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Monday, 27 August 2001
Page: 26655


Senator ROBERT RAY (3:07 PM) —by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

Madam President, thank you for the explanation on the clippings. In fact, I looked at the clippings on Friday and I think I am right in saying that all the major articles on the Macfarlane-Costello thing from the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Review and other newspapers were missing. It was not censorship. As you have explained, there is a methodology used. Senator Knowles was equally disappointed that some other clippings were missing on Thursday. I think the answer to this is that we should invoke some commonsense. Some of us—I think on all sides of the chamber—have found some very interesting articles missing and some very boring IT articles constantly appearing for no good reason. I think we need to do a survey of senators and their interests—maybe even have several senators mark up the newspapers without looking at the clips on a particular day to give guidance to those people. There are several critical articles keen to our interests on both sides of the chamber that we are missing out on and there is some esoteric stuff getting in that is of little value.

It is hard, I understand, to put forward any criteria at all but I think we should attempt it at some stage. It may be time to revisit the publication costs. We had a proposal four years ago to electronically transfer the clippings. I am still concerned that every one of us will just press the print button, transferring the costs away into our own offices.

Finally, if in fact I am wrong and I did not take a point of order three years ago—also on Senator Knowles—I will apologise to the chamber, but I have a distinct memory of taking a point of order and saying, `Look, some people are forced to ask questions of you during question time and they blow a question, and if we set a precedent to do it after question time, I am happy to live with it. The only problem is that I do not want to see it artificially exploited, as has happened in the House of Representatives, where the Speaker is asked questions after question time. It is a good way to get your name in print.' Senator Knowles was not trying to do that the other day but, if we are entitled to ask you questions after question time, I am certain we will need a bit of self-discipline so that it does not turn into a circus. I thank the Senate for its tolerance.