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Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Page: 5792


Mr ALBANESE (Leader of the House) (7:02 PM) —I move:

That:

(1)   the Honourable TRH Cole AO RFD QC, President of the HMAS Sydney II Commission of Inquiry, be authorized to access exhibits held for less than ten years and confidential submissions received by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade during its inquiry into the loss of HMAS Sydney, subject to:

(a)   appropriate consultations by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade being undertaken with those who provided confidential submissions, prior to any such material being accessed by President Cole;

(b)   the Commission not using the material in a manner contrary to the law of parliamentary privilege as amplified by section 16 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987;

(c)   the material not being made public as evidence tendered to the Commission or as part of the Commission’s report without the agreement of the Presiding Officers; and

(2)   the foregoing resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders; and

(3)   a message be sent to the Senate informing it of this resolution and requesting that it concur.

This motion authorises access by the Hon. Terence Cole AO, RFD, QC, President of the HMAS Sydney II Commission of Inquiry, to obtain certain documents received by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade during its inquiry into the loss of HMAS Sydney. The motion is in response to a request from Mr Cole to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Senate. The commission has previously received copies of the joint committee’s report and other material authorised for publication by the committee. Mr Cole has now sought access to the remaining documents of the committee’s inquiry—namely, seven confidential submissions and 68 exhibits.

The Presiding Officers are able to authorise access to some of the material sought, exhibits which have been held for more than 10 years. However, the confidential submissions and any exhibits held for less than 10 years may be available to the commission only by resolution of both houses of parliament. The motion proposes that Mr Cole be authorised to access the requested material subject to three conditions, which are: firstly, that appropriate consultations be undertaken by the joint committee with those who provided confidential submissions prior to any such material being accessed by President Cole; secondly, that the commission not use the material in a manner contrary to the law of parliamentary privilege; and, thirdly, that the material not be made public as evidence tendered to the commission or as part of the commission’s report without the agreement of the Presiding Officers. The Presiding Officers have consulted with the joint committee, which has agreed with this course of action. I commend the motion to the House.

Question agreed to.