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Monday, 13 May 1985
Page: 1851

Senator COONEY(8.43) —I wish to add some comments to what has already been said.

Senator Haines —I should have gone first. I am better looking!

Senator COONEY —I agree with all that. I simply say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and apparently so is bias. In this case, I think Senator Harradine has the bias in his eyes. Anybody who has listened to what Senator Tate and Senator Missen have said will understand that the bias is in his eyes and his eyes only. The motion says nothing about the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill. It must be made clear, particularly to those in this chamber and to those listening to the broadcast, that if the motion before the Senate comes to a vote it will not be a vote about the rights or wrongs of the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill, in vitro fertilisation or anything like that. This debate is solely about the procedures of this chamber, and that is all the motion is about. If anything is said later about what the Senate did this evening it should be understood that what has been talked about is the procedures by which this chamber and its committees conduct themselves. That is solely what the debate is about. I repeat that the debate is not about the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill. That is the occasion for this debate, but the debate is not about that. Let us look at what the motion says. Part (b) states that the Senate:

. . . directs--

that is the word used--

the 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 the Bill.

That is what was put forward by Senator Harradine. He has produced no evidence, or insufficient evidence, to show that the Committee did not do exactly what it was meant to do.

Senator Harradine —I was trying to, but I was ruled out of order.

Senator COONEY —The fact remains that Senator Harradine has produced no evidence to support a proposition which contains an implication that members of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills-Senator Tate, Senator Missen, Senator Crowley, Senator Haines and Senator Scott, men and women whom I have found most honourable while I have been in this chamber and-I in some way fell down in or were derelict in our duties and failed to perform the task put upon us by the Senate. Senator Harradine has invited the Senate to condemn the people it has elected to carry out the functions for which they were elected. It is my confident submission that there is no evidence to support his proposition. If there is no evidence, the motion should never have been moved in this chamber. It is a libel, an insult and a terrible thing to say about Senator Harradine's fellow senators. That is the fact of the matter.

I understand Senator Harradine's emotion about the subject of the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill. I think it ought to be debated at some time. The principles that Senator Harradine wants to bring out when he talks about that Bill should be discussed throughout the community because they are important. But he has not introduced that Bill tonight and he is not talking about it tonight. He is talking about procedural matters. He interrupted the proper flow of the Senate's business to introduce something that I would have thought, with my limited experience here, should have gone to the Standing Orders Committee. The honourable senator has not only pointed his finger at the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills but also condemned the Standing Orders Committee. He said that the Committee is not sufficient, not proper and not capable of carrying out the change in the rules that he has invited the Senate to make through the directions he has asked it to give to some members of that Committee. Of course other senators will be quite emotional and quite upset that the honourable senator should get up and, as it were, impugn the ability, perhaps the integrity and certainly the capacity of the members of two committees. Certainly, on behalf of my fellow committee members with whom I have associated, I reject the suggestion that the honourable senator makes. I say the same about members of the Standing Orders Committee who have not had the opportunity of rejecting the implication in this motion that they are in some way incapable of changing the rules of the Senate which it is their elected duty to do.

I conclude by emphasising-I think it ought to be emphasised again and again-that we are dealing simply with the rules that guide the Senate's proceedings, not with anything to do with experimentation on human embryos. This debate has nothing to do with in vitro fertilisation. The clear proof is in the very terms of the motion before the Senate.