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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 2975

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(11.25) —All I can say really is that bias is in the eye of the beholder, by and large. The Commission's basic stance has been one of non-value neutrality, as it has said quite starkly in some of those publications to which Senator Short refers. The Commission is not value neutral about human dignity, it is not value neutral about human equality and it is not value neutral about all those rights which have won the respect of civilised countries through the international covenants and the machinery which the Commission is endeavouring to enforce. It is perhaps the case that in some aspects of some of the Commission's publications points have been made, often for illustrative purposes or comparative purposes or debate stimulation purposes, that perhaps have been expressed in a way that in retrospect was not the wisest or most careful way, and I think that would be acknowledged within the Commission and maybe even by our fabled author himself, in retrospect.

Senator Reid —Who is that?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Our honourably mentioned Mr Pettman. We could no doubt have this argument for a long time. We have had it in the past but really time is making it a bit difficult to stretch it out again today. All I can say for the future is that the Commission is obviously conscious of some of the reaction that some of its publications have drawn. By and large it has been only a few pages of a few publications which have generated this concern, and so far as I am aware the great bulk of the Commission's publications, of which there have been many, have been very well received throughout the educational system and elsewhere. I think it is quite impossible to ascribe any kind of systematic bias to the Commission, other than the one I have described, of the commitment to those values and their promulgation which, of course, may be offensive to some sections of the community, but so be it, because that is what it is established to do.

So far as the future is concerned, it will depend obviously very much on the calibre, credibility and integrity of the people who are appointed to the key positions and of those who staff the research, writing and information generating positions. I am sure that decisions will be made in that respect that will create a body that deserves the commendation and enthusiastic support not only of this side of politics but of members of the Liberal Party as well, because I keep being told that they support the values that are enshrined, but they just do not like the machinery or the way that some of it is working out. If they do support those values, I suggest it would be helpful if they got behind, not in a carping and destructive way but in a positive way, the work of the Commission and gave it encouragement where they thought encouragement was due.