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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1842

Senator HARRADINE(6.22) —I move:

That the Senate, noting the Fifth Report of 1985 of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, relating to the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill 1985-

(a) directs that Committee, when dealing with a private senator's Bill, to take all appropriate measures to enable that senator to participate, without voting, in its deliberations on the Bill, to make available to that senator any submissions which the Committee has received on the Bill and any comments on the Bill which the Committee is considering reporting to the Senate, to provide that senator with an opportunity to be heard orally or in writing in relation to such submissions or proposed comments before the Committee makes any report to the Senate on the Bill, and to ensure that the senator is advised of the approximate time of presentation of the report and is provided with a copy thereof at the same time as it is received by members of the Committee; and

(b) directs that Committee to confine itself strictly to the criteria for reporting on Bills contained in the resolution appointing the Committee, and not to comment upon matters relating to the policy of Bills.

I have moved that motion to ensure that what happened in the dying hours of last Friday does not occur again. I am quite aware that strenuous efforts are being made to pre-empt a fair and reasoned parliamentary and public debate on the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill 1985. By any standard, the object of that measure must rate as a matter of the highest public importance. In short, the object of that measure is to prevent the creation of a race of laboratory human beings which are second-class and disposable. I regret to say that the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has been used unwittingly as an instrument in an attempt to ambush that important Bill and the Committee's report was rushed into the Senate in the dying hours of last week. Already copies of that report have been distributed far and wide, mainly to those academics with a vested interest in laboratory experimentation on human embryos.

Senator Tate —Rubbish.

Senator HARRADINE —Not by Senator Tate, but they are now in their hands. These people, in fact, are leading the onslaught against my Bill. The people to whom I refer are those who provided private submissions to the Scrutiny of Bills Committee-that is to say, the Queen Victoria Medical Centre whose principals are Professor Carl Wood and Dr Alan Trounson. I am perfectly well aware of what Dr Alan Trounson has said in respect of these matters. He has called my Bill a denial of academic freedom. He has said that the professors will not be pleased and that, indeed, the Vice-Chancellor will not be pleased. These people have utilised most unscientific and emotional weapons in the public campaign against the Bill.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Harradine, you must confine your remarks to the motion which does not appear to me to cover the topics that you are now bringing to the attention of the Senate.

Senator Grimes —Are you suggesting that the Committee is a tool of people you do not agree with?

Senator HARRADINE —No, I am not. I am saying that on their material-that is, the material that has been supplied by the Queen Victoria Medical Centre-the assumptions underlying the main observation of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee were formulated. That is how that comes into this matter. In fact, the material from the Queen Victoria Medical Centre was introduced to the Committee by Senator Missen. There was notification that the document was available and that was stated in the report of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. In addition, the Committee received a private submission from Senator Puplick whose views are well known in respect of this matter. He presented material to the Committee and that material is full of unsubstantiated statements, none of which were tested in the light of day. What I am proposing to the Senate is-

Senator Haines —Many of Senator Puplick's statements were rejected by the legal adviser and by the Committee.

Senator HARRADINE —I understand that.

Senator Haines —You just said they were not tested. We did test them and we did reject them.

Senator HARRADINE —What I am putting to the Senate is that there has been an essential confusion between two important Senate roles-that is, the representative function of the Senate and its audit and control function. I see the function of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee as being, essentially, an audit and control function. Its main principles are directed against too much Executive power. I think the Chairman will agree with me that principles two, three, four and five are all directed against too much administrative power. In my Bill there is no administrative function and no Executive power other than the power to determine prosecution. Principle one, which relates to the protection of individual freedoms, is the principle towards which the general observation of the Committee is directed. It will be my submission that that principle fails on one ground. In the interests of balance, why was not the proposer of the legislation notified of the private submissions?

