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Wednesday, 16 October 1974
Page: 1783

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I understand that, while I was in the Library trying to assemble some anti-Government propaganda and speech-making material for another subject to be debated in the Senate, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) used my name when referring to a vote which was just taken in the Senate.

Senate Missen- He never mentioned it.

Senator STEELE HALL - I did not get a mention? Well, I am disappointed. In any case, I understand that criticism was made of the Tasmanian senators for taking the position which they did. There is one word which Senator Greenwood does not understand and that is credibility'. That is one thing which he is continually destroying for his Party because of the attitude which he takes in this place. In this instance we have an agreement between the elected representatives of Tasmania on a State basis and on a Federal basis to further the interests of Tasmania. Obviously this agreed basis is of benefit to Tasmania. In the past I have had some experience of States which have moved away from the Grants Commission. In so moving they have always done so with some advantage to their own area of representation. I am sure that this is done with some advantage to Tasmania. But to this agreed movement for improvement to Tasmania would be tacked on by the Opposition's amendment a subject of very great criticism of the Government which is a party to this agreement. This is misplaced. It destroys the credibility of the Opposition as it is placed in the position where this is not a proper basis on which to attack the Government. Honourable senators opposite should understand that if they want to be believed. I say to Senator Greenwood that I will match the small Liberal Movement's credibility against the major Liberal Party's credibility on any platform he likes in Australia.

Senator Withers - Let us go to an election.

Senator STEELE HALL - Yes, let us go to an election. If Senator Greenwood thinks that I am frightened of facing the public of South Australia because of what I have done in this chamber, let him try it on. Next time in similar circumstances we will come back with 2 representatives, whereas we came back with one last time.

Senator Young - Big deal Steele.

Senator STEELE HALL -Never mind; the public will speak, not Senator Young. Senator Young's remarks on television on election eve are well remembered by South Australians. The situation as presented by the amendment was that in isolation, disregarding all the other States- including South Australia- which are parties to Premiers Conferences and Loan Councils and disregarding the general agreement which must be reached about these matters, the Opposition says that Tasmania should get more money. How does this fit into the general economic policy of the Liberal Party? Which part of the economic policy which is put forward by Mr Snedden, who is the Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia, does this fit into? The Opposition has not said anything about that. It has simply said that Tasmania should get more money at a time when it is saying that the Government should be more economical and should reduce expenditure. All I am asking the Opposition to do is to present a credible argument and to say on which part of its economic planning this argument is based. There is no credible basis. This is the point I am making.

Senator Webster - Mr President,I raise a point of order. I apologise to Senator Hall for interrupting him.

The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator, please address the Chair. What is your point of order?

Senator Webster - Mr President,I am anxious to have from you a view as to whether the Chair would be consistent. It was suggested that I should resume my seat if I were not speaking according to the terms the Minister suggested to you. Senator Hall has proceeded very much on similar lines for quite some time. I am anxious to be assured that there will not be an instance where one speaker is allowed to proceed because he supports one view. It appears to me that that may be the situation.

Senator Wheeldon - Mr President,I wish to speak to the point of order. The passage from Mr Odgers' book 'Australian Senate Practice' seems to indicate clearly that it is proper for there to be debate on the third reading as to whether the Bill should or should not be read a third time. Insofar as I was able to understand Senator Webster at all, I understand that the point which he was making was not that the Bill should not be read a third time. Senator Hall is arguing that the Bill should be read a third time. The issue raised by Senator Greenwood in fact was a personal attack on Senator Hall under the guise of a contribution to the debate on the Bill. But, presumably, the issue was that the Bill should not be read a third time. Surely Senator Hall is entitled to debate whether the Bill should be read a third time. In his case he is arguing that the Bill should be read a third time.

Senator Withers - Mr President,speaking to the point of order, I would not necessarily disagree with what Senator Wheeldon has said. I can understand why he argues the way he does. His side of the chamber being indebted to Senator Steele Hall for a number of certain votes, I can understand the way he argues. Therefore we understand that he puts that argument in that context and not in the context of the Standing Orders.

The PRESIDENT - The practice of the Senate has been that in the debate on the third reading fresh argument may be introduced or misapprehensions arising from the second reading debate may be discussed. I would like to hear Senator Steele Hall further. If he transgresses I certainly shall bear in mind the matter which Senator Webster has raised.

Senator STEELE HALL -Mr President,I do not wish to transgress against Standing Orders or your interpretation of them. I think that Senator Withers' remarks more than any others clarify the Opposition's intention in regard to the amendment which the Opposition tried to impose on this legislation. It is simply a matter of political gamesmanship. The Opposition has tried to obtain some foothold in Tasmania, where so far it has been an abject failure. The Opposition is attempting at every opportunity, whether it is justified or not, to mount some sort of campaign to make some type of come-back in that State.

All I say is that the Opposition has not been able to attack the Government effectively on this issue. The Opposition has not grasped the imagination of the Senate in any of the arguments it has put on this Bill because, as I said earlier, they have not been well placed. It has not been an overall attack. It has been a parochial argument advanced for political purposes. I suspect that the future of Tasmania has figured very small indeed in the Opposition thinking. It has been largely political thinking on this issue. I do not intend to shirk the responsibility of my vote, which I believe is far more pro-Tasmanian. I did not support the divisive element of an unnecessary addition to the Bill which the Opposition wanted to put on to it. I shall stand up on any platform with Senator Greenwood concerning credibility. I believe that the votes which I cast in this chamber will gain greater credibility by the public of Australia than those cast by Senator Greenwood.

Senator Rae - Mr President,I raise a point of order. Senator Hall is confusing the debate by suggesting that the amendment was an amendment to the Bill. Apparently his understanding of what took place is sufficiently obscure for him not to know that, in fact, it was an amendment to the motion for the second reading and was to add some words to that motion. In no way would it have affected the Bill. But Senator Hall apparently is not aware of that because his attention to the content of the debate was so limited.

Senator STEELE HALL -Mr President-

The PRESIDENT - Senator Hall,are you speaking to the point of order?

Senator STEELE HALL -No. I had not finished my speech. I sat down to give way to the honourable senator who raised the point of order.

The PRESIDENT -I heard no point of order. Senator Rae did not cite which particular Standing Order he was relying on and I do not uphold his point of order.

Senator STEELE HALL - I have nothing more to say except that I repudiate what Senator Rae has said. I fully understand the intentions of the Opposition. It is playing with words to say that it is not an amendment to the Bill. It was an attempt to add a very divisive and bitterly held amendment to a proposal which had the undivided support of the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments. Because it was misplaced and was in no way a proper attack on the Government I voted as I did. My vote is in no way a reflection of my opinion of the Government.

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