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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2757


Senator PUPLICK(11.46) —I think it was Humpty-dumpty who was on record as saying: `Words mean only what I say that they mean'. Senator Gareth Evans has now assumed that mantle for himself by telling the Committee that when he talks about records of the Senate he does not actually mean `records of the Senate'; he means those bits and pieces of the debate that he happened to have in mind as he got up to produce his defence against the simple point that Senator Durack made that the Minister has consistently misled the chamber and the people of Australia by making a claim about the nature of the debate which took place on the Bill of Rights legislation. At the end of the day, instead of simply accepting that he was wrong in fact and, as Senator Durack called upon him to do, to apologise to the Senate for having misled it, Senator Evans decided that the defence was to say `When I say ``records'' I do not really mean records and, anyway, if it had gone on any further I would have been right', presumably on the basis that if any prediction or assertion that one makes is left long enough and is provoked for a sufficient time, one in fact may get it right in the end. That is what Senator Evans's defence amounts to.

Apart from indicating quite clearly just how spurious Senator Evans's comments are in terms of attempting to defend statements that he made which the facts do not support, I draw attention to the role that this chamber played. Senator Evans has been critical of the chamber for taking what he believes to be an excessive amount of time on this piece of legislation. It seems to me that the very purpose for which upper Houses of Parliament exist is in fact to subject to scrutiny pieces of legislation which are rushed through and, indeed, guillotined through the lower House without there being an adequate opportunity for community debate and exposure of the issues.

We know the hostility which the Australian Labor Party has to this chamber. Anybody who reads Senator Evans's maiden speech in this place will recall his bold reassertion of Labor Party policy for the eventual abolition of this chamber. It is no wonder that he and the Labor Party hold to that view when we see a demonstration of an attempt by the Labor Party to impose upon the people of Australia a piece of social and political engineering which the people of Australia themselves overwhelmingly rejected and which was prevented only because of the nature, form and structure of the proceedings available to senators as elected representatives of the people of Australia. The Government was prevented from using its brute force of numbers, as it did in the House of Representatives where a piece of legislation allegedly designed to protect and enhance human rights was put through by means of a guillotine so that there could not be proper and adequate debate.

I believe that, if anything, the amount of time spent on the debate on the Bill of Rights legislation, which is one of the principal factors which have led to the Government now conceding that it does not have the popular mandate and support which would be necessary to enact such a radical and significant piece of legislation, justifies the way in which this chamber has behaved in terms of its structure, form and purposes. The Labor Party has demonstrated quite clearly that it retains its hostility towards the Senate as an institution. This is why the parties on this side of the chamber will do everything in their power to protect the reputation and, indeed, the constitutional rights of the Senate to submit government legislation, no matter what government originates that legislation, to the closest degree of scrutiny.

When this chamber on this occasion clearly represents the will of the people of Australia, we are entitled to take as much time as is necessary to make that point. All of the complaints and misrepresentations made by the Minister about this debate are exposed by what Senator Durack and others had to say for the sham that they constitute.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION BILL 1985

HUMAN RIGHTS AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION (TRANSITIONAL

PROVISIONS AND CONSEQUENTIAL) AMENDMENTS BILL 1985