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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1542

Senator CHANEY —Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister say what the Prime Minister's present attitude is to the inquiry of the Senate Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge? Does he maintain the view expressed on the John Laws show yesterday morning, namely, that he would not, in any way, seek to interfere with the processes of the Committee? Does he hold to his endorsement, a few hours later, of Mr Lionel Bowen's attack during Question Time in the House of Representatives on the Committee or does he support Mr Bowen's late night partial retraction? How does he explain the Prime Minister's gyrations in assuming three different positions in the space of 12 hours?

Senator BUTTON —I can only explain the gyrations by conceding that they may have happened, and I am not prepared to do that. Let me say at the beginning that this question really goes to the weight that is to be attached to an answer to a question given by the Deputy Prime Minister in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon. If honourable senators read Mr Bowen's answer to the question clearly and the subsequent statement which he put out in relation to that answer, they will see that he has expressed a general concern which for a long time has been held here by members of the Government and indeed by some members of the Opposition I believe over the general environment of smear and innuendo which has surrounded a lot of the proceedings of this Parliament in the last few weeks and months. I think that arises from the fact that the proceedings of the Senate Select Committee in a way involve a mixture of the judicial with the political, which I would never have thought would be a desirable mix in any context.

Having said that, I would just like to say that, although the Government was not keen on the course which has been followed in relation to the allegations made against the judge, we have accepted that course. I personally say, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, that I have absolute confidence in the ability and integrity of the commissioners. I believe that the honourable senators on that Committee are going about performing the very difficult task which they have been given with diligence and a fair minded approach to the questions involved. In those circumstances, and having discussed this matter with the Prime Minister, there will be no interferences in the processes of that Committee.