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Tuesday, 30 September 1997
Page: 7202

Senator ABETZ(3.32 p.m.) —Let us debunk something that Senator Bob Collins, the former shadow minister and now backbencher, suggested to this Senate—that the practice of the Australian Law Reform Commission was to make comment on these important matters. Let us go through what the Australian Law Reform Commission did not comment on in relation to these matters.

As I am advised, the Native Title Amendment Bill 1995 of the previous government was not commented on by the Australian Law Reform Commission. Then the government's May 1996 discussion paper on the amendments was not commented on. The subsequent 1996 amendment bill was not commented upon by the Australian Law Reform Commission, and, might I add, quite properly. They should not have and they did not. What was so peculiar about this particular occasion that made the Australian Law Reform Commission consider it necessary for them to comment? I think we know the answer to that.

The important point is that the suggestion has been made that we on this side of politics and the Attorney-General (Mr Williams) have somehow tried to stop the Australian Law Reform Commission from pursuing its submission to the parliamentary joint committee. I am advised that the fact is that the secretariat of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Native Title and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Fund has not received a submission from the Australian Law Reform Commission.

Senator Kernot —They received a letter.

Senator ABETZ —There is no paper document in front of them.

Senator Kernot —They have written it.

Senator ABETZ —No. The submission was to the Wik task force and it was on that occasion that the Attorney-General wrote to the Australian Law Reform Commission saying `this is out of your terms of reference' when he became aware of it. Might I add as an aside that he has also told the Australian Law Reform Commission about the less controversial issue of copyright law, `It is out of bounds; you should not be commenting on it.'

One of the most galling things for me as the chair of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee was to have the Australian Law Reform Commission come to us before estimates and complain about lack of resources to do their job adequately on those matters which they are in fact required to report on when they then go on frolics of their own spending taxpayers' money on issues that they have not been requested to look into.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Keep going. You have 57 minutes—57 seconds.

Senator ABETZ —You nearly made my day when you said I had another 57 minutes, Madam Deputy President. But, quite frankly, it does not take 57 minutes or 57 seconds to debunk the nonsense that the opposition has tried to put before us today. We on this side know that when the opposition are on really weak ground and do not really have their heart in it, who else do they get to lead the charge for them but Senator Bolkus, who has no credibility on this side of the chamber or on that side of the chamber or indeed in the community at large.

Senator Ian Campbell —Mr Political Advertising!

Senator ABETZ —We now know that Senator Bolkus, the man who did not want political advertising in this country on TV, is all of a sudden a convert to free speech to allow people to act outside their terms of reference. It is a joke. We can see through it. It is transparency at its worst. The allegations are dismissed. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.