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator HARRADINE —It has been suggested to me that I may have reflected on members of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. I make it perfectly clear to the Chairman and members of the Committee that no reflection whatsoever was intended. If those honourable senators read what I have said they will see that that is not the case at all. What I have said is that the Committee's report, based as it was on private submissions which had been untested and not referred to the mover of the Bill for consideration and report, has been utilised for the purposes of attempting to pre-empt reasoned and rational debate-both parliamentary and public-on this question.

Senator Grimes —And you reckon that is not a reflection on the Committee.

Senator HARRADINE —No, it is not.

Senator Grimes —It treated the Bill the same as it has treated every other Bill.

Senator HARRADINE —There is no honourable senator on that Committee to represent the viewpoint of the mover of the legislation.

Senator Grimes —I am never asked when my Bills go there.

Senator HARRADINE —I know. So far as the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances is concerned, the Government is always asked to to and fro. So far as private members Bills are concerned, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has on it a representative from every other point of view in this chamber. It does not have a representative of my point of view.

Senator Grimes —All right, you sit on it. You go to all the meetings. You can sit on all the committees.

Senator HARRADINE —I would be very happy to sit on it. Senator Grimes knows as well as I do that I have sought to sit on committees but have been asked not to press that request because it would upset the balance between the parties. Of course, I am serving on some four of five committees, including two joint committees. However, it is not only the report itself but also the reporting of the report that I am concerned about.

Senator Chipp —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I concede the difficulties that confront me in raising this substantive point of order because it could well be ruled out of order by you on technical grounds. I would like the Manager of Government Business to comment on my point of order. Earlier today Senator Harradine came to me-I should know, after years of experience of his tactics-and waved a piece of paper-

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Chipp, I ask you to stick to your point of order.

Senator Chipp —He waved a piece of paper towards me and said: 'Don, I am going to move for the suspension of Standing Orders later this day so that when the Scrutiny of Bills Committee is examining legislation proposed by a private member the private member has the right to appear before the Committee'. I said: 'Will you see my Whip about that?' Senator Harradine said: 'Yes, I will.' When Senator Harradine moved into the chamber at a few minutes past six, a prime time on radio, and moved for the suspension of Standing Orders-I do not know what Whips were in the chamber, whether Liberal or Labor; I do not know whether the shadow Minister on duty for the Liberals was in the chamber or whether the Manager of Government Business was in the chamber-that matter was allowed to proceed. Mr Deputy President, I am asking you to rule whether that reason given by Senator Harradine was sufficient. Mr Deputy President, you might remember that I had to ask what was before the Chair. At that stage there was not one honourable senator in this chamber who knew what matter was before the Chair.

Senator Robertson —That is not so. We knew what was going on.

Senator Chipp —Is the Government Whip telling me that he knew what was before the Chair and that the Government Whip allowed this to be debated?

Senator Robertson —Yes, I was listening.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Chipp, the point of order is that the proper procedure was not followed when Senator Harradine moved the suspension. He had leave of the Senate. Any single senator objecting would have prevented his having leave. As no honourable senator objected, Senator Harradine was therefore given leave.

Senator Chipp —Mr Deputy President, my point is that no honourable senator objected because if every other senator had been deceived by Senator Harradine as I had been no senator would have objected to leave being given. I gave leave in good faith.

Senator Harradine —Mr Deputy President, I object to that and ask that it be withdrawn.

Senator Chipp —Mr Deputy President, I wish to finish my point of order. This is a matter on which Senator Harradine wants to deny every childless mother in Australia--

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Chipp, you must confine yourself to the point of order you are raising. As I understand it, it relates to the proper procedure.

Senator Chipp —Mr Deputy President, it is not an unimportant fact. Such a matter should not be allowed to be sneaked in by a sneaky senator with a sneaky gesture.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Chipp, you may speak in the debate if you wish to make those sorts of points. As it stands, the procedures of the Senate were followed. Senator Harradine had leave to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. There was no protest. I call Senator Harradine.

