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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2256

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - When I heard the answer this morning I said to those sitting around me that it was an insult to this chamber. I am glad that Senator Little has taken the first opportunity to condemn it as deficient in the responsibility that the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) has to this chamber. The answer was couched in this form. First of all it says:

The Minister for Social Security refers the honourable senator to his reply to a very similar question by a member of the House of Representatives. . . .

The reply is then set out and it concludes with the words that were used in the House of Representativesand this is the garbage that is carted into this place. It reads:

When I was in Opposition

Says this Minister-

I received no help from the Government and did the hard work myself. I suggest that members of the Opposition ought to star doing a bit of work too.

Government senators- Hear, hear.

Senator WRIGHT - Honourable senators opposite growl 'Hear, hear' from their turtle farms which have been so appropriately described by Senator Georges where they pick each other to pieces by the tail and became inedible as food as a result.

Senator McAuliffe - We saw a disgraceful exhibition from members of your Party tonight.

Senator WRIGHT - You agreed with me then, but you did not have the courage to vote with me.

Senator McAuliffe - I would not follow you out of curiosity.

Senator WRIGHT - Now he does not have -

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator McAuliffe, not even by interjection during the adjournment debate may you refer to matters which have taken place during the course of a debate during the day.

Senator WRIGHT - He has not the courage to stand up for a level of decency which is required in the chamber of which he is a member.

Senator McAuliffe - You should be the last one to speak.

Senator WRIGHT - I received no help from the Government, and did the hard work myself. I suggest that members of the Government -

Senator McAuliffe - I rise on a point of order. I find Senator Wright's remarks repulsive and insulting to me. He said that I am indecent and that I cannot recognise decency, or something to that effect. He said that I lack courage. I had 2 previous incidents with the honourable senator when he challenged me, in the Senate, to produce evidence. I have produced that evidence. I give him the rebuttal by saying that he is the coward. He lacks decency by still sitting in his place, unashamedly, and not apologising for the accusations which he has made against me in the past. If he wants it any way, rough or tough, I will give it to him.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator McAuliffe, you have not told me to which standing order you are referring.

Senator McAuliffe - I object to Senator Wright's remark that I am indecent.

The PRESIDENT - I did not hear him say it.

Senator McAuliffe - I ask him to withdraw it.

The PRESIDENT - I call Senator Wright.

Senator WRIGHT -I do not cloak myself with the immunity of points of order to hurl abuse at even Senator McAuliffe. What I am saying -

Senator McAuliffe - Mr President,those remarks which Senator Wright made earlier are insulting to me. They are unbecoming a senator. Fancy him criticising me! At least since I have been a member of the Senate I have not been suspended from the sitting of the Senate.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator McAuliffe, if you wish to sustain your point of order, put the words to which you object in writing, sign the paper and deliver it to the Clerk at the table.

Senator Cavanagh - Oh!

The PRESIDENT - That is the standing order. The Minister knows that as well as I do.

Senator Cavanagh - I do not know it.

The PRESIDENT - It is time that you did.

Senator Cavanagh - I wish to speak about the Standing Orders. It is very unfair if we have to go through this procedure. Whether or not it is in Standing Orders, it is not the procedure which the Senate has adopted.

The PRESIDENT - I have applied it in the past and I apply it now. I merely made the observation that I did not hear any words uttered by Senator Wright which could be regarded as objectionable. If Senator McAuliffe feels that he has been wrongly accused by Senator Wright, I hope that Senator Wright will acknowledge it.

Senator Cavanagh - I am not much concerned about the abusive words. I think that they belittle the person who uttered them rather than anyone else. But I am concerned about this ruling.

The PRESIDENT - It is not a ruling, it is the Standing Orders.

Senator Cavanagh - Yes, but the interpretation of the standing orders, Mr President, is an important thing. It is quite contrary to the procedure which the Senate has adopted. If on each occasion that someone makes an offensive remark it has to be written out, by the time it is written out and given to the Clerk the incident will be over and the damage done. I suggest that if that procedure is contained in the Standing Orders it is time that Standing Orders were changed. I suggest that we do not go past the present procedure. Standing order 4 1 8 states:

No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

A highly disorderly utterance was made. I take it that the withdrawal was asked for under standing order 418. It does not contain any suggestion that the words shall be written out, signed and handed to the Clerk. Mr President, I say that you are setting a precedent which would be difficult to follow. It denies the justice to which a senator is entitled to have withdrawn immediately a highly disorderly utterance which has been made.

The PRESIDENT -I made the observation earlier to Senator McAuliffe that I did not hear the words of which he complained. Therefore I asked him to put in writing and deliver to the table the words to which he objected. Senator McAuliffe said that he felt that Senator Wright had said of him: 'I am indecent, cowardly and lack courage. ' If Senator McAuliffe heard those words and if Senator Wright uttered them, I am sure Senator Wright will withdraw them. Those are the words Senator McAuliffe has complained of and the matter is up to Senator Wright.

Senator Greenwood - I rise on a point of order. I was present throughout this debate. I challenge directly that Senator Wright used those words. He did not.

Senator Bishop - Let Senator Wright say that.

Senator Greenwood - He did not use those words.

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