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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1775

Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) - I find myself in the position of agreeing with the 3 honourable senators who have spoken on this matter. In relation to what Senator Byrne has said, I call to mind the words of a very famous Tasmanian in another sphere -

Senator Keeffe - Who was it, you?

Senator LILLICO - No, it was not me, but I was there and heard what he said. He said this: The rabid Party man likes to govern unfettered. He hates restraint and for that reason he hates upper Houses. He hates to have his legislation delayed'. I agree absolutely with what Senator Byrne has said. I say without any hesitation that probably never before has there been a time in the history of the Commonwealth when this chamber should refuse to be hurried, especially at a time when legislation is being guillotined through another place at an enormous rate. I am well aware of the fact that if this chamber dares to attempt to take its time and delay a measure until it can be put into proper perspective and until people can express an opinion on it, this action is branded at once as frustration. I think that this chamber should take no notice of the aspersions that are cast upon it. One of our newspapers in Tasmania had something to say about the position. It was speaking about this same mandate which the Government seems to think gives it a right to shove through legislation at whatever rate it thinks fit. The newspaper stated that anyone would think that this Government had discovered the Holy Grail, the right to put legislation through without any review.

I rose to speak about the grotesque and alarming position pointed out by Senator Wright. In 1954 some US$36,000 was paid for a supposed work of art. Some people say that the perpetrators of it were drunk when they did it, but that does not alter the principle of it. In 19S4 some US$36,000 was paid for the painting. It was bought recently by the Australian Government for US$2 m. Surely there is no one in this place who would attempt to justify such a proposition. Even if we allow for the inflation that has taken place since 1954, surely someone must have made a mighty profit. Some people would be impolite enough to call it a rake-off at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. I agree with Senator Turnbull. It seems to me to be entirely wrong. If 2 men, whether one of them is the Prime Minister or whoever he may be- we are told that it was 2 men who did this business- can irresponsibly commit the Australian taxpayer to such unwarranted expenditure, there should be some way by which restraint can be put upon them. There should be some responsible authority to supervise such expenditure as this. We have seen statements by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) splashed across the front page of a Tasmanian newspaper. The headline states:

Loose thinking 'out '-Barnard.

The article goes on:

Australia could not afford loose thinking-

This is what Mr Barnard said:

.   . when spending very large sums of taxpayers money on defence.

Senator McManus - What was the bill for champagne on the China trip? We would like to know that.

Senator LILLICO - I do not know about that. But Mr Barnard goes on to say some other very weird things which the Chairman would rule me out of order if I repeated. He said some things that simply do not tie up with the Government's program, especially its program on defence. It is inconceivable that at this time of inflation, at this time when, without any question our defences are going down the drain, a pair of irresponsibles you have to call them that- can purchase an alleged work of art for US$2 m that originally cost US$36,000.

Senator Little - After all, senator, it might frighten any of our enemies away if they looked at it.

Senator LILLICO - I have been told that that is so.

Senator McLaren - It would have just as much effect on the enemy as the things on which $65m was paid.

Senator LILLICO - Senator McLarenwould justify anything the Government did, but, he would not justify it in his own private business.

Because this Government does something he prattles away, interjects and attempts to justify it. No man in his right mind can justify this sort of expenditure. This item should be held up as an example to point out to the Government the complete and absolute absurdity of plunging the Australian taxpayer into this expenditure. The expenditure on this painting is very much worse than sending a bull to China and paying for the plane to take it there. With such expenditure it is no wonder that inflation is running at a rate of 1 4 per cent. I heard on the television the other night one of the new members of the House of Representatives- I forget his name- say that the Government inherited a condition of inflation when it assumed office. But, do not forget that when Labor attained office it stoked the fires with a vengeance and the rate of inflation increased from 4 per cent to more than 14 per cent. Among other things, the Government intends to spend $ 100m on a pipeline which private enterprise easily could and should have built. If we add all of these expenditures together we can see why inflation has jumpted to a rate of 14 per cent. I support entirely everything that has been said by Senator Wright. This place would be in a trance if it allowed such an expenditure as this to be passed without some protest.

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