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Wednesday, 24 August 1994
Page: 188

Senator COATES (11.28 a.m.) —I support Senator Bourne's position on this matter. It is one of the matters that was agreed to by the Procedure Committee as part of the package. On that basis, I ask Senator Hill to reconsider pressing this matter at this stage. One needs to envisage how things might happen in a real situation. If there is a unanimous report from members of the committee, it would be clear that one participating member attaching a minority comment would be in the minority. The relative weight of the attachment would be regarded appropriately by the Senate and the public.

  If there is a minority report and a majority report and one of the participating members says, `I happen to agree with the minority report,' that again is an indication to those looking at the report of relative interests. Senators may recall that I suggested we actually do away with the terms `majority' and `minority' reports and just call them reports of the committee—report A, report B or whatever—and let people judge their weight by the numbers of people signing them. I did not get my way on that, so I accept the agreement that there be the ability to have majority and dissenting reports and the ability for participating members, whether they be from the minor or major parties, to be associated with the majority or minority reports or to put in their own particular comments.

  This all arose because of Senator Bourne's drawing attention to the possibility of participating members being abused. What she is saying is: rather than make a change to that now, let us see how it works out and if there is abuse by people putting themselves in as participating members but not really participating, maybe in the future we will change it to overcome that abuse. If there is an abuse by participating members who are there very nominally and just want to attach their own comments for the record, then that will be regarded appropriately in that light. If it happens too much, then we can come back here and fix it up to overcome the difficulty.

  I think we really do have to accept this package. There are things in it that we disagreed with, but which we are going along with and not seeking to make a big issue about, and I think this should similarly be accepted.

  I happened to have a suggested different form of wording for these two clauses because I did not think it necessary to talk about minority or dissenting reports on the one hand and participating members attaching relevant conclusions and recommendations on the other. I thought it could all be done with the one phraseology. Once again, I am not suggesting we change what has been circulated. Let us just accept that and see how it works, recognising that the Democrats, the Independents and Greens saw this as an important part of the package. I do not think it is a big problem. I do not think it is necessary to change it by amendment and break down the agreement. In any case, I think we should stick with what was agreed rather than unravel this particular point.