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Thursday, 9 June 1994
Page: 1679

Senator CHAMARETTE (7.15 p.m.) —I rise briefly to seek to clarify some matters which were raised by Senator Kernot and Senator Collins in last night's adjournment debate. Senator Kernot tabled three letters, which she stated had been sent to me; and that is correct. However, Senator Kernot also stated that I had been sent a letter from eight ABC women journalists protesting about the document which I tabled on Monday night. I want to put on the record that I had never seen that document before it was tabled. It certainly was not addressed to me or current to the issue of this inquiry. I believe it was a document that had been used earlier in relation to a particular incident regarding the Queensland ABC.

  Senator Collins's comments last night may have given listeners the impression that some attempt had been made to dissuade me from tabling the document which I tabled on Monday night.

Senator Collins —Absolutely not. I never said anything of the sort.

Senator CHAMARETTE —Senator Collins, I am not saying that you implied that or stated that. Nevertheless, the impression may have been given that an attempt had been made to dissuade me from tabling the document. I just want to state that that is not correct. Both the government and the opposition had indicated leave would be granted a minimum of two hours before the tabling. Many senators would have been aware of the contents of the document well before the tabling. It had reached my office and offices of other senators in February this year.

  Finally, it does not give me any pleasure at all to see the personal distress this tabling has occasioned. The people who object to it certainly are entitled to a right of reply. I believe it is appropriate that they have sought to do so. Nevertheless, the issues that underlie the document cannot afford to be dismissed because no matter how the questions are raised, and they are raised, about the accountability of government, the accountability of media and allegations of political interference, they always tend to be associated with allegations and personal material that causes distress.

  In my view, the deeper issues underlying the document deserve to be heard and heard clearly with as much concern for the seriousness of the matter as possible. I do not wish the attention of the Senate to be distracted by any inaccuracies or personal details that cause offence; I wish to assert that sometimes we have to struggle with the pain of that to come to a better understanding of accountability and truth. It is very much, I believe, in the public interest that any serious allegations of political influence in our national public broadcaster be carefully examined.

  The inquiry that was the subject of the notice of motion I gave on Monday remains on the Notice Paper. I am seeking to ensure that it is followed through in a way that clarifies and deals with the problems that are at the heart of the issue, and not distracted by other lesser issues.