nevertheless, the members of my Party, by a majority, have decided that for the successful carrying out of the functions of this Parliament there should be the cooperation that we have shown in the years that I have been here with respect to arranging lists of speakers and so on. As the Acting Leader of the Government has said, the procedure has been that the Chair has the responsibility to call a senator from the Government side and then a senator, as he described him, from the non-Government side. In the past, this arrangement has operated.

We have been told tonight by Senator Young and Senator Withers that they did not know that Senator Gair or Senator Negus proposed to speak. Senator Young was most embarrassed because both honourable senators supported the Government. Whilst Senator Young may be able to justify the fact that he did not know prior to the event that these honourable senators would speak, and after he had apologised for the let down in the arrangements by which the Opposition has equal time when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast, something happened that he did not visualise, namely, that those 2 honourable senators would be counted as supporters of the Budget. The fact has not been denied that in this debate tonight four or five speakers supported the Budget and one speaker opposed it. Mention has been made of the fact that speakers are called in turn from the Opposition side and from the Government side. This is all right. But when we talk about support and opposition, the real factor involved is whether this is support for or opposition to the measure before the Parliament rather than support for or opposition to the Government.

The situation that developed was so embarrassing that Senator Carrick in his usual, polite and courteous way recognised that an injustice had been done to this side. He was prepared to yield. He left the decision on what he should do to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. Obviously the Party is working as a team and I think that his action was proper. But the Acting Leader of the Government shoe his head and said 'No, Senator Carrick should continue. He has the call'. I said: 'But he is prepared to forgo the call'. The Acting Leader then shook his head.

I think that the Acting Leader of the Government explained the position in his contribution before I rose. He said that this is the Budget debate. The Government is battling uphill enough now. Every gentleman's agreement and every proposal for co-operation in the Senate goes by the board. The Government says: 'There is nothing too low that we will not adopt for the purpose of gaining the ground that we have lost in public prestige. This is the Budget debate. In the valuable broadcast time available for this debate the Opposition will not be allowed to present its case in reply'. As Senator Douglas McClelland has said, the Opposition wished to reply to the damaging indictment of and the accusations made against the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Any benefits that the Budget might contain which would attract electoral support could achieve their purpose only if they were accepted without criticism. Therefore, the Government adopts the attitude: 'We must stifle that criticism'. The criticism that would reach the public could take 2 forms. The first is that the ABC might criticise the Budget in its current affairs programmes. So, the ABC must be silenced. Justification for silencing the ABC has been given tonight. The Opposition has not been permitted to reply to those reasons for silencing the ABC. The other point is that the proceedings of the Senate today have been broadcast. Government supporters, who favour the Budget, take the view that they must use up the time when the proceedings are being broadcast in the hope that they will gain support from someone who may be listening. Today we have been engaged in a debate on the Budget and we are facing an election in the near future at a lime when the threat to the Government is the greatest it has ever been. Therefore it is regrettable that men whom we have admired before for honouring arrangements, men whom we looked up to for honouring promises, sank to the degradation that we saw tonight in order to stop members of the Opposition who oppose the Government's policy.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- I call Senator Devitt.

Senator Webster - I was on ray feet. You must lake a speaker from either side in turn.

The ACTING PRESIDENT- Senator Devitt was on his feet first and 1 called him.

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