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Friday, 1 June 1984
Page: 2334

Senator COATES(9.28) —I just want to make it clear that, as a member of Estimates Committee D, I dissociate myself from the outrageous exercise that has been going on for several weeks now over this matter. I suspect that it is just a witch hunt by members of the Opposition because of their obsession with non-government schools. It has been not only an outrageous exercise but also boring repetition. We have had repetitive quotation and requotation from Hansard over and again which is only wasting time and paper. To the extent that members of the Opposition wanted to make a point, they have made their point, but they are now continuing to try to advance their cause by reiterating their statements ad nauseum.

Opposition members of the Committee yesterday were either naive or else just feigned surprise at some of us not wanting to accept the neutral report from the further sittings of the Committee. They feigned surprise that I should have moved that the Committee reject the offensive statements in the minority report as being without justification. I deplore the rudeness that was shown to public servants. I guess rudeness is something that the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) can take, but rudeness to public servants is something that I deplore. I can only appeal to the Whip, when allocating senators to Estimates committees next year: Please do not ask me to sit on a committee with Senator Teague and Senator Baume.

This morning Senator Martin said that the Australian Labor Party has used its numbers. There is never any mention of the Opposition using its numbers or any suggestion that people can make rational decisions without being told, and without having to take the legal advice of their colleagues during committee meetings, I might add. I believe there was nothing in yesterday's operation, during the two meetings which the Committee held, to justify these public servants being called, in spite of what I consider amounted to an interrogation of public servants, and of Dr Taloni in particular. It was not a seeking of information; it came nearer to the behaviour that one might see in a court of law rather than what I would expect in a Senate committee.