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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 409

Senator PANIZZA —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the responsibility of ministers to attend question time to answer questions without notice. Is it true that Senator Cook is absent because of a Rotary breakfast in Perth? Who decides which functions justify absence from question time? Is this an illustration of the government's and, in particular, Mr Keating's lack of respect for the parliamentary process?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I believe Senator Cook was caught up in a business function in Perth, explaining the white paper and other high matters of state. I believe the function's timing was set inadvertently, not recalling that parliament was sitting on this particular day. There was some degree of difficulty in extracting himself from that commitment. It is, of course, the case that we seek to give priority, except in the most unavoidable circumstances, to the Senate. My understanding was that this particular function was unavoidable in all the circumstances.

Senator Alston —Ask him to make a personal explanation.

Senator GARETH EVANS —No doubt, you can ask him yourself tomorrow.