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Thursday, 28 May 1998
Page: 3379


Senator COONEY (3:13 PM) —by leave—What the Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts has said has no doubt been said sincerely, but he would not have looked at the documents. This is advice that he has got from either the department or people in his office. We are being denied an oversight of these documents not by a minister but by someone in the system, and we are unable to test whether there is any truth in what that person has said.

A blanket statement has been made by the minister taking objection about documents which he has not seen and this Senate is being denied access to these documents not by him but by some unknown person within the system. Certainly, if we are going to work as a Senate should and if we are going to work as a parliament should, there must be some check upon this system.

To simply say there is a court case and that therefore all documents that might possibly be related to that court case are privileged is clearly wrong. We are being presented here today with a statement which denies our ability to operate as a parliament should and we are being denied that not even by a minister. He, and I say this with great respect, is simply presenting what somebody else has worked out so that we are left lamenting. It is simply an arrogance that we should not tolerate as a parliament.


The PRESIDENT —It is a matter on which I would also want advice. I think that the minister has to take responsibility for what he says in this chamber, in any event.