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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3444


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(11.43) —We are dealing with a very important principle. Of course, there are strongly contested points of view about the issues that took place on the lawns outside Parliament House. I recall Senator Vanstone, Senator Knowles and other honourable senators from the Opposition benches having the opportunity to present a point of view and be heard in silence. They sought, and correctly so, to present their interpretations of the events that took place here several months ago. Of course, they are views that are held by Opposition senators. It is argued, from another standpoint, that the actions of some members of the Opposition may have been provocative, but that was their decision. They were entitled to take the view they did and the steps they took in respect of that incident. However, having conceded that, the Government is entitled to say that members of the Government, having been duly presented with the alternative point of view, valid or otherwise-it is not for the Senate at this time to determine that-have been entitled to present in the adjournment debate a different point of view from that which was freely put previously.

It is part of the tradition in this place that people are able to present a view using copious notes and documents, and the Hansard staff may request the use of those notes to assist in finally compiling a record of a particular meeting of the Senate. Senator Chaney concedes that he took those documents to be tabled documents, and they became not only his property but also the property of other members on this side of the Senate. He correctly admits that he misinterpreted the reason for those documents being on the table in front of the Hansard reporter.

I put this to the Senate because it is an issue which can work both ways in this place. From time to time, Opposition senators will present arguments and have documents to support their points of view, and they will not necessarily want them to become public documents. That is their right as senators, as I believe it is the right of Senators Zakharov and Giles to make that decision. If a senator makes available to Hansard documents which he or she does not table and those documents become public property Hansard, the Parliament, perhaps, and the public record will be disadvantaged.

That is a two-edged sword. Whilst at this time it may suit the Opposition to take that view, there will be times when Opposition senators will have documents that they will not want to become public and they will read into the record only those portions that they believe suit their arguments. Therefore, it would be proper for the Senate to reject the proposal that is before it. The documents about which we are talking are not the documents of the Senate. They are not available for public dissemination. Only those portions of the documents that were read into the record by Senators Giles and Zakharov are public. For those reasons, as well as the longer term reasons, the Senate ought not to agree with the motion moved by Senator Chaney.