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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2724

Senator DURACK(10.19) —I wish to make some remarks in relation to this motion that has been moved by Senator Gareth Evans. I do so because the Committee should be reminded that when this group of Bills was last before the chamber we had already debated for some time the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill in Committee and we were then in the process of debating the Australian Bill of Rights Bill in Committee. At that stage the Government ceased further consideration of this matter and left it lying around for an indefinite period of time. It refused to tell anybody what it was going to do. There were conflicting statements by the Government from about March of this year until finally on 19 August, the day we resumed for the Budget session, Senator Walters asked Senator Gareth Evans a question as to what the Government intended to do with the Bill of Rights package in light of the six months in which nobody could get any sense out of the Government whatsoever. I remind Senator Gareth Evans that on that day, in answer to Senator Walters, he said:

It is with deep regret that I advise the Senate that the Government does not propose to proceed with the Bill and will withdraw it from the Senate at the first appropriate opportunity. This is not due to any lack of commitment on the part of the Government to the principles underlying the Bill . . .

So he went on and on for virtually another page of Hansard abusing everybody who opposed the Bill, claiming that there had been a filibuster on the Bill and so on in his best abusive self.

Senator Puplick —Worst abusive self.

Senator DURACK —Well, worst. We could debate that. In any event, it was a pretty sorry performance, not only by Senator Gareth Evans on that day but also by the Government over a considerable period of time. The Government, in the dying hours of this Budget session, even though at the beginning of this session over three months ago Senator Gareth Evans said that the Government was going to withdraw the Bill at the first appropriate opportunity, has now listed this legislation again and the first thing that Senator Gareth Evans proposes is the motion before us, that further consideration of the Australian Bill of Rights Bill in the Committee of the Whole be postponed. What about the commitment he made over three months ago that the Bill of Rights Bill was going to be withdrawn at the first available opportunity? Here is a golden opportunity for Senator Gareth Evans to carry out the undertaking that he gave.

Senator Walters —Just one promise will do.

Senator DURACK —Yes. We are giving him the opportunity of meeting the very firm commitment given on 19 August that I have just read out. Before we proceed any further with this matter--

Senator Gareth Evans —You know perfectly well that it is a procedural step on which we are proceeding, you old fool and windbag.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Gareth Evans, you will withdraw that remark.

Senator Gareth Evans —As long as I have had the benefit of getting it into Hansard, Mr Chairman, I would be delighted to withdraw it.

Senator Kilgariff —You are a rotten sod, and I won't withdraw it.

Senator Gareth Evans —I seek the withdrawal of Senator Kilgariff's contribution to the debate too, if I may.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! We will deal with one matter at a time. Senator Gareth Evans, you will withdraw your remark.

Senator Gareth Evans —On the basis that Senator Durack fully understands the procedural basis on which we are proceeding--

The CHAIRMAN —Order! It will be an unconditional withdrawal.

Senator Gareth Evans —I will, of course, defer to your request, Mr Chairman. I also seek the withdrawal of Senator Kilgariff's remark.

The CHAIRMAN —I did not hear Senator Kilgariff's remark.

Senator Gareth Evans —`You rotten sod' was the expression.

Senator Kilgariff —At your request, Mr Chairman, I withdraw.

The CHAIRMAN —It is not at my request, it is at my direction.

Senator DURACK —If Senator Gareth Evans wants to get back into the Committee stage of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill, which I remind the Committee was exhaustively debated over six months ago, in order to reconsider that Bill, we will debate whether he should or should not, but that is another matter. Senator Gareth Evans says that I do not understand what he is doing. It is clear what he is doing. He has to move this particular motion to get back into the consideration of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill. I started off by clearly explaining what the Government was doing. Indeed, what I am raising is that the Government said on 19 August this year that it was going to withdraw the Australian Bill of Rights Bill from the Senate. Three months has lapsed and we have heard nothing more about it.

We come into this debate in Committee. We have to report what the Committee has decided and I think at the threshold of this question is that the Government should be telling us what it now proposes to do about the Bill of Rights Bill. This motion is the first motion being moved here. Senator Gareth Evans has got up and moved it. He has not explained what he is doing. There has not been a word as to what he is doing or what he is about. The Government put down on the Senate table some weeks ago a whole range of new amendments to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill. There has been not a word of explanation from the Government on the public record as to what all those amendments are about, their meaning, their purposes or anything else. Indeed, the Bills were listed one day before any of these amendments were even put on the table. We have had no explanation from the Government as to what this exercise is about. We have now seen the amendments, but there has not been any explanation by the Government as to what it is about. Surely if major changes are proposed by the Government to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill it would have been courteous to the Senate to put down a mini-second reading speech, so to speak, to explain what it has done.

Senator Gareth Evans —I will in the next motion, you old windbag, if you will only sit down.

The CHAIRMAN —Order!

Senator Gareth Evans —I am proposing to do it in the next minute.

The CHAIRMAN —Restrain yourself, Senator Evans.

Senator Gareth Evans —You can't keep an agreement, you old humbug.

Senator Kilgariff —He should withdraw the remark, Mr Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN —The remark should be withdrawn.

Senator Gareth Evans —I withdraw, Mr Chairman, but I really wish that Senator Durack would keep to agreements that are reached. I am perfectly happy to put down a full explanation, as I indicated I promised to do.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Evans, you do not have the call.

Senator Gareth Evans —What is more, I gave him the full text of it some days ago.

Senator DURACK —The Minister has given it to me, but he has not given it to the Committee. We are commencing what is a quite major debate about amendments to a Bill which Senator Gareth Evans was perfectly happy with. The Government was perfectly happy with this Bill six months ago. It has been lying around for six months and the Government now wants to make major changes to it. I would have thought that it would have been at least courteous on the part of Senator Gareth Evans to have informed the rest of the Committee what he is about. Certainly he has given me a copy of what he intends to do.

Senator Gareth Evans —Some days ago I gave it to you.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Evans, you are interjecting far too much. Senator Durack has the call.

Senator Gareth Evans —I am being provoked beyond tolerance, Mr Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN —Senator Evans, you have to restrain yourself.

Senator DURACK —I am simply asking that this debate be put on a proper, orderly footing by Senator Gareth Evans.

Senator MacGibbon —Give him a valium.

Senator DURACK —He certainly needs something more than advice or any plea for courtesy from me. I believe that is absolutely the first course the Government should take. At this stage of the debate it should have been telling the Committee how it proposes to carry out the undertaking Senator Gareth Evans gave on 19 August that it would withdraw from the Senate the Bill of Rights Bill, which is the Bill that we are in fact considering at this stage, when this matter was brought on this evening.