Senator HARRADINE —I reject completely what Senator Chipp has said. I told Senator Chipp that I was moving for the suspension of Standing Orders for the purpose of bringing this matter on. The time for moving for the suspension of Standing Orders is at the placing of business. Senator Chipp ought to know that. If he does not know it, he ought to. I took the courtesy of writing to the Chairman of the Committee to advise him the matter would be brought on. I did take the courtesy of speaking--

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Harradine, I have dealt with the point of order. I ask you not to continue to debate the point of order.

Senator HARRADINE —Mr Deputy President, I have been accused of deceiving people in this chamber. It is not so. I spoke to every relevant person on this question. I reject that accusation completely. I come now to the matter on which I have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders. It is a motion to ensure that a private senator must be able to sit on the Scrutiny of Bills Committee if that private senator has a Bill before that Committee. I am pointing out that if that had been achieved on this occasion the misinformation distributed by the Scrutiny of Bills Committee would not have been distributed. If honourable senators would like me to give line, chapter and verse I will tell them where it is not correct. I will tell honourable senators where in certain respects it is completely incorrect. Of course, two minor matters can be taken on board. The inadequacy of the Committee report could have been overcome if the Committee had distributed the private submissions that had been sent to it and had it given these to me to be considered by the relevant experts.

Senator Missen —They were ultimately given to you.

Senator HARRADINE —They were not given to me.

Senator Tate —They were given to you after the Committee reported.

Senator HARRADINE —They were given to me after the Committee reported to the Senate. What I am saying is that they ought to have been given to me beforehand in order that the Committee had all the relevant information.

Senator Missen —I see. That is your view.

Senator HARRADINE —I think that is the logical point of view. The point must be made that although there are representatives of every party on the Scrutiny of Bills Committee I am not represented on that Committee. The Committee met for some 20 or 25 minutes to discuss this Bill on Friday morning. Why did it bring in the report on Friday afternoon? What was the urgency of the matter that it had to do so?

Senator Tate —Because you told me in the corridor it was an urgent matter; that is why.

Senator HARRADINE —Senator Tate said that I said I believed it was an urgent matter. He knows as well as I do that under the Standing Orders there is no possibility of any debate being carried out on this legislation until Thursday week. So if that is the excuse that has been given for this material not being supplied to me it is a very lame excuse indeed. I do not make any bones about the fact that I feel a grave sense of injustice in respect of this matter. If the Committee would only see what it has done. With the experts' advice, I have prepared a response, word for word, to the Committee's report. I will lay that on the table of the Parliament. Furthermore, I have a document which has been prepared by none other than the consultant draftsman to the Senate. In order to indicate to members of the Senate that there is very little in the report of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.

Leave not granted.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Harradine, I do not think that the actual content of the report on your Bill is relevant to your motion. You are dealing with matters of principle which are of general application-not of particular reference to your Bill.

Senator HARRADINE —I am attempting to illustrate how the problem could have been overcome had the relevant documents upon which the report was based been distributed to me and had I received the advice which is available. I have been refused leave to incorporate this material in Hansard by Senator Chipp. I will lay it on the Senate table. That is my right. The material will then be available to any member of the Senate. I make this point: Whilst the Standing Orders are such that I require leave to table those documents, I believe it is only proper that they be tabled.

Senator Tate —You don't need to. The Committee will take them and consider them.

Senator HARRADINE —The Committee has not done so. It has brought down a report which has been widespread and which has caused this public comment to be made in the Press:

A powerful Senate committee has thrown doubt on the future of a bill aimed at halting many in vitro fertilisation procedures in Australia.

The Senate standing committee for the scrutiny of bills said yesterday . . .

The report referred to a statement made by Senator Tate as follows:

. . . Senator Tate said yesterday that his committee, which was made up of members from all political parties, was not concerned with the substantial policy issues underlying Senator Harradine's bill.

Senator Missen —What are you reading from?

Senator HARRADINE —I am reading from the report in the Hobart Mercury of Saturday.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Harradine, are you seeking leave to table certain documents?

