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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2301

Senator MARTIN(10.38) —As a member of Estimates Committee D I indicate that this recommendation had the support of all members of the Committee. A minority report is appended to the Committee's report. It applies to certain areas only. However, the rest of the report that was presented to the Senate in the name of Senator Colston is supported by all members of the Committee.

I would like to raise a couple of matters relating to the recommendation concerning the Hansard reports. I have been concerned for some time that members of Estimates committees do not get something equivalent to the pinks that they receive of speeches they make in the Senate. As a result, we are sometimes misreported. On occasions I have found on reading the equivalent of the daily Hansard of the Estimates committee, which is available at least a couple of weeks after a hearing, that questions I have asked have been quite incorrectly reported. This is understandable. The proceedings of Estimates committees are recorded by Hansard and I can understand that on occasions considerable difficulty is experienced in determining just what we are saying.

We have some page proofs before us of the deliberations of this Estimates Committee today. They are, I believe, excellently presented. I convey my thanks to Hansard for its really outstanding effort in getting those page proofs ready today so that we could proceed with Estimates Committee D. However, even in those proofs, where at one stage I was actually quoting from the minority report of the Committee, the quote is wrong, quite erroneous. It is desirable to pick up those sorts of things at an early stage.

I have also been on a committee in the past where, when the Hansard was received, a question was asked about information that appeared in it. An officer said: 'We realised that we had given incorrect information so we fixed up our answer'. It is certainly perfectly right that an officer, having realised he had given incorrect information, should do something about it. However, I would have thought that it would be preferable for the Committee to be aware that a correction had been made that really made a substantial difference to an answer. That has been the case in the past. As a member of the Committee I have proceeded on information I believed had been given but something quite different subsequently appeared.

I can see that there might be some problems arising out of uncorrected proofs of evidence, but they would give us a working document. When one goes through many items in an Estimates committee over a period of several hours-this particularly applies to Budget Estimates-it can be difficult to remember what was said earlier in the day. We are often in the position of being asked what we want to go into a report. Really, it is very difficult to respond to that without some sort of statement in front of us. I think this would be a workable system provided it was understood to have its own limits, that is, that they are only page proofs. The reason we added the words 'any other interested senator who asks for a copy' was that honourable senators sometimes attend committees of which they are not members and it is relevant to give them copies of the proofs or of that section where they were asking questions and showing an interest.

The other comment I make very briefly, because I think it is more relevant to another Estimates Committee, is that once again the matter of the provision of Estimates Hansards this year was not satisfactory. That might be in part due to the problems that came about as a result of the new sitting pattern of two weeks on and two weeks off. If we had been in a three out of four week sitting pattern the problem may not have arisen. The problem was a very real one for the committees this year. I do commend the recommendation to the Senate. I am unaware whether it has been discussed with Hansard or with the President. It may be possible that at some other time further comments can be made. However, I think it would be very desirable that, if that is the best practice we can follow, it be followed in future.