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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 686

Senator VANSTONE —Mr President, I seek leave to ask you a question about the conduct of question time.

  Leave granted.

Senator VANSTONE —I understood that in response to my contribution to a point of order you indicated that you simply could not judge the facts of the matter and therefore you could not say. I understood you to go on to say that if the facts were true—in this case, the allegation that Mr Downer had attended a League of Rights meeting—inferences could be drawn and that you simply could not say.

  Honourable senators interjecting—

Senator VANSTONE —That is what I understood you to say, Mr President—and if there are fewer interruptions from over the government benches this will take a bit less time.

Senator Collins —That is not the point.

Senator Faulkner —I think you are about to kick an own goal.

Senator Crane —Keep quiet, loudmouth!

The PRESIDENT —Interjections are one thing; the level of interjection is getting appallingly low.

Senator VANSTONE —Mr President, are you saying that, if you can see that an inference could be drawn, it is acceptable for senators on either side to draw that inference about a senator in this place or a member in another place? In other words, are you reading the standing order as meaning that if you think the inference is acceptable it is okay? Is that what you are saying, or are you saying this was just too tough a call and you were not prepared to say that an inference was being drawn? Mr President, I think that your ruling deserves serious consideration. I am not asking you to respond today, but I am asking you to come back with a detailed statement as to what you meant and what you said.

The PRESIDENT —I will do just that.

Senator Alston —Might I have leave to make a very quick additional comment?

  Leave not granted.