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Wednesday, 12 September 1984
Page: 860

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition) —by leave-My reason for wishing to say something on a formal motion is that the motion which has been moved by Senator Tate is one which is of very great interest to the Senate as a whole. I do not wish to raise the general principle which we have adopted in the Opposition, which I think is broadly accepted by the Government, that as far as possible Senate committees should not meet while the Senate is sitting. That is a principle which we have overturned from time to time on the basis of either the importance of a matter or, usually, the urgency of a matter. In this case I wish to put before the Senate the fact that there was some concern among Opposition senators that given the unusual nature of this inquiry and given the fact that in the ultimate the responsibility in this matter rests with the Senate, and indeed with the whole of the Parliament, it was the view of many Opposition senators-I think I could say the view of the Opposition generally- that were it possible for the sittings of the Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge, at which public evidence is taken, to be held at a time when senators were free to attend, that would be highly desirable. It is very difficult at this stage to predict what the result of this will be. It may be that it will require the Senate's attention after the work of the Committee. Clearly, in terms of the Senate making a judgment on the matter, were honourable senators able to see the witnesses that could be of considerable advantage.

Given the circumstances and given the view of the Government, which again is shared by the Opposition, that this matter should be dealt with expeditiously, it was not thought reasonable for the Opposition to suggest that the Committee be precluded from meeting while the Senate is sitting. It is possible to imagine a scenario in which that would delay the hearings in a way which would be quite unfair to the judge and which would in fact preclude the expeditious handling of this matter. That would not be the Opposition's wish. The Opposition therefore determined, after consideration of Senator Tate's notice of motion, which he gave yesterday, that we should be prepared to support it. But we wish to place on the record, for the consideration of the Committee, the view that as far as possible public sessions at which evidence is taken should be held at times which would enable senators to attend those hearings.

I appreciate the opportunity the Senate has given me to put that on the record and I ask Senator Tate and the other members of the Committee to bear in mind that view in setting down the meetings of the Committee. We agree that the matter should be dealt with expeditiously and we hope that that will be possible consistent with the point which I have just raised on behalf of the Opposition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.