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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3443


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(11.36) —I move:

That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Senate from ordering that the documents quoted from by Senator Giles and Senator Zakharov be laid on the table.

I have moved that motion because it is quite clear that the documents make very serious allegations about a number of honourable senators. Of course, it may well be that, had a point of order been taken, an objection could have been made under standing order 418 to interrupt the speeches that were being made, but that was not done. I make no criticism of the Chair for not doing that because there has to be a free flow of debate in this place. My interest in the documents flows from the fact that I picked them up, and the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Senator Gietzelt, made the point, which I must say I did not understand-I would like to make that clear-that the two honourable senators had not tabled the documents; they had merely put them on the table physically for the assistance of the Hansard staff. I picked them up and that explains why I made the comments I did. I had seen them and noticed that the names had been blanked out and so on.

The fact of the matter is that on the basis that the two honourable senators had documents which were supposedly statutory declarations, very serious allegations were made about some honourable senators. On the basis of the visual evidence I have seen on television-I express my concern at the limitations of that-those allegations are certainly not in accord with what I have seen. Since those very serious allegations have been made, I think it is rough if the honourable senators concerned do not have access to those documents.

For that reason I have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders. I hope that we will not have to have a vote because I am sure that a number of honourable senators from both sides of the chamber will have gone home and it will be a bit of a gamble as to who wins the vote. However, I ask the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan), who are in the chamber, and the honourable senators who have quoted from these documents, to ponder on the ethics of the situation. As I have said before, quite serious allegations have been made about a number of honourable senators. It is on the public record that those allegations purport to be made in statutory declarations. It would be known to millions of Australians that those allegations sit oddly with the evidence of those Australians' own eyes.

Because of the accident of my picking up the documents from the table I can say that those documents I looked at might once have been statutory declarations but the names have been blanked out. I think people are entitled to have access to the facts of this matter so that these serious allegations can be assessed in a proper way. I have moved the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders and I hope that it will not be necessary to deal with it by weight of numbers. I hope that the Ministers at the table will concede that propriety indicates that that is the appropriate course and I hope that this motion will be carried on the voices and without dissent.