Senator FIFIELD (3.18 p.m.)-I certainly was not aware that Mr Turnbull was part of the administration of the Commonwealth, having regard to the questions asked of ministers today and the speeches made in the take note of answers debate, and I was not aware that Mr Turnbull was seeking a seat in this chamber either, but it is great that senators opposite take a broad interest. Be that as it may. I was quite touched by Senator Hutchins’s concern about the political welfare of our frontbenchers in the other place and how Mr Turnbull entering the parliament would affect them. That was quite endearing. Labor do not want to talk about the issue at the heart of why we went to war in Iraq: weapons of mass destruction. We went into Iraq because Saddam Hussein would not allow verification that there were no weapons of mass destruction. We did not have the capacity to verify that because Saddam Hussein would not allow UN verification that there were no weapons of mass destruction. It is not that the coalition countries did not want to go into Iraq and verify that there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction. That was the whole issue: we could not get into Iraq to verify that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Despite that, Hans Blix, the UN chief weapons inspector, thought there were weapons of mass destruction.
Richard Butler, former governor of Tasmania and former chief weapons inspector, thought that there were weapons of mass destruction. He went into the caucus, as senators opposite know, and said that there were weapons of mass destruction. Kevin Rudd was convinced there were weapons of mass destruction. Senators opposite, members of the Labor caucus, were told and did believe that there were weapons of mass destruction. None of us were in a position to categorically know because Saddam Hussein would not allow us to go in. That is the whole reason we went into Iraq in the first place: to verify that there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction. As a by-product of that, Saddam Hussein is no longer president of Iraq. Senators opposite say time and again that things have not really improved in Iraq. What they do not want to stay out loud, which is what they really think, is that it would not be such a bad thing if Saddam Hussein was still there.
Senator Robert Ray-That is an absolute lie, and you know it.
Senator FIFIELD-It would be great to hear more of that from senators opposite-that they are pleased that he has gone and that it is a change for the better that he is not there. What we have seen yesterday and today in relation to Malcolm Turnbull is part of the `find a character a day to smear’ campaign of the Labor Party. They also have Richard Alston in their sights. Was there any allegation of wrongdoing by Richard Alston?
Senator FIFIELD-Senators opposite do not want to hear about Richard Alston because they know there was no allegation of wrongdoing against him, there was no breach of the law and there was no breach of a code of conduct. Richard Alston did absolutely nothing wrong. Richard Alston did nothing which was unprecedented. He is a private citizen and is entitled to earn income.
Senator Faulkner-Mr President, on a point of order: I wonder whether you would give consideration to calling the senator on his feet to order, because he has been desperate to try to deliver his prepared speech on former Senator Alston, and the matter before the chair is a very different matter. Different questions have been taken note of here.
Senator Robert Ray-Rubbish; we’re talking about two carpetbaggers. Sit down.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Order! Senator Ray, Senator Faulkner is trying to take a point of order.
Senator Faulkner-Even though the interjection that Senator Ray has made is a fair one about carpetbaggers-and those who read it in Hansard can make that judgment-my serious point of order goes to the fact that poor old Senator Fifield, who is new at the game, prepared a good old speech on former Senator Alston, but the issue is not about Mr Alston; it is about Mr Turnbull. You cannot go more than two minutes on trying to defend Mr Turnbull, so call Senator Fifield to order, please, and get him back on what we are supposed to be debating.
Senator Hill-On that point of order, I am not surprised that Senator Faulkner is having trouble hearing the speech from the honourable senator, because Senator Faulkner himself has constantly interjected and constantly disrupted the senator’s speech. To simply have the nerve after having been totally disorderly for the last nearly five minutes to stand up and take his own point of order is a cheek beyond that which is usually the case in this place. I would suggest to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you invite Senator Faulkner to take his seat and listen to the presentation of the honourable senator.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Firstly, Senator Faulkner, there is no point of order, but I draw Senator Fifield’s attention to the question before the chair. Secondly, in respect of Senator Hill’s point of order, there has been too much noise in the chamber from both sides, and I draw the honourable senators’ attention to the fact that senators are entitled to be heard. During the debate there has been too much interjection on both sides, and I draw honourable senators’ attention to the fact that speakers are entitled to be heard, and those who want to have a say in the debate always have that opportunity to be heard.
Senator FIFIELD-I must say that I am truly flattered by the attention that is being paid to me by two such eminent senators. They have actually stayed in this chamber for my speech, and I look forward to this continuing in the future. But I can certainly understand why Senator Faulkner does not want to hear anything in relation to former Senator Alston. I merely mention the former Senator Alston as an example of a pattern of smear and as a pattern of denigration of prominent Australians. The Labor Party want to choose a figure a day. Be it former Senator Alston or Mr Turnbull, they want to choose a person a day as a distraction from the fact that they do not have any policies-no tax policy, no family policy, no health policy and no education policy. It is a case of choosing a different person each day whose character they can assassinate to avoid addressing these policy issues. (Time expired)