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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1942

Senator MASON(3.14) —The debate seems too be at the stage where we might as well put our bit into it. It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Chaney) has said, that with modifications to the motion we have agreed to support it. This is not necessarily because we feel that we have a strong commitment to do so; far from it. It is merely because, as usual, we will have to decide whether it passes and we realise that there are areas of concern in the Senate and the Community which this reference may or may not allay. But it is very important that the right of those people to be heard should not be unreasonably withheld from them.

I cannot agree with the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) that this reference would place a lot of work on an over-burdened committee. As far as I can see, the Committee, from judging the references listed on the Notice Paper, is not over-burdened at the moment. The fact that it has looked at this matter once before is also beside the point. Fresh material and matters have been raised. I am not canvassing those matters. Mr Deputy President, you are aware that we have raised this matter, we have taken a certain point of view and sought certain things. That does not give the Australian Democrats the right to decide arbitrarily that the points of view of other people and honourable senators should be disregraded. It is on that basis only that we will support this reference. We understand that it will not be a complicated one. No public evidence will be called as a result. It is basically a matter of the kind of legal opinions the Attorney-General has spoken of. In fact, as I can see it and on my understanding, it is that kind of process except that the Committee, in an organised way, will be able to listen to them and report to the Senate reliably on the outcome. I suggest to the Attorney-General that this is not the great deal he makes it out to be. It will not damage the Committee. There is no precedent where the Committee is concerned.

Senator Coates —Very much so.

Senator MASON —I say to Senator Coates that in our view the mere fact that the Committee in the past has not dealt with policy matters of this kind does not necessarily limit it in the future. It is a regulations and ordinances committee designed on behalf of the Senate to look at what the Executive does in the way of regulations and ordinances. I do not concede that this matter has policy implications but, if that is the case, it is not a matter that we could not reasonably be asked to take on board.

Question resolved in the affirmative.