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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1852

Senator HAINES(8.50) —I think the Senate should congratulate Senator Cooney for drawing the attention of honourable senators to what we are supposed to be debating today, that is, Senator Harradine's unrealistic expectations of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills and his apparent belief that that Committee should be operating differently from every other standing committee of the Senate. In making his statements about how the Scrutiny of Bills Committee should be operating, he has impugned, I believe, the integrity of every member of that Committee. I think it is worth reminding honourable senators that the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee is in fact an all-party committee. Senators Tate, Cooney and Crowley are Government members on the committee; Senator Missen represents the Liberal Party, Senator Scott represents the National Party of Australia; I represent the Australian Democrats on that Committee.

What Senator Harradine said in his speech earlier tonight impugns the integrity of every one of us and, I think, by implication, the parties which put us there, by alleging that we are behaving in some way inappropriately and by suggesting that we are not behaving as a Senate standing committee should behave. He has asked that senators putting forward private senator's Bills be entitled to participate in the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee's deliberations on the Bill. As Senator Missen has already pointed out, other standing committees are governed by standing order 306, which quite specifically states:

Senators may be present when a Committee is examining Witnesses, but shall withdraw if requested by the Chairman or any member of the Committee, and shall always withdraw when the Committee is deliberating.

In 1978 I was not a member of any standing committee, but I did attend the meetings ex officio when witnesses were presenting submissions to one of the standing committees of the Senate. I was not, however, entitled to take part in its deliberations when it prepared its report. I was not entitled, therefore, to vote on any contentious issues that came up or, indeed, to prepare any sort of minority report. Certainly I was not in a position to take part in the preparation of a majority report. Senator Harradine in his motion suggests that individual senators should breach standing order 306; that the Chairman of the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee should enable senators to breach standing order 306, to allow them to be present for the deliberations on the Bill. Senator Harradine is asking that he-and it is, let us face it, a specific instance that Senator Harradine is upset about-be treated quite differently from any other senator.

During his speech he asked me whether at any stage I discussed with my colleagues the Scrutiny of Bills Committee's deliberations on Australian Democrats' private members' legislation. I tell the Senate and you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that at no stage have I ever done so. The reason is not that I have some particular high form of integrity or that I am very close mouthed or anything else; it is simply that we deal with legislation on a particular day and the report is presented as of that meeting. We are given no opportunity to discuss it. The most that I can do, that Senator Missen can do if it is a Liberal private member's Bill, or Senator Tate, Senator Cooney or Senator Crowley can do, if it is a Government Bill, is to leave that Committee with the draft of the report which is soon to be printed and say to the Minister or the senator concerned: 'This is what we have decided is questionable about your Bill'.

As Senator Tate pointed out, often the comments that are raised by the Scrutiny of Bills Committee are not picked up in this place. They are simply presented in the report and the legislation is passed or opposed with no particular reference being made to the Scrutiny of Bills Committee's comments. On occasions Senator Macklin and one or two other senators have picked them up, and I think that is all to the good. Indeed, we did so recently in regard to the extradition legislation. Certainly, I would have been very surprised if Senator Tate or any of the other Australian Labor Party senators on that Committee ran to the Attorney-General, Mr Bowen, and pointed out just what the problems were that the Scrutiny of Bills Committee had raised. The reason they did not do so, as Senator Tate said, is that when we raise concerns in our report-they are not criticisms; they are concerns-about the drafting of a piece of legislation, Ministers and individual senators who have presented private members' legislation are always given the opportunity to respond. In the main they do respond. Indeed, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee has a tendency to give a rocket to Ministers and to other senators who do not respond in time for the next report to be sent out.

Over the last couple of years since this Committee was established, we have been indulging in an educative project and program, not only of Ministers and private members and senators, but also of departmental officers and draftsmen, about what the Scrutiny of Bills Committee will or will not tolerate. We do have a specific set of criteria. It was grossly inaccurate, not to say misleading, of Senator Harradine to allege that the comments that were made in the Scrutiny of Bills Committee's report on his Bill referred only to administrative problems when, as he said, there are no details of administration contained within the legislation.

He mentioned only principle 1 (a), parts (ii) to (v). He completely omitted to mention 1 (a) (i) which concerns portions of the Bill which trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties. Anybody who has read this report will realise that every single clause that was raised as a matter of concern by the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee was raised because of principle 1 (a) (i). That included the section entitled 'General Comment' on the Bill. Page after page of the report states:

The Committee draws this aspect of the Bill to the attention of the Senate under principle 1 (a) (i) in that the application of the Bill-in the general section-to corporations and not to other persons or bodies may be considered discriminatory in the absence of complementary State Legislation applying to natural persons.

Other areas of the report deal with the impact that it has on personal rights and liberties. It does so in regard to clause 5, clause 6 and clause 12. There is no question of parts (ii) to (v) being dealt with by the Committee in any way. The Committee raised genuine concerns about the alleged purpose of the legislation, vis-a-vis its likely actual effectiveness. In referring to measures contained in clause 5, under the heading 'Prohibited experimentation', the Committee made the comment- I think it was justified-that the terms 'experimenting', 'manipulation', 'procedure', 'dissection', and 'drug' are not defined. Surely, nobody could object to a committee whose role it is to scrutinise legislation making a comment that a number of extremely important terms are not defined and, in not being defined, may well cause things which the senator concerned-that is, the senator producing the Bill-did not intend.

Senator Harradine —There are simple answers to that.

Senator HAINES —If, as Senator Harradine says, there are simple answers to that, the place for those to be given is in his response to this report. Every single time that the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee has raised in a report matters of imprecise definition, infringement of civil liberties or any other of the criteria that we have to consider-non-reviewable administrative decisions, inappropriate delegation of legislative power, and so on-when the Minister or the private senator involved has responded, that response has been covered in the subsequent report. As I said earlier, we are in the habit of giving rockets to people who ignore those comments that we raise.

I think previous speakers in this debate have also indicated their indignation at Senator Harradine's decision to question the integrity of the Committee and its members. He has apparently requested treatment different from that given to any other senator or Minister. I think he has argued quite unfairly that we have used the wrong criteria. Further, he has not recognised that we have approached this legislation as we approach every other Bill that comes before us-from a set of criteria laid down by this Senate some years ago. We look at legislation with a genuine concern about its actual impact as distinct from the intention of the Minister or senator who is putting it forward. There is no question about the fact that we expect that Senator Harradine will give us a response. We will look at that response and treat it as we have treated every other response to every other Bill, whether government or non-government, that has come before us.

I, for one, bitterly resent the fact that Senator Harradine has taken this action. As Senator Tate said, we spent extra time last Friday morning dealing with Senator Harradine's Bill because he regarded it as urgent. However, we have been treated in this quite unfair and very cavalier manner by Senator Harradine who has attempted to debate not the motion that he has put before us but rather the contents of his Bill.