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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 972

The PRESIDENT —On Monday 28 March 1985 I informed the Senate that I had made arrangements for counsel to appear in proceedings in the Local Court of New South Wales to ensure that the limitations imposed by the law upon the use which may be made of Parliamentary evidence were observed. Counsel has appeared accordingly and has taken the necessary action to seek to ensure the proper observance of those limitations. I am concerned, however, that there have been some inaccurate media reports of those proceedings in relation to matters raised by the Senate's counsel. In a report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's National program on 26 March 1985 it was stated that parliamentary privilege was being 'rewritten' in the proceedings. This conclusion appeared to be based on a further statement that questions in a certain form were being asked. The report was wrong in that a question in the form referred to was asked only once, was objected to by counsel for the Senate, was not answered and was not persisted with. The ABC officer responsible for the program was asked to make a correction, and it is a matter of concern to me that no correction has so far been made.

In the ABC National program on 27 March 1985 there was a report that a witness had been cross-examined on a statement he had prepared for a Senate committee. I am advised that that report also was inaccurate insofar as it suggested that the content of the statement had been examined. The Senate will appreciate that I do not want to say anything further because the proceedings are continuing, but senators should be assured that appropriate action is being taken to seek to ensure that there is no improper use of Senate committee evidence in the proceedings.