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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1598

Senator TATE(7.05) —in reply-In closing the debate I will respond very briefly. The extension of time is needed for obvious reasons which would be a matter of commonsense, I think, to most honourable senators. We hope to finish with witnesses possibly even by tomorrow afternoon, but certainly by Friday. That is our hope and expectation. To allay some fears I will state that the method of deciding which witnesses to call is not one that is in the hands of only counsellors, as I think Senator Georges indicated. The fact is that counsel assisting the Senate Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge submits to the commissioners assisting the Committee what he thinks is the best course in relation to the calling of witnesses. Those commissioners then make a recommendation to the Committee which makes the decision. May I say, without revealing any names, that that has not been a process by which either the commissioners or, in its turn, the Committee has automatically accepted the submission or recommendation of the counsel assisting.

Senator Haines —Other counsel have put forward names too.

Senator TATE —Of course other counsel have the right to approach the Committee to see whether witnesses may be called but it is our decision in the end. We hope to finish with witnesses possibly by late tomorrow or Friday. Counsel will clearly require several days to make their addresses. The whole question of the appearance of Mr Justice Murphy is something which is out of our hands. As every honourable senator would know, he is to be invited, rather than compelled, to appear before the Committee. Of course this is something on which at this stage a decision has not been reached. Commissioners will require time to write up their report which we then have to consider before we determine our report, or reports as the case may be. In the light of all these matters it is quite clear that tomorrow's deadline cannot be reached and it is impossible to put a precise date on the conclusion of the task entrusted to us by the Senate.

I also say, to allay some fears, that whilst the setting up of the Committee is a matter of legitimate political controversy I believe-of course some of the procedures were the subject of vigorous debate in this chamber-the fact is that the proceedings of the Committee have been conducted in a way which adheres, as closely as practicable, to those rules of evidence which would be applied in a criminal trial. To that extent hearsay evidence has been excluded despite strenuous and lengthy arguments by counsel that it be admitted, sometimes by the front door and sometimes by the back door. But in every instance where the hearsay material was sought to be introduced as evidence of the issues involved it has been rejected. In relation to the issues, the Committee was at great pains to refine the allegation in a way which kept very closely within the four corners of Appendix 5 of the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Conduct of a Judge to the extent that many issues have been excluded. Once again we have prevented the introduction of issues irrelevant to Appendix 5 and, in particular, have not allowed the Committee to become a forum where other issues between other persons might, to the public, appear to be up for determination. We have been very scrupulous in allowing only that evidence which is relevant to the allegation which we have defined in a particular and precise way. We have not wandered on a frolic of our own through the many other allegations and pending court cases and prosecutions which are either in train or mooted.

In all of those respects I assure the Senate that we are trying to conclude this matter as soon as possible, given the task entrusted to us. In the end, given the controversy as to the setting up of the Committee and putting that to one side, I believe the Committee will be seen to have acted within the parameters set by the Senate and in accordance with the rules of evidence and the principles of natural justice.

Question resolved in the affirmative.