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Monday, 10 October 1994
Page: 1341

Senator McKIERNAN (5.37 p.m.) —Mr Acting Deputy President, I want to speak for only a few minutes to endorse the remarks made by Senator Spindler and Senator Ellison about the chairman of this committee, Senator Cooney. The previous speakers, including Senator Cooney, have adequately addressed the contents of the report.

  I am motivated to speak today because this will be the last report of this type presented by the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The standing orders of the Senate have been changed to divide the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee into two separate committees. The revamped committee which would deal with references of this nature will be chaired by a member of the opposition. Consequently, Senator Cooney will lose his place as chairman.

  I want to endorse what Senator Ellison said about the way that Senator Cooney conducts inquiries such as this. He has a style that is peculiar to him. When we examine it, we would not think it would work in a fit, but on each and every occasion it does work and he manages to get the best out of each and every witness. Those witnesses sometimes express diverse and contrary views; yet they are appearing at the table and making their responses, and everybody goes away happy, and the parliament and the people of Australia benefit.

  Without reflecting on the decision of the Senate to revamp the committee system, I believe that we have lost something in losing Senator Cooney as chairman of this committee. Today, however, he was elected chair of the Legal and Constitutional References Committee so we will still see his style for some time.

  The Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is one of the busiest committees of this chamber. A lot of bills are referred to us and we have a lot of ongoing references. It is a tribute to Senator Cooney that, despite the enormous amount of work that he does with this committee, his other committee work, and his constituency work, he has been able to continue to force this committee into concluding the references at hand and fulfilling the committee's obligations to this chamber.

  Although this sounds somewhat like a valedictory speech, it is not meant to be so. When I say that Senator Cooney has made an enormous contribution to the work of the Senate committee system and to the Senate, I mean it in the truest sense of the word. Unfortunately, on these types of future references, we are going to lose him. He will continue as a member of the committee and I am sure that his inimitable style of questioning will continue to benefit the committee, its references and, indeed, the Senate as a whole.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.