Senator HARRADINE —Yes, Mr Deputy President. I seek leave to table the preliminary comments contained in the fifth report of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills and also the document entitled 'Human Embryo Experimentation Bill 1985: Prepared by the Senate's consultant draftsman'.

Leave not granted.

Senator HARRADINE —The refusal of leave indicates the level to which persons will go to ensure that there is not a reasoned and responsible debate on this matter. The question is that a number of private submissions were received by the Committee, including submissions from interested parties-one from Queen Victoria Medical Centre and one which was signed by Senator Chris Puplick. Those documents were part of the report of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. The report said that they were available from the Committee secretariat. Any senator can go and pick them up from there.

Senator Haines —That is right. You were given them immediately.

Senator HARRADINE —I was not given them before the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee had reported to the Senate. That is the essence of the issue.

Senator Haines —Neither was any Minister given any information before the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee reported.

Senator HARRADINE —Suppose that a Democrat senator put forward a private member's Bill. When that Bill goes before the Scrutiny of Bills Committee and material is presented to the Committee for its consideration, would that Democrat senator not consult with the member who moved the motion in order to gain some information?

Senator Chipp —I take a point of order. My point of order is very simple. Mr Deputy President, will you please listen more carefully to what Senator Harradine is saying and ask yourself, as presiding officer in this chamber at the moment, whether it is relevant to the motion to which he is speaking?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Harradine has been skirting fairly widely in speaking to the motion. On the other hand, at some stages he has been replying to interjections. I ask that those interjections cease and that Senator Harradine confine himself to arguments in favour of the motion which he has moved.

Senator HARRADINE —I see that the parties in this place have a vested interest in ensuring that when these matters are considered the proponents of the Bills are not consulted or are not asked for advice about material that is relevant to the legislation.

Senator Haines —It is never done.

Senator HARRADINE —I am saying in this motion that it ought to be done.

Senator Grimes —You can say it without abusing members of the Committee and questioning their motives.

Senator HARRADINE —I am not abusing members of the Committee-not at all. I make it clear that none of this would have happened had I been provided with the material which was the basis of the Committee's recommendation.

Senator Grimes —I would like to remind you that you would not have been speaking if we had not given you the okay to speak. You have taken advantage of both sides of this House which gave you the right to speak under these circumstances.

Senator HARRADINE —That is not true. This is a most important aspect. Senator Grimes knows as well as I do that I do not intrude into General Business time or anything else. I deliberately do not put obstacles in the way of government. I believe the Senate does have the responsibility to determine legislation and to examine legislation. What I believe about the Scrutiny of Bills Committee is that it is confusing two of our roles. One of our roles is a representative function. Another is the audit and control function. As far as this measure is concerned, the Committee obviously has been confused about its role because it took submissions from private outside sources on the merits of the case. The outcome-honourable senators can read through the Committee's report-tends to damn the legislation.

However, if an analysis of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee report is made it will be seen that the Committee has not addressed the issue properly in accordance with its principles. Under those circumstances it was necessary for me to place before the Senate the reason why I considered that this was so. I have not been able to do that. I have been refused leave to incorporate documents in Hansard; I have been refused leave to table documents in the Senate. What sort of open society are we? I was denied access to the documents upon which my Bill was attacked before the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee reported to the Senate. I have now been denied the opportunity to provide information to all honourable senators by tabling in this chamber the responses from the experts.

I do not mind if my Bill is subject to the utmost public scrutiny provided that the information that is provided to whichever committee it comes before is subject to testing in the usual way. If that is achieved there will be reasoned and responsible debate. I know that the academic juggernaut has been cranked up and is hurtling down the street. That is what happened on tertiary education fees and it is happening again on this measure. I may be one of the very few non-academic, non-university people, in this chamber-we are a dwindling race-but I believe it is necessary to have a reasonable, responsible debate and for this matter to be properly considered by this chamber. For that purpose this motion commends itself to the Senate.