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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2137

Senator HAINES(6.08) — The Australian Democrats support the two motions brought down by Senator Durack. In explaining the reasons I certainly do not intend to attempt to match either the erudition of the shadow Attorney-General or the obfuscation of the current Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans), nor, despite my post-graduate studies in English, do I intend to get involved in a discussion of 'being laid'. We believe it is intolerable that the report of an inquiry initiated by the Parliament or by one House of it should not attract unqualified unequivocal privilege in all States of Australia. Senator Evans with surprising aplomb-perhaps not for a Victorian-wiped off South Australia, and presumably Western Australia by association, as being one of the least populous States and therefore not terribly important. I remind him that Australia does not end at the western border of Victoria, despite the fact that many members of Parliament seem to think so; nor even should Queensland have to worry about what manifestation Her Majesty chooses to appear in as far as privilege is concerned.

It is important that both the report of the Costigan Royal Commission on the Activities of the Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union and the report that will ultimately come out of the Senate Select Committee on Allegations Concerning a Judge have privilege. There have been, as Senator Durack pointed out, conflicting views on this matter-conflicting opinions from some of the finest legal minds in the country.

Senator Gareth Evans —And some others.

Senator HAINES —And some others, including the Attorney. While that situation continues, the media, members of Parliament and others will all be somewhat less than enthusiastic about making comments on the reports and their contents. Whatever Senator Tate believes, and I think I caught an interjection from him earlier about privilege, whatever the Senate and members of the Senate believe, a vast number of people in the general community are unsure of whether privilege is attached to those two reports.

Senator Evans does not believe that a resolution of the Senate makes any difference. He talked about arcane principles of law, prospective protection and all sorts of other things designed, I think, to make matters worse rather than improve them. Contrary to what he seems to believe, most of us believe that extra protection is provided by resolution of the Senate. Resolutions of the Senate are not to be taken lightly. They are certainly in a different category from opinions from various eminent legal minds in the country. They are seen differently by members of the community and certainly by the media. If these two motions do nothing at all, they quieten some of the concerns and fears that are being expressed currently about what will happen when the Costigan report is brought down and the Parliament is dissolved and what will happen to the report that will come out of the Murphy inquiry. Even if, however, no additional privilege attaches because of these motions, and I am by no means persuaded by the Attorney-General's arguments, at least what he said in his closing remarks is true: It will do no harm. For that reason alone, the motions require support from all sides of this place.