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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 799


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy) —I hope Senator Durack will adopt that relaxed stance in future; it will do wonders for relationships in this place. I simply say that it is not my intention at this stage to move the resolutions that I have tabled and circulated in the chamber. I am tabling them at this stage simply to allow ample opportunity for comment and discussion on their terms before they are formally brought forward for debate. I am well aware that many of the resolutions deal with sensitive and difficult issues and may require further refinement in the course of that discussion and debate.

I am also presenting the draft resolutions in conjunction with the Senate's consideration of the Parliamentary Privileges Bill because they represent the other part of the package of changes recommended by the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege. The Bill deals only with those changes to the law relating to parliamentary privilege requiring statutory enactment. Briefly, those changes are: Abolition of the category of contempt involving defamation of the Houses or their members; statutory codification of the penalties which may be imposed by the Houses for contempts; abolition of the power of expulsion of members; specification of the cause of any penalty of imprisonment imposed by a House and consequent review by the courts; uniform qualified privilege in relation to parliamentary proceedings; statutory protection of witnesses; limitation of the duration of immunities from civil arrest and from compulsory court attendance. The matters dealt with by the resolutions, by contrast, cover all the other recommendations, of which there are a great many, in the Joint Select Committee's report. The contents and the context of those resolutions are specified in the explanatory notes which accompany them and which I have also tabled.

The draft resolutions were prepared at my request in the Department of the Senate, with particular input from the Acting Deputy Clerk, Mr Harry Evans, and they reflect the terms of the Joint Committee's recommendations, except where those recommendations have been departed from for particular reasons which are explained in the explanatory notes. The resolutions are necessarily expressed to refer to the Senate and senators, but may be considered to be suitable for adoption by both Houses with appropriate variations of wording. I certainly hope that House of Representatives members will look at them in that light.

I have not had the opportunity to discuss the terms of the proposed resolutions with members of the former Joint Select Committee or, indeed, with senators and members generally, but I am putting them forward at this stage, I repeat, to allow ample opportunity for discussion and comment, and to put the debate on the Parliamentary Privileges Bill, which will now continue, in its proper context.