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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2003

Senator COATES (3.14 p.m.) —Mr President, I am surprised that the opposition is attacking you in this way. I thought Senator Hill's speech was quite unreasonable. I thought the speech you delivered in Darwin was quite unexceptional. You may take that as an offensive statement.

The PRESIDENT —Damned with faint praise.

Senator COATES —I thought it was a fairly straightforward speech commenting on many of the issues concerning Senate committee operations, saying some of the sorts of things that, I must say, I have said when asked to comment on the operation of Senate committees. It was a balanced commentary and was only a few pages long.

  What the opposition seems to be complaining about is the things that you did not include. You did not say that the opposition was wonderful to do this and that. It was an absolutely balanced speech. It is one thing for members of the opposition to use this speech in Darwin as a reason to launch forth on their own self-praise but there is no need to turn that into an attack on the balance of the speech; it was an entirely balanced presentation.

  If I had been making the speech, I would have made a much tougher comment on the opposition. But, Mr President, you did not attack the opposition; you made a balanced comment. The problem is that Senator Alston during the weekend—or a few days ago—jumped onto a press report the moment it had been published. The press report contained an out of context couple of sentences from the report. Having done that, even though he then got the whole speech, he thought it was too late to go back on what he had said originally; and felt the need to continue the attack.

Senator Abetz —Have you read it?

Senator COATES —Of course I have read it. I would not be commenting in this way if I had not. Mr President, your comments, as reported in the press, were taken out of context. Senator Alston jumped on the press report then felt it was too late, once he saw the full speech, to make a more balanced comment. I am surprised that Senator Hill continued this in such an unbalanced way, turning it into an attack on you, Mr President. I do not mind the opposition saying how wonderful it is on the various matters to which it has drawn attention; but I do not think it can jump from that to say that the speech you made was unbalanced or inappropriate in any way.