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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1300

Senator CRANE (3.20 p.m.) —I would like to comment on this matter because I think it is one of the most preposterous propositions ever to be made in this parliament. To suggest that when a member of this parliament is being briefed by an officer from a statutory authority—CSIRO or anyone else—a representative of the minister should be present is ludicrous in the extreme. These could be confidential discussions. As Senator Panizza said, it is a tragedy for something like this to occur on D-day. This is a direct interference with the rights of parliamentarians to speak to members of statutory authorities. If Senator Collins in his capacity as Minister for Primary Industries applied that thinking, does that mean that when I go to see John Crosby of the Western Australian wheat board I need to have one of Senator Collins's people present? Senator Collins is not that damn stupid—at least I hope he is not that damn stupid.

  Recently Senator Gareth Evans organised briefings with the China chapter of the wool people. Did he insist that he have a representative present? Of course not! This action by Senator Cook is interference gone mad. Senator Cook is the only minister in this place who would use this sort of pressure. We have seen him perform here before. Despite receiving the wrath of the Deputy President, there is no doubt that when Senator Cook attacked Senator Panizza over River House, Senator Cook walked away into coward's castle.

Senator Collins —No, this is coward's castle. He walked outside.

Senator CRANE —Senator Cook walked right away into coward's castle. He did not have the guts to go outside and say it. I say to Senator Gareth Evans as Leader of the Government in the Senate that it is time to put Senator Cook in his place. It is time that opposition senators were given open and proper access to scientists from CSIRO. The government must make sure that this does not happen with any other department or statutory authority when we are undertaking our responsibilities as parliamentarians.