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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1947


Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(3.38) —I have already explained in the previous procedural debate why the Government resists this motion. I will not repeat now anything I said. I will add only that Senator Walters's contribution to this debate has demonstrated the manifest absurdity of the position that is sought to be maintained by both the Leader of the Opposition ( Senator Chaney) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Durack), namely that the reference being conveyed to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances is wholly narrow, wholly technical in scope, and concerned purely with legal issues which can be resolved quickly and narrowly and by a short report. It is obvious from the nature of Senator Walters's contribution that she certainly does not take that view of the terms of reference given to the Committee. Indeed, even with the deletion of the word 'unduly' it is almost impossible to so read them. Certainly, the pressures upon the Committee will be such as to make its job very difficult indeed and will make its position really quite intolerable by reference to the traditional way in which that Committee has operated.

I do not want to debate at this stage, obviously, the report to which Senator Walters has referred. But lest anyone should get too excited about this document , let me put on the record, in one sentence, the advice that people should be very careful indeed about it. Information available to me through my Department is that both the Roman Catholic and Methodist representatives on the sponsoring committee have withdrawn as a result of an accusation that has now been made by the Oxford Polytechnic's television research unit that the director of this inquiry, Dr Clifford Hill, has misused its data. The report is extremely controversial, not only as to its subject matter but also as to its methodology and its credibility. It was commissioned by a group of British members of parliament and peers. It has been the subject of a great deal of such controversy. I understand that the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom is now sponsoring a new survey by the Oxford group. Senator Walters would be very wise to get her act together and to find out just a little more about this document, on board which she has been so quick to leap, before ramming it down our long- suffering throats when we do get to the appropriate opportunity to debate these matters substantively, which will be when the debate on the disallowance motions is called on, that is, on 29 May or 30